What is the “True” church? #5

What is the definition of a true church? Here we will continue our discussion of what a legitimate church.


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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    6 replies to "Theology Unplugged: “Marks of a False Church” (What is the “True” Church #6)"

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of Mankind

      I appreciate the good intentions regarding these “talks”, but some things must be noticed:

      All accountable, sinning individuals (who transgressed God’s Law, I John 3:4), need a Saviour (Rom. 3:23). No child is accountable for sin, has not sinned, therefore they are not “born sinners” (since it is an act, not a hereditary attribute) and do not need a Saviour (until they have sinned). Any verse that anyone uses to justify “total hereditary depravity”, is violently lifting that verse out of context (as has been proven in a previous post).

      “Radical Exclucivism” in which a church “lets nobody in”?
      What group actually practices this? By “lets nobody in”, does this mean that preaching against unauthorized practices (Matt. 15:1-14) is a “mark of a false church” (e.g. playing mechanical instruments of music, being “innovated” for the plain “singing” [Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16] found in the New Testament)? BTW, Michael, all of your early “Protestant Leaders” taught against it, if you do not want to be “heredoxy” according to them, you and all “Reformed” folks should give it up, according to “orthodoxy”.

      Notice Adam Clarke on Amos 6:5 (though I do not agree with his understanding of the context of this statement, it is true [IM in worship under NT is wrong]):

      “I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity. The late venerable and most eminent divine, the Revelation John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, in his terse and powerful manner, “I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither Heard nor Seen.” I say the same, though I think the expense of purchase had better be spared.”

      SO, even according to the “Reformation Tradition” (despite each “leader’s” manifold doctrinal errors), even Luther and Calvin, they have negative comments on this subject, as well (making all who use it “hereodox, according to their own doctrine).

      Hear “Protestant John Calvin” on the matter, “From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel.” (from his comments on Ps. xcii. 1).

      What makes these “creeds”, outside of that which is found
      in the New Testament, “authorized” by the actual apostles? I am convinced (by all of the “church fathers” that I have read) that after the apostles and first century Christians died, there was an extreme departure (see Judges 2:7-12 for a parrallel circumstance; Acts 20:28-32 affirm it as well) from that which was in the New Testament, making every “statement of faith” that does not line up with the New Testament standard, false. Any group that accepts these “ecumenical creeds”, instead of the apostles doctrine, cannot be the
      true church.

      Also, anybody who affirms, “salvation by grace alone, through faith alone”, is affirming a logical contradiction (either “alone” excludes the other). If by grace “alone”, not by faith at all (thus, grace “alone”).

      Anybody who makes the above affirmation (any salvation by “alone” doctrine) is not teaching truth nor has obeyed the truth regarding salvation (Mark 16:15-16; II Thess. 1:6-9). God’s grace (the Gospel), in Mark 16:16 requires man to believe AND be baptized in order to “receive” the free gift of salvation (it is a conjunctive proposition and the truth value of “believe” is hinged upon the truth value of “is baptized”). When Christ negated “belief” (he that believeth not…) in the second phrase of Mark 16:16, He negated “be baptized” (making “belief” as essential as “baptism”, yet one cannot be “baptized” if he does not “believe” [Acts 8:36-38]). Thefore, by Christ not explicitly saying, “whoso believeth not and is baptized not”, it is implied by the negation of one of the conjunts. Salvation is never “received” before baptism, ONLY after (of course faith is required before baptism [Heb. 11:6]), according to Mark 16:16 (as well as Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:27; I Cor. 12:13, I Pet. 3:21, et al).

      This is Logic 101 fellas, the Scriptures do not contradict one another (John 17:17; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18), they only complement one another (I Thess. 5:21).

      I should hope this to be beneficial.

    • Rob Mitchell

      Dear “A Lover of Truth/Souls of Mankind”. If you might consider reading up a bit on Pelagianism and the church’s response to it I think that might help you sort things out a bit.

      Okay, now that’s off my chest, I would note that all of the Reformed Confessions included two “marks of the church”, that is to say, answers to the questions “What are the marks of the true church?” or “Where is the true church found?”

      These two universally held marks are:
      1. The proper preaching of the Word.
      2. The proper administration of the Sacraments.

      And I have no quarrel with either mark. Some of the Reformed confessional frameworks add a third mark, to wit:
      3. Church discipline is properly administered.

