True vs. False (VII)
TRUE AND FALSE CHURCH
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 1/7/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly.)
Thus far in our series on the true and the false, we've gone over the true God versus false gods, the true Christ versus false christs, the true Holy Spirit versus false holy spirits, the true gospel versus false gospels, and true teachers versus false teachers. Today, the Lord willing, we will go over something that has elements from all of the previous things we've gone over. It's the true church versus the false church. The true church is made up of those who believe in and worship the true God, the true Christ, the true Holy Spirit, who believe the true gospel, and who have true teachers. The false church is made up of those who believe in and worship false gods, false christs, and false spirits, who believe a false gospel, and who have false teachers. This is really a good, concise summary of the difference between the two. If you've heard all the previous messages, I could just stop right there.
But I WOULD like to go into some detail from God's Word about the true church and the false church. God gives us clear descriptions of each, and I think it would be beneficial for us to search the Scriptures to see what God says.
Before I do that, I want to talk about what a "church" is. What does "church" mean? The Greek word for "church" is ek-klay-SEE-ah, which comes from the Greek words EK and kal-EH-oh. EK means "from" or "out," and kal-EH-oh means "to call." So ek-klay-SEE-ah literally means "a calling out." Before we go too far in reading too much into this word, it is used for any public assembly that is called. The people are called out of their daily routine and gather together. It's not always used in a religious sense. For example, let's go over to Acts 19:32 and 39:
Acts 19: (32) Then others indeed cried out a different thing, for the assembly was confused, and the majority did not know on what account they came together. (39) But if you seek concerning other things, it will be settled in a lawful assembly.
The word translated "assembly" is ek-klay-SEE-ah. But in most of the New Testament, ek-klay-SEE-ah is either talking about an assembly that is gathered together for the common purpose of public worship or a gathering of believers that is not a PHYSICAL gathering but a SPIRITUAL gathering of all believers everywhere. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words that are commonly used are ka-HALL and ay-DAH, which mean assembly, congregation, or gathering.
When I talk about the true church this morning, I'm talking about the church in the religious sense of the word. A TRUE church is an assembly of TRUE believers, while a false church is an assembly of FALSE believers. Okay?
Sometimes a distinction is made between the VISIBLE church and the INVISIBLE church. This can be a helpful distinction at times, but it has also led to error. The VISIBLE church is a gathering of people who come together in the name of Christ, some of whom are saved and some of whom may be lost. The INVISIBLE church is made up of all believers that have ever lived. But many of the tolerant Calvinists like to use this and other distinctions to say that Arminian churches are part of the true VISIBLE church, because they are made up of people who gather in the name of Christ. What they don't realize is that they are gathered in the name of a FALSE Christ, and thus they cannot be said to be a true visible church.
Okay, let's get into some verses that speak of the true church, and we will contrast it with the false church. Let's first turn to Psalm 89:7:
Psalm 89: (7) God is greatly to be feared in the congregation of the saints, and to be adored by all around Him.
Now over to Psalm 149:1:
Psalm 149: (1) Praise Jehovah! Sing to Jehovah a new song, His praise in the assembly of the saints.
A true church is an assembly of SAINTS. What are SAINTS? They are ones who have been SANCTIFIED. Let's turn over to Ephesians 5:25-27:
Ephesians 5: (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, (26) that He might sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the washing of the water in [the] Word, (27) that He might present it to Himself [as] the glorious assembly, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things, but that it be holy and without blemish.
The church is made up of those whom Christ loves and for whom Christ gave Himself up. And the church is a sanctified, cleansed, washed, holy, unblemished body. Does that mean that members of the true church never sin? No - it means that all members of the true church are clean by virtue of the merits of the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. This is the same thing as saying that they are SAINTS. The Roman Catholics would want us to believe that SAINTS are people who were a lot better and did more wonderful things than an average Christian. The truth is that EVERY Christian is a saint. (Of course, none of the Roman Catholics who call themselves Christians are true Christians.) We who are true Christians have ALL been sanctified by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. Every Christian, whether they have been saved for two hours or 60 years, is fully sanctified and fully entitled to all of God's blessings, including final glory.
