By Curtis Pugh
the New Testament we find certain characteristics or marks that are essential to
all churches of the New Testament kind. A
New Testament kind of church is the kind Jesus started.
It is the kind He promised a continual existence.
It is the kind He is pleased with today.
It is His church. We believe
it is the only kind of church that is acceptable to God.
we would find churches of the New Testament kind, we must look for those
essential marks or characteristics which we find in the New Testament.
Others have done this and some have left helpful information behind.
For instance, some years ago a Southern Baptist Convention pastor, J.M
Carroll, presented lectures in different places in the United States on the
subject of Baptist history. His
lectures were extremely popular among the Baptists, many of whom were ignorant
of their own history. After his
death his lecture notes were put in book form.
We quote from the introduction to Bro. Carroll’s little book, THE TRAIL
OF BLOOD. (This little book has
been translated into Romanian and is available free.
If you wish to obtain this little book, contact the address printed on
this booklet.) In the introduction
to THE TRAIL OF BLOOD, Baptist pastor Clarence Walker wrote:
any town there are many different churches -- all claiming to be the true
church. Dr. Carroll did as you can
do now -- take the marks, or teachings, of the different churches and find the
ones which have these marks, or doctrines. The ones which have these marks, or
doctrines, taught in God's Word, are the true churches.”
is clear that Jesus cannot the founder of all the different “churches.”
They have origins different from the church Jesus founded.
They have different doctrines and different practices from the church
Jesus founded. They have different
doctrines and different practices from each other.
He founded His kind of church because He wanted it to be a specific kind
of church. He wanted it to have
certain characteristics. Since God
alone knows best what will please Him, it is logical that only the kind of
church Christ founded can please Him. It
is important that the reader keep this last statement in mind.
God knows what pleases Him better than we do.
Christ founded the kind of church He wanted.
Men may think they know better than Christ and so they may make changes
in Christ’s churches or they may start their own kind of church, but
Christ’s churches are the kind He started.
These are the kind of churches that please Him.
few words about the importance of the churches is in order here.
Just as the whole Bible is Christ centered, the whole New Testament has a
second emphasis and that is the churches. The
four Gospels tell us of the ministry of Christ and include His work in building
His first church. The Book of Acts
records how that one church evangelized and many were born from her through
ordained men. The Epistles were
mostly written to individual churches or groups of churches dealing with
doctrinal and practical issues within the churches.
Those New Testament books addressed to individuals were written to men
who labored in the churches and in establishing new ones.
The Book of Revelation has in it seven letters from Christ addressed to
seven individual churches and the rest of the book deals with events, most of
which take place prior to Christ returning to the earth to reign with His bride.
So the New Testament certainly gives great importance to Christ’s kind
of New Testament churches! The
words were addressed to members of churches -
true churches – churches of the kind Jesus founded.
is said to have a special love for His church (Eph.
5:25). She is so important to
Him as to be pictured as His bride (John
3:29) and to her as the bride of Christ is given the work of evangelism in
connection with the Holy Spirit (Matt.
28:18-20; Rev. 22:17). Today,
many would try to live for Christ, worship and serve God outside of Christ’s
kind of churches. Because of the
importance of Christ’s churches, as the New Testament evidences, we doubt
whether such worship and service is acceptable to God and to Christ.
After all, it is in the church that God is glorified through Christ Jesus
Man made organizations glorify the man that founded them, often bearing
his name. Only in true churches of
Christ is the Lord Jesus Christ glorified.
What true believer, taught in the Word, would try to please God outside
of a God-approved church?
said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it" (Matt. 16:18).
Jesus also promised that His presence would be with His Churches even
down to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
Because of these promises of Christ we can expect to find true New
Testament Churches in existence somewhere in the world in our own time.
They may not be in every city or even in every country and you may not
have found them, but they exist.
we would find the Lord’s Churches we must not judge them according to our own
ideas and preferences (Isa. 55:9).
We must judge them according to the Word of God.
They are not to be known by some special name, for anyone can use a name
and claim that name makes them special. They
are not to be known by temporary, external signs, but by those things which are
essential and perpetual. They are
not necessarily the churches of Christ because of their great size, popularity,
prestige, or political influence. False
churches are often the most popular and influential.
It has always been true that God’s people are a small number (Luke
12:32; Rom. 11:5; Isa. 1:9; John 6:65-57).
God’s remnant has never been influential in the eyes of the world or
the world’s religions. If God has
given you eyes to see the truth about His remnant, you may be well on the way to
locating true New Testament churches. If
your eyes are enthralled by size and worldly prestige, you are deceived already.
Just because some group at the present time has the “advantage” does
not make them Christ’s churches (see Jude
in the days of the apostles some men left the truth (Acts
15:24; 1 John 2:19). They
formed their own kind of “churches” with their “disciples” (Acts
20:30). Some of these, along
with other defectors from the truth, gradually became the Catholic group.
This group later split into the eastern and western branches.
Later in history the Protestant Reformation occurred.
At that time several men founded churches according to their own beliefs.
