The Church of Christ
The church of Christ
In this lesson I want to present some of my reasons why among all the religious groups in the world that claim to be “Christian” (more than 45,000), that I have chosen what is called the church of Christ. Before we proceed, this lesson is not intended to be an endorsement of every congregation that uses the name “church of Christ”. For even in the First Century, when no denominations existed, Jesus Himself did not approve of every group that professed to be His (Revelation chapters 2-3). And then reminded all of us, that at the final judgment many professed believers in Him will be rejected because of lawlessness in reference to His law (Matthew 7:21-24). The apostles equally warned of a time when many professed Christians would depart from the faith (2 Timothy 4:2-4; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
- “I will build My church”: Matthew 16:18
The emphasis on being the church that Jesus established and for which He shed His blood is the right emphasis (Acts 20:28). The church belongs to Him, and the church is pictured as His bride (Ephesians 5:24). Therefore, the church should reflect what Jesus wants and not what we want. His preferences, not ours. The church of Christ is correct in teaching that the church is absolutely essential, for it is the body that Jesus will save (Ephesians 5:23), is part of God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11), and is the relationship in which Jesus Himself adds the person who submits to His conditions for salvation (Acts 2:38,41,47).
- How to Interpret the Bible
The church of Christ is correct in teaching that the method one uses to understand the Bible is the same method that one uses to understand anything. You look at direct statements or commands, examples or precedents and then you draw whatever the necessary inferences are demanded by such statements or precedents. What better method of Bible study could one have then a method that keeps bringing one back to the commands and examples in the biblical text? In fact, this is the method that Jesus and the apostles used. When asked questions, Jesus answered such questions by appealing to direct statements in Scripture (Mark 10:17,19); to precedents or examples (Matthew 12:5), and then drew the necessary inferences:
- Matthew 22:17-21: If Caesar made the coin, then yes, it is lawful to give it back to him in the form of taxes.
- Matthew 22:31-32: God speaks of having a relationship with men who are physically dead, therefore, man has a soul and survives the death of the body.
- Matthew 22:42-45: David speaks of the Messiah as His Lord, therefore, the Messiah is also the Son of God, and one who is pre-existent to David.
- The Right View of Biblical Silence
Most religious groups have the perspective that if the Bible does not specifically condemn something then it is okay with God. Yet this point of view does not hold up when we read the Bible. Nowhere did God ever specifically say, “Do not put the ark of the covenant on a new cart”, and yet such was condemned because He was specific about how He wanted it carried (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15:2,13-15). When God told King Saul to eliminate the Amalekites that specific instruction ruled out all other options (1 Samuel 15:3,8-9; 22-23). When God commanded Noah to build the ark of gopher wood, such ruled out all other kinds or types of wood. The church of Christ is right about how we are to view specific statements in Scripture. If God is specific, then that rules out all other options in that category. Therefore, silence does not automatically authorize anything. It is not enough to say, “Well I can’t find a verse against it”. We need to look farther. Can I find a verse that authorizes it or the category that it fits into?
- The Plan of Salvation
If a group cannot get “what to do to be saved” right, then am I definitely not interested. The church of Christ is correct in stressing faith as a condition for salvation (Hebrews 11:7), and correct in stressing repentance (Acts 2:38), confession (Romans 10:9-10), and baptism as equally important (Mark 16:16). The church of Christ has avoided the temptation to evaluate faith as the only condition for salvation, which is condemned by direct statements and examples (James 2:24-26; John 12:42-43). And also correct in avoiding the pitfall of adding any additional man-made requirements, such as saying a specific prayer (the sinner’s prayer) in order to be saved, or the requirement to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be saved (consider Acts 10:47).
- Proper Use of the Old Testament
The church of Christ has avoided the all too common temptation of cherry-picking the Old Testament for various practices or teachings to bring into the New Covenant (like tithing, Sabbath Keeping, an official priesthood, etc…). The Old Testament is the word of God, it was written for our learning (Romans 15:4). Many of the teachings are repeated in the New Testament (i.e., murder, stealing, lying, adultery, are still wrong). Yet, the Old Testament Law ended at the cross (Hebrews 9:15-17), and we are no longer under it as a Law (Colossians 2:14-17). In fact, the attempt to find favor with God by following purely Old Testament practices results in being cut off from God’s grace (Galatians 5:1-4).
The church of Christ is right in placing the emphasis on the worship that God has outlined in the New Testament, rather than pursuing a pattern of worship that is all about pleasing the whims or preferences of the worshippers. Thus, as with the church of Christ in the First Century, the church of Christ today:
- Meets on the First Day of every week (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25), and observes the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- On each first day of the week we give as we have been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
- We sing to God and one another using psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
The church of Christ has sought to avoid the temptation of thinking that the worship that we might prefer to offer at the moment would be pleasing to God. Thus we avoid repeating the sin of offering unauthorized worship like Cain (Genesis 4), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), or King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16).
- How the Church is Organized
Jesus is the sole head of the church (Ephesians 1:21-23). This leaves no room for earthly heads or headquarters. Each congregation is to be shepherded by its own elders (1 Peter 5:1-3; Acts 20:28; 14:23). Any arrangement in which two congregations are being overseen by the same group of individuals is incorrect. When elders (pastors, bishops, overseers) existed, there was always a plurality in any New Testament congregation. Therefore, a church that is being shepherded by just one individual is incorrect.
- Doctrine is Important
Believing, teaching or practicing a doctrine that is not found in the Bible can sever your fellowship with God (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9).
- The Church has a Definite Work or Mission
We are to defend and spread the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), edify, instruct and build up each other (Ephesians 4:11-13) and take care of our own (1 Timothy 5:16).
- Has Avoided Many Errors
The church of Christ is right in rejecting the doctrines of original sin or total depravity (Ezekiel 18:20), once-saved-always saved (Galatians 5:4), predestination (John 3:16), salvation by grace or faith alone (Matthew 7:21), or the absence of human freewill (Joshua 24:15). The church of Christ has also avoided buying into all the end-time speculation that seems to run wide in every age. The teaching concerning the Second Coming, especially the timing, are rather simple (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3; 2 Peter 3:9-10).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017