Finding a Truly Biblical Church
Rev. Jeffrey K. Boer, B.A., M.Div., D.Min.
What are the important things to look for in a church? If you talk to ten different people, you’ll get ten different answers. That’s why we must look to the Bible for the answer to that question. God’s word has a lot to say about what His church is supposed to be like. We should find and join the church in our area that most nearly approximates the biblical picture of what the church should be. If you live in our area, we heartily recommend that you join and attend Sharon Church since Sharon Church seeks to follow these biblical guidelines in each area. If you live somewhere else, our hope and prayer is that this paper may be of some use to you in comparing the various churches around you. Choosing a church home is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime. It should be done carefully and prayerfully, keeping in mind the following biblical guidelines:
1. Biblical Standard of Truth
II Peter 1:21 says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Because God inspired men to write the Scriptures, every word of the Bible is the word of God and is true and trustworthy. Everything we believe and teach regarding faith and life must be based on the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible. We certainly must not ignore tradition and the wisdom of our forefathers, but we must test everything by the Scriptures as the final touchstone of truth.
2. Biblical Preaching
Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
In a faithful Church you will hear the word of Jesus Christ faithfully proclaimed, morning and evening, every Lord’s day. This proclamation is founded upon a careful exegesis (interpretation) of the original Hebrew and Greek biblical texts.
II Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
In keeping with this practice, our denomination (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) only allows doctrinally sound, properly trained, godly men to be ordained as preachers of the word of God. Although women are not less wise or less intelligent than men, the Scriptures teach clearly that women may not exercise authority over men in the church through the ordained offices of minister, ruling elder or deacon.
I Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man....”
Women may have many duties and responsibilities in the church, however, which do not violate this principle of God’s word.
3. Biblical Creeds
II Timothy 1:13-14 says, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
In a faithful church you will receive teaching and instruction that is “orthodox,” meaning “fully in line with the Scriptures.” In a day when new doctrines are springing up all around us and beliefs are changing like crazy, the true church must hold to and teach that biblical system of doctrine found in the Scriptures. We believe that the biblical system of truth was very clearly and helpfully summarized over 300 years ago in those creeds called the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, to which we still subscribe today. (We believe that several other creeds, such as the Canons of Dort, the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, are also agreeable to the word of God and provide excellent summaries of scriptural doctrine.)
Some churches today claim that they have “no creed but Christ” or “no creed but the Bible.” What this usually means, however, is that there is no standard by which to discipline false interpretations of Scripture, since preachers can always say they’re preaching the Bible “as they interpret it.” When it comes right down to it, everybody has a creed (or an interpretation of Scripture) of some kind. Some are simply unwilling to put theirs down in writing, so that you can compare it to what the Scriptures actually say.
The ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, agree to preach and teach in accordance with the interpretation of the Bible found in the Westminster Standards, or else they are subject to the discipline of the church. The Westminster Standards were written and agreed upon by many orthodox Christian scholars from several different countries who studied and debated these matters for over five years. It is foolish for men to neglect this corporate wisdom of our forefathers which Christ has seen fit to give to His body, the Church. If you want a concise account of the proper interpretation of what the whole Bible teaches, you won’t find a better summary than the Westminster Standards.
4. Biblical Understanding of Salvation
Ephesians 2:1-10 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.... For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves [i.e., even this faith is not of our own doing], it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
This passage of Scripture stands squarely opposed to the Arminian teachings of many churches which say that man is able to choose to believe in God as an act of man’s own free will. The Scriptures are clear that man is dead in his sin and that God saves those whom He chooses to elect by His sovereign will in predestination. Salvation is of God.
Ephesians 1:4-5 puts this very plainly: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
This means that our salvation is 100% grace, not a combination of God’s gracious offer of salvation plus man’s work of faith. Faith is a gift, given by God’s gracious choosing. No one deserves this gift, so those who are not chosen cannot claim that God is unjust. And those who are chosen must give all the credit to God for saving them.
5. Biblical Understanding of the Covenant
II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture [whether Old or New Testament] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be proficient, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
We believe that the one unchanging God has given us one consistent book of revelation composed of both Old and New Testaments. Many churches today primarily teach only the New Testament (dispensationalists, for example) or only the Old Testament (Jewish religions, for example). We believe that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals God’s one covenant of grace, unfolded in various stages throughout history. Old Testament and New Testament believers are all saved by the one Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Since there is one covenant of grace, there is also one covenant people, made up of all nationalities and all races.
Galatians 6:26-29 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the [covenant] promise.”
The Scriptures tell us that there are two covenant heads of mankind: Adam (the first Adam) and Christ (the second Adam).
