When is a Church Not a Church?

I want to talk about what “the church” is. This will be a high-level discussion, not a defense of a particular kind of church (Baptists v. Methodists, etc.). I want to talk about this because I fear we forget just how important it is to get this right. As sectarian battles light up social media and the news (with no end in sight), this deceptively simple issue deserves some consideration. 

There are different ways we use the word “church:”

  1. The building where the congregation meets. This is common language, and I get it, but it’s wrong.
  2. In a wholistic sense, considering the entire congregation of the faithful throughout the world. We’ll begin with this.
  3. In an institutional sense—a local place that exists somewhere. This is the sense which we’ll spend most of our time pondering.1

Wholistic Sense—Church as Brotherhood of Christ-followers

Three strikingly different theologians offer up similar definitions for “the church” in a wholistic sense.

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The Danger of Replacing Israel (Part 3)

In this series we have learned how it is always dangerous to replace Israel.

Replacing Israel occurs when one interprets the word Israel in the text of Scripture to mean the church or all believers—understanding them to be the new Israel or the spiritual Israel. It is taking the concept of Israel (the people, the nation, or the land) in a non-literal sense.

We are concluding this series with a practical case study, showing how these issues worked out in the life, ministry, and influence of one of the greatest Reformers in the history of the church.

That man, who ultimately stumbled over his attempt to relate biblically to the Jewish people, was, of course, Dr. Martin Luther.

On October 31, we will remember and celebrate the 504th anniversary of the Reformation, which Luther began by posting the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, protesting the abuses of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s brave stand for salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, on the basis of Scripture alone, all for the glory of God alone, brought spiritual freedom to masses of people, and ultimately began the transformation of Western civilization.

Luther was a man of great courage and conviction—and he boldly challenged the greatest worldly powers of his day, willing to stand on the Word of God alone even when facing the threat of death.

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The Danger of Replacing Israel (Part 2)

In the previous installment, we considered the origin and nature of Replacement Theology, which involves understanding the church to be the new Israel or the spiritual Israel, or otherwise taking the concept of Israel (the people, the nation, or the land) in some non-literal sense when we encounter it within the text of Holy Scripture.

We briefly examined the development of this doctrine up to the time of the Reformation. This is where we will take up our historical journey in this article.

Replacement Theology—a Significant Issue

Someone might, first of all, be wondering whether Replacement Theology is really an issue deserving of this much of our time. The answer is that, indeed, it is.

As Replacement Theology is once again growing steadily in the churches of our day, we might wish that it were simply an aberrant concept—a recognizably false teaching that was of recent origin, and easily dismissed as having a limited influence.

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The Danger of Replacing Israel (Part 1)

Masada, 2020

As Bible-believing Christians, we must maintain a keen focus on the importance of Israel—from its biblical past, through its strategic present, to its prophetic future.

And, indeed, we must always remember that God still has a future for Israel! Proclaiming this truth—and acting on it—is the very reason The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry came into existence almost 83 years ago.

The tendency to replace Israel—counting the church as the new Israel or the spiritual Israel, or otherwise taking the concept of Israel (the people, the nation or the land) in some non-literal sense—is a trend that is growing rapidly in our time. But it is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination.

Proponents of this form of interpretation can, in fact, reference a vast web of theologians and statements which span much of the history of the church—going back near its beginning—as support for their view.1

However, the fact that there is such a body of evidence also allows us to test the results of this strain of doctrine.

Over the course of three installments, I hope to show what Replacement Theology is, how it began, and what type of fruit it bears. We will do this by examining church history to the time of the Reformation, then from the Reformation onward—concluding with a practical case study of how this worked out in the life, ministry, and influence of one of the greatest Reformers in the history of the church.

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'Historic night': Saddleback Church ordains first female pastors

"Saddleback Church, the California-based megachurch headed by Pastor Rick Warren, announced that they ordained their first three female pastors, despite being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which prohibits female ordination." - C.Post

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