They had their own ideas and preferences.
They had many beliefs and practices that were identical to the Harlot.
All of them believed in baptismal regeneration.
They all practiced infant baptism for salvation.
They brought this idea, and others, along with them when they were
excluded from the Harlot church. These
men did not follow the Bible regardless of what you may have heard.
Neither did their churches. Neither
do their churches follow the Bible today. They
all teach and practice the soul-damning doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
They “baptize” infants – admittedly without Scriptural instruction
or example. The churches these
“reformers” founded were their own and not Christ’s churches.
These Protestant churches which exist today cannot be Christ’s churches
because they (1) were founded by some man other than Jesus Christ and (2) preach
a false gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4 and Gal.
1:6), have different officers, different governments, etc., etc.
Today’s more recent man-made churches are not the churches of Christ
because they came out of these Protestant daughters of the Harlot.
It is impossible to bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing (Job
14:4). Because of this
impossibility a “reformation” of the Harlot (making an unclean thing clean)
was not and is not possible! A
genuine reformation did not take place for the filth of the false gospel of the
Harlot still clings to the man-made churches which came out of her.
Not only was and is a reformation impossible, none was needed!
Christ had His churches on the earth so that it was not necessary to
clean up (reform) the Harlot to make her Christ’s church.
So we conclude that the “Protestant Reformation” accomplished no real
good. It did produce some
“churches” with less detestible doctrines and practices in the opinion of
the world, but they are still the daughters of the harlot and are themselves
harlots according to the Bible. (Rev.
17:5). The famous ”Protestant
Reformation” only produced more false churches – it did not produce
Christ’s kind of New Testament churches.
Any student of history will verify this for they know that the churches
of the “Protestant Reformation” do not bear the marks of the churches of the
his book Bro. Carroll listed eleven marks or characteristics of true New
Testament Churches. These are
Scriptural marks. These are
essential marks. Christ’s
churches have borne these marks down through the centuries since He established
the first one. The true churches of
Christ bear these marks today. We
are convinced that in our time this kind of church is to be found among the
people called Baptists. This is
because of the (1) origin of the Baptists and (2) the doctrine and practice of
mainline Baptists down through the centuries.
We are convinced that some Baptist churches bear these eleven essential
marks of New Testament churches. We
are equally convinced that not all “Baptist churches” are true New Testament
Churches. Any group can call
themselves a “church.” Any
“church” can call herself “Baptist.”
Unless a church bears the essential marks of a
FIRST MARK OF A
is not enough just to say that Christ is the Head of a church! He must actually
be the Head! He must direct the
activities and work of the church. If
Christ is not the Head of a church, He is only a figurehead.
If Christ is not the Head of a church, He has no real part in that
church. In order to be the Head of
a church, Christ’s Word, the Bible, must be obeyed.
If we would follow Christ, we cannot omit any part of the Lord’s
instructions to us, nor can we add to them.
are two errors into which men fall relative to the Headship of Christ over each
church. Some would substitute a
pope. They may not call him or her
a pope. They may call him or her a
pastor or a teacher or a prophet. It
does not matter what he or she is called, if his ideas are followed instead of
the instructions of Christ, he is a pope. Many
“churches” today follow the teachings of some long-dead “pope” and are
loyal to his interpretations of the Bible or to his additional “revelations”
than they are to the simple words of the Bible.
The second error is tradition and this error is more subtle.
Traditions - Baptist traditions or traditions of the Harlot and her
Protestant daughters – it does not matter the source.
They all result in false worship. They
are the commandments of men and are not according to truth (Matt
worship must be not only a spiritual matter, it must be – it absolutely MUST
be according to truth (John
The Bible has nothing good to say about religious traditions.
In His entire ministry Jesus had nothing good to say about religious
traditions! Jesus and His disciples
did not conform to the religious traditions of His day (see Mark
7:1-7; Matt. 12:1-7). If we
would be Christ’s churches, we must have nothing good to say about religious
traditions. Since there is nothing good about them we must not follow them!
Just as Jesus and His first church rejected the religious traditions of
their day, so must we reject the religious traditions of our day.
This is part of going outside the camp and bearing His reproach (Heb.
origin of religious traditions can universally be traced to paganism and
idolatry. If the Bible is clear on
anything, it is this: Christ’s church, His bride, is to be pure from idolatry
, 21; 1
are the Lord’s churches to be involved in Jewish observances and holy days (Gal.
certainly Christ’s churches are not to participate in the pagan holidays that
are popular with the world and the false churches of the world.
thing is absolutely clear. A church
that is ruled by anyone or anything other than Christ and His Word is not a New
Testament kind of church. It is
something else. Whether pope or
tradition, anything or anyone that is followed other than Christ becomes the
head of a church. Such a
replacement means that the church has become another kind of church.
It is not Christ’s church for He is not the Head of it.
He did not build that kind of church.
He is not present in her meetings for she lacks His authority.
gave to His churches certain rights or authority.
He did not give them unlimited authority, but specific authority.
