Here in the United States we live in a so-called “Christian” society. Today more people than ever before profess to be members of a church in one of the various denominations in our country. However, are the churches these people attend really Christian? In order to determine whether or not they are truly Christian churches, let us see if they possess the marks of the true church, that is—the proper preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of Christian discipline.
The most important mark, the pure preaching of the Word, is today in many churches, even Reformed circles, utterly twisted and perverted. It is not at all uncommon to hear from the pulpit that man and woman are equal. Some churches even permit women office bearers. Yet, we are very clearly instructed in 1 Corinthians 14:34: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.” Still other ministers preach that homosexuality can be tolerated in the church. Once again, this is clearly forbidden by the gospel in Romans 1:27, 28. In addition, there is the subject of divorce and remarriage. “Christian” churches seem to be blind to the fact that Scripture distinctly states, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). And then there are such basic points of doctrine as election and reprobation. Election is sometimes preached, but reprobation is completely denied. They devise their own modern versions of the Bible to distort such beautiful passages as Romans 9:13 where the word “hated” in “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” is changed to “loved less.” It is so clear from the rest of the chapter and all of Scripture that the word must be “hated.”
Next comes the second mark of the Church, the administration of the sacraments. This too is abused. Some misinterpret the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with such views as that of consubstantiation and transubstantiation. And there are others that forbid infant baptism. Still others decide that there are seven sacraments instead of the correct number of two Christ-instituted sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Finally, with respect to the exercise of Christian discipline, many of these “Christian” churches are very lax. They preach “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” However, the consistory does no work in admonishing those that generally manage to attend services only once a Sunday or not at all. In addition, there is the sexual promiscuity that is recognized. The minister reads from the law: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but yet does nothing when he knows of persons engaged in this sinful way of life.
It is clear that America is not nearly as “Christian” as people often like to think. For many, church attendance is just the social thing to do. They go to church once on Sunday and then they are free to live the life they want the rest of the week. Either the church’s teachings themselves permit this, or else the lack of discipline encourages their sinful life.
Thus, we as Protestant Reformed young people must be thankful for what we do have—the pure and proper preaching of the Word, administration of the Sacraments, and exercise of Christian discipline. Our Protestant Reformed churches aren’t perfect either; but as of now, we believe we have the purest manifestation of the Church of Christ on earth. Thus, as we mature and soon become the leaders in our churches, we must strive to remain this way. Our task will be a difficult one, for as we approach the end of time, our struggle will become more intense. However, we will find it much easier if we labor to do what the Lord required of Israel in Deuteronomy 10:12 and what He also requires of us. “…to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” This is being a true Christian.