What is the true church of Jesus Christ and where is it to be found? That is a difficult but important question - a question that must be asked as far as membership in the visible church is concerned, but which is very often not so easy to answer.
What makes this question the more difficult is the fact that it is possible for a church, which was once the church of Christ, to become the false church. Christ warns the church of Ephesus of this possibility in Revelation 2:5.
That the church of Ephesus was in danger of becoming the false church is evident from the fact that Christ threatens to remove its candlestick. Those candlesticks were pictures of the true church, burning with the oil of the Spirit (Heb. 1:9; cf. also Zech. 4:1-6) and a light in the world (Matt. 5:14). The church of Ephesus was in danger of losing both Spirit and light. That the church there was threatened with the removal of that candlestick from its place, meant that it would not longer be Christ's. He would no longer walk in it (Rev. 1:12, 13). In the same manner Christ threatens to spit the church of Laodicea out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16).
What is so frightening in the case of these two churches is the fact that Christ threatens them with judgment for losing their first love (Rev. 2:4) and for lukewarmness and carnal security (Rev. 3:16, 17). No doubt there are many churches today that are in danger of coming under the same judgments and for the same reasons.
The true church of Christ, therefore, is that church which keeps its first love (2:4), does what Christ commands (Rev. 2:5), is faithful (2:10), repents of its sins (2:16), holds fast what it has (2:25), is watchful (3:3), whose members do not defile their garments (3:4), keeps Christ's word and does not deny His name (3:8). There are not many such today.
It is evident, however, from these passages that not all churches are equally pure. The churches which Christ addresses in Revelation 2 and 3 range from those against which He has no complaint, to those which are threatened with destruction. Nevertheless, they are all still addressed as churches, as is also the church of Corinth with all its problems in Paul's two Epistles to that church.
This is important. It means that in searching for the true church we are not searching for a perfect church. As long as there is sin in the world and also in God's people, such a church cannot be found, and we must not turn the search for a true church into a search for a perfect church, as many do. Then we will be members of no church.
This is important also, because it means that no church or denomination can claim (as Rome does and as some Protestant churches also do) to be the only true church of Christ. There is a wide range of churches, more or less pure and true, that represent at least to some degree the church of Christ.
Nevertheless, Christ's words to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 make it clear that both in seeking church membership and in fulfilling the responsibilities of church membership, we must seek purity, truth and faithfulness for His sake.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 15
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA