Part I

by Emerson A. Wilson

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 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. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Acts 20:26-32.
The Church?
We are living in such a world that when you say the word church, many ideas come to men's minds. A great majority think of some religious organization that men and women have joined themselves to. By the help of God, we would like to find out what the Bible is talking about when it refers the "the Church". If we will follow "the Church" through all different ages, we will be able to tell beyond the shadow of a doubt what "the Church" is and where it is today.

Christianity suffers much today from a faulty concept of "the Church". Our efforts for winning the lost world could be multiplied many times over if people had the Bible concept of "the Church". Consider the concept of true, Bible unity, or God's people being one. The devil, working through the powers of deception, has multiple actions taking place. He has people gathering under many church organizations, spending money to push their organization, and working on the mission field. He has one working against the other, downing each other.

What a blessing it would be if people could understand the Biblical concept of "the Church", what real unity is, and bring their efforts together. I am not talking about false ecumenical councils, but I am talking about getting back to the Biblical concept of "the Church" and being one as Jesus prayed for us to be. Our efforts could then be multiplied. For that very reason, the devil works to destroy, to divide, and to hinder our work.

Now, when we talk about the concept of Bible unity (and I am not preaching on unity), we are going back to some grass roots of "the Church". There could be no vital unity without a Bible-based view of "the Church". Secondly, Bible unity starts and ends with God. He is the Alpha and Omega; no unity is worth a hill of beans unless God sets it in order. It will never end right, and it will never accomplish the work that God has ordained it to do.

When I say the Alpha and Omega, it means that if we ever have unity, we will have it by men and women who are sold out to God, who have a real experience with God and allow Him to guide their lives day by day. They will come to the end view of unity, that which God ordained from the very beginning. So my friend, for it to be Bible unity, it must start and end with God.

We are living in a world where people have diversified ideas of religion; they want to trade ideas with you and tell you that their idea is as good as yours. I am not trying, however, to teach my idea. I want every statement that I make to be founded on the Word of God, in clarity. God has chosen just ONE means of revealing Himself: there are not two, or two dozen. My friend, if we look at the world, it says, "God is dead. God is inactive. We can't see God in religion." Why? God's only means of revealing Himself to us is through holiness!

Let us read Hebrews 12:12-14: Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Some people feels this refers to the end when Jesus comes again, but if you are not holy, you will not see Him. Friend, EVERY eye is going to see Him then. Hebrews 12:14 is talking about His means of revealing Himself now. Unless you and I live godly in this present world, no man will see the Lord.

Everybody today is interested in most everything but living holy. The farther we go in religion, the more we see priests and preachers alike making room for sin. From the Roman Catholic church right on out, we have holy water, holy days, but no holy people. God does not care one whit about the holy water--He forgot about holy days when Jesus came. Why? Because EVERY day is holy! When a person receives Jesus Christ into his or her heart, everywhere he or she walks is "holy land".

I have had people ask me every once in a while to go to the Holy Land. I say, "Go where?" They answer, "To the Holy Land". I tell them, "Man, I live THERE. I am Not interested in going to see where Jesus WAS; I want to be where He IS!"

He left that house desolate and He left that ground desolate. Holiness is God's one means of revealing Himself; without it, no person will see the Lord. There is a way, my friend, that every one of us as individuals can manifest a greater revelation of God to a lost and dying world--by gaining an experience of holiness and living that way every day.

The Church Of The Bible
Let us study "the Church" the way it is spoken of in the Bible. I say this with kindness, but "the Church" that Jesus built is always spoken of in the singular. The only way it is ever spoken of in the plural is when it is referring to different congregational phases of "the Church". It is spoken of as THE Church, THE Bride, THE Body--always in the singular. "The Church" is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant.

"The Church" was first conceived in the mind of God, back in the council halls of eternity. Some say that "the Church" had its beginning on Pentecost; others say "the Church" had its very beginning in A.D. 1880, through Brother Warner and other laborers. We thank God for those dear brethren and the truth they brought to us on golden platters, but "the Church" had its beginning in the mind of God, back in the council halls of eternity. "The Church" was before any reformation, and She will be after every reformation fails. Before God ever made man, even before He ever prepared the world, "the Church" was conceived in the mind of God. God, in His greatness, brought forth the thought of "the Church".