This authority relates to the job He gave the churches to do while He is
away. The first kind of authority
Christ gave to His churches is judicial authority: by that we mean the authority
to judge. Churches have only
limited judicial power (1 Cor.
By following the democratic process (voting), the members of each church
have the right to determine (judge) who is qualified for membership.
In the same manner (voting) the members of each church have the right to
determine who is to be excluded from the fellowship of the church (1
Cor. 5:9-13, note especially verse 12).
Such action must be based, of course, on Christ’s teachings concerning
this matter (Matt.
This they must act according to the Word of God if they would be
Christ’s kind of church. They are equally responsible to treat those excluded
members according to the New Testament (Matt.
Bible does not teach shunning of excluded members.
They are to actively seek the restoration of excluded members to full
fellowship with the Church (Matt.
, 2 Cor.
Based on the Bible and the Bible alone, churches have the authority to
judge a man’s preaching as to whether it is truth or not (1
; 1 John
So you see, a church has only limited judicial
second kind of authority Christ gave to His churches is executive power.
This executive power is unlimited so that we can say that true Churches
are executive in nature. By that we
mean they are responsible to carry out the instructions of Christ who is to be
the Head of each church (Luke
is no limitation in this matter. There
is no acceptable excuse for a church not carrying out the instructions of
Christ. Churches are to obey
Christ’s instructions to them. They
are to carry out His commandments and follow His example (Matt
28:18; 1 John 2:6). This is the
reason Christ left His kind of churches on earth, that they might do exactly
what He wants them to do.
is a third kind of power and that is legislative power.
Churches do not have legislative power!
Christ did not give them legislative power.
We mean they do not have authority to make rules and regulations.
Christ is the lawgiver! They
cannot change the rules, instructions and commandments given by Christ.
They have no right to change the ordinances or any of the teachings of
the Bible. They have no right to
change the Scriptural practices of the churches, or to make innovations in the
worship of God. In their evangelism
they must use only the methods of the New Testament, that is, the methods Christ
and His apostles used. They have no
authority to make innovations or to follow the inventions of men.
established a church just as He promised He would do (Matt.
He did not He is a liar at worst or a failure at best.
(There is no Scripture that teaches that the church or anything else was
founded on “Pentecost.”) Christ
built His church from material prepared by John the Baptist.
From the first church that Christ established during His earthly ministry
all true churches have descended. The
New Testament pattern of church succession is this: baptized, ordained men who
were acting in connection with an already-existing church traveled and
evangelized, baptized converts and organized them into churches.
This is clear from the Book of Acts.
It is in this way that Christ’s kind of churches have
continued existence. Such a
continuance of New Testament churches is not apostolic succession, ministerial
succession, nor merely baptismal succession.
New Testament churches start other New Testament churches through men
whom they send forth to do this work. This
is the New Testament pattern.
church established in connection with anyone other than Jesus Christ is not His.
A church that does not obey the New Testament certainly does not have
Christ for her head. A church
without Christ as her head is not a New Testament kind of church.
Christ is both the Head and Founder of His New Testament kind of
SECOND MARK OF A
accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice means that the Bible
alone is the source and standard of truth.
Additional “revelations” which are claimed by some people are not
accepted as the Word of God in New Testament churches.
Visions and dreams, “tongues” etc., of this modern era are not
received as God’s messages. The
teaching (doctrine) and practice of a true Church must be according to the
Bible. The rule of faith and
practice of New Testament churches is not the approved dogma of some established
religion. It is not the teaching of
some seminary, institute, or university. It
is not the dogma of some self-proclaimed “prophet” or “teacher.”
It is not the dogma of any association, convention, union, or other
extra-biblical, man-made organization of churches.
It is not a man-made confession of faith.
(Such confessions may be good, but they cannot be authoratative.
They cannot be the standard of judging truth.)
Only the Bible is authoratative! Only
the Bible is the standard of determining what is truth.
Neither can a true church select only certain portions of the New
Testament to believe and obey. All
the Bible is the Word of God and all is profitable (2
Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:16). All
of it is to be believed.
Baptists believe that you must have “chapter and verse” for everything
believed, everything taught, and everything done in a New Testament church.
It is to the Bible, the whole Bible, and the Bibe alone they appeal for
their doctrine and practice.
A church which follows the Bible is better than one that does not.
We do not mean that the people are better, but that the church is better
because it is obedient to God. New
Testament churches must base their doctrine and practice on the Bible.
If a true church discovers that she is teaching or acting contrary to the
Word of God she is constrained by her Biblical principles to change them so that
she conforms to the Bible.
Testament churches believe a great many things in common with many other
churches, but they believe more. They
believe all the counsel of God and, like Paul, are committed to proclaiming it
even though it makes them unpopular (Acts
20:27). Any church which does
not have as its only rule of faith and practice the Holy Bible is not a New
Testament kind of church.
THIRD MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH:
“Its name—‘CHURCH,’ ‘CHURCHES’ (Matt.
16:18; Rev. 22:16).”
churches have been called by many names down through the centuries.
Most often these have been nicknames.
