ADDING AND MULTIPLYING
The command to teach those who have been baptized to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded ultimately necessitates having the authority to correctively discipline those that are to be taught. Such authority has, of course, been given to none other than the Lords churches. These things being so, the command to teach those baptized to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded necessarily and strongly implies that it is by baptism that the Lord adds believers to His churches. "For by" [the leading of] "one Spirit are we all baptized" [with water] "into one body," [like the church at Corinth] "whether we be Jews or Gentiles . . ." (1 Corinthians 12:13).
In the effort to advance, or to defend, the notion that baptism is a gospel ordinance rather than a church ordinance, it has sometimes been taught that persons are not added to a church by baptism, but that baptism is only a pre-requisite to church membership, and that the adding is done afterwards. To support that view, it is argued that the first members of the first church were not baptized into that church but that they were baptized in preparation for their being added to it. That was, of course, the case, but that does not disprove the scripture teaching that, since His departure, Christ adds persons to His churches by the administration of water baptism any more than the fact that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground disproves the propriety and even the absolute necessity of the process by which God forms human beings today. Genesis 2:7 says, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In verses 21 and 22 of that chapter, we read that God took one of Adams ribs, "And the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman . . . ." In Genesis 1:28, God gave that man and woman a commission to "Be fruitful, and multiply." Although we realize that men today are not formed from the dust of the ground in the way that Adam was, and wives are not formed from mens ribs in the way that Eve was, those who believe the Bible will agree that it is God who forms and gives life to every human being. Isaiah 44:24 says, "Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself." So it is that, although Christ added some of the first members to His first church after they had been baptized, it is by water baptism administered by His churches that Christ has ordained as the manner in which He adds believers to His churches since His ascension.
The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip is sometimes cited as an alleged case of one being baptized without being baptized into a church. Philip is named in Acts as one of the seven who were ordained by the church at Jerusalem. In Acts 6:6, we read that the church set the seven before the apostles, and when the church had prayed, they laid their hands on them. In the next two chapters we see Philip and Stephen, another of the seven, preaching with the approval of the church at Jerusalem. The fact that "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more" presents no problem. Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8) and was no doubt away from Jerusalem much of the time as he "preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans" (Acts 8:25). Immediately after baptizing the eunuch, "Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea" (Acts 8:40). Considering the way God so miraculously sent Philip to the eunuch, and then caught him away afterward, it should not be so difficult to believe that God caused and enabled the church at Jerusalem to follow up in the obedience of teaching the new member to observe all things whatsoever Christ had commanded, and to take responsibility for him, until such time as he could be placed into another church. There may very well have already been a church organized near where the eunuch lived. Let us not forget that besides the twelve apostles and the seven deacons, there were the "other seventy" that Jesus Himself appointed and "sent them two and two." We have no record that their ordination was ever revoked. Whatever the case, I think the prophecy of Isaiah 56:3-8 indicates that God gave the eunuch a church to worship and serve Him in and to assemble with. The fact that Philip was not seen any more, by the eunuch, shows that the commission was given to the churches rather than to apostles or preachers.
After God saved Saul, He sent him to Damascus where he was baptized into the church there at Damascus. "Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus" (Acts 9:19). Verse 23 says that it was "many days." Verse 26 says, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples" (the church at Jerusalem).
Some may wish to doubt the existence of a church at Damascus, or of any churches, at that time, other than the one at Jerusalem, but verse 31 of that same chapter clearly indicates that there were a number of churches throughout a large area. Verse 31 says:
The fact that "the churches" (plural) had rest, were edified, and multiplied is proof that they existed, for they could not have had rest nor been edified and multiplied, had they not been already in existence. Members of those churches had been persecuted by Saul; now they "had rest."