Is the Church a New Testament Phenomenon? by Scott Bushey


Is the church a New Testament phenomenon?

William Cunningham writes:

“The History of the Church comprehends the whole record of God’s supernatural communications to men, and of His dealings with His people, and with the societies which they constituted, or of which they formed a part, ever since man fell, and God began His great work of saving sinners,—of calling them out of their natural condition,—and preparing them for the enjoyment of Himself. The most radical and fundamental idea of the church—the ekklesia—is, that it is the company or society of the κΧητοϊ,—those who are called by God to a knowledge of supernatural truth, and an acquaintance with the way of salvation. They are the church; and the history of the church is the history of God’s dealings with them, and of their conduct under His dealings with them. God Himself has recorded in the Old Testament the history of His church for, much the largest portion of the time during which it has yet existed; and the record which He has there given of the history of the church, constitutes a very large portion of the authentic and infallible materials which He has provided for communicating to us certain knowledge as to what we are to believe concerning Him, and as to what duty He requires of us.”

It was said to me recently by a dear friend, “The church started at Pentecost” and ‘You cannot find the church in the Old Testament’. If you were challenged on your belief about the Church, would you be able to defend that belief and answer coherently?

Now, let me be clear; this is not an issue of soteriology. There are many particular Baptists who do not hold to an Old Testament idea of the Church-this does not affect their position in Christ. It is dispensational, yes and an error, but one can be still in Christ under this theological flaw.

A few important distinctions:
1) What is the church?

Most people understand ‘the church’ as a brick and mortar establishment that believers visit routinely. This is true, however, it is much more. For instance, scripture speaks of the church often. In those instances, sometimes it refers to local congregations, i.e. the church of Ephesus, the church of Corinth, etc. and sometimes the invisible or universal expression.

2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.

Here are a few passages in relation to when scripture speaks universally; when the book of Hebrews describes a ‘great cloud of witnesses’, it is speaking of the universal body of believers-it is not referring to the local church. Another instance we can refer to in regards to the universal church is:

Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Acts 8:3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Ephesians 1:22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Eph. 5:27 so kthat he might present the church to himself in splendor, lwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.*

James Bannerman writes:

“Now, at the outset, it is not unimportant to remark, that when we speak of the Church invisible and the Church visible, we are not to be understood as if we referred in these designations to two separate and distinct Churches, but rather to the same Church under two different characters. We do not assert that Christ has founded two Churches on earth, but only one; and we affirm that that one  Church is to be regarded under two distinct aspects. As the Church invisible, it consists of the whole number of the elect, who are vitally united to Christ the Head, and of none other. As the Church visible, it consists of all those who profess the faith of Christ, together with their children. There are many things which can be affirmed of the Church”

a) The bible describes the church as local and universal.

1) The local church is one that has an actual address, made up of confessing disciples; in this group are elect and non-elect. Converted and non converted.

The WCF on the local expression:

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

III. Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.

IV. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less, visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

Zacharius Ursinus writes on the universal:

“The invisible church consists of those who are chosen unto eternal life, who are also regenerated, and belong to the visible church. It lies concealed in the visible church, during the whole of the struggle, and conflict which is continually going on in this world between the kingdom of fight and darkness. It is likewise called the church of the saints. Those who belong to this church never perish; neither are there any hypocrites in it; for it consists only of such as are chosen unto eternal life, of whom it is said: ” No man shall pluck my sheep out of my hands.” ” Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” (John 10: 28. 2 Tim. 2:19.) It is called invisible, not that the men who are in it are invisible, but because the faith and piety of those who belong to it can neither be seen, nor known, except by those who possess i t ; and also because we cannot with certainty distinguish the godly from those who are hypocrites in the visible church. Furthermore, the church, both visible and invisible, is either universal or particular. The universal visible Church consists of all those who profess the doctrine of God’s word, in whatever part of the world they may be. The particular visible Church comprehends those who, in any particular place, profess this doctrine. The visible church is universal in as far as it has respect to the profession of one faith in Christ, one doctrine and worship ; and it is particular in as far as it has respect to place and diversity of rites and ceremonies. So also the invisible church is universal, inasmuch as all the elect of whatever place they may be, and in whatever time they may have lived, have one faith ; and it is particular as in this, or that place, they have the same faith. All the particular churches are parts of the universal church; and the different parts of the visible, belong to the universal visible church; as also the invisible, are parts of the universal invisible church. And it is of this universal invisible church of which this article of the Creed properly speaks, saying, I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.”