These nicknames were given with the purpose of slandering Christ’s
simple congregations of Scripturally baptized belivers.
The important thing here is to note that Christ’s churches have never
sought prestige by claiming for themselves great and pompous names.
They have never sought for worldly or worldwide recognition.
They have never worked for power and prestige.
They never have and never will fit in with the current popular
“mega-church mania.” They have
never sought for official status with any government as an official “state
church.” “Disciples,” “the
Way,” “sect of the Nazarenes,” “Christians” and “churches” are the
terms used in the New Testament for those congregations which are Christ’s.
From their beginning, the doctrine of true churches has been called
heresy by worldly religionists (Acts
24:14). This is to be expected
in every century. Those who stand
for Bible truth stand against humanism in all its shapes.
the churches were first established there was no need for distinguishing names.
Then all churches were Christ’s true churches.
However, with the apostasy of some, even in the early days of the
churches, distinctions had to be made (2
Thess. 2:3; 1 John 2:19). The
simple Bible-believing churches of Christ remained content to exist without
claiming prestigous names for themselves. They
would rather be right doctrinally and right with God rather than popular.
They were content to let the world call them by whatever nickname was
popular at the time. Down
through the years some have been called Paulicians after Paul who was an apostle
of the Lord Jesus Christ. Others
have been named for the region in which they were strongest.
Some were slandered for their pure lives by being called Cathari or
“pure ones.” Overall they were
accused of being “ana-baptists” which means re-baptizers.
They were called this because they insisted on baptizing aright all those
who came to them from other groups. (They
refused to accept the baptisms of churches which were not of like faith and
practice with them. Refusing to
accept the baptisms of different churches is the continued practice of
Christ’s churches in our time. Sound
churches accept as valid only baptisms administered by churches of like faith
and practice with them.) So today,
New Testament churches are willing to be called by an abbreviated form of “ana-baptist,”
that is “Baptist.”
it is not the name which makes a church a true church of Christ.
Three things are essential for a church to be a true church: she must
have the (1) proper origin, (2) correct doctrine and (3) Scriptural practices
– it is these marks we are considering in this article which display the
character of of Christ’s true churches.
FOURTH MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its
polity--CONGREGATIONAL--all members equal (Matt.
20:24-28; Matt. 23:5-12).”
New Testament church is a democracy under Christ the Head (Acts
1:26; 6:5; 15:22). That means
that every member, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or
uneducated, free or slave, it matters not, each member has an equal voice in
determining what the church does and does not do.
It is wrong for one person to seek to rule a church (3
John 1:9-11). A New Testament
church does not have as it’s head a dictator.
Dictatorial powers can be held by one man or a committee or board of some
sort. Sometimes a rich man will try
to be the head of the church. Christ’s
churches do not have such dictators for their head.
Even the apostles were not dictators nor absolute rulers (2
Cor. 1:24) and neither are the officers of New Testament churches.
Jesus taught His church that they were all equals. That is true in Christ’s churches today. Each may have different gifts and therefore different responsibilities, but all are equal. All the members are “brethren.” Titles such as “doctor,” “reverend,” “father,” and such like are evil because they destroy that equality (Matt. 23:8). All members in fellowship with a New Testament church have an equal vote. That vote is to be exercised in business meetings, in the calling of a pastor and the dismissal of a pastor for just cause, in the selection of deacons, in determining who shall be admitted to membership in the church, and in the exclusion and restoration of wayward members, etc. (Acts 1:15-26; Acts 6:1-6). Pastors, deacons or other groups within a “church” which take away the democratic rights of the members of a church are thieves and unless they genuinely and publicly repent, should be excluded from the church. Officers in a church are to be servants (Matt. 20:25-27; 2 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:19). They are not to be lords nor are they to be treated as such (1 Pet. 5:3). Even the apostles were not regarded as having lordship over the brethren (2 Cor. 1:24).
A New Testament kind of church is not a “republic. A “republic” is a form of government where the members elect a few from among them and these few make the decisions. Neither is a New Testament kind of church an “oligarchy.” An “oligarchy” is a government where power is in the hands of a few, perhaps in a board which chooses its own successors so as to perpetuate its own existence. Neither of these styles of government can be found in the New Testament. Simple, every-member democracy is the kind of government of a New Testament kind of church. In this way power is kept from the hands of a few. It is true that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Pure democracy is the best guard against corruption!
Paul wrote in Romans 12:17 that we are to “…Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” In light of this verse, secret meetings of the congregation or any portion thereof are seen to be contrary to the teaching of the Word of God and should not be allowed. The New Testament indicates that unbelievers were allowed in the meetings of the churches in the days of the apostles (see 1 Cor. 14:23, 24 for example). Paul testified that the ministry of Christ and His first church were done in the open for all to see (Acts 26:26). Why should we think it necessary to operate differently than our Lord and His first church operated?
Of a certainty, any church which does not practice real congregational government in its affairs is not a New Testament kind of church. Christ’s churches have a congregational or democratic church government. Anything more is without Scriptural basis.
