Defective Views Of The Church

This article was written decades ago; much more is this counsel needed in our day.

Charles D. Alexander
All By Grace
Sola Christus          
Sola Scriptura           
Sola Gratia           
Sola Fida           
Soli Deo Gloria
Defective views of the Church lie at the root of most prophetical errors, and have played havoc with the holy art of Bible exposition. “Dispensations” have been invented to account for the insertion of the Age of the Christian Church where the kingdom of earthly Israel should have been established according to the literal interpretation of prophecy. So convinced are the dispensationalists that all prophecy is for the nation of Israel that they have introduced the extraordinary theory that the Church as such is nowhere envisaged in OT prophecy, but is hidden from the view of the prophets. This despite the fact that the Day of Pentecost was the subject of the main prophecy of Joel, as Peter asserts in his great Pentecostal sermon   and James’s subsequent verdict at the council of the Church at Jerusalem that the calling of the gentiles into the Church was the subject of the prophecy of Amos in his ninth chapter (see Acts 15:13 18). Paul teaches the Ephesians that the Church, so far from being an unexpected event in history was all along that to which God was working from before the foundation of the world, as the means by which He should make known to all creation His manifold wisdom (Ephesians 3:9 10).
 
In Galatians Paul makes it plain that the Church in her NT form is the continuity of the Israel of the OT and the inheritor, as of rights, of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26   4.7).
 
There has been but one Church from the foundation of the world, and one faith (which Paul describes in its continuity from Abel down to his own day, and from then on to the end of time   see Hebrews 11). Faith does not change either as to its nature or its object. The object of faith is the promise of life in Christ Jesus, first made in the Garden in the presence of our first parents, around from the beginning. The priesthood of Abel anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. Enoch’s translation was an assurance to the antediluvian world that immortality was pledged in the promise death would be overcome. Abraham’s faith was sealed by the same anticipatory sacrifice as was Abel’s. Paul assures us that so far from the promise to Abraham ‘and his seed’ being the exclusive preserve of the natural seed of Abraham, it was in fact the promise of life to all who believe, be they Jew or gentile. Abraham’s altered name was a pledge of this – “The Father of Many Nations”. “They who are of faith are blest with faithful Abraham”, declares Paul. (Galatians 3:9)
 
The promise of life, made to Abraham, was not to be the prerogative of an earthly people who throughout their history thrust it from them, but was something which only faith could grasp. Hence “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”. (Romans 4:16)
 
Abraham’s seed was Christ: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). So the natural seed of Abraham was never the subject of the promise only that spiritual seed which by faith and the new birth partake of the new life in Christ. This is the only Israel which inherits the promises, and it is an Israel of Jew and gentile, on terms of absolute equality and right, indifferent as to ancestry, a people of faith and repentance.
 
This Church will continue unchanged as to its calling and nature, till the end of time. No assembly of the Jewish people in Palestine can be regarded as the fulfillment of any promise to Abraham. The land of Canaan was not in itself the fulfillment of the promise, but only a temporal pledge until the seed should come to whom the promise was made, even Christ. Any restoration of the nation of Israel to its ancient privileges would be a reversal of the divine order by which the temporal only foreshadows the spiritual. All the prophecies under the figure of the land of Palestine have been fulfilled in the Church, and are intended to be spiritually understood. The literal interpretation requires that the temple be rebuilt and a ‘most favoured nation’ be established; Christ must vacate His eternal throne to come down to earth as a temporal monarch at Jerusalem. The New Testament knows nothing of this and the New Testament is the sole interpreter of the Old Testament   not the reverse.
 
Our readers should not be startled by the present Jewish occupation of Palestine. It may or may not be permanent, but it is certainly not the fulfillment of any prophecy as understood according to the New Testament. The only ‘nation’ to which the kingdom of God is given is one which brings forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43). To avoid the force of this verse Dr. Scofield introduces a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven a distinction which does not exist in Holy Scripture.
Literalism has sealed up large tracts of the Divine Word from any relevance to the people of God, and lies at the root of much ineffective preaching today. It also lies at the root of much commercialism in the writing and sale on an enormous scale, of books which purport to foretell the future and read current events in terms of Bible prophecies. It is for this reason that we press on without hope of earthly reward, in our task of presenting our thesis  REVELATION SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTOOD.
 
Note: While this article was written over thirty years ago it is as timely as the current [2006] conflict between “Israel” and Lebanon.

