The following is adapted from an old correspondence I had many years ago with a professed atheist.
atheist: All churches, all religions claim themselves to be True. They can all back it up with scriptures, dogma, doctrine, etc. The finer points vary, but no one follows “a false church” of his own accord.
To put it another way: You reject all churches but yours. Of the tens or hundreds of Christian churches in existence, you claim yours as the Only True One and reject all others as false.
A “true Church” is wherever the true gospel is preached. The true gospel is God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone, apart from any efficacious-blood-despising contributions from the sinner.
OF COURSE no one is going to say that they are following a false church or are attending a “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9). The truth is that they are in fact attending a “Synagogue of Satan,” if said “Synagogue” proclaims the falsehood that that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception (or proclaims that salvation is conditioned on what the sinner does, or is enabled to do).
The true church is the pillar and foundation of the TRUTH. You can be sure that where the true church is, you can find the TRUTH. In fact, the way to find a local assembly that is part of the true church is to see if this assembly believes and proclaims the TRUTH. The false church believes and proclaims the LIE.
atheist: That may be; but they call the LIE “TRUTH”. More, they do not do it out of malice or willful deception, they actually believe the LIE (well, from your point of view) to be the TRUTH. Your TRUTH is probably the LIE to them.
Jesus Christ said:
“I am the Way, and the TRUTH, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Those who believe that Jesus died for those in hell treat the cross as nothing. If one believes that Christ died for those in hell, then they necessarily believe that one comes to the Father through some *other* way. Whosever righteousness one believes makes the difference between salvation and damnation is the righteousness one is attempting to come to God in. If one believes that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, then they are ipso facto attempting to come to the Father in their own righteousness (contrary to John 14:6). And thus, they are confessing the LIE.
“Woe to those who say to evil, good; and to good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
” … who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
When you are searching for a true assembly, you should find out whether or not this assembly believes and proclaims the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE.
atheist: Is there not middle ground between “a church of saints” and a “synagogue of satan?” Extremes and absolutes tend to exclude a lot of people very quickly.
Wouldn’t a church of an all-loving God tend to be as inclusive as possible? God can’t enjoy delivering multitudes to Satan, can he?
A true church is one in which there is thanksgiving and praise to the true God. The thanksgiving and praise comes from a heart that believes that God’s grace, manifested in the work of Christ, makes the only difference between salvation and damnation. Those who are members of the council of the upright know that the work of Christ demands and ensures their salvation, and they praise God together for His amazing grace. The false church gives thanks to their “god” and their “christ” for the “equal opportunity” of robbing (in their vain and bloated estimates) the true Christ of His redemptive glory.
atheist: But they are completely convinced of the contrary. If, through their actions, they manage to do good; to help their fellow men; if they still accomplish charitable works, are they still condemned to Hell because they are a “false” church?
All who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception worship a false “christ.” In stark contrast, those who worship the true Christ believe that His death on the cross demands and ensures the salvation of all whom He represented. If just one person ended up in hell for whom Christ died, then the gospel would be meaningless and the cross of Christ made of no effect (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18).
atheist: More extremes and absolutes: “If just one…” The rigidity seems a bit stifling to me.
Those who deny the effectual work of Jesus Christ, claiming instead that the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for everyone without exception (including those in hell), deny the very heart of the gospel. They do not believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation; instead, these self-righteous boasters believe that it is the effort of the sinner that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. These blasphemers deny that Jesus Christ made full satisfaction for sins and that Jesus Christ accomplished and ensured salvation for all whom He represented. They trample underfoot the precious blood of Jesus Christ, treating it as something of no value. They glory and boast in themselves, for whatever one believes makes the difference between salvation and damnation is what one glories and boasts in. There is not a single one of these blasphemers who is a child of God.