The Baptist Pillar ©      Brandon Bible Baptist Church     1992-Present

"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Universal Body Equals Universal Church

Bill Jackson

Many today deny that they believe in the theory of a universal, invisible church, but readily admit that they hold to the doctrine of a universal, mystical body of Christ of which all the saved are a part.

It is taught that the moment a person is saved, that person is put into this mystical body by a spiritual baptism. The verse they stand on for this doctrine is I Cor. 12:13 - "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." However, the context of I Cor. 12 clearly indicates that the local church is the body of Christ. Verse 27 - "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

Eph. 4:5 tells us that there is "one baptism." There has been more than one kind of baptism, but for this present time, there is only one kind. What is that one kind of baptism for the New Testament church? Baptism in water, of course!

As I see it, those who hold to the universal body concept are also holding to the universal church concept whether or not they want to admit it. I believe the problem is a failure to properly understand and apply the symbolic terms God uses in His Word.

We need to realize that God is the author of all language, and that He does not use words carelessly. He knows their meaning, and uses them consistently.

There is a definite distinction between a body and a family. As we consider this distinction, keep in mind that the body and the church are one and the same. (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18)

Body (church) of Christ

1. Christ is the head of the body (church). (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18)

2. The body (church) demands location (assembly).

3. Baptism qualifies us for membership. (Acts 2:41)

4. We are members of the body (church). (I Cor. 12:27)

5. Function of the members is the key. (Eph. 4:16)

6. Members can be put out of the body (church). (I Cor. 5:13)

7. The body (church) functions with the authority of Christ, the head. (Mark 13:34; I Cor. 5:4)

8. The body (church) assembles regularly. (Heb. 10:25; I Cor. 14:23)

9. The body (church) has organization. (I Cor. 12:18)

10. The body (church) can be offended. (I Cor. 10:32; 5:6)

11. The body (church) needs nourishment. (Col. 2:19; Acts 20:28)

12. The body (church) needs to be edified. (I Cor. 12:14)

13. The body (church) can lose its heavenly recognition. (Rev. 2:5)

14. The body (church) will give account to God. (Rev. 2:4)

15. The members of the body (church) know and care for one another. (I Cor. 12:20-27; I Thess. 5:12,13)

Family of God

1. The Father is the head of the family. (Eph. 3:14,15)

2. The family can be scattered.

3. The New birth makes us a part. (John 1:12,13)

4. We are children of the family. (Gal. 3:26)

5. Relationship in the family is the key. (Gal. 4:6)

6. We can never be put out of the family. (Eph. 1:5,10,13,14; Rom. 8:15-17)

7. There is no earthly function for the family of God.

8. The family does not assemble at this time. It will one day. (Eph. 1:10)

9. The family has no organization (only relationship).

10. The family cannot be offended.

11. The family cannot be nourished.

12. The family cannot be edified.

13. The family can never lose its recognition. (Matt. 18:10)

14. The family does not give account to God (only individuals). (Rom. 14:12)

15. There is no way we can know but a few of the family of God.

There are some good Baptists who, by a misuse of the symbolic terms, consider a universal body of Christ to be the family of God, but they need to realize that the term, "body of Christ" is a term reserved in the Scriptures for the church. (I shouldn’t have to add "local".)

The symbolism of "body" just does not fit in with the symbolism of "family." Also the symbolism of "body" will not fit in with a universal, invisible concept, either "body" or "church."

Thus, if we will rightly divide God’s Word and its use of terms, the only kind of "church" we will see will be local and visible, and the only kind of "body" we will see will be the same (local & visible) for the Scripture declares in Eph. 4 that there not only is one kind of "baptism" but that there is also only one kind of "body."

We can’t have it both ways!