Saturday, March 12, 2011

The True Church


This week's installment from The Fundamentals

By Bishop J.C. Ryle

Do you belong to the one true Church; to the church outside of which there is no salvation? I do not ask where you go on Sunday; I only ask, "Do you belong to the one true Church?"

Where is this one true Church? What is this one true Church like? What are the marks by which this one true Church may be known? You may well ask such questions. Give me your attention, and I will provide you with some answers.

The one true church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus. It is made up of all God's elect—of all converted men and women—of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ's true Church.

It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born of the Spirit; they all possess "repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single Book—that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great center—that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, "Hallelujah,; and they can all respond with one heart and voice, "Amen and Amen."

It is a Church which is dependent upon no ministers upon earth, however much it values those who preach the Gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon church-membership, and baptism, and the Lord's Supper—although they highly value these things, when they are to be hald. But it has only one great Head—one Shepherd, one chief Bishop— and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members of His Church, though ministers may show the door. Till he opens the door no man on earth can open it—neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the Gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism—the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper; but he eats Christ's body and drinks Christ's blood by faith every day he lives, and no minister on earth can prevent him. He may be excommunicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church.

To be continued next week . . .

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