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What are the marks of a biblical church? – by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

Puritan Worship

A look at how the church is portrayed in the Bible – an outline.

What are the marks of a biblical church?
by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

Does your church show forth the fruit of those marks?

Is Christ really building a church out of your “church”?

Jesus Christ is fitting stones together to make a spiritual house. The Puritans were very particular about the house they worshipped in. They desired the church that Christ was building to be as free as humanly possible from any non-biblical influence in its worship, structure and polity. Below is the biblical criteria for the church, including a section on the “Regulatory Principle” of the church for worship. Examine your church against the biblical backdrop and see if it truly measures up. For if Jesus Christ is not building the church, then the people are attending there in vain.

The Marks of a Biblical Church

I. The Text Opened 1 Timothy 3:15, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

A. What is the Pillar and Ground of Truth?

1. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know” ei;dw • 1) to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive

2. “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God,” dei/ • 1) it is necessary, there is need of; 2) avnastre,fw • to conduct one’s self, behave one’s self, live 3) Literally “house of God”

3. “which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

a) The church is the “pillar” and “support”

B. How does this Text refer to the True Church?

1. A true church is one which is the support of God’s Word.

a) The Word needs to be protected by the church; Jude 3

b) True church upholds the truth which upholds it; Psalm 119:116

2. A False church does not uphold the truth of the Word of God.

a) 1 John 1:6-7

b) It is not enough to have a building, people, a preacher and pulpit. You must have the truth.

II. The Doctrine from the Text

A. The True Church established by Jesus Christ as the pillar and ground of the truth has six significant marks as the pillar and ground of the truth.

1. The true Biblical preaching of the Word

a) 1 Peter 1:25

b) 2 John 1:9

(1) “hath not God” is a serious accusation, but true.

c) The absolute and most important of them all.

(1) Why? –the shaping of minds, the requirements given, the consolation freely offered.

(2) The giving of the Gospel to be true and pure. The doctrines of grace must be present here or a false gospel is being propagated.

(3) Churches forfeit their identity when they forfeit preaching the true Gospel.

(a) And poor saints of God are like Lot; tortured souls among ravenous wolves.

(i) It is the doctrines of the bible alone which save souls, convert wayward minds, and strengthens the faithful.

(4) Grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, stated in the Scriptures alone.

2. The Biblical administration of the sacraments

a) Acts 2:42 – Baptism

(1) Repentance and Baptism by immersion, sprinkling, or effusion.

(2) The immediate outward sign of true inward faith, or by the faith of one’s parents.

(3) The corruption of this can be seen among Roman Catholics, and Absolute Heretic Baptizers.

b) 1 Cor. 11:23-30 – Lord’s Supper

(1) Fencing the Table a must; the right attitude, and right knowledge of coming to the table.

(2) The command that “drink ye all” (unlike Roman Catholics); that all are commanded to partake and remember, Christians are never to neglect the table of the Lord.

3. The faithful exercise of Biblical discipline.

a) Matthew 18:18

b) Titus 3:10

(1) Teaching Christians

(2) Christians who need to be corrected when they wander from the pillar and ground of truth.

(3) Ravenous wolves come in and begin to destroy the flock if they are not protected.

(4) Some people do not like to “judge” others in truth—which is sin since Christ told us that the church is lawfully to judge according to church discipline.

(a) Fear of men often is a cause of this

(i) As well as a lack of fear of God

4. Strong Biblical Leadership

a) 2 Tim. 4:1-4

(1) It is the case today that itching ears are scratched.

(2) Churches are started because men fancy their own opinions, and their own doctrine, and heap up or gather around them others who like to preach this error and find worldly comfort in it.

(3) An example would be going to a worship service where a song from Billy Joel (“Honesty”) was sung because the sermon was going to be about lying.

(4) Those who do not exercise church discipline

when needed are cowards; they are required to show men their sin as Pastors of flock of God-as they have been ordained to do so in meekeness and quientness of spirit.

(5) These are usually unlearned men who have no business being in the pulpit, and who do not have the basics of knowledge.

(6) Or they are whimpy men who allow the church to dictate what they should do nor not do.

(i) Far better for a man to be ejected from the pulpit than give into such wickedness. Pastors who allow such rebellion in are no pastors.

(ii) Would you like the learned surgeon to come operate on you, or Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curley Howard to take up bedside manners on behalf of your serious operation?

(a) Pastors are to be one in a thousand according to Job 33:23-24

(b) Pastors should be those who are able not only to teach, but to lead men willingly.

(c) 2 Tim. 2:24-25a- for without this they can do nothing.

5. A Heart and Zeal for Biblical Missions

a) Psalm 96:3

b) Matthew 16:18

c) Does a church have a heart to outwardly express the love of Christ to the World?

(1) Often Calvinism and the doctrines of grace, shallowly understood, turn a church to look too much inwardly, at the expense of not looking outwardly to the world.

(2) Certainly churches should look inward, but not only.

(a) If a church does not have a right, Biblical expression of Missions its not a church. And churches should be intricately involved with those the church sends.

(b) Missions should be founded and laid in the worship of God—how could any church ever do that by handing a check to an associational office?

(3) How do the doctrines of grace manifest themselves in your church practically and outwardly?

(a) Many do not understand all of them. Those who understand them doctrinally do not know how to express them practically. A Danger!

6. A Right Expression of Biblical Worship

a) John 4:24

b) The church is to be the pillar and the ground of truth!

c) If the aforementioned is true, then the expression of the church would then be Biblical whole-hearted worship of Christ.

d) Christ- the sin bearer, the Redeemer, desires an expression of worship by the truth of His Word.

(1) It is the foundation of life itself. See the link in the margin for a section on the Regulatory Principle..

Does you church meet these 6 criteria?

1. True Biblical Preaching

2. The Right Administration of the Sacraments

3. The Faithful exercise of church discipline

4. Strong Biblical Leadership

5. A Heart and Zeal for Biblical Missions

6. Biblical Worship

If your church does not outwardly exemplify these six areas, then it is not a place that Christ is building as His church. Remember, its not your church, its His.

Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind