by Shawn Brasseaux
Without attacking or belittling anyone, I wish to provide you with information on evaluating and/or selecting a local church. Sadly, many people admit they go to a particular local church for three reasons: (1) family and friends go/went there, (2) the church building and grounds look nice, or (3) the church has nice programs and helps the community. Unfortunately, sound doctrine is often ignored when most people select a local church. Why? They know not sound doctrine in the first place! It is rather strange that very few people even know what their church’s statement of faith even is!
Friends and brethren, the devil is the master deceiver and master counterfeiter. The church building may be a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art auditorium, but that does not necessarily make it the best church. In fact, it may not even be proper to call it a “church” in the Biblical sense!
Doctrine is extremely important, for it separates us Christians from the erroneous teachings of the religions of the world. Be sure you understand a church’s statement of faith before you become involved with it. Ask the pastor questions and/or request a copy of their statement of faith. Prayerfully consider a local church because, as the Bible warns in Acts 20:28-30, there are many “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Avoid mega-churches—that is, churches that have thousands of members—because they are known for their damnable prosperity and social gospels.
I hope that you find this special Bible study useful in finding (or testing) the doctrines of the local church in question. Of course, we cannot find the “perfect church,” and we seek not a “perfect church.” We desire what God desires—a sound local church. While there are many issues we could note here, here are seven major fundamental doctrines of Scripture that must always be upheld in a local church!
ISSUE #1 – DOES THE LOCAL CHURCH ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S WORD AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY, AND THAT THE KING JAMES BIBLE IS THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD IN ENGLISH?
- The King James Bible should be the sole authority in the local church: it should be seen and believed as the infallible (perfect) Word of God for us English-speaking people. The pastor should not be using a modern English Bible such as NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, ESV, etc. Furthermore, he (the pastor) should not be the final authority; he should not be a “King James corrector.”
- We have the complete revelation from God in His written Word, a preserved and translated copy—the King James Bible—of the inspired Hebrew Old Testament and the inspired Greek New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
- God’s Word is superior to religious tradition because church tradition is traditionally wrong (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). The pastor should be teaching the Holy Scriptures without relying on hunches, “visions,” “angelic appearances,” feelings, emotions, human viewpoint, religious tradition, and so on.
- The church should believe in the inerrancy (lacking mistakes) and plenary verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, or that every word belongs in the King James Bible because every word is of God. Otherwise, do not give this church your time or your money.
ISSUE #2 – DOES THE LOCAL CHURCH ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRIUNE GOD AND JESUS CHRIST AS FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN?
- The church should teach and believe the doctrine of the Trinity/Godhead, that God exists in three coequal and co-eternal Persons—Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Ghost.
- There are many “Christian” groups that deny the Scriptural evidence that God exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that God is one God, but He exists in three Persons, all being coequal and coeternal (Genesis 1:26; Matthew 3:16,17; Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3,4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; Colossians 2:8,9; 1 John 5:7).
- What is the local church’s view of Jesus Christ? Does it believe Jesus was just a “good man,” or “just another prophet of God?” Does it believe Jesus is a created being and not God Almighty? The Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is God Almighty, JEHOVAH, manifested in human flesh (Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12; Mark 1:1; John 1:1-4, 14; Ephesians 3:9; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:8,9; Titus 2:13; Revelation 1:11, 17).
- Any local church or pastor that denies the Godhead and/or the deity of Jesus Christ is clearly false and is not Christian. Consequently, that local church and pastor should be avoided.
ISSUE #3 – DOES THE LOCAL CHURCH PREACH ETERNAL SALVATION IS FOUND EXCLUSIVELY IN PAUL’S GOSPEL, THE FINISHED CROSSWORK OF JESUS CHRIST?
- Does the local church believe that faith alone in Paul’s Gospel (The Gospel of the Grace of God of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as being the only way to salvation? Does it teach that the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ is sufficient payment for our sins? Or, does it believe and teach that you have to do good works in order to get saved and/or keep that salvation? We are saved and kept saved by Christ’s finished work on Calvary, not by our own works (Romans 3:19,20,28; Romans 4:1-5; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; Galatians 2:20,21; Galatians 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:8,9; Colossians 2:6,7; Titus 3:5).
- The Bible says that believers are secure in Jesus Christ, that they will never lose their salvation because of sin (Romans 5:1; Romans 8:16,17,31-39; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Ephesians 4:30-32; 2 Timothy 1:12).
- Does the local church teach multiple ways to heaven, or does it teach that salvation is only found in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:5)? Does it believe that we can approach God through the dead saints and/or the virgin Mary? Does it teach that we can merit God’s favor by keeping rites and rituals (such as the sacraments)? If the local church demands that you must get water baptized, tithe, repent, confess your sins, or anything else before you can be saved, that you must do these things to get saved, or that you must do these things to prove you are saved, then leave that church and never return. This is “another gospel” of which the Apostle Paul warned (2 Corinthians 11:3,4; Galatians 1:6-9)!
ISSUE #4 – IS THE LOCAL CHURCH “PAULINE?” THAT IS, DOES IT RECOGNIZE THAT PAUL IS OUR APOSTLE IN THIS THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE?
- Does the local church acknowledge that Paul is our apostle in this the Dispensation of Grace (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 1:11)? The local church should teach that in Paul’s epistles alone, Romans through Philemon, we find the doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny of the Church the Body of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-11). Paul is God’s spokesman to us and the Lord Jesus Christ has set forth the Apostle Paul as our “pattern” (1 Timothy 1:15,16)—we follow Paul as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
- Or, does the local church force you to follow the instructions Jesus Christ gave to the Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8) in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Does the local church instruct you to follow and mimic Israel’s tithing system, Israel’s water baptism, and Israel’s signs, miracles, and wonders? We are not under Israel’s Mosaic Law (Romans 6:14,15; Colossians 2:14; Galatians 5:1). The entire book of Galatians deals with legalism and Law-keeping, and Paul emphasizes that neither has anything to do with us today! We have not replaced the nation Israel. Therefore, we cannot steal Israel’s verses that belong in Israel’s program.
- In this Dispensation of Grace, the Apostle Paul writes that we are not under the nation Israel’s performance-based acceptance system of law, but rather we are under grace (Romans 6:14,15; Titus 3:5). We have no legalistic doctrine in the Church the Body of Christ because we are separate from the nation Israel (Romans 11:11,15,25). The Christian life is not us living the life of Christ, but us letting Christ live His life in and through us as we believe His Word to us (Romans 12:1,2; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:22,23; Ephesians 4:17-25; Philippians 1:21; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 2:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
- All Scripture is inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and we study all 66 books of the King James Bible, but we should study the Bible “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). We recognize that the Church the Body of Christ is separate from the nation Israel. All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us.
- Avoid churches that embrace the charismatic movement (signs, healing miracles, tongue speaking, et cetera), existentialism (feel-good “worship” services), and formalism (rites, rules, rituals, ceremonies, and so on).
Please feel free to email me with questions regarding any doctrines not addressed here.