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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


After having heard a most disparate sermon by Jack Hyles last week, on who or what constitutes the "church," where being a Baptist was a primordial consideration, as much as referring to "belonging to an organization such as this," which I believe to have been a slip of the tongue, for he repeated it no more, while he was quite emphatic denigrating non-denominational bodies... this comes very apropos! 

As I have stated many-a-time, I belong to no denomination, and never will!

Christ did not die on the cross to bring us religion nor any one denomination!

 For God so loved the world, 
that he gave his only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, 
but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 (King James Bible)

I highlight that to which my attention was drawn.
By the way, David Cloud is a Baptist, with more rational views, and not afraid to expose many a baptist in his writings/preachings.


enlarged NOVEMBER 13, 2012
(first published Frebruary 8,1999; previously updated August 9, 2005) David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

From time to time I receive inquiries from people asking me if I am a “Baptist Brider” and inquiring further about my views on the church. Let me say in the strongest terms that, no, I am not a Baptist Brider and I have no sympathy with it. 
I have published my position on the church in the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, which is readily available to anyone who is interested and has been available since its publication in 1993, and there is not a hint of Briderism in it. 
There are issues that I did not raise in the Encyclopedia, though, and I have decided to publish my reply to a letter from a Bible college student in which he asked me five questions in relation to church matters. I have extended and edited the original reply so that it more thoroughly and clearly explains my position, as I have had more time to consider the issue and have come to what I believe to be a better understanding from Scripture.
Concerning my position on the church, I can say that I don’t exactly fit in anywhere. 
I have good friends that are Landmark Baptists; and though I appreciate their emphasis on the New Testament assembly and a pure church and many other things, I don’t go along with successionism and the definition of alien baptism or the idea that baptism is the door to the church. I believe, rather, that baptism is a requirement for church membership, and there is a significant difference between the two positions. 
I also have good friends who are proponents of the standard “universal church” idea and the standard Scofield dispensational view that the church started at Pentecost, but I don’t go all of the way with that, either.  
During the early part of our missionary work in South Asia, I determined to research the issue of the church for myself. We arrived on the mission field in 1979 and a year or so later I came to the conclusion that I did not understand the church and missionary work sufficiently. I had been challenged in various ways with the Protestant position, the Scofield position, the Pentecostal position, as well as strong Baptist positions, including the Brider position. 
To research the issue I did not collect a bunch of books on the subject by various men. I shut myself up, rather, to the one Book that really counts: The Bible, my sole authority for faith and practice. I set out to determine exactly what the New Testament has to say about the “church.” What did the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles want me to believe on this issue? First I used Strong’s Concordance and carefully examined every reference to the English word “church” and to the Greek word “ecclesia.” I spent much time studying the book of Acts and the church epistles. I examined the Pastoral Epistles almost word for word and read them dozens of times. I wrote down everything I learned about the church, and that study formed the basis for a course that I first taught in Asia in our church planting work in the 1980s That material eventually became an entry in the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity and more recently appeared in an updated version as one of our Advanced Bible Studies Series courses entitled “The New Testament Church.”
Now I will answer the questions which have been asked about my position on the church:
BRO. CLOUD’S ANSWER: I believe the church began during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it was empowered on the day of Pentecost, and that it was organized and established by the apostles as recorded in the book of Acts and the Epistles. Why do I believe the church began during the earthly ministry of Christ? (1) There is no statement in Scripture that supports the common view that the church started on the day of Pentecost. (2) In Matthew 16:18, Christ said he would build His church. Christ is the Founder and Rock of the church. I can see no biblical reason for not assuming that He began building the church during His earthly ministry. (3) Matthew 18:17 implies that the church already existed during Christ’s earthly ministry. (4) Acts 2:41 says those saved on the day of Pentecost were “added unto” the congregation which already existed. I believe Pentecost was not the birth of the church, but was the anointing of the church. 
I also do not see this as a fundamental issue one way or the other. If the Lord had wanted to make the matter more clear, He could easily have done so, but He didn’t and we have to be satisfied with what the Bible says, as well as what it does not say. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). 
BRO. CLOUD’S ANSWER: As you can see from my Bible Encyclopedia, I believe there are three aspects to the church: (1) The Local Assembly (Acts 2:47; 13:1). This is the object of the vast majority of the Bible references to the church. Sometimes “church” refers to the local assembly in a general, generic, institutional sense (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6). (2) The Heavenly Assembly (Heb. 12:23; 2:12). (3) The Future Eternal Assembly of all the saints of all ages (Eph. 1:10-11; 2:16-22). In this latter sense the church is eternal (Eph. 3:21). 
I believe the term “body of Christ” is used in at least two of these senses. In 1 Corinthians 12:27, the body of Christ is applied specifically to the local assembly. I believe this is also what Ephesians 4:12 describes. There is a sense, then, in which the body of Christ is something beyond the local assembly even in this age. The church is described in Ephesians 2:13-22 as a temple that contains all of the New Testament saints and is growing into perfection, and verse 22 says the church at Ephesus was part of this larger temple. Ephesians 3:6 describes the mystery revelation that Paul was given, and it is the truth that “the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” It is obvious to me that the spiritual body spoken of here is something that encompasses more than the local assembly.

