Answer 13: 27 proofs of “The First Church”

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13. They were promised a permanent church (Matt. 16:18).

I have to ask the question, as I am forced to by the implicit supposition of the statement:

What is a ‘temporary’ church, and where is it found in Scripture?

I have read the entire Scripture several times, and I cannot find a “temporary church.”  Moreover, when we examine the verse cited, it has the statement “I will build . . .”

However, S. E. Anderson has a rather interesting explanation for why it was a temporary church that existed during Christ’s ministry prior to His death on the cross.

The word “church” is used once of Israel [Israel was like a church only in the sense that they were called out of Egypt, and they assembled for their pilgrimage to Canaan.] in the wilderness, in Acts 7:38. The nation of Israel had been brought out from Egypt; they had assembled for passage through the Red Sea and then later to Mount Sinai. After they had scattered into their separate divisions of Palestine they were never called a church. Confusion is sure to follow if Old Testament Israel is identified with the church Jesus built in the New Testament. The latter is new, unique, distinct, and Christ-centered.
“I will build my church.” Was it all to be in the future? Not necessarily; He would simply continue to keep on building what He had already started. Every good pastor wants to “build up” his church after it already has a good start; in fact, it may have started a hundred years before. Christ had already made a good beginning with the Twelve. A medical doctor may tell his patient, “I am going to build up your health” when the person already has most of the factors of physical well being.
The word for “will build” in Matthew 16:18 is oikodomeso, the same word as used in Ephesians 4:12, “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Here a body, or church, which had been long established, was still being built. Acts 9:31 says, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified” (Gk., o:kodomoumene, were being built up). May every church now still allow Christ to continue building it. Then “the gates of hell” or the powers of the Devil will never prevail against it. Only Christ can prevail against Satan; a church that is not Christocentric will fail. (S. E. Anderson, The First Church, chapter 3, page 28)

There are a couple of things that are to be addressed in the above explanation.  I have underlined the particular statements that draw considerable question.  First, all of the covenant Israel was given was Christ-centered.  Everything Israel was to do was to show Christ to come.  If there are any doubts, Hebrews, chapter 10 explains this very well.  Everything about Israel was to center around the tabernacle, and the message both it and all the ordinances preached.  Secondly, he goes to the Greek to prove his point that the word used is present tense.  However, the underlying word is not always translated in the way he demonstrates, as I will show later.  In any case, I find him in agreement with Davis W. Huckabee, who stated the following about Matthew 16:18.

Many have stumbled at the belief that the church was organized during the personal ministry of the Lord because He says “I will build my church.” It is held by many that since He used the future tense of the verb, He must be referring to something that would commence to be built at some future time, and hence, could not then be in existence. However, this is based upon the false assumption that it means “I will commence to build.” The future tense is perfectly in order if the church had already been organized, as we believe that it had, for the simple reason that it had not been long in existence, but that it was to continue to be built over a vast period of time which has now stretched to almost twenty centuries. Hence, by far the majority of the building was yet future. At what time in the past twenty centuries, has it not been correct to say that Christ will build His church? I may correctly say “He will build the First Baptist Church of Kirk, Colorado,” even though this church has already existed for fifty-five years, because any true and lasting building that is done is from the Lord.
Paul uses this same manner of speaking concerning the continual building up of the Christian in the Lord. He says, “Having been rooted (perfect passive participle) and being now built up (present passive participle) in Him, and being established (present passive participle) in the faith…” (Col. 2:7), literal rendering. Dr. A. T. Robertson, one of the foremost Greek scholars of the past generation, says of this passage: “The metaphor is changed again to a building as continually going up (present tense).” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, IV, 490).. He also states concerning the future tense that:
The future likewise presents incompleted action which in any case may be either momentary, simultaneous, prolonged, descriptive, repeated, customary, interrupted, attempted, or begun, according to the nature of the case or the meaning of the verb.—Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 141 (Emphasis mine—DWH). (Studies on Church Truth, Davis W. Huckabee, ch. 1)

There are three things that demand attention in Davis W. Huckabee’s explanation given above:

  1. The utterly convoluted description of building a church, or the church.
  2. The use of some other bible than the Authorized King James Version to prove his point.
  3. The setting aside of two plain passages of Scripture to justify his logic.

