The Church

The Church – Part 8



For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

This passage is one of the best examples in the Bible of the generic or institutional usage of words. In Verse 23 there are four words used in the institutional sense; husband, wife, church, and body. No one would ever make the words husband or the wife mean universal, why do some insist on doing so with the words church and the body? The answer is simple: doctrinal preconception or prejudice.

When the words husband and wife are used in a concrete form, they always mean a specific husband and wife. Likewise, every time the church is mentioned in a concrete sense, it is always spoken of as a local entity. This passage was is written to the local church at Ephesus, which was a local entity.

The generic usage here is proper because each good church should be submitted to Christ as every good wife should be submitted to her husband. Since the vast majority of usages of the word church require a local church interpretation, there is no reason for it to mean anything different here. There is nothing in the context which forces a different meaning.

Many use Verse 27 to prove that the church is universal because it says He wants to present it “a church, not having spot or wrinkle.” As we have seen, the preceding verses refer to a local church in an institutional sense. What is there in the context that changes the meaning here? The fact that it says a church? No! This means that He desires that each church be presented as a glorious church.

Some say that this verse is speaking about the future universal church in prospect. By this they mean all the saints gathered in heaven after the Rapture. If that is what it means it will be a local church, not a universal church. It will not include all the saved because there will be at least two groups in heaven. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of the general assembly and the church of the firstborn.

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Like most other passages used to support the universal church, if you read Ephesians 5:23-33 without prejudice, there is no reason to believe this passage is speaking of a universal church. Although it may be possible to interpret a given passage as speaking of a universal church, this is not sufficient reason to change the meaning of the word “ecclesia.” To change its meaning, there must be something that obligates, not permits this change.


And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 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:

All I should have to say on this passage is “ditto”, but at the risk of being redundant, I will offer similar answers here. Consistent interpretation requires the word church to be local here as elsewhere unless the context requires another interpretation.

Consistency of thought is necessary in our interpretation of Scripture. This passage ends by Paul speaking of his sufferings for you, the church at Colosse, and then he talks of the afflictions (sufferings) of Christ in his flesh for Christ’s body’s sake. Then Paul states that His body is the church. Which church did Paul say he suffered for in the same verse? It was the church at Colosse, not a universal church. There is no reason to differentiate between the sufferings for “you”, the church at Colosse, and the sufferings for the church unless one brings his preconceptions to the passage.

How can a body or an assembly that is disconnected, dispersed throughout space and time, and never brought together still be called a body or an assembly? To use body and assembly to refer to something that is not an assembly and does not assemble is to use the words liberally, as the liberals do. It is to twist the Scriptures beyond sensible meaning. If we take this liberty, we can make the Scriptures say anything we want them to say.

It is a mistake to assume the verses that refer to the body of Christ must be speaking of something different and broader than a local church. This is especially true since Paul refers to the local church at Corinth as “the body of Christ” in I Corinthians 12:27.


Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee

This verse refers back to the prophecy of Psalm 22:22 which says:

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Since Psalm 22 is looking forward to real events in Christ’s earthly life, His crucifixion and His resurrection, it is reasonable to think that His praising God in the midst of the congregation refers to some real event in His earthly life as well.

Do we find a time when He did sing praises in the midst of the congregation (the church)? Yes, we do:

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

The context of this verse is in a called out group of believers meeting together to worship God. This was every bit an ecclesia or church.

Even C.I. Scofield applies Psalm 22:22 to an event before Pentecost, the supposed birthday of the church. He says this verse refers to John 20:17:

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

I don’t see how Scofield could tie these two verses together, because Christ tells Mary Magdalene to tell the brethren, instead of telling them Himself. Nevertheless, since Psalm 22:22 uses the word “congregation” and since this fits well with the definition of ecclesia, Scofield linking the verses places the church in existence before Pentecost.

Whether the prophecy was fulfilled in Mark 14:26 or in John 20:17, it was fulfilled before the supposed birth of the church. This is just one of the many inconsistencies of those who teach there is a universal church to which all are added upon their salvation.