[Here I want to add something Pastor Bryan Denlinger had written a brother in the past:

> > Look at these scriptures;
> >
> > Ephesians 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
> > Ephesians 1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
> >
> > Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
> >
> > Please notice that both places refer to the church as being Christ's BODY. Now how can you leave Christ's body? You see Vadim, that you and I are members of the same church. We FELLOWSHIP with different groups and in different countries, but we are both members of ONE church, which is the BODY of Christ!
> >
> > Hebrews 10:25 is just saying that a believer shouldn't totally separate themselves from other believers. We NEED to fellowship with other Christians!
> >
> > But this verse does NOT force you to stay in a church building. I know MANY Christians who live in an area where local fellowship is NOT possible. They have to "assemble" with other like-minded Christians on the internet. Again, look at what Paul writes;
> >
> > 2 Timothy 4:9 ¶ Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
> > 2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
> > 2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
> >
> > The great apostle Paul only had ONE other Christian to fellowship with! Paul knew Christians in MANY other countries, but he only had Luke to fellowship locally with! I believe this same thing is happening today. We are returning to the first century Christianity, because there is such a lack of good preaching in our world.]
BRO. CLOUD’S ANSWER: There is endless speculation about the bride of Christ, but the Bible says very little about it. Again, Deuteronomy 29:29 comes into play. 
It appears to me that there are five passages that deal with the “bride” in the New Testament, though only three actually use the term. 
One of these is in the Gospel accounts in which Christ is called the bridegroom of the bride (John 3:29). In this passage, John the Baptist calls himself the friend of the bridegroom. It appears, therefore, that John the Baptist and other Jewish saints prior to the establishment of the church, were not a part of the bride. 
Ephesians 5:32 says the husband and wife picture Christ and the church. This language obviously implies a bride and tells us that the church is the bride. Whatever the church is, both now and in eternity, that is what the bride is. 
Revelation 19 describes the “marriage of the Lamb,” which refers to a bride, the Lamb’s wife (v. 7). The passage doesn’t say anything more about who the bride is. She is adorned in fine linen, which “is the righteousness of the saints.” 
In Revelation 21:9 the term “bride” is applied to the eternal city. [One sees Pastor Michael Greer, who has had very good sermons I have here posted, hold to this EXCLUSIVE belief, that the bride of Christ refers to the Jews!] This does not mean that the city itself is Christ’s bride. It means that the city is the dwelling place for His bride and not only for the bride but for Israel (the names of the 12 tribes of Israel are written in the 12 gates, Rev. 21:12) and the saved of all ages. I see it this way: It is the bride’s city, but all of the saints of all ages are at home there. 
The final passage is Revelation 22:17, where the bride invites sinners in this present age to God’s free salvation in Jesus Christ. This, of course, is the work of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15).
Taking all of these passages together, I believe all born again New Testament saints will be part of Christ’s bride. Those He redeems in this age by His blood will make up His lovely, beloved bride. In this present world, some born again Christians are not very faithful, and some are not even effectual members of a biblical church, and even the best saint is merely an “unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:10), but in Christ’s eyes, viewing everything from His eternal perspective (such as that described in Ephesians 2:18-22 and Hebrews 12:22-24), His bride already exists even though it is still growing and taking shape day by day in this time-bound world. 
BRO. CLOUD’S ANSWER: Whatever the bride of Christ is, I do not believe it is strictly a “Baptist” bride. As I have stated, I believe all born again Christians are, or at least will be, part of the “bride.” In fact, based on Revelation 21:12-14, it is possible that the “bride” will ultimately be composed of all the saved of all ages. There are unrevealed mysteries here.
The term “Baptist” is a good historical term with a good heritage, and I believe it is a good label today when defined properly. I have been a Baptist by conviction for 40 years. At the same time, I understand that the name “Baptist” is never used in the Bible in direct connection with the church. God gave the name Baptist to John, but He never called any of the churches a Baptist church. I refuse to go beyond the Bible in these matters and to make more of a name than the Bible itself would support [as Hyles does not hesitate in doing!]. The Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. Regardless of how helpful the term “Baptist” might be, and regardless of how renowned its history might be, the fact remains that most Baptist churches today are deeply compromised and multitudes of them are apostate. Sadly, the name has been so corrupted that it has become almost meaningless. Large groups of Baptists, such as those affiliated together with the World Baptist Alliance, are riddled with theological modernism, ecumenism, and worldliness. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest group of Baptists in America, and they are deeply leavened with spiritual compromise. In fact, a great many independent fundamental Baptists, which are allegedly the strictest of the strict, are deeply compromised as we have documented in many reports. [As Hyles well proves!]

