What does constitute the true church or a true Christian, biblically speaking? Is it a matter of getting everything right? Does it mean you hold the proper position in all of the debates of the day? Are you only authentic if you have aced someone’s acid test?
Two of the many letters the apostle Paul wrote were the letters of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Here were some of the problems the Christians in Corinth had: They were divisive, arrogant, worldly and lawsuit-happy. They were judgmental, unloving and unconcerned about their brethren. They had turned the worship assembly into a chaotic, prophetic free-for-all. They had made the Lord’s Supper into something unholy and selfish. Some were absolutely ignorant when it came to the resurrection. Some questioned whether Paul had any authority to be telling them what to do. Those are just some of the highlights of their error. But notice how Paul addressed them, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2,3). Evidently error, whether in doctrine or lifestyle does not invalidate a Christian or a church. Must these problems be repented of? Of course, that’s why Paul wrote the letters. May these problems put a person’s salvation in jeopardy? Absolutely. But teaching to correct error and warning of the dangers of apostasy are a far cry from thinking that we are capable judges of the eternal destinies of our brethren. No one has everything right (1 John 1:8). Otherwise we wouldn’t need God’s grace. Are you that sure of your performance? I’m not.
But to ask again the question, isn’t there something that testifies as to whether or not one is a Christian? Indeed there is. At the very beginning of the church God told us what that is: “Now when they heard this [Peter's preaching of the gospel], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37,38, 41).
That’s the church folks. Nothing more, nothing less. Always has been. Always will be. Do what they did and you’ll be what they were—a Christian.