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Doctrine of the Church

Dr. Grant C. Richison


Emphasis on the Universal Church

“We want Christianity, not Churchianity” is erroneous. Error – true loyalty to Christ involves a love for, and a loyalty to His church.

A true doctrine of the church forbids setting the church over against Christ

Emphasis on the Local church

Some deny the existence of the universal church.

The corrective for one error is not the cultivation of another error.

A Tension — “Which is more important, purity or unity?”

The local church is a manifestation of what God is like, 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:9.

The church is of primary importance to God’s purpose, I Ti. 3:15. When we abandon God’s church we abandon God’s organization. It is God’s agency or instrument for doing his plan on earth.


Definition – a company of believers formed of both Jew and Gentile who are called out of the world and joined together in one living union whether universal or local.

Two major categories:

organism (universal church)

local – 1 Th. 1:1; Ga. 1:2; Php. 1:1.

The Greek wordekklesia

Literallycalled out ones

Classical Greek:

The assembly of citizens in a self-governed state

The summons was not to any selected few but to every man to come and shoulder his responsibilities.

LXX (Greek translation of O.T. used by Jesus and Apostles). cf. Acts 7:38; 19:32.

In New Testament — technical usage primarily.

non-technical. e.g. Acts 7:38; He. 2:12 (Ps. 22:22); Acts 19: 29-32.

technical (nature and extent of modifiers)

11 times “of God” affixed

more than a physical assembly but a distinctly Christian unity because it had the content which Christ gave it — living union with Christ.

Uses not found in New Testament:

of a physical structure

of a state or national church

of a denomination

of Israel


Not found in O.T., (Matt 16:18, future).

Church started at Pentecost, cf. Acts 2,10, 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph 3.

Church is distinct from Israel because:

No distinctions in the Church nationally, Col. 3:11.

Citizens of Heaven, Phil. 3:20; Co. 3:3; 2 5:17-18.

One new body, Eph. 2:15; 3:3-6.


We are members of the universal church immediately upon salvation, 1 Co. 12:13.

There was no such thing as church membership in a local church but there are many passages where believers joined themselves to a local assembly.



Invisible – not deny reality but every regenerate person is a member.

Ideal – not in imagination but a pattern.

Spiritual – over against organized.

Universal – not embrace all professing Christians but includes all born again people.

Seven figures:

Shepherd and sheep

Vine and branches

Cornerstone and building

High priest and believer-priests

Head and body

Last Adam and new creation

Bridegroom and bride


Any relationship or responsibility incumbent upon the universal church must find its out-working in the local church.

Of 114 occurrences of ekklesia 92 refer to the local church

Relation to universal church:

in Acts – Acts 9:4 (8:3) Paul was persecuting the visible church but said of Christ. Acts 20:28,29.

in Epistles. 1 1:1; 2:14;

1Cor. 1:2; 2 Co. 1:1; Rom. 16:16; I 1 Co. 3:16-17 (temple); 1 Co. 12:27 (body); 2 Cor. 11:3 (bride).

in Revelation – Re. 3:14-19.

The existence of the local church is attributed to the Godhead: 1 11:16; Gal. 1:22; 1 Th. 2:14; 2 Th. 1:4, etc.

Growth of non-reciprocal inter-denomina­tional groups compensate for the responsi­bilities and functions of the local church.

A local church must include a pastor-teacher, gifts that are designed for mutual edification, the ordinances, discipline, for example. An interdenominational group does not fulfill these premises. This, however, does not make interdenom­inational groups wrong. It just means they are no substitute for a church.

God undoubtedly has used these groups.


Love the Lord, Revelation 2:4

Agency of the Great Commission 1 Co 14:24.

Care for its own, James 1:27, 1 Ti. 5:1-16; 2 Cor. 8-9.

Produce mature Christians by


A local church is an assembly of profes­sing believers in Christ who have been baptized and who are organized to do God’s will.

Profession of faith;

New Testament knows nothing of unbaptized church members;

Churches always organized as soon as possible, Ac ts 14: 23; ·.

Purpose – to do God’s will;


Two or three gathered is not a church;

Christian school or extra-church organizations are not churches.


Every believer has

Baptism of the Spirit

Individual indwelling of Christ

Individual indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Individual priesthood of the believer

An ambassadorship for Christ

Supernatural way of life.