In my study of Baptists I have found that their number one distinctive is that the Bible is their sole authority for faith and practice. I have asked before how many of us, as Baptists really believe the Bible.
The Scriptures teach clearly that the church and the body of Christ are the same thing.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 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:
The body of Christ is described in I Corinthians Chapter 4 as a local body. It functions together as a unit. When one member suffers the whole body suffers. When one member rejoices the whole body rejoices.
In verse 27 Paul tells the church at Corinth that they are the body of Christ. By saying “ye are the body of Christ,” Paul shows that he is not part of that body. If he was, he would have said “we are the body of Christ.”
Verse 13 is used by those who believe in a universal church to make the body spoken of in this passage into a universal body. Actually, the verse is in perfect agreement with Acts chapter 2 verse 41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Acts Chapter 2 starts out with a church of about 120 souls meeting together. They had a business meeting to choose a successor to Judas. There was a great movement of the Holy Spirit in that meeting and He gave them the ability to speak languages they had never learned. They went out into the streets and started preaching in those languages. The result was more that 3,000 souls being saved.
The only message God chose to preserve in His Word as the one preached by Peter. Those who received the word preached by Peter, and I suppose the others, were then baptized and added unto them, the church that met on that morning (see verse 47).
The word “church” or “churches” is used 117 times in the New Testament. There is not one single time that it is used in a sense that indicates that the church is anything but a local assembly. There are a few times, very few, that could have that meaning, but only if you come to them with the preconceived idea of a universal church. You can get my book “The Universal Church: Fact or Fiction” to learn more on this subject.
I went into this discussion of the universal church to show how many say they believe the Bible when they don’t really. Historically Baptists have stood against the idea of a universal church. Prior to the Reformation the doctrine was different than it is now. It taught a universal, visible church. This was the Catholic (universal) church and it taught that there was no salvation outside the church. The Baptists stood against this from it inception in the fourth century until some time after the Reformation.
The reformers, who were no longer part of the Catholic Church, were now outside of the “universal church” and had a real problem if there is no salvation outside the church. They invented a new doctrine, the doctrine of the universal, invisible church where only God knows who is a member.
Non-Baptists, like C.I. Scofield, put the universal church in their study Bibles, theology books used in Baptist bible colleges were written by non-Baptists and many Baptists now accept the word of these men instead of the searching the Scriptures to find the truth.
My whole point in this article is that we should be Bereans and search the Scriptures to see what is true and not take the words and opinions of men. Great men can be wrong. Abraham, Moses, and David, for example, made a number of mistakes, yet they were great men of God.