Identifying Marks of the Church – Jerry Moffitt

Jerry Moffitt

To those really interested in pure undefiled Christianity, identifying marks of the church are crucial. More than that, such a study is important because we want to indoctrinate a new generation. (Commercials are used by firms to educate a new generation to the uniqueness of their product). Yet, something happened after World War Two. Brethren had heard so many sermons on the church they seemed to think such sermons were no longer necessary. Now, we have a generation of age, but one that is vague on the differences between the church and denominationalism. This article is also a plea that we get back to basic, militant preaching and teaching lest we leave a generation ignorant of the uniqueness of the Lord’s church and lest we leave the church anemic and open to each new strain of viral false teaching. Note these fifteen identifying marks of the church.

It Had No Creed but Christ

Creed” means “I believe,” and the only creed of the church is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Mat. 16:16; John 20:30-31). In none other is there salvation (Acts 4:12). Only Jesus is approved of God (Acts 2:22), called to be the Son of God (Heb. 1:5). One difference in churches of Christ and denominationalism is we have no man made creed.

It Had No Rule of Faith but the Bible

We abhor traditions of men (Mat. 15:7-9, 13) that oppose God’s Word. The Word gives us the new birth (Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). It gives life (Jam. 1:21; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1- 2). Further, it edifies(Acts 20:32), sanctifies(John 17:17), and furnishes us unto every good work (2 Tim: 3:16-17). We have no human bylaws, catechism, or rule of faith but Scripture.

The True Church was Founded by Christ

See Matthew 16:13-19. It was not founded by John Smith of the Baptists, John Wesley of the Methodists, nor Luther, nor Alexander Campbell, nor any other but Christ.

The Church Was Founded at Jerusalem, According to Prophecy

See Isaiah 2:1-4. Jesus told the apostles to wait at Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). He promised earlier the kingdom would come with power (Mark 9:1). He told them they would receive power when the Spirit came on them (Acts 1:8), which Spirit came in a powerful way (Acts 2:4). The kingdom and church are the same and are used interchangeably (Mat. 16:13-19; Heb. 12:23, 28). It all began at Jerusalem, not Rome, Salt Lake City, nor America.

The Church Had a God-Given Name

Among others, it was called the church (Acts 8:1), the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2), the body of Christ (Eph. 4:4), the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15), the church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23), and the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16). It never went by the name Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Mormon or Pentecostal.

The Church Had a God-Given Organization

It was autonomous or self-governing. There was no central organization, presidency, synod or boards on earth. Locally, it had elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers and members (Phi. 1:1; Tit. 1; 1 Tim. 3; Eph. 4).

The Church of the Bible Was Undenominational

Really, it is anti-denominational. To denominate means “to divide.” There is one body and that body is the church (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23). So, there can only be one church. Division is condemned (1 Cor. 1:10). Denominationalism is a deceptive umbrella under which hides false teaching and every unclean thing religiously.

The Church Had Singing, Not Mechanical Instrumental Music

See Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When one adds something of the same nature as that which God commanded that is an addition and not an aid. Mechanical instrumental music is an addition. It violates the law of exclusion as the Holy Spirit used it in Hebrews 1:5, 13.

The Original Church Believed one Taught Had to be Obedient to be Saved

See Hebrews 5:8-9; 1 Peter 1:22 and Romans 6:17. It never taught “faith only” It believed one was justified by works and not by faith only (Jam. 2:24). It taught faith without works was dead (Jam. 2:26). Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mat. 7:21). “Faith only” is a doctrine which lulls the unwary into eternal destruction and the early church had no such doctrine.

The Early Church Believed There Were Certain

Things to Do in Order to Receive Salvation and Become a Christian

One had to hear (Rom. 10:17), believe (John 8:24; 3:16), repent (Acts 11:18; 17:30; 3:19), confess Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Mat. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10), and submit to baptism (Mark 16:16;John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). When we do what they did we receive salvation as they did. Contrary to almost every denomination, the early church taught baptism was essential to salvation.

The Early Church Believed One Had to Be Steadfast

or He Could Lose the Salvation He Once Possessed

The early church: never believed a wicked son of God could receive the inheritance and go to heaven. He would be disinherited and, rather, go to hell (Heb. 3:12-14; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Pet. 3:17).

The New Testament Church Never Baptized Infants

It baptized believers (Mark 16:16), and those old enough to be disciples. The word disciple means “pupil.” They had to be pupils (Mat. 28:18-20). There is not one case of infant baptism in Scripture. Regarding households that were baptized, as in the case of the Philippian jailor, those baptized were old enough to “rejoice greatly” (Acts 16:34).

The Church of the Bible Taught Spiritual

Gifts Were to Cease When the Word Was Completed

These gifts came through the laying on of the hands of the apostles(Acts 8:18), and there are no apostles today (Acts 1:21- 22). Signs, once written, produced faith just as well as if they were witnessed (John 20:30-31). In context, the “perfect” (the written Word), came and spiritual gifts passed away (1 Cor. 13).

The Early Church Had God-appointed Acts of Worship

There were no lamps, incense, bells, signs of the cross, images to bow to, reciting of creeds, instrumental music nor other shades of Judaism and paganism. When God specified what to use, that excluded all else. He specified the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20-34), singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), prayers (1 The. 5:17), giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2) and preaching (Acts 20:7).

The Early Church Taught a Law of Pardon to the Erring Child of God

He had to repent of his sins (Acts 8:22) and confess his sins to God (1 John 1:8-9). Then, he was cleansed, for repenting and confessing were part of walking in the light (1 John 1:7)

Yes, to the honest seeker of truth there is a pattern to duplicate in our generation. In their thirst to compromise, many will reject what they call “pattern theology.” Yet, when one does what those under apostolic guidance did; teaches what they taught; believes what they believed; organizes the way they were organized and uses their biblical nomenclature, that one is what they were.

There is an awesome difference between the church and denominationalism. The next generation needs to be taught to respect that difference and hate religious error as that which it is—a tool of Satan. We should not be ashamed to indoctrinate our young people in truth. As there are compromisers who want to blur the difference in truth and error, the church and denominationalism, may we train our young people that truth is worth contending for in a vigorous way (Jude 3). May we convince our young that we need a new generation of warriors. The times are as in the days of Nehemiah: “every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon” (Neh. 4:17).

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