10 Marks of a True Christian and a Good Church
References in the scriptures to false teachers, wheat and tares, those who “went out from us” (1 John 2:19) and… “depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23) prove there are both false Christians and true Christians within the Church. Here is a brief summary of the some of the key attributes that mark a ‘born-again’, ‘spirit-filled’ Christian. A true Christian:
1. Believes that Jesus is Lord
This is the pre-eminent characteristic of a true Christian because salvation hinges on it (Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11).
- The public confession of faith (Matthew 10:32).
- A willingness to accept that God is the creator, not the ‘evolver’ of all (Romans 1:18-20).
- A desire to disciple and be discipled.
- A love for and determination to live according to the commands of God (1 John 5:2).
- Concerned about outreach – taking the gospel to the unsaved.
2. Accepts that the Bible is the full and final counsel of God
The true Christian acknowledges that the Bible is the means used by God to reveal his character and counsel for faith and life. The Bible is used to test everything, including experience, emotions, thoughts, prophecy and teaching. The Bible is accepted as infallible and accurate.
- Regular critical reflection, based on the Bible, of any teaching or prophecy Jerimiah 23:28; Acts 17:11).
- The regular habit of Bible study (John 8:31; 2 Timothy 3:16)
- The ability/willingness to defend the accuracy/reliability and infallibility of the Bible (Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 10:5).
3. Holds to all of the essential doctrines of an evangelical faith
The true Christian knows and understands these essentials of the faith. Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, understood through Scripture alone (Romans 10:14), by God’s grace alone to the glory of God alone (Ephesians 1:1-14).
- A maturity in understanding that is not swayed or confused by unbiblical teaching or prophecy (Ephesians 4:14-16).
- An ability to teach others with gentleness and respect (Titus 1:11, 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:24).
- A willingness to admonish those who deviate from the essentials of the faith (Col 1:28, 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:3).
- A drive to demonstrate faith in works that build the Kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14).
4. Is distressed by sin in the church
In Hebrews 1:9, referring to Jesus Christ our Lord it is said that he “loved righteousness and hated wickedness”. The true Christian actively avoids sin in his own life and opposes it in the church because it undermines our Christian witness before the unsaved (1 Peter 2:12).
- A deep concern about unrighteousness in the World (2Peter 2:8)
- An active interest in opposing sin in the World (Proverbs 25:26; Ezekiel 9:4; Psalm 119:158).
- A willingness to confront sin in the church (Matthew 18:15-17).
- Personal honesty and reflection followed by the open confession of any known personal sin (1 John 1:9; James 5:16).
5. Is distressed by false teaching and prophecy in the church
The prophets, our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles all warned us that false teachers, apostles and prophets would be present in the church (Matthew 24:11; Acts 20:29-30; John 10:12; 2 Corinthians 11:13). The true Christian is always on his guard.
- The diligent study of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15).
- Guarding the truth against error (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 4:15; 2 Peter 3:14-17)*.
- Active opposition to false doctrine and prophecy (Jude 3; Colossians 3:16).
*This is especially true for those Christians appointed as elders (Acts 20:31).
6. Always tests what they hear and do against the Word of God
The Lord requires the Christian to test both themselves and what they see and hear against the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Corinthians 8:8). True Christians measure their own thoughts words and actions against Scripture (Romans 12:2; Proverbs 3:21). They do the same in relation to others.
- Regularly appraises their own behaviour against the character traits known as the ‘fruit of the spirit’ (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
- Does not automatically accept any teaching or prophecy just because it comes from a pastor or well known Christian (Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 7:15; Philippians 1:9-11).
- Applies the ‘Berean principle’ to any teaching they hear (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1)
- Tests the actions of others against God’s commands and judges the person accordingly (1 Corinthians 5:12; Revelation 2:2).
