Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1951
NUMBER 32, PAGE 1,5b

Marks Of The New Testament Church

Thomas Allen Robertson, Ontario, California

In visiting around among cattlemen and being shown around their places we have noticed that they all have one thing in common; they all have cattle. Some of them even have the same kind of cattle. But on the other hand we have noticed that there is one thing each of them has that is different from every other cattleman—their brand. In this way even though their cattle are similar in many ways, sometimes almost identical, there is no question as to which cow belongs to which rancher. The adding or the taking away of one line in a brand can change the, ownership of the cow, or at least cloud the ownership.

The same is true of churches. There are many churches in the world each similar in many ways, almost identical in other ways, some having been founded at one place, and some at another. Some having been founded by one man, some by another. And one which was started by Christ. And as has been mentioned there are certain things about all of them that are similar or identical. But here as in the cattle realm the question of ownership can be settled by looking at the marks—the brand. It isn't a question of finding some of the marks that make up the brand; to have the true brand all of the marks must be present.

What are the marks of the New Testament Church?

1. The New Testament Church was built by Christ and belongs to him. Christ said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18) Any church that was founded by any man either before or after Christ does not have this mark.

2. The foundation of the church of the New Testament is Christ. The rock referred to in Matthew 16 is Christ himself, not Peter or some mere proposition human or divine. Paul said, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 8:11)

3. Christ is not only the foundation of the New Testament Church but he is its head, and it is his body. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22, 23) "And he is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18) The church is the body; the body is the church. To be in Christ is to be in his body which is the church.

4. There is only one New Testament Church. The church is Christ's body, and Paul said, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye were called in one hope of your calling." (Eph. 4:4)

5. The New Testament Church was built upon the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. In Matthew 16 Christ said, "I will build my church." Christ did not say that he had built it in the days of John or Abraham, but it was something yet to be done. Christ tells his disciples that before this is done he must go into Hades, but he assures them that Hades cannot prevail against, prevent, the building of the church. Three days later we see him as he has come forth from the grave and Hades; he not only came forth triumphantly, but he unlocked the gates of Hades and carried off the keys. (Rev. 1:18) Hence, in Acts 2 we have the record of the triumphant Christ establishing his church on the first Pentecost after his resurrection. And for the first time we see men being added to it. (Acts 2:47)

6. The mission of the New Testament Church is to preach the gospel, to teach the plan of salvation as given by Christ to his apostles. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28: 19, 20)

7. The New Testament Church has no man made creed. When we go to the history of this church from the second chapter of Acts on, we find that they were simply required to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 8:37, 38; Heb. 11:6) Hence they were required to confess his name before men. (Acts 8:37, 38; Rom. 10:9, 10) The Bible as a whole was not their creed; they were not asked if they believed the Bible. Nor was the New Testament as a whole their creed. At that time it was not written. But they were required to believe that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." When one believes with the whole heart that Jesus is the Christ, he believes, as a consequence, all that Christ says; and does all that he directs.

8. The rule of faith and practice of the New Testament Church is the revealed will of God. Toward the close of the writing of the New Testament Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (1 Tim. 3: 16, 17) Peter said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;" (1 Peter 4:11) John said, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed." (2 John 10)

9. The conditions of membership in the New Testament Church are: (1) Those seeking membership in the New Testament Church must believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior. (John 8:24; Acts 8:37, 38; Acts 16:31) There is not a hint of an infant or any non-believer. Hence, all the members were called believers. (Acts 5:14) (2) They are required to repent of their sins. (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30) (3) They are required to confess their faith in Christ before men. (Matt. 10:32, 33; Acts 8:37, 38; Rom. 10:9, 10) (4) They must be baptized (immersed) in the name of, or by the authority of Jesus Christ into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:18, 19; Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-7; Gal. 3:26, 27; 1 Peter 3:21) (5) They must live godly lives; add to their faith the Christian graces. (2 Peter 1:1-10) And work out their own salvation. (Phil. 2:12)

10. No man ever joined the New Testament Church. After one has completed obedience to the commands of the gospel he is added, by the Lord, to the church of Christ. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved," (Acts 2:47)

11. The New Testament Church worships the Father in spirit and in truth. (John 4:34) Their worship is a worship in spirit and in understanding. (1 Coy. 14:15) They meet together on the first day of the week to break bread in memory of Christ. (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:25; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 10:16) They are edified by teaching, preaching and exhortation. (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:12; Col. 2:7, 8) They pray to God. (1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:8; Eph. 6:18) They lay by in store as the Lord has prospered them—the contribution. (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7-9) They sing praises unto God; vocal music alone characterizes the worship of the New Testament church. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)

12. The organization of the New Testament Church is one of its outstanding marks. Each congregation of the New Testament Church is independent. The churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16) are not bound into an ecclesiasticism; each congregation bears the same relation to Christ as every other congregation. Each congregation when fully organized has a plurality of elders and deacons. (Titus 1:5; Phil. 1:1) The elders or bishops (which are the same) are the overseers of the church, and its spiritual teachers and guides. They are often assisted in their work by an evangelist. The work of an evangelist is general. (2 Tim. 4:1-5) The deacons look more particularly after the temporal interest of the church, in conjunction with the elders. Their duties, like those of the elders, are confined to the congregation which they serve.

13. The New Testament Church wears a name that designates its relation to Christ. So far as having one set formal name, Christ never gave it any one distinct, exclusive name; it is frequently called the church of God (Acts 20:28). Also the body of Christ and in Matthew 16:18 Christ calls it his church, it is the church of Christ. In the plural the churches are called the churches of Christ. (Rom. 16:16) Its members are called Christians (Acts 11:26), saints, children of God, believers, etc. All of these names both individually and collectively, indicate certain relations; hence their importance and use.

When you find a congregation of people with these marks (this brand) you have found a congregation of the New Testament Church, the church of Christ. And if these marks are absent, it is not a New Testament Church; it is not the church for which Christ died. Mark it and avoid it, there is nothing to be gained in it.