Many people have very specific ideas of what they’re looking for in a church. But how many of these ideas are informed by God’s Word? Today, Stephen Nichols identifies the telltale signs of a biblical church.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with the president of Reformation Bible College, Dr. Stephen Nichols. Dr. Nichols, what is a biblical church?
DR. STEPHEN NICHOLS: Paul writes this letter to Timothy��he�s dying, right? And he recognizes that the church is going to go on, and he�s got his young protégé, and he tells Timothy: �It�s not going to get better. In these latter days,�? he says, �things are going to go from bad to worse, and they�re going to get really difficult.�? And the temptation�s going to be there for Timothy to do all sorts of things��be culturally accommodating, be culturally relative, try this or that or the other thing. You know what Paul tells him? In 2 Timothy chapter 4, he says: �Preach the Word. In light of all this, preach the Word.�? So that is the number one, the singular mark. The telltale sign of a biblical church is, Does it preach the Word?
And this was something that the Reformers gave us. They were in a context where they were challenging the church. They had been in the church for centuries. Nobody challenged the authenticity of that church until the Reformers came along, and it raised the question, What is a true church? And they talked about the marks of a true church. But it�s Paul. It�s not just the Reformers. It�s Paul telling Timothy, �Preach the Word.�? So that is the number one mark of a true church.
Secondly, we also have, commanded to us in the New Testament, the so-called sacraments or ordinances, and that is of course baptism and the Lord�s Supper. And so the second mark of a true church is, Is the church doing this? And is the church seeking to be biblically faithful in the exercise of these ordinances?�?
And then, thirdly, and this is a bit of a dispute, some see this as an explicit mark, some see it as inherent within the Lord�s Supper, but it�s church discipline. But the idea of church discipline is that the church takes its purity seriously. It�s doctrinal, and it�s living out its practical purity seriously.
So those are the marks of a true church. If a church is preaching the Word, if it�s practicing the sacraments or the ordinances, and it�s taking its membership, its community seriously, then you know you�re in a biblically faithful church, and that is exactly where we need to be, because this is the church, is the institution that God has ordained for the edification of His people and for the proclamation of the gospel. So, let�s make sure we�re in a church, and let�s make sure we�re in a biblical church.
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