The WCF on the universal expression:

I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
2) The universal church is one that comprises all of the elect over the ages-it has no physical address per se; it is more spiritual than physical, but keep in mind that the elect that are in local churches are part of both settings.

Bannerman writes:
“one of them, be presented at last holy and without spot before God, is plainly a society the members of which no man can number or declare by any external mark; which can be restricted to no geographical locality, and can be recognized by no features visible to the outward eye. It is the society of the elect, and not identical with any outward Church or Churches of whatsoever name. It is the spiritual and invisible Church of the Redeemer, known only to Himself, of which Scripture thus speaks; and in entire accordance with this use of the term Church in Scripture to denote a society comprehending the whole body of the elect, and none else, are other names or titles given to it in the New Testament”.

It is important to understand these distinctions when reading scripture. The local and universal expressions are not one in the same thing and to confuse the two distinctions will create a level of confusion when trying to understand the concept.

It is true that you will not find the Greek word Ecclesia in the Old Testament; for one, it is a Greek word and the Old Testament is written in the Hebrew. There is not a word for ‘church’ per se; however, there are transliterations of the term.

Let’s start by looking at a few passages and the Hebrew words:

In Gen 28 it says:

“Gen. 28:1   And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.  2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.  3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;” (My emphasis added)

The word here used in Gen 28:3, ‘multitude’, in the Hebrew is rendered:

6951. lDh∂q qahal, kaw-hawl´; from 6950; assemblage (usually concretely):—assembly, company, congregation, multitude; often of Israel assembled for religious ceremony.

Notice that the description says that it is used ‘usually’ concretely. What does that mean? The Oxford English Dictionary renders the term:

1. Of or relating to an actual, specific thing or instance; particular: had the concrete evidence needed to convict.

2. Existing in reality or in real experience; perceptible by the senses; real: concrete objects such as trees.

3. Formed by the coalescence of separate particles or parts into one mass; solid.

4. Made of hard, strong, conglomerate construction material.

Here are some Hebrew examples of the word and how it is used from it’s root:
4721 maqhel, mak-hale´; or (feminine)

6950 maqhelah, mak-hay-law´;an assembly:—congregation.

6951 qahal, kaw-hawl´; from 6950; assemblage (usually concretely):—assembly, company, congregation, multitude.

6952.  qhillah, keh-hil-law´; from 6950; an assemblage:—assembly, congregation.

6953.  qoheleth, ko-heh´-leth; feminine of active participle from 6950; a (female) assembler (i.e. lecturer): abstractly, preaching (used as a “nom de plume”, Koheleth):—preacher.

6954. Qhelathah, keh-hay-law´-thaw; from 6950; convocation; Kehelathah, a place in the Desert:—Kehelathah.

7035. qalahh, kaw-lah´; for 6950; to assemble:—gather together.

The Septuagint

For those of you who are not familiar with the Septuagint, it is the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was translated by Hebrew scholars at the request of Ptolemy II
Wikipedia says:

“The Septuagint /ˈsɛptjuːəˌɪnt//ˈsɛptəˌɪnt//ˌsɛpˈtəɪnt//ˈsɛpəˌɪnt/, from the Latin word septuaginta (meaning seventy), is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek. The title and its Roman numeral acronym “LXX” refer to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars that completed the translation as early as the late 2nd century BCE. Its contents compose the Eastern Orthodox Old Testament,[1] for which reason it is sometimes called the “Greek Old Testament” (“Η μετάφραση των Εβδομήκοντα’“). This translation is quoted in the New Testament,[2] particularly in the writings of Paul the Apostle,[3] and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers.

The traditional story is that Ptolemy II sponsored the translation for use by the many Alexandrian Jews who were not fluent in Hebrew but fluent in Koine Greek,[4] which was the lingua franca of Alexandria, Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean[5] from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE until the development of Byzantine Greek around 600 CE.

