Sound doctrine has always been vital to the life of the Christian church. Ultimately however, each individual is reconciled to God by grace through faith in the work of Jesus Christ, and not by the accuracy of his or her doctrine.
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Additionally, the universal church is invisible and consists of all the elect who have been, are, or ever will be gathered into one under Christ, the head. The church is his body and spouse, the fullness of God, who fills all in all.1
1. Ephesians 1:10, 22-23, 5:23-32, Colossians 1:18.
The visible church is also catholic (or universal) under the gospel, i.e., it is not confined to one nation as previously under the Mosaic Law. It consists of everyone in the world who professes the true religion2 together with their children.3 The visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ4 and the house and family of God5,outside of which people cannot ordinarily be saved.6
2. Psalm 2:8, Romans 15:9-12, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 12:12-13, Revelation 7:9. 3. Genesis 3:15, 17:7, Ezekiel 16:20-21, Mark 10:13-16, Acts 2:39, Romans 4, 11:16, 1 Corinthians 7:14, Galatians 3:7,9,14. 4. Isaiah 9:7, Psalm 72, Matthew 13:31, 13:47, Colossians 1:13. 5. Proverbs 29:18, Ephesians 2:19, 3:15. 6. Matthew 10:32-33, 26:26-28, 28:19, Acts 2:47, Acts 2:38, 1 Corinthians 12:13.
In order to gather and perfect the saints in this life until the end of the world Christ has given the ministry, Scriptures, and ordinances of God to this universal visible church, and by his own presence and Spirit he enables the church to function in this way according to his promise.7
7. Isaiah 59.21, Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Corinthians 12:23, Ephesians 4:11-13.
This universal church has been sometimes more and sometimes less visible.8 Particular churches, which are members of it, are also more or less pure, depending on how the gospel is accepted and taught, how the ordinances of God are administered, and how public worship is performed.9
8. Acts 9:31, Romans 11:3-4, Revelation 12:6,14. 9. Acts 2:41-42, 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, Revelation 2 and 3.
The purest churches under heaven are subject both to impurity and error.10 Some churches have so degenerated that they are not churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.11 Nevertheless, there will always be a church on earth to worship God according to his will.12
10. Matthew 13:24-30, 47-48, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 5:13.12, Revelation 2 and 3. 11. Romans 11:18-22, Revelation 2:9, 18:2. 12. Psalm 72, 17, 102:28, Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20.
There is no other head of the church than the Lord Jesus Christ.13
13. Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 1:18.