Romans 5:18-19 teaches: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all men [that is, Adam’s sin was imputed to all men; his guilt was placed on their account because he was their covenant head], so also the result of one act of righteousness [Christ’s obedience] was justification that brings life for all men [that is, the righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, was imputed to all men who are “in Christ” by covenant]. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Because there are only two covenant heads of mankind, all mankind is under one or the other. Either we are still under the first Adam, by birth, and still in our sins, or we are under the second Adam, by new birth (which is the gift of God), and we have His righteousness. Churches which teach that the way of salvation for Jews is different from the way of salvation for Gentiles are guilty of chopping, twisting, and mutilating the word of God. This biblical understanding of the unity of the covenant of grace is absolutely necessary for a proper interpretation of the Bible and a proper understanding of salvation.
6. Biblical Worship
Deuteronomy 12:28, 31-32 says, “Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you.... You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates.... See that you do all that I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”
God is very much concerned about the manner in which we worship Him. These verses teach what is sometimes called the “regulative principle” of worship. God’s word must govern all our worship services on the Lord’s day (that is, we must do all that God commands and not do any things He doesn’t command or imply in worship). Since worship is the most important activity mankind will ever do, we must take special care that we do it in the way that God prescribes.
Worship services in a faithful church should not be side shows or entertainment. Worship should not be designed to attract crowds (although we certainly hope and pray that crowds will come) Rather, they should be structured in obedience to God’s commands regarding how we must worship. We should take care that God’s worship is led by God’s ordained servants in God’s prescribed way.
Although the Scriptures do not prescribe every detail as to the order of the various parts of worship, I Corinthians 14:40 does say, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
In keeping with this principle, faithful churches should follow the principles of worship which were recommended by our wise forefathers at the Westminster Assembly in the “Directory for the Public Worship of God” which they produced. These principles are also in keeping with the Scriptures and the OPC’s Directory for Worship.
7. Biblical View of Spiritual Gifts
I Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Every Christian is given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts are to be used for the benefit of the other members of the body and for the glory of God. The Scriptures indicate, however, that some of these gifts (particularly the gifts of special revelation) were temporary.
I Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies [that is, divinely inspired messages from God], they will cease; where there are tongues [that is, inspired prophecies spoken in foreign languages], they will be stilled; where there is knowledge [speaking here of inspired messages from God], it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
In other words, once God’s revelation was completed and the Scriptures were all written down, that “perfection” or “completion” of God’s word would be realized. Since that has occurred, these temporary and partial forms of revelation have disappeared. The same is true of the special signs and wonders and miracles that attested to the Christ’s divine authority given to the apostles.
II Corinthians 12:12 says, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.”
Hebrews 2:3 says, “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him [the apostles]. God also testified [past tense] to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
When the apostolic age ended and these new revelations of God in Scripture were completed, there was no longer any place for these special miracles and revelations. In a faithful church, the only inspired revelation that we should recognize as coming from God is His completed and sufficient written word (no more tongues or special prophetic messages are permitted after the completion of Scripture). And although God still brings about healing (sometimes in amazing and unexplained ways) in response to the prayers of His people, those special gifts of “miraculous” healings and those “signs and wonders” of the apostolic age no longer occur. In response to those who claim to have these gifts today, we simply state that we have not seen any modern day use of such gifts that even begins to compare with the tongues and miracles we see exercised in the days of the apostles. So whatever the modern phenomena are, they are not the biblical tongues and miracles. To desire and promote such things today, we believe, is tantamount to a denial of the sufficiency of the word of God in Scripture and is adding to that word. Although many churches, in sincerity and with good intentions, permit and even encourage such practices today, we believe that they violate God’s word.
8. Biblical Music
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
We believe that music in worship is not designed for entertainment, but for edification and for adoration. All God’s people should participate in the worship of song rather than sit back and be entertained by a soloist or a choir. If a church has a choir, the choir should lead the congregational singing, not sing to the congregation. Hymnals should be carefully chosen to emphasize the Psalms of Scripture and other Christ-glorifying scriptural teaching, in contrast to the sappy sentimentalism and trite fluff of our day. Some churches sing the Psalms exclusively, sometimes without instruments as well. We do not believe the Scriptures command exclusive use of the Psalms, although we highly recommend the Psalms for worship. We recommend that churches have at least one hymnal that contains all the Psalms in it in some form for singing. But we believe there are other hymnals that are appropriate for worship as well.
Psalm 98:4-6, the Psalm on which “Joy to the World” was based, says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy to the LORD, the King.”
From this and similar texts, the OPC, as a denomination, has concluded that it is proper and allowable to use various kinds of musical instruments in worship.