Now we contrast this to the false church. The false church is made up of people who have not been sanctified. They are not saints. They do not believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone.
Now because the true church is made up of people who believe the true gospel, we see something else about the true church in 1 Timothy 3:15. Let's turn over there:
1 Timothy 3: (15) But if I delay, that you may know how to behave in the house of God, which is [the] assembly of the living God, [the] pillar and foundation of the truth.
The true church is the pillar and foundation of the TRUTH. You can be sure that where the true church is, you can find the TRUTH. In fact, the way to find a local assembly that is part of the true church is to see if this assembly believes and proclaims the TRUTH. The false church believes and proclaims the LIE. When you are searching for a true assembly, you should find out whether or not this assembly believes and proclaims the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE. The series of sermons I preached on the gospel would be a good litmus test. Do they VALUE this gospel to the point of judging by it? Do they believe that universal atonement is a false gospel and that all who believe universal atonement or any other false gospel are lost? If they don't, then they are not a true assembly of Christ; instead, they are what God calls a "synagogue of Satan" in Revelation 2:9. They are a synagogue of lies, and you are to avoid such an assembly. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
2 Corinthians 6: (14) Do not be unequally yoked [with] unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness [have] with lawlessness? And what fellowship does light [have] with darkness? (15) And what agreement does Christ [have] with Belial? Or what part does a believer [have] with an unbeliever? (16) And what agreement does a temple of God [have] with idols? For you are a temple of [the] living God, even as God said, "I will" dwell in them and "walk among them, [and] I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (17) Because of this, "come out from among them" "and be separated," says [the] Lord, "and do not touch [the] unclean thing," and I will receive you. (18) "And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons" and daughters to Me, says [the] Lord Almighty.
God makes it crystal clear: God's people are not to have religious fellowship with unbelievers, lawlessness, darkness, Belial, or idols. We are to be separate from them. If someone who is listening to this tape has recently become a Christian and has been a part of a false church, the first thing you need to do is GET OUT of that false church. Run as fast as you can. It is a place of unbelievers, lawlessness, darkness, and idols. It is Satanic. And how can we tell believers from unbelievers, righteousness from lawlessness, light from darkness, the true Christ from Satan, and the temple of God from idols? I've said it enough now that you should already know what I'm about to say. It starts with a "D". It is DOCTRINE. That's how we distinguish the true from the false. What DOCTRINE does this assembly believe and teach? The TRUE church is the pillar and foundation of TRUTH. And the FALSE church is based on the lies of the Devil.
Turn to Revelation 17. I'll be reading verse 1 through the first part of verse 6, and then I'll read Revelation 18:1-5:
Revelation 17: (1) And one of the seven angels having the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying to me, Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot sitting on the many waters, (2) with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the ones inhabiting the earth became drunk from the wine of her fornication. (3) And he carried me away into a desert, by [the] Spirit. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, filled with names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. (4) And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and being gilded with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominations and unclean things of her fornication. (5) And on her forehead was a name having been written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth. (6) And I saw the woman being drunk from the blood of the saints, and from the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. ...
Revelation 18: (1) And after these things I saw another angel coming down out of Heaven having great authority, and the earth was lighted up from his glory. (2) And he cried in a strong, great voice, saying, Babylon the great has fallen! It has fallen, and it has become a dwelling-place of demons, and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean bird, even having been hated, (3) because of the wine of the anger of her fornication which all the nations have drunk, even the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her; and the merchants of the earth became rich from the power of her luxury. (4) And I heard another voice out of Heaven saying, My people, come out of her, that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues; (5) because her sins joined together, even up to Heaven, and God remembered her unjust deeds.
This is quite a description of the false church. The false church is called a great harlot and the mother of harlots. A harlot is the same thing as a whore. She is one who fornicates with many men. The false church is one who fornicates with the wicked. And what is the main evidence of this fornication? It is saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace, like we saw of the false teachers two weeks ago. These religious fornicators will be intimate with and get into bed with those who believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner. A prime example of this, like I've said before, is the "Calvinist" or "Reformed" or "Sovereign Grace" church that speaks peace to those who believe in universal atonement. This church might strongly preach against physical adultery and whoredom, yet they are committing adultery and whoredom themselves, and what they are doing is just as wicked and abominable as the woman who has slept with a thousand men. And in Revelation 18, we see God's command to His people, just like His command in 2 Corinthians 6: COME OUT. And those who DO NOT come out of the whore are sharing in her sins, just like in 2 John 11, and show that they are not truly God's people.
