THE FIRST TIME, the word “church” appears in the Bible, it is used in the singular form, in Matthew 16:18: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Jesus spoke about His church in the singular.

He spoke of one church, the church, His church, of which He is head.

Jesus did not say: “Upon this rock I will build my churches”.

Jesus said: “Upon this rock, I will build my CHURCH”.

• & What I’m preaching about today is the topic of the UNIVERSAL CHURCH vs. the LOCAL CHURCH.

& the reason why this doctrine is important is because:

(1) it is a neglected teaching, especially among Baptists …

(2) Lack of Biblical knowledge on this topic not only causes division within the Body, but also contributes to a lack of Christian love among believers universally.

Because when you understand that we ARE the church, the individual lively stones, as the Bible calls us, that make up the church …

… it changes the way that we view one another as believers.

(3) When we understand that we are the church, it also gives us insight into how local congregations are formed.

When most Baptist churches preach about the church, their emphasis is almost always only focused on the local church …

& so while I also believe in the local assembly …

I want to take a contrarian approach to this topic, because it is neglected …

… & I’d like focus on the UNIVERSAL aspect of the church or THE BODY OF CHRIST, when it comes to understand the church that Jesus built.

• But I first want to begin by explaining what I’m NOT talking about.

What I’m not talking about is the ECUMENICAL, UNIVERSAL CHURCH that will be unilaterally run by the Anti-Christ …

& it will include ALL religions, from apostate Christians to Romans Catholics to Muslims, to Jehovah’s Witnesses & Mormons, to NEW AGERS, HINDUS, BUDDHISTS & JEWS …

… & even ATHEISTS.

& the only thing that these false religions will have in common is that their god is the devil!

Because that is who will run the COUNTERFEIT UNIVERSAL CHURCH.

• But there is a Biblical UNIVERSAL CHURCH.

The Bible teaches that there exists a duality between the universal church that Jesus built & the local church which is a regional expression of that church …

… that there exists a macrocosm (which is the universal church, consisting of all believers) …

The MACRO is the larger whole … which is the whole Body.

… & then there is a microcosm, the local church, a local expression & gathering of individual members of the greater church.

• But some people will say that you’re mixing up “the body of Christ” w/ “the church”.

That the body is universal, but that is NOT the church …

… they’ll say that church is only the assembling together of local believers.

But that’s not what the Bible teaches.

The Bible uses the word, “BODY” INTERCHANGEABLY with “THE CHURCH.”

We see this clearly in Ephesians 1:22-23:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH,
23 WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

So we see, clearly, the universal body of Christ being used interchangeably with the church (which is also listed in the singular).

Colossians 1:17-18 also uses “CHURCH” and “BODY” interchangeably:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

• & others will say that these verses are only speaking of Christ being the head of the LOCAL CHURCH.

… but based on the broad language & context of these verses, Paul is speaking generally of universal concepts …

Again, like Ephesians 1:22-23:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH,
23 WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

And it’s the same w/ Colossians 1:17-18:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church … [used again generally & in the singular].

These are universal concepts used in conjunction with, “THE BODY” & “THE CHURCH” numerous times.

And based on the context, Paul was again speaking of the entire church, the entire body, because a few verses later …

… Paul says that he is made a minister to the entire church.

Colossians 1:24-25:
24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
25 Whereof I am made a minister …

Paul, as an apostle, was made a minister to the whole body of Christ, which he himself calls “the church” in the universal singular.

Ephesians 4:4-6 is a key verse on this:
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

I’ve already shown from clear passages that “body” is interchangeable w/ “church”.

& Everything on this list is being used in the GENERAL, BROAD SENSE.

So there is only ONE FAITH (singular), there is only ONE LORD (singular), there is only ONE GOD (singular) …

AND there is only ONE BODY (singular), which is the ONE UNIVERSAL CHURCH.

Now, people may not like that phrase, “the universal church”.
But what we are talking about is THE ONE CHURCH existing universally throughout all ages that Jesus Built.

Romans 12:5 also says: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ [who’s he talking to? Every believer], and every one members one of another.”

And if the Bible equates body with church, then we are one church.

You might as well replace the word body with church, because it means to same thing, according to Paul the apostle.

That’s why I’m able to meet a Christian half way around the world who’ve I’ve never met …

… and we can instantly bond as brothers or sisters in the Lord who worship the same God.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 also says:
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. [It’s saying that as believers we are all united as one in Christ. That’s why the Head and Body analogy works so well. Because we are all one, with Christ as the top as the Head.]
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body …

We’re not baptized into the local church.
That’s another mistake that some churches make.

We’re baptized into the body of Christ.

The moment we become believers, we become a part of His church.

The HEAD & BODY analogy only make sense if Christ as ONE HEAD & has ONE BODY, not thousands of bodies.

So those THOUSANDS OF CHURCHES are really just regional expressions of the ONE BODY, the ONE CHURCH.

& that one universal body expresses itself through numerous, multiple local congregations, which the Bible calls “the churches.”

Again, it’s the MACROCOSM of the church vs. the MICROCOSM.

