The Church

The Church – Part 6



For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

It is really difficult to understand how anyone could see any reference to the universal church in this passage. Paul is still talking to a local church. Again, he excludes himself by using the word “you” instead of “us.”

Paul’s talking about having “espoused you to one husband” and that he desires to present them as a “chaste virgin” implies that he is talking about the Bride of Christ. The use of the word “you” instead of “us” would eliminate Paul from the bride unless he was talking about the members of the church at Corinth making up part of the bride. It would be Paul’s desire also that the members of his home church, the church at Antioch, also be espoused to one husband and be a chaste virgin and make up another part of the bride.

In Verse 1, Paul asks the church at Corinth to bear with his folly. He is saying that his concern (jealousy) for them may seem foolish, but he asks them to bear him out, or listen to what he has to say. Paul had probably won many of the members of this church to the Lord and he was certainly responsible for the existence of this church. He had a purpose in starting this church. It was to be a pure church and that, at Christ’s return, its members would be prepared to make up part of His bride.

Verses 3 and 4 express the fear that Paul had. He feared that this church might turn from the simplicity of Christ and the Gospel to another Jesus, another spirit, or another gospel. Remember that he wrote his first epistle to this church to deal with serious problems within this church which, if not corrected, would have led to just such things.

We must also understand that it is not Paul who espouses the Bride to Christ. Whatever may be meant by the phrases “espoused you to one husband” and “chaste virgin”, one thing is sure. They refer to a local church, the church of God which is at Corinth (I Corinthians 1:2 and II Corinthians 1:1), not to a universal church.

Again, there is no reason to make this passage refer to anything but a local church unless it is read with prejudice. Remember, there must be something in the context that obligates the word church meaning other than local before universal definition can be ascribed.


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 fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

It may seem redundant to keep saying that the word church is sometimes used in the institutional sense, but most of the passages used to support the universal church doctrine fit well with the doctrine of the local church if this is kept in mind. To continue in my redundancy, there must be something in the context that requires changing the word ecclesia from local to universal. It is not enough to simply permit this change in meaning.

We have already seen that an ecclesia and a body both mean a local group of individual parts joined together in a manner to function together as a unit. All the descriptions of both in Scripture clearly show this. The church meets together (Matthew 18, Acts 1 and 2, etc.); it functions as a unit (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, etc.). They are bound together as a functioning unit (Ephesians 2, I Peter 2, etc.). A body doesn’t have an arm in Kansas, and a leg in New York and a house or building does not have a wall in Montana and a roof in Florida.

This passage, like others we have looked at, is written to a local church and must be interpreted in that context. While the church epistles are for all of us, we must look at them as written to a church and not to individuals.

Notice that this passage says that all things are under Christ’s feet and that He is given to be head over all things to the church. If all things are under His feet and He is head of all things to the church, is He a contortionist? As the head of each church, all things are under His authority (under His feet) and He is to be consulted in all things as the head of each church.

I have already dealt with the phrase “body of Christ” but for the sake of clarity let us look at it again. The “body of Christ” is not His physical body in the same sense as your body is you. Each church is His body in the sense that it belongs to Him as His possession. As the owner of each church, He has the right to deal with each church as He sees fit. Read Revelation Chapters Two and Three to see this principle in action.

If we keep proper principles of interpretation in mind, we have no problem understanding this passage in the light of local church doctrine. The scriptural principles describing a particular church are true of all churches. If Jesus was the head of the body He owned in Ephesus in the first century, He is also the head of the church where I am presently a member in the twenty-first century.

People only see the universal church in these verses because this is what they have been taught. It is found in the notes of most study Bibles so people assume this concept is true without further investigation. Surely Scofield, Ryrie, John MacArthur, and many others couldn’t be wrong, could they? Remember, the Christians of Berea were more noble because they compared what they were taught by the Apostle Paul with the Scriptures to ensure that what he taught was true to the Word of God.

Since the Bible is its own best interpreter, why don’t we let the Bible tell us what is meant by the word “body”?

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:12-16

The body is something that is “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” its purpose is that “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

The universal church is not fitly joined together and it does not effectually work together. It is certain that there is now no universal agreement in doctrine, or in the understanding of Christ. The supposed universal church is “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

Everything the Scriptures command the church to do can only be done by a local church. Every description in Scripture of a church or a body describes a local church or body. This is the kind of church over which Christ has designated Himself to be the Head.

The final phrase of this passage says, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Many use this phrase to force the universal church doctrine into this passage. Again, let the Bible tells us what it means. In Ephesians 3:19 we have the explanation, which says:

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

This is part of Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus, a local church. The prayer is that the members of this church (ye) be filled with “all the fulness of God.”

There is nothing in Ephesians 1:22-23 that obligates the teaching of a universal church. There is nothing in this passage that does not fit the doctrine of a local church. We still have no reason to believe that the word church is anything but what the Greek word ecclesia means it to be, a local assembly.