7. Consciously models agape love
Love is the most important characteristic of any Christian (1 John 4:8) because the exercise of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13 mirrors the character of God. Without love a Christian is no more than a ‘clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 John 3:14). Love is not an emotion. It is an act of will made more possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the true Christian (John 14:21).
- A love of God reflected in a sanctified life free of immorality, complacency and deceit. The love of God is reflected in the willingness to obey his commands for holy living (Matthew 22:37; 1 John 5:2-3).
- Love and forgiveness for those who hate and abuse the Christian (Matthew 5:44).
- A love of the truth and active opposition to what is evil (Romans 12:9; 1 John 3:18).
- A willingness to be patient, kind, forgiving, unselfish, persevering, trusting [in God], protective [of others and the truth] and hopeful [in our eventual glorification] (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).
- An acceptance of Gods correction (Revelation 3:19).
- The conscious separation of the holy from the secular (Luke 16:33; 1 John 2:15).
- A loving concern for brothers and sisters in Christ, family and others [our ‘neighbours’] (Matthew 19:19: 22:39; 1 John 3:17).
- A reduced fear of what might happen in this world and no fear about the certainty of salvation (1 John 4:18).
8. Fears God, holding Him in reverential awe
Unlike worldly fear, the fear of God is not a destructive emotion but a life giving, strengthening knowledge based on holding a perfect, holy God in reverential awe. The true Christian knows that God will hold us to account for everything we do, judging our actions, thoughts and motives. Scripture teaches us that fearing God is essential if we are to gain the wisdom and knowledge we need to live according to God’s principles and mirror His character (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7).
- Actively searching the word of God for the Lord’s commands because to love God is to obey His commands (2 John 5:2-3).
- The living of an increasingly sanctified life [free of sin – Proverbs 14:27], through the knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3; Titus 1:1).
- Freedom from anxiety, living at peace and seeing church growth (Proverbs 1:33, Acts 9:31).
- Is willing to examine and change habits (Psalm 55:19)
- Knows the protection and provision of God (Proverbs 2: 1-8).
- Accepts any testing times as godly growing and learning experiences (Exodus 20:20)
- Is actively opposed to evil and injustice (Proverbs 28:4-5; 8:13).
9. Is concerned to spread the ‘gospel of the kingdom’
The true Christian recognises that our chief concern must be the proclamation of the ‘good news’ (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; Revelation 14:6; Colossians 1:23). Any church that does not put the gospel first has lost sight of its calling. There are various aspects to what Jesus called “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:14; Matthew 9:35). These aspects are reflected in the ‘marked by’ section.
- The ability to present the gospel of Jesus Chris [His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins] in different circumstances (Luke 4:18; Romans 10:5).
- Apologetic skills – the ability to show how the Bible proves itself [e.g. prophetic fulfilment, archaeological proof, scientific evidence] (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 10:5).
- An emphasis on a gospel of repentance, not a cheap grace gospel – ‘Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life…’ (Isaiah 59:20; Jeremiah 15:19; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3-5; Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20).
- A concern to be a witness to their immediate family (1 Timothy 5:8; Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 30:17; Isaiah 58:7).
- A desire to witness by helping the poor and needy (Psalm 41:1; 72:4; Luke 7:22; Mark 10:21; Galatians 2:10; James 2:5).
10. Applies a Christian world view to our times
A world view is a consistent understanding of the times in which we live. The true Christian is so grounded in biblical and spiritual understanding that they can apply it to the whole of life and the times in which we live (1 Chronicles 12:32; Matthew 16:3).
- Recognises that the Bible is the whole counsel of God. There is no segregation of ‘church life’ and secular life. The whole of life and all that is happening in society and the world is examined in the light of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).
- An ability to discern and shun false ideas (Colossians 2:8, 2 Peter 3:17; Ephesians 5:6).
- A concern for righteous government (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).
- Active opposition to evil in the world.