FIFTH MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its
members--only saved people (Eph. 2:21; I
cannot be baptized into the membership of a New Testament church for they
are not believers and faith is required for baptism. (Acts
So, a church which has infant members is not a New Testament kind of
Neither can a state church be a New Testament kind of church for in these
“churches” all citizens are automatically church members.
Only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit are acceptable as
candidates for baptism. Only those
who give the evidence of true repentance and faith, are elegible to be members
of one of Christ’s churches.
For this we have the whole testimony of the New Testament beginning with
John the Baptist (Matt. 3:18).
the child of believing parents does not qualify a person for baptism and church
membership. Having grown up in a
Christian home and in church does not qualify a person for baptism and church
membership. Attendance at catechism
classes does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership.
Performing some kind of physical response to an appeal at the close of a
religious meeting does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership.
Experienceing some kind of ecstatic or unusual religious experience does
not qualify a person for baptism and church membership.
Conversion (true repentance, faith, baptism, a changed life) – these
are the outward evidences of the new birth.
Apart from this new birth - the
regenerating work of the Holy Spirit - no person is qualified for church
Mere words of testimony from a candidate for membership will not suffice. In the New Testament evidence was required before a doubtful candidate was received into membership (Acts 9:26). Biblical evidence of regeneration must be seen in the life of the individual. A church which carelessly admits unsaved people as members has ceased being a true church where spiritual sheep are fed the Word of God. It has become a synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9; Rev. 3:9). It will be observed that such a “synagogue” will soon have as its chief business the entertainment of spiritual goats. There will be much talk about the Word of God, the worship of God, evangelism, etc., but this is merely a smokescreen. It is the way of the flesh to substitute carnal religious activity in the place of flesh-mortifying genuine spirituality. These synagogues of Satan shall fill up their time and occupy themselves with musicals, recitals, theatricals, sports, parties, feasts, holiday celebrations, political endeavors, denominational organizations and other activities which are pleasing to the fleshly minded. These things they must do to keep the spiritual goats happy and in attendance (at least part of the time) at the “church.”
Any church which accepts as members those people who do not give genuine evidence of an inner change of heart cannot be a New Testament church (Matt. 3:7-9). A New Testament church is composed of professing believers whose lives give evidence of a genuine spiritual regeneration – a new birth in the inner man. Anything else is a different kind of church.
SIXTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its
ordinances--BELIEVERS' BAPTISM, FOLLOWED BY THE LORD'S SUPPER (Matt.
gave to His church ordinances. He
did not give them sacraments. Sacraments
are rituals with saving ability. Ordinances
are memorial observances. They
cause the children of God to seriously remember and contemplate the finished
work of Christ and they display the Gospel of Christ to the world (1
Cor. 11:26). They picture the
finished work of Christ. The
ordinances are the Gospel in picture form.
gave to His church two and only two ordinances.
He did not give any others. Marriage
in the church is not an ordinance. Last
rites are not an ordinance. Being
burried in sacred soil is not an ordinance.
Christening babies is not an ordinance.
Dedicating babies is not an ordinance.
The ritual washing of feet is not an ordinance.
The wearing of robes or other special
clothing is not an ordinance. The
ceremonial washing of pots and the dedication of buildings are not ordinances.
Nor are any other rituals, traditions, and ceremonies which are popular
with the religious world. The two
church ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s supper.
two ordinances are church ordinances. They
are not pastor ordinances nor deacon ordinances.
By that we mean that neither the pastor nor the deacons have control or
authority over these ordinances. It
is the church that must decide (vote) as to who is qualified to be baptized and
be admitted to church membership. Neither
the pastor nor the deacons nor any other group within a church has that
authority. It is the church who
must authorize the pastor or another Brother to administer baptism.
Similarly, it is the church who must authorize the pastor or another
Brother to administer the supper. These
two ordinances are church ordinances in that baptism is a prerequisite to church
membership and the door to it. Baptism
and church membership are only related to a “local” church.
A person cannot Scripturally hold membership in more than one church at a
time. The Lord’s Supper is to be
observed by a “local” church only so that discipline can be maintained (1
Cor. 5:11; 11:20). Non-members
of a church cannot Scripturally participate in the supper.
baptism includes (1) a Scriptural candidate, (2) a Scriptural motive, (3) a
Scriptural mode, and (4) a
Scriptural administrator. If any
one of these four requirements is lacking, the act is invalid.
Only believers are Scriptural candidates, that is, only they are
qualified to be baptized (Acts 8:37).
Thus those “baptized” in infancy are not Scripturally baptized.
There is neither Biblical commandment nor example for infant baptism.
Those who “baptize” babies do so because they attribute to baptism a
saving ability, thus their motive for baptism is unscriptural.
All agree that immersion in water (not in grape juice or some other
liquid) is the original and therefore Scriptural mode.
Thus pouring or sprinkling are not Scriptural modes.
Those “baptized” by the Harlot or her daughters (Rev.
