Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

How To Identify Christ's Church

R. L. Roberts, Whitesboro, Texas

The Bible teaches that Christ built only one church. We read, "There is one body." (Eph. 4:4.) And again, "He is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18.) Since there is one body and the one body is the church, Christ has but one church. He never promised to build but the one (Matt. 16:18); and he never gave himself for but the one. (Eph. 5:23-25.) He is the head of the ONE church. (Eph. 1:22-23.) The New Testament says he gave himself for "it", not "them". (Eph. 5:25.)

Even though Christ built but one church, and endowed but one with his Spirit, we find about three hundred different churches in this land of ours, and new ones being born all along. It should be obvious to any sober thinking person (even without Bible knowledge) that it is not possible for these three hundred churches to differ, and all be right. They might differ and all be wrong; but they cannot differ and all be right. Even two could not differ and both be right, much less three hundred. Since Christ is responsible for but one, then men must be responsible for starting all the others. And there is no salvation from men's churches.

We recognize the problem that confronts the honest enquirer. He wants to be in the Lord's church because he wants to be saved. But which one belongs to the Lord? How may the honest and sincere man know which of the three hundred churches is really and truly the Lord's church? To ask the preacher of these three hundred churches would be a waste of time, for each, no doubt, would say that his own particular church is the Lord's church. Furthermore, one would not have time to wade through all the maze of theology of each church. He would not live long enough to attend them all and study the doctrine of each to determine which one was right. By the time he finished with the ones now in existence, he would find an entirely new crop awaiting his investigation.

There is one quick, sure way to find which church is the Lord's. Go to your New Testament; study the various distinguishing marks of the church as it is revealed there, and then find one today that is exactly like the one pictured in that Book. If you cannot find one that looks exactly like the one set forth on the pages of the inspired scriptures, then reject them all, for they are but counterfeits. By way of caution, let us remind you that the more like the genuine a counterfeit is, the more dangerous it is, and the more difficult to detect. The more like the Lord's church a human church is, the more dangerous it becomes; for the people will more likely be fooled by it. The counterfeit is another body, and cannot be the Lord's church.

In making application of the parable of the sower, Jesus said, "the seed is the word of God." (Luke 8:11; see also I Peter 1:22-23.) God's unchangeable law of reproduction is that everything shall bring forth after its kind. We plant cotton seed to produce cotton; we do not grow corn from cotton seed, neither do we grow cotton from corn seed. or any other kind of seed except Cotton. The same principle is true in regard to the seed of the kingdom — the word of God. The word of God is planted into the hearts of honest and sincere men. That word will produce now exactly what it produced in thedays of the apostles — nothing more, nothing less, and NOTHING ELSE. Whatever church it produced then, it will produce now. If the seed of the kingdom produced the Catholic church, the Presbyterian church, the Baptist church, or the Methodist church (or any other such) then, it will produce them now. But, on the other hand, if it did NOT produce any of them then, it will not produce them now. Since we cannot find any of these churches mentioned in the Bible, we know that the seed of the kingdom, the word of God, did NOT produce them. Something did produce them; but that "something" was not the word of God. Somebody planted a different seed; therefore a different kind of church was produced — not the Lord's.

Let the honest enquirer notice some marks of identification by which he may know the church of the Lord:

1. The builder and the foundation. (Matt. 16:18; I Cor. 3:11). Christ is the builder and the foundation of his church. Churches built by Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Eddy or some other man or woman cannot be the Lord's church. Read Psalm 127:1 and Matthew 15:13.

2. The Divine name. Christ's name distinguishes his church. Isaiah prophesied that God's people would have a new name when the Gentiles saw the righteousness of God. (Isa. 62:1-2.) We find this new name was applied to God's people (Acts 11:26 ... "and the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.") at the time when Gentiles were first coming into obedience to God's word. They were not called a certain kind of Christian, but just Christians — only Christians and Christians only. As a church we find these references to God's people I Cor. 1:1, 2; Acts 20:28; Rom. 16:16; Matt. 16:18. We have no right to add anything to this name, either to the church name or to the name of those who make up the Church. "There is none other name under heaven" (Acts 4:12.) No man can be saved in any name other than that of Christ.

3. The creed. The New Testament has only Christ as a "creed". That is, Christ and his life and teaching constitute the only creed the Christian has. (Matt. 23:18; II Tim. 3:16, 17; II John 9-11.) In the church where you worship do you have a Manual, a Prayer Book, a Discipline, a Confession of Faith, or even a Catechism? The New Testament provides for none of these things.

4. The terms of admission. These are set forth by the Holy Spirit. They are hearing and believing (Mark 16:15, 16); repentance (Acts 2:38); baptism in water for, the remission of sins (Rom. 6:1-4; Acts 2:38.) Does your church teach faith, salvation, and "join a church of your choice?" If so, just be reminded that the Lord gave no such instruction. On the contrary he "adds to the church" (i.e. HIS church) all those who are saved.

5. Worship. In the Lord's church we sing (Eph. 5:19); we pray (Col. 3:17); we give as we have been prospered (I Cor. 16:1-4); we partake of the Lord's Supper each first day of the Week (Acts 20:7); and we teach and are taught (Heb. 10:25.) The Lord's church worships God in this way every time "the first day of the week" comes. Any church failing to do this is not measuring up to the New Testament picture of the true church of Christ.