LAYING WASTE THE CHURCH

Of Saul of Tarsus it is said that he "laid waste the church," entering into every house, and dragging men and women committing them to prison (Acts 8:3).

"The church," in this connection, does not mean the meetinghouse. It is never used in this sense in the New Testament. Nor does it mean, in this text, a group of "assembled Christians." Sometimes it is used in this sense (1 Cor. 14: 19). "The church" is here thought of in terms of the persons who compose it. They are "the church," whether assembled or in their respective homes. The church of God at Corinth included all Christians in that city, whether assembled or in their homes. Saul did not lay waste the Jerusalem church by attacking the assembly as a group, or when the members were all in one place; but rather on an individual, or at least, family basis. It does not say he entered the meetinghouse, but "every house," and dragged men and women to prison. By "laying waste" the individual members of the church, he "laid waste the church," according to Luke the inspired historian, some modern scribes to the contrary notwithstanding. It means that what the members of the church experienced, the church experienced. The members are the church. The church is not a corporation. It will not be judged as a corporation. Its members will be judged as individuals (Rom. 14:12). It is not contemplated as an entity separate and apart from those who compose it. Christians are the church. When they are persecuted, the church is persecuted. If the Jerusalem Christians, when persecuted in their homes, were the church persecuted "laid waste," what would it have been, if they had been teaching the gospel in their homes, instead of being persecuted? Would it have been "the church" teaching? B.C. Goodpasture, Gospel Advocate, Dec. 16, 1965