This singular invitation to worship was soon muted when Adam allowed the serpent – the craftiest of creatures – to enter the garden-temple. Through Eve, the serpent presented Adam with an alternative liturgy. He called Eve (and through her, Adam) to abandon the call of God and follow his call: to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and become like God. It was an invitation to act in unbelief and disobedience toward God, but in faith and obedience toward the devil – to bow down and worship the creature instead of the Creator. The one who had abandoned the worship of God in heaven – angelic Lucifer himself – had come to spoil the worship of God on earth. In careless and sinful rebellion, Adam followed the lead of his wife and obeyed the voice of the serpent, eating from the forbidden tree. He abandoned his probationary fast, disobeyed the voice of his God, and bowed down to the serpent. Since evil and error are always parasitic on goodness and truth, the worship of the serpent became a counterfeit worship of God. Adam and all his descendants remained in the same state: homo liturgicus. The liturgical structure for humanity remained the same: call – response – meal. But the object of worship had changed. God had been dethroned in the heart of man, and the devil had been enthroned. The worship of the Creator had been exchanged for the worship of the creature. An alternative liturgy – idolatry – had been introduced into the world and would remain the liturgical disposition of all Adam’s descendants. Reformation Worship
Belgic Confession (1561)
Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church—for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”
We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there.
But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it.
As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.
They love the true God and their neighbors, They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.
Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.
As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.
These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.
In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.
We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us. Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.