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10 marks of a good church
Based on a study by Richard W. De Haan
Within the Christian community there is a wide divergence of opinion, division, and even fierce competition among the different groups. Subsequently, many believers are confused about which church is the right one to belong to and which church being closest to the truth is therefore worthy of their support.
Many today who are looking for a church home have the wrong priorities. Some are drawn to a church by the size and appearance of its buildings. Others are attracted by an outstanding musical programme or by the personality, appearance and oratory skills of the pastor. Some look for a church with an order of service that appeals to their particular liking. Others are simply denominationally loyal or have friends that attend a particular church.
It is vitally important for believers to know exactly what to look for in a church. It is dangerous to simply rely on feelings and to make a hasty subjective decision based on personal preferences of style and physical appearance, as so many do today. A clear and objective decision, based on Scripture, is the only successful way to assess the church fellowship a person intends making a whole-hearted commitment to.
It is important to note that you will never find a church that is perfect! In fact you may never find a church with which you agree on every last belief and practice. However, there are certain fundamentals which must be evident in a church. These are 'non-negotiable' biblical standards that form the basic minimum requirement. Anything less is an unacceptable compromise.
The place to begin answering the question "How do you recognise a good church?" is to examine what a church believes. Are its doctrines scriptural? Does it have a clear statement of faith? A good church will be correct in the following areas:
A right understanding of the BIBLE
The good church will be correct in its belief about the Bible. It will believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. God has spoken! He has not left mankind to grope about in the dark searching for the truth. He has given mankind an infallible written revelation of Himself and the way of salvation.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16 – 17).
The good church will believe in verbal plenary inspiration:
- It is important to emphasise that the Holy Spirit led the authors of Scripture so meticulously that even the words they used were controlled by Him, He so guided them that they never made a wrong choice. Yet in doing so God did not override their personalities and style but used it to author His word. This assures us that the Bible is true in every minute detail. (Matthew 5:18; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
- All 66 books of the Bible are equally inspired. The word "plenary" comes from a Latin word meaning "full". Plenary inspiration declares that the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation is inspired of God. (2 Timothy 3:16).
The Greek scholar Gaussen gives this definition: Inspiration is that inexplicable power which the divine Spirit put forth of old on the authors of the Holy Scriptures, in order to their guidance, even in the employment of the words they used, and to preserve them alike from all error and all omission." (2 Peter 1:20-21).
It follows from this that a good church will use a translation of the Bible that seeks to be both faithful to the original inspired texts, as well as understandable to ordinary people.
Consequences of this view are:
- That Scripture alone is to be the final say on any matter of doctrine or practice. No interpretation, claimed revelation, personal claims, experience or tradition can claim any ultimate allegiance unless tested by Scripture (Acts 17:11).
- The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Truth and author of Scripture, cannot contradict Himself – hence anything that contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture must be rejected.
- Scripture, if it is the only authority, must interpret Scripture. Less clear parts are to be interpreted in light of clear parts.
- Scripture is clear regarding matters of salvation and basic Christian duties. However, because God is infinite and great – there are elements of the faith that are difficult to understand and require careful study (which is not to be spurned – 2 Peter 3:15-16).
A right understanding of GOD
The second way to recognise a good church is to examine its THEOLOGY; that is, its belief about God. No church can possibly be sound in doctrine if it refuses to believe what the Bible says about God.
Many churches today are in error because they either deny or distort some of the attributes of God according to their particular preferences. Some turn God into some benevolent old grand-dad, with such a vast supply of grace, that He will not actually allow anyone to miss out on heaven, while other churches portray God as so fickle and cold hearted that there is no assurance of salvation for anyone.
No teaching about God can be classed as biblical if it fails to recognise His holiness as well as His love, and His hatred and judgment of sin as well as His pleasure in righteousness. To mention God's love without ever mentioning His wrath is a perversion of the truth.
