Don’t be deceived into thinking that the name on a sign designates whether a local congregation of believers is “a true church” or not. There is only one church. Period. Jesus said in Matthew 16 that the church would be built oh this foundation: that Jesus is the Christ – the son of the living God.
Churches might be poor financially but rich spiritually like the church at Smyrna – they are still Jesus’ church (Rev 2:8-11). They could be following a false doctrine like members of the Pergamum church holding to the teachings of Balaam – Jesus still addressed them as His church (Rev 2:12-17). They may be like the church at Thyatira and have members who follow a false prophet that leads them into sexual immorality and idolatry – it was still a church of Christ (Rev 2:18-29). It could be a church like that at Sardis and full of people who are asleep and who are not finishing their work – but Jesus still called it His church (Rev 3:1-6). Or maybe it’s a church like the one in Laodicea – rich on the outside but poor and blind (Rev 3:14-22). The church in Corinth was full of worship practices that were not pleasing to God – they were still a church of God.
Again, what did Jesus say the church was built on? The belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, the son of God. Isn’t it interesting that this is the confession we make before being baptized? I don’t think so.
So what church in Revelation did Jesus threaten with removal of their lampstand (or removal of their recognized church-status)? Look at the Ephesian church (Rev 2:1-7). Its actually quite frightening what they were guilty of: They were the one full of good deeds. They were the one that worked hard. They were the one that persevered. They were the one that could not tolerate wicked people. They were the one that tested for false doctrine. They were the one that identified false teachers. They were the one that endured hardship in Jesus name. They were the one that did not grow weary. They were the one that hated the practices of false prophets. Imagine that! The church Jesus threatened to disown did ALL of those wonderful things – and did them well! But they were still threatened with the removal of their lampstand.
Wait a second! Aren’t those are the things many of us use to determine whether a church is “in good standing” or whether it is a “true church” or not. Isn’t it odd that Jesus used something else to make His decision and NOT those things that many of us use? So, why did Jesus threaten to remove their status as a church? Simple. They had forsaken their first love: the love we have for Jesus when we are first saved. The love based in the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the King, the Messiah, the SAVIOR – and the son of the living God. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what Jesus said the church was founded upon.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that only local congregations that comply with the points we consider important are “sound” in God’s eyes. Being part of a religion won’t get you to Heaven my friends. Being in a particular church won’t get you to Heaven either. Only Jesus is the way to Heaven, and only once we are in the right relationship with the King will we be a part of His kingdom on Earth – the church.
Some might think the name on the sign in front of a building will indicate where true Christians worship. If THAT is what you think identifies a group of people who believe Jesus is the Christ – the son of God – I suggest you act like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study.
What exactly did the Bereans study about? The same message Paul delivered to the Thessalonians: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you was the Messiah” (Acts 17:3). Wait a second – isn’t that basically the same premise that Jesus built His church on? Well, yes it is my friends. Yes it is.
“Names” of the church:
The church – too many times to list
The Way – Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14; Acts 24:22; 2 Pet 2:2
Church of God – Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Cor 10:32; 1 Cor 11:16; 1 Cor 11:22; 1 Cor 15:19; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:13; 2 Thes 1:4; 1 Tim 3:5
The church Jesus built – Mat 16:18
The church in Jerusalem – Acts 8:1
Church throughout Judea – Acts 9:31; Gal 1:22
Church throughout Galilee – Acts 9:31
Church throughout Samaria-Acts 9:31
Church at Jerusalem – Acts 11:22
Church at Antioch – Acts 13:1
Church at Cenchrea – Rom 16:1
Churches of the Gentiles – Rom 16:4
Church in their house – Rom 16:4
Churches of Christ – Rom 16:16
Whole church – Rom 16:23
Churches of the saints – 1 Cor 14:33
Churches of Galitia – 1 Cor 16:1; Gal 1:2
Churches of Asia – 1 Cor 16:19; Rev 1:4
Churches of Macedonia – 2 Cor 8:1
Church of Laodiceans – Col 4:16
Brethren in Laodicea – Col 4:15;
Church in Laodicea – Rev 3:14
Brethren in Nympha – Col 4:15
Church of Thessalonians- 1 Thes 1:1; 2 Thes 1:1
Church of God in Christ Jesus – 1 Thes 2:14
Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15
Church of the Living God – 1 Tim 3:15
Church in Ephesus – Rev 2:1
Saints at Ephesus – Eph 1:1
Church in Smyrna – Rev 2:8
Church in Pergamum – Rev 2:12
Church in Thyatira – Rev 2:18
Church in Sardis – Rev 3:1
Church in Philadelphia – Rev 3:7
Church of the firstborn – Heb 12:23
True people of God – Rom 9:6