Identifying the New Testament Church
Does the church found in the New Testament exist today?
The kingdom Jesus established is an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Luke 1:32-33). It will exist until the second coming of Jesus when He will deliver His kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15:23-26). He also said that not even the gates of Hades would prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). That means that His church does indeed continue to exist today. The Holy Spirit inspired apostles and prophets in the First Century to reveal God’s complete will for mankind (John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:3). As a result, the word of God is a pattern for us to follow (2 Timothy 1:13). By adhering to the New Testament for all that we do in life and worship, we can be the church Jesus built (i.e. the church of Christ).
How to identify the New Testament church?
We have shown that the church is the people of God (see What Is The New Testament Church?), therefore, in order to identify the New Testament church one must look at the people, what do they believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, worship, salvation, eternity, etc. Religious people share many common beliefs, therefore, we will look at those characteristics that make the church of Christ unique.
The church of Christ recognizes Jesus Christ as the Head of the church.
The very foundation of the church is the confession that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:18). We accept Jesus as our Lord and our King (1 Timothy 6:15). To recognize Jesus is to understand that He is the one and only Savior (John 14:6). There are not many roads that lead to heaven. Any body of people that rejects Jesus as Savior must also reject the Father as their God. Confessing Jesus as Son of God is to recognize Him as our only Head (Ephesians 1:20-23). Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18). No one but Jesus has the right to decide what work the church will do, how the church will spend its money, or even how the church will worship God together. For this reason the church of Christ has no appointed, or elected, Pope, president, board of directors, or any central organization. Churches of Christ are organized into local, self-governing congregations.
The church of Christ worships God in spirit and in truth.
In John 4:24 Jesus said those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. This simply means that we must to the right things in the right way. There are specific acts of worship God wants and He wants those acts to be performed in certain ways. God has never accepted just any worship (Matthew 15:7-9). Obeying His commands, and following the pattern laid out in the New Testament is the only way can we worship God in spirit and truth. This attitude is most clearly reflected in our singing. Ephesians 5:19 says "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." For this reason we praise God in song without instrumental accompaniment. The Bible commands singing, not singing and playing.
The church of Christ loves one another.
While love for each other may not be seen as unique, it is far too important to overlook. Jesus said that love would be THE identifying characteristic of His disciples, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Over and again the NT emphasizes brotherly love (Colossians 3:12-14; 2 Peter 1:5-8). Without love there is no church, no people of God (1 John 4 7-11).
For love to be real it must be seen 1 John 3:18
1. Pray for each other. James 5:16
2. Feed one another. Matthew 25:35
3. Edify each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
4. Prefer one another. Romans 12:10
5. Forgive each other. Colossians 3:13