Identifying A New Testament Assembly
Compiled by Lonnie Ford for the Nepali Brethren
Chapter: VII. THE PERPETUITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY
The word 'perpetuity' speaks of "the quality or state of being perpetual," by which we mean that it 'continues without interruption indefinitely.' When applied to the Lord's assembly, it sets forth another marvelous truth clearly established in scripture about the assembly that Jesus built. It is our strong conviction that the house of the Lord has perpetuity. This house has been in existence in differing forms, fashioned by God, for His people and will continue without interruption into eternity; adapted for that particular age.
- The Promise of Perpetuity.
- Listen to the words of Jesus as he spoke on this subject as recorded in Matthew 16:18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my assembly; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
- Also consider the Words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
- Jesus was speaking to the ELEVEN just prior to His ascension and told them that He would be with them always unto the end of the age.
The Basis of this Perpetuity.
- However, since the apostles did not live until the end of the age; it is evident that Jesus spoke to them in a representative capacity.
- Thus, Jesus addressed them as representatives of the new order of His house -- HIS ASSEMBLY (CHURCH).
- He sets forth here that the Church would be in existence in its local visible form until the end of the age.
- Back in Matthew 16:18, as recorded above, Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my assembly; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
- In the preceding verses the apostle Peter had acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
- As seen in the study on the Origin of the Assembly, Jesus spoke concerning himself as the 'Chief Corner Stone which the builders rejected.'
- Jesus became the chief corner stone of the foundation of the Assembly, (Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:19-22; Acts 4:1; 1 Peter 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:4-10).
In Matt. 16:18, Jesus made a contrast between His own deity and the humanity of Peter.
- Peter, as an Apostle, was a stone in that same foundation; "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone," (Eph. 2:20).
- He did this first, by referring to Peter as a "petros," a little rock, a stone or pebble.
Secondly, Jesus contrasted His deity to Peter's humanity, with the statement concerning the 'The Gates of Hell.'
- However, Jesus spoke of Himself as the "petra," the massive boulder which cannot be moved.
- The foundation of the Lord's Assembly is a mixture of the Chief corner stone and other smaller stones.
- However, it is His deity that gives this house Perpetuity.
- Listen to Paul's words to the Corinthian Assembly as recorded in 1 Cor. 3:9-11, "For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Men live as well as die and any house built by them will die with them, but the Lord promised that His house, built upon Himself as the chief corner stone, will never cease to exist.
- Death is the "gates of hell," it is the door or gate through which men pass from this life to the next.
- The word that is translated "hell" is the Greek word "hades."
- 'Hades' is technically 'the unseen world,' the Hebrew 'Sheol,' 'the land of the departed,' where men go at death.
The Enemy of Perpetuity.
- The Basis of the Perpetuity of the Lord's house is that Christ is the Eternal foundation of that house.
- There is nothing that satan would love more than to destroy the Lord's assembly.
- Throughout the centuries since the Death, burial and Resurrection of Christ, satan has shown himself as a formidable foe to the Lord's Assembly.
- We must always be on guard for he, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour the house of God.
- In Ephesians 6:12 the apostle Paul reminded the assembly at Ephesus, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
- Ours is a spiritual battle, and although Satan often uses evil men to fight against the Lord's assemblies, the force and motivation to oppose them finds its source in the spirit world.
- A good example of this can be found in world history during the Dark Ages, when Rome was the great power of the world and Roman Catholicism was the recognized religion of the state. Some 50 to 87 million Anabaptists were put to death because of their love for the truth, and the sanctity of the Lord's assembly.
- this was satan's great attempt to destroy the Lord's assemblies through persecution.
Yet, using his wiles, (tricky methods) satan does not always appear as a roaring lion.
- However, his plan failed, and the Lord's assemblies flourished.
History and Perpetuity.
- Eph. 6:11, "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
- 2 Cor. 11:13-15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
- Satan transformed as an angel of light and his ministers transformed as apostles of Christ have created great deception.
- Satan uses this deception along with a multiple of universal churches, with their many varied understandings and practices designed to confuse, drawing the hearts of men away from the Lord's assembly and the truth of the Word.
