Pure, Less Pure, and False Churches
Note: I highly recommend that readers refer to the New Testament books of the Bible as a reference source. Church in the context of this article means a community of believers.
Referencing the Christian groups that the Apostle Paul and other apostles oversaw, Paul was pleased with the progress and steadfastness of maintaining the correct and moral doctrine of the Philippian and Thessalonian churches. In comparison, Paul found serious doctrinal and moral problems at Corinth and Galatia. (Grudem, 1994). Here we see examples of more pure churches and two who are less pure and perhaps false churches. As a preventive measure, pure and very pure Christian groups, created in churches, are discouraged. Instead unity is encouraged and its degree of freedom from division among true Christians. The term, “true Christians,” is compared to Christians who claim the faith in name only. There is the concern that the latter group may put the unity of a church in question. However, we are encouraged to keep working for the unity of true believers (Bromiley in EDT, page 1127-28).
What is a church?
In general consensus among Biblical scholars, the church is the community of all true believers for all time (Eph. 5:25; 1: 22-23; Matt. 16:18). Christ builds the churches according to the pattern set by God in the Old Testament. However, new privileges and blessings are given, by God, to the people of God in the New Testament (Grudem, 1994). George Ladd (1974) defined a church as the Kingdom, but not the Kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them, but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of man.
McGrath (2011) reminds us that there us is a visible and in invisible church. The invisible church is as God sees it. We cannot see the spiritual condition of people’s heart. We see the visible church as its members come to worship and outward evidence of inward spiritual change (2Tim. 2:19; Heb. 12:23).
What makes a church more pure?
Ephesians 5: 26-27 gives us one example to follow; other requirements in accordance are as follows:
Biblical doctrine [correct preaching of the Word]
Correct use of the sacraments
Correct use of church doctrine
Genuine heartfelt worship
Effective prayer [not for show]
Bible church government
Spiritual power in ministry
Personal holiness of the life among the congregation
Care for the poor
Love for Christ
A word of caution
Classical liberal Protestantism is humanistic and its approach for primarily human-centered dogma instead of God-centered doctrine. Signs to look for are basically as follows:
Shifting to impure doctrine, activities, preaching and counseling and the preacher becoming dictator-like. False teaching may begin with a certain verse that the preacher selects to prove a point without presenting other verses on the same topic. I have seen churches split over this conduct. In addition, look for a repeated emphasis in counseling for you to seek self-help articles in magazines or secular psychologists. Take note if there is a decrease in times of prayer and application of Scripture to daily situations. (Grudem, 1994; Berry, 2019).
The Christian church is a group of Christ-loving, Bible believing people of all social levels. They meet in homes, large buildings, or the great outdoors to praise and worship God. Church groups are not perfect and are composed of the saved and sinners alike who want to hear the Word of God. The church at large, no matter the denomination, to be as pure as possible.
Bromiley, G. W. In EDT, pp. 1127-28.
Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic theology: An introduction to Bible doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan.
Luther, M, (1539). On the Councils to the Church.
McGrath, A. (2011). Christian theology: An introduction (5th ed.). Malden MA. Wiley-Blackwell.