How To Recognize a New Testament Church


A Publication of Old Paths Baptist Church Bible Trust Ministries (Formerly known as Separation of Church and State Law Ministry)


Click here to go to the written lessons.
Click here to go to the 5 minute video lectures.


Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 5, 2018


Matthew 22.21

How can one recognize a true church? J. M. Carroll, in describing the overall organization of the church, listed eleven “Marks of a New Testament Church:

  1. “Its Head and Founder—CHRIST. He is the lawgiver; the Church is only the executive. (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18.)
  2. “Its only rule of faith and practice—THE BIBLE. (II Tim. 3:15-17.)
  3. “Its name—‘CHURCH,’ ‘CHURCHES.’ (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 22:16.)
  4. “Its polity—CONGREGATIONAL—all members equal. (Matt. 20:24-28; Matt. 23:5- 12.)
  5. “Its members—only saved people. (Eph 2:21-22; I Peter 2:5.)
  6. “Its ordinances—BELIEVER’S BAPTISM, FOLLOWED BY THE LORD’S SUPPER. (Matt. 28:19-20.)
  7. “Its officers—PASTORS and DEACONS. (I Tim. 3:1-16.)
  8. “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.)
  9. “Its financial plan—‘Even so (TITHES and OFFERINGS) hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.’ (I Cor. 9.14.)
  10. “Its weapons of warfare—spiritual, not carnal. (II Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:10-20.)
  11. “Its independence—separation of Church and State. (Matt. 22:21.)” [i]

Certainly, a preacher on the street corner with a crowd around him as he preaches is not a church. Nor is a group of people meeting in a house and preaching the Word. However, if that house group chooses a properly ordained and baptized pastor, organizes and operates according to biblical principles, initiates a proper baptism for new believers, and begins to partake of the Lord’s Supper, an ordered New Testament church comes into existence. The Lord desires that those who are saved be baptized into a properly ordered New Testament church.

Thus, an eChurch is not a church, nor is a group who starts following someone on Facebook or other social network. As has been established in prior lessons, a church is a spiritual body or assembly ordered according to the principles of the New Testament.

Only the assembly where the true doctrine is preached is a church: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Ga. 1.8). Where only false doctrines are preached, no church can exist. For example, the Catholic Church, some Baptist churches, many Protestant churches, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Islam, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not churches. When the preaching of a church conceals the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith alone from its members, so that the gospel message is not clearly proclaimed, and has not been proclaimed for some time, the group meeting there is not a church.

A church can exist only where the Bible is believed to be the inerrant Word of God, where the Bible is the sole basis for faith and practice, and where that Bible is preached.

Local churches assemble in His name for the breaking of bread, worship, praise, prayer, testimony, the ministry of the word, discipline, and the furtherance of the Gospel (He. 10.25; Ac. 20.7; 1 Co. 14.26; 1 Co. 5.4, 5; Ph. 4.14-18; 1 Th. 1.8; Ac. 13.1-). Every such local church has Christ in the midst, is a temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 3.16, 17), and is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Ti. 3.15). A church is the body of Christ of which He is the Head. Christ desires that a church remain solely under Him: “And [God] hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ep. 1.22-23). “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ep. 5.23).

New Testament church doctrine and example further define what a church is to be:

  1. Spiritual entity only. [ii] A church which is a legal entity such as a 501(c)(3) corporation is, at best, in God’s permissive will and out of God’s perfect will. Such a church has combined the earthly, temporal, and Satanic with the heavenly, eternal and spiritual.[iii]
  2. The body of Christ of which He is the Head. Christ desires that a church remain solely under Him: “And [God] hath put all thingsunder his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ep. 1.22-23). “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ep. 5.23). A church which is a legal entity has two heads, the Lord Jesus Christ and civil government. Such a church cannot be a New Testament church.[iv]
  3. Separate from the world. An incorporated 501(c)(3) church is not separated from the world.[v]
  4. A church is to assemble in His name for the breaking of bread, worship, praise, prayer, testimony, the ministry of the word, discipline, and the furtherance of the Gospel (He. 10.25; Ac. 20.7; 1 Co. 14.26; 1 Co. 5.4, 5; Ph. 4.14-18; 1 Th. 1.8; Ac. 13.1-).
  5. Every such local church has Christ in the midst, is a temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 3.16, 17), and is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Ti. 3.15).
  6. A church has duties outside the meeting house. The teaching of doctrine inside, work outside.[vi] Outside, the members are to present the Gospel to the world through door to door and one on one evangelism and street ministry.
  7. Fight the spiritual warfare against powers, principalities and the rulers of darkness in this present world (Ep. 6.10-18). This fight is being waged by Satan on all fronts. Churches and believers should likewise be fighting on all fronts using God’s methods of warfare.

Click here to go to Bible Study of Ephesians. Ephesians reveals the institution of the church as God’s masterpiece. It is more wonderful that any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1 presents the church as a body. The book is both doctrinal and practical. The first three chapters are doctrinal and go into the heavenlies. The last three chapters are practical and cover the believers responsibilities on earth. A church and a believer are to remain connected to their heavenly head as they walk on this earth.

