"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes I belong to the Methodist Church."
"You belong to what?"
"I belong to the Methodist Church."
"My friend, I understand from the New Testament that Jesus Christ saves His people from their sins and gives them a heavenly inheritance; that Christians are those who belong to Christ and to His saved people by repentance and faith in Him, and that those thus joined constitute His Church. Is that what you mean by saying you belong to the Methodist Church?"
"Yes, - or, - Well, I believe there are different branches of Christs Church, under different names, and that it is the duty of all to join the church of his choice; the one that believes nearest the Bible."
"And how came you by this belief?"
"Well, it always has been so, and always will be. People cant all see alike, and so they require different churches to suit their different beliefs."
"How do Christians find out what their duty is?"
"By the Bible."
"Does the Bible tell you to join the church of your choice? Does it intimate that Jesus has different churches to suit mans different beliefs? Does it say one word about a duty of Christians to join any church? Did Jesus pray five times in one prayer (John 17) that His disciples should all be one, and then send out His twelve apostles to organize twelve branches of the church to accommodate mans different views? What denomination did Paul join after he was converted? or Peter? or Timothy? or Titus? Do you read in the Acts, of seventeen Christian denominations in Ephesus? When the first symptoms of denominational divisions appeared at Corinth, did the apostles treat them as a providential arrangement to suit their natural differences, and did he urge on the Christians of Corinth the "duty" of joining them? Instead of this he points to denominationalism as proof that they are "yet carnal and walk as men" (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Of course, men, natural, unregenerate men, differ in their beliefs, but real salvation made "the multitude of them that believed OF ONE HEART AND ONE SOUL." (Acts 4:32). And so Paul is grieved and astonished to see his beloved brethren acting like unconverted men, and exclaims: "I beseech you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER IN THE SAME MIND AND IN THE SAME JUDGMENT." Impossible! says the wise men of the world; impossible says the devil, and so it is for all the philosophies and all the religions of men, but it is an accomplished fact whenever and wherever the glorious gospel of the grace of God is permitted to exercise its transforming and saving power in the hearts and lives or man.
Christs Church is an altogether different institution from all man-made churches.
Here are some vital marks of distinction:
THE TRUE CHURCH IS
Gods house, temple, dwelling place on earth. (1 Tim. 3:15)
Built of living stones through the Spirit. (1 Peter 2:5; Eph. 2:22)
Christ is its Rock foundation. (1 Cor. 3:11)
It is Christs body, of which He is the only Head. (Col. 1:18)
He only admits the members, everyone whom is saved. (1 Cor. 12:18; Acts 2:47)
It is a unit, one body. (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 20)
Salvation from sin and mutual love are proofs of membership and tests of mutual recognition. (Matt. 1:21; John 13:34, 35; 1 Peter 1:2, 3)
Its record is kept in heaven; God Himself writes it. (Phil. 4:3)
Jesus is its only mediatorial priest, hence all Christians are called priests unto God, because access to God, once the peculiar privilege of the priesthood, is now open to all. Having no intervening priesthood, Christs Church has no external rites. (Heb. 7:12-28; and chapters 8, 9 and 10; Eph. 2:12-15; Col. 2:13-17)
Its ministry are not mediators or lords over Gods heritage, but examples and feeders of the flock of God, not of man nor by men. (1 Peter 5:1-5; Gal. 1:1; Acts 20:28)
The motive power that runs this Church is DIVINE LOVE. (2 Cor. 5:14)
Money is not mentioned in the New Testament as a requisite to its maintenance or success.
It is absolutely separate from the state and independent of political patronage.
Being a spiritual and not a temporal institution, many temporal things are used in Scripture as figures to illustrate it: as a building, the physical body, etc. In these figures the unity of the Church; its divine source and authority, its permanence, its purity and separation in spirit and practice from an ungodly world are conspicuously set forth.
When you have studied well the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ in the light of the above and connected Scriptures, compare that Church with the so-called churches of today and you will find that they are OPPOSITE IN EVERY ESSENTIAL PARTICULAR! These "Churches" are man-made, man admits and sets the members, "everyone of them" as it pleases him. Their record is on earth and not in heaven, "because they have forsaken the Lord" (Jer. 17:13). Human popes and lords officiate as heads of these Churches. They consist in divisions and sub-divisions, their name is "legion", for they are many. Salvation from sin and mutual love are not marks or tests of membership. The divine call to the ministry goes unrecognized; human credentials only count. So the contrast appears in everything. How amazing that Bible readers should mistake these institutions for Christs Church.
When Christ saves people from their sins He puts them in living fellowship with all His saints. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him!" Standfast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.""
- By Burnell D. Johnson (B. D. Johnson)
Reprint from: "Some Words of Truth" Dec. 1, 1966; a "Sound Words" publication.