||2018-01-23 18:55:03, 조회 : 326, 추천 : 101
What is the Church
The Marks of a True Church
Last week, we learned about what it means to be servants of the Lord. We learned that we are all servants of the same Lord and that it was He that purchased us. Thus, Apostle Paul refers himself and believers as "slaves" of God. Apostle Paul reminds us that "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Today, we will complete our chapter of "What is the Church" by discussing the marks of a true church.
We often hear many people saying, "I am not happy with the church I attend" or "I do not like the preaching or messages that are given at my church." Is it possible for a church not to be a church? This question may sound rather silly, but it is this precise question that drove the sixteenth century Reformation. The Protestant reformers at that time divided into many different groups. Each group carried different confessions and creeds. However, each group regarded themselves to be Christian churches and the "true church." How do we know whether or not a church is a authentic or true church?
During this time, the Reformers faced much scrutiny because Rome did not consider the Protestant churches as a true church. Rome had several criteria’s for a church to be considered authentic. It states, "Where the bishop is, there is the church, and if there is no authorization by a Roman bishop, then whatever societies spring up are not valid churches." On the other hand, the Reformers had some different criteria to make a true church:
1) A church that preaches the gospel faithfully.
2) A church that administers the sacraments correctly.
3) A church that practices "authentic discipline" of the people.
What does it mean for a church to proclaim the gospel "faithfully?" This means that the church is not just simply sharing the news about Jesus, His death and atonement. Rather, "the faithful proclamation of the essential truth of Christianity." Therefore, if a church denies one of the essential truths like the deity of Christ, then they will not be considered a church.
What does it mean for a church to administer the sacraments correctly? The Reformers believed that if sacraments like the Lord's Supper or baptisms were not administered, then it will not be considered a church. Therefore, groups like Ligonier Ministry would not be considered a church because they do not carry out sacraments. Instead, they are there to educate those and assist the church. Sproul says that "the serving of the sacraments is a task for the church."
What does it mean for a church to practice authentic discipline of the people? Often times people misconstrue what it means to discipline. Therefore, many churches attempt to stray away from disciplining it's people. During the sixteenth century, the churches used as means necessary in order to discipline its people. While it appeared harsh and unjustly, Sproul says that "the Church really believed that it was justifiable to use almost any means necessary to rebuke and discipline its members in order to keep them out of the jaws of hell." However, nowadays we find that churches do not seem to take hell seriously, thus, they do not take the disciplining of their members seriously either. When it comes to discipline, the church tends to be either very extreme or very passive. For example, nowadays, the church is rarely seen disciplining the people. On the other hand, during the sixteenth century, the discipline was considered cruel and harsh. A while ago, a group of pastors and scholars gathered information together in order to redefine the “Christian sexual ethic of one man and one woman for life in marriage.” While the proposal was rejected, the church did not discipline those who took this position. Sproul says, “The church was in effect saying, ‘This is not our official position, but if you want to be a minister in our denomination and hold and teach these things, we’re not going to do anything about it.’” Unfortunately, the absence of discipline happened a lot in history and modern-day church.
What happens if the church fails to discipline its members? What we find today, are many churches “playing loosely with the essential truths of the Christian faith.” It is important at this point to define formal apostasy (de facto) and material apostasy (de jure). Sproul defines formal apostasy is when the “church clearly and unequivocally denies an essential truth of the Christian faith.” Material apostasy is at the “practical level” where the “creeds are intact but the church doesn’t believe the creeds anymore. The church undermines the very creeds that they say that they believe.”
With this problem, we often find many people leaving their churches in order to attend another. One way one ought to leave their church is by looking at the marks of their church. Sproul suggests several questions you can ask yourself: Is the gospel preached? Are the sacraments duly administered? Is there a biblical form of church government and discipline? These are the components that mark a true church.
1. How did the Roman Church define a true church?
2. How did the Reformers define a true church? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
3. What does it mean for the church to proclaim the gospel faithfully?
4. Do you think it is important for the church to discipline its member? Why or why not?