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    Marks of true churches

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    elnwood

    Posts : 36
    Join date : 2009-02-11

    Marks of true churches

    Post by elnwood on Tue May 05, 2009 2:06 pm

    In reformed churches, we've come to accept that the marks of true churches are right preaching of the word, right administration of the ordinances/sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline (Article 29 of Belgic Confession). I've taught this in bible studies on ecclesiology.

    I am a little uncertain, though, that this can be proven biblically. Can we really show that these are the only necessary marks of the church? What about evangelism? What about prayer? What about elders? Deacons? Are any of these necessary for being a church, or are they necessarily entailed in the three above?

    Secondly, what if a church is not practicing some of the above? Are they not churches?
    The Corinthian church was failing in its duty to practice church discipline. Did it cease to be a church? Is the Salvation Army and ultra-dispensational groups not churches because they don't practice water baptism? Should baptists and paedobaptists consider each other not true churches because they believe the other is not rightly administrating the ordinances/sacraments?
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    Scottish Lass

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    Join date : 2009-02-10
    Age : 42
    Location : Louisville, KY

    Re: Marks of true churches

    Post by Scottish Lass on Tue May 05, 2009 4:42 pm

    I can't answer all of these, and anyone else will do a better job than I, but I'll give it a try.

    Evangelism is encapsulated in the Great Commission and demonstrated throughout the entire NT, so the right preaching of the Word must include the topic. What it looks like in practice would vary from church to church for many reasons (size, location, etc.).

    Prayer is encapsulated in the Lord's Prayer and demonstrated throughout the entire NT, so right preaching (preferably expositional) could hardly avoid it.

    Church government should be demonstrated from Scripture--we have evidence of both elders and deacons, with outside oversight. I think variations of this model are far more easily supported than the hierarchical models of Methodism, RC, etc.

    A valid baptism must be Trinitarian in nature and include water to follow scriptural examples. Mode is not an issue, but the other two are necessary. You will find the WCF calls it a sin to delay baptism (discussed here before), but I don't think you'd find many paedos who would say that credo churches are not true churches. Valid baptisms are performed; paedos would only quibble with the timing and accept both paedo and credo baptisms in transfer. Credos often do not recognize paedobaptism, so you may draw your own conclusion about how the church is viewed. If a credo church says my infant baptism performed in a scriptural manner is invalid, does it follow then that my church is invalid?
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    elnwood

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    Join date : 2009-02-11

    Re: Marks of true churches

    Post by elnwood on Tue May 12, 2009 12:52 pm

    Scottish Lass,

    Thank you for the reply!

    I'm trying to feel out why we choose these particular elements for a church. I think understand what you're saying, and it's a good answer, but I feel uncomfortable in lumping everything under "right preaching." It's not immediately clear to me why evangelism and prayer can be lumped under "right preaching" and administering the ordinances/sacraments and exercising church discipline are not.

    What I'm trying to get at is a Scriptural basis for what constitutes a church. Churches may differ in theological distinctions and practices, but at what point is a church no longer a church? How did the Reformers exegetically derive the true marks of the church?

    I've encountered a number of paedobaptists, mostly in the United Reformed Churches (R. Scott Clark, Michael Horton, Danny Hyde, etc.) who believe that credobaptist churches are not true churches. That's the way they interpret the Belgic Confession.
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    Scottish Lass

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    Age : 42
    Location : Louisville, KY

    Re: Marks of true churches

    Post by Scottish Lass on Tue May 12, 2009 3:28 pm

    I think proper church discipline and administration of the sacraments are definitely marks of a true church and can easily be "lumped under 'right preaching'". I think the average credo church is a true church, as they are following a biblical example that is less than clear. Churches that do not perform water baptisms are operating contrary to scriptural example and the onus is on them to defend why they are a true church.

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