The Church which is Of Christ

  By Gene Frost

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      At some time it is likely that you have passed a building with a sign posted, “Church of Christ.” You may have wondered, “church of Christ … who are they?” If you will, please grant us a few minutes of your time that we may tell you briefly about the church which is “of Christ.” To learn about the church is probably more important than you now realize, and so our request for your consideration is not selfish. We are sincerely interested in you, that you may come to know and understand the truth concerning Christ’s church.

The Church of Christ

    The church of Christ is the church you read about in the New Testament Scriptures. The word “church,” as used in the Bible, refers to people, a distinct body of people who are in a special relationship with Christ. The word “church” in our English Bible is translated from the original text of the Greek language (in which the New Testament was written) and refers to a called out body, whether secular (as citizens called to form a legislative assembly in a Greek city, or a professional guild, or even a mob on a mission1) or religious (as a people who worship and serve God2). The predominant use of “church” in the Bible is of a religious body, in reference to those who have been called out of the world into a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship is a result of faith in and obedience to Christ. Of these He is Savior and in Him is the hope of eternal life.3

    Jesus, who from eternity is known as God the Word, came into this world in the likeness of man and in the role of a servant to make possible salvation for a world in sin.4 He came, as He said, “to seek and to save that which was lost.”5 All who accept the salvation offered by Jesus Christ are thereby added to His church.6 Since one is saved by the price that Jesus paid, even His blood offered in His voluntary death upon the cross, it can be said of all those who are saved that this body, His church, was “purchased with his own blood.”7

    The church “of Christ” is neither Catholic nor Protestant, terms denoting religious movements that did not originate until long after Jesus established His church. Denominationalism was unknown for centuries. Think of a time before any of these, a time nearly two thousand years ago … when Jesus walked on the face of the earth. He came at a time appointed by God,8 fulfilling many prophecies concerning His birth, life, death, and resurrection from the dead.9 It was in His last days, just prior to His death in Jerusalem, that Jesus promised to build His church, as it had been foretold many years before10, which He did through the shedding of His blood.11 Observe that this took place in Jerusalem, in about the year 30 or 33 (depending upon the calendar one follows).
Facts concerning the establishment of the church of Christ:
    WHO founded the church? Jesus Christ.
    WHERE? In the city of Jerusalem.
    WHEN? In 33 AD, according to our calendar.

    Whereas many churches and religious institutions claim allegiance to Christ and profess to belong to Him, any church established by someone other than Jesus, at some place other than Jerusalem, and at some time other than AD 33, was established by the wrong person, at the wrong place, and at the wrong time. It cannot be “of Christ.” Sadly, Jesus will say to many who will expectantly stand before Him, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”12 In a day of many churches, it is difficult for many to grasp the fact that Jesus did not establish churches, did not purchase churches, does not add the saved to churches. By His authority there is one body, which is the church.13 Who said that “one church is as good as another”? The Lord did not! Who dares say that a church established by man is as good as the church established and purchased by the Son of God? This is why we need to know about this church which is “of Christ.”

    In the relationship of the saved to the Savior, the word “church” is used to identify all of the saved without respect to time or place. Therefore, those who are saved today are in the same church as are Peter, James, John, Paul and other saints from the beginning until the present time.

    However, the word “church,” still referring to the saved whom the Lord adds to His body, is also used of the saved in a given time and place, as the church “which is at Corinth,” “of Ephesus,” “in Smyrna,” “in Pergamos,” etc.14 Or, in reference to a plurality of such local churches, the plural form may be used, as “churches of Christ” (with reference to whom the church belongs), “churches of Galatia,” or “churches of Asia” (with reference to their location), etc.15 Churches in time and place are not simply references to people in their relationship to Christ, but to saved people functioning together in worship and in serving God. This brings us to inquire concerning “the church which meets” at a given locality and in this present time: who are they?

    Consider the church in …

Its Government. 