In addition, Revelation 5:8 (a vision of a heavenly worship service) says, “...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp....”
Earthly worship is to be patterned after heavenly worship, so if this heavenly worship service can have instruments, then we believe that we can as well. We would still recommend as very fine churches, however, many churches that sing Psalms exclusively, or that use no instruments in their worship.
We not only may sing the Psalms and hymns during worship, we also may read the Psalms of Scripture together in responsive readings. It’s appropriate, in addition (though not required), that some churches have times of informal singing prior to their worship services or have various hymn sings and special programs. Such informal services are not bound by the same regulative principle which governs the official worship of God. Yet, all of the music that is sung to God, whether in formal worship or informal worship, should be biblical in content and God-honoring in presentation.
9. Biblical Readings
Psalm 119:97, 113-115 says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.... I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!”
A faithful church will not only preach and teach the Scriptures and sing scriptural music, it may also retain the Westminster Assembly’s required practice of reading through the whole Bible, briefly explaining both an Old Testament and a New Testament passage in each worship service. In this way, such churches may receive the “whole counsel of God,” not just bits and pieces. And Revelation 1:3 promises: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it....”
10. Biblical Giving
Malachi 3:8-10 says, “‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
Fund raising at a faithful church should not be accomplished by worldly “gimmicks,” such as carnivals, raffles, and bazaars, to attract the funds of outsiders. We believe that the biblical means of financing the Kingdom of God is the faithful tithes and offerings of God’s people. We believe that the principle of tithing is reaffirmed in Hebrews 7:8 which says, “In the one case [referring to the tithe collected by the Levites of the Old Testament], the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case [referring to the tithe collected by Melkizedek in the Old Testament], by him who is declared to be living.”
Jesus Christ still collects the tithe in the New Testament, because Hebrews 7:17 declares of Him, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (quoting Psalm 110:4). So you should hear no tear-jerking pleas for money during the worship of God at a faithful church, but you will have opportunity to bring your tithes and offerings to God at each service.
11. Biblical Prayer
Colossians 4:2-4 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.” Every member of a biblical church is encouraged to pray daily, as well as during the worship services and prayer meetings, for the spread of the Gospel through biblical means and for the working of God in one another’s lives.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” In a faithful church, we should learn to pray regularly, according to the will of God, for one another, for the growth of His kingdom, and for His glory.
12. Biblical Sacraments
Baptism: When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church at Pentecost, the Jews found out that they had crucified their own Messiah. They finally realized that they were under the wrath of God and deserved His condemnation. In fear and desperation, they cried out to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:38-42 says, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
We should keep in mind the fact that the apostle Peter was speaking, here, to Jewish people, familiar with the Old Testament sign and seal of entrance into the covenant of grace. According to Old Testament law, their infant children, eight days old, were all to be circumcised as members of the covenant of grace.
Peter did not say that the children of believing parents are no longer to be included in the covenant in the New Testament. Rather, Peter says that the covenant promise is now not only for you and your children (the same as it was in the Old Testament), but now it is even for those Gentiles whom God will call. Just as children of believing parents in the Old Testament were required to be circumcised, so children of believing parents in the New Testament must be baptized. At a faithful church, therefore, we believe that these Scriptures teach us, not only the necessity of being baptized into church membership, but also that this applies to both believing parents and their children. If our children are kept from receiving the sign and seal of God’s covenant, we need to find another church.
The Lord’s Supper: We believe that the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper (“the breaking of bread”) on every Lord’s Day, not just once or a few times a year.
Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” It’s entirely appropriate, therefore, for a faithful church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day.
I Corinthians 11:23-29 gives the regulations for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread [by the way, nowhere do the Scriptures say that this was unleavened bread; it’s called “bread”], and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup [this was fermented wine, not grape juice, but many churches that serve grape juice, for whatever reasons, are still God-honoring churches], saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
While there are many churches today that teach that infants and small children may partake of the Lord’s Supper, we believe that these verses require that those who partake must have the maturity to be able to examine themselves in order that they may consciously “remember” the Lord and partake in faith. We also believe that professing our faith in Jesus Christ, confessing Him before men when we enter covenant with Him by joining with His body, the church, involves us in making vows of faithfulness to Him. We do not see any examples of small children making vows in the Scriptures, since vows are very weighty matters.