Ephesians 5:23-27:
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church [used in the singular & exchanged with the body]: and he is the saviour of the body [we see it repeated].
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church [singular], and gave himself for it; [which church did Christ give Himself for?THE CHURCH].
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Note that in v. 25 Paul speaks in the present tense …

… & calls us the CHURCH, BEFORE we are presented to Christ as holy and without blemish.

So, we are THE CHURCH now.

We are referred to as the church universally, before the millennium.

Some argue that we will only be the universal church when we meet together at the millennial reign.

But the Bible repeatedly calls us THE CHURCH NOW, in the PRESENT, whether we’re physically congregated together or not.

Because, ultimately, the church, not physical, but spiritual.

It’s not the BUILDING, it’s not the TEMPLE, it’s the PEOPLE, the LIVELY STONES which make up the church.

And as lively stones, we don’t stop being the church when we’re not gathered together at 11 am on a Sunday morning.

We are the church, all day, every day.

But when we assemble corporately and officiate services through worship and prayer, Jesus is in our midst.

That’s why Matthew 18:20 says: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

The church exists wherever & whenever believers are officially gathered together in His name.

We hold services at a specific time because it’s convenient and conducive to gathering together consistently.

But if we didn’t, we’d still be the church.

In other words, We don’t go to church, we take the church with us whereever we go & gather, because we are the church.

The church doesn’t need to be incorporated to be the church.

It doesn’t need to have a pastor present to be the church.

There doesn’t have to be an ordination ceremony for it to be the church.

The bible says nothing about people “sending out” people to start churches.
Pastors don’t beget churches. Jesus does, the Spirit does, when believers gather with the official intent & purpose of forming new, local congregations.

But people want to get legalistic about this.

• & I understand there is truth to the fact, that the CHURCH UNIVERSAL will not all congregate together at the same time on this earth.

That will only happen when we all meet together in heaven.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t the church universal now …

Because the UNIVERSAL CHURCH consists of the LIVELY STONES & members in particular who make up the church.

1 Peter 2:4-5 says:
4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 also says that WE ARE the church:
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God [WHAT IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD? It’s the church], and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Ephesians 2:19-22 says:
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God [that’s another name for the church];
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone];
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The Bible says WE ARE BUILDED TOGETHER for an habitation of God THROUGH the SPIRIT.

I don’t need pastor Romero’s or Pastor Anderson’s or pastor whoever else’s permission and approval to be the church.

Pastors don’t beget churches; the Spirit does.

Forget about the man-made traditions & the 501c3 corporation gatherings & the building fund and the offering plate and the announcements and all the little programs.

When members of the universal church gather together WE BECOME the LOCAL CHURCH.

And I’m not talking about just hanging out w/ your buddies & praying or talking about the Bible.

I’m talking about specifically coming together in an orderly fashion by the Holy Spirit & banding together with a mission & a purpose to serve the Living God & His body.

• Going back to Matthew 16:18 for a minute.

• Jesus said: “… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

This passage would not make sense if Jesus was speaking only of the local, autonomous, independent, fundamental, Baptist churches.

Jesus said that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His church, speaking of the universal church.

Because we know that Satan DOES prevail sometimes against the local church.

Local churches are sometimes divided & destroyed.

They split due to doctrinal differences and personal sin.

But the UNIVERSAL CHURCH, which is a spiritual body of all believers of all ages …
… holding fast to the one truth faith, cannot be divided or destroyed …


The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

That’s what Jesus was talking about.

… He was talking about the universal church of all believers & of all ages.

Ephesians 3:21 says: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages [spanning ALL of time], world without end. Amen.”

The universal church has existed from the 1st century until now … & it will exist in heaven.

And Satan will not ever prevail against it, just as Jesus promised.

• SO REGARDLESS OF THE GENERAL BAPTIST denial of the existence of the universal church …

… The Bible teaches that there IS a UNIVERSAL CHURCH, which consists of genuine born-again Christians around the world, universally, who worship God in Spirit & in Truth.

We see this in the conversation between Jesus & the Samaritan woman at the well.

John 4:20-24:
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

The Samaritan woman had this concept of a physical location being necessary for worshiping God, much like people do today.

But Jesus’ answer to the Samaritan woman was that true believers will worship God in SPIRIT & in TRUTH.

New Covenant worship has nothing to do with the physical location of the temple itself, the church building, the leaders and the pastors & deacons, or national geography.

1 Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:”

All the terms in this verse are being spoken of in the broad, general, universal sense.

“Jews” is talking about all Jews.
“Gentiles” is talking about all Gentiles.

Likewise, the “church of God” is used in a broad sense …

… it’s not talking about how to treat the local body …

… but rather about how to treat all Christians everywhere.

• THIS VERSE is also written in the present tense, indicating that there is currently a universal church of God …

… and that we shouldn’t give offense to it …

… not that there will one day be a universal church of God in the distant millennium when we all meet together.

We are NOW the universal body & church of God.

• BUT SOME WILL POINT TO words like, “assembly” and “congregation” in the OT and say that you can’t have a church unless you’re assembled together.