God knew what "the Church" would be like in its last days even before it had any beginning. My friend, we are dealing with One Who knows the end from the beginning. Within His very mind, He conceived "the Church" as a finished building, a finished organism. He saw it in its finished state. In fact, that is the only way He could build it. Any builder cannot build a building which is worth anything unless he first has a picture of a finished building within his mind before he starts. He has a plan before the first footer is ever dug. He is able to envision how he wants that finished building to look when he first conceives the idea of building it!

My friend, that is exactly how God conceived within His mind and pictured "the Church" of the Living God. He saw Her so clearly that He foreordained and predestined exactly what She would be like many hundreds of years afterwards.

When we are dealing with "the Church", we are not dealing with a good idea that man has come up with, but "the Church" had its beginning in the mind of God, back in the council halls of eternity. Right there, He settled what it would be like and what it would not be like. He drew the blueprint for it, and little by little, He revealed the blueprint to honest and true people whom He knew He could trust to take the blueprint and build "the Church" in some locality. This is no slipshod thing. No Sir! It was conceived in the very mind of God.

Bible Predestination
Not only was it conceived in the mind of God, but "the Church" was predestined by God. A lot of people get very nervous when you talk about predestination, but I believe in Bible predestination. I do not believe in a lot of the false teachings on predestination, such as there are going to be 144,000 saved, or that you are predestined to be saved or lost. No! The Bible does not even suggest such thoughts! The eternal destiny of individuals is determined by their individual response to the grace of God, but God did predestinate "the Church".

Paul said in Titus 2:11,12, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. When the Grace of God comes around to the heart of people, He teaches every one the same lesson. There are some things which are fixed and settled. The only way you can get around it is to change it, and when you change it one iota, you are NOT "the Church". So what did God predestinate? That every one who was to become a member of "the Church" (HIS Church) would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world.

Now He did not predestinate who would be saved: He offers the Grace of God to every person. Whether you receive it or reject it is your decision. Your eternal welfare rests in your own hands, but God did predestinate how you would live if you believed on and accepted the Grace of God: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29. He did NOT predestinate who would be saved, but what would happen to every one who was saved. What would happen to them? Every one of them would be conformed to the image of Who? His Son, Christ Jesus.

This is the mark that Paul pressed for, and this is the mark of every TRUE CHRISTian. My friend, heaven is NOT what God had in mind when He saved you. He had it in view for you to be conformed to the image of His Son. Certainly, heaven is the ultimate end, but that was not what God had in view. Someone might say, "Oh, God saved me to take me to heaven." Well, then, you should have been gone. Brother, the ultimate view that God has in salvation is to conform us to the image of His Son. Some say, "We can't do it." Well, you are missing the mark. (And by the way, WE canNOT do it, but IF we will allow God to work HIS Will in our lives, we WILL be conformed to the image of Christ. If we are willing to sell out to God and give up our death grip on this world and the things of this world, God WILL conform us to that image!)

Let us consider verses 29 and 30: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:29,30. (Now do you know whether or not you are predestined to be saved? It's IF He called you! The "who" in predestination is "whosoever will".) Someone may say, "Well, I guess I am one who is not supposed to be saved." Well, you can tell, because everyone whom God predestined to be saved, He calls. If God has called you, then you know you are supposed to be saved. Brothers and Sisters, God predestined the whole world to be saved. John 3:16 tells us, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. If God would have His way, there would be NO one lost! If we will but answer His call...

With God, ALL Things Are Possible
Now I want you to notice the pronoun, "He", referred to in verses 29 and 30 of Romans 8: there is NOTHING in there about you. Brothers and Sisters, God does all this for us! None of us can get saved if He does not call us, and that call is made through the Gospel. When He calls you, if you will hear the call and come in "old-time" repentance (Biblical heartfelt sorrow for your sins and true recognition that you need Jesus Christ as your Savior), He will save you. He will justify you. None of us can justify ourselves. He will justify you and everyone whom He justifies, He also glorifies. HE does it.

Someone may ask, "How in the world are we changed, anyway?" Let's take a look at II Corinthians 3:13-18 (concerning Moses and The Law) and see:
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when they shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

In those days, there was a veil over the minds of the people, whereby they could not see the real glory of the thing; but Thank God, when we come to Jesus, that veil is taken away. When that veil is taken away, we behold as in a glass (God's Word) the image of Christ. We see what He wants us to be, and if we will only believe it, we are changed into that image, even from glory to glory. How? By the Spirit of the Lord. The power of God's Holy Spirit changes us and makes us just exactly what God preordained us to be.