13. Biblical Education and Training of Children
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
As our Savior welcomed little children, so we should welcome children in our worship services in order that they can learn to worship God with their parents. The pastor may often address the children specifically in the sermon as well. While parents should be encouraged to keep their children in the worship service as much as possible, small children can sometimes be a significant distraction to their parents and to other worshipers in the service. In such cases it’s often very helpful to parents if members volunteer to take turns serving in a nursery to care for such children during worship. This service also provides an opportunity for other members of the church to develop loving relationships with these little children. Sometimes other members may volunteer to have one or more children from large families sit with them in the worship service.
A faithful church should strongly encourage and support Christian day school or Christian home school education also. Parents must often sacrifice in order to give their children a Christian education, so the church might want to set up a scholarship fund to help in the Christian training of those who may not be able to afford it. Also, special programs and activities, which include children and adults together, can help the adults of the church get to know the children and can help the children to learn much by the example of their elders. Dividing the congregation up into men’s groups and women’s groups and youth groups and elderly groups can sometimes squelch the opportunity for all the members of the church to minister to one another most effectively.
14. Biblical Counsel
Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
God has given us His word to help us to deal with the various problems and issues we face in our daily lives. If there’s a physical problem, we should see a medical doctor. If there’s a spiritual or psychological or emotional problem, we should seek biblical counsel. Psychiatrists and psychologists are not “experts” in the word of God and therefore they are not suitable as counselors for most of the problems we face in life. If a pastor is thoroughly trained in the Scriptures, he is more than adequate to counsel you regarding your problems. We would recommend that pastors become familiar with the writings of Dr. Jay E. Adams who has written numerous excellent books about counseling and preaching. Through personal counsel as well as attendance at the preaching and teaching functions of the church, you should receive plenty of sound guidance from God’s word. In addition to the pastor, many of the members of a faithful church should also be quite capable of giving good advice regarding numerous matters.
Romans 15:14 says, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” As you become more knowledgeable of the word of God, you, too, will be able to help counsel others.
15. Biblical World and Life View
Colossians 3:17, 23-24 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.... Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
I Corinthians 10:31-33 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God...even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
We don’t agree with the sacred/secular division of labor that so many churches teach today. Some would have you believe that only pastors or missionaries who preach the Gospel are “full time” Christian workers. The Scriptures, however, hold every legitimate calling of Christians to be a “sacred” calling in which they must serve God full time. As such, every Christian is involved in “kingdom activity,” even though he may not be preaching the Gospel. Such kingdom activity will have an evangelistic effect on those around us, either hardening or softening them to the Gospel, depending on whether or not they are chosen by God to come to repentance and salvation.
Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
We should not demean the labors of church members who work in the business world or who work as homemakers or politicians or whatever, by calling such labors “secular work.” On the contrary, we should encourage such people to see their vocations as their primary means of serving God in His Kingdom. In addition, we should encourage them in their personal study of the Scriptures and other good Christian literature so that they can defend the teachings of Scripture to those around them.
I Peter 3:15-16 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Yet how few Christians even know what their church teaches, much less have the ability to defend it with Scripture.
16. Biblical Local Evangelism
I Timothy 4:13-14 says, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
The preaching of the Gospel is the responsibility and calling of those who have been properly trained and then ordained and sent by the church to preach the Gospel. This work is not the calling of every Christian. In fact, James 3:1 clearly warns, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
Yet many churches, just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons, pressure their members to go out into the communities to teach or preach the Gospel to people. Apart from the question of whether or not such methods of evangelism were even used by Christ and the apostles, churches should surely not pressure (or even encourage) laymen and women to do these things, according to James. Rather, the Scriptures reveal that it’s ordinarily through the ordained preaching of the word in the public worship services of Christ’s church that sinners hear the word of God proclaimed in all its power, authority, and fullness.
I Corinthians 14:24-25 says, “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in...the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’”
We believe that the vast bulk of evangelism done in the New Testament was done in the public worship of the church. The Jews were evangelized primarily in the synagogues and temple, and the Gentiles were evangelized primarily in the various “house churches.” While the minister brings the authoritative word of God, it is the people who bring the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself, Who promises to be present in a special way where the church meets for worship! It is for this reason that the members of a faithful church should be encouraged to be zealous in inviting others to come to church. It may even have been a member of such a church who gave you this paper, inviting you to come and worship God in a faithful church. It is there that you will hear the Gospel officially proclaimed by God’s servant.
In addition, church members should be encouraged to tithe, pray, faithfully attend worship, train their children biblically, and live such godly lives before the world in their callings that they bring honor to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and influence others to believe in Him. We want everyone to come to know and love Jesus Christ our Lord because He deserves the praise of all men, so we certainly should not hesitate to tell our friends and neighbors about Him. But the work of the “evangelist,” “preacher” or “teacher” we must leave to those who have been gifted, trained, examined, called, and ordained by God, through His church, to engage in that work.
