Characteristics of the True Church
[ Selected ]

The true church of God, comprising all Christians, has in her normal state under her divine head certain essential characteristics which make her exclusively the church, the whole and not a part. These might be expressed as follows:

1. Possession of divine spiritual life. If the church does not possess this she is not Christ’s body and therefore not the church. She must know the Spirit of God.

2. Disposition to obey all Scripture and to let the Spirit have His way and rule. This constitutes her safety in matters of doctrine and government.

3. An attitude receptive to any further truth and light. This safeguards against dogmatism and a spirit of infallibility and intolerance, against interpreting Christianity in the light of traditions and old ideas.

4. Acknowledgment of good wherever found and the placing of no barrier that would exclude any who might be Christians. This makes salvation, a holy life, and a Christian spirit the only test of fellowship, and disapproves all human standards of church membership and fellowship.

We repeat that these constitute the Scriptural standard of the church and characterize her in her unity and integrity. It is by lacking in one or more of these essentials that a sect is a sect. In the rise of the church out of apostasy, any reformation that does not develop to the full the essentials that characterize the church in her wholeness and completeness must necessarily fall short of being the final reformation and must leave a cause for further reformation. This is the explanation of the existence of the so-called Christian sects, viewing them in the most charitable light. Any tendency to establish traditions, or to regard a past course as giving direction in all respects for the future, or to become self-centered and manifest a “we are it” spirit and bar the door of progress against the entrance of further light and truth, or in any way to refuse fellowship with any others who may be Christians, would itself be sectarian, altogether unlike the true reformation, which, if it be final, must necessarily be a restoration and possess universal characteristics.