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WHI-1176 | What is a True Church?

Posted by on in 2013 Show Archive
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How can you tell a true church from a false one? What are the distinguishing characteristics of a properly organized church body? How do the answers to these questions differ in Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox circles? On this edition of the program, we examine the substance of true faith and practice, specifically taking a look at the marks of a true church. (Originally broadcast Oct. 26, 2008.)What is a True Church?

How can you tell a true church from a false one? What are the distinguishing characteristics of a properly organized church body? How do the answers to these questions differ in Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox circles? On this edition of the program, we examine the substance of true faith and practice, specifically taking a look at the marks of a true church. (Originally broadcast Oct. 26, 2008.)


Finding a Church
Michael Horton

A Permanent Address
Michael Horton


Zac Hicks

[audio src="http://www.whitehorseinn.org/whiarchives/2013whi1176oct20.mp3" width="250"]
Click here to access the audio file directly


A Better Way
Michael Horton

No Church No Problem
Modern Reformation

The Risk of Orthodoxy
Modern Reformation


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  • Guest - Alvin Mullins

    @Rebecca Clearly Paul and Peter disagree with you. As I've already stated both claimed the benefits for the Abrahamic Covenant for all God's people not just Jews. Paul even says the true descendants of Abraham were those by faith not by blood. And I've already quoted Peter claiming the promise for the faithful, promises given to our father Abraham.

    Again in the new as well as the old, membership was always for the family not just the believer. Abraham was accounted righteous and his descendants were blessed. How was a baby boy circumcised before the 8th day showing evidence of membership?

    Because you are incorrectly interpreting scripture is the reason we don't have to answer a or b, since as I've already said membership in the covenant has nothing to do with birth but rather the faith of the parents. Unfortunately you also misread God of Promise.

    I suggest you read Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children by Pastor Daniel Hyde. A great little treatise that will answer all your questions. It is not difficult once you read the Bible as a whole and not segment it to justify a man made tradition.

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  • >How was a baby boy circumcised before the 8th day showing evidence of membership?

    By being a descendant of Abraham. The promises were made in response to Abraham's faith, and the rewards were forwarded to his biological offspring.

    The new covenant promises are made in response to the faithfulness of Christ the mediator, and the rewards are forwarded to his offspring (cf. Is. 53:10).

    The rewards are to all Christ's spiritually adopted family, not his biological family, Dan Brown not withstanding.

    There's a reason that the sign of the new covenant no longer involves the reproductive organs. We're not born into the covenant family from our father's loins; we're born out of the grave into our Father's family.

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  • Guest - Alvin Mullins


    Galatians 3:6-9
    “just as hAbraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
    7 Know then that it is ithose of faith who are jthe sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that kGod would justify3 the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, l“In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

    The blessing given to Abraham and his descendants are not by birth but by faith

    And if the sign and seal of the covenant was discontinued with Christ exactly where in scripture did that happen? I have given previously multiple passages where the apostles equate circumcision with baptism. Where are the passages you pull from to say that isn't true? Because if you can find them you would be the first. They don't exist.

    The blessings of the covenant both old (Abrahamic) and new are the same, because the covenants are the same. The only difference is the exact dispensation. God can and has shown that for different times there are different methods but it is all a Covenant of Grace. This Grace is shown not only for someone who professes belief but for our children. In fact it is a command and so when a church does not baptise their children, they commit sin.

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  • Of course circumcision is equivalent to baptism; they are both the entry rite to their respective covenants. But they are *not* the same covenant. If they were, the entry rite would be the same. The sign is part of the terms of the covenant, and the terms aren't negotiable (Gal. 3:15)- otherwise God would have sworn falsely!

    Christians are heirs of the promises made to Abraham *in that* we are the people of the (singular) offspring who is the heir of the promises (Gal. 3:16). We are Christ's family. But what verses can you supply that say the biological children of Christ's spiritual family are automatically also his spiritual family?

