Identifying the Lord's Church


Elder Robert Willis (dec)


There are thousands of names of various denominations and churches across our country. Some have large congregations, but many are small in number. The size of the congregation does not identify it as the church the Lord established.

First, we need to understand when the Lord set up his church. Many believe it to be the day of Pentecost. That was surely a grand day for the church, but it was not when the church was established. Christ began setting up His church when He began His public ministry. He told Peter in Matthew 16:18, “...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So, if we want to know how and when Christ would build His church, we must look to verse 16 where Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Lord’s church would now be built upon the rock of the revelation of Jesus being “the Christ” and His being the “Son of the living God.” Without Christ as the foundation, no denomination can lay claim to being the Lord’s church.

The name a denomination chooses to be called by helps us to identify what they believe the Bible teaches. Most all names that church bodies have chosen sound good, even to the point that no fault can be found in most of them. Names like Primitive Baptist, Baptist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, First Baptist, to name a few are all good sounding names. These churches and many others believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and is the Son of God. So, it’s not the name that makes a church “the church the Lord established”, but rather what they believe the scriptures teach as being the truth which Jesus taught the Apostles and His disciples.

Does God have a people in all these various denominations (and among non-members) which bare so many different names? Yes! He has them as Revelation says in chapter 5:9, “by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” That being true, please remember that it is the doctrinal belief and practice of the church which identifies it with being the church the Lord first established. Names have been added or changed over the years, many of them having their name only in the last 200 years or so. Some have had their name changed a number of times over the years. So, we must look at the doctrine, Articles of Faith, and practice they have adhered to, as their identifying mark.

One identifier is how people are added to the church. In Acts 2:47, the Apostle Paul said it was not by the preacher scaring them into the church, or, mom and dad telling them what they had to do, or by infant baptism (at an age when the child does not know what is occurring), but it is only by what the Lord must do for them first: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” This saving is a saving from the error of their thinking, not a saving to eternal life as many denominations believe, and comes only after they have been born again of the Spirit of God.

The growth of the church must be by the leadership of Jesus Himself. He works on their heart and gives them the desire to be a part of the church giving us “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (I Peter 3:21). Then, we are made to understand what the body of the church is made up of. In Ephesians 4:4-6 we read, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, and one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in you all.” Notice, there is only one body, one God and Father of all. This one body is the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:22 we are told about this one body which belongs to Christ of which is also called His bride, “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” Then, in Ephesians 5:23 we read this; “ Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” Christ is the saviour of your body and of the body of believers which make up His church. He saves us eternally and from the error of our ways while we remain on this earth.

There are many doctrinal truths which make up the true identity of the church. Search them out and hold on to them as they are what holds the true church together. May the Lord bless you to continue in your study to see and understand the identifying marks (“the old paths” - Jeremiah 6:16) laid out in His word. Standing in the ways of the Lord is the good way where we will find rest for our souls.