WHAT IS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST?
The word “church” simply means “assembly or gathering.” Did you know that the first time the word “church” was mentioned in the Bible was from the mouth of Jesus? The twelve apostles were gathered together with Jesus in the far northern part of the Golan Heights at the southern foot of Mt. Hermon, near modern day Baniyas, when He said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18 (RSV). Based upon the solid “rock” foundation of His divinity, Jesus planned to build His called out people, His church. After the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven of Jesus, the church Jesus planned began as recorded in Acts, the second chapter. That church followed strictly the teachings of the apostles of Jesus (see Acts 2:42; Galatians 1:8,9; Jude 3).
When it all comes down to it, members of the churches of Christ are a people of restoration spirit–wanting to restore in our time the original New Testament church.
In the latter part of the 18th century, men of different denominations, studying independently of each other, in various parts of the world, began to ask:
• Why not go back beyond denominationalism to the simplicity and purity of the first-century church?
• Why not take the Bible alone and once again continue “steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching…” (Acts 2:42)?
• Why not plant the same seed (the Word of God, Luke 8:11), that first century Christians planted, and be Christians only, as they were?
They were pleading with everyone to throw off denominationalism, to throw away human creeds, and to follow only the Bible. They taught that nothing should be required of people as acts of faith except that which is evident in the scriptures.
They emphasized that going back to the Bible does not mean the establishment of another denomination, but rather a return to the original church.
Members of churches of Christ are enthusiastic about this approach. With the Bible as our only guide, we seek to find what the original church was like and restore it exactly.
IS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST A DENOMINATION?
By definition the church of Christ cannot be a denomination because it is not dependent on man-made creeds, but simply on the New Testament pattern. We do not conceive of ourselves as being a denomination — nor as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish — but simply as members of the church which Jesus established and for which He died.
And that, incidentally, is why we wear His name. The term “church of Christ” is not used as a denominational designation, but rather as a descriptive term indicating that the church belongs to Christ.
We recognize our own personal shortcomings and weaknesses, and this is all the more reason for wanting to carefully follow the all-sufficient and perfect plan God has for the church.
WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT?
One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O’Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1793, he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina, where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.
In 1802, a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about “denominational names and creeds” and decided to wear only the name “Christian,” taking the Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the “only sure guide to heaven.” Thomas Campbell, and his more illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia. They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginnings, eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ’s church as described in the Bible.
Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a new church started near the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentecost, A. D. 30. The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ’s original church.
For more information go to: TheRestorationMovement.com
HOW ARE THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST GOVERNED?
In keeping with the simple approach of doing what the Bible says, each congregation is completely autonomous and each seeks to be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-sustaining. In each congregation, those that have existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregation on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists. The elders are charged with the spiritual feeding and direction of the congregation. The members voluntarily submit to the authority of the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament.
WHAT DOES THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BELIEVE ABOUT THE BIBLE?
The original autographs of the sixty-six books, which make up the Bible, are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every doctrinal question, and pronouncement from the scriptures is considered final.
The Bible is full of history, prophecy, literature, and philosophy. It is also the the greatest love story ever written. It tells the story of how the Creator of all mankind, and everything in our world and beyond, stepped down to earth in human form to rescue mankind. It tells of one who loved mankind so much that He was willing to send His own Son to die for you, for me, for us. It is the most beautiful of love stories. It is more than a book. It is more than just words on a page. It speaks forth the message of hope to all mankind. What a great God we serve!
DOES THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BELIEVE IN PREDESTINATION?
The Bible clearly teaches that God preplanned and predestined the church to which believers would be added when saved. Additionally, the gospel was preplanned and predestined (1 Corinthians 2:7). God does not predestine individuals irresistibly. He has set a standard by which all men must choose to live. Our good and loving God wants all men to be saved, but only those who choose to obey God’s plan for salvation will be considered as predestined. He ever lives to choose those who of their own will choose Him (Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29,30; Ephesians 1:4-5,11).
WHO, HOW, AND WHY DOES THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BAPTIZE?
Baptism is a very misunderstood concept in the modern religious world. In fact, it is one of most controversial of issues. Thus, we seek to go back to the simplicity of scripture on the matter.
The early church baptized by full immersion. We see in every conversion in the New Testament that baptism is full immersion for the remission of sins. No sprinkling, or pouring, is found in scripture. Infants were not baptized, only accountable believers were immersed for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).
In the salvation of man’s soul there are two necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s grace is so great because He makes salvation possible. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No man deserves salvation, because his choice to sin has separated him from his God (James 1:14,15; Romans 3:23,6:23). The love which God feels for man led Him to send His Christ into the world to redeem man (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:10). The life and teachings of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the good news of salvation to man is God’s part in salvation.
Man’s response is also necessary if man is to have salvation. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Jesus clearly set out man’s part in the following way:
• Jesus said one who hears what the Father says will come to Him. “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
• Jesus said one must believe He is Lord. “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
• Jesus said one must repent, which involves godly sorrow and a will to change the direction of one’s life. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5).
• Jesus said one must confess Him as Lord. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
• Jesus said one must be baptized to be saved. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
• Jesus said one must be faithful until death. “…be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER?
Another place where you may have noticed a difference between churches of Christ and other religious groups is in the Lord’s Supper. This memorial supper was inaugurated by Jesus on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28). It is observed by Christians in memory of the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:24,25). The emblems – unleavened bread and fruit of the vine – symbolize the body and blood of Jesus
(1 Corinthians 10:16).
The scriptures teach that we are to meet on each first day of the week (Sunday) to worship and break bread. Churches of Christ are different from many in that we observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. A central part of the worship is the eating of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). It is the privilege and responsibility of the follower of the Christ to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the first day of the week, as the early church did.
WHAT ROLES DOES MUSIC HAVE IN THE NT CHURCH?
God created the perfect instrument for worshipping and praising Him – the human voice. It is the only one that can unite sound and words. It is the only one that is accompanied by the heart, the soul, the mind, and one’s strength. Thus, a cappella singing is not only the one authorized form of musical worship, but is simple, beautiful, and does not call for professionals. One does not have to have a beautiful voice, know how to read music, or be a loud singer. God calls and asks for our whole body to sing forth melodies from within us. One cannot do such by passively sitting and just listening!
BY WHAT MEANS DOES THE CHURCH SECURE FINANCIAL SUPPORT?
Each first day of the week the members of the church “lay by in store as they have been prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The amount of any individual gift is generally known only to the one who gave it and to the Lord. This free-will offering is the only call which the church makes. NO assessments or other levies are made. However, the NT teaches and expects generosity and sacrifice from followers of Christ as they are major tenets of Christian living.