I will address them in order.

1. The utterly convoluted description of building a church, or the church.
Now, for those who have been, or are now missionaries, the point I am about to make ought to be clear.  When mission work starts with the aim of planting New Testament churches, does the work of the missionary continue at that particular location once the church has been organized and the new church has a pastor?  Of course, unless the missionary is the new pastor, we see the missionary move on to another location the Lord has called him to.  Please note that we see this all through Acts.  You see, once the church is organized, it is built, it is established, and can now begin the work of supporting and sending missionaries to build other New Testament churches.

If we now look backwards in time, in like manner the Lord Jesus Christ built the New Testament church.  At the time of Matthew 16:18, nothing had been given the apostles concerning the purpose and work of Christ during this phase of His earthly ministry.  We know this, or ought to know this, by the following passages of Scripture:

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (Matthew 16:21)

Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.  For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.  And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them,  neither knew they the things which were spoken. (Luke 18:31-34)

Of course, the reason for the apostles not understanding that Christ would go to Jerusalem and be killed, is that they were bent on having the Lord establish His kingdom then and there and were not even considering that they were the cadre of individuals that would become a new House of God instead of being of high position in the Lord’s kingdom on earth.  We see this even after they were a church, and before they were empowered to do the work, by the question they asked the Lord before He ascended:

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord,  wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:6-8)

In short, until they were empowered, they lacked understanding of the function they were to perform for the Lord as His New Testament church.  If then we take the very first mention of a church in Matthew and state that the church is already in existence, we have the Lord violating His very own word, in that the church at Corinth was expressly told that all things are to be done decently and in order.

Let all things be done decently and in order. (I Corinthians 14:40)

It is obviously not very orderly to have a church already in existence for some time, and the members only now getting the very first mention of the fact that they were already in covenant with the Lord for service in a new institution.  It is also not very orderly to have the replacement institution in existence and functioning long before the old covenant is done away with.  This creates a serious conflict in authorities.  In the following passage from Zechariah, we find a prophecy of the breaking of the covenant the Lord had with Israel, and the subsequent betrayal by Judas Iscariot.

And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.  And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.  And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.  And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. (Zechariah 11:10-13)

Now, it is manifest that this breaking of the covenant and subsequent betrayal took place long after the statement recorded in Matthew 16:18.  The breaking of the covenant with Israel is recorded in Matthew, beginning in chapter 21

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.  And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read,  Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?  And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. (Matthew 21:12-17)

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?  Therefore say I unto you,  The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.  (Matthew 21:42-43)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.  For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:37-39)

In Matthew, chapters 21 through 23 we find the Lord Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as their King.  As King, He cleanses the Temple and begins to teach doctrine.  At this point, the Temple is still “My house . . .” indicating plainly that it belongs to the Lord.  However, he is rejected by the leadership of Israel, and He tells them that the Kingdom of God is going to be taken away from them and given to another who will render proper fruit.  He then breaks the covenant as per the prophecy given in Zechariah, and calls the temple “your house . . .” plainly indicating that He is done with Israel for the time being.

Now, the Scriptures being plain, it is manifestly not orderly to force into existence a new covenanted institution while the old institution is still in covenant with the Lord for service.  Thus, what Davis Huckabee has done by twisting the meaning of “I will build . . .” is contradict the rest of the gospel account concerning the formation of the church, and the breaking of the covenant with Israel.

Moreover, to also declare that the New Testament church is still being built, is to say that the Lord Jesus Christ never finished one of the works He came to do.  Instead, Davis Huckabee would have us believe that the New Testament church will never be built on this earth, and leave us with the impression that the institution that is the New Testament church will never be settled as to its form and function.  Obviously, Mr. Huckabee doesn’t understand plainly that once something is settled as to its design and then formed, it is built.  With regard to its formation and existence, it is irrelevant whether other members are added to that first church, or other churches come after it.  It is a fully formed (built) church.

