“The visible Church consists of those whose names are on the local Church rolls, all earthly denominations and sects, good, bad and indifferent would be included in the visible Church” (God’s Answers to Man’s Questions, Alban Douglass, copyrighted in 1966, page 176).
Is this the case?
If there is one thing I understand, it is that one needs a charitable spirit that speaks to another person’s declaration that he or she is a Christian. Thus, it seems to me, the remark above conveys this sentiment. The problem with such a sentiment is that the New Testament does not recognize anything like “…all earthly denominations and sects, good, bad and indifferent…” While it is important for New Testament Christians to exhibit charity when remarks like this are spoken (written), it is also important there be a correction of the sentiment.
The New Testament does not recognize any man-made institution as divine, and a denominational church would fit this classification of a man-made institution. Take the name of any denomination you please. Does that denominational name have its existence in the pages of the New Testament? “But there were no denominations as such in Bible times, and the word church does not mean a denomination at all” (Churches and the Church, John R. Rice, p. 8).
If there were no denominations during the time of the Bible, then why are they in existence today? Because of man, and what a man (or men) wants, he gets. Do you remember in 1 Samuel 8 when the Lord had to reassure His prophet that Samuel was not the one rejected, rather, it was the Lord (1 Samuel 8:6-9)? Because the people wanted a king to be like the others around them, there were men who responded negatively against a teaching, and with that rejection formed new churches. There is an expression in Hosea that expresses this point well in relation to Israel’s determination to stay in idolatry. “My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all” (11:7, ESV). This can also apply to man-made institutions like denominations.
Someone might ask, “What’s in a name?” There must be something in a name because it was the Holy Spirit who spoke when He spoke through Peter with these words, “Nor is there salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven which has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, English Majority Text Version) Yes, there must be something in a name!
On a church building? No, not on a church building. A church building is simply a convenient place for the gathering of people to give attention to God and His way. Yet, the placarded name (identification) on the church building is indicative of what is taught within, is it not?
Neither does the New Testament recognize any teaching that has its origin in man. If there is no “thus saith the Lord” concerning that which is taught, then it is not of God. This means that not only is it imperative that one know exactly the New Testament teaches, but also the meaning of the words used to express the teaching. For instance, the English word baptism comes from a Greek word that means to dip, plunge, immerse. Thus, all those who have been baptized via sprinkling or pouring have not even met the New Testament standard.
Moreover, with regard to another man-made teaching, “The Bible does not recognize any one visible Church on earth as The Church” (p. 176). Does the New Testament teach or imply anything like this? The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus concerning God’s eternal plan, and he was called serve “and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:9-11, ASV). How would the church at Ephesus understand this term as they read this letter? Were they not the church at Ephesus?
Yes, it is the case that a church in one location is the church in that location, but it is quantitatively less than the total number of churches in a multitude of locations. With this being the case, it is the church just the same.
To be a church patterned after what one reads in the New Testament is to be a church organized after the New Testament pattern, that is, a church with a divine name and a divine organization, with divine teaching. I want to be a member of that church.