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The True Church

Joseph Irons | Added: Jul 04, 2024 | Category: Theology


No one word in the vocabulary of Scripture has been so misunderstood, perverted, and abused, as the word CHURCH. The most crude and ridiculous notions have been coupled with it; the most atrocious Villainy has been cloaked under it; and the most abominable Superstitions have been fostered in its hallowed name. Oppression, Tyranny, and Murder have claimed it as their parent; Ignorance, Pride, and Perfidy have been employed as its servants, in works of darkness. 

The word CHURCH has been fixed as a label upon the most appalling masses of human Woe; it has been inscribed on the banners of the most determined Foes of God and man; it has been the watch-word of Hypocrites, and the very entrenchment of Satan’s Armies. Nevertheless, it is one of the most hallowed, distinctive, and important Words in the Volume of Inspiration; and if we look there only for its signification, under the teaching of its Divine Author, we shall not fail to discover that, all the Perversion to which it has been subject proclaims its importance, as the appellation by which the Family of God is distinguished from the world; and whenever the Worldling assumes it, he becomes an Imposter, deceiving himself and others, mocking God, and trifling with Eternal Realities.

Strong Delusions have been, and still are, built upon this Word CHURCH; it is profanely applied to a pile of brick and stone; it is politically perverted to designate a national Association; it is ignorantly inscribed upon the forehead of the Mother of Harlots; in fact, it is made the medal of priestcraft, the charm of ignorance, and the Satanic opium which lulls Souls to sleep on the confines of Hell. Yet, it is a Word peculiarly interesting to Heaven-born Souls, and of the most blessed signification in the Oracles of God, whereby God the Father describes His Family, God the Son acknowledges His Bride, and God the Holy Ghost distinguishes His Temple.

The only Scriptural sense, in which the Word CHURCH can be understood, in its most extensive application, is, the whole ELECTION of GRACE, ‘the whole Family in Heaven and earth’ (Ephesians 3:15), whom God the Father loved and adopted from Eternity, whom God the Son covenanted to redeem, and whose names God the Holy Ghost registered in the Book of Life to be sanctified in the fulness of time as Heirs who shall inherit Salvation (Revelation 13:8). 

This one essential CHURCH of God is distributed over the face of the earth, and divided by nations, names, and creeds; but this is the Declaration of Her God and Saviour, ‘My Dove, My undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother’ (Song of Solomon 6:9). She had a virtual existence in her Covenant Head from Everlasting, and every one of her Members was seen IN Him, by JEHOVAH, in pristine beauty and perfection, and written in His Book (Psalm 139:16), as the CHOICE of Paternal Love, before Sin existed (Romans 5:12) or time began (Ephesians 1:4). Nor did the Fall of Adam, with all its tremendous consequences, destroy the Union which Love Divine had formed between Jesus and His CHURCH; nay, it gave occasion for the display of that immutable Love in her Redemption and Salvation. For Redemption is an Act of Love in which all the Persons and Perfections of the GODHEAD concur, and could not possibly include the world, without including them ALSO in Salvation. Hence, the CHURCH triumphant is represented as singing ‘Thou hast redeemed US to God by Thy blood OUT OF (not along with) every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Revelation 5:9); so that the universal redemption scheme is at War with Divine Love, at variance with the whole tenor of Scripture, and utterly irreconcilable with the Doctrine of the TRINITY; yea, it is subversive of all the Doctrines of Grace, and opens wide the door to licentiousness.

The CHURCH is described as ‘IN God the Father, and IN the Lord Jesus Christ’; that is, in union with the Persons of the GODHEAD, by Covenant relationship, which can never be dissolved, and which forms the basis of all the wonders which are developed in time, by the Providence and Grace of God, yea all the unfoldings of Glory for ever. Everywhere in the Word of God His Church is represented as distinct from the world, as angels from devils; and it is nothing less than a direct insult offered to God, to attempt to amalgamate those whom God hath everlastingly distinguished from each other, especially in the face of His own written Word; in the very opening of which, and throughout its sacred pages to the end, it is proclaimed, repeated, and preserved; so that I can only account for man’s obstinate Rebellion against it, in the language of Scripture itself, ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). For Heaven and Hell are not wider apart – Sin and holiness are not more opposed, that the CHURCH and the world differ from each other, in origin, in affinity, in character, and in destiny. 

The immediate Descendants of our fallen Parents were thus distinguished from each other. ‘The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect’ (Genesis 6:4, 5). Hence Abel is enrolled among the Household of Faith (Hebrews 11:4); but Cain is described to be ‘of that wicked one,’ and turns out a Murderer (1 John 3:12).

Noah, and his family, constitute the visible CHURCH of God, and are saved in the ark, when the world was destroyed by the Flood; and even at this early period, the Members of the CHURCH are distinguished from the nominal; for Shem and Japheth are blessed, while Ham and is Posterity are cursed, though they all came out of the loins of Noah, and in after ages they were destroyed to give place to God’s Israel (Galatians 6:16).

Abraham is distinguished from his idolatrous neighbours by an act of SOVEREIGN GRACE, and called out of Ur of the Chaldees, while they are left enveloped in superstition (Genesis 15:7; Joshua 24:2).

Before Jacob and Esau were born, the decree was gone forth, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’; and without respect to good or evil in the children, but, for this express reason, ‘that the Purpose of God according to ELECTION might stand’ (Romans 9:11-18).