2. The use of some other bible than the Authorized King James Version to prove his point.
In the above quotation, the following is stated “He says, “Having been rooted (perfect passive participle) and being now built up (present passive participle) in Him, and being established (present passive participle) in the faith…” (Col. 2:7), literal rendering.”  The King James Version reads thus:

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:7)

If the meaning is the same, why is it necessary to tear down the absolutely best Bible translation out there by rejecting it in favor of a “literal rendering?”  This is particularly egregious when it comes to proving a point that fundamental Baptists hold, such as the local, visible church.  Of course, Davis W. Huckabee is no adherent of the King James Bible as he is express about it.

The statement is often made that the church was formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (See Scofield Bible, p. 1150, note; and p. 1252, note.) yet never is any scriptural proof cited beyond the reference to Acts 2:l cf., and 1 Corinthians 12:13, the latter of which, in the King James translation is a manifest mistranslation. (Studies on Church Truth, Davis W. Huckabee, ch. 1)

To me, this is a manifest indicator (a “red flag”) that I should not listen to anything the man states as it is highly subject to error. Of course, Davis Huckabee is entirely qualified to pass judgement on the translation abilities of the likes of Lancelot Andrews and John Bois, in that he knows at least 16 different languages and studies the Greek language 16 hours a day.

There is a point where we ought to respect those who came before us, and respect the fact that the LORD God chose them to do the work of translating His word instead of choosing us.

3. The setting aside of two plain passages of Scripture to justify his logic.
This particular point I address elsewhere at length, so I will be brief.  There are two passages of Scripture that make it plain when the New Testament church began:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.  For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.  Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.  For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.  Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. (Hebrews 9:15-21)

Plainly, no testament is of force while the testator is alive.  The New Testament church came into existence the moment Christ died on the cross, because the Lord Jesus Christ is the Testator.  Everything prior to this is building the church for the simple fact that the Testator of the New Testament has not yet given His life.  After the resurrection of Christ, the church exists, but needs a commission and empowerment to accomplish the work set out for it.

In attempting to prove his point, Davis Huckabee rendered the above two passages of Scripture meaningless and without purpose as they directly address the New Testament church.

The underlying Greek
The following is the word that underlies the term “will build” in Matthew 16:18.  Much was made by both S. E. Anderson and Davis Huckabee about its meaning in proving their point that the New Testament church is still being built.  Please take careful note of the different definitions that exist for this word.  Please note further that definition (2a) would fit exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ stated and would be fully consistent with Acts 20:28 and Hebrews 9:15-21.  It would also be fully consistent with a wise Master Builder and the way things are rightly done.  However, to answer these gentlemen and others, I will present some other verses that show the different ways that this word is translated.

3618 oikodomeo { oy-kod-om-eh’-o} also oikodomos { oy-kod-om’-os} Ac 4:11 from the same as 3619; TDNT – 5:136,674; v AV – build 24, edify 7, builder 5, build up 1, be in building 1, embolden 1; 39 GK – 3868 {οἰκοδdομέω} & 3871 {οἰκοδdόμος}
1) to build a house, erect a building
1a) to build (up from the foundation)
1b) to restore by building, to rebuild, repair
2) metaph.
2a) to found, establish
2b) to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness
2c) to grow in wisdom and piety
(Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Test of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurence of Each Word in Regular Order. Ontario: Woodside Bible.)

And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say,  I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. (Mark 14:57-58)

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (Luke 4:28-29)

Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. (Luke 11:47-48)

And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. (Luke 12:18)

Now, in the four passages given above, we have several tenses available to us, past, present perfect, and two references that are future tense.  So then, what does going to the Greek prove?  Absolutely nothing that cannot be proved in the English by comparing Scripture with Scripture.  In fact, if the individuals that are being taught have no knowledge or resources to determine otherwise, they can be suitably impressed by the Greek and successfully taught false doctrine, never being the wiser.

Moreover, to claim that a preacher of the gospel must know the Koine Greek dialect to have a better understanding of the Scripture is to deny one of the clear messages of Pentecost. And, it is to walk right alongside the Catholics that say that one must know and read the Scriptures in Latin to truly understand them.  It is the Holy Ghost that gives the understanding of the Scripture, not knowledge of the Greek.

So then, this point proves nothing, except how to twist the Scripture.

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