Thursday, May 10, 2007

Herschel Hobbs’s Position on the Church

I have sensed that there is some confusion about Herschel’s position on the church. He chaired the committee that framed the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. The 1925 Baptist Faith and Message only mentioned the local church. The 1963 document added the following description:

“The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages.”

This addition, however, is speaking of a universal church that is not yet in existence. Notice what Herschel said in his commentary on the 1963 document:

“The word ‘church’ in the New Testament never refers to organized Christianity or to a group of churches. It denotes either a local body of baptized believers or includes all the redeemed through all the ages.”

Herschel H. Hobbs, The Baptist Faith and Message (Nashville: Convention Press, 1971), 75.

This position was also held by B. H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“Of the 117 instances of use in the New Testament certainly all but five (Acts 7:38; 19:32, 39, 42; Heb. 2:12) refer to Christ's ecclesia. And since Hebrews 2:12, though a quotation from the Old Testament, is prophetic, finding fulfillment in New Testament times, we need not regard it as an exception. These 113 uses of the word, including Hebrews 2:12, refer either to the particular assembly of Jesus Christ on earth, or to His general assembly in glory (heaven). . . . But while nearly all of the 113 instances of the use of ecclesia belong to the particular class, there are some instances, as Hebrews 12:23, and Ephesians 5:25-27, where the reference seems to be to the general assembly of Christ. But in every case the ecclesia is prospective, not actual. That is to say, there is not now, but there will be a general assembly of Christ's people. That general assembly will be composed of all the redeemed of all time.”

B. H. Carroll, Ecclesia,, accessed 23 April, 2007.