The twelve sons of Jacob became twelve tribes (the visible and typical CHURCH of God) perfectly distinct from Esau’s Race, as well as from Egyptians and Moabites, of whom it is said, they ‘shall not enter into the Congregation of the Lord for ever’ (Deuteronomy 33:3). And Malachi was commissioned thus to distinguish the CHURCH from ‘the people against whom JEHOVAH hath indignation for ever’ (Malachi 1:4). And shall poor, puny worms of the earth, dare arraign the great JEHOVAH at the bar of their fallen, corrupt, depraved REASON? Rather let them bow to the conclusive interrogation, ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:25).

The Old Testament teems with such phrases as ‘My people’, Thy people’, ‘His people’, ‘the people of the God of Abraham’, ‘His CHOSEN’, ‘His redeemed’, etc.; constantly holding up to our view the distinction which God has made between the CHURCH and the world. All the spiritual Promises, and Privileges, are exclusively theirs; all the spiritual Invitations and Exhortations are invariably given to them, and always coupled with some definite description of their true Character and Relationship. In a word, theirs is the Charter of GRACE, with all its Blessings, for time and Eternity.

If we examine the New Testament, there the CHURCH of God is described more plainly, and distinguished from the world in terms so explicit, that one would think the very effrontery and craft of Satan could not evade it. There it is called, the CHURCH of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28), of which Jesus is the only Head (Ephesians 1:22); which Jesus loved and gave Himself for (Ephesians 5:25) and, which Jesus will at last present to Himself a glorious CHURCH (Ephesians 5:27).

Our Lord Himself owns and claims His CHURCH, under the very significant name of Sheep, as distinguished from Goats, saying of His CHURCH, ‘My Sheep hear My voice’; again, ‘I lay down My Life for the Sheep’; again, ‘I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish’; but of the world He says, ‘ye believe not, because ye are not of My Sheep’ John 10. throughout. Moreover He says to the Father, ‘I pray NOT for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine; and all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified IN them’; ‘they are NOT of the world’; ‘Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast love Me’ John 17, throughout.

Now will any man dare call himself a Minister, or Disciple of Christ, and yet give the Lie to all that Jesus has said in His Word, by proclaiming a Confederacy between the world and the CHURCH? The highest provocation which Israel of old ever offered to God was, when ‘they mingled among the Heathen, and learned their works’ (Psalm 106:35); and the highest affront which is now offered to the King of Zion is the Flag of Truce which is hung out to the world, and the Treaty of peace that is formed between His professed Subjects and His worst Foes (the Pharisees) the terms of which Treaty are, the rejection of His absolute SOVEREIGNTY, to confer Divine Honours upon that traitorous Outlaw FREE-WILL, who ruined our first Parents by his Deceit, and has destroyed countless millions of their Posterity.

If we take the Apostolic descriptions of the CHURCH of God, and her distinction from the world, we shall find them as foreign from the carnal notions of unregenerate men, and the arrogant assumptions of priests, as east and west, light and darkness, life and death; and I shall pen one passage from each of the Epistles to show how they spake of the CHURCH. 


‘Beloved of God, called to be Saints’ (Rom. 1:7).

‘Sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be Saints’ (1 Corinthians 1:2).

‘Children of God by Faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26).

‘Saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, CHOSEN in Him’ (Ephesians 1:1-4).

‘Saints in Christ Jesus, with bishops and deacons’ (Philippians 1:1).

‘Saints and faithful brethren in Christ’ (Col 1:2).

‘The CHURCH which is in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 and 2 Thess 1:1).

‘The CHURCH of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15).

‘According to the faith of God’s ELECT’ (Tit 1:1).

‘The CHURCH in the house of Archippus’ (Philemon1:2).

‘Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling’ (Hebrews 3:1).

‘Of His own Will begat He us’ (James 1:18).

‘ELECT according to the FOREKNOWLEDGE of God’ etc. (1 Peter 1:2).

‘Them that have obtained like precious Faith’ (2 Peter 1:1).

‘Sons of God’ (1 John 3:1).

‘The ELECT Lady and her children’ (2 John 1:1).

‘The brethren’ (3 John 5).

‘Sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus and called’ (Jude 1).

Now these are ‘the tokens in every Epistle’ (2 Thessalonians 3:17), by which the true CHURCH of God is described, and no man can be saved who lives and dies a Stranger to all these marks of vital godliness. Deluded Mortals may dream of belonging to the church of England, Scotland, France, or Rome, and talk in their sleep of councils, fathers, and lines of succession, which differ widely from the foregoing Scripture description of the CHURCH of God; but, without the quickening Operation of the Holy Ghost imparting the Faith of God’s ELECT, they will awake in Eternal despair, and be disowned by the glorious Head of the CHURCH, with, ‘I never knew you’ (Matthew 7:23). Yea, though they boast, as the Pharisees of old did to John, ‘we have Abraham to our father’ (Matthew 3:9), unless they have Abraham’s Faith, the awful sentence pronounced by Christ’s stand against them; ‘ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Prophets in the Kingdom of God, and your yourselves thrust out’ (Luke 13:28).

The CHURCH of God, essentially considered, is ‘a CHOSEN generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’ (1 Peter 2:9); and in her visible organization, no persons ought to be admitted Members, but those whom God has manifestly ‘called out of darkness into His marvellous light’; for ‘what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an Infidel?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14): as well might we attach the arm of a dead man to a living man’s body, as to acknowledge those for CHURCH Members who are dead in Trespasses and in Sins; it is but introducing putrefaction and death among the living, thereby destroying the comfort and peace, if not the health, of the whole body.