Have you ever walked out of a store, only to forget where you parked your car? I have. Although you may have been somewhat embarrassed, as I was, you were able to locate your car by looking for its identifying characteristics (ex: the name of its manufacturer, its color, number of doors, etc.)
When we look at the religious world all around us, it’s easy to be confused. We see a number of religious groups, each claiming to be the New Testament church. But the Bible teaches there is only one church (Ephesians 4:4). How can you tell which group is the New Testament church? The same way you find your car in the parking lot, by looking for its identifying characteristics.
First, consider the name of the New Testament church. The New Testament church has several names. Jesus referred to his church as “my church” (Matthew 16:18). The church is also referred to as the church of God (I Corinthians 1:2); church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23); the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16 – in reference to local congregations); the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24); the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2); the church of the living God (I Timothy 3:15); and the house of God (I Timothy 3:15). These names glorify the Father and the Son. These are the names the scriptures give to the Lord’s church. It is a tragic error for someone to give honor to the name of a person, such as Martin Luther or John Wesley, over the name of Christ. Likewise, it is error to exalt any ordinance of the church, such as baptism, over the name that is above all names – Christ.
Second, consider the founder of the church. Men such as John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Smyth, William Miller, Charles Russell, Joseph (“Judge”) Rutherford, Ellen White and Mary Baker Eddy founded the many denominations and cults that are in existence today. In contrast, Christ, not man, established the New Testament church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28).
Third, consider the date the church began. The majority of the denominations in existence today had their beginning during the Reformation movement of the sixteenth century. In contrast, the New Testament church was established in A.D. 33.
Fourth, consider the place where the church began. In contrast to the many denominations in existence today, the New Testament church began in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-3, Acts 2).
Fifth, consider the many creeds that are in existence today. The majority of denominations utilize their man made creeds; whereas the New Testament church we read about in the scriptures has no creed but Christ (Matthew 16:16; John 20:30-31). Likewise, the majority of denominations in existence today have developed their own statement of faith, whereas the New Testament church has no rule of faith but the Bible (Matthew 15:7-9; Colossians 2:8-9; I Peter 4:11; I Timothy 3:16-17).
Sixth, by their own admission, the many religious groups in existence today are denominations. In contrast, the New Testament church is not a denomination (I Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 1:23; 4:4; and 5:23).
Seventh, consider the worship of the New Testament church. The majority of denominations in existence today utilize mechanical instruments of music in their worship, even though there is no authority in the New Testament for doing so. In contrast, the New Testament church does not (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). The New Testament church partakes of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week, whereas the majority of denominations do not. (Acts 20:7).
Eighth, consider the way men are saved from their sins. The majority of denominations in existence today teach a person is saved from his sins without being baptized. But the Bible teaches a person is not saved from his sins without being baptized. Read Mark 16:16 for yourself and then decide which of the following statements most accurately conveys it meaning: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” or “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” Incidentally, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to be a member of a religious group whose entrance requirements exceed the requirements of entering heaven. For example, some groups teach you can be saved, and thus be in heaven, without being baptized. Yet these same groups will not let you be a member of their organization without being baptized.
Ninth, consider the various doctrines taught by the many religious groups that exist today. Many teach it is not possible for a person to fall from grace and lose his salvation. But the Bible teaches it is possible for a person to fall from grace and lose his salvation (Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:26-28; I Corinthians 9:23-27; Galatians 5:4; II Peter 2:20-22; 3:17).
Friends, walking out of a store and forgetting where you parked your car is not the worst thing to happen to a person. Even momentarily getting into the wrong car usually has no real consequences, except for a little embarrassment. But a person who gets into the “wrong church” will experience tragic consequences for all eternity.
By Rod Halliburton