Particular care must be given to the presentation of the Godhead. God's three-in-oneness (often called the ‘Trinity). It is common today to see an over-emphasis of one of the persons of God. Some churches sing, talk and pray only to the Holy Spirit and thereby deny the reality of God in total. Other churches emphasise the Father and Son only and give the impression that the Holy Spirit went home since Pentecost.
Each of the three members of the Godhead is a person. They have always existed. They are equal in nature, power and knowledge. Yet they are so unified in their essence that they are not three 'gods' but one God. (Matthew 28:19; John 1:1, 14:1-17a, 16:7-8; 1 Peter 1:2; Revelation 4-5).
A right understanding of the LORD JESUS CHRIST
The third key to knowing how to recognise a good church is found in what it believes our Lord Jesus Christ. What does the church actually teach about the deity and the humanity of Christ?
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. The deity of Christ, for example, is explicitly stated in the first verse of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
Not only is Jesus God, He is also man. This can be seen in verse 14a: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14a).
This fact about his deity and humanity is clearly stated in Philippians 2:5-8. A church that ignores the fullness of either of these two facts is in error. The denial of these facts is often presented in a less than obvious way and many believers can subscribe to ministries that deny the true deity of Christ. Kenneth Copeland, for example, believes that Jesus was "reborn" in hell. In other words, he became God at that point.
A church that is correct in its Christology will also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Mary was a virgin when Christ was born (Luke 1:34-35). This is not something of little importance as some would try to make out. To reject the reality of the virgin birth of Christ not only involves a contradiction of God's Word, but it also involves a denial of the deity of Christ and His sinlessness. It implies that Christ is just another human being.
The virgin birth is also indispensable to Christ's sinless humanity. If Jesus had been conceived in the normal manner, inheriting man's sinful nature. He could never have been the Saviour. The Bible describes the Lord Jesus as being totally without sin. Peter spoke of Him as: "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19) and Paul indicated the sinlessness of Christ when he wrote: "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
A church that is correct in its Christology will also believe in the atoning death of Christ. He, the sinless One, died on the cross, spilling His life and blood for sinners (Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24). That is what is meant by His substitutionary death.
A church that is correct in its Christology will also believe that Christ physically arose from the dead. It bases that belief on the Bible: "He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:4). Having arose, the LORD Jesus Christ now has ascended to heaven with the Father where He reigns over the universe for the good of His people and glory of His Father. From there He shall one day bodily return in judgement. (Ephesians 1:21-23; Philippians 2:9-11).
Any church that denies any of these facts about our LORD Jesus Christ cannot really be called Christian.
A right understanding of SALVATION
A good church must be correct in its SOTERIOLOGY; in other words, what it believes about salvation. It will proclaim the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
In highlighting the fact of salvation by grace alone - independent of human effort - this in no way denies the importance of baptism, church attendance and commitment, or living a godly life. These things are vitally important. However, they are not done in order to be saved!
The second person of the eternal trinity, Christ the Son of God, became a member of the human family through the virgin birth. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay the price for the sins of mankind, and rose from the dead. Now, because of what He did by dying in place of mankind, salvation is proclaimed to sinners as a gift. It is received through faith. Church membership, a moral life, or works of charity - good as all these things may be - can do nothing to save people from their sins. Salvation can be experienced only on the basis of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for man as substitute in life and in death. (Romans 5).
With the tremendous degree of ecumenical compromise evident today, this aspect of a church's teaching must be clearly emphasised. Many churches accept, as fellow 'believers' in Christ, others from denominations that clearly do not teach salvation by grace. For example the Roman Catholic Church and the Seventh Day Adventists although involved in many inter-denominational gatherings and groupings today, do not believe that salvation is by grace, by faith in Christ alone. They have added to grace the need for man to earn salvation by doing something else. Catholics sincerely believe that true salvation and the full measure of God's grace is to be found only within the Catholic Church. A church that, they believe, is the only one true church. Hence, their initiatives worldwide to bring all denominations under the authority of Rome. (N.B.: Since the Vatican II conference, Protestants have been referred to as "separated brethren" instead of "heretics").
