I just finished reading Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by R. C. Sproul. Readable, edifying, not watered down—marvelous. In a chapter dealing with the church, Sproul led us to the three marks of the church that the Reformers staked out that we would all do well to remember.
- The church that professes the gospel. “If a church denies any essential point of the gospel, such as the deity of Christ, the atonement, or justification by faith alone, it is no longer a church.”
- The church that observes the ordinances/sacraments. “The basic celebration of the sacraments on a regular basis is a necessary element of a true church. . . . The sacraments were designed by Christ for the edification of God’s people, and therefore it is the duty of the church to maintain proper observation of them.”
- The church that practices church discipline. “A church has responsibility for the spiritual nurture of its members, to see that people grow in their faith and become increasingly sanctified. Therefore, discipline is required to keep the church from becoming infected with impurities and corruption.”
Some would add more to this, but the Reformers were right—each of these Christ called us to do (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Matthew 18:15-20). May God continue to help us move along in being what His church desires, not what we desire.