The short answer is that the Bible gives sufficient information about the really important qualities of the church to allow one to recognize whether one is dealing with a church as described in the New Testament, or an institution which is more or less of human design. At least five important characteristics of New Testament churches are easily identified in Scripture. They are:
1. The nature of the church
2. The relationship of local churches
3. The divine plan for leadership
4. Roles and relationships among the people
5. The mission of the church
The fact that it is revealed that there is intense spiritual warfare waged against whatever God is building, accounts for the fact that there are many counterfeits in the world purporting to be the true church.
If you’re looking for a short article on the subject, please begin here.
For a more extended discussion, including the five characteristics of New Testament churches, please see here.
Unleavened Bread and the Lord’s Supper
The question is sometimes asked as to why certain churches use unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper while others use regular bread. All agree that no passage in the New Testament requires the use of either one or the other; thus the decision must be based on other considerations. The reasoning in favor of using unleavened bread is that since leaven is a picture of evil in the Bible, and the Supper was instituted at the time of the Jewish Passover making it likely that this was what the Lord used; we ought to do the same today. Sounds reasonable on the surface, but let’s take a look.
Truth has some attractive qualities; it will eventually win, and it will always remain. Because Christ is The Truth, and because the true church is the Bride of Christ, the church shares in these qualities. There will be no divorce. That is one reason why some people are so concerned to promote right thinking about the church. Not everything that is called the church is the church – unfortunately. Some people “get it,” and because they are not primarily part of any denomination or “movement,” it is impossible to count them. But it is not difficult to recognize them. They can be found in every part of the world, even buried deeply in all sorts of human institutions. But at least in principle, they get it, and sooner or later, they will break free from whatever is not permanent; they will break free in this life or the next. Things that are not and can never be part of the true church, the Bride, cannot see the kingdom of God, so must be left behind. Actually, the sooner the better.
But, by God’s grace working with imperfect people, they produce fruit. All kinds of fruit. Always it has to do with nourishing and cleansing the Bride in preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom. We can never list nor even discover all the different sorts of fruit they produce, but by their fruits we can know them. This area is one small place where people who work hard to “build, bind, and beautify” the bride, as one missionary statesman put it, can be noted. Not that they seek recognition. They don’t. But people who hunger for the truth about the church can be helped and encouraged by knowing them, watching them, and listening to them. It’s something we can do.
Ages ago, God was pleased to dwell in buildings that people constructed. Much is written about these buildings in the Old Testament Scriptures. But in the present age, God has revealed that “things” are going to be burned up; Every thing! So God now dwells in people and among His people. For this reason, we cannot speak of “holy places” and “sanctuaries” today – although some people still do, but we can appreciate that even places and things may be set aside or consecrated for the Lord’s purposes. Really, there is no limit to the number of neutral things and places that can be devoted to the Lord.
This is a good site to feature a small sampling of the sort of places where one will find believers who understand the New Testament church and who value the fellowship of others who do too. They might be local church places of gathering, or camps or conference centers or mission works or countless other locations, but they all in their own way embrace the principle of the New Testament church, and resist the pull of this world’s “church” with all its politics, greed and grasping for notoriety.
Anyone who enjoys working with tools, can appreciate the fine workmanship that is possible with the right tool if it is clean and sharp, and found in the hands of a worker with skill. Similarly, tools that are dull and unsuited for the work at hand can make a real mess, especially if found in unskilled hands. Christians are, among other things, servants with work to do. In order to serve the Lord – which actually means serving His Bride, they need good training and good tools.
Books are tools, and there have always been books; good ones and worthless ones. But in this day, there are all sorts of useful tools that can do amazing things if properly used. But how to find them? The address where they reside are called “links” or computer addresses. This will be a good place to post some links that lead to helpful resources.