I do not believe a name determines the soundness of a church before God. That is determined by doctrine and practice, by the extent to which it conforms to the “faith once delivered to the saints.” The name Baptist does not necessarily mean a church is biblically sound, and the lack of the name Baptist does not necessarily mean it is an unscriptural church. When I was saved in 1973, I began to search diligently for a church that was committed to the apostolic New Testament faith. I read the New Testament through a number of times in the first months after I was saved, trying to find out how to discern a true church. I looked at many churches, and I found what I considered the closest conformity to the New Testament faith in some (though not all, by any means) unaffiliated or independent Baptist churches. I have continued to look at other churches through the years and I have sympathy with some that do not carry the name Baptist, but I have remained a member of unaffiliated Baptist churches. There are churches that do not bear the name Baptist that are also committed to the New Testament faith and practice. This has been true throughout history, and it is true today. I have preached in churches in Slovakia and in India and in the United States that do not bear the name Baptist but that are, in my estimation, sound New Testament churches. 
BRO. CLOUD’S ANSWER: I do not believe in a Protestant concept of the church. I do not believe in a state church [a 501c3 church] or a regional church or a denominational church or a “universal church” in a Protestant or evangelical sense composed of all professing Christians. Scripturally speaking, to use the term “church” to describe a denomination is not scriptural. It is unscriptural to speak of “the church in Canada” or “the church of Asia” or “the church of India” or “the European church.” When the Bible uses the term “church” to refer to a region, it consistently uses the term in the plural, i.e., the churchES of Asia (1 Cor. 16:19), the churchES of Galatia (1 Cor. 16:1), the churchES of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1), the churchES of Judaea (Gal. 1:22). We need to be careful to follow this biblical pattern and not to refer to “the church” in the sense of the churches in the world or the churches in a country or region.
It always frustrates me to hear someone say or write, “The church in America is this or that.” My immediate thought is, “Which church?” There are a great many churches in America. Which one or ones are you referring to? It is absolutely meaningless to talk about “the church in America” or “the church” in any other country or region.
As for any particular congregation, insofar as it is faithful to the New Testament faith, I believe it is a sound church. I don’t believe in a lineage test or a name test; I believe in a doctrinal test. One must especially analyze the church’s gospel, its doctrine of Christ, and its doctrine of Scripture. I don’t believe it is possible, for example, for a pedobaptist church to be considered a scriptural church, regardless of how sound its doctrine is in other matters. This is one reason I am a Baptist, because I believe the mode and purpose of baptism is plain in the New Testament, and I believe that it is an important issue because it depicts the gospel, and I therefore believe that any church that practices or accepts unscriptural baptisms is not a scriptural church, though there might be saved people in it. The mainline Protestant churches were formed out of the apostate Catholic Church; and they did not reject Rome’s heretical baptism nor did they pattern themselves strictly after the apostolic faith as recorded in the New Testament Scriptures. 
True Baptists do not trace our heritage through Protestant denominations that came out of Rome in the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries, but through baptistic or “anabaptist” congregations that practiced the New Testament faith and were separate from Rome through the centuries. But we must remember that a great many of those separatist churches did not bear the name “Baptist.”  [see The History of the first Church ever: THE BAPTIST CHURCH]

