The One True Church
In our quest to find the one true church, the one Jesus promised to build, we will be faced with an extremely important question. Jesus promised to build His church — and He did (Matt. 16:18). That Jesus had only one church in mind is established by the fact that he said “church” -- not “churches”. The fact that the church is called his “body” (Eph. 1:22-23). In the same letter inspiration says there is “one body.” Another inspired statement declares that while there are many members they are only “one body” (1 Cor. 12:12).
A very brief survey of the church scene in our generation shows a stark contrast to the undeniable facts the New Testament presents about the church of Christ, the one He built. Not “one body,” but there are an estimated 2,000 plus different churches in our nation alone! Some of them make no claim to be “the one true” church, but think they are at least a part of it. Others claim they, and they alone, are the “one true church.”
A prime example of this is the claim made by the Roman Catholic Church. From “A Catechism of Christian Doctrine,” (Revised Edition of the Baltimore Catechism, A Text for Secondary Schools and Colleges, No. 3,) the following is lifted:
“VII. How can we prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church?
“We can prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, because:
“first, only the Catholic Church possesses the marks of the Church established by Christ, that is, unity holiness, catholicity and apostolicity.
“second, the history of the Catholic Church gives evidence of miraculous strength, permanence, and unchangeableness, thus showing the world that it is under the special protection of God.” (Question VII, Appendix, page 398).
This claim is based on the mere assertion that the Catholic Church has what they claim are the “marks of the Church.” But what standard does the Catholic Church use? It is not the Bible alone. From the same Catechism, the question was asked,
“XI. Are all the truths revealed for us by God found in the Bible?
“Not all the truths revealed for us by God are found in the Bible, some are found only in Divine Tradition.
“XII. What is meant by Divine Tradition?
“By Divine Tradition is meant the revealed truths taught by Christ and His apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible though they were put in writing principally by the Fathers of the Church.” Ibid, questions XI& XII, page 399,
The claim of Catholicism is circular thinking. Consider this imaginary Q&A. “How do you know the Catholic Church is the one true Church?” Answer:“ Because that is what the Church (Catholic) teaches.” “How do you know the Catholic Church teaches that?” Answer: “Because the Catholic Church is the one true Church.” The Catholic claim is based on their own authority, not solely what the New Testament teaches about the New Testament church.
The Only Valid Claim
Since Jesus Christ is the sole builder of the church, the one and only foundation of it, and its only head, only His word is the standard for judging whether a church is the one true church or not. Paul planted a church in Corinth by preaching only what Jesus authorized. He wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). Luke’s account of this planting tells us, “And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
The true church is identified by how it measures up to the pattern by which it was built by Christ through his apostles. The apostle Paul warns all to be sure in building the Lord’s church to lay no other foundation than that which he laid (1 Cor. 3:10-11). That foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20-22). It is not some alleged “successor”” to any apostle. It is not the apostle Peter, but Christ alone on which the one true church is built. Therefore the Catholic claim is entirely bogus.
The New Testament describes the church from the standpoint of the divine worship in which it engaged, the divine work it was commissioned to do, and the organizational structure given to it. This is all according to the blueprint Jesus gave through his apostles. The New Testament has the only blueprint with which to build the one true church.
On the day the church came into being Luke says they “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). Elsewhere we are told they were to teach one another, “singing and making melody” in their hearts unto the Lord (Eph. 5:19). (Please see our article on the use of mechanical instruments of music.) Churches that have elaborate pageants and liturgical performances do not follow this pattern.
The Work of the Church
As the body of Christ, the church is to further his work. Jesus made it clear that his work consisted primarily of “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10). That is the work of His church that follows His divine pattern (1 Tim. 3:15). He came to minister and not be ministered to (Matt. 20:28). The church that follows His divine pattern does that today (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:16). The church is the Lord’s school in which he intends His people be edified and strengthened (Eph. 4:15-16). The Lord’s church, His spiritual body, offers up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).
The Lord patterned his church in a very simple way. There were no “Popes, Cardinals, Dioceses, Prelates, or Parish Priests” in His church. There were Elders (also called Bishops) and Deacons (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1). There was no presumption that Jesus needs a “Vice-Gerent” as the so-called “visible head of the church on earth.” The sole organized form of the church in the New Testament is a church in a given locality meeting together for work and worship. Anything beyond that is going beyond the teaching of Christ (2 John 9-11).
Where then is the one true church? It is where you find a group of Christians meeting together and endeavoring to remain true to the New Testament pattern. It might take you some time, and it will take you some study and prayer, but the honest seeker will find those who are the body of Christ in any given locality, not by pretentious claims to historical longevity, but by true adherence to the marks that identify the one true church of Christ.
If you have questions about this, please contact us. Email: Valley Church
<Back to Religious Issues>