The Marks of the Church

How can you find the church? What do you look for? Is it in the right kind of building? Is it among a certain kind of people? Is it merely somewhere where someone teaches a spiritual message? When it comes to his church, Jesus doesn’t leave us to guesswork to find it. Instead, he gives us sure and certain signs, or markers, so that you and I can find his church beyond any shadow of doubt.

As Jesus was about to ascend to heaven, he gave his disciples some instructions for his church. “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In these instructions, he tells his church to do two things: 1) baptize and 2) teach his Word. It is only natural then that as we look for his church, we would find it doing these things. Jesus gave his disciples another instruction not long before his ascension into heaven. It concerned the Lord’s Supper he had just given them for the first time. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus told them (Luke 22:19). Where we find the church, we can also therefore expect to find a regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

These three things – the gospel [good news that God, in love, sent his Son, Jesus, to take away the sins of the world] proclaimed in Word [the words God gives us in the Bible] as well as in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – we can rightly call the marks of the church because these are the things Christ has taught us to do. Yes, they are things we as the church want to do.

The Bible gives us another important reason we can call these things the marks of the church. It shows us these are the ways the Lord brings and keeps people in the Christian faith:

  • “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ,” Paul writes (Romans 10:17).
  • “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,” he says elsewhere. (Galatians 3:27)
  • Still in another place he writes of the Lord’s Supper as a “participation in the body of Christ and the blood of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16). In other words, this meal unites us with Christ.

Jesus has given us all these things to bring and keep us in faith. They are the ways he has promised to be with us and bless us as we gather together in his name (Matthew 18:20). They simply go hand in hand with any group of Christians who have gathered together.

If you are looking for a church, don’t just look for the most beautiful building or the most friendly people. Instead, look for the signs Jesus has given you. Look for the marks of the church, taught and practiced as Jesus has commanded, and never doubt – Jesus will bless you abundantly!

The following information will help you clearly understand what Jesus taught regarding the Bible, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:

Bible

The Bible and WELS Lutherans teach that the Bible is the true word of God.  It is inspired by the Holy Spirit.  This means that God breathed into the writers the exact thoughts and words they were to write.  As a result, every statement in the Bible is the truth.  One part of the Bible explains another part.  It is the only guideline for the faith and life of Christians.  We are to read and study it diligently.  It clearly teaches all we need to know in order to obtain our eternal salvation.

2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; Luke 11:28; John 5:39

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the doctrine of the Bible, consider reading the book, Bible – God’s Inspired, Inerrant Word, written by Brian R. Keller.  If you have specific questions regarding this topic or any other, feel free to contact Pastor Behnken.

Baptism

The Bible and WELS Lutherans teach that baptism is a holy act.  It is instituted by God.  Using water and God’s Word, it offers and gives the forgiveness of sins, spiritual life and eternal salvation.  It is meant for young and old, including children.  Infants also are sinful and therefore need the spiritual rebirth brought about through baptism.

Matthew 28:19; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5; Mark 10:14; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16; Psalm 22:9-10; 1 Peter 3:20-22

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the doctrine of the Baptism, consider reading the book, Baptism – My Adoption into God’s Family, written by Gaylin R. Schmeling.  If you have specific questions regarding this topic or any other, feel free to contact Pastor Behnken.

 Lord’s Supper

The Bible and WELS Lutherans teach that Holy Communion is a holy act instituted by Christ.  Together, with bread and wine, we receive Jesus’ true body and blood.  In this special meal, Jesus gives the forgiveness of sins, strengthens our faith and gives eternal salvation to all who believe.  Only people who repent of their sins and receive proper instruction in the Christian faith should be admitted to this sacrament.

Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:27-28; 1 Corinthians 10:17

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, consider reading the book, Lord’s Supper – The Lamb’s High Feast, written by Arnold J. Koelpin.  If you have specific questions regarding this topic or any other, feel free to contact Pastor Behnken.