Are You a Member of a Biblical Church?

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From the start of its cultivation at the time of the Protestant Reformation (ca. 1517) to the peak of Puritanism’s success in 1658, the marks of a true Church became apparent. Biblically-sound ministers and their churches embraced the settled conviction that a true Church consisted essentially of three distinct marks which could be derived from Holy Scripture (to which the Anabaptists added two – Fellowship and Benevolence). These three marks are: (1) The preaching of the pure gospel, (2) the proper administration of the sacraments, and (3) the faithful exercising of church discipline. 

Many today would be at odds with this list. Some might adhere to only the extra Anabaptist short-list, and others might agree with only the three. Let’s now briefly examine the three distinct marks of a true Church. One of the major reasons for today’s lack of clarity regarding (2) is the prolific number of protestant denominations. The failure of churches today applying (3) helps us understand why many of them are so spiritually shallow and worldly. A proper application of (1) instructs us that true unity can only be achieved around the truth (Philippians 1:27). Such unity is recovered only when there is a wholesale return to the truth in the pulpit. This return comes when the gospel is preached not only to the lost, but also when God’s people are all thinking about it, dwelling upon it, rejoicing in it, and allowing it to color the way they look at the world. However, before this return comes, churches move or decline into a man-made form of religion caused by pulpits that send a pragmatic, uncertain and man-pleasing message. And who suffers most in such a realm? God’s blood-bought people (Revelation 5:9)! Instead of being regularly fed God’s precious Word (John 21:15-17), they are often left Scripturally-malnourished from a steady diet of silly stories and unscriptural illustrations which mark the anecdotal sermons to which they are subjected each week. This unholy scenario produces Christians that are ill-equipped for normal living in a fallen world and who are crippled for engaging in authentic local church ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). This prevalent practice leaves many true Christians trained to major-on-the-minors, rather than majoring upon cultivating personal godliness and being Biblically-encouraged to go on in their “most holy faith” (1 Pet 2:2; Jude 20). Such believers are typically left spiritually stagnant, rather than being carefully instructed in the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). They have had their ears tickled, instead of trained in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16; 4:2-3). And the sad thing is that many of these faithful church-goers know that something is seriously wrong in their church, but they just can’t put their finger on it. Why? Because they have not been regularly sanctified with the truth – the Word of God (John 17:17), and thereby consistently trained to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Nor have they been faithfully helped toward knowing how to live a normal Christian life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). So, what should faithful church-goers do in such a situation? They should ask themselves whether their church is marked by the aforementioned three Scriptural non-negotiables. Further, they should ask themselves, is my church also marked by both regular, generous benevolence (to the truly needy) and rich, spiritual fellowship (I am not referring to doughnuts and coffee)? What if their church fails this test? They need to ask their church’s leadership why these marks do not describe their church. Then they should give help toward their application with prayers, service and open affirmation. What if their church rejects these truths? They need to find a church that loves and applies “all five” marks of a truly Biblical church! Are you attending a Biblical church?

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