Brethren Archive
The Year 1898

Spiritual Growth and Other Writings - Volume 1

by Frederick Arthur Banks

Mark said ...

This document is of interest not least in that it contains Mr Banks' tract "The Church and the Churches of God". It sets out the basis of the "Needed truth" and the "Gospel Hall" concept that the phrase "church of God" applies only to a "scripturally gathered" local assembly, and not to the entire church, the body of Christ. It forms not only the church teaching of those that call themselves "The Churches of God in the fellowship of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ" but also has generally spread out among those known as "Open Brethren" and is insisted on by their leading teachers. 

A definition of "church of God" is on page 34. 'The phrase "church of God " is used in the Word of God to designate a company of believers acting together in local accountability upon· the earth, but lest this should appear to be a statement unsupported by the Scriptures, it will be necessary to note the places where it is used.' Hence, according to Mr Banks, the phrase "church of God" applies always to a local assembly, and by implication, never to the church universally. Notice how he thinks that his statement has the support of the Scriptures, something which in the half dozen points that follow he attempts to prove. 

One who possibly made this idea become widely acceptable to the "Open Brethren" generally was W E Vine. With regard to Paul writing that he was not fit to be called an apostle because he 'persecuted the church of God' (1 Cor. 15:9) the following explanation is invented to support the notion of "church of God" having always only a local usage. "The church of God he mentions was the local church in Jerusalem. When that was scattered under his persecution other churches had not been formed. The phrase is not anywhere used of the entire Church the Body of Christ. Paul did not persecute that church when he so acted; only a small part of that Body had come into existence, and it is not yet complete." (W E Vine, First Corinthians, page 206.) Take note of how this is supposedly scriptural support! 

It is more than probable that Mr Vine based this absurdity on Mr Banks' explanation at the bottom of page 35 and going over onto page 36. 

Friday, Feb 3, 2023 : 18:18
Syd said ...
Hi Mark; it is remarkable that the context and consistency of the use of "the church of God" in the NT should escape such esteemed scholars of the Word as Vine and others. As you correctly point out, it means the whole church or body. The only exception I know of (the singular use) is 1 Cor 1:2 and 2 Cor 1:1, where the qualification is clearly added lest there be any confusion - "which is at Corinth."
If local churches or assemblies are in view, it is for example, "the churches of God" (1 Cor 11:16) or "churches of Christ" (Rom 16:16), or regions are mentioned.

Nevertheless, in some assemblies today it is taught that "the church of God" (eg, 1 Tim 3:5; 15) is the local assembly.
Friday, Feb 3, 2023 : 21:55
Mark said ...

The concept of an assembly, the being in which is distinct from being in the church which is [Christ's] body, is held almost universally now among the Open Brethren, this having been persistently taught for decades by most if not all their leading teachers. 

Citing as one example from a multitude of others: 'It is essential to distinguish between the “Church, the Body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23) and the “Church of God” (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5, 15).' 

Consequently, based on this idea is that only those in "scripturally gathered" local assemblies are in churches of God. Evidence for this notion is provided by a teacher on the North American Continent who has explained it thus: "To secure this blessing a saved person must seek a true church of God and cling to it. Sadly, not all saved people are in a local church of God, though they are in the church, which is His body."  This concept is by no means unique to this one teacher, but has been similarly expressed many times by numerous teachers in OB books and magazines. 

That the church of God in 1 Timothy 3 verse 15 is the "local assembly" is the view which prevails throughout the "open" meetings. 

Strangely, it is "exclusive" to hold that all true Christians, genuine believers in Christ, members of the One Body, are in the church of God !

Saturday, Feb 4, 2023 : 00:11

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