Menu Close

The ONE True Church of Jesus Christ

catholic one true church

The Churches of Christ, along with the Baptists and the Roman Catholic Church, consider themselves to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. According to, there are five reasons the Roman Catholic Church is the true church:

1. Authority- Jesus gave specific instructions regarding dealing with members of the Church who were in sin. Matthew 18:15-18 says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What Evangelical/Protestant Church has the authority to remove someone completely from the church? None. If an individual is removed from a ‘congregation’ then he/she can go down the street and join another ‘congregation’ of the same denomination. The congregations are individualized and have no authority outside their own denomination. That is not true with the Catholic Church. If removed from the Catholic Church, one cannot go to another city and join another Catholic Parish.

2. History- The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1st Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3rd century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.

The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther. The East-West (Great) Schism was caused by Patriarch Michael I. According to Titus 3:9-11, the divisions led by Patriarch Michael I and Martin Luther were sin. “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile. After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned..”

3. The Catholic Church gave Christians the Bible- The first official list of books contained is what is the Bible was done at the Council of Hippo in 393 and then again in Carthage in 397 and 419. However, the Council of Trent in 1556 was the first time the Church infallibly defined these books as ‘inspired’ because it was questioned by Reformers. We have to admit, the apostles did not walk around with nice leather bound Bibles in their hand. There are many parts of the Bible that are oral tradition which was written down because when early believers attended the Synagogue or church, the scripture was read. They did not have their own copy with their name engraved on the front. Oral tradition was the norm of practice long before writing and reading was a part of life. The Jews followed the Old Testament before Jesus was born and Jesus is pictured in Scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Synagogue. There were multiple writings from this time but it was only after the list of books determined to be the ‘inspired Word of God’ by the Catholic Church first with the Council of Hippo in 393 that the world had what is called “The Bible”. The Bible remained the original 73 books determined by the Catholic Church until the Reformation, when Martin Luther threw out 7 books of the Old Testament that disagreed with his personal view of theology…the same Old Testament adhered to by the Jews. He threw these 6 books out in the 16th Century. Luther also attempted to throw out New Testament books James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. In referring to James, he said he wanted to ‘throw Jimmy into the fire’ and the book of James was ‘an epistle of straw’ with no usefulness. After Pope Damasus I approved the 27 New Testament Books however in 382 AD, Luther agreed with the Pope and accepted the New Testament books but denied the Old Testament books …which remained out of his Bible. Non-Catholics will accept the Biblical books which are contained in the Protestant Bible but do not acknowledge they are accepting and trusting the authority of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was the one who proclaimed the entire list, as a whole, as ‘inspired’. The letters within the Bible are not the only letters and materials written by the Apostles so, as a result, those contained within the Bible had to be declared ‘inspired’ and it was the Catholic Church which did that duty.

4. The Sacraments are Biblical- The Apostles were given the power to ‘forgive sins’ in John 20:23, Peter taught in I Peter 3:21 that ‘baptism now saves you’, ‘anointing the sick with oil was shown in James 5:14-15, laying on of hands in Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6, marriage in the Lord in I Corinthians 7:39 and Jesus stated numerous times that the disciples should participate in the breaking of bread (Eucharist) by stating ‘he who eats my flesh has eternal life’.

5. Sola Scriptura is not supported in the Bible- It is difficult to make a claim such as Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone) when, in its very essence, the claim must be written within the Bible in order to be Biblical. The concept of “Bible Alone” says it is not truth if it is not contained in the Bible, therefore removing ‘tradition’, but the Bible refutes that principle. Jeremiah 25:3 says the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken”, not just written. Paul told us to hold to our traditions, which are taught by word and mouth or by letter, according to 2 Thess 2:15. The Bible also portrays where a Council was held to settle doctrinal disputes in Acts 15. (Who else has a Council to settle doctrine disputes and holds the authority to do such other than the Catholic Church?) The Bible also warns about ‘twisted’ interpretations of Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and I Timothy 3:15 says THE CHURCH is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth. The Catholic Church has one teaching…one unified teaching…as opposed to the now 43,000 evangelical (Protestant) groups currently established, with 2.3 added each day. Their views on everything from the Trinity, homosexuality, abortion, and salvation all contradict each other. Truth cannot be false at the same time and Truth cannot contradict each other.

trail of blood

Many Baptist churches also consider themselves to be the one true church. These Baptists believe that they can trace their lineage all the way back to Jesus and his apostles. In 1931, Baptist pastor J.M. Carroll published a booklet titled The Trail of Blood. This booklet detailed what is commonly called Landmarkism or Baptist Successionism — the belief that some Baptist churches are the one true church founded by Jesus Christ. Carroll gave ten infallible marks of a true church:

1. Christ, the author of this religion, organized His followers or disciples into a Church. And the disciples were to organize other churches as this religion spread and other disciples were “made.”

