John Calvin represents Reformed and indeed biblical thought concerning the nature of a true church in his writings. His concern as should be ours, was the nature of the church. The doctrine of the church seems to be too little discussed and it needs rejuvenating. Listen to John Calvin:
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the Sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists” (Institutes, 4:1:9).
There is a simplicity as to the nature of the church. Did you notice that this statement does not consider the importance of music and singing. Music and singing do not make a sign of orthodoxy and if we did not sing at all, we could still be a true church if we displayed these two marks.
1). The Word of God purely preached and heard. There is a stress on the hearing on the part of the church member. Do you seek out a church that preaches pure doctrine and then seek to listen and obey that Word as preached? Jesus said: "Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18).
2). The sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper) administered according to Christ's institution. This second mark asks some searching questions. For example when a Baptist church insists on baptism by immersion only or in bringing into question infant baptism or baptism by pouring, are they still a true church? In England such questions are never asked because Baptists have not been challenged in such areas, but it is time they were. If someone holds to the truth of the Bible then it can stand up to the scrutiny of being tested.
It is interesting to me to observe the dress codes of professing preachers and also the layout of the room of the area that is used for worshipping God. Here are several revealing observations:
Which item of furniture is central in a church building?
Does the preacher's dress code indicate that he has a serious message to bring?
What item of furniture is used for preaching?
When the doctrine of the church is biblical, then the pulpit has the central place. It is not the band that is to be central (apparently there is a drum kit now in Westminster Chapel where Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to preach.How sad!), but the pulpit for the reading and preaching of sound doctrine. I cannot see how preaching can be serious minded, if it is delivered from a music stand. The use of a music stand is a down-grade of the office of Christian minister. Can you imagine the British Prime-minister delivering his speech from a music stand? How much less an ordained minister of the gospel!
Anyone who has something important to say in our society, they dress appropriately for the occasion. Alex Ferguson the former manager of Manchester Utd always dresses smart when he is on formal business. What about preachers of a true church? If a preacher is intending to be an "ambassador of Christ" (2 Cor 5:20 "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God".) and to be taken seriously, should his dress code not match the gravity of his message? I think the dress codes of professing preachers reveals very much.
Once you find a true church, then it is the responsibility of every Christian to join it and support the work. Furthermore, John Calvin believed that God will bless such a church, and I entirely agree. We do not resort to Arminian methods to make the church grow. Furthermore, Calvin believed, as do I, that the presence of the marks ensures fruit because the marks “can never exist without bringing forth fruit and prosperity by God’s blessing” (4:1:10).