The Universal Church- When Did God Create the Church? Episode 27
Teaching Thursdays With Kevin Morris
When did God create the church? The common answer to this question is Pentecost. But this is a relevantly new answer, part of the interpretation known as dispensationalism. As we continue our discussion about Covenant Theology, we’ll uncover that the answer to this question defines what is known as the universal church.
The Universal Promise
Did the church begin at Pentecost?
The promise given to Abraham was not a promise limited to a nation, but one extended to the whole earth- all nations. (Genesis 15, Romans 4)
Below is a sample of how dispensationalism interacts with this question:
“We believe that all who are united to the risen and ascended Son of God are members of the church which is the body and bride of Christ, which began at Pentecost and is completely distinct from Israel. Its members are constituted as such regardless of membership or nonmembership in the organized churches of earth. We believe that by the same Spirit all believers in this age are baptized into, and thus become, one body that is Christ’s, whether Jews or Gentiles, and having become members one of another, are under solemn duty to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, rising above all sectarian differences, and loving one another with a pure heart fervently”
“We believe that the period of great tribulation in the earth will be climaxed by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth as He went, in person on the clouds of heaven, and with power and great glory to introduce the millennial age, to bind Satan and place him in the abyss, to lift the curse which now rests upon the whole creation, to restore Israel to her own land and to give her the realization of God’s covenant promises, and to bring the whole world to the knowledge of God”
-From the Doctrinal Statement of Dallas Theological Seminary, the token school of dispensationalism.
An Historical Departure
Represented in the above doctrinal statements is the “complete distinction” of Israel and the church. This is a departure from what the church has confessed historically through the ages.
The Historical Creeds confess that the church is the universal reality of God’s people in saying “one holy catholic and apostolic church”– that is, catholic representing ‘universal’ of all places and times.
See Nicene Creed, Apostle’s Creed, Chalcedonian Definition of Faith.
A Blessing Based on Faith, Not Race
Again, our main concern is not on new or old (CT vs DT), but the biblical basis for it. Is there a biblical basis for seeing God’s people as God’s people universally from creation to consummation?
The Abrahamic covenant is the answer, the traceable promise that runs all the way through the Bible.
In the Old Testament, it is mentioned as a repeating thread of hope: “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.
In this promise, the emphasis of descendants numbering the stars of the sky is tied to the promise of all nations being blessed.
Thus, the descendants are to be understood as all nations.
This language is used to describe the redeemed of all peoples and tribes as the fulfillment of ethnic descent (Revelation 7:1-10)
This Basis of Blessing in the Old and New Testaments
The question arises, but is this promise to Abraham in the Old the same as the promise of blessing in the New Testament?
Romans 4 demonstrates this as one in the same (in Christ).
This is further demonstrated in Galatians 3:16, that the issue of seed (descendants) is not a matter of an ethnic tribe but of the one promised.
This points back to the original promise in Genesis 3:15.
As well as the universal state of mankind (last week)
The Universal Reality of Faith
Was faith directed to Christ?
If faith alone is a doctrine restricted to the new testament church, it would seem that the pattern of faith would not be prevalent in the Old Testament
Old Testament saints are both saints and forerunners of New Testament saints (Hebrews 11). Hebrews 11 speaks of our forerunners and witnesses (testifiers) of faith.
Faith has always been the universal reality of God’s people. Further this faith was not different in substance or centrality, but in vantage point (looking forward to Christ and looking back to Christ). Jesus says Abraham “rejoiced to see my day”, pointing to the substance of Abraham’s faith. (John 8:56)
The Universal Plan
Is God Accomplishing Two Different Plans?
To lay claim that the church is a unique dispensation in history must be verified and spoken of in clear terms of the disassociation between the church and Israel.
The New Testament teaches that both Jews and Greeks are one body in Christ (Eph. 2.11-22). Further, according to Ephesians the church is one mystery revealed in Christ as His eternal plan (3:1-13).
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