17:5) are not Scripturally baptized for they are not His bride and therefore
lack Christ’s authority. A church
which receives the unscriptural “baptisms” of apostate or man-made
“churches” cannot be regarded as a virgin bride of Christ which ought to be
the goal of every church and every pastor for the church he serves (2
Cor. 11:2). Such a “church”
has polluted herself with the Harlot and her daughters (Rev.
18:4). Such a polluted church
is not a true church and cannot be regarded as a Scriptural administrator of
baptism. And no person can be
Scripturally allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper until he has been
Scripturally baptized. This is the
pattern of the whole New Testament.
Thus those with polluted “baptisms” are not eligible to partake of
the Lord’s Supper.
have often heard of parents preserving the possessions of a child who had gone
away from home exactly the way the child left them.
They wanted the child’s things to be exactly the way he wanted them
when he returned. We can understand
that. We can identify with that.
We can understand the friends of Christ wanting to preserve the
ordinances of Christ just as He left them to His churches (John
15:14). What we cannot
understand is one of Christ’s friends wanting to change the things Christ left
to us. But there are some who would
say it does not matter as to the candidate, the mode, the motive or the
administrator of baptism. They say
that sincerity is enough. The
details of baptism do not matter. Others
would omit one or more of the requirements for baptism as stated above.
Similiarly there are some who would say it does not matter what kind of
bread or drink is used in the supper. Some
preachers in America are so liberal and care so little for the things of Christ
that they say the Lord’s supper can be observed by eating a McDonald’s
hamburger and drinking a coke! They
too say sincerity is enough. They
say it does not matter what elements are used in the supper.
We do not know, but we do not think these are true friends of Christ.
believe that the Supper, like baptism must meet four requirements to be a valid
and Scriptural observance of the ordinance Christ left.
There must be (1) Scriptural participants, (2) a Scriptural motive for
eating and drinking, (3) Scriptural elements, and (4) a Scriptural
administrator. Briefly stated
(because of lack of space) we believe the Bible teaches that Scriptural
participants are the members in good standing of one New Testament church.
The Scriptural motive for eating the supper is to proclaim the Lord’s
death. It is the communion of a
church with her Head. It is NOT the
communion of believers one with another. Such
a thing is not taught in the New Testament.
The Scriptural elements are unleavened bread and wine.
The Scriptural administrator is a New Testament church.
Ordinarily the Supper is administered by the pastor, but in the absence
of a pastor, the church may authorize a Brother to administer the supper because
the ordinances are church ordinances and not tied to any specific office within
supper instituted by the Lord consisted of wine and unleavened bread.
We know the bread was unleavened because Christ instituted the supper
very near the time of the Passover feast. During
that season it was forbidden even to have leaven in the houses anywhere in
Israel (Exodus 12:15).
No leavened bread was available! Furthermore
we know that the bloody sacrifices of the Lord could not include leaven (Ex.
34:25). If this was true of
natural sacrifices, how much more is it true of the one true sacrifice of
Christ’s own body and blood! We
know that the Jews have consistently used wine from the beginning as the only
drink at the Passover meal. We know
that wine and not grape juice was used because the grape harvest was in August
or September. The Lord instituted
His supper in the spring. No grape
juice was available then! Lacking
refrigeration, the Jews allowed their grape juice to ferment and so to be
conserved. When fermentation is
complete the leaven is dead. The
wine is poured off its lees and the wine is clear and free from leaven.
This procedure which is a part of wine making is alluded to in Jeremiah
48:11. Leaven pictures sin,
particularly the sin of hypocrisy (Luke
12:1). To picture the body and
blood of Christ using elements containing leaven is to picture the body and
blood of Christ as sinful. A sinful
Christ could save no one. Because
of the significance of these things, the elements are important as they
“preach” in a visible way the Gospel of Christ.
do not understand those who wish to change the ordinances of Christ for ease,
pleasure or comfort. Some who call
themselves “Christians” have changed the mode of baptism.
They have said that immersion is not dignified, that it is unpleasant,
that it is inconvenient, etc., and thus have justified to themselves changing it
to sprinkling or pouring. Others
have changed the elements in the Supper and have given various excuses for doing
so. Rather than use wine, some have
preferred grape juice, but there is nothing symbolical about grape juice other
than the fact it symbolizes the sin of hyprocisy for it is filled with leaven.
Some have given as a reason for changing the misuse of alchohol.
But who would dare say that the small amount of wine consumed by an
individual in the Supper is the abuse of alchohol.
People will use considerably more alchohol in cough medicine without a
thought, but then refuse to obey the Bible in the use of wine.
They will do for their physical bodies what they will not do for their
souls. One of the most ridiculous
excuses ever heard for ceasing to use wine was that the wine tasted bad!
Have the people of God become so pleasure-loving and so in love with
comforts and ease that they cannot stand the taste of wine?
Was not the cup which Christ drank for His people a bitter cup?
Even Israel from ancient times was required to eat bitter herbs along
with the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:8; Num.
9:11). Besides all that, where
did we get the idea that the Lord’s Supper – the remembrance of His awful
suffering and death – should be suited to the effeminate tastes of soft,
modern “Christians?” Those who
claim to be the friends of Christ and yet who do not obey Him we think are not
true friends (John 15:14).
