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Differences Between the Universal Church and the Local Church
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Differences Between the Universal Church and the Local Church


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  • Some “not of us” here—also use Rev. 3:5; 22:19 (may be in the local church directory, but not in the Book of Life).
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    • 1. Various uses of the word “church” • “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). • “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). • “…to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:21).
    • 2. The previous passages all refer to the ONE “universal” church.
    • 3. Various uses of the word “church” • “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). • “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). • “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows” (1 Timothy 5:16).
    • 4. These passages all refer to a local or organized church, of which there are MANY.
    • 5. Must understand other differences • If we don’t, we will make errors in our thinking, our terminology, and ultimately in our practice. • Errors in thinking and terminology eventually lead to errors in practice.
    • 6. Universal Church In heaven and earth (Eph. 3:15) Lord adds members (Acts 2:47) Entered by baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) All saints here (Gal. 3:27) None but the saved (2 Tim. 2:19) One shepherd only (Jn. 10:16) Assembled fig. (Heb. 12:23) Satan cannot prevail (Mt. 16:18) Local Church Earthly, limited (Phil. 1:1) “Join” ourselves to (Acts 9:26) Local control (3 Jn 1:10; Ac 18:27) Certain saints here (1 Cor. 1:2) Some “not of us” here (1 Jn. 2:19) Lesser shepherds (1 Pet. 5:2) Literally assemble (1 Cor. 14:23) Can, often does prevail (Rev. 2:5)
    • 7. Conclusions/Applications • The universal church is a relationship of individuals with God, that comes FIRST—before you ever join yourself to a local church; and that relationship exists even if a local church refuses to receive you (Acts 9:26; 3 John 1:9-10), provided you continue to walk in the truth. • The local church is an additional tie, of saints with saints, working together as a team (collectively), in order to carry out God’s purposes. And yes, it is God’s will that you join yourself to one of these teams.
    • 8. Conclusions/Applications • The bulk of our work as Christians is NOT this teamwork, not this collective action, but what we do individually. • Any action indicated by the universal church is obviously not collective action; it’s what each one of us does to bring glory to God. – Many like to involve the local church and all its resources in nearly every work under the sun, reasoning that this is the only way to bring glory to God.
    • 9. Conclusions/Applications • It is possible to be considered a faithful member of a local church, but NOT be a part of the universal church. Your name may be in a church directory, but not in the Book of Life. • The church is not the means of salvation; it is the result. You don’t get into the church to be saved; the church is the saved (individuals saved by the blood of Christ, who continue faithful to the Lord). – The church is not a vehicle you get into and ride all the way to heaven.
    • 10. Conclusions/Applications • The Prattmont Church of Christ is NOT the one true church, nor is any other local church. – The universal church does not meet on the first day of the week to worship, is not organized with elders and deacons, does not have a treasury, etc. • If we collected together all the churches of Christ, or even just those faithful to the N.T. pattern, that collection would still not constitute the one true universal church. – The universal church is composed of individuals, not churches.
    • 11. Conclusions/Applications • All that we have studied emphasizes the need to show allegiance to Christ, first and foremost. Local churches can and often do go astray, but YOU don’t have to. • The word church is never used to refer to a denomination, a group of churches joined together under some governing body (association, convention, conference, etc.). If you are part of a denomination, you are part of something NOT found in the Bible.