17. Biblical Worldwide Missions
Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
We believe that this command of our Lord to His apostles instructs the church, not only to evangelize and make baptized church members of the whole world, but also to go on to teach them to incorporate Christian principles into every part of their lives and culture. That’s why a faithful church should support the biblical mission work of their denomination, as well as the local efforts of that particular church. In addition, a faithful church may support the efforts of other biblically sound ministries of the Gospel throughout the world. Through our tithes and offerings and prayers and other labors, we may all be involved in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing and supporting Christian churches, schools, and seminaries throughout the world.
You may not be gifted by God to preach the Gospel, but when you use your God-given calling to serve your fellow man and then you tithe your income to Christ’s church, your godly life and words provide an example to others and your money provides preachers and missionaries to proclaim the word of God with power and authority.
18. Biblical Church Discipline
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves.”
Christ has instituted elders to govern His church and to keep watch over His flock. We do not believe in government by a “dictator,” but by a plurality of elders, with the individual member having the right to appeal any problems at the local church level to the broader courts of the church, that is, to the presbytery (composed of all the elders in a region) and even to the general assembly (composed of all the delegated elders representing the whole church). This system of “Presbyterian” government (or rule by a plurality of elders with a system of appeals) is the system of church government established by Moses in the Old Testament and reaffirmed by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. It is this same biblical system, with its “balance of power” and its “courts of appeal,” which provided the basis for our “republican” form of government in the United States and in other free countries.
Many churches refuse to practice biblical church discipline for fear of losing members, but if a church refuses to discipline you when you’re heading on the road to hell, they’re not doing you any favors. Find a church that takes church discipline seriously, for your own sake and that of your family.
19. Biblical Training Through Catechism, Book, Tape and Video Ministries, Etc.
I Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of little value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
A faithful church should encourage every member towards further training in godliness. Some powerful means to this end include the teaching of the Catechisms of the church (in both doctrine classes and worship) and the use of other good Christian literature and materials. Many people today are filling their minds with all sorts of godless myths and the trash of the world rather than with good, Christian substance. A faithful church should constantly provide its members with biblical training materials through a library, book table, discount book ordering service, video and cassette tapes, Christian newsletters, or any of numerous other means. These materials can be studied by members and then passed on to others, to help share the teachings of God’s word with them as well.
20. Biblical Christian Fellowship
Romans 15:6-7 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Philippians 2:1-4 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
God’s word encourages Christians to love and help one another. At a faithful church, this might take the form of Bible breakfasts, pizza/prayer meetings, church dinners, bowling nights, diaconal assistance, picnics, parties, church work days, volunteer janitorial and nursery systems, Thanksgiving dinners, a summer youth camp, handicapped ministries, Sunday school events, seminars and special speakers, beach breakfasts, fishing outings, moving assistance, transportation assistance, wedding and baby showers, etc. The possibilities are endless. At a faithful church we should consider one another to be family and we should all take part in various ways to love and serve one another in Christ in accordance with the gifts and abilities as well as the opportunities we have been given by God.
If you’ve taken the time to read through this paper and to consider the Scriptures that have been given, you should have the necessary tools to evaluate the churches around you. One of the best ways to evaluate a church is to talk to the pastor to find out what he believes in each of these areas. Visiting a worship service can tell you a lot as well, but there are many of the above areas which may not come up in a single visit to a worship service. Checking out these areas ahead of time may save you a wasted trip to visit a church which clearly is unacceptable, biblically. We believe that the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination, although imperfect, in most cases exemplifies the majority of those characteristics mentioned above. But we realize that there are many areas of the country which do not have such churches within reasonable driving distance. You should keep in mind, of course, that individual congregations will vary as well, both within and without the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination.
You should know that is of utmost importance that you become a member of some body of Christ’s visible church, even if you can’t find one that meets all of the above qualifications. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, section II, summarizes the biblical teaching on the importance of church membership. It says,
This statement from the Confession reminds us that even though God can and does save people through extraordinary ways and means, we are not to expect to be saved if we refuse to use the ordinary means which He prescribes in His word. We must “ordinarily” enter into covenant with Jesus Christ through baptism and through participation in the Lord’s Supper as a member of His covenant body, the church, if we are to be saved. To put it another way: “Ordinarily” to be outside of the true, visible church of Jesus Christ is to be outside of Christ. And that is a dangerous place to be. So we encourage you to join a church that teaches the truth very soon. And if that means you have to drive quite a long distance to get you and your family to that church, so be it. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Jeffrey K. Boer is pastor of Sharon Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Hialeah, Florida.