Last week we examined the truth that God has revealed and uses spiritual patterns that we should follow — as individuals and also as a church.
God’s people, have often been compared to a bride (e.g., Hosea 1-3 or Revelation 21:2), and consequently the church has often been called “the Bride of Christ”. Like any bride, the church has a specific identity, and indeed that identity makes a big difference to the Groom (just ask Jacob the morning he discovered that he had unintentionally married Leah! See Genesis 29:25.). And the church’s identity (her beauty, her purity, her nobility) is revealed in God’s pattern found in the Scriptures.
For example, Acts 2:47 tells us that the church is all those who are saved. Since there are so many who claim to be saved, we might initially think that this isn’t much of a mark of identity — until we consider what God’s pattern for being saved is. In Acts 2:36-42, we find the pattern of initial salvation plainly revealed: faith in Jesus (pierced to the heart about their unbelief, they then believed), repentance, and baptism (immersion in water) for forgiveness of sins. Tragically, large number of religious groups that carry the word “church” do not teach or practice baptism, an integral and essential part of the pattern. As When Paul wrote about baptism’s importance and effect in our lives, it is significant that he also added, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17 ). Any religious group lacking obedience to this form / pattern of teaching is clearly not the Lord’s church, but impostors. Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, baptism is an essential test; if a religious group’s “foot” (teachings and practice about salvation) doesn’t fit into this “glass slipper”, it is not the bride of Christ — because they are not saved.
Other patterns continue to identify the church; worship is one. Like God gave patterns of worship to the Israelites in Mosaic Law to be followed, so He has also given us some specific worship patterns to follow today…
- in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24)
- the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Sunday, Acts 20:7),
- singing of praise and encouragement (without instrumental accompaniment, Ephesians 5:19),
- prayer (offered together in faith, sincerity, and purity in Jesus’ name; e.g., Acts 4:24-31),
- a word of encouragement (from God’s word, Acts 20:7),
- and giving (1 Cor. 16:1,2).
We’ll study these more closely in following bulletin articles, but these patterns of worship help us identify the church of the Lord, too.
The Lord has, likewise, given us a pattern for the organization of His church. It has no earthly headquarters, because he head of the church always was, is now, and always will be Jesus — for doctrine, example, guidance, wisdom, and leadership (Ephesians 1:22,23). The Lord’s Kingdom, the church, with Jesus as the Head and King, needs no additional governing apparatus than the pattern He has ordained. And that pattern is that each congregation is organized as a separate entity (Titus 1:5) with elders/shepherds/overseers pastoring the flock (Acts 20:17-35), and evangelists, deacons, teachers, and other members of Christ’s body following elders’ lead (1 Peter 5:3 & Hebrews 13:17) as they follow the Lord Himself (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Lastly, at least for this article, we should note that there is also a pattern of deeds found in the Scriptures for the genuine church of the Lord. This pattern includes a number of things that originate with true discipleship to Jesus and, through diligent attention to growth (2 Peter 3:5ff), include such things as morality (e.g., Ephesians 4: 17-32), love (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13), generosity (e.g., 2 Corinthians 8,9), and service (e.g., John 13:4-15). Without such deeds, Jesus ceases to recognize us as His (Revelation 2:5).
The unique patterns of a fingerprint will identify the person; and the unique patterns of obedience to the plan of salvation, the kind of worship offered, the church’s organization, and the church’s deeds — the church’s fingerprint, so to speak — will identify the Lord’s church, too.