Some feel that it is impossible to live that way. Well, all things are possible with God. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18) Jesus told him to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Him. The young man sorrowfully turned away because he had great possessions. Jesus then said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God!" When Jesus' disciples heard Him say that, they asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus answered them, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:24-27) It is still true today! Brothers and Sisters, you cannot save yourself. No pope, priest or preacher can save you. With man it is impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible.

Some are actually preaching that all things are possible, except living free from sin. It is no wonder that the mind of man is so confused. Salvation is out of the question with man; there is no need of you trying to change your mind to do better. There is no need of you going to church every Sunday and every Wednesday (night), if you are thinking it is those things that will "save" you! There is nothing wrong with attending church services and hearing the Word of God, but mankind cannot save. Salvation is impossible with man, but with God, however, ALL things are possible.

When Did "The Church" Become A Reality?
Let us turn to I Peter 1:18-21 and read it together: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Then we find in Revelation 13:8, And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Christ knew what part He would play in redemption before the world ever began. Long before the world was created, before man was brought into existence, Jesus Christ was the Lamb That Was Slain before the foundation of the world. God not only foreordained that man would live in holiness and righteousness, but He also foreordained the plan, or the power, to bring it all about. This is why Paul said in the Hebrew letter than Jesus is a "surety of the new covenant" (Hebrews 7;22). Thank God, it is yours, it is fixed and settled.

I would like to say right here that "the Church" did not begin with Adam. We have people who teach that! Adam played his part in leading people into sin. In Genesis 3:15, God gave the promise of Christ. He stepped on the stage of prophecy and became the first prophet by saying that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head. My friend, He gave a promise there of Christ, but "the Church" did not begin there.

Well, "the Church" was conceived in the mind of God--we know that, but when did it become a reality? Our scripture text lets us know that "the Church" is composed of only blood-bought, redeemed, called out, separated men and women. That is all that is in "the Church". The same Greek word is used all throughout the New Testament. Every time the word church is used, it comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means "a separated, redeemed, called-out people".

God predestined 'way back there what kind of people would make up His church. We do not have "the Church" in its reality until God has this kind of people. "The Church" could not have begun with Adam, because "the Church" is composed of blood-bought, called-out, redeemed men and women. They are called out (of partaking of the sins of this world) and separated unto God. I will make the statement a little clearer: God had a people, a chosen people, long before the coming of Christ, many people. There were people who were saved before the coming of Christ, but they were not truly redeemed, in a Biblical sense, until Christ died on the cross.

Even the disciples were not converted until AFTER Pentecost. They were saved--Jesus did not tell sinners to "go preach", but they were not converted. Jesus told them that they were not. My friend, there can be NO conversion work in any man or woman until the power of the Holy Spirit moves inside. The disciples were saved, but they were not converted; they were not changed.

Now read this carefully and give it serious thought: If you will recall, when Jesus was crucified, the disciples trembled in fear of their very lives and hid out. If you also recall, Peter (and the "others") went back to fishing. Remember how they were out on "the boat" and Peter dove overboard to swim to shore when they caught sight of Jesus there by the water? Whatever their former lives had been, that is what they returned to after Jesus was crucified. However, after the "Day of Pentecost" experience, when the power of the Holy Ghost truly converted them and changed their lives, we never read of Peter returning to the boats or any of the others returning to their former occupations. They were changed, fully converted. Now THAT's the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost in a person's life!

They Died In The Faith
Now, the same thing was true up through the New Testament. There were many people who were saved, but they did NOT make up a part of the REDEEMED, the sought out, or the true people of "the Church" UNTIL after Jesus died on the cross. The bible teaches this. Everyone who lived before Christ died on the cross, right up to John the Baptist's disciples, their salvation rested on believing in Him Who WAS to come.

Turn to Romans 4:3 and let's read it: For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. God let Abraham's faith take the place of righteousness. He did not become a righteous individual; the true righteousness that only Christ could bring was not in effect until AFTER Christ died on the cross. He was saved, but it was only AFTER Christ died on the cross that Abraham's salvation was counted as true redemption.