In contrast with the great whore, the true church is the virgin bride of Christ. The true church does not go after other gods or after others who believe in other gods. The true church is a faithful, chaste virgin. Let's turn to Revelation 21:9:
Revelation 21: (9) And one of the seven angels came to me, he having the seven bowls being filled with the seven last plagues, and spoke with me, saying, Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
God then goes on to give a picture of the wife of Christ, and He says in verse 27:
Revelation 21: (27) And all profaning may not at all enter into it, or any making an abomination or a lie; but only the ones having been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb.
Turn over to 2 Corinthians 11:2:
2 Corinthians 11: (2) For I am jealous [over] you with a jealousy of God. For I have promised you to one Man, to present [you] a pure virgin to Christ.
And then back to Revelation, chapter 14, verses 1-5:
Revelation 14: (1) And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion! And with Him were a hundred [and] forty four thousands, with the name of His Father having been written on their foreheads. (2) And I heard a sound out of Heaven, as a sound of many waters, and as a sound of great thunder. Also I heard a sound of harpers harping on their harps. (3) And they sing as a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one was able to learn the song except the hundred [and] forty four thousands, those having been redeemed from the earth. (4) These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones following the Lamb wherever He may go. These were redeemed from among men as [a] firstfruit to God and to the Lamb.
Let's go over a few more characteristics of the true church. Since the church is the pillar and ground of truth and is made up of believers, then when a person shows himself to be an unbeliever, he is to be excommunicated from the assembly of believers. Let's turn to some examples of this:
1 Corinthians 5:7-13:
1 Corinthians 5: (7) Then purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened. For also Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. (8) So let us keep [the] feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and of evil, but with unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth. (9) I wrote to you in the letter not to associate with fornicators; (10) and not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with plunderers, or with idolaters, since then you must go out of the world. (11) But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother [and is] either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat. (12) For what [is it] to me also to judge the ones outside? Do you not judge those inside? (13) But God will judge the ones outside. "And you shall put out from yourselves the evil one."
Matthew 18: (15) But if your brother may sin against you, go and reprove him between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (16) But if he does not hear, take one or two more with you, "so that on the mouth of two" or "three witnesses every word may stand". (17) But if he fails to hear them, tell [it] to the assembly. And if he also fails to hear the assembly, let him be to you as the nations and the tax collector. (18) Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth will be, having been bound in Heaven. And whatever you loose on the earth will be, having been loosed in Heaven. (19) Again I say to you, If two of you agree on earth as to anything, whatever they shall ask, it shall be to them from My Father in Heaven. (20) For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.
Romans 16: (17) And brothers I exhort you to watch those making divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them.
Titus 1: (10) For there are indeed many insubordinate men, empty talkers and mind-deluders, especially those of [the] circumcision, (11) whose mouth [you] must stop, who overturn whole houses, teaching things which [they] ought not for the sake of ill gain.
Titus 3: (10) After the first and second warning, avoid a man of heresy, (11) knowing that such a one has been perverted and sins, being self-condemned.
Galatians 1: (8) But even if we, or an angel out of Heaven, should preach a gospel to you beside the gospel we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel beside what you received, let him be accursed.
1 Timothy 6:3-5.
1 Timothy 6: (3) If anyone teaches differently, and does not consent to sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching according to godliness, (4) he has been puffed up, understanding nothing, but [is] sick concerning doubts and arguments, out of which comes envy, strife, evil-speakings, evil suspicions, (5) meddling, of men whose mind has been corrupted and deprived of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness. Withdraw from such [persons].
