The Universal Church theory is so hard pressed that it does an almost unbelievable thing - IT FALSIFIES CONCERNING WHEN THE CHURCH WAS STARTED. In doing this it ignores the plainest Bible evidence, as well as the demands of common sense, in order to seek to have its way. Moreover, it DISPLACES CHRIST FROM THE POSITION OF FOUNDER OF THE CHURCH, and MAKES THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE THE FOUNDER! Now wait a minute! Some who read this, won't want to admit what I have just said, but it is true none the less.
The Universal theory - or maybe I should say, the Universal theorist, holds that there was no church previous to Pentecost. They hold that the church was formed on the day of Pentecost by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That plainly means that Jesus died with no church existing - that He founded no church while on this earth. Just face the truth as to what that means. IT MEANS THAT JESUS FALSIFIED, for He said, "I" will build my church. Did He? Did Jesus falsify - or have the Universal Church theorists falsified? Take your choice!
Dr. Scofield (Synthesis of Bible Truth, p. 42) says of the church, "This body could not begin to exist before the exaltation of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit." He goes on to say that a church before the death of Christ would have been an unredeemed church. Will you please ponder what that means? It means that none of the disciples were saved before Pentecost!
In order to try to back his theory Dr. Scofield maintains that the disciples erred in choosing Matthias to take the place of Judas. He evidently does this in the attempt to discredit that business meeting that the infant church held. He claims that the Lord did not recognize that choice of Matthias, but subsequently set it aside by choosing Paul for that place. Two things are wrong here. First, it is not true that Matthias was not recognized. Read the early chapters of Acts and you will find mention of "the twelve." Did the Holy Spirit inspire the writing of Acts? If that's true, He recognized - not the eleven - but the eleven plus Matthias - the twelve. Also in Acts 5:12 it says, "By the hands of the APOSTLES (Matthias included) were many signs and wonders wrought." In the second place, the Lord never added Paul to those other apostles. He was distinctly the apostle to the Gentiles. We Gentiles have apostolic representation through him.
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
In dealing with the founding of the church, we find our selves going back to Matthew 16:18 time and again. Let us take note of what Jesus said as recorded in that verse. He said:
(1) "I will build my church." He did not say the Holy Spirit would do it - HE would build it. Through the centuries this building has continued as separate assemblies have continued to come into existence. As previously pointed out, Jesus makes plain the kind of church He meant, when two chapters later (Matthew 18:17) He said "tell it to the church." It has to be a local, visible assembly referred to in this verse.
(2) "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The Greek word used there is "hades" which signifies the place of departed spirits - the abode of the dead, in other words. Scholars have quibbled over this passage, but whatever may be said, this passage certainly signifies the church Jesus spoke of would never be prevailed against - would never go out of existence. Yet, in spite of Jesus a bit later indicating the church He mentioned WAS THEN IN EXISTENCE (Matthew 18:17 again) the Universal churchite says that it wasn't in existence, and that if it had been, it would have been an unredeemed church I cannot resist the temptation to say BUNK!
The apostle Paul, whose word "church" as used in some places in his writings, furnishes the Universal churchite with his chief ammunition, makes plain that the church that he wrote about was a local visible assembly. In I Corinthians 12:28 he says, "And God hath set some in the church, FIRST THE APOSTLES." The apostles were the first members - Paul says so, and they were not members of a Universal Invisible thing that they could not even see.
WHAT THE UNIVERSAL THEORY DOES
I have already pointed out that this theory denies Jesus to be the Founder of the church; making the Holy Spirit to be the Founder. It makes Jesus to have falsified when He said "I" will build. But the theory goes much further. Let us note the devastation that is wrought by it:
IT LEAVES THE CHURCH WITHOUT ANY COMMISSION.
Dr. Scofield makes this plain when he says, (Synthesis of Bible Truth page 431) "The visible church as such is charged with no mission ... the commission to evangelize the world is personal not corporate." I may explain that this quotation is taken from one of the text books in his Bible course. Also I may remark that I am not seeking to hound Dr. Scofield, for he was a great student of the Bible, and is right on so many things. I quote him particularly because so many Universal theorists have received their ideas concerning church from him.
