` In today’s world, where the customer is king, most people look for a church that meets their subjective needs. They look for a church that has the music they like, the youth group they like, the location they like, and the people they like. These things aren’t necessarily bad; it’s OK to think about music, youth group, location, and the people when looking for a church. However, if one is looking for a biblical church, these things should be low on the list of things for which to look.
So what things should one look for in search of a biblical church? Simply put, one that has the notae verae ecclesia – the marks of a true church. Scripture does gives us objective identification marks of a true Christian church. In Reformation theology, here’s how the discussion goes:
“[The notae verae ecclesia (marks of the true church) are] the distinguishing features by which the church can be identified: 1) The preaching of the word or profession of true doctrine; 2) the valid administration of the sacraments; and 3) disciplined Christian life in obedience to Word and sacrament. The Reformers and the Lutheran orthodox generally argue the first two notae, Word and sacrament, and assume the third as a by-product or effect. The Reformed scholastics generally argue Word, sacrament, and discipline as the notae” (Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, s.v. notae ecclesiae).
The Belgic Confession of Faith puts it this way:
“The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: the church engages in pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults” (Art. 29).
Scripture references include Matthew 18:17, John 8:31, 10:37, Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:23ff, Galatians 1:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Timothy 5:20, and 2 John 9:11, among others. The point is, when looking for a church the first priority should be to find a solid Christian church, one that displays the biblical marks of a biblical church: preaching of the gospel, administration of the sacraments, and Christian discipline. These marks aren’t arbitrary, they’re in Scripture, and are a biblical help in finding a true church of Christ. There may be other things to think about, but these three are the first and far most important three.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)