Notice that excommunication is to be made in cases of behavior AND in cases of doctrine. Some so-called churches will only excommunicate those who are immoral and continue to speak peace to those who bring false doctrine, while other so-called churches will only excommunicate those who bring false doctrine but continue to speak peace to those who are immoral. The true church is to excommunicate both. Now excommunication is part of a process of church discipline that I won't go into today, but I will say that in some circumstances, a professing believer is to be rebuked and called to repentance, and if there's repentance, this person is not excommunicated.
Here is another characteristic of the true church. Turn back to Psalm 149:1:
Psalm 149: (1) Praise Jehovah! Sing to Jehovah a new song, His praise in the assembly of the saints.
Now turn to Psalm 111:1:
Psalm 111: (1) Praise Jehovah! I will thank Jehovah with all [my] heart; in the council of the upright, and of the assembly.
A true church is one in which there is thanksgiving and praise to the true God. The thanksgiving and praise comes from a heart that believes that God's grace, manifested in the work of Christ, makes the only difference between heaven and hell. Those who are members of the council of the upright know that the work of Christ demands and ensures their salvation, and they praise God together for His amazing grace. The false church gives thanks to their god and their christ, but they give thanks for making it possible for them to come to Christ of their own free will. Many of the modern churches are rocking with so-called praise, and they sing and shout and clap their hands and dance to their god, but it is a false god.
And just from the name "church" or "assembly" or "congregation," we see that the church is a gathering together. We also see this in the passages on worship. Believers within an area ASSEMBLE to worship God. Turn to Hebrews 10:24-25:
Hebrews 10: (24) And let us consider one another, to incitement of love and of good works, (25) not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves, as [is the] custom of some, but exhorting, and by so much more as you see the Day drawing near.
Believers are to ASSEMBLE together to incite and exhort. And we just saw in the passages in Psalms that believers are to assemble together to corporately worship the true and living God. God does not say that we are just to privately worship. He places a strong emphasis on COMING TOGETHER to worship. God has made the assembly of saints a means of grace to His people, so that they will grow in grace and knowledge. We see an example in Acts 20:7 where the disciples gathered together on the first day of the week, and in Acts 2:42, believers continued in the doctrine of the apostles, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Ephesians 5:19 says, "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praising in your heart to the Lord." The Greek words for psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are the same Greek words that are found in the Greek version of the Old Testament in the Book of Praises, otherwise known as the Book of Psalms. These psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are actually titles of specific Psalms in the Book of Praises. Thus, we see that in our assembly, we are to sing from the Book of Praises. God does not command us to sing from any other book, and in worship, we are only to do what God has prescribed in His Word.
Another important thing to know about a local assembly is that it is ORGANIZED and ORDERLY. God gives His prescription as to the order of the church. The assembly doesn't just wing it. Look back at 1 Timothy 3:14-15:
1 Timothy 3: (14) I write these things to you, hoping to come to you shortly. (15) But if I delay, that you may know how to behave in the house of God, which is [the] assembly of the living God, [the] pillar and foundation of the truth.
Note that the Holy Spirit through Paul told the people how to BEHAVE in the house of God. And we see starting in chapter 2 that the Holy Spirit clearly shows how the assembly is to be run. Petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings are to be made by men on behalf of all kinds of men. Women are to adorn themselves in proper clothing, with modesty and sensibleness. Women are not to teach but to learn in silence. The assemblies are to have overseers and deacons who are of good behavior and good reputation. And there are other passages that give prescriptions for the order of the assembly.
I could go into so many more things concerning the church, but I hope this brief overview will be of help to you. Let's turn to Colossians 1:21-29 to close:
Colossians 1: (21) And you then being alienated and hostile in [your] mind by evil works, but now He reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and without blemish and irreproachable before Him, (23) if indeed you continue in the faith grounded and settled and not being moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard proclaimed in all the creation under Heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister, (24) who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf and fill up in my flesh the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which [is] the assembly, (25) of which I became a minister, according to the administration of God given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God, (26) the mystery having been hidden from the ages and from the generations, but now was revealed to His saints; (27) to whom God willed to make known what [are] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, who is Christ in you, the hope of glory; (28) whom we announce, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man full-grown in Christ Jesus, (29) for which also I labor, struggling according to the working of Him who works in me in power.