What is the church of Christ?

by Rowland Gbamis | Tennessee, USA

This write-up is the transcript of my discussion with Brother Lesley Egharevba about the Church of Christ on his social media television program. From the biblical account, I submit that the church of Christ is of God and not a denomination. We did discuss what the church of Christ is, what is a religious denomination, and in what way is the church of Christ different from a denomination.

What is the church of Christ?       

The church of Christ originated in heaven in God’s consciousness and was established on earth in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost following Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Ephesians 3:8–11; Acts 2). The church of Christ is not a man-made denomination or a component of any man-made religious organization. Thus, instead of working with denominations, members of the church of Christ plead with all believers in Jesus Christ to heed His prayer for unity and become one in His blood-bought body, the church (John 17:20–21; Ephesians 4:4-6; Acts 20:28). Hence, the church of Christ is the church of the New Testament. It consists of people called “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9; cf. Col. 1:12-13). The church of Christ is a spiritual body housing all the saved who have believed the Gospel of Christ, repented of their sins, confessed the name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and scripturally baptized for the remission of their sins. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:41, 47; 8:36-37). Consequently, these regenerated children of God continue to express their love for the Lord in faithful service and obedience (Acts 2: 42).

What is a religious denomination?

A denomination is a man-made religious organization different from the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament. For example, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptist Churches. I mentioned by names these denominational bodies because of what their “acclaimed founders” said in denouncing denominationalism:

Martin Luther:

“I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves ‘Lutherans,’ but ‘Christians.’ Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not permit that any should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter but of Christ. How, then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with them all; let us call ourselves only ‘Christians’ after him from whom our doctrine comes.” (“Life of Luther,” by Stork, page 289.)[1]

John Wesley:

“Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot; that we might all agree to sit down together as humble, loving disciples at the feet of a common Master, to hear his word, to imbibe his Spirit, and to transcribe his life into our own.” (Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume V, page 60)[2]

Dr. Charles H. Spurgeon:

“I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the “Baptist” name will soon perish, but let Christ’s name last forever.” (Spurgeon Memorial Library, I:168)[3]

What do these confessional statements portend for us today? The answer is simple: let us all return to the church of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus and His apostles taught unity without denominations, Jno.17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3. Hence, one problem we have today in the religious world is a lack of respect for scriptural authority.

Consider the following Bible passage:

“Now, when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching and said, “By what Authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this Authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:23-25). 

The logical conclusion from the above passage raises two critical principles: Authority is important when it comes to religious issues, and the source of religious authority is either God or Man.

In what way is the church of Christ different from a denomination?

A. The church of Christ differs from denominational churches because we teach the Bible’s plan of salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-38) in sharp contrast to the denominations, which teach salvation through faith only; the church of Christ conscientiously strives to teach the plan of salvation precisely as revealed in the Bible. Therefore, in obedience to the Great Commission, we teach that salvation requires faith, contrition, and baptism. Those who obeyed this gospel salvation plan during the time of the New Testament were added to the Lord’s church. (Gal.3:27; Acts 2: 47), not Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Redeemed, or any other denomination (1 Cor.1:10-13).  

B. The church of Christ is not considered a denomination due to its exclusive usage of a biblical name. The church of the New Testament was referred to by several descriptive names, such as the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2), the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13-14), and the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). As followers of Christ, we refer to ourselves and our faith community as the church of Christ. This name is taken directly from the New Testament, where we read that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. We honour Christ by wearing this name, and we greet one another as members of the churches of Christ, as mentioned in Romans 16:16. We believe that Christ is the builder and owner of the church (Matt. 16:18) because salvation is only found in His name (Acts 4:11-12). Consequently, through this belief and adherence to Christ’s teachings, we continue to strive to live as faithful members of His church.

C. The church of Christ stands apart from other denominations because it has no sectarian creed. Unlike other churches with confessions of faith, church manuals, and creed books, The church of Christ acknowledges the Bible as its only source of doctrine. (2 Tim.3:16-17). In other words, believers are expected to adhere only to what the Bible teaches and not to give their allegiance to some human creed (Matt. 15:8-9; Col.3:17).

D. The church of Christ is not a denomination because it does not have any hierarchical structure other than the ones mentioned in the Scriptures. There is no mention of archbishops, popes, or brotherhood elders as officers in the New Testament church. Every local church of Christ is self-governing, with Jesus Christ as the head. They are overseen by men who are referred to as “elders,” (Acts 14:23) “bishops,” (Phil.1:1) or “pastors,” (Eph.4:11) but they all hold the same office. These leaders must meet the qualifications set by God before serving in the eldership role (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). Deacons are church’s servants (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8–13), who must also meet certain qualifications before serving. Lastly, evangelists are preachers of the gospel who spread the message to new areas (2 Timothy 4:1–5; 1 Timothy 1:3; Acts 8:5–40; 21:8–9). Nevertheless, I must add that there are some “churches of Christ” with organizational arrangements other than those revealed in the New Testament; they are equally indicted as denominational entities and must repent.

E. In contradistinction to denominational practices such as paying tithes, using instruments of music in the worship of God with organized choirs, speaking in tongues (gibberish), wrong observance of the Lord’s Supper, praying in Mary’s name or praying for the death, and many other erroneous practices, the churches of Christ exhibit a conscientious approach towards the implementation of New Testament worship. For example, we give because the financial resources of the church of Christ primarily consist of voluntary contributions made by its members, in accordance with their individual prosperity as bestowed by God (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The church of Christ observes the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10); they sing by making melody in their hearts instead of on some mechanical instrument of music (Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19); pray to God through Jesus Christ (1Tim. 2:5); and take their lessons directly from the New Testament revelation because Jesus said, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24; 17:17; 2Tim.3:16-17).

Final thought: the church of Christ is a spiritual organization that God in Christ Jesus designed before the foundation of the world to accomplish the spiritual missions of His body, namely, evangelism (Acts 8:1-4; 13:1-3; 14:6-27), edification (Eph. 4:11-13), and benevolence (needy members- Acts 6:1-7 & other faithful churches in needs (cf. 1 Cor.16:1; 2 Cor. 8:1). Therefore, all human institutions set up to do the work of the Church in evangelism, benevolence and edification, such as World Bible School and its affiliates, Tema “Churches of Christ Association” in Ghana, Church of Christ-Nigeria, African Claiming Africa for Christ (and many of such other unscriptural organizations) are all doing so contrary to the divine arrangement to rob the Church of its strength. Consider the following words of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:

8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:8-10 NKJV).   I appeal to all workers of iniquities working outside the precinct of the Lord’s church to stop dissipating their energies in unscriptural organizations because Jesus said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted (Matt. 15:13-14).

[1] Truth Magazine X: 1, pp. 1-3 October 1965 Denominationalism (truthmagazine.com)

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

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