The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,
but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:
so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
– John 3:8
In its true spiritual reality as a fellowship of genuine, born-again believers, the church is invisible. This is because humans are unable to accurately judge the spiritual condition of people’s hearts. We can see those who outwardly attend the church, and we can see outward evidences of inward spiritual change, but we cannot actually see into people’s hearts and view their true spiritual state—only God can do that. This is why the Apostle Paul says, “… The Lord knows those who are His … ” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Only God knows who are true believers with certainty and without error.
When we recognize that there are unbelievers in the visible church, there is a danger that we may become overly suspicious and overreact. We may doubt the salvation of many true believers and thereby bring confusion and unnecessary conflict into the church. John Calvin warned against this danger by saying that we must make a “charitable judgment” whereby we recognize as members of the church all who “by confession of faith, by example of life, and by partaking of the sacraments, profess the same God and Christ with us.”
We should never exclude people from the fellowship of the church until their public sin exposes them. In such an instance they bring church discipline upon themselves, and God has ordained elders and church governors to oversee the discipline in the church. The church should not tolerate in its membership “public unbelievers” who by profession or life clearly proclaim themselves to be outside the true church.
Extreme caution must be used so that in the process of evicting false believers we do not harm the true believers as well.
To obtain the entire video series, click here
For further study:
Click here for related Scripture verses.
7 Foundational Elements of a True Church, by John MacArthur
Why Join a Church?, by Pastors Mark Brown and Larry Wilson
Click to find a good church: CHURCH LOCATOR