Bible Studies of various Books on the Doctrine of the Church.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Church.


Endnotes

[i] J. M. Carroll, The Trail of Blood, (Distributed by Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 163 N. Ashland Avenue, Lexington KY 40502, 606-266-4341), pp. 4-5. J. M. Carroll was a leader among Baptists who studied history and the Bible in an attempt to “find the church which was the oldest and most like churches described in the New Testament.” In the course of his studies, he gathered “one of the greatest libraries on church history. This library was given at his death to the Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas.”

[ii] See What is a spiritual entity?; A Church Is a Mystery, an Assembly, a Spiritual Body; The Holy Spirit Forms a Church which Is a Temple, a Spiritual Body, the Body of Christ.

[iii] See What is a legal entity?; Links to Lessons on Satan.

[iv]  Christ Ordained the Church and Builds It upon the Rock; Christ, the Head/Bridegroom/Husband of the Local Church.

[v] What is an established church?; The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State.

[vi] Click here to go to Bible Study of Ephesians. Ephesians reveals the institution of the church as God’s masterpiece. It is more wonderful that any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The book is both doctrinal and practical. The first three chapters are doctrinal and go into the heavenlies. The last three chapters are practical and cover the believers responsibilities on earth. A church and a believer are to remain connected to their heavenly Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone as they walk on this earth.

Other Bible Metaphors for a Church: Family, Etc.


A Publication of Old Paths Baptist Church Bible Trust Ministries (Formerly known as Separation of Church and State Law Ministry)


Click here to go to the written lessons.
Click here to go to the 5 minute video lectures.


Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 5, 2018


For our understanding her nature, Scripture describes a church in many ways. Earlier lessons have examined some of them. This lesson will look at others.

A church is a family. “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Ti. 5.1-2). “And [I] will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Co. 6.18). “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12.49-50). Many other verses could be cited. Look for them as you read through the New Testament.

The Bible compares the church to a pearl of great price which “a merchant man sold all that he had, and bought it (Mt. 13.45-46):

  • “Of the true Church a pearl is a perfect symbol: (1) a pearl is one, a perfect symbol of unity (1 Cor. 10.17; 12.12, 13; Eph. 4.4-6). (2) A pearl is formed by accretion, and that not mechanically, but vitally, through a living one, as Christ adds to the Church (Acts 2.41, 47; 5.14; 11.24; Eph. 2.21; Col 2.19. (3) Christ, having given Himself for the pearl, is now preparing it for the presentation to Himself (Eph. 5.25-27).  The kingdom is not the Church, but the true children of the kingdom during the fulfillment of these mysteries, baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12. 12, 13), compose … the pearl.” 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 3 to Matthew 13.45, p. 1017.).

The church is also compared to:

  1. the Father’s love gift to Jesus Christ (Jn. 17.2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24);
  2. the bride and wife of Christ, who is the Head of the church as the husband is the head of the wife;
  3. a virgin espoused to one husband (2 Co. 11.1-2);
  4. “the household of God” and “an holy temple in the Lord” (Ep. 2.19-21; see also 1 Co. 3.16);
  5. branches on a vine (Jn. 15.5);
  6. an olive tree (Ro. 11.17-24);
  7. a field of crops (1 Co. 3.6-9);
  8. God’s husbandry and God’s building” (1 Co. 3.9);
  9. a harvest (Mt. 13.1-30; Jn. 4.35);
  10. lively stones, built up a spiritual house,
  11. an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2.5);
  12. Christ’s house (He. 3.6) built by Christ Himself (He. 3.3); and
  13. ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Ti. 3.15).

God gave each metaphor for a reason.

“Each of the metaphors used for the church can help us to appreciate more of the richness of privilege that God has given us by building us into a local church. The fact that a church is like a family should increase our love and fellowship with one another. The thought that the church is like the bride of Christ should stimulate us to strive for greater purity and holiness, and also greater love for Christ and submission to him. The image of the church as branches in a vine should cause us to rest in him more fully. The idea of an agricultural crop should encourage us to continue growing in the Christian life and obtaining for ourselves and others the proper spiritual nutrients to grow. The picture of the church as God’s new temple should increase our awareness of God’s very presence dwelling in our midst as we meet. The concept of the church as a priesthood should help us to see more clearly the delight God has in the sacrifices of praise and good deeds that we offer to him (See He. 13.15-16). The metaphor of the institution of the church as the body of Christ should increase our interdependence on one another and our appreciation of the diversity of gifts within the body. Many other applications could be drawn from these and other metaphors for the church listed in Scripture.”[i]


Click here to go to Bible Study of Ephesians. Ephesians reveals the institution of the church as God’s masterpiece. It is more wonderful that any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1 presents the church as a body.


Articles, Essays, and Other Resources Related to the Doctrine of the Church, Incorporation, 501c3, Etc.

Bible Studies of various Books on the Doctrine of the Church.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Church


Endnote

[i] This is a variation of quote from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan; Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), p. 859.