To take away the Great Commission from the church and to leave it with no orders, is a serious thing. But the truth is, JESUS DID GIVE THE COMMISSION TO HIS CHURCH as a corporate group and not to the disciples as individuals. After saying, "Go ye into all the world and make disciples ... He added, "and lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE." How long has this age (correct translation) lasted? It has already lasted for nearly two thousand years. How could Jesus be with those disciples for two thousand years? He couldn't, for they would be dead and gone from the earth in a few years. So, it is impossible to believe that He addressed them as mere individuals. But - if He spoke to them in corporate capacity, as constituting His church, that makes sense. He could be - and He has been with His church during all of the centuries. And right here there is food for thought. What about those church groups that have had human founders, and have come into existence since the fifteenth century? How could Christ be with them when they didn't exist? He couldn't. Personally, I would not have membership in any church that could be traced to a human founder, and that came into existence centuries after Christ. He said that HE would found His church - PERSONALLY, and that nothing would ever prevail to put it out of existence. If He spoke the truth, then the church He started has been in existence every day since He started it, and will continue so long as this age continues. If you make a historical search, you will discover that no group save Baptists have continuous existence down through the centuries. Either Baptists are the people started by Christ, or else His word - His promise - has failed, since all other religious groups can be traced historically back to a human founder far this side of Christ.
LEAVES THE CHURCH WITH NO ORDINANCES
The Universal theory is a wicked thing. That is the reason why I am exploding it. Not only does it leave the church without any marching orders - it leaves it WITHOUT ORDINANCES. The apostles baptized people long before Pentecost, and the Commission Christ gave said, "Baptizing them." But if there was no church before Pentecost then that baptism wasn't any good, and if the Commission was given only to individuals, then when those persons died the command to disciple and baptize likewise died.
The Lord's Supper is likewise not a church ordinance if there was no church before Pentecost. But there was! After the institution of the Lord's Supper they arose and sang a hymn and went out of the building. Was that a church that observed that Supper that night? The Bible says it was. The writer of Hebrews quotes the twenty-second Psalm concerning Jesus and says, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church I wilt sing praises unto thee."
That is the sole and only time mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus is recorded as singing, and that group that met there that night is called "the church."
That the Lord's Supper was designed as a church ordinance to be observed all through this age, is indicated by Paul when to the Corinthians he wrote, "For as often as ye eat this Bread and drink this Cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death UNTIL HE COME." Since His coming is to occur at the end of the age, that signifies that the memorial of His death and coming is to continue the whole time.
The Universal theory that dates the origin of the church at Pentecost, IGNORES THE PLAINEST OF TEACHING. Let us note some words from Acts 2:41 - "Then they that received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Added unto THEM. Who were the "them?" This question is answered just a few verses further on as we read, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." The "them" of verse 41 is the same as "church" in verse 47.
Now here is the puzzling question: HOW COULD THE LORD ADD TO A CHURCH THAT DIDN'T EXIST? Suppose a farmer says to you, "Today I added ten cows to my herd?" What would you understand? You would clearly under stand that he already had a herd of cows. How can one ADD TO SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T EXIST? A church had to exist previous to Pentecost or else it could not have been "added to" on that day. This line of reasoning is so very simple that it should be understood by anybody. It takes a so-called "scholar" to explain away such a statement.
Let us sum up and note some things they had before Pentecost:
1- They certainly had the APOSTLES, and the Scriptures tell us that they were the first members of the church. (I Corinthians 12:28)
2 - They had the Great Commission - the marching orders of the church for this age.
3 - They had the gospel. Before Pentecost Christ had died sacrificially and had arisen from the dead, and they had the same good news to tell the world that we have today.
4 - They had a definite organization, and even had a treasurer, although he like some others in later times, proved to be dishonest.
5 - They had the ordinances - both of them.
6 - They had a business meeting and chose an apostle to take the place of the traitorous Judas.
7 - They had a prayer meeting, and they got somewhere with their praying for it ended with a wonderful climax.
If that wasn't a church that met previous to Pentecost, pray, why not? They lacked only one thing - they LACKED POWER. That lack was supplied when the Holy Spirit came, and they were baptized by Him with a marvelous empowering baptism of the Spirit.
Note something, and note it well. NOWHERE WAS THERE ANY MENTION THAT THEY WERE TO BE FORMED INTO A CHURCH BY THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT! Not the slightest intimation of such was given.
Just what were the disciples told to expect? The answer is found in Christ's own words as recorded in Luke 24:49 - "But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem UNTIL YE BE ENDUED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH!"How can a person get so in love with an unscriptural, unreasonable theory that they are willing to make that Scripture read, "But tarry ye until you have been formed into a church?" No intimation - not the slightest - that they were to be turned into a church - or rather THE Church, by the coming of the Holy Spirit. That claim is pure, unadulterated forgery!