CHOOSING A CHURCH
How can a Christian know which church to join? By way of introduction to this subject, it should be stated that a person is joined to the true church at the very moment of his conversion. This church is made up of every true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of race, color or culture. Members of the church are found throughout the world, though the entire church has never yet been assembled in one place.
However, it is possible for Christians in many localities to gather together as members of a local church and perform the functions that are set forth in Scripture. This local church is an expression of the universal church of all believers around the world. This meeting traditionally takes place on the first day of the week (Sunday) and not on the Sabbath which is a Jewish Old Testament command. In the early days, the saints met in their own homes. Romans 16:5; Philemon 2. We read that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. Now it is very obviously the Lord’s will that Christians should meet together regularly as members of the church. Hebrews 10:25 contains a warning against forsaking “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” Moreover, great portions of the New Testament are devoted to teaching believers their privileges and responsibilities as members of the local body of Christ. I Corinthians 12.
Yet it is somewhat of a problem for a new convert today to know where he should unite in fellowship. There are so many different groups of Christians, and such a wide difference in some of their teachings.
The following list is therefore designed to help the young believer in finding the right path. At the same time, it should be emphasized that the entire question should be made a matter of earnest prayer that God’s will might be clearly known. Our understanding of what the church is must come from God’s Word alone. Traditions and customs of men must be tested by its teachings on this subject. Isaiah 8:20. Remember that a counterfeit is designed to be as close to real as possible, yet by knowing the real you will be able to discern the counterfeit. God will guide you as you test the real by the Word of God and thereby test all churches by His qualifications.
A. Be sure that the group with whom you identify yourself acknowledges the Holy Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, and bows to
the Scriptures as the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. It is not enough to say that the Bible contains the Word of God. It is the Word of God. Therefore it is absolutely true, and we must believe it and obey it. II Timothy 3:16-17.
B. Be sure that those with whom you meet are unmistakably clear as to the Person of Christ. Many are willing to admit that Christ was a great leader, a great teacher, and maybe the greatest man who ever lived, or they even use the word “divine” in describing Him. But the great truth concerning our blessed Savior is that He is God, and nothing less than this will do. Colossians 2:9.
C. A third important thing to watch for is sound teaching concerning the work of Christ. Scripture teaches that the Lord Jesus lived a sinless life, that He voluntarily died for our sins on the Cross of Calvary, that He was buried, that He rose again and ascended into heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God. I Corinthians 15:1-4. Salvation is obtained solely by faith in Him and apart from any works or human merit. Galatians 2:16. Be sure to find out what is taught concerning His precious blood. Apart from that blood there can be no remission of sins. In addition to meeting the above three primary tests, one should be sure that the local church does not contradict, by word or by practice, the following important truths concerning the body of Christ.
ORDER OF THE CHURCH
A. Christ is the Head of the church. Colossians 1:18-19; Ephesians 1:22- 23. No man may claim this position. Where Christ is acknowledged as Head, the church will look to Him and to Him alone for dictation and guidance.
B. All believers are members of the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12-
13. All true children of God should therefore be welcomed into the fellowship of the church. (There are, however, two exceptions to this rule. Those who are unsound in doctrine, II John 10, or those who are living in sin, I Corinthians 5:13, should be excluded until they have been restored to the Lord.) No unbeliever should knowingly be received into church fellowship.
C. All believers are priests. I Peter 2:5-9. In the New Testament, there is no distinction as to priests and people. In the Old Testament a priest was one who stood between God and man to offer a sacrifice on his behalf. However, at Christ’s death, the veil was rent thereby showing that now every Christian has direct access to God at any time. Mark 15:27-38. We have all become priests before Him. Revelation 1:5-6. All Christians may now enter by faith into the presence of God, bringing sacrifices of praise and worship and service. In the early church all the members were students of the Word, all were soul-winners, all were busy for God. That should characterize the church today.
D. The authority of the Holy Spirit should be recognized. Whether in
worship or in service, ministry or discipline, there should be liberty for the Holy Spirit to direct. His guidance and authority ought not to be limited by man-made ceremonies or human organization. II Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 4:3. To summarize, then, a young believer should fellowship with those who acknowledge the Bible as their only guide, who are sound as to the Person and work of Christ, and who seek to carry out the teachings of the New Testament with regard to the church and its functions.