2. This organization or church, according to the Scriptures and according to the practice of the Apostles and early churches, was given two kinds of officers and only two–pastors and deacons. The pastor was called “Bishop.” Both pastor and deacons to be selected by the church and to be servants of the church.

3. The churches in their government and discipline to be entirely separate and independent of each other, Jerusalem to have no authority over Antioch–nor Antioch over Ephesus; nor Ephesus over Corinth, and so forth. And their government to be congregational, democratic. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

4. To the church were given two ordinances and only two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These to be perpetual and memorial.

5. Only the “saved” were to be received as members of the church (Acts 2:47). These saved ones to be saved by grace alone without any works of the law (Eph, 2:5, 8, 9). These saved ones and they only, to be immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). And only those thus received and baptized, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and the supper to be celebrated only by the church, in church capacity.

6. The inspired scriptures, and they only, in fact, the New Testament and that only, to be the rule and guide of faith and life, not only for the church as an organization, but for each individual member of that organization.

7. Christ Jesus, the founder of this organization and the savior of its members, to be their only priest and king, their only Lord and Lawgiver, and the only head of the churches. The churches to be executive only in carrying out their Lord’s will and completed laws, never legislative, to amend or abrogate old laws or to make new ones.

8. This religion of Christ to be individual, personal, and purely voluntary or through persuasion. No physical or governmental compulsion. A matter of distinct individual and personal choice. “Choose you” is the scriptural injunction. It could be neither accepted nor rejected nor lived by proxy nor under compulsion.

9. Mark well! That neither Christ nor His apostles, ever gave to His followers, what is known today as a denominational name, such as “Catholic,” “Lutheran,” “Presbyterian,” “Episcopal,” and so forth–unless the name given by Christ to John was intended for such, “The Baptist,” “John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11 and 10 or 12 other times.) Christ called the individual follower “disciple.” Two or more were called “disciples.” The organization of disciples, whether at Jerusalem or Antioch or elsewhere, was called Church. If more than one of these separate organizations were referred to, they were called Churches. The word church in the singular was never used when referring to more than one of these organizations. Nor even when referring to them all.

10. I venture to give one more distinguishing mark. We will call it–Complete separation of Church and State. No combination, no mixture of this spiritual religion with a temporal power. “Religious Liberty,” for everybody.

In the 19th century men such as Barton StoneThomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell took it upon themselves to restore Christian churches to their First Century Apostolic purity. Firmly rooted in Baptist soil, the Restoration movement caused numerous fractures and splits, leading to the establishment of groups such as the Churches of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). While Landmark Baptists and Churches of Christ have similar doctrinal beliefs, neither considers the other part of the true church. These two groups have spent much of the last 160 years fighting over whether baptism is required for salvation. Put a Church of Christ evangelist in the same room with a Baptist elder and they will spend their time together arguing over the Greek word eis (for) in Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The evangelist will argue that the word for means that a sinner must be baptized in order to have their sins to be remitted. The elder argues that the word for means because of. Christians are baptized, not to have their sins remitted, but because their sins have already been washed away.

church of christ

Al Shannon is a Churches of Christ preacher who displays his theological prowess on the Biblical Proof website. In a May 20, 2016 post titled Are There Any Christians in Denominational Churches?, Shannon makes sure his readers understand that the only true Christians are those who are a member of a Churches of Christ congregation. Shannon writes:

Are there good people in all denominational churches? Are there any Christians once named among them? It’s a fundamental question because denominations profess to be Christians, yet they deny what it requires to become a Christian.

Most Christians understand that when someone obeys the gospel (Rom. 6:17) the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:47), of which is the only blood-bought (Acts 20:28) institution the Bible speaks. This is the “church” which Christ built (Mt 16:18).

The Bible speaks often of the Great Apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-4 f; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). This manifested itself in Roman Catholicism, from which every denomination in the world today sprang (Rev. 17:5). Error truly does begat error.

The Bible also speaks of (and condemns) sectarianism and division, which is what denominationalism really is, as each term stands firmly against the Bible-based unity declared in Ephesians 4:4.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists “factions, parties, and  divisions” as being “works of the flesh,” and warned all men everywhere and for all time that “they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In trying to understand why there are no Christians in any denomination, let us consider three points. First, there was division at Corinth. Just a mere six years after the Corinthian church was planted some of these brethren had developed a sectarian spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul begs his brothers in Christ there to free themselves from all contentions.


