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The Kernel Is in the Husk

In the previous post, J. C. Ryle described the one true church, outside of which there is no salvation. This church is the body of Christ, composed of all God’s elect who have been born again (John 3). No congregation or denomination can claim to be that one true church.

Let us not, however, make the mistake, as some do, of thinking that communion in a local congregation is unnecessary, that our faith is a personal, private matter between ourselves and God, and that we can worship as well—or better, even—in solitude. Such a notion is not only absent from, but contrary to, the New Testament record.


No careful reader of the Bible can fail to observe that many separate churches are mentioned in the New Testament. At Corinth, at Ephesus, at Thessalonica, at Antioch, at Smyrna, at Sardis, at Laodicea, and several other places; at each we find a distinct body of professing Christians,—a body of people baptized in Christ’s name, and professing the faith of Christ’s Gospel. And these bodies of people we find spoken of as ‘the churches’ of the places which are named. Thus St Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘But . . . we have no such custom, neither the churches of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11:16). So also we read of the churches of Judea, the churches of Syria, the churches of Galatia, the churches of Asia, the churches of Macedonia. In each case the expression means the bodies of baptized Christians in the countries mentioned.

. . .

We know, moreover, that in all these churches there was public worship, preaching, reading of the Scriptures, prayer, praise, discipline, order, government, the ministry, and the sacraments. What kind of governments some churches had it is impossible to say positively. We read of officers who were called angels, of bishops, of deacons, of elders, of pastors, of teachers, of evangelists, of prophets, of helps, of governments. (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3; Rev. 1:20.) All these are mentioned. . . . Their two chief principles seem to be, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order;—Let all things be done unto edifying’ (1 Cor. 14:40, 26) . . .

We know, finally, that the work begun by the missionary preaching of the Apostles was carried on through the instrumentality of the professing churches. It was through the means of grace used in their public assemblies that God added to the number of his people, converted sinners, and built up saints. Mixed and imperfect as these churches plainly were, within their pale were to be found nearly all the existing believers and members of the body of Christ. Everything in the New Testament leads us to suppose that there could have been few believers, if any, who were not members of some one or other of the professing churches scattered up and down the world.

. . .


Let us look upon visible churches, with their outward forms and ordinances, as being to the one true church what the husk is to the kernel of the nut. Both grow together,—both husk and kernel. Yet one is far more precious than the other. Just so the true church is far more precious than the outward and visible.—The husk is useful to the kernel. It preserves it from many injuries, and enables it to grow. Just so the outward church is useful to the body of Christ; it is within the pale of its ordinances that believers are generally born again, and grow up in faith, hope, and charity.—The husk is utterly worthless without the kernel. Just so the outward church is utterly worthless except it guards and covers over the inward and the true.—The husk will die, but the kernel has a principle of life in it. Just so the forms and ordinances of the outward church will all pass away, but that which lives and lasts for ever is the true church within.—To expect the kernel without the husk, is expecting that which is contrary to the common order of the laws of nature. To expect to find the true church, and members of the true church, without having an orderly and well-governed and visible church, is expecting that which God, in the ordinary course of things, does not give.

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 247–250, 254.

Posted 2017·06·07 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Assembling Together · J C Ryle · Knots Untied

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