But we do know most certainly that to change the ordinances into soul-saving sacraments or to claim that through the observance of rituals grace is bestowed on the participant is to pervert the Gospel of the grace of God. A church cannot be a true church of Christ if she preaches a false gospel of works whether in words or in the ordinances which picture the Gospel.
SEVENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its
officers--PASTORS AND DEACONS (I Tim.
hierarchy of ministers, priests, prelates, metropolitans, cardinals, etc., etc.,
is unknown to the Bible. Two and
only two ordained offices are known to the Bible.
Those two offices are pastors and deacons.
The office of deacon was instituted only in the church when the number of
members was extremely large and there was a genuine need for such a position.
The church existed prior to the existence of this office and a New
Testament church can exist without a deacon or deacons today if they are not
needed. The office of deacon is
subject to the oversight of the pastor (Acts
20:17, 28). These offices were
usually filled in the Bible by God raising up men from within the congregation.
He enabled them to do the work to which He called them.
“Professionalism” in the ministry was unknown.
The idea that a man can attend a Bible institute or seminary and by that
be qualified to preach and to pastor is not a Biblical concept at all.
It is the way of the world and not the way of God, and it has done great
harm. Moses and Paul were educated
men, but before God used them, He “reeducated” them in the desert.
God is still training His servants in His way!
two offices are limited to men only. Women
are to be silent in the churches and therefore cannot serve as preachers,
pastors, teachers of men, pastors, etc. (1
Cor. 14:34, 35). The men who
fill these offices are to be servants of the church (2
Cor. 4:5; Matt. 20:27; Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35;
1 Cor. 9:19). The Greek word
“deacon” means a servant. While
the deacons are to be concerned with the physical and financial needs of the
people, the pastors ought to give themselves to the ministry of the Word and to
prayer (Acts 6:4).
It is the job of the pastor to feed the sheep (John
21:16). He is not a pope nor is
he to exercise lordship over the congregation which he serves (1
Pet. 5:3). The office of pastor
is not that of an overlord or administrator.
He is to be settled among the people he serves, to share their joys and
sorrows, to experience the same standard of living as they enjoy or endure, and
is to care for the people as a father for his family although he is only another
officers are necessarily subject to the discipline of the church in which they
serve. Sins committed by deacons or
pastors, like those of any other member, can result in their exclusion from the
church. The church has executive
authority over these two ordained officers.
They serve at her pleasure. If
they do not, they are untouchable overlords and will become corrupt in their
offices. The love of money,
prestige, power, etc., will consume them and destroy both their ministries and
Any church which has a hierarchy of overlords whatever they be called is not a New Testament church.
EIGHTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its
work--getting folks saved, baptizing them (with a baptism that meets all the
requirements of God's Word), teaching them (‘to observe all things whatsoever
I have commanded you’) (Matt. 28:16-20).”
has given to His churches all that is needed to do His work (2
Tim. 3:17). The Word of God is
all that is needed to accomplish the work God gave to His church.
Psycological tricks, emotional manipulations, entertainments, charismatic
personalities, musical talents, and high-pressure tactics do not accomplish the
work of God. All the man-made,
humanistic Arminian tactics in the world will not add one person to the number
God has elected to salvation. He
will save His elect. They shall
“come” (John 6:37).
In the salvation of His elect God uses legitimate and Scriptural means
and has given His churches work to do. The
work of God given to His churches is three-fold: (1) Scriptural evangelization,
(2) Scriptural baptism, (3) Scriptural teaching of converts in New Testament
churches. The Spirit of God working
in connection with the preaching of the Word of God is what accompishes the work
of God! This work does not require
magnificent buildings, worldly entertainment, shows, or a professional church
staff. The proof that none of these
things are necessary is this: none of the churches of the New Testament had any
of these things, yet they accomplished the work of God in their places!
Churches which become entangled with huge buildings, worldly programs,
spectacular entertainment and paid professionals become slaves to such things
and cease doing the work Christ intends for His Churches to do.
We believe this is true of both individuals and churches (2
Any church which is not involved in doing the three-fold work of Christ in Christ’s way cannot be a New Testament kind of church.
NINTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its
financial plan—‘Even so (TITHES and OFFERINGS) hath the Lord ordained that
they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel’ (I
New Testament church must be autonomous (self-governing).
This is the whold New Testament pattern.
It also must be self-supporting in whatever measure is possible.
Sometimes churches become destitute and need financial help.
Perhaps at times they need the supply of ministerial help.
A church may need special help at critical times in their existence.
That is one thing.
But continually depending on other churches for money is not God’s way
are to be paid by the church that they pastor.
This is right and Biblical. However,
sometimes it is necessary that pastors work at secular employment.
Paul worked a few times as a tentmaker to meet his own needs and the
needs of others. Church members,
regardless of poverty or riches, need to be taught to do their part in
supporting their church. The tithe
is an equal burden among the members. Churches
are not to be robbers. They are not
to require their members to contribute more than is right.