Secondly, the overwhelming bulk of the denominations in the world today subscribe to most of the views of John Calvin, in particular the false doctrine of “faith only” (that they are saved at the point of belief, separate and apart from further obedience, regardless of what John 3:5 may say).

Therefore, those in the denominations have never obeyed the gospel. They have deceived themselves into believing a lie (2 Thess. 2:11-12), and will, therefore, be destroyed at the Lord’s coming (2 Thess. 1:7-9).


Finally, New Testament Christians must be careful not to make man-made laws for our brethren (as some sought to do in Acts 15:1-2). When such happens, a sectarian spirit will develop and will result in something other than New Testament Christianity (Psa. 127:1).

Based on what I have shared above, the Catholics, Baptists, and the Churches of Christ all claim to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. What makes things even more difficult is that there are numerous other groups that claim they are the one true church. How are people supposed to know which sect is the one true church? The Catholics, Baptists, and Churches of Christ all point to the Bible (and history) as proof for their true church declaration. In Ephesians 4:5,6 the Apostle Paul wrote:

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Paul seems to be saying that there is only one true church. While Protestants will say (Baptists and Churches of Christ do not consider themselves Protestants) the one true church is comprised of the true Christians found in the various Christian sects, the Churches of Christ and many Baptists reject what is commonly called the Universal Church or the Invisible Church. They believe that the only church is local churches, each an independent franchise of the One True Church Club®.

So what are sinners to do? Which church is the one true church? How can anyone know whether any sect is the one established by Jesus and the Apostles? You’d think Jesus would come down from Heaven and make clear which group is his Church®. Better yet, why not rain fire down from the skies and destroy every church that is not a part of the One True Church Club®. Surely unbelievers can’t be expected to figure out which church is the right one. Come on God, help us out.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


    • Avatar

      The tragedy is that folk really believe that.

      It is like all the folk who argue that the unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible are suddenly going to be fulfilled in their lifetime.

      It all just plays to human ego.

      A significant influence in my deconversion was studying Christian history. I puzzled and puzzled as to why the history of Christianity looked so human given I thought there was a divine agent at work.

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I think the Orthodox (Catholic) church also claims to be the One True Church.

    Perhaps one of these groups is right. Maybe the lake of fire in Hell is a metaphor, and what the lost will experience is an eternity of bickering Christians.

  2. Avatar
    J.D. Matthews

    Want a fun little exercise? Try educating a Church of Christ member about the history of their denomination. Go ahead. Bring up the Restoration Movement, Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, etc. If they even know about them at all, they will deny out of hand that any of them had anything to do with the founding of their church. Those men were just preachers who “restored the first century church.” (Restored from what? Where did it go for all those years? Where was the Church of Christ between 33 AD and 19th century America?) They will swear up and down that they do not follow those men, even though they don’t even know what they taught. They are so convinced that they are not a denomination and that they’re the One True Church that started on Pentecost, and they will go through any number of mental gymnastics to keep from acknowledging their true history. They will not be convinced, and their liar preachers keep feeding them the 33 A.D. line.

  3. Avatar

    One of the great challenges in life is to seek less of the darkness and more of the light. The present evidence of modern Christianity appears to show that we are failing in this endeavour and embracing the darkness more and more. Now, turn away from Christianity and what do you see?
    Ahhhh, yessss, the dawn…

  4. Avatar

    All of those “one true churches” are all wrong. The Mormon church started on the very premise that it is the only true church of Jesus Christ on earth today and the “practitioners” of all the other faiths are “corrupt.” Their proof is unassailable: they are, after all, called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Case closed. Mormon logic is the only true logic.

  5. Avatar
    Appalachian Agnostic

    They are all wrong. I know for a fact that the one true church is located on Thirteenth Street in Ashland Ky across the road from a giant chicken.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yep. I remember Henry Mahan telling me that God only needed one true church in Ashland. Arrogant, to say the least. Sadly, Calvinism often leads preachers to think that are “special.”

  6. Avatar

    The whole “true church” debate is ridiculous. The first century church visibly ended when Paul wrote “all who are in Asia have turned from me” it was then the church of that day was left in ruins. The body if Christ was never an institution. It has always been led by the spirit of Christ and cannot be institutionalized, traditionalized or confined by man made creeds and doctrines.

    Jesus said it best “a time is coming and has now come when no longer will a man have to worship at that temple or that mountain. True worshippers will worship Father in spirit and in truth”

    No institutional church can lay claim to that or deter anyone from that. If anything an institution squelches that.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      In other words, your interpretation of the Bible is the true interpretation. Surely, you can see the irony.