These titles refer to a legendary story, according to which seventy or seventy-two Jewish scholars were asked by the Greek King of Egypt Ptolemy II Philadelphus to translate the Torah from Biblical Hebrew into Greek, for inclusion in the Library of Alexandria.[9] This legend is first found in the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates,[10] and is repeated with embellishments by Philo of AlexandriaJosephus[11][12] and by various later sources, including St. Augustine.[13] A version of the legend is found in the Tractate Megillah of the Babylonian Talmud:

King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one’s room and said: “Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher.” God put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did.[14]

Philo of Alexandria, who relied extensively on the Septuagint,[15] says that the number of scholars was chosen by selecting six scholars from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.


The date of the 3rd century BCE, given in the legend, is confirmed (for the Torah translation) by a number of factors, including the Greek being representative of early Koine, citations beginning as early as the 2nd century BCE, and early manuscripts datable to the 2nd century.[16]

After the Torah, other books were translated over the next two to three centuries. It is not altogether clear which was translated when, or where; some may even have been translated twice, into different versions, and then revised.[17] The quality and style of the different translators also varied considerably from book to book, from the literal to paraphrasing to interpretative.

The translation process of the Septuagint can be broken down into several distinct stages, during which the social milieu of the translators shifted from Hellenistic Judaism to Early Christianity. The translation began in the 3rd century BCE and was completed by 132 BCE,[18][19][20] initially in Alexandria, but in time elsewhere as well.[6]

The Septuagint is the basis for the Old LatinSlavonicSyriac, Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic versions of the Christian Old Testament.

The Septuagint should not be confused with the seven or more other Greek versions of the Old Testament, most of which did not survive except as fragments (some parts of these being known from Origen‘s Hexapla, a comparison of six translations in adjacent columns, now almost wholly lost). Of these, the most important are “the three:” those by AquilaSymmachus, and Theodotion.

Lets look at the Septuagint to see how they have rendered the term, qāhāl. Many times the Septuagint transliterates the same Greek term ‘ekklesia’ to describe qāhāl.

“4864. sunagwgh/; sunagoœgeœ, sunagoœgeœs, heœ (sunagoœ), the Septuagint for qaœhaœl and very often for {eœda®. In Greek writings a bringing together, gathering (as of fruits), a contracting; an assembling together of men.

In the N.T.

1. an assembly of men: tou Satana, whom Satan governs, Rev. 2:9; 3:9.

2. a synagogue, i.e., a. an assembly of Jews formally gathered together to offer prayer and listen to the reading and exposition of the Holy Scriptures; assemblies of the sort were held every sabbath and feast-day, afterward also on the second and fifth days of every week (see references below): Luke 12:11; Acts 9:2; 13:43; 26:11; the name is transferred to an assembly of Christians formally gathered for religious purposes, James 2:2 (Epiphanius haer. 30, 18 says of the Jewish Christians sunagoœgeœn houtoi kalousi teœn heautoœn ekkleœsian kai ouchi ekkleœsian (cf. Lightfoot on Philippians, p. 192)); (cf. Trench, Synonyms, sec. 1, and especially Harnack’s elaborate note on Hermas, mand. 11, 9 (less fully and accurately in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol. for 1876, p. 102ff) respecting the use of the word by the church Fathers of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries; cf. Hilgenfeld’s comments on the same in his ‘Hermae Pastor’, edition alt., p. 183f). b. the building where those solemn Jewish assemblies are held (Hebrew be®t hakeneset, i.e. ‘the house of assembly’). Synagogues seem to date their origin from the Babylonian exile. In the time of Jesus and the apostles every town, not only in Palestine but also among the Gentiles if it contained a considerable number of Jewish inhabitants, had at least one synagogue, the larger towns several or even many.
We can see how the word qaœhaœl is used either in the Hebrew or Greek here in this particular passage; let’s compare it elsewhere in the Old Testament:

Gen. 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty:* be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.*

Gen. 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

Gen. 49:6 Let my soul come not into their council; do my glory, be not joined to their companyFor in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.

Ezek. 17:17 Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives.

Ezek. 32:22   “Assyria is there, and all her company, uits graves all around it, all of them slain, fallen by the sword,  23 whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit; and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living.

Another important Hebrew word to look at is, ‘congregation’:

5712. h∂dEo {edah, ay-daw´; feminine of 5707 in the original sense of fixture; a stated assemblage (specifically, a concourse, or generally, a family or crowd):—assembly, company, congregation, multitude, people, swarm.

Here are some relevant passages using this word:

Ex. 12:3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb gaccording to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.

Ex. 12:6 and you shall keep it until the ifourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.*

Ex. 12:19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land.

Ex. 12:47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.

Ex. 16:1   They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

Ex. 16:9   Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”  10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Ex. 16:22   On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses,

Ex. 17:1   All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

Ex. 34:31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them.

Ex. 35:1   Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do.

Ex. 35:4   Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded.

Ex. 35:20   Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.

Ex. 38:25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary:

Lev. 4:13   “If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally* and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt,*

Lev. 4:15 And the elders of the congregation kshall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD.

Josh. 22:30   When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, it was good in their eyes.

Judg. 21:16   Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”

1Kings 8:5 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, qsacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.

The above passage shows congregational offerings to God.

2Chr. 5:6 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.

2Chr. 24:6 So the king summoned Jehoiada the chief and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the congregation of Israel for the tent of testimony?”

The passage above shows the tithe being enforced.

Psa. 40:9   I have told the glad news of deliverance* in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. 10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

Psa. 107:32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Lam. 1:10  The enemy has stretched out his hands over all her precious things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom you forbade to enter your congregation.

Hos. 7:12 As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation.

This passage in Hosea shows discipline being administered in a congregational setting.

Joel 2:16  Gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

The above passage in Joel shows an official call to worship. God commands to call and the people respond rightly. Additionally, notice how the passage above exhibits a polity; there are congregants and leadership, i.e. elders. One might ask, how can this be seen as not the Old Testament expression of the ecclesia? It is God’s people gathering under a biblical polity, worshipping, praying, etc.? How is it different from the New Testament expression? Is it different?

If Christ is the husband and the church His bride, what exactly were the Old Testament people before the cross and before Pentecost? What do we call these gatherings, these congregations?

Henry Bullinger writes:

“In times past the congregation or assembly of the Jewish people, being God His flock, was called a synagogue; for this word synagogue signifieth as much as Ecclesia, the congregation. But because of the stubbornness of the Jews, and the unappeasable hatred which they bear towards Christian religion, this word synagogue is not esteemed, but Is almost quite grown out of use.”

Zachariah Ursinus writes in regard to the church over the ages:

“What then is it to believe the Holy Catholic Church? It is to believe that there always has been, is, and ever will be, to the end of time such a church in the world, and that in the congregation composing the visible church there are always some who are truly converted, and that I am one of this number; and therefore a member of both the visible and invisible church, and shall forever remain such.”

The Israel of God

The next subject to address is who are God’s people? Is it Israel or is it the elect?

The Apostle Paul speaks of two types of Israelites:

“1Cor. 10:18   Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?”

There is Israel after the flesh, i.e. the unregenerate. The passage implies that there is an contrasted group, i.e. Israel after the spirit, i.e. the regenerate. Having said this, we can see that the Israel of God are the elect. I refer you back to the previous citations on the visible and invisible church. This rationale should now make sense. It has never been about Israel, the country per se. God’s decrees are always with the elect in mind only. If God’s plans a thing and the reprobate are involved, it is with divine intent to do justice to the reprobate and render grace to the elect.

R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary in California writes:

“It is the Dispensational-Premillennial belief that God made a promise to Abraham (Genesis chapters 15 and 17) that he would give to him an earthly, national people with the result that, in the Dispensational view, it has always been God’s intention to have such a people and if the Jews refused the first offer (or Jesus refused their terms!) then there must be an earthly, Jewish, Palestinian, kingdom in the millennium. According to Dispensationalism, God was so committed to creating such an earthly, national people that this was the primary reason for the incarnation, birth and ministry of Christ. Had they accepted his offer of an earthly kingdom, Jesus would not have died. In this scheme, Jesus’ saving death on the cross is a happy by-product of God’s plan for national Israel.”

and here:

“It is the teaching of God’s Word that Jesus is the true Israel of God, that his incarnation, obedience, death and resurrection was not a by-product of Israel’s rejection of the offer of an earthly kingdom, but the fulfillment of God’s plan from all eternity. This is what Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus. One of them said, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” In response our Lord said, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24.25-7).”