      And again, I have no brief against that as a mark of the church, either.

      Reformed ecclesiology (and I speak from within the Reformed tradition) takes as its starting point the eucharistic ecclesiology and emphasis on the elements of worship in defining the church primarily as a worshipping community, and I think this is correct.

      But what seems to be missing not only from the Reformed ecclesiologies but also from the eucharistic ecclesiologies of the Eastern and Roman traditions that precede them, is any mention of mission as a mark of the church, which I find both interesting and curious.

      The question this raises for ecclesiology is this: Is the worship service “the main thing” that ought to characterize the church? This is a timely subject, as I’m currently working on my RTS graduate thesis in which I suggest mission as a mark of the church.

      I think that the living church, wherever it has existed, has always been characterized by active pursuit of the missio Dei, participation in the redemptive program of God, proclaiming the truth of Jesus to the unbelieving world. But at the same time the church has not been sufficiently explicit or intentional about mission – it has been more often assumed than expressed, particularly in ecclesiology.

      But since I’m a student, I don’t feel comfortable enough to state it as an affirmation: Mission ought to be considered a mark of the true church. Rather more cautiously, I would like to pose it as a question: If mission is part of the reason for the church’s existence, then ought it to be considered one of the marks of the true church?

      Contemporary thinkers as various as C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have said that the church that is not pursuing mission may be authentic Christian fellowship, but without missional fruit (my phraseology) they should not be considered true churches.

      I wouldn’t presume to state it so boldly, but I think a case might be made for adding an element of missional ecclesiology to the eucharistic framework.

    • Rob Mitchell

      Sorry for the long post. Won’t happen again.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      “These two universally held marks are:
      1. The proper preaching of the Word.
      2. The proper administration of the Sacraments.”

      The term “sacrament” is a denominational/catholic dodge of what is known in the Bible as “true worship” (John 4:24).
      I have heard “scholars” then attempt to justify their adding Old Testament and/or pagan practices into New Testament worship in the name of “sacraments”.

      Here is some Bible, no “theologians”/”scholars” needed for this material,

      The “true church”:
      1. Preaches/teaches the Gospel/Word to the world (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15; II Tim. 2:2; 4:1-5)
      ——This is “evangelism”

      2. “edify one another” (I Thess. 5:11, to build up) this is for the brethren (those having obeyed the Gospel).
      ——This is “edification”

      3. “Do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
      ——This is “benevolence”, this is for the brethren AND the world
      This is what the church does corporately and individually (as service to God and others).

      Of course, this is not counting the acceptable acts of worship (true worship):
      1. Remember the Lord’s death by the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week/Lord’s Day (Luke 22:17-20; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7)

      2. Preaching/hearing the Word preached on the first of the week (Acts 20:7)

      3. Singing in/with your hearts (yep, that’s all God wants for music [not playing/adding mechanical instruments] Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)

      4. Giving cheerfully on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2; II Cor. 8-9).

      5. Offering prayer unto God (Acts 2:42; I Tim. 2:1-8).

      Of course, this is what in corporate worship. Any body/any group that has to “add” or “subtract” to any of this is sinning and is not the “true church” (II John 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19).

      This sounds fairly simple, hard to confuse. Yet, people want to complicate it and make themselves something different from the church that is found in the New Testament.

      Again, there is also a responsibility to lead a morally pure life as well as showing love to God and others (I Thess. 4:1-9; Rom. 12).

      I hope this gives some insight as to what the Bible says about the “true church”.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      People, your ad-hominen/straw man, “Palagianism”, must stop. It is fallaciously and logically misleading. This is the Bible, not man-made doctrine/your theology group.

      If I were to say that I “earned” my salvation, that is “Pelagianism”. Appropriating a gift and earning a wage are two different concepts. Meritorious works and obedience of faith are two diametrically opposed concepts (one obeys because of self the other obeys because he believes God/out of faith).
      When God graciously offers salvation by the Gospel, one responds in the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:25), that is salvation by grace, through faith, and is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).

      Anybody who professes that man’s response in the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5) to the gracious offer of salvation (Eph. 2:8) is “Pelagianism”, is attempting to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4).

      People wanting to believe error can cry “Pelagianism” all they want, it will not justify their false doctrine/counterfeit religious group.

      Mat 15:13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
      Mat 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

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