Every happening through the Old Testament was a type of Christ. The Old Testament sanctuary, the altar, the sacrifice, the lamb, the priests, and the high priest all pointed to Christ. Those people "died in the faith", according to Hebrews, Chapter 11. They never received the promise--they all died without receiving it. They did not constitute, in the truest Biblical sense, a part of "the Church" until Christ died on Calvary.

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. Hebrews 9:15,16. ("new testament" means "covenant") What was the promise that they died without receiving? Eternal inheritance. It is the promise that you receive when you accept Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Savior--eternal life (eternal inheritance).

Those under the Old Testament died without it. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, but Thank God! When Jesus' blood was shed, their sins were cancelled and they were brought right into the assembly of the "Church of the Firstborn" at the same time that the way was made for men and women who believe the Gospel to be brought in.

Hebrews 11:39,40 tells us: And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. What kind of perfection is He talking about? He is not talking about physical death or new, resurrected bodies there.

What is the "good thing" which "God provided for us", that "they without us should not be made perfect"? In Hebrews 12:22-24, Paul said, But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Nothing under the Old Testament could make the "comers thereunto" perfect! The blood of bulls and goats could not make one perfect, as pertaining to conscience, the inner man, or the spirit. But Thank God, what the blood of bulls and goats could NOT do, Jesus came and offered Himself ONCE and FOR ALL that we can have our conscience made perfect to serve a living God!

Who Is In "The Church"?
Now who is in "the Church"? My friends, He first mentions "just men" (Hebrews 12:23). The Bible tells us that Noah was a "just man"; Abraham was a "just man", yet their spirits were not made perfect. I had a man say the other day to me, "Well now, you put it down too straight. Abraham was a just man, and he lied." Know this: that is NO excuse for us to sin! Abraham is NOT our example--Jesus Christ is! There is NOT one thing in the entire Bible that tells us to take Abraham as our example. Abraham was a just man, but his spirit was never made perfect; his spirit was never made whole. The blood of bulls and goats could ONLY sanctify the flesh to the purifying of the flesh. However, Thank God, the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse our flesh and our spirit and make us perfectly whole and clean in the sight of God.

So "the Church", my friends, is made up, first of all, of all those just people who died in faith. Thank God, when Jesus died on the cross, they were brought right in. Then the message of the Gospel was sent forth, and is still being sent forth to us who dwell on the earth. Everyone who will believe it, take faith in it, and obey it, their spirit can be made perfect and they can be brought right in to the fold of the Church of the Firstborn. Even though "the Church" was conceived in the mind of God, since the Bible teaches that it is made up of men and women who are blood-bought and redeemed, it did not become a reality until AFTER Calvary.

Consider the "birth pains" of "the Church". Some might say, "There was some action of 'the Church' BEFORE Pentecost." That is right, but it was in the womb of God, just like the babe in the mother's womb when it is about time for it to be born. There will be action, but it has to pass to the place of birth, Amen? Calvary was the birthplace of "the Church" that God had predestined.

Jesus Christ had the birth pains in Gethesemane. On the cross, His pain became greater and greater until it broke His heart. He died under the strain, and when the sword pierced His side, out flowed blood and water that bought "the Church". Let me tell you: She is STILL a church without "spot or wrinkle"! There is NO sin in "the Church" of THE Living God!

Revelation, Chapter 6, tells of those souls who had hold to the First Testament. They were crying with a loud voice to God, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Verse 11 tells us, And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Now notice that--go back and read it again: WHEN did they get their robes? My friends, they died in the faith. God accepted Abraham's faith for righteousness. When did he ACTUALLY receive righteousness? When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he received his righteousness over in heaven.

Someone might ask, "How do you know that they are WHITE robes of righteousness?" Revelation 19:8 will tell you that the white robes are the righteousness of the saints. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. Revelation 19:7,8. Those who died in the faith received their white robes over there at the same time that the Gospel message was opened up for you and me. So, we begin at Calvary and see that "the Church" began to become a reality--the very Church that was conceived in the mind of God, predestined to be holy and clean and conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What a price He paid! Why can't we be like Christ? Romans 8:9 tells us, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Jesus Christ shed His own blood to cancel our sins of the past and to cleanse this temple. Out also came the water, a symbol of the water of life, or the life-giving essence coming into our heart and life through the Spirit of God.



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