IDENTIFYING THE ONE TRUE CHURCH

     The fact that the church exists, naturally implies that it had to have begun somewhere, at some time, in some place, by someone having founded it. Yet, there are many religious groups claiming to be the one, true church, or true religion. How can there be so many claiming the same thing? Is it possible to have more than one? Everyone wants to think they belong to the right church, but, is it even possible to identify the right one? Friend, it is possible to identify it and there can only be one. We simply must ask a few questions and then look in the Bible for the answers. These are questions like, “Who established the church? Where and when did it begin? How many were established?” At that point, we can compare what we have discovered in the Bible to what the other religions claim. This is such an important matter, because according to the Scriptures, identifying the Lord’s true church is paramount to one’s salvation, (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:10; Ephesians 5:30).
    Let’s begin our study by looking at specific things Jesus said about the church. As we mentioned last week, the first time we encounter the word “church” is in Matthew 16:18. “And I also tell you, that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” (Matthew 16:18).
     The first thing that should stand out in our minds is Jesus used the word, “I” in reference to building the church. In simple terms, Jesus Christ Himself would build the church. It would not be some man-made institution, a sect, a cult, nor a continuation of the current religious system of the time (Judaism), but rather, a divine creation of His own doing. Jesus also had no connection to the religious sects of His day, nor did He establish any of them. This alone should tell us who the church belongs to, it belongs to Jesus (Ephesians 1:22,23). It is the church of Christ, which is a description of what it is, not necessarily a formal title (Romans 16:16). No church, or any religious system, that cites someone else as its founder, or head, can claim to be the true church of the Bible. That distinction belongs solely to Jesus. Yet, sadly, there is no denying that such religious institutions do exist today.
    The second thing we should notice is, Jesus said He “will build” the church – future tense. This implies it did not exist at the time He spoke those words. We can also infer from this statement His intentions did not include an extension of, or a supplementation to Judaism. It would be something entirely different (Luke 22:20; Colossians 2:14). But, that brings up another question, “Well then, when did He establish the church?” The answer is, again, found in the Bible. Read the following verses, Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:8; and Acts 2:1-6, 37-41, 47; Acts 5:11, 8:1. Notice the day mentioned? Where did it take place? Then, both Acts 2:47 and 5:11 identify these new believers as “the church.” All of this is after the ascension of Jesus. So, did He still build His church, or did someone else? Jesus did because He said He would send the Helper/Comforter to help the disciples (John 14:16,26, 15:26, 16:7). Any religious body claiming to be the Lord’s church that didn’t start in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, is making a false claim.
    Thirdly, notice that the word “church” is singular? It is not plural. Jesus did not say, “my churches.” Instead, he said, “my church.” What does that teach us? It teaches the same thing Ephesians 4:4-6 teaches us – there is only one! Therefore, it is impossible for more than one to be accurate. If the Bible says there is only one, yet, multiple groups claim to be that one, with each still having distinct differences existing between them, then how is one to determine which is the correct church? Again, the answer is rather simple, measure it with the Bible! Read and investigate what the church of the Bible looks like, what they did, how they worshiped, when and where they met, what they called themselves, and who were the members. Then, compare those findings (the pattern, or model) with the various groups claiming to be the true church. If they don’t match up with exactly what is in the Bible, then how can they say they are the Lord’s church? They cannot.
    If one will take the time to study what the Bible says about the church, then it can certainly be unmistakably identified. If it can be identified with all certainty, then one can be certain they are in the right church – the one of which God approves. It is the true body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) of which the saved belong (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:30).