I remember when I was a kid my dad gave me a little hammer with a green handle. It was the first real tool that I ever owned. As a young boy I can remember being in the garage with my hammer and a 2x4 practicing my swing. I have loved tools ever since. I don’t like buying junk tools so I enjoy reading tool reviews. This is when someone takes the same tool made by different companies and puts them through a series of tests to determine which is the best. What you learn quickly is that not all tools are the same. One tool is not just as good as another.
Would it be fair to do something like this with churches, or is one church just as good as another?
There were many churches in the days of Jesus, but Jesus did not look around and say any church is as good as another. Instead, he looked around a divided religious world and said “I will build MY church” (Matt 16:18). He desired to build a church that stood apart from all the rest, and one that was united in belief and practice (1 Cor 1:10). He did exactly that.
Over time people started to make up their own ideas and teach them as doctrine, just like his apostles said would happen (1 Tim 4:1-3). When man-made doctrines are taught and practiced, a new church is formed that is not recognized by Jesus (Rev 2:5). These are called denominations. It is estimated that there are over 20,000 denominations in the world today. Jesus never wanted this (John 17:21). One church is not just as good as another. The church the Lord built stands above the rest.
How could we find out which one that is? Could we run a series of tests to see whether we are actually in that one church that Jesus promised to build? It is actually a biblical concept to run tests (1 Cor 13:5, 1 John 4:1). What is so great, is how simple the test actually is.
There is really only one question to ask, and one text we need to turn to. The text is Acts 2 and the question is, “Can I find this church in the Bible?”. Now lets run the test.
The church Jesus promised to build was established on the day of Pentecost in the year 33 A.D (2:1, 41, 47). That would be my first test with any church. I would try and find out when it started. If I am apart of a protestant denomination, I would know that my church was founded around the 1500’s. That’s about 1500 years too late. A church started later than 33 A.D. is inferior.
I would also see that this church began in Jerusalem (2:5). I wouldn’t want to be in a church that started in Germany, Rome, Austria, England, Greece, Knoxville, or LaFollette. I would want to be a member of the church that started in Jerusalem.
It is clear that people became members of that church in Acts 2 by believing the gospel, repenting, and being baptized. I would be shocked to see that they weren’t voted in, they didn’t join it, they weren’t saved and then put on a probationary period. Upon obeying the instructions of Peter, they were simultaneously saved, and added to the church of Christ by Jesus himself (Acts 2:37-47). Any church that makes up their own path to membership falls short of the church in Acts 2.
I would notice that I don’t ever see an infant being baptized. I would see that no one ever asks Jesus into their heart. I would be petrified at the lack of the sinner’s prayer. Churches that teach these things don’t match up to the church of Acts 2.
I would also see that the church in Acts 2, “continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching” (2:42). They were not flippant with the word of God. Since the apostles taught that the church of Christ should appoint elders, and deacons, I would be concerned with how my church has a pastor or a pope that runs things. I would begin to wonder why my church belongs to a conference or convention. I would wonder why the doctrine has changed over the years (Jude 3). Since the church of Christ did not have women fill authority roles within worship, I would be concerned with the women leading various aspects of worship (1 Cor 14:35, 1 Tim 2:11-12).
I would see that this church in Acts 2 had specific worship. They listened to preaching, they took the Lord’s Supper, they prayed, they gave, and they sang praises to God (2:42-47). I would remember that they were steadfast about this and were careful not to go beyond the things that were taught (1 Cor 4:6). I would be concerned when I don’t see rock-band performance worship in Acts 2. In fact, I would look in the rest of the New Testament and see that there were never any mechanical instruments in their worship. I would be concerned that there are no people running up and down the aisles, shouting gibberish. I would quickly see that is not in the bible. I would see that their worship was decent and in order (1 Cor 14:40). I would only want to worship like the church in Acts 2.
There are many churches in this community that don’t pass these tests. If the church you belong to fails here, I beg you, do not rest until you find the Church you read about in your bible. It is the only one that Jesus ever promised he would save (Eph 5:23).