I have made many mistakes in my life. Years ago, when I was dating a young woman who has now become my wife, I planned to spend a day with her at Six Flags, Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. I had worked all week, and was really looking forward to getting away with the love of my life. I checked the map, gassed up the car, and headed out. We hopped on route 295N and were off.
On the way to her house, the sun shone brightly – not a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day for a trip to Six Flags. We talked on the way, listened to the radio, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It was not long before the roller coaster came into sight. She loves roller coasters. I hate them.
We both enjoyed the day, and time slipped away quickly. Looking at my watch, I realized it was past time to leave. We headed for the exit to make the 45-minute trip back home. We got back on route 295 and started out. The sky was still clear, although darkness had set in. Stars twinkled above as we drove on.
The drive was simple enough. From my wife’s house, we made a couple of quick turns and followed 295 straight to the park. The drive home should have been just as simple, but I knew something was wrong after traveling for more than an hour with nothing familiar in sight. I checked the map (this was before GPS) noting I should be on route 295. I looked for road signs. Sure enough, we were on route 295, so I kept driving.
An hour turned into an hour and a half turned into two hours. I knew something was wrong when I passed the sign that read “Welcome to New York.” For the past two hours, I had been traveling north on 295 when I should have been traveling south. By this time, we were both exhausted, and we still had close to a three-hour trip back through New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Needless to say, her parents were not thrilled.
I sincerely believed I was going the right direction. My intentions were good. In my heart, I really believed I was right. But I was sincerely wrong. All my good intentions, all the belief in my heart, did not make things right. Sincerity of heart is not the issue. Truth was the issue. So as we close this series, let me ask you, does it matter what kind of church I attend?
Now, let me answer that question for you. Absolutely. You see, there are many so-called churches that are not really churches at all. Not all churches teach the Truth. Sincerity is not the issue. Truth is the issue. So what was the doctrine of a New Testament church keeping in mind it is still the same today? Here are seven things to consider when seeking a New Testament church to attend.
Does the church teach –
The Sole Authority of the Scripture –
If the Bible says it, that settles it. The Bible is the sole authority for our faith and practice. Does the church hold to the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture? In other words, God so guided the human authors that not just the ideas were inspired, but that the very words were God-breathed (verbal). Not only that, but that every word is the Word of God (plenary), and equally inspired. All other biblical beliefs stem from the fact that the Bible is trustworthy and complete. “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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
Salvation by Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
The only hope humanity has is in Jesus Christ. He alone is the answer to man’s sin problem. We can only know him through faith. Salvation is a gift and can not be earned. The sacraments do not save. Baptism does not save. Keeping the Ten Commandments does not save. Only Jesus saves..”Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Oops! I Lost My Salvation Several months ago, I wrote an article describing how one can not lose their salvation. There is a woman in our town that has told me time and time again that she needs to be saved again—that she had committed a certain sin and she is no longer a child of…
I know this is a controversial subject, but we must let God be true. The simple fact is that if we can lose our salvation, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not worth much. By believing we can lose our salvation cheapens the precious blood whereby we are saved. You can not possibly keep your own salvation, but God can and does. I have written other articles on the subject, so I will not go any further for now. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
The Autonomy of the Local Church
In other words, is the church self-governing with Christ as her head? We have mentioned this before, but it is very important to understand that the New Testament churches were not built on or by hierarchies. Each church functioned on its own under these seven guidelines that I am listing for you, looking only to Jesus, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18)
The Priesthood of the Believer
You are declared to be priests and kings. You have the privilege of coming directly into the presence of God through only one mediator, Jesus Christ.” (I Timothy 2:5) You and you alone answer to God for the life you lead and the decisions you make. Priests are those that intercede before God on behalf of others. You have that privilege of upholding others in prayer and minister to them as the Lord leads you. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.: (Revelation 5:10)
The Two Ordinances
An ordinance is simply a command. This differs from a sacrament which supposedly adds saving grace to the action. Thus, a sacrament is a work of man. An ordinance is a command of God and He has given us two for the church to follow:
Baptism – Baptism is a mark of identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. All three are pictured in baptism by immersion. Sprinkling or pouring as a mode of baptism is never mentioned in the Bible. Both are man-made inventions and do not accurately depict the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
The Lord’s Table – “This do in remembrance of me.” This ordinance was clearly given for the purpose of remembering what the Lord accomplished on the cross for our sins. We would soon forget if we were not given the command to remember.
This is not a sacrament. The Lord’s Table has no saving merit. Its only purpose is for us to remember and shew His death until He comes. The archaic word shew does not mean show. It actually means to preach. By sharing the bread and cup we preach or witness to each other of the saving grace of God as we remember His sacrifice. “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (I Corinthians 11:24-26)
Separation of Church and State
Separation of church and state is not what most people think. If each individual is responsible to God, then certainly the state should not dictate to anyone what religious beliefs they should hold. The New Testament church has always been under some form of persecution, but the true church will always obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Just as the state is to have no control of an individual’s beliefs, neither is the church to control the state. We should, however be concerned about the state of politics. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)
Other doctrines of the New Testament church would include, but are not limited to, the trinity, the incarnation, virgin birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; the reality of the Second Coming, and Heaven and Hell.
These basic doctrines are fundamental to the Christian faith. We may not always agree, but each one is biblical. Between you and God, are you following the pattern of the New Testament Church?