Finding a Truly Biblical Church (1)

PMT 2013-045b Jeffrey K. Boer

What are the important things to look for in a church? If you talk to ten different people, you’ll get eleven different answers. That’s why we must look to the Bible for the answer to that question. God’s word has a lot to say about what His church is supposed to be like. We should find and join the church in our area that most nearly approximates the biblical picture of what the church should be. Choosing a church home is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime. It should be done carefully and prayerfully, keeping in mind the following biblical guidelines:

1. Biblical Standard of Truth

II Peter 1:21 says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Because God inspired men to write the Scriptures, every word of the Bible is the word of God and is true and trustworthy. Everything we believe and teach regarding faith and life must be based on the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible. We certainly must not ignore tradition and the wisdom of our forefathers, but we must test everything by the Scriptures as the final touchstone of truth.

2. Biblical Preaching

Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

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In a faithful Church you will hear the word of Jesus Christ faithfully proclaimed, morning and evening, every Lord’s day. This proclamation is founded upon a careful exegesis (interpretation) of the original Hebrew and Greek biblical texts.

II Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

In keeping with this practice, our denomination (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) only allows doctrinally sound, properly trained, godly men to be ordained as preachers of the word of God. Although women are not less wise or less intelligent than men, the Scriptures teach clearly that women may not exercise authority over men in the church through the ordained offices of minister, ruling elder or deacon.

I Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man….”

Women may have many duties and responsibilities in the church, however, which do not violate this principle of God’s word.

3. Biblical Creeds

II Timothy 1:13-14 says, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

In a faithful church you will receive teaching and instruction that is “orthodox,” meaning “fully in line with the Scriptures.” In a day when new doctrines are springing up all around us and beliefs are changing like crazy, the true church must hold to and teach that biblical system of doctrine found in the Scriptures. We believe that the biblical system of truth was very clearly and helpfully summarized over 300 years ago in those creeds called the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, to which we still subscribe today. (We believe that several other creeds, such as the Canons of Dort, the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, are also agreeable to the word of God and provide excellent summaries of scriptural doctrine.)

Some churches today claim that they have “no creed but Christ” or “no creed but the Bible.” What this usually means, however, is that there is no standard by which to discipline false interpretations of Scripture, since preachers can always say they’re preaching the Bible “as they interpret it.” When it comes right down to it, everybody has a creed (or an interpretation of Scripture) of some kind. Some are simply unwilling to put theirs down in writing, so that you can compare it to what the Scriptures actually say.

The ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, agree to preach and teach in accordance with the interpretation of the Bible found in the Westminster Standards, or else they are subject to the discipline of the church. The Westminster Standards were written and agreed upon by many orthodox Christian scholars from several different countries who studied and debated these matters for over five years. It is foolish for men to neglect this corporate wisdom of our forefathers which Christ has seen fit to give to His body, the Church. If you want a concise account of the proper interpretation of what the whole Bible teaches, you won’t find a better summary than the Westminster Standards.

4. Biblical Understanding of Salvation

Ephesians 2:1-10 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves [i.e., even this faith is not of our own doing], it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

This passage of Scripture stands squarely opposed to the Arminian teachings of many churches which say that man is able to choose to believe in God as an act of man’s own free will. The Scriptures are clear that man is dead in his sin and that God saves those whom He chooses to elect by His sovereign will in predestination. Salvation is of God.

Ephesians 1:4-5 puts this very plainly: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

This means that our salvation is 100% grace, not a combination of God’s gracious offer of salvation plus man’s work of faith. Faith is a gift, given by God’s gracious choosing. No one deserves this gift, so those who are not chosen cannot claim that God is unjust. And those who are chosen must give all the credit to God for saving them.

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4 thoughts on “Finding a Truly Biblical Church (1)

  1. Steve Macias December 28, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Ecumenical Creeds & 39 Articles?

    No mention of the Sacraments?

  2. T. Aidan McGuire December 28, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Great Article! I just have one question, you said “In a faithful Church you will hear the word of Jesus Christ faithfully proclaimed, morning and evening, every Lord’s day.” This maybe too nit-picky of me but where in the Bible do you get the “morning and evening thing? Or is this just tradition? And how strictly should that be followed?

  3. Kenneth Gentry December 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I don’t believe it is mandatory that we have two worship services on Sunday, but I do see it as a good thing to do. And it is based on biblical practice. In Lev 6:20; 2 Ki 16:15; 1 Ch 16:40; 2 Ch 2:4; 13:11; etc we read of offerings in the evening and the morning. In 1 Ch 23:30 the Levites are to praise God in both morning and evening. And in Acts 28:23 Paul preached the word in Rome from morning to evening.

  4. Kenneth Gentry December 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Stay tuned. This is a four part series. I accidentally forgot to mention that.

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