This is a topic that every Christian should consider. If we are to be “church-goers” then we must know the answer to the question, “what are the marks of a true church?”
There are 3 generally accepted marks in Reformed circles…
1. Right preaching of the Word of God and sound doctrine (John 8:31, 47; 14:23; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:4; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 9-11)
2. Right administration of the sacraments (1 Cor. 10:14-17, 21; 11:23-30)
3. Right exercise of discipline (Matthew 18:17; Acts 20:28-31a; Rom. 16:17-18a; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:6, 11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:20; Titus 1:10-11; 3:10; Rev. 2:14-16a; 2:20)
Mark #1 – A church that does not have the Word of God as its authority rejects God’s prescriptive will, and therefore rejects God.
Mark #2 – The right administration of sacraments has a direct view of the congregations application of God’s Word in worship. It is a sign of rightly practicing what is preached. An overflow if you will of mark #1.
Mark #3 – Discipline keeps the glory of God and preserve the health of the church. This is designed to be a corrective measure when the church or its members goes astray in rightly applying God’s Word in their lives. This mark also reaches outside of the particular worship service and into every facet of an individuals life.
When considering this matter it is important to remember that there is no perfectly pure church. As the Westminster Confession of Faith declares (25:5) – “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error.”