And using this logic, they claim that the UNIVERSAL CHURCH does not exist, because the UNIVERSAL CHURCH cannot congregate.

They say the universal church doesn’t have an address, so it’s not a real church.

But they’re not seeing the whole picture.

What they’re saying is true of the local church, but not the universal church.

Again, they’re mixing up the man-made tradition of the location of the building or the man-made organized structure of the church …

w/ the individual lively stones & the members of the body of Christ, who are the church.

Even in the nation of Israel, when the congregation or assembly was mentioned, it referred to the people, not only to the church services.

In other words, you had the same duality then also, between the one congregation which consisted of every Israelite …

… & the local gathering when they would meet for worship services and animal sacrifices.

Exodus 12:19: “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”

It’s talking about the people, the community as the congregation.

The whole gathering, the whole congregation, the whole assembly was considered the nation of ISRAEL …

… not just when they gathered together for the Levitical blood sacrifices & services.

They were always the congregation & the assembly of Israel, whether they were at the temple or not.

Exodus 16:1: “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin …”

Again, it’s talking about the whole people in a universal sense.

They were travel, they could move around and still be the congregation.

So the Bible’s usage of the word “congregation” is being misapplied to the local gathering, which is not always how the Bible always uses that word.


If they wanted to participate in the yearly blood atonement, they had to travel to Jerusalem, to the ONE TEMPLE …

Which is a foreshadowing ultimately of the ONE CHURCH.

• FINALLY, I want to look at the ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH, as this sheds great light on the topic.

The very first church came into being in Jerusalem.

It was the ONLY church, the ONE church that Jesus built.

& the Bible repeatedly says that the members who made up the church were of one accord.

Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication …”

Acts 2:1: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

And then we see a great number of believers added to the church.

Acts 2:41: “there were added unto them about three thousand souls …”

And we see that the unity of believers in the one church was never broken, at this point.

v. 42: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers …”

So, before we had the written Word in the NT, which was not written yet, the apostles made sure that every believer was united in doctrine & in fellowship.

And this continues. V. 44: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common:”

v. 46: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”

We see repeatedly that the church was ONE in every way.

& then we see in v. 47 that the believers are again, called, THE CHURCH: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

We see this continued in Acts 4:32: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

But then we get to Acts 8 …

& persecution has overtaken the church by the hands of the Jews, including Saul.

Acts 8 describes the persecution & dispersal of the church.

Acts 8:1-4:
1 … And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

& As the believers were spread abroad, they didn’t sit on their hands and wait for someone to start a local church.

They understood that they were the church & they began to preach the Gospel everywhere they went.

They didn’t wait to get “SENT OUT”
The persecution sent them out!

And as they preached the Gospel & banded together in various regions, the ONE CHURCH which had begun in Jerusalem …

… spread throughout various local regions, like Judaea and Samaria.

And these became the LOCAL EXPRESSIONS of the ONE CHURCH that JESUS began in Jerusalem.

In other words, the ONE CHURCH BRANCHED OUT.

And in Acts 9:31, after the persecution & dispersal, we see the first time the word, “CHURCHES” (in the plural) appears in the Bible: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”

In Acts 8, the Bible refers to the persecuted as believers who got dispersed.

& in Acts 9, the Bible refers to those same believers as “THE CHURCHES”.

Acts 8 says: “… and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria”

Acts 9 says: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria”.

Even two of the three same cities are mentioned.

• That’s why we see throughout the epistles, Paul refers to the churches, as “THE CHURCH at Corinth” or “THE CHURCH at Ephesus” or “THE CHURCH at Rome”.

• This was the THE CHURCH, now located at Rome, now located at Ephesus, now located at Corinth.

Still ONE CHURCH, still ONE DOCTRINE, but expressing itself locally with overseers appointed to guide the flock in each region.

• One of the first major churches that started was the Church at Antioch.

Note how the Bible refers to these churches.

Acts 13:1: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers”.

The churches never even had names. They were simply THE CHURCH that met at a certain place or city.

Often they were even referred to as the church which met at someone’s house.

Romans 16:3 says:
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

1 Corinthians 1:2: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”

Revelation 2:1: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write …”

Galatians 1:2: “And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”

[There were multiple churches at Galatia, likely churches that met in numerous houses].

In Acts 20:28, Paul addresses the church at Ephesus as “THE CHURCH OF GOD”, in the singular, again affirming that they ARE the church of God, spread abroad.


It’s no mystery.

There is a universal church & at the same time there are local churches …

… which are localized expressions of the one true church, comprised of all believers who worship God in Spirit & in Truth.

The idea of being this autonomous and independent is a uniquely American in character, not Biblical in nature.

I affirm that we have autonomy as local churches, and that one pastor does not have authority over another pastor or another church …

Our final authority is the Word of God.

…but we should also strive to love & edify the body of believers globally.

Understanding the UNIVERSAL CHURCH DOCTRINE broadens our responsibility to the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:2-6:
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

& one day, WE WILL ALL MEET, when all believers will congregate together in the heavenly Jerusalem:

Hebrews 12:22-25 says:
22 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,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven …


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