Let me also repeat that though I could not accept a baptism from a pedobaptist church, even if the individual in question were baptized by immersion, I believe that any saved person will be a part of the bride of Christ regardless of his church affiliation and baptism.
Concerning the matter of church successionism, I agree with the Baptist historian Thomas Armitage (1819-1896). Armitage was born in Yorkshire, England, the great-grandson of Methodist minister Thomas Barrat. Armitage’s mother also was a pious Methodist lady. Though she died when he was only five years old, she had prayed earnestly that he might be saved and become a good minister of Jesus Christ, and on her deathbed she gave him her Bible, her chief treasure. Her prayers were answered when Thomas was soundly converted at a young age under the preaching of the Word of God, and he, in turn, preached his first sermon at age 16. Armitage moved to America when he was 19 and was ordained as a Methodist minister, though he expressed doubts about “the church government of the Methodist body, and about sinless perfection, falling from grace, and their views of the ordinances” (Baptist Encyclopedia, 1883). Further examination of these questions led him to seek membership in a Baptist church. In 1848, he was ordained as a Baptist preacher, and he began pastoring the Norfolk Street church in New York that same year. He was 29 years old. He was one of the founders of the Bible Union in 1850 and became its president in 1856. After a long and prosperous ministry, he made the journey to his “long home” at age 77. He was called “one of the greatest preachers in the United States; regarded by many as the foremost man in the American pulpit” (Baptist Encyclopedia). Armitage’s diligently researched, two-volume History of the Baptists was completed in 1886. His clear understanding of apostolic ecclesiology is evident in the 1,470 pages of his church history. He understood and appreciated the difference between Protestantism and the Baptist faith; he rejected “universal church” concepts; but he also rejected the notion of Baptist successionism and nowhere does he hint that he believed in a “Baptist bride.” 
Consider what he says about church succession:
“The attempt to show that any religious body has come down from the Apostles an unchanged people is of itself an assumption of infallibility, and contradicts the facts of history. Truth only is changeless, and only as any people have held to the truth in its purity and primitive simplicity has the world had an unchanging religion. The truth has been held by individual men and scattered companies, but never in unbroken continuity by any sect as such. Sect after sect has appeared and held it for a time, then has destroyed itself by mixing error with the truth; again, the truth has evinced its divinity by rising afresh in the hands of a newly organized people, to perpetuate its diffusion in the earth.
“It is enough to show that what Christ’s churches were in the days of the Apostles, that the Baptist churches of today find themselves. The truths held by them have never died since Christ gave them, and in the exact proportion that any people have maintained these truths they have been the true Baptists of the world. The writer, therefore, refused to be bound in his investigations by an iron obligation to show a succession of people who have held all the principles, great and small, of any sect now existing--no more and no less.
“When Roger Williams left his followers they were in great trepidation lest they had not received baptism in regular succession from the Apostles, as if any body else had. They heard, however, that the Queen of Hungary had a list of regularly baptized descendants from the Apostles, and were half persuaded to send their brother, Thomas Olney, to obtain it at her hands. Still, on the second sober thought, they could not swallow this dose of the essence of popery, and concluded not to make themselves ridiculous. Whereupon Backus solemnly says, that at length they ‘concluded such a course was not expedient, but believing that now they were got into the right way, determined to persevere therein.’ Thus, once more, wisdom was justified in her children, UNDER THE APPLICATION OF THE RADICAL ANTI-ROMISH PRINCIPLE THAT THE NEW TESTAMENT IS THE ONLY TOUCH-STONE OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY” (Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Vol. 1, 1890, preface, pp. iii,iv).
To that I say, amen. 
To require “successionism” as the sign of the authenticity of a church, one would have to have the divine wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who alone knows the hearts of men and who alone knows when a church ceases to be an authentic church before God. 
Let me explain. What if you lived in the third century and you could trace your church’s heritage link by link back to the church at Ephesus, one of the pre-eminent of the Lord’s original “Baptist” churches. 
There is a problem with this scenario. Ephesus had already left its first love in the first century, and Jesus had warned,
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and WILL REMOVE THY CANDLESTICK OUT OF HIS PLACE, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).
Let me ask you successionists a question. When was Ephesus’ candlestick removed so that it was no longer one of the Lord’s churches? 
If you can’t answer that simple question about one church, how could you answer the tens of thousands of other questions that would be required for the tracing of a lineage back to the original churches? 
I heard a preacher say recently that he had been able to trace his church’s heritage back to one of the original Baptist churches in America. I seriously doubt that, but what if it were true? Where did he get the supernatural wisdom to be sure that none of those churches had lost its candlestick before God? And tracing one’s church back 200 years would be child’s play compared to tracing it back 2,000 years! 
I believe the biblical pattern for church planting is for churches to start churches. That is what we see in Acts 13-14 in the first missionary journey, which is the example that we should follow throughout the church age. That is the pattern that I have followed in my missionary work from its inception in the 1980s. The first church we started in Nepal, which was the first Baptist church ever planted in that country to my knowledge, was started by a missionary ordained and sent out by a Bible-believing church in America. That first church has started many other churches. We started a new church in the last decade, and that church is starting other churches. That is the New Testament pattern for missionary work. [AMEN!! I am sick of hearing of pastors who are no more than MOOCHIONARIES, a profession to which, by the way, the biggest moochionary I know, Matthew Furan, has returned, since last September, back to Sri Lanka, where he may live as a king, while on the dole!  A member of Calvary Baptist of Niagara called me to tell me that, and to ask that I return to it!  No!  I will not, since it is the  enabling "elders and deacons" are still the same!  I believe such "enabling" is quite self-serving, and will never end!]