Clark goes on:

“There was, therefore an Israel before the Old Covenant. Israel was the name given to Jacob. The first time the word “Israel” appears in Scripture, as the conclusion to the story of Jacob’s wrestling match (Gen 32.21-30). After spending the night wrestling with an anonymous man, and “when the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob” (v.25), Jacob demanded a blessing from him. In turn, the wrestler renamed Jacob as Israel, which he defined as “wrestles with God and men.” Thus, in the history of salvation, all those who stem from the Patriarch Jacob are, in a broad sense, “Israel.” Only two chapters later the term “Israel” is used to describe the place and name of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (34.7). At Paddan Aram, God again blessed him and named Jacob, “Israel” (35.9-10) and repeated the Abrahamic promise to be a God to Abraham and to his children. All this might seem to support the notion that, Israel means, “those physically descended from Jacob.” Except that Jacob is not the beginning of the story. Before there was an Israel there was Abraham and his miracle son, Isaac (Rom 9) and before Abraham, Jesus says, “I AM” (John 8.58). It was to Abraham, that God promised, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Indeed, Jesus taught the Jews in John 8, that it was he who made the promise to Abraham (John 8.56). Remember too that the first fulfillment of that promise did not come by “the will of man” but by the sovereign power of God when he allowed Sarah to conceive in her old age. These will be important facts to remember when we come to Paul’s answer to the question, who is the Israel of God?”

Rom. 9:6   But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

There we have our answer; Christ is the Israel of God-He is King, ruling and reigning. It is His people, the elect, believers who are communicants of the country Christ rules over. In the same way we are Americans, who live in America, we have a certain right to our claim. If Christ is not your King and you have failed to bend the knee, failed to kiss the son lest He be angry, you remain at enmity with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. National Israel are blasphemers of the Son-they outrightly reject Him; to this day, they still cry, “Give us Barabbas”.

The New testament and Pentecost

In light of all that has been written, we can see that the church is not a New Testament phenomenon. The elect were in the garden of Eden. There has always been a church! Wherever God’s people gather, congregate, that is considered the church. Granted, in the Old Testament, the visible expression is a bit difficult to see because the elect were scattered. Of course there is the universal expression there. In any time period, the saints of old are members of the universal church. Obviously, the address of this church is spiritually based in the Heaven.

So what exactly happened at Pentecost?

It was said to me recently that the New Testament church started at Pentecost. We know that is wrong.

Look what is stated in the book of Acts:

Acts 7:37   “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’

Acts 7:38   “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,  39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected.

The word ‘congregation’ in the Greek is ekklesia:
In the Strongs: 1577. ejkklhsi÷a ekklesia. Luke is clearly saying that the ekklesia was in the old testament, ‘in the wilderness’.

Think about this: At Pentecost, 3000 persons were added. How can we add anyone to a church if it wasn’t there yet?

Some of the other items to consider is the fact that if the church never existed until Pentecost, what were the disciples baptizing people into? One cannot go against scripture. Baptism is a means of grace, connected with the local church. It is a sacrament. Officers administer it only. In the same way, circumcision is a sacrament as well. What were the people who were circumcised, circumcised into? We baptize today; when the sign is placed, what are the people baptized into? Into Christ, yes. But it is also into the local church. One cannot be saved outside of the church.

This Pentecost event is more of an example of Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit coming to men. In fact, Joel describes it:

“Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward

That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

Your young men shall see visions.”

You’d think Joel missed something here, as he doesn’t mention anything about the formation of the church. That’s because it wasn’t a consideration-the church already existed.

Pentecost is not an example of the church starting. These gifts the Spirit was bringing were specifically for the advancement of the apostolic foundation of the church in this specific time period. It is not a new church, but a revitalized church or renewed. It had a change in agenda. This agenda was different in that it was to reach outside the parameters previously allowed by Christ.

What did Christ say in Matthew?

Matt. 10:5   These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.

Matt. 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matt. 15:24   But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The commission is to all corners of the globe and in light of the persecution that Christ knew would follow, the special gifts of the Holy Spirit were there to assist in this commission. The Holy Spirit was the gas that the new agenda needed.

Additionally, this also begs the question about the Holy Spirit and his agenda during this event. Was the Holy Spirit a New Testament Phenomenon? One might say, “Scott, we all know that the Holy Spirit is eternal; He has always been-however, the people of God were never filled with the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost!”

See my paper entitled: The Holy Spirit in the Covenant of Grace for the answer to this question

I pray this paper is a blessing to your heart.