The Seventh Day Adventists believe that salvation is dependent upon keeping the law. Hence their Saturday worship time and food regulations. In fact, they believe that Sunday worship will be the mark of the beast. For Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday is so critical, they believe that whatever day is chosen a person's eternal destiny is at stake!
Leaders of churches who do not clearly distinguish between these different views of salvation are being quite deceptive. This, along with the increasing popularity of the denial of the doctrine of hell (under various names like 'conditional immortality' or 'annihilation'), means the whole biblical understanding of salvation by grace from an eternal conscious separation from God is fast being replaced with UNIVERSALISM (i.e.: the belief that because God is so loving all will be ultimately saved in some way).
A right understanding of the HOLY SPIRIT
The good church must be correct in its PNEUMATOLOGY; that is, in what it believes and teaches about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has sometimes been called the "neglected person of the Godhead" - and rightly so in many circles. He is also perhaps the least understood person of the three members of the Godhead. He is blamed for things He has never done, unappreciated for what He has done and denied from doing what He could do. With the extremes of either totally denying the Holy Spirit to totally misunderstanding what He does, it is not surprising that so much confusion exists.
Some new songs today would certainly suggest a sad deficiency of knowledge about the Holy Spirit. The bizarre theology currently being invented to explain equally bizarre activities in churches today further highlights the depravity. "Anointing backwash" for example, is a term recently invented to explain what happens when the so-called "anointing" bounces off a reluctant person and hits the counsellor. This flippant and quite blasphemous description of the work of God is typical of the post-Christian theology popular today.
A good church will recognise the Holy Spirit for both who He is and for what He does. He is not simply some impersonal power force influencing people's lives, but a person of the Godhead. He is God! And since He is truly God He is also co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and with the Son. Beware of the church that denies the deity or personality of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16-17a; Acts 5:3-4; Romans 8:9).
As God, the Holy Spirit is involved in a number of important activities. The Spirit of God brings conviction of sin (John 16:8). He imparts the new birth (John 3:5). He baptizes believers into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). He indwells individual Christians (1 Corinthians 6:19). He stirs Christians to holiness (Philippians 2:12-13). He equips believers for effective service (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit dwells within to comfort, guide, sustain, and strengthen believers, and to bear witness to the truth. Because of His indwelling presence God's people can progressively have victory over sin and can successfully serve the Lord.
A right understanding of the CHURCH
A good church will be correct in its ECCLESIOLOGY; that is, in what it believes and teaches about the church itself. The word "church" refers to either the church UNIVERSAL or the LOCAL gathering of believers.
The UNIVERSAL church is the body of Christ, which consists of all who have ever truly believed in Christ as Lord and Saviour - those who are born again of the Spirit of God, regardless of denominational label (Ephesians 1:21-23). This is the ONE TRUE CHURCH. It does not include all those who merely think good things about the church and have nice thoughts about Jesus, or those who merely profess Christ as Saviour without obeying Him as Lord. Further, there is no need for any artificial initiatives to amalgamate churchgoers (e.g.: the ecumenical movement) as there already is an ultimate spiritual unity in Christ as head over the church.
When we speak of the LOCAL church we refer to visible groupings of Christians regularly meeting together for worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and the observance of the ordinances (eg: Acts 2:41-42; 1 Corinthians 16:19). A good church will recognise the distinction between the LOCAL and the UNIVERSAL church. It will not exclude from the body of Christ those believers who are truly in Christ but who do not share their particular denominational tag.
It is important for each individual to be involved in a particular LOCAL Bible-believing church. It is not enough to simply consider oneself to be part of the UNIVERSAL body of Christ. All believers have a responsibility to gather on a regular basis with other Christians for worship, exhortation, encouragement and edification. It is estimated that today in NZ there are more born-again believers not in regular attendance at a LOCAL church than those who attend. There are just too many discerning, caring, and godly people who are not 'making the difference' at LOCAL church level!