    The OT promises you give as pertaining to children are easily traced to places in the NT that clarify them as pertaining to believers, not merely the offspring of believers. Look at Acts 2 again:

    >For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

    Peter is making a point about generations: this new covenant will be the way of things for every generation from here on. But the blessings are for everyone the Lord *calls* in each generation.

    And who are baptized after Peter's sermon? "Those who received his word" (Ac. 2:40)- in other words, those who repented were baptized in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of sins (v. 38). The baptism was based on the individual's repentance, not their blood relation to someone who repented.

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  • Guest - Alvin Mullins


    Where does it say any where in scripture that the Covenant of Grace is different from the Covenant given to Abraham? Paul and Peter certainly didn't think so, neither did Christ. Of course Christ didn't annul the Abrahamic covenant and make an entirely new covenant, if that were the case, then all Jews would be saved. No, what Christ did is do what Israel was supposed to do, he was the light to the nations and brought the Gentiles into the covenant. That's why Paul can say the true descendants of Abraham are by faith not by blood.

    Acts 2 is specific that the blessings will be for the children, you have to make a special definition that children here, means generations. The Greek certainly doesn't mean that it means the children as in the house. That's why household baptisms are fairly common in Acts.

    The likelihood was that most people listening to Peter were adults who had never come to Christ so of course they professed and believed. That is proper for adults but the covenant was then extended to their children as Peter clearly states.

    Pure and simple, belonging to the covenant is God's choice not yours or mine. We do nothing otherwise we can boast. If I profess and that's the reason I am in the covenant then who has the power me or God? No, that is a work not grace. Rebecca, you still haven't answered my question: When did God exclude children from the covenant? When did he make a separate covenant of Grace? Answer those two questions and I believe you will see the inconsistency in your argument.

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  • Guest - Shaun

    @Alvin You asked "Are you saying the non-adults in these households believed and therefore they were baptised?" No. I am asserting that when the Bible mentions the baptism of households, there is no clear contextual evidence that infants where present let alone being immersed.

    In Acts 2, Peter said that the promise of the forgivneness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit was for them and their "children." As you noted in Isaiah 44 "children" denotes offsping or descendants not necessarily their immediate infacts. Their offspring or descendants would receive the same promise upon their repentance and immersion.

    You asked, "Shaun, are you saying the New Covenant negates the Abrahamic Covenant?" No. I believe the Bible is clear in that the new covenant is the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham.

    "Baptism into Moses" and "baptism into Christ" are similar but not equivalent things. Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 10 is not about baptism but idolatry. The entire nation was baptized en masse into Moses. We are not baptized into Christ nationally, but individually. So yes, infants may have been baptized into Moses upon crossing the Read Sea, however, that does not necessarily translate into infants being baptized into Christ today.

    You seem to agree that in the case of Lydia there is no evidence that her household was comprised of children, let alone evidence of children being immersed. The Bible does not even give Lydia's age. Her children, if she had any, may have very well been all adults at the time of her baptism. Putting supposition aside, household baptims do not prove infant baptism in scripture. Again, this concept is post-apostalic.

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  • Guest - Alvin Mullins

    @Shaun & @Rebecca
    First of all, I would like to say you both have kept the conversation gracious and for that I thank you. I have met others that are confirmed baptists who have not, as I'm sure you have met others on the pedo side that have not. So Thanks.

    This will be my last post on the subject because I will be moving shortly and I find when you are gone from a conversation for a long time, there is not much use to continuing.

    To answer Shaun then:

    The only evidence we have in household baptisms is that one person professed and their whole household was baptised. That would either mean, that the whole household had no children (in 4 separate instances) or that all of the people including the children had to have received the gospel, professed and were baptised. Since Paul clearly states in Romans those who have not heard the gospel can only come to Christ if they are called by a preacher who likewise called to give the gospel through preaching. So in your scenario, all the people in the household would have to be of age and would have had heard a preacher (an apostle at that time), professed an been baptised?

    Which is the more likely? The scenario above or that there were children in the household and they were also baptised? When we don't have clear evidence we have to go with what is most likely given the history of that era.

