My Thoughts. . .
Jesus announced to his apostles, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). That “rock” was Peter’s statement (v. 16). The Greek word ekklesia means “called out, assembly, or congregation.” Jesus’ assembly began on the Acts 2 Pentecost. God added believers to that saved body (Acts 2:46). Once an individual leaves scripture, the word “ekklesia” is assigned to the meeting place rather than those who meet there. It adds to the confusion on what Jesus, in the King James Version refer to as “the church.”
“Church” has come to mean 1) the visible body of believers and 2) the invisible body. The visible body is everyone that is a member belonging to or attending a physical building in a specific location. The visible body is made up of people who have their name on that local roll, but not all of them are on the divine one. Those who are on the “divine roll” are members of the invisible body of Christ. God is the only one who knows the real from the counterfeit. At the judgment, the pseudo-Christian will be culled and thrown into hell. The bona fide disciple will spend eternity with God.
This idea of visible and invisible may have originated with the teaching that certain individuals are God’s elect. Those will be saved and it is impossible for them to be lost. They are in the invisible church since only God knows who they are. The pseudo-Christian is not in that elect number. He may attend services, donate more than any other, be hospitable, live a clean life, and even outwork those who are of the elect. Yet his works are senseless. God did not assign him to the elect. There is nothing he can do to change his status. All non-elect people cannot and will not go to heaven.
Determining whether one is or is not of the elect is God’s work alone. His decision was made before man was created. If one is of the elect, God will give him faith. If he is not of that number, his belief system will be a pseudo faith. Since God alone makes the decision, man cannot be lost if he is saved, nor can he be saved if he is of the lost. Once saved, always saved. Like so many doctrines, there are variations of this one.
When man attempts to determine who is in the elect and who is not, his attempts are little more than a guessing game. If a person faithfully attends church, lives a clean life, is an honored citizen, is a great parent, is an excellent worker in bringing others to Christ, and an excellent contributor, he is thought to be one of God’s elect. Of course, nothing he does adds to his salvation since God must give him faith. It is believed that God determined before the world was created who would or would not be saved. God is supposed to infuse a person with faith, the person has no ability to develop that faith himself.
On the other hand, if a person seldom attends church, is divorced a time or two, uses foul language, is involved in some “shady” deals, and whose character is often questioned, is saddled with the expression “non-elect.” Of course, if the “elect” person leaves his family and runs off with his/her neighbor’s spouse, the “elect” definition has the “non-” added to it. If the reprobate suddenly changes his ways and starts a life of following Jesus, his “non-” definition is change leaving him with the better expression “elect.” Such judgments are human rather than divine. Remember, the devil is spoken of as “an angel of light.” Light sometimes blinds. Being fruit inspectors is not wrong, but sometimes fruit is not ready to be inspected and our inconsistencies appear.
On the day of Pentecost about three thousand were added to the saved by God. Some who were added were Pharisees and brought their teachings with them. In Acts ten Peter preached to a Gentile family who were also added to the saved by God. When Peter returned to Jerusalem in chapter eleven, there were some very unhappy Christians who objected to his hobnobbing with Gentiles. Later when more Gentiles were converted, the elect Pharisees objected to Gentiles gaining that elect position without being circumcised. In that sense, the Pharisees who are of the elect, denounce Gentile brethren as if they were not of the elect because they have not had surgery! This seems to imply that Gentiles are not the elect (or saved) by faith, but rather saved (elected) by circumcision surgery. In Acts fifteen, the Jewish church in Jerusalem, in a limited meeting, decided that Gentiles would be accepted by faith rather than by circumcision or election. The Hebrew writer states, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39). We have a choice. We can live by faith or we can draw back. What have you chosen?