Identifying A New Testament Assembly
Compiled by Lonnie Ford for the Nepali Brethren
Chapter: V. THE ASSEMBLY THAT JESUS BUILT WAS BUILT UNDER THE DIRECT AUTHORITY OF GOD WITH AUTHORIZED MATERIAL
- AUTHORITY TO BUILD.
- For the purpose of establishing this point we will use the biblical analogy of the Lord's assembly being likened unto the building of a house, (Matt. 16:18; cp. 2 Sam. 7:13-14; 1 Cor. 3:9-11; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 3:15).
- Clearly the Father has always intended to have a house in which to dwell among men.
- That house today is the New Testament Assembly.
- Jesus said that He would build that house, and Paul stated that it would be the dwelling place of God through the Spirit.
- This house that Jesus built was the only house that was authorized by God.
- Many who claim to be the Lord's are NOT of His house, (Matt. 7:22-23).
- The question of authority must be dealt with because without the authority of God, the work and ministry would be only the work of men, no matter how well intended.
- Matt. 21:23-27 -- Here, the Chief priests and the elders of the people question the authority of Jesus to do what He is doing.
Then later as recorded in verse 12-17, Jesus went into the Temple and cast out the merchants and overturned their tables.
- In the previous verses, we find Jesus riding into Jerusalem upon an colt.
- As He came into town, the people spread their garments and others spread branches along the way and crying out, "Hosanna to the son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."
So as recorded in verse 23; they came to Him asking Him by what authority that He did these things.
- This sorely distressed the Chief priests and the scribes.
In verse 24, Jesus told them that He would ask them one thing and if they answered Him, then He would tell them by what authority He did these things.
- They realized the need of authority.
- They wanted to prove before the multitude that Jesus did not have authority to do these things and thereby discredit Him.
In the last part of verse 25, we have these Chief priests and elders considering this question carefully.
- So, He asked them IN verse 25 -- "The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?"
- Jesus is asking them if John the Baptist had authority to Baptize and if so from where?
- Now this is an important question, because if John did not have authority, then his work is just the work of a man, no matter how well intentioned.
- So the matter of authority is not a minor issue to be trifled with, we must answer this question.
- By what authority do men do the things that they do?
So, in verse 27 they answered Jesus, 'we cannot tell you,' so Jesus told them that He would not tell them who gave him His authority.
- They realized that if they answered that John's authority 'was from heaven,' then Jesus would ask them why they had not believed and been baptized.
- At the same time they knew that if they answered 'it was of men,' then the people would be upset, because the people all believed that John was a prophet.
However, it did establish the importance of authority.
If an assembly is built without the authority of Heaven, it is not the Lord's.
I hold before you that the only Assembly that was built with the authority of Heaven is the Assembly that Jesus built, and He claimed that the gates of hell would not prevail against it -- consequently it is still in existence today.
SO, HOW DO WE ESTABLISH THAT JESUS HAD AUTHORITY TO BUILD THIS HOUSE?
- This was very embarrassing for these religious leaders.
- WE NEED TO START AT THE BEGINNING WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST BECAUSE HE WAS THE FORERUNNER OF CHRIST.
- John's work and ministry was prophesied by the Old Covenant prophets, (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1).
1) The New Covenant refers to these passages as prophesies concerning John the Baptist, (Matt. 3:1-12; John 1:22-23).
John was sent from God and authorized by God to prepare the way for Messiah, (John 1:6-8; 29-36).
His baptism was authorized by Heaven, (John 1:6-8; 19-34).
2) These passages spoke of John's ministry being like one preparing a highway.
Then in John 1:33, John the Baptist confirms that his authority was from God when he says, "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
What other proof do we have that John's Baptism was done by the authority of God?
- The Scriptures clearly establish that John did indeed have authority from God.
- In John 1:6, John the Beloved, by inspiration writes -- "Therefore was a man sent from God, whose name was John."
- He continues in verse 7, to set forth the mission that John the Baptist was authorized to fulfill, "The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe."
1) First, the fact that Christ accepted Baptism at the hand of John.
Thus the validity of John's Baptism is rooted in the indisputable authority he received from God.
Therefore, John, authorized by God, prepares the material for the building of the House.
2) Second, the fact that Jesus also accepted those Baptized by John as acceptable material to be used in the building of the first Assembly.
- Certainly we do not believe that Jesus would receive baptism that was not authorized by the Father.
3) Third, in that neither Jesus nor the disciples sought to "rebaptize" any of those that John the Baptist had immersed is also proof that they considered John's baptism valid.
4) But fourth, we hold that even greater validity was given to this baptism in that it was authenticated by all members of the Godhead as was the case at the Baptism of Jesus, (Matt. 3:13-17).
- Jesus sought and submitted to John's Baptism.
- The Holy Spirit ascended on and dwelled in Christ.
- The Father spoke His approval from heaven.
- John had authority to preach the message of repentance and to baptize those that believed the words of God.
John also had authority to refuse to baptize those who came to him with no evidence of repentance and faith.
- Matthew 3:5-6 tells us, "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him In Jordan confessing their sins."
By this means, John was commissioned to prepare the way of the Lord and to prepare the material for the building of the New Covenant Assembly.