Churches are not to engage in business schemes, bazzars, carnivals or
other means of making money. Neither
should they ask the world to help them pay their bills.
Surely if God is in a church and what it is doing, He can from the
members raise the funds needed to sustain the work through tithes and offerings.
Churches, like families, should not attempt to live beyond their income.
To do so is bad business and eventually those who go this way will come
church which cannot pay its own bills needs to reduce their overhead until they
can meet their obligations from among themselves.
Pastors ought not to become beggars
whether before the world or before other churches.
This is dishonoring to Christ! He
is the Head and Bridegroom of each church. He is responsible to supply the needs
of His virgin bride. Neither should
a church of Christ adopt the attitude of the world and the world’s churches
with regard to a visible display of wealth.
The world’s churches display their wealth in magnificient buildings,
expensive clothing, jewelry, fine furnishings, costly equipment and other things
which impress those who are worldly minded.
It must always be remembered that a church is made up of the members.
A church is not the building, the equipment, the furnishings, the
automobiles or other things regarded as important to the world and its churches.
church that resorts to the ways of the world and the world’s churches for its
fnancial needs is not a New Testament kind of church.
New Testament churches strive to be self-supporting in their finances.
TENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH:
“Its weapons of warfare--spiritual, not carnal (II
Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:10-20).”
churches, that is the Harlot and her harlot daughters and “the abominations of
the earth,” their pastors and other officers hate the truth.
They hate Christ’s true churches which stand for the truth (Rev.
17:5, 6). Worldly religious
organizations make use of political maneuvering, political connections,
political pressure and the currying of favor of this world’s governments.
False churches are determined to have the approval of the world’s
religious groups and the world’s governments regardless of the cost.
They are worldly minded and seek after the things of the world.
They form extra-biblical alliances to further their goals.
They mean harm to Christ’s New Testament kind of churches.
They will use their worldly influence with the government to make things
difficult for religious groups who refuse to have a part in their ecumenical
projects for Christ’s churches have ever opposed the union of churches into
one organization. They resort to
intimidation, threats, lies and even inciting men to do physical harm to those
who disagree with them. It is
observable that every man-made religious organization of churches eventually
falls into the trap of promoting the union of churches into one world-wide
“church.” In their unions they
sink to the lowest common denominator and thus come to promote ecumenicalism.
Thus, eventually, false churches and their organizations become active
against those who oppose the union of all religions
into one ecumenical church. Such
are the worldly weapons of worldly religionists.
Those who possess this persecuting spirit toward the followers of Christ
demonstrate that they themselves are without the new birth.
They prove that they do not know the Lord Jesus nor His Father (John
15:18-21, John 16:1-3).
God has given His churches greater weapons than those of the world’s churches.
They are enumerated for us in Eph.
6:13-18. The use of these
spiritual weapons has been demonstrated in the lives of those New Testament
preachers and saints who walked this way before us.
Those weapons are “truth,” “righteousness,” “the preparation of
the Gospel of peace,” “faith,” “salvation,” “the sword of the Spirit
which is the Word of God,” and persevering “prayer,” and
Any church which uses the weapons of this world cannot be a New Testament kind of Church. New Testament churches use New Testament weapons to accomplish the work of Christ.
ELEVENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its
independence--separation of Church and State (Matt.
has Christ to do with Caesar?” This
is ever the watchword of the Lord’s true New Testament kind of churches.
The Bible teaches and true churches require that their members be good
citizens of the country in which they find themselves.
They are to be obedient to all the laws of the land unless those laws are
contrary to the Word of God (1 Pet.
2:13-17, Acts 4:18,19).
But that same Bible teaches that the various governments of this world have no control over the churches in their doctrine, their worship or their service to God. Neither are the Lord’s churches to join themselves to this world’s governments. Neither are they to receive financial support from the government. When they do so they cease to be the servants of Christ for the governments of this world require obedience of their partners (Rom. 6:16, 1 Cor. 7:23, 1 Pet. 2:19). Let those whose hearts are inclined to worldly things seek the prestige, favor, power, and political connections which governments are willing to exchange for control over those churches who join with them.
But a church is guilty of spiritual adultery and cannot be a New Testament kind of church if she is joined to a governmental power. This was the case with Israel (Isa. 30:1-3; Rev. 17:1,2; Hosea 8:9, Ezek. 16:23-35). Surely it is no different in the case of churches.
Christ’s churches are subject to Christ as their Head. In doing so, they cannot be subject in spiritual matters to any government. Thus they are to be independent of governmental control whether civil government or the government of some religious institution.
The Word of God is clear.
Regardless of what a church may try to claim, if that church does not
measure up to the essential characteristics of the churches of the New
Testament, that church is not a
If you are vitally interested in being a member of a New Testament kind of church and cannot locate one in your area, we invite you to contact us. We will do our best to help you locate such a church. If such a church does not exist in your area, we will be happy to do what we can to see that one is organized there for the glory of Jesus Christ and the spiritual well-being of the children of God! Amen.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726