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No young Christian and no old Christian can have real success in the Christian life without the fellowship of other believers. The church is a divine institution, built by Jesus Christ Himself. It is the one institution that abides. Other institutions come and go; they do their work for their day and disappear, but the church will continue to the end. “The gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matt. 16:18) The church is made up of men and women, imperfect men and women, and consequently is an imperfect institution, but nonetheless it is of divine origin and God loves it, and every believer should realize that he belongs to it and should openly take his place in it and bear his responsibilities regarding it. The Apostle Paul tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the custom of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25.
The true church consists of all true believers, all who are united to Jesus Christ by a living faith in Himself. In its outward organization, currently, it is divided into numberless sects and local congregations (41,000 different denominations), but despite these divisions the true church is one. It has one Lord, Jesus Christ. It has one faith, faith in Him as Savior, Divine Lord and only King; one baptism, the baptism in the one Spirit into the one body (Eph. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:13). But each individual Christian needs the fellowship of individual fellow believers. The outward expression of this fellowship is in membership in some organized body of believers. If we hold aloof from all organized churches, hoping thus to have a broader fellowship with all believers belonging to all the churches, we deceive ourselves. We will miss the helpfulness that comes from intimate union with some local congregation. I have known many well-meaning persons who have held aloof from membership in any specific organization, and I have never known a person who has done this, whose own spiritual life has not suffered by it. On the day of Pentecost the three thousand who were converted were at once baptized and were added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47), and “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” Their example is the one to follow. If you have really received Jesus Christ, hunt up as soon as possible some group of others who have received Jesus Christ and unite yourself with them. You will want to seek out the denomination that most reflects the first century church. This is not found in the title of the denomination itself, but rather in that, it is biblically grounded and follows their pattern of carrying out worship and service to God. Now, seeking a church like the first century church does not mean a perfect church because there is no such thing in this age of human imperfection. Church leaders will stumble, church members will sin and fall away. You are not looking for perfect church members and perfect church leaders. You are looking for a mirror like reflection of the church structure, leadership, and members, who are biblically grounded. No mirror can give you a perfect reflection, but it is enough to see what God intended for His church. While there is not enough space in this article, female pastors, deacons, ministers, Bible school teachers of adult male members is not biblical. Being obedient to the Word of God does not change because the world has changed. What God meant then, he means now. See (FIRST TIMOTHY 2:12: What Does the Bible Really Say About Women Pastors/Preachers?) The one absolute mark of a true church is its belief in Absolute Inerrancy of Scripture. The doctrine of Absolute Inerrancy of Scripture is the foundational doctrine of the (1) true church and (2) the true Christian and (3) the true Christian faith. The late Dr. Norman L. Geisler writes, “To those churches that hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, it is a call to hold the line.”
Inerrancy simply means that the Bible is without error. It’s a belief in the “total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity, 2004, 90). Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The biblically grounded view of inerrancy isn’t just in Bible verses that speak about salvation, but is also found to be accurate and true in historical, scientific, and geographical statements as well. It is accurate in matters of faith and practice, but the Bible is accurate and without error regarding any statement in the Scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
Belief In the Doctrine of [Absolute] Inerrancy of Scripture Is THE Identifying Mark of a True Christian
In many communities, there may be no choice of churches, for there is only one. If this is the case, look beyond your community if the one church is not reflective of first century Christianity and if it does not hold to the absolute inerrancy view. If you must, moving for God to a community that has a denomination or church that is reflective of the first century church and holds to Absolute Inerrancy of Scripture is a must. In other communities, one will be faced with the question, “With what body of believers shall I unite?” Do not waste your time looking for a perfect church. There is no perfect church. If you wait until you find a perfect church before you unite with any, you will unite with none, and thus you will belong to a church in which you are the only member and that is the most imperfect church of all. The local churches in Paul’s day were very imperfect institutions. Let one read the epistles to the Corinthians and see how imperfect was the church in Corinth, see how much there was that was evil in it, and yet Paul never thought of advising any believer in Corinth to get out of this imperfect church. He did tell them to come out of heathenism, to come out from fellowship with infidels (2 Cor. 6:14–18), but not a word on coming out of the imperfect church in Corinth. He did tell the church in Corinth to separate from their membership certain persons whose lives were wrong (1 Cor. 5:11, 12), but he did not tell the individual members of the church in Corinth to get out of the church because these persons had not yet been separated from their fellowship. Now, after having said that, let us suppose you have a church that does not expel members who are willful unrepentant sinners, or they hold many unbiblical views, especially not holding to the doctrine of Absolute Inerrancy of Scripture, or they decide to take on female leaders in the church; then, you would leave such a church; otherwise, you would be sharing in their sins.
As you cannot find a perfect church, find the best church you can. Unite with a church where they believe in the Bible and where they preach the Bible. Avoid the churches where words are spoken open or veiled that have a tendency to undermine your faith in the Bible as a reliable revelation from God Himself, the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. Unite with a church where there is a spirit of prayer, where the prayer-meetings are well-kept up. Unite with a church that has a real active interest in the salvation of the lost, where young Christians are looked after and helped, where minister and people have a love for the poor and outcast, a church that regards its mission in this world to be the same as the mission of Christ, “to seek and to save the lost.” As to denominational differences, other things being equal, unite with that denomination whose ideas of doctrine and of government and of the ordinances are most closely akin to God’s Word. We live in a day when there are more denominations that you can count, but the denominational differences are becoming ever less and less, and this is because most denominations are becoming more like the world of which Satan is the ruler. The things that divide the denominations are not insignificant compared with the great fundamental truths and purposes of the Father. – Matthew 7:21-23; 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8.
If you cannot find the church that agrees with the pattern set forth above, find the church that comes nearest to it. Go into that church and by prayer and by work try to bring that church as nearly as you can to the pattern of what you think a church reflective of the first-century Church and God’s intended purpose ought to be. But do not waste your strength in criticism against either church or minister. Seek for what is good in the church and in the minister, and do your best to strengthen it. Hold aloof firmly, though unobtrusively, from what is wrong and seek to correct it. Do not be discouraged if you cannot correct it in a day or a week or a month or a year. Patient love and prayer and effort will tell in time. Drawing off by yourself and snarling and grumbling will do no good. They will simply make you and the truths for which you stand repulsive. If the church continues down the path that is not reflective of the above year after year; then, it is time to move on to another.
Attribution: This article incorporates much from Edward D. Andrews. R. A. Torrey had much to say that was good, but he had some insights that just were not good, so they have been replaced with beneficial ones from Andrews.