Pristine Grace

The Ideal Christian Forum and the EKKLESIA
by Bob Higby

The Ideal Christian Forum and the EKKLESIA

     Most online forums that profess Christian belief are controlled by some established system of traditional dogma: either a ‘conservative’ confessional tradition with the doctrines of men added to the gospel or else devotion to liberal skepticism. The Predestinarian Network is committed to avoiding either of these extremes damned by God. We aspire to defending the pristine apostolic gospel and all of its implications, throwing out all the garbage of traditional conservative and liberal dogma as the Lord enables us. But how does an online community faithful to the apostolic gospel approximate the New Testament teaching on the EKKLESIA or New Covenant community of Jesus Christ?

     The book of Ephesians is the New Testament guide to what the EKKLESIA is as approved and created by our sovereign God. It is the community of elect saints only. The current Federal Vision heresy would have us turn to snippets of 1 Corinthians, Galatians, or Hebrews to define the EKKLESIA, since there are scriptures in those books which can be misused to define the Christian community as a mixture of elect and non-elect. But there can be no question as to what the true congregation of Christ is according to Paul’s definition of it in the entire book of Ephesians: the EKKLESIA consists of the elect of God only (1:22,23 is the culmination of the whole argument based on predestination).

     There are several aspects of the New Testament congregation of elect saints that need to be considered when defining the purpose of an online community:

  1. The EKKLESIA consists of the elect only. The community of elect saints is identifiable by other elect saints. Exceptions to this are rare and usually based on quick positive judgment of a profession that has not been demonstrated over time.
  2. The EKKLESIA fellowships as a community.
  3. The EKKLESIA has appointed leaders who are trusted by their congregations.
  4. The EKKLESIA practices discipline toward those demonstrating a commitment to false doctrine and habitual lifestyle practices denying the gospel.
  5. The EKKLESIA proclaims the apostolic gospel faithfully and participates in the New Covenant sign ordained by Christ (the Lord’s Supper).

     Let us consider each of these aspects in light of where an online community is potentially IDENTICAL and DIFFERENT from the EKKLESIA of the New Testament.

     1. The EKKLESIA consists of the elect only. The community of elect saints is identifiable by other elect saints. Exceptions to this are rare and usually based on quick positive judgment of a profession that has not been demonstrated over time.

     There is no difference here between an online community of elect saints and a local Christian congregation of elect that is committed to sound apostolic teaching. In both cases there is a danger of accepting a participant as elect before adequate demonstration of commitment to the true gospel in belief and life. Some might argue against this by proposing that a local congregation has interaction with its members in person, whereas an internet community knows its members only by ‘phantom’ impersonal interaction. But this is simply not true. A local ‘church’ often knows little or nothing of the personal lives or beliefs of its members in spite of Sunday gatherings, whereas in an online community the participants often confess their deepest held beliefs and what type of life they are committed to. Certainly this MEANS SOMETHING to identifying the body of Jesus Christ.

     We should recognize the elect in an online community as distinguished from non-elect participants. Certainly the non-elect should be allowed to be involved if certain guidelines are adhered to. But we will NEVER have an affinity with them that is anything like the KOINONIA we experience in interaction with the body of Jesus Christ!

     2. The EKKLESIA fellowships as a community.

     Certainly the fellowship we enjoy online cannot parallel what may be experienced in person. Yet there are certain joys in the gospel that can be immensely magnified by the encouragement we receive in verbal communion as believers. As Paul stated, words uplift the body of Christ even when a personal presence is impossible (Rom. 1:10-13). It is in that very context that the book of Romans was conceived. The New Testament books were written to a large degree because the apostles were not able to communicate their message to all of the elect bodily!

     3. The EKKLESIA has God-appointed leaders who are trusted by their congregations.

     Though man has continuously tried to lord humanly-appointed bishops over the conscience of believers in the history of imbecilic christendumb, true leadership in the body of Christ is not something that man can institutionalize. It is the Holy Spirit that gives gifts to men! Those elect unto salvation can only recognize and select those leaders whom God himself has already anointed for His purposes of advancing the gospel in this world. The beginnings of apostasy for Christian congregations occurred when self-appointed leaders ascended to the helm with a self-serving and flesh-catering message that compromised the true gospel.

     The principle that God only ordains holds true for those who would oversee and direct an online community. We have to confess that our work is determined and anointed only of our sovereign Lord. Our actions and attitudes in interacting with contributors must demonstrate this sobering reality. We are engaging in God’s work, not ours. Nothing we do in this earthly life is merely to please our regenerate selves, it is to please the Lord Himself! The fruit of our efforts and the influence we have is to be perceived in the long term, not in immediate ‘little’ victories.

     4. The EKKLESIA practices discipline toward those demonstrating a commitment to false doctrine and habitual lifestyle practices denying the gospel.

     In this area also, an online community committed to the gospel imitates a personal community. Those who demonstrate a firm opposition to the gospel and its implications in their thinking will ultimately be prevented from speaking publicly, either for a limited time or permanently. In addition, those who attempt to justify and rationalize away a sinful lifestyle will experience the same type of censure.

     No congregational assembly would tolerate for long a participant calling the leadership false teachers leading the sheep to slaughter. Neither would such a congregation tolerate a high-handed practice of sin in their midst. The same holds true of an online community. Both an online and a local gospel congregation will tolerate professed unbelievers and skeptics in their dialog for a time. Both desire to persuade those elect who are presently unregenerate of the truth. However, there is a limit to tolerance of unbelief and skepticism in any gospel fellowship. Leaders must rely upon the Holy Spirit to know when it is time to put an end to unmitigated public rebellion against the things of God.

     5. The EKKLESIA proclaims the apostolic gospel faithfully and participates in the New Covenant sign ordained by Christ (the Lord’s Supper).

     On these two requirements an online community is exactly the same as a local personal community. Firstly, both are to proclaim the apostolic gospel in unmitigated boldness and consistency. That is the primary occupation of all elect believers in Jesus Christ! The second requirement might be perceived as enigmatic to some. But it is not. It only takes two gospel believers to practice the Lord’s Supper. If a believer is totally alone in a place (a rare circumstance), then it is possible to observe it only at those special times when travelling to be with other like-minded believers! Christ never commanded how often the Supper was to be observed. He only commanded to observe it ‘as often as you do it.’ So there is no essential difference here either between an internet community who loves the gospel and a local gospel assembly.

     Conclusion:

     Online fellowship certainly does not replace face-to-face fellowship in the gospel. We commend and encourage all who labor to further the local EKKLESIA according to the truth of the gospel. Having said that, it is obvious that God is severely cursing most local assemblies and denominations today for their hatred of and apostasy from the advancing Reformation truths pouring out of the sacred scriptures. Only by belief in the advancing light of gospel truth will the elect avoid the extreme deceptions of the present age. God is filling denominational and independent churches with heresy, devils, and damned souls. It is in judgment for their putrid disinterest in the true gospel and love of idolatrous fables, exalting human will-worship, and pleasing the demands of men. But the internet cannot be controlled by church leaders who have succeeded for centuries in squashing the advancement of truth by institutional power. God will increasingly use this medium as a testimony against the centuries-old deceptions of church leaders. The only question to be asked of us is this: will we take the stewardship that God has given us in this type of ministry seriously? If we do not, the Lord will raise up others.

     This article has attempted to demonstrate the place of an online Christian forum in the EKKLESIA of Jesus Christ. As always, interaction is welcome!

     --Bro. Bob