The Gospel And The True Church
by Miles McKee
... And this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23: 6)
“Here’s something we must learn, going to Church and being good will not give you access to God. The only access we can have is if we have the righteousness of Christ? Nothing but Christ! Nothing but Christ! We need Christ alone and Christ only to be our righteousness.”
George Whitfield: Sermons upon the text Jeremiah 23:6, "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Often, in the course of my ministry, I’ve been asked, “Which is the true church?” That’s a great question! After all, in America alone there are, according to the Encyclopedia of American Religions, over 15,000 denominations, sects and groups.
I remember growing up in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland being fully persuaded God was, ‘one like unto us’, a good Presbyterian. That was all well and good until one day I met some folk who were equally certain the Almighty was a Methodist. Then the Elim Pentecostals came along with an implied conviction that God was one of their number, following which some Roman Catholics friends declared God to be, without doubt, one of them since He had, they claimed, founded their Church.
So back to the question, which is the “True Church”? Before we come to that answer, it’s important to recognize the question lurking behind that question. What so very often is really being asked is, “To which Church do I need to belong in order to be right with God?” Perhaps you yourself have sometimes thought, “If God has a true church out there then I need to belong to it.” The Cults are well aware of the, “True Church” idea and, in fact, massage it for all it’s worth. They say they are the true church and everyone else is wrong. The bottom line with these groups is they claim God has raised them up and it is therefore incumbent upon all of us to join their number.
Of course, we must face the claims of any group designating themselves as ‘The True Church’ with the simple question "are they or are they not?" If they are correct, and they are the ‘True Church’ then we all should join them. After all, if God has set them on earth as His ‘True Church’ then we really ought to be a part of what God is doing. In fact we have no business being separated from them. If, however, they are not the ‘True Church’ as they claim, we must equally recognize that they are the offspring of Hell, spawned by the Devil the Father of Lies and we have no business being joined to them. It matters not if the Church in question traces its origin to antiquity or is of the ‘Johnny Come Lately’ variety, if they falsely claim themselves to be the ‘True Church’ outside of which there is no salvation then let them be accursed (Gal 1:6-8).
But how do we know whether or not they are false? It’s really quite simple. We must measure them by the Gospel. They claim salvation is in them but the Bible claims salvation is in Christ (Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved Acts 4:12). Yes, but they say Christ founded their Church and the way to get to Christ is by being in their number. They are the ones, they say, who have been entrusted to impart grace to their members. What utter nonsense! The last time I counted there was still only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). The ‘True Church’, however, claims to be the mediator. It is through the church and its servants, they say, that grace is freely dispensed.
It all sounds plausible enough, especially if you haven’t read the Scriptures, but even a casual read of the Bible will tell you that redemption is in Christ Jesus and not in a Church. Eph 1:7 is clear on this point saying of Christ Jesus,
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
The command of the New Testament is to,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, (not the church,) and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).
Never ever do the Apostles direct people to put their confidence in the Church. The Church was not nailed to the cross, Christ was.
Jesus Christ is always the object of true faith. He, not any church, is the rock on which we rest with full confidence. We are to look “unto Jesus (not the church) the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). Jesus said, “Come unto ME (not the church) and I (not the church) will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)
The ‘True Church’ is in Jesus Christ! All who have trusted in Him and His substitutionary work on their behalf are already in that ‘True Church’. And since we are already members of the True Church we don’t have to join somebody’s notion of the same. Writing to the believers in Corinth Paul says,
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27).
Again he writes to the Ephesians,
“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones (Eph 5:30).
Paul again speaks to the Colossians about the True Church saying,
“And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church:” (Col 1:18).
All believers are joined in union with Christ. We are in fact “in Christ”. In Him we are members of the True Church, therefore, to trust in membership of some earthly organization, no matter how ancient, is to desert and abandon the Gospel.
It may be of interest to read, in this regard, what the Roman Catholic Church has to say about herself and her identity as the ‘True Church’. The following quotations are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1994. This is not, as some sensitive souls may suggest, to pick on Roman Catholics but merely to quote, from her own materials, what Rome clearly teaches about herself.
Paragraph 181 "Believing" is an ecclesial act. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church (Roman Catholic) as Mother’”
Paragraph 778. "The Church (Roman Catholic) is both the means and the goal of God's plan: prefigured in creation, prepared for in the Old Covenant, founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming cross and his Resurrection, the Church (Roman Catholic) has been manifested as the mystery of Salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Paragraph 816. "'The sole Church of Christ (is that) which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.'[LG 8 # 2.]
Paragraph 830. "The word 'catholic' means 'universal,' in the sense of 'according to the totality' or 'in keeping with the whole.' The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. 'Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.'[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8, 2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 311.] In her subsists the fullness of Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him 'the fullness of the means of Salvation'
And from the Catholic Encyclopedia,
‘.only by entering the Church (Roman Catholic) can we participate in the redemption wrought for us by Christ.’ (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Section 6 of The Church)
‘Incorporation with the Church (Roman Catholic) can alone unite us to the family of the second Adam, and alone can engraft us into the true Vine.’ (ibid)
‘Union with the Church (Roman Catholic) is not merely one out of various means by which salvation may be obtained: it is the only means.’ (Ibid).
But of course Rome does not stand alone in her denial of and opposition to the Gospel. There are many Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal groups who do exactly the same as they claim for themselves the honor of being the ‘True Church’. Again let us be clear on the matter, if they are the ‘True Church’ we should join them; if they are not then we must recognize they are going forth deceived and to deceive and no Gospel believing Christian can therefore afford to associate with their systems. We must learn to judge all things by the gospel!
The ‘True Church’ doctrine and the Gospel are diametrically opposed to each other. They both offer the same thing ---acceptance with God; both can’t be true. Either acceptance with God is found in Christ or by belonging to the ‘True Church’----either or….take your pick! If a church can make you accepted with God you don’t need Jesus.
The ‘True Church’, regardless of the name on the front door, claims to alone have got it right. One of the great evils of this doctrine is that it tends to give birth to tyranny. It has been said, “The worst possible tyranny is a religious one.” This is so true! When the Church represents itself as having power over souls and the eternal destiny of its adherents then it can rule its people with an iron fist. When the members view themselves as being in the ‘True Church‘, then they will find it difficult to leave no matter how distasteful they find the church. In their minds if they leave they are facing hell fire. That is true bondage and tyranny and is far removed from the freedom of the Gospel!
Another problem with the "True Church Teaching" is that being a member of their number unavoidably makes one elite. After all, they are God’s special people on the earth, His True Church, whom He must look upon with joy and special favor. This kind of thinking therefore finds itself in direct competition with the Gospel. In fact there is no room for the Gospel in the ‘True Church’ because there’s too much rivalry. After all, the Gospel confers special status on everyone who by faith accepts Jesus Christ as their substitute and savior. In the Gospel, special status is found exclusively in Christ alone. This kind of teaching is a threat to the ‘True Church’ teaching because if people begin to grasp the truth of the Gospel then there is no further need for the ‘True Church’: It becomes redundant. No longer will the ‘Church’ be needed to get one right with God. That means membership would drop when people found out the way to God was in a Person not in a church. And if, God forbid, attendance dropped so would the income. That’s all too risky a prospect. And that is why any group claiming to be the ‘True Church” will never preach the Gospel and that is also why any church which preaches and expounds the Gospel can never fall for the error of the ‘True Church’ doctrine. And that’s the Gospel Truth!
Permission is given by the author, Miles McKee, to copy this article if it is done in its entirety without any changes.
Permission is also given post this article in its entirety on Internet Web Pages.