The Church At Antioch -- By: James M. Stifler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: The Church At Antioch
Author: James M. Stifler


The Church At Antioch

Prof. James M. Stifler

It is the intent of this article to inquire into the origin and character of the church at Antioch, and to contrast it with the church in Jerusalem.

A church is an organization through which Jesus Christ does his gracious and beneficent work in the world. It is not an artificial organization, like human government, whose form, and whose function even, may vary; not an organization like a monastery, a missionary society, or the Young Men’s Christian Association. In all these, men come together and work together, only because they have a common sentiment and a common aim. In the church men have a common sentiment and a common aim, but these are not its organific force. If they were, the church would be an artificial body, subject to change of form and function, just as political states are, and our inquiry about the character of the apostolic or any ancient church would be merely an antiquarian question. It would settle nothing for us to-day. But the church is a vital organization, like a vine, or like a human body, whose unity depends on an inherent force that cannot vary, and so the organization does not vary. If the church is compared to a temple,— and a temple was its earliest symbol (Matt. 16:18),—it is a temple built of living stones (1 Pet. 2:3), “a building fitly framed together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). And he does not dwell in this sacred temple as a man dwells in his home, being in no sense any

part of it; God dwells in the church by dwelling in every man who is in it.

The church, then, is a spiritual body, the direct product of God’s Holy Spirit, and has a character and life generic-ally its own. It is unlike any other corporate existence on earth, not only in its originating and cohesive principle, but also in its function. It is a new thing, not only on earth, but before heaven, and exhibits in itself the “manifold wisdom of God “(Eph. 3:10). Being, as it is, a living body, the body of Christ, it can neither die nor even change. It has outlived all nations on earth; and where it is worthy of the name of church, it is to-day what he made it, just as the fig-tree of to-day is the same as that which grew in Palestine in Christ’s day. With the function of the church we are not now concerned, any further than to note, that, the function being ever the same, the organism cannot change. The church is a self-perpetuating body, ever after its own kind, having neither extraneous law nor constitution, but living by ...

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