How would you set out to locate a long lost friend? First, you would gather all of the marks of identification and then begin the search. Only after finding the individual that matched every mark of identification would you accept him as being the one that you were seeking. Likewise, there are many churches in the world. How can one know which is the right one? The genuine one? How can one know which one is Christ's church? You must take all of the marks of identification. Then compare the various churches with these marks of identification. Only after you find the church that matches every mark of identification can you be sure you have found the right church. But what are the marks of identification? Where are they found? The Bible is the answer.
Characteristics of Christ's Church
The Bible gives all the true marks of how to identify the church. Therefore, let us turn to it to see what they are:
- Christ established the church. "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" (Matthew 16:18).
- It had its beginning in Jerusalem. This is seen in Luke 24:45-49 and Acts 2:5.
- The date of origin was A.D. 33. This is also based on Acts 2. The church was started on the day of Pentecost following Christ's resurrection.
- The church wore the name of Christ. Speaking of the various congregations, Paul wrote, "...The churches of Christ greet you" (Romans 16:16). He further says, in speaking to the church at Corinth, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (I Corinthians 12:27). But what is the body? It is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
- Its members were called Christians. "...And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). "Then Agrippa said to Paul, you almost persuade me to become a Christian" (Acts 26:28). "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (1 Peter 4:16). And finally, remember, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
- Christ is its only head. "And He is the head of the body, the church..." (Colossians 1:18).
- There is but one body. "There is one body, and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4). But what is the body? It is the church (Colossians 1:18). There is one body. It is the church. Then there is but one church.
- There are terms for entering the church. These include belief (Hebrews 11:6), repentance (Acts 17:30), confession of faith (Romans 10:9-10), and baptism (Mark 16:16). When one is saved, he is added to the church (Acts 2:47). Also Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach that one is baptized into Christ and His church. By obeying these commands, one is said to be born into the church or the kingdom (John 3:3-5).
- The worship of the church is different. Christians are to assemble on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), to sing (Ephesians 5:19), to pray (Acts 2:42), to study (2 Timothy 2;15), to partake of the Lord's supper (1 Corinthians 11), and to give of their money (1 Corinthians 16:2).
- The teaching of the church is based on the Bible only. The Bible is accepted without addition, subtraction, or substitution (Revelation 22:18-29; Galatians 1:1-11). The Bible is the one and only creed of the church. Additional books or creeds are not accepted.
- The organization of the church must be according to God's plan. Christ is the head (Ephesians 5:23). Each congregation is to have its own elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). The Lord's church does not have any earthly headquarters. Neither does it have a national or international man-made organization.
- The mission of the church is three-fold. Its work is to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15-16). It is to help those in need (Galatians 6; James 2). It is to edify (build up) the members (Hebrews 2:12-14).
- Each Christian must live a faithful Christian life.We cannot love the world (1 John 2:15; James 4:4). We must produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Only the faithful will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Now these are some of the marks of the church. These are taken from the pattern, the Bible. Compare your church with these. For example, take the first four. Ask yourself, "Who established my church? Was it established by Christ or some man?" Then ask, "Where was my church established?" Did it have its beginning in Jerusalem or some other place? Continue by asking, "When was my church established?" If it was after A.D. 33, it couldn't be the Lord's. And finally, ask yourself, "What name does my church wear?" If it is not the name of the Lord, then how can it belong to Christ? You could continue, but these are enough to help you to see whether your church is of the Lord or of man. You can also compare other churches to these identification marks to determine if they are of God or not. I believe you will be able to see the difference. Be honest with yourself.
Should you find that the church you are a member of is not the one true church of the Bible, then let me urge you to leave it behind. Learn the truth. Obey it! Be added to the church that you can read about in God's Word. Then you'll be in the one in which salvation is to be found.