    In Acts 2 Peter clearly means children as in immediate and future not just descendants as in generations. The Greek word for children here as used in other parts of the New Testament almost always refers to children within a household as when Paul uses the same word to talk about how a father is not to provoke his children. Given that the covenant of Abraham referred to his child Isaac as well as his descendants that is the more probably meaning. To say it doesn't refer to immediate children means it is a totally unique way of using the term.

    If you agree the New Covenant is the same covenant as the one given to Abraham then you have to show there was some sort of addendum to the covenant that does not now apply to the children of the covenant. There is no such addendum nor is there a change in the covenant other than to show the covenant is not of blood but of faith, which was always the covenant just that it was misunderstood by the Jews. Unless you are going to argue that baptism is a sign someone has been justified, which I don't think you are, then we both agree baptism is a sign of someone being a part of the covenant.

    No, Paul's intention was to show not all those baptised into the covenant keep the covenant. Again unless you are arguing that baptism is the sign of the justified and thus all people baptised are justified then your argument doesn't hold. Of course baptised into Moses is not the same as into Christ, because Christ had not yet been revealed as the fact that the Gentiles were not thought to be part of the covenant. That was the mystery not revealed in the Old Testament that Paul was speaking of.

    While there is no evidence that there was children in any of the households spoken of, there is history of the era that says a household without children would have been quite rare and the fact that no other people within the household professed and were baptised speaks to the fact there were probably those who were not of age to profess or perhaps had not heard the gospel yet and could not then come to Christ.

    Again I appreciate your passion for the right way to interpret scripture and the graciousness you have carried our conversation. I seem to think that my arguments have not swaed you from your position and I can only hope with further reading of the scripture and the Holy Spirit's guidance you will see the truth in this.

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  • Guest - Kristopher Pierce

    Thank you for including a credobaptist on the show for all of these years. I am a Christian from a credobaptist background(Southern Baptist), and I love listening to the White Horse Inn.

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  • Guest - Jane

    Hi, I am your Evangelical Catholic Christian stopping by to listen to your conversation about this very important question, "What is a true Church?" or "Where is the True Church?"
    I am interested in what you said at about 9.3 minutes that Rome claims the Bishop of Rome to be the successor to Peter who has the same authority to speak the very word of God from the chair of Peter. Yes, this is an accurate claim by Rome based on the words of Jesus: "I will build my Church" and Jesus spoke to Saul, "Why do you persecute Me?" The Church is the Body of Christ, the real Body of Christ. Let's seek God's answer, what is His intention? One True Church! Right now we have how many churches/denominations? Pick a number 10-38,000. Today the Protest-ant Re-formation cannot stem the gushing of division in the Body of Christ. How God must cry for His family! Ask God to answer the question, He will if you truly seek His answer. Listen to Scott Hahn, etc.
    Your conversation sounds like "magisterium", maybe not Calvin's magisterium, maybe not the same as the radio show down the dial. Where do you derive the authority to declare Rome cannot be the continuity of Truth beyond human means?
    The prayer for unity in John 17 continues to be Jesus, our mediator and advocate's intercession for His Body, the Church.
    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss and pray over these eternal issues of faith. May the Peace of God be with you, Jane

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  • Guest - Chris


    Luther--one of their own professors--begged and pleaded with the Roman Catholics to return to the pure and unadulterated gospel, but he was excommunicated.

    In trying to re-unite with the Roman Catholics, Rome will not recant the anathemas of the council of Trent, nor trim off their added teachings that were introduced by their fathers post-apostolically. Both of these factors leave us no room for reconciliation.

    Luther's pleas still stand...but they are not heard. There is only excommunication.

    Amen. Let us pray, as with the Lord, for unity in the Word of the Father--in the Truth--and for our sanctification therein.

    And may those who "say, that by faith alone the impious is justified" (CANNON IX, CHAPTER XVI, Council of Trent), no longer be pronounced as excluded from the Church.

    Thank you,

    Christopher Jager
    Tillamook, OR

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