[An excellent article on the subject of missions/tithing can be found in the post Tithing Fools! by David J. Stewart ]
But this biblical pattern offers no authority for trying to trace one’s heritage over a lengthy period of time for the purpose of authenticating a church’s right to exist. In my estimation, there is zero biblical authority for such a thing. 
Though I see a good and wise pattern for church planting in Acts 13-14, and I follow that pattern because I want to do everything in good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), I also believe there can be exceptions to this rule. I believe that a sound church can be established on its own without another church being involved, particularly in certain extenuating circumstances. I don’t see this as something that should be done routinely. It is an exception, not a rule. 
Consider the Ethiopian eunuch. He was led to Christ and baptized by Philip. (He wasn’t baptized into any certain church, by the way.) And after he was baptized he continued his journey back to Ethiopia, and tradition says that he founded churches there, which would have been a natural thing for him to have done. Would those churches have been scriptural? 
If I found a church that had been established in some remote mountain village in Nepal by some zealous believer working on his own, I wouldn’t require that they produce their church pedigree. I would test that church by God’s Word to see if it was scriptural in its doctrine and practice, and I would do what I could to instruct them. 
I’m not saying that it is not wise to try to discover who founded a particular church. I am simply saying that the Bible doesn’t teach us to get caught up in church linkages and successions. That is a man-made doctrine which has caused a lot of confusion. 
If you can’t solidly and simply support your doctrine from clear, rightly-interpreted Scripture, it has no authority.

For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, 
he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, 
and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, 
and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden.
Let him that is taught in the word 
communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Galatians 6:3-6 (King James Bible)



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