Is There a One True Church?

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Image by Dan Whitfield. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 25/Jan/2021

The Importance of Church

When one considers becoming a Christian, they have a whole range of different churches and denominations to choose from, and understandably, this can create a lot of confusion and uncertainty. You may be wondering “How do I know which church to join?”, or “Which church is the true one?” Because church is a vital part of every Christian’s lives, as the Bible teaches (Hebrews 10:24–25) and as Jesus himself taught (Matthew 16:18–19; Matthew 18:19–20), these questions are very important and deserve good, biblical answers.

Is There Only One True Church Group or Denomination?

To begin with, out of all the many different churches out there, is there an only true church—the church founded by Jesus Christ himself and carried through by his apostles and the disciples who succeeded them? After all, there are several churches which claim to be the only true church, so which one is right? The Bible’s answer is simple: with regards to specific Christian groups (or groups which claim to be Christian), organisations, or denominations, none of them are the only true one.

The Church According to Scripture

Firstly, the Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, and that Christ is the head of the body:

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” (Colossians 1:24)

“that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20–23)

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12)

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.” (Ephesians 5:23)

Secondly, it teaches that Christians are the members of the body of Christ:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4–5)

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:29–30)

The Bible declares that the true church is the body of Christ, that is, the universal body of all Christian believers all over the world, who are individually members of his body. In other words, Christians are the true church, according to the Bible. Just as our human bodies have many members which serve different purposes, are equally important, and are united as the one body, so it is with the church. Every Christian offers something unique to support the church and is an equally valuable member in the family of God.

The Church Is United on the Essential Doctrines

In regards to Christian denominations, as long as they affirm the essential biblical doctrines for one’s salvation, they are all a part of the true church of Jesus Christ. The essential biblical doctrines include: the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone, monotheism, the Trinity, the resurrection of Christ (note: all resurrections are physical and bodily, not spiritual), and the gospel, that is, the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and resurrected for our salvation. Although there are many Christian denominations and church groups in the world which have differing beliefs in non-essential doctrines, every one of them affirms all of the essential doctrines mentioned above. Christians may be divided on non-essential issues, but they are united on the most important, essential issues.

What This Means for Christians

This means that God has not exclusively revealed more truth to one church group or denomination than another, or that a so-called prophet has been given the restored church or gospel for his or her group (these claims, especially the last one, are typically made by Christian-based cults¹). If one group were given more revelation than another, this would mean that the body of Christ is not equal (in contradiction to Galatians 3:28) and divided (in contradiction to John 17:20–23 and 1 Corinthians 1:10). But how could this be possible in the body of Christ, where all true Christians are members of it, and are equally adopted sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14–17 and Galatians 3:25–29)?

If one group were given the “restored church” or “gospel”, then this belief requires that Jesus failed in his mission of protecting the church from the gates of hell (in contradiction to Matthew 16:18) and that all Christians who are not in that group, even though they might faithfully believe in Jesus, are “non-believers” who will not be saved (in contradiction to Galatians 2:16 and Philippians 3:8–9). We are made right with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by which specific church, denomination, or group we are part of.

Which Church to Join

When you go to look for a church community to join, try and find a biblical church. Find a church group that uses the Bible as its only source of authority and teaching, and which believes it is the perfect, complete, and inerrant Word of God. Also find a church community which believes the Trinity, the resurrection of Christ, the deity of Christ, the true gospel, salvation by grace through faith alone, and monotheism. So-called churches which reject these Bible teachings are actually outside of the Christian faith and are cults.

Avoid groups which deny the above essential doctrines, which have prophets who have restored the gospel or church, which have prophets or leaders whose teachings are considered equal with the Bible’s, and which teach that it is impossible to understand the Bible without studying their materials. You should also avoid churches which teach that they are the only true church, which have female pastors or preachers, and which allow homosexual marriages and see nothing wrong with homosexuality. These are clear signs of church communities which are not faithful to the Bible’s teachings, and therefore not ones which faithful, Bible-believing Christians should join.

Notes

1. A cult, in this article, refers to a group with unorthodox or heretical teachings which distinguish it from mainstream Christianity, or whichever religion the cult is based on.

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