Where is the true church?

I have seen a huge upsurge in activity by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox in trying to bring Protestants into their churches.  I know of one congregation where three families have left for Orthodoxy over a short period, without warning, literally from one week to the next.

The main argument used by the internet evangelists boils down to a claim that theirs is the true church, and that we Reformed folk are called to be reconciled to our mother, Rome, or, our mother, Orthodoxy.  Jesus came to found a church, they say, and here it is!

When asked to support their claim to be the one true church, the only understandable argument seems to be, “Because we say so.  We are the true church to which Christ has given authority, so you had better listen up!”

So then, how do we identify the true church? What do we say to those who are strongly attracted by claims of ancient tradition, and an uninterrupted continuity of two thousand years?

The gospel itself has got to be the key to identifying a true church of Christ.  So then, what is the gospel?

The gospel is the account of the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, session, and Parousia of the Lord Jesus, the Christ – with its authorized apostolic interpretation.

Here is the interpretation: The Lord Jesus was incarnate for us men and for our salvation.

That same salvation is by pure grace, a free gift, by undeserved mercy, purchased by the cross. This gift of salvation is without reference to human works of any kind, as the apostle Paul teaches us in many unambiguous passages.

It by grace that you are saved, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God, not by works, lest any man should boast. (Paul the Apostle).

Any gospel that adds works of any kind to grace is an anti-gospel, and any church that does so is an anti-church.

Application: works in our day pass by the name of free will, which is simply a way of describing what a man is able to do or work by his own power and ability.  To most churches salvation is by free will, helped by grace, which is a contradiction in terms.

Therefore the RCC and EO churches have erred in setting aside the grace of God by adding works to the cross for forgiveness. Ditto all the once Protestant churches who have abandoned the gospel of free grace, such as those who follow the Billy Graham model of evangelism.

The true churches of Christ are those Reformed and Lutheran churches who steadfastly cling to the gospel of grace. Outside of this church there is no salvation, since it is there that the gospel is heard and believed, and the sacraments rightly administered – which signs and seals are ordinarily necessary for salvation as means of grace.

The is the church that is the mother of the faithful, the heavenly Jerusalem.

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7 thoughts on “Where is the true church?

  1. The church is the pillar and ground of truth. The Orthodox church but not exclusive to the brand “Orthodox” meaning just as in scripture we have the called, the visible church with bishops and eucharist, we also have those who are not against Christ and thus for Christ. The visible church even complained to Jesus about them. The reason I became Orthodox is because I know that is where the church is (even as I can not know if my bishop’s or priest bones will line the streets of hell as St. John Chrysostoms warned. I hope the Orthodox weren’t sheep stealing but trust me in America people are getting tired of the constant fad driven evangelical Christianity and they are clamoring for something deeper and finding the faith not of Luther or Calvin (who’s churches aren’t even recongnizable in America anymore) they are find the church of Athanasius, Polycarp, Luke, and Paul. You say we have added works, no we haven’t what we did not do is change a faith once and for all delivered into a intellectual pursuit. We abide in Christ (and fail a lot but Christ picks us up), we seek to be partakers of his divine nature (and here we fail again but the good news is Christ perfects us sinners). I hear about this Orthodox church that tells people they have to do things to be saved and the same time I am being preached to that there is nothing we can do to be saved. Were are saved by the mercy and grace of God, that encompasses much more than our choosing to “be saved” in encompasses God creating in us a new man by His grace. Perhaps you are losing people from your congregation because you don’t really have a grasp on who and what they are going too. It is easier just to assume they are lost to a bunch or works righteous heretics than face that you are lacking the fullness of the faith once and for all delievered. I suggest trying to get to know the clergy at your local Orthodox church, I have many reformed friends, some who are clergy. I think no less of them than they do of me and I certainly am not going to play God and say they don’t have faith.

    • The church is not identified by its clergy, but by the presence or otherwise of the gospel. If you have the clergy in an uninterrupted line from the apostles, but you do not have the gospel, what you have is damnation. It is the gospel, not the church, that points us to where the true church is.

  2. It was to the bishops that the faith was entrusted, the people being a royal priesthood also have their part in the maintaining that faith and gospel once and for all delivered. You will not find the church without the Gospel or the Gospel without the church. They are interdependent. Clearly history shows us orders within the church, clerics themselves have no special position other than servants of the servants of God. They can be correcred by the laity.

  3. In the Bible an episkopos and a prebuteros are the same thing – the minister in charge of a congregation. Those are the bishops whom God entrusted the gospel to. When the episkopoi lose touch with the gospel they cease to be transmitters of the gospel. A layman with the gospel in that case is greater than the Pope, and the Patriarchs of the East.

    The Orthodox Church is not in possession of the gospel, so it is not a true church of Christ. As the article states, the churches of Antioch and Constantinople have erred in matters of faith and morals. They do not teach or believe that justification is by grace alone through faith alone. By this article they show that they do not have the keys to the kingdom.

    The separation of bishops from elders is a post-apostolic development, and to read it back into the scripture is pure anachronism.

    • Curate, “They do not teach or believe that justification is by grace alone through faith alone”

      They, and Rome, believe in
      “justification by grace alone through faith.”

      Your contention is not with them but James who says,

      “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” James 2: 24

      • Here is a short and to the point statement (out of a good deal of many) from the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification…

        15… Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.[11]

  4. David, you have not addressed the argument in the post, or the scripture that I quoted. To merely say that the Orthodox church has clergy, therefore it has the gospel, is not an argument. It is a non-sequitur.

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