- History attests to the perpetuity of the Lord's assembly.
- A careful examination of historical records, often penned by those opposing true New Testament assemblies, reveals the existence of a group of assemblies, dating back to apostolic times.
- Often, these assemblies came to light through the pen of the historian, because of the persecution they received due to their doctrines and practices, that set them in opposition to the state authorized assembly.
- Throughout the centuries the Lord's assembly has been called by many different names.
- One of the very first designations of the members of Christ's assembly was that of 'Galileans,' designating the area of Palestine from which they came.
- They were also known as 'The disciples of Jesus,' or 'The disciples of the Lord.'
- As this assembly was scattered by persecution; other assemblies throughout the known world were established, and were distinguished by the area in which they assembled.
- In the first chapters of Acts, we find the assembly referred to as 'The assembly at Jerusalem.'
- It is not until the eleventh chapter of Acts that we find them called "christians" for the first time.
No matter what the name or label given to the Lords assembly, these people were always distinguished by their doctrines, plus their love for their brothers and sisters of the assembly.
Some of the names by which the Lord's assemblies have been known are: Novations, Paulicians, Waldenses, and Albigeneses, etc.
However, one of the oldest names which was assigned to these assemblies of believers was the name "Ana-baptists," which was used as early as the fourth century.
By the early sixteenth century the prefix "ana" was being left off and these were simply known by the name Baptists.
The name "The Baptist" was given to 'John' by God who sent him with authority to prepare the Way for Jesus the promised Messiah.
The importance of Perpetuity.
- This name was given to the believers in the assembly at Antioch in derision, because they so resembled Christ in their deeds.
The Lord's Assemblies Today and Perpetuity.
- The claim of the Lord's assemblies today to perpetuity is neither idle nor unimportant.
- The importance of perpetuity can be simply stated: If there is no such thing as the perpetuity of the Lord's assembly, then the promise of our Lord in Matthew 16:18 was a false one.
- If that were to be true, then one assembly could claim to be "just as good as another," even though their teachings differ drastically and are often opposing.
- However, Christ promised perpetuity for His assembly, and He has kept that promise. Christ is not the author of confusion or deception.
- It then becomes incumbent upon believers to seek out assemblies which have a Scriptural origin and a claim to this line of perpetuity.
- Baptist assemblies have always held to the claim of an unbroken succession, that traces their lineage as a whole, all the way back to the Lord's first assembly.
- Yet it is a difficult history to trace because much of it is written in the blood of those martyred by religious groups who set themselves up as the enemies of this people.
- As one traces this history by this trail of blood, the details of times and events are from the pen of enemies, gloating of their success against this people. Men and women who willingly gave their lives for their relationship with the Messiah as members of His House.
- It is unfortunate that some so-called "Baptists" today deny that heritage and accept the designation of "Protestants."
- "True Baptist assemblies" are not Protestants, for they were neither born nor established out of the Protestant Reformation.
A True New Testament assembly can also be identified doctrinally.
- Instead, they declare the place and time of their origin, to have been when Jesus called out that first assembly from the material which John the Baptist had prepared.
There may have been a period when they went astray from one or more of these cardinal teachings, due to the convictions and teachings of the pastor at that time, but they returned to those teachings that distinguished them or drifted away into Protestantism.
The Lord's assemblies hold strictly to the teachings of God's Word, declaring the New Testament as their only, all sufficient rule of faith and practice.
Therefore, a child of God needs to know what the Bible teaches about salvation, baptism, the nature and origin of the assembly, the Lord's Supper, the glorious return of our Lord, etc.
- There are identifying doctrines to which they hold such as, salvation by grace, baptism by immersion and with proper authority, closed communion, the local assembly and the literal return of Jesus to this earth.
- I believe the significance of this study is simply this:
- The New Testament assembly is God's organization and authority upon the earth today.
- It is the only authorized organism or entity in which God has chosen to dwell, and through which He chose to hold His name before the world in this generation.
- It is the organization through which God receives glory.
- Ephesians 3:21 declares, "Unto him (God) be glory in the assembly by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end."