Author: Ron Graham
Many people feel they must investigate every religion and denomination, but that task is of course impossible. The mass of doctrines and opinions is too vast for anyone to sift through. The attempt can lead only to despair and confusion.
To find Christ’s church, some questioning and investigation is needed: Examine everything carefully and hold fast what proves to be good" (1Thessalonians 5:21). However please understand that you don't have to spend years examining minutely all the doctrines of all the denominations!
There is a simple method of finding the true church. It is the same simple common-sense method we use any time we want to find something. It's what is usually called "the process of elimination".
Your task is to find Christ’s church by following that simple principle which you already understand. Consider this example...
Suppose you had never seen me, and had to meet me at the airport, how would you single me out from the crowd? All you know is that I'm a man and my name's Ron Graham. But imagine I told you beforehand, "I'll be wearing a grey suit and red gumboots, and doing tricks with a yo-yo." You would not take long to single me out, would you? You'd eliminate most people with a passing glance. The process is simple: Look for people doing yo-yo tricks —if they are grey-suited males in red gumboots, check their names.
Having found me, imagine you then forgot where you had parked your car. Would you examine every one of the hundreds of vehicles parked at the airport? Would you count the wheels on each car to see if it had four? No, you would remember, and look for, special marks or characteristics of the area where you left your car to narrow down your search. Then you'd look for the marks that distinguish your car. Most cars would hardly get a glance, only those like yours.
In the same way, simply take a few salient marks of the true church, and arrange them in the most logical elimination sequence. For instance, we list just four marks of the New Testament church...
...that Christ died on the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead, ascended to the throne of God, and will return to judge the world (Acts 2:23-24, Acts 2:32-33, 1Corinthians 15:3-4, 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, 2Timothy 4:1).
...in water in the name of Christ, of repentant believers, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-4).
...that purport to be miracles and signs, yet do not measure up to the standard and nature of miracles recorded in the scripture. (2Thessalonians 2:9-10, Acts 2:1-12, Acts 3:1-10, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:36-42).
...and descriptions for the church, and refuses all names invented by men. The latter divide, whereas names and terms used by inspired writers are not divisive. (Acts 11:26, Romans 16:16, 1Corinthians 1:10-13).
There are, of course, other important marks of the true church. By presenting only four marks, I don't imply that other marks are unimportant. This is not a study on all the characteristics of the Lord’s church. It's a lesson on the practical way to find that church by a process of elimination. The four marks above will be reasonably sufficient to eliminate most “churches” very quickly. Those marks will narrow the search to a few candidates at the most.
Study the four characteristics outlined above. When you convince yourself that these are indeed true marks of the church, go and find a people who have these marks. I would be surprised if they did not have whatever other necessary marks there may be.
There is one caution in this lesson: make sure that every mark you apply is really a mark of the true church that distinguishes it from the false. Make sure that Jesus Christ gave to his church every characteristic mark that you apply. Otherwise you will be eliminating parts of the true church, and judging as spurious what Jesus regards as true! This would be an insult to Christ and to those true Christians you have excluded.
Many stories in the Bible illustrate the process of elimination. We close our lesson with just one of those stories.
An angel said to Cornelius, "Send men to Joppa and invite Simon who is also called Peter to come to you. He is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea" (Acts 10:32).
To find Peter, they would not need to enter every house in the world. They would take note of the known facts about the house where Peter could be found and put these facts into the most logical search order: The house is in Joppa, by the sea, and Simon the tanner lives there.
First the men would go to Joppa. That would eliminate Nazareth, Azotus, and other places. Next they would go down by the sea. That would eliminate houses in Joppa that were not along the seafront. They would not stop at a blacksmith's house, nor at the house of a potter, fisherman, boatbuilder, merchant, inkeeper. Even if they came to a sign that said, "Jacob Brown, Tanner" they would not go in.
See how they have eliminated most enquiry. With a few simple and salient marks, put into a sensible order, they'll find the house and Peter easily.
By that same process, if you know the marks to look for, you can find the true church of God!