Of course, it is possible for individual believers to make spiritual progress without attending a LOCAL church. You can study, pray and have occasional fellowship with other Christians. But that is not enough! For born-again believers LOCAL church commitment is a necessity not a casual option. All born again believers must find a Bible-believing church, attend it regularly, serve in it, give to it, and pray for it (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The good church will not bar from fellowship those who express concern about aspects of a church's philosophy of ministry, its teaching or its programme, provided this is done according to Scripture. Sadly, on the top of the dysfunctional church's 'hit list are those who seek to exercise discernment! Spiritual abuse through oppressive and controlling tactics is too common today. There is a very real danger that many churches are regressing back to the emphasis that 'the priest' is in control! The good church appreciates and accepts the diversity of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. It will encourage all to be involved. It will not draw the un-biblical distinction between 'laity' and 'clergy'.
A biblical LOCAL church will have a leadership committed to serving the people and through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-3). Biblical leadership is not that of lording over the flock, intimidating and dominating them, but one of pastoral care that seeks the sheep to grow to the point where they obtain steadfast maturity in the faith (Luke 22:24-26, 1 Peter 5:1-3, Ephesians 4:11-16). Ideally and biblically, leadership should be entrusted to a plurality of spiritually qualified elders. (Titus 1:5-9. However this does not rule out a paid preaching ministry – 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
A right understanding of our FUTURE HOPE
The good church must be correct in its ESCHATOLOGY; that is, what it believes about the end times and the coming of Christ.
The most momentous and far reaching event in human history was the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. His virgin birth, sinless life, bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven are also facts of history - but they are not the end of the story. There is much more! The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is coming again. When He does, we shall see the complete unfolding of God's plan for the entire world. This is the Christian’s great future confident hope, and all faithful churches should encourage their people with it.
“At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:11).
“The dead in Christ will rise first. We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 -17).
Even among the evangelical churches not everyone agrees about the details of the end times. Bible-believing Christians, equally committed to the Scriptures, disagree about the timing and details of such things as: the rapture (pre, mid, post), the millennium (pre, post, a); the place and role of ethnic Israel in prophecy; etc. There is also a danger of becoming so preoccupied with end-time speculation and schemes we neglect our Christian duties. It is important we maintain charity with other genuine Christians on these disputed points – even while remaining persuaded in our own minds. (1 Corinthians 11:19, c.f. Romans 14:1-15:7).
However, all true Christians should be committed to the following Scriptural truths concerning His coming to which we all yearn and pray “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). This confident hope is what we look to:
- Christ will return, personally and bodily from heaven, in glory (Acts 1:11; Matthew 16:27). There will be a resurrection of men to stand before Him for judgment. There, God will be seen to rectify all the wrongs of evil in history (Daniel 12:2, c.f. Matthew 25:31-46, c.f. Revelation 20:11-15).
- Those who “do not know God and do not obey the gospel” will be judged and punished with everlasting destruction in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The righteous ones who have trusted in Christ will enter into their eternal reward, freed from all remaining sin, with resurrected and glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:12f).
- God will dwell with his people in a new heaven and earth, free of sin, for eternity (Revelation 21).
- We need to reject the teaching of those who claim: Christ has already come (be it in the destruction of Jerusalem or some more contemporary event or person – 2 Thessalonians 2:2).
- That the resurrection has already happened (2 Timothy 2:18).
