Which Church Is Right?
Hopefully, we have seen through these past few studies that God has a definite plan for what man should do and how he should live if he seeks to please God and live with Him in eternity. Hopefully, we have seen that what man thinks and teaches is right is not always what God says is right, and this will remain true when we seek to answer today's question: Which church is right? Man says, "Join the church of your choice," or "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere." But what does God says about it? Does it matter what church you join and support? Is "one church as good as another" as some are so willing to proclaim?
The first thing to consider is the Bible teaching about the church, as we should do with any other question. The first place we should start is where it is first mentioned, Matthew 16:18. Here, after Peter had made the good confession that Jesus was, indeed, the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus pointed to that truth as the very foundation of His church that He was to build. Note that Jesus said, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." What we should note from this first mention of the church in God's word is that it was singular in nature; He said "church" not churches and that death (Hades) would not prevail against "it" not 'them.' The first, and sometimes foremost, principle we should note about the New Testament church is that Jesus only intended to build one church; It was never meant to be divided up into separate parts with its members dividing up and pitting themselves against each other based on self-originated creeds and catechisms. Jesus said He was going to build one church, and we must know that one is all He built not two and certainly not 2000.
The apostle Paul echoed this truth when he wrote to the Ephesians and cited the many singular aspects of our faith, noting that there "is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:4-6) That "one body" that Paul mentioned is one church, for he identifies the body of Christ as the church, and Christ as the head of it (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18, 24). If there is only one body and the body is the church, it logically follows that there is only one church.
I know what the world says and even what religious leaders within the denominations say, but I must emphasize that the above Scriptures are what God says about it, and God through His revealed and inspired word said that Jesus built one church, and only one. When we look about us and see that there are, in fact, many "churches," there should be no doubt that something is not right! Instead of enthusiastically applauding the "diversity" of denominationalism, we should hang our heads in shame at the gross error and division that is its fruit. What we have now is not what Jesus intended at all.
Having now determined from the Scriptures that Jesus had always intended for the existence of only one church, we must again ask the question: Which church is right? Just because we know that there can only be one does not tell us which one. Some, when seeking to answer this, will claim that the "right" church is the one that can trace its lineage back to the original one. I will allow that it is possible for that to be true, but not necessarily; a church that has gone deep into error may trace its beginning back to the true church just as surely as one that is still practicing the truth. Heritage is not the answer. Many others claim that the "right" church is the one that is guided by the Holy Spirit. That sounds good, but how many churches in the denominational system we have today make that claim? Almost all of them! That claim cannot give us a clear answer, either. So, for the answer, we must do as we have been doing and return to the Scriptures to find the answer.
And when we look into the Scriptures to know which church is right, we must begin with what constitutes the church. Who may be rightly called members of the body of Christ, the church? Beginning in the book of Acts, where we find the first mention of anyone being a part of the church, we find that the ones who were added to the church were those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). [I urge you to go back to the previous article of this publication entitled "What Is A Christian?" and see the identifying marks of the members of the Lord's church. An honest examination of all the Scriptures will reveal the qualifications of those who may be added to the church.]
The next identifying mark of the true church is that they teach and practice only what their Master, the head of the church (Christ, Col. 1:18), has decreed. Since He has been given all authority (Matt. 28:18), the true church follows the words of Jesus Christ and only His words (inclusive of the inspired writers' words). They will have no creed but the Bible and no head but Christ. If a church has its own creed or recognizes anyone but Jesus Christ as its authority, it cannot be rightly called the true church. If you investigate the denominations, you will find that very few do not have a creed, and most, though they claim allegiance to Christ, will reject some portion of Scripture because it does not agree with what they teach and/or practice.
I would love to tell you to just look for a church that has the "right" name on it, but I cannot. Many churches wear the right name but betray themselves as false churches because of what is taught and practiced within. The right name does not guarantee it is the "right" church. To find the right church, you must do some serious investigation and observation, paying attention to what is taught and practiced more than the superficial claims that they all "believe in the same Jesus."
The right church is the one that has submitted itself wholly to the will of Jesus Christ, and endeavors to continue in His will. The true, "right" church seeks to please Christ and not self. Even then, the "right" church will have its faults because it is made up of imperfect people; Christians still sin and they still make mistakes, but those whose heart is set on the truth will make up the true church. If, in the true church, error is discovered, they will humble themselves and make corrections. You may not find a "perfect" church, but you can find the right one. Have you seen that church?
By Steven Harper
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