      The moment believers appeal to the Bible they are setting their beliefs/interpetations as the authority.

      The house church movement is case in point. They have beliefs similar to yours, yet they are every bit as sectarian and exclusionary as the institutional churches they rail against.

  7. Avatar

    Haha, I remember this. For me when it came to Acts 2:38, I took the approach that there were many baptisms, baptism of fire, of Spirit. Here the baptism was in the name of Jesus, being born again, and had nothing to do with water.

    Landmarkism… another strange thing. There were Baptist Pastors who wouldn’t recognize your water baptism if it was done by a Protestant, even if you were fully immersed after making a confession of faith.

    The Catholic church might be the best model for a church since the billion Catholics all more or less agree on the same things.

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      As someone who spent many, many years recovering from the Catholicism in which I was raised, I feel confident in saying that Catholics “more or less agree on the same things” because they, as individuals, don’t spend much time or energy on doctrine. To put it bluntly, most Catholics, at least in my experience, don’t actually know much about church teaching and are not encouraged to read the Bible. They leave all of that up to the priests (who sometimes don’t know a whole lot more) or bishops.

  8. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    It is shocking to see the gospels translated so that the word “church” appears, since churches weren’t invented until after Jesus died. I think they just proved the authors of the gospels to be liars, or the translators, or the churches which paid for those translations.

  9. Avatar

    I became unstuck completely from my one true church (haha) when I realized that LGBTQ people deserved to live their lives and be happy and marry. It did take quite a while, I’m ashamed to say. But I saw true love between 2 family members and realized that love is the key.

  10. Avatar

    “Better yet, why not rain fire down from the skies and destroy every church that is not a part of the One True Church Club®. Surely unbelievers can’t be expected to figure out which church is the right one. Come on God, help us out.”
    Best argument ever for being an atheist.
    Then again, the idea that the death of a child happened only because God loved that child SO, SO much… that might be the best argument ever for being an atheist.
    Steve, Christian churches weren’t invented in the Jewish man’s name until after the Jewish man died? I get confused SO, SO easily.

  11. Avatar

    ”First Century Apostolic Purity”? Was there ever such a thing? Paul says to beware other preachers cos he, and he alone, preaches pure doctrine. But we only have his word for that. Soon after deconversion, visiting family I went to church with them. The pastor preached on this ‘wonderful’ verse. But I was thinking, maybe Paul was just jealous. He thought he’d been called to be the top dog, the head honcho of this new movement and others were cashing in, got bigger audiences and more money when the plate was passed round than his faction did.

  12. Avatar

    I remember being shaken when I learned in a college course “History of Christian Thought” that there were canonized books of the Bible that Protestants threw out because they didn’t agree with them. So….God was supposed to be leading the church, but he messed up and let some books be canonized, then let some Protestants know 1200 years later? Um….what? That was another major piece of my deconstruction journey.

    It’s funny as someone outside the system to see groups claiming to be The One True Church, and they all have verses to back up those claims. It’s almost like there are contradictions in their precious canonized inspired inerrant infallible Scriptures……

    • Avatar
      Jim Morgan

      You’re referring to the Apocrypha. I would say that the Catholics added on those books to the Jewish canon, the Jews to this day don’t include them in their Scriptures. The Orthodox added a few more books besides…or the R.C.’s dropped them? It gets confusing! Anyway it always seemed odd to me that a book written by the Creator of the Universe could be so bloody boring. The New Testament is OK but the Old Testament? Oh dear, what a snooze!

  13. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    I don’t know which makes less sense: that one’s church is the “right” one because of its (claimed) direct lineage from the apostles, or that one’s church is trying to “return to” or “restore” the faith of said apostles.

    An irony of my life is that I asked myself that question, finally, during the year I spent teaching in an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva. I was raised Catholic and later became an Evangelical Christian, and performed some of Judaism because of my marriage, but by the time I started teaching in that school, I had abandoned those, and all other , religions, though I hadn’t yet declared myself a full-blown atheist.

  14. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    Your writing is a perfect example of why I remain somewhere between agnostic and atheist. Everybody thinks they are the right one. Then they use this power to fight with each other as well as making individuals miserable.

    I think this is just dominance hierarchy (something other mammals do also). Saying I am the best best bull so a cow will mate with me.

    Bart Ehrman is good at explaining the technical problems of one writer after another copying the same text but making mistakes. History and archaeology are the only tools we have to find whatever answers are out there.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser