LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–What is the true Christian church?
Theologians have debated that question for centuries, but the Word of God provides the lone answer, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said June 22. Mohler, speaking on the seminary campus, said that the true church can be identified by those who confess the Lordship of Christ and who stand on the authority of Scripture.
“Truth is an essential, authenticating mark of the church. It is non-negotiable,” said Mohler, who was speaking during a special chapel service in conjunction with the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade. “This means that there are religious organizations out there that claim to be Christian that are not churches, because they do not meet this minimal, Scriptural requirement.”
Mohler said that Jesus himself set this requirement in Matthew 16. Peter confessed the Lordship of Christ by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (NASB)” Jesus then replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.”
Mohler, who called Matthew 16 the “great constitution of the church” said that many self-proclaimed Christian churches fall short of the Scriptural requirement.
“There are churches that have all the right inscriptions on the stained-glass windows,” Mohler said. “They have all the right mottoes printed even in their creeds and confessions. They have all the right doctrines in the constitution of the church, and no one believes them anymore. That’s no true church.
“The true church is identified where there is this claim to truth and where it is found living. This is an exclusive claim, as Christ himself said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.'”
Mohler noted the authority that Jewish Rabbis had in biblical times. By studying the law, a rabbi would tell someone, “You are bound by the Word not to do this, or you are bound to do this.”
That type of authority stands in stark contrast to many of today’s churches, where discipline is nearly non-existent, Mohler said.
“In the church today, there is so little of this,” he said. “Most Christians today just do whatever seems right in their own eyes. Most of our churches make no demands upon the members — just come and give. That’s it.”
The church’s authority is derived from Jesus, Mohler pointed out. It is in Matthew 16:19 where Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
“We are holding the keys to that which we do not own,” Mohler said. “That authority, nonetheless, has been given to the church. One of the saddest things we see today is a church that is truthless, a church that is powerless and a church that has no authority.
“Too few churches are willing to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.'”
The church’s authority, Mohler said, is the Word of God.
“We’re either going to stand on it and stand under … or we’re going to run from it and abandon it and try to find some other authority,” he said.
Noting that many churches forfeit their authority out of a fear of losing members, Mohler said that Southern Baptists’ adoption of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message ran counter to much of the culture.
Mohler said that Southern Baptists are “even more clear than we were before about what we believe — because we understand that we have the responsibility together to say, ‘This is the truth we are here to defend.’
“The authority of the church is to say, ‘That is truth and that is error.’ Any church that will not distinguish between truth and error is not a genuine church.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: R. Albert Mohler Jr.