- That Christ’s kingdom has/will fully come in this age (be it via social improvement or manifestation of spiritual gifts, a perceived ‘Christianising’ influence of the gospel, etc. - John 18:36). Examples of the latter are the Kingdom Now and Dominion/Restoration theologies (i.e.: that the church's role is to dominate, occupy and rule over the social structures and the physical, geographical space of the world) have greatly influenced the church today. This has given rise to the following concepts: The Salvation of the individual soul is not the first priority. Social reconditioning is the first priority. When Jesus returns the whole world kingdom will be presented to Him by a triumphant church. For example, Gerald Coates, a 'Restoration' leader says this about the "March For Jesus":
"Marching for Jesus is a prophetic act which demonstrates that the meek shall inherit the earth. Each footstep on the march is an action which claims the ground... our marching says that we do not inherit the world by buying it, not by inheriting but by shifting the spiritual powers that have been allocated in the nations..."
In other words the "March for Jesus" has nothing to do with evangelism and the salvation of individuals, it is all about occupying physical/spiritual space. (If someone's house was on fire would we expect people to walk up and down outside their house waving a banner saying, "The fire brigade can put out fires"?) It is of no surprise therefore to see conferences like one held in London in 1993 focusing on the "transfer of wealth". Christians were encouraged to gather together and pray for the destruction and breakdown of all secular businesses so that their resources could fall into the hands of Christians.
It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus is coming! Christians must clearly adhere to the core scriptural evidence. The popularity of some post-millennial views of the end times, which suggests that we are already or about to enter into a ‘victorious’ millennium because Jesus is in the hearts of men, is why so much confusion exists today and why so few are concerned about the salvation of souls. A lot of the 'Christian' music today promotes this erroneous view of the end times.
A good church will give clear teaching about the end times, in balance with the rest of its theology. It will be spurred to evangelise the lost, warning them of the everlasting wrath they face, while at the same time maintaining the steadfast hope that Christ will vindicate His people even as we struggle to be salt and light in this sin-filled world.
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." (2 Peter 3:10-13).
ALONG WITH THE SEVEN FUNDAMENTALS ABOVE, THE GOOD CHURCH SHOULD BE EVANGELISTIC IN SPIRIT
Selecting a church home with beliefs that are consistent with Scripture is of the utmost importance. But, there are some other factors that we should look for as well:
An evangelistic emphasis
A good church will recognise the importance of bringing lost souls to Christ. It is no use hoping that people will be simply assimilated into fellowship in a social way only. A church may not have an "altar call" at every meeting nor have visits of high profile evangelists running weeklong programmes every few months, but is it displaying a consistent and genuine desire to see souls won into the Kingdom of God?
A vision for missions
The good church will have a global concern for evangelism. It will be missionary-minded. If it isn't - if it is so self-centred with its own interests - it will fail in doing its part in reaching the world with the gospel.
A regenerate membership
In addition to being evangelistic and having a global perspective, a good church will have on its membership roll only those who give credible evidence and profession of being born again believers. Yes, it is important to encourage the unsaved to come church gatherings, to hear the word, and to be comforted. But, to receive them as members before salvation, and to give them a voice in the affairs of the church or involvement in any leadership, is to stain its purity, compromise its principles, and diminish its power. "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
It is well to remember that church fellowships are not exclusive "spiritual clubs" for perfect Christians. They are places where the unsaved can encounter the reality of salvation and where spiritual babies can grow strong in Christ. Members of a good church will be striving to be:
- Loving (John 13:34-35)
- Caring (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
- Forgiving (Ephesians 4:32)
- Forbearing (Ephesians 4:2)
- Submitting (Ephesians 5:21)
The centrality of the Biblical message
The good church will have faithful and systematic preaching of the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5). The sad tendency today is for preachers to give people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear! There is a type of preaching that fills auditoriums and a type of preaching that fills heaven - the good church will please God and not man.
The lack of sound biblical preaching and teaching is why so many churches embrace false doctrines and run after every gimmick that comes to town.
"And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:4).
IF YOU ARE NOT IN A GOOD CHURCH, YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO FIND ONE AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT - THE SOONER THE BETTER! YOU NEED THE FELLOWSHIP, THE INSTRUCTION, THE WORSHIP, AND THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVICE THAT THE CHURCH AFFORDS. DON'T MISS OUT!