9 thoughts on “Defective Views Of The Church

  1. Manfred, I appreciate your perspective even though we would disagree on this one. This would not necessarily represent all of our readers or contributors either. I am not a staunch dispensationalist, but neither do I subscribe to any type of replacement theology as so prevalent within Covenant or Reformed theology circles. Personally, I believe the New Testament is very clear that the church was a mystery and not in any way connected to the Israel of the Old Testament. They are two totally separate entities. However, it is always good to read other perspectives and I appreciate you sharing these thoughts by Charles Alexander.

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  2. Mark, neither the Presbyterian nor Baptist perspective on covenant theology is “replacement theology.” The Baptist view is fulfillment theology. The Presbyterian view DOES consider national Israel to be the “the church in the Old Testament” but the Baptist view does not. It’s a common error of dispensationalists to lump all who express a covenant view into a straw-man built around the flawed paedobaptist system.

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  3. Brother, the article could easily be read as being “replacement theology.” Alexander does make his belief clear that the Church has existed since the foundation of the world and the NT church was Israel of the Old Testament. Personally, I do not lump all who hold to CT into the same category, and in fact, I would probably be more in line with New Covenant Theology in several areas versus dispensationalism. However, it would also be fair to state that not all who hold to dispensationalism would believe what Scofield taught.

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  4. Mark – In a sense the church has existed since the first saint was saved. The word used simply means “called out ones.” The New Covenant church did not exist before Pentecost, but there were “called out ones” who had to wait for the Gentiles to be added and the body of Christ to be complete (Hebrews 11:39 & 40). Paul’s olive tree analogy makes it clear the remnant in national Israel is added to by Gentiles in order that the body of Christ will be complete.

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  5. Manfred,
    When learning the art and science of biblical hermeneutics I wondered why the reformers as did the RCC insist that all apocalyptic scripture must be understood as allegorical and never literal.
    I was even more perplexed when I discovered that this was not the majority view of the earliest of the church fathers.
    I also discovered that the anti-Semitic teachings of the RCC were carried over by many of the reformers. The same reformers that fled to Geneva were loath to have sanctuary given to the persecuted Jews of their day.
    I further discovered that the allegorical approach was first popularized by Origen. Origen it seems was committing the sin of religious syncretism. Although an apparent genuine convert he never severed his Platonist dualistic paradigm.
    The church relegated his views to the ash heap until Augustine. Sadly Augustans pre-conversion roots were also steeped in Pagan Platonist dualism.
    Allow me to attempt to exegete Rev. 20: 1-6 according to the standard rules.
    God, His messenger, His decree and the Devil are all literal. The key and the chain the Seal and the pit are metaphorical terms for literal realities. What was God’s decreed will? That for a certain span of time the Devil was rendered unable to deceive the nations. What decree of God was ever left unfulfilled by any of His messengers? The key element of the His decree was to prevent any and all satanic deception, for a time. I also ask who but God can loose what He has sealed. A literal decree for a literal sealing demands a literal time of loosing for a literal time of Satanic deception with zero deception in between.
    I opened my concordance to the word ” thousand”. Out of a hundreds of verses only a paltry handful were not literal. Nothing but pre-conception imposed upon the text demands a non-literal understanding of ” a thousand years “.
    In order for the amill view to hold up you must have a weak god who is unable to overcome the devil even for a short period of time.
    The early church looked forward to Christ’s glorious thousand year rule on earth. The Amills want to sit on his throne in the absence of His physical presence.

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  6. Miller said:

    I opened my concordance to the word ” thousand”. Out of a hundreds of verses only a paltry handful were not literal. Nothing but pre-conception imposed upon the text demands a non-literal understanding of ” a thousand years “. In order for the amill view to hold up you must have a weak god who is unable to overcome the devil even for a short period of time.
    The early church looked forward to Christ’s glorious thousand year rule on earth.

    Jim says:

    Brother, using fleshy and rhetorical debate tactics like “you must have a weak God” is really counter productive. Also, one of the clearest apostolic teachings on this matter states (directly related to end times) that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord and also that the ‘early church’ was looking forward to a new heaven and new earth, NOT a 1000 year reign of Christ from the current earth. Either way, I wish brethren on all sides would avoid the religious rhetoric. Our words reflect our hearts and character in Christ far more than our intellectual understandings of end times. (The Lord bless you Mark for modeling sound speech for the saints even though I am in disagreement on this issue).

    Peter says:

    But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. -2 Peter 3:8-13 NKJV

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  7. Manfred
    I literally remain a 5 X 5 ( 5 solas X 5 points of election ) Christian even though I reject the reformed and dispensational and Preterist and dominionist and the liberal cultic eschatology’s.
    I sent a previous clarification comment that disappeared perhaps because it had a hyperlink?

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  8. transposed words in the prior statement. to clarify the Liberal theology in our churches fits the definition of being a cult.
    ………………………….and the cultic liberal eschatology’s

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