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The True Church

by Don Carlos Janes

Reprint from the 1920 Word & Work

     A reliable description of this precious, heaven-born, blood- bought institution is to be found in the New Testament and is of such great importance as to warrant a very careful and patient investigation with a desire to let God have His say that we may know the facts as He wishes us to know them.

     Its Proper Designations. There is something in a name (Prov. 8:10; 22:1; Matt. 6:9; 18:20; Acts 4:12) and we should use “sound speech, that cannot be condemned,” “speaking as it were oracles of God.” Tit. 2:8; 1 Pet. 4:11. The true church is undoubtedly the one of which Jesus spoke when He said: “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), the one we afterwards hear inspired men calling “the church” (Eph. 3:10), “the church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2), “church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12: 23), “the church of the Lord,” (Acts 20:28), “the body” (Col. 1:18), “the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), and (speaking of various congregations) “churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16), “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16), and “churches of the saints.” 1 Cor. 14:33. (See also 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17). Those who belonged to the true church were called “disciples” (Acts 6:1), “Christians” (Acts 11:26), “saints” (Rom. 1:7), “members” (1 Cor. 12:27), “children of God.” 1 John 3:1. With so many suitable and significant names in the scriptures it is neither right to wear an unscriptural designation nor any one of the Bible names to the exclusion of the others.

     Its Creed. In its simplest form, the creed of the true church is expressed in the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37; Matt. 16:16; Rom. 10:9. Its doctrine is the whole body of “sacred writings (including the New Testament) which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15), for “'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4. The “scripture inspired of God” is not to prove the doctrine of the true church by, but is itself “profitable for teaching (doctrine”), etc. 2 Tim. 3:16. This creed deals with the laws of induction and of expulsion; gives information on missionary and charitable work; regulates the conduct of husband and wife, of parent and child, of master and servant, of citizen and sovereign, of friend and foe, of rich and poor; reaches back to the remotest past and points forward to the happiness coming to the saints. It hangs up danger signals all along the pathway of life and continuously invites men to God, threatening the wicked with terrible punishment and making bright the course of the Christian by “his precious and exceeding great promises.” 2 Pet. 1:4. It contains milk for babes, and solid food for adults and is an inexhaustible treasure house of good things. Besides giving much information on man as he was and as he is, it tells us, as we can learn nowhere else in all the world, what he shall be in the ages to come.

     Reception of Members. The true church belongs to the Lord and it is His to say how members shall be received. Man, therefore has no option in the matter and no man or set of men can possibly vary the heaven-given terms and grant entrance to the body of Christ. All members of the true church “must be born anew” for “Except one be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5. * In the book of Acts thousands of persons became members of the church under the ministry of men who were possessed of the Holy Spirit. They were all regenerated, “born anew” “of water and the spirit.” They were taught to “believe on the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31); to “Repent *** and be baptized *** in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of” their sins (Acts 2:38) ; to “Arise and be baptized and wash away” their sins (Acts 22:16) ; and there is evidence that a simple statement of belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God was made previous to baptism (Acts 8: 37), which is a burial with Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). A careful study of the genuine conversions recorded in this book is recommended. “Those that were saved” were daily added to the church by “the Lord.” (Acts 2:47). There was not one process of conversion and another of joining the church.

Expulsion of Members. None really entered except through good motives and as all were to “love one another from the heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22), there would be no occasion to expel any unless they walked disorderly and refused to be set right. When all other corrective methods had failed, the church—when assembled—was required to “deliver up such a one unto Satan” (1 Cor. 5:4, 5; 2 Thess. 3:6; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; Tit. 3:10) for the correction of the error if possible and to protect the other members (1 Cor. 5:5, 6). In case of repentance, forgiveness was to be granted (2 Cor. 2:6-8), but if the disfellowshipped member continued impenitent “let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.” Matt. 18:17; Jno. 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:14, 15.


     Its Organization. The “head over all things to the church” is Christ. Eph. 1:22. The local assemblies had “overseers” or “bishops” (Acts 20:28) who were also called “elders” (1 Pet. 5:1-4), “pastors” (Eph. 4:11), “shepherds,” (1 Pet. 5:4) whose duties were to “feed” (Acts 20:28), “rule” (1 Tim. 5:17), and “watch” (Heb. 13:17). In short they were to “take care of. the church of God.” 1 Tim. 3:5). There was a plurality of them “in every church.” Acts 14:23. They were assisted by “deacons” (Phil. 1:1) who were particularly charged—it seems —with the “business” (Acts 6:3) of the congregation. None of these might be chosen at random, but were men who must have certain qualifications. 1 Tim. 3:2-13; Tit. 1:6-9. Others were called upon to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5), preaching the gospel (2 Tim. 4:1), setting in order the things that were wanting and appointing elders. Tit. 1:5.

     The Worship. This was a heart service which could only be performed in person—not by proxy nor by machinery (John 4:23, 24)—consisting of scripture reading (Col. 4:16), vocal music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), not merely for music's sake, but for teaching, admonition, edification; prayers led by “the men” (1 Tim. 2:8); oral teaching (1 Cor. 14:31); exhortation (1 Thess. 5:11) ; the contribution (1 Cor. 16:1, 2) ; and the observance* of the memorial supper “upon the first day of the week.” Acts 20:7. See Acts 2:42, and for a detailed statement of a meeting while the extraordinary gifts still prevailed) study 1 Cor. 14:26-40. Women did not “speak” “in the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34, 35).

     Its Purpose. Jesus “came unto his own (things) and they that were his own received him not” (John 1:11) as a nation and the membership of the church has been mainly of the Gentiles whom God has visited “to take out of them a people for his name.” Acts 15:14. The true church is “an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that” they “may show forth the excellencies of him who called” them “out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Pet. 2:9. “The church of the living Goa” is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and is for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13) unto the lost. While it is a charitable institution, it is not primarily for charity work, but is above all else a missionary society commissioned by its great head to “preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

     Its Financial System was wonderfully simple and wonderfully effective, consisting of direct gifts from “each one” according to his prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1, 2), not as some committee assessed him but “according as he hath purposed in his heart.

Don Carlos Janes 1877-1944, Editor of Boosters Bulletin and Missionary Messenger. He was a proponent of Missionary work and helped raise funds for most of the CofC missionaries from the 1910's to his death.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4