The Lord's assembly was to be built of properly prepared material, and John the Baptist was the only authority God recognized to perform that work.
- In Matthew 3:7-8, we are told that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John, seeking to be baptized by him, but with no evidence of confession of sin or profession of faith in the coming Messiah.
- John's response to them is contained in the last part of verse seven and all of verse eight. He said, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance."
IT WAS OF THOSE WHO HAD RESPONDED TO JOHN'S MINISTRY BY SUBMITTING THEMSELVES TO HIS DIVINELY AUTHORIZED BAPTISM THAT CHRIST BUILT HIS ASSEMBLY.
- Surely, John recognized this responsibility and took great care to be obedient to the leadership of God's Spirit.
- John recognized and was faithful to his subordinate role in God's purpose, (John 1:15-34; 3:26-30).
- His work was to bear record of the True Light.
- His identity of, and delight in, Jesus, reveals his faithfulness to His authorized ministry, (John 1; Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:2-8; Acts 19:4).
- Jesus received the material, authorized by the Father, prepared at the hand of John and built His Assembly.
- He did this by calling certain ones to follow Him, which were first disciples of John, (Acts 1:21; John 1:35-42).
- These became the nucleus of His first assembly. Thus, in the strictest sense, the founding of the assembly may be located beside the Sea of Galilee, (Matt. 4:18-19, 21; Mark 1:16-17, 19; Luke 5:10); but its DEVELOPMENT continued over a period of years.
- Christ ordained twelve as apostles, (Luke 6:13).
Jesus became the chief corner stone of that foundation, (Isa. 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6; Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:19-22; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 3:4-10).
So, the foundation was laid, (1 Cor. 3:4-10).
His church was assembled, organized, in working order and had a limited commission while He was here on the earth, (Matt. 10:5-6). It also baptized, (John 4:1-2).
Jesus claimed that He would personally build the church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, (Matt. 16:18).
It must be emphasized that the assembly of Jesus Christ has NEVER included "all the saved" at any period of history; not even in its beginning.
- Eph. 2:20, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."
- These Apostles were set first in the foundation of the House, (1 Cor. 12:27-28).
By the day of Pentecost, of the multitudes, only about 120 were gathered together in obedience to the command of Christ, to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high," (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).
It was on these 120 'obedient ones' (Acts 5:32), as the Lord's Assembly, that the Holy Spirit ('The promise of the Father') came on the day of Pentecost, to indwell and empower to carry out the Great Commission as delivered unto them.
IT WAS TO OBEDIENT DISCIPLES THAT JESUS GAVE THE AUTHORITY AND THE GREAT COMMISSION.
- Only those who "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" are members of His house, (Heb. 3:6).
- Though thousands repented and were baptized, the multitudes went back and followed Him no more, (John 6:60-71).
- In the Great commission (Matt. 28:16-20), take note of the words recorded in verse 18 where Jesus said; "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
Christ is the head of the local and visible Biblical Assembly . . . as head, he exercises authority over the assembly.
- The word 'power' here is the word 'authority.'
- Jesus now claims to have 'all authority' and authorizes this assembly that He built to proceed in that authority.
- Christ's headship over the assembly is based primarily on His mediatorial work.
Christ also is the head of the assembly because the assembly is His body, (Eph. 1:23; Col. 1:18).
- Since His victory over satan on the cross, Christ has been given "all authority" in "heaven and on earth," (Matt. 28:18).
- God has put "all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Assembly," (Eph. 1:22; cf. Phil. 2:10-11).
- He is therefore "Lord of lords and King of kings," (Rev. 17:14).
Christ is the source of all its authority and Christ demonstrates His authority in several ways.
- Believers are "members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones," (Eph. 5:30).
- They must have an intimate connection with Him because from Him the Assembly is "nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments," (Col. 2:19).
The Scriptures set forth Christ's authority.
- In the establishment of the Assembly, (Matt. 16:18).
- In the institution of the ordinances that the Assembly must administer, (Matt. 26:26-30; 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-29; John 13:1-17).
- In the endowment of the Assembly with divine authority to act in His name, (Matt. 16:19; 18:15-18; John 20:21-23).
- In the sending of the Holy Spirit to guide His Assemblies under His authority, (John 15:26; 16:13-15).
- In the appointment within the assembly of special gifts so that individuals can function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers to prepare its members for service, and to build up "the body of Christ" till all experience unity in the faith and reflect "the fullness of Christ," (Eph. 4:7-13).
Christ exercises His authority through His Assembly and its specially appointed servants, but He never transfers His power.
- Though Christ guides His assembly through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the sole standard by which the Assembly can operate.
- All its members are to obey that Word because it is law in the absolute sense.
- All human traditions, customs, and cultural practices and human insight are all subject to the authority of the Scriptures, (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
Jesus Christ set pastors in the Assemblies as shepherds to feed the flock of God.
- No one has any independent authority apart from Christ and His word.
- The Lord's Assemblies elect their officers, but while these officers function as representatives of the people, their authority comes from Christ.
- Their election by the Assembly simply confirms the call they received from Christ.
- The primary duty of the elected officers is to see that the Biblical instructions for worship, doctrine, discipline, and gospel proclamation are followed.