    The church is not a democracy; it is a kingdom. This means that we have no organizational structure created and sustained by the membership. The Lord’s church has no central committee, no synod or conference, no earthly controlling authority. The members do not convene to enact policies and rules of faith for the church (or churches). The government of churches of Christ is a monarchy; that is, all functions of government – legislative, executive, and judicial – reside in one, who is “king of kings,” Christ Jesus. He is “the head,” with “all authority.”16 His authority is legislative (He makes the laws17); His authority is executive (He puts the law into effect18); His authority is judicial (He will judge all men19). Sometimes, we are asked, “Where is your headquarters?” Our reply, “Our head is quartered in heaven.” We say this not in a smart-alecky way, but because it is the truth. The head of churches of Christ is Christ and He is in heaven.20 We have no earthly head, no vicar of Christ to act in His stead. We take our orders from Him as issued in His word.21

    Each local church is independent of all others. To see that things are done properly, God ordained that each congregation have a plurality of overseers, called variously elders or presbyters, overseers or bishops, or shepherds or pastors.22 They have no legislative power; they are not lords over the body. Assisting, as servants of the church, are deacons.23 The organization of the church “of Christ” is simple, yet it reflects the wisdom of Him who is over all things.24

Its Faith. 

    The Lord has revealed His will in order that we might know what to believe and practice. Our faith is to come from His word.25 It is this word, when believed and faithfully obeyed, that brings about unity within the body, a unity for which Jesus prayed.26 Only the truth, revealed in His word, can lead us unto salvation and guide us in our life and service to God.27 God’s word is true and not contradictory, leading one person in one direction and another in a different direction.28 He is not the author of confusion and division.29 Therefore, members of the church are not free to believe and teach whatever they please.30 Whereas in our nation we have the freedom of religion, freedom from religious coercion, which freedom we support, God has not given us a choice of many different and conflicting systems of religion.31 As there is just the one body or church, there is just the one faith to be believed and followed alike. Who is it that says, “One faith is as good as another”? The Lord did not.32

Its Worship.

    It is God who is to be worshipped, and only He can say what constitutes acceptable worship. Jesus taught, “God is a Spirit: and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”33 Two things are necessary to acceptable worship: (1) we must express our praise and adoration to God with humble and sincere reverence, and (2) that according to what God tells us to do. We are not free to improvise.34

    Worship in the church (assembly of saints) consists of four items: prayer, singing, teaching and receiving God’s word, and observing the Lord’s Supper.

   As prayer is the privilege of the individual Christian, it is also a congregational activity; that is, when we come together to worship, we pray together.35

    In singing, we teach and admonish one another as well as praise God.36 The only music we find in the New Testament, authorized by Christ, is singing, the fruit of the lips expressing praise from the heart.37 This cannot be accomplished on a mechanical instrument.38 The music is a cappella.

    As with the early church, we today continue to place strong emphasis upon the presentation of the gospel of Christ, as revealed through His holy apostles and prophets.39 At home and in assembly, the word of God is taught and studied.40

    The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Christ’s death, and in partaking one expresses faith that Christ will come again.41 The observance is every first day of the week, as instructed by the Lord.42

    Assembling on the first day of the week is also an occasion for giving of our prosperity to support the preaching of the gospel.43
    Following the Lord’s directions, the worship services are simple, appealing to the spiritual mind rather than to the carnal mind which delights in pomp and ceremony.

Its Mission.

    The mission of the church is spiritual. It is to show honor unto God through the purity of life of its members, whose very lives are “living sacrifices” unto God44; to strengthen one another in order to persevere through the trials and temptations of life45; and to tell others about the deliverance from sin and the hope of eternal life that is in Christ Jesus.46

    The work of the church is not social, recreational, or entertaining. Therefore, we do not have kitchens and gymnasiums. These activities, though advisable and wholesome, are the work of the home or family.47 The Lord’s funds must not be made available for anything other than the Lord’s work, as He sets forth in the Scriptures.

    With a spiritual responsibility so serious, we cannot be distracted by the clamor of the world for a compromised religion, one that will allow people to live as they choose yet with a hope of gaining eternal life. The temptation to compromise God’s absolute will and high standard of morality in order to gain members and to receive the accolades of men must be resisted. It would be futile to succumb to the appeal, for even if we succeeded in numbers and praise, we would still lose – God will not accept less than His standard demands.48 So, we must “let God be true but every man a liar.”49 When man contradicts or disagrees with God, it is God who is right; He speaks the truth.

Its Hope.

   The goal of every person ought to be to fulfill his created purpose, and that is to please God, to do His will.50 God’s desire is that everyone be saved by coming to a knowledge of truth and responding to it.51 Heaven is being prepared to receive all who love Him and continue in faithful obedience, showing honor and love to God.

Our Plea.

    We invite our neighbors and friends to investigate the church of Christ. Look at the church, as it meets and works in your community, and compare it with the church as it is revealed in the Bible. We endeavor to be and do as the Lord directs. We invite your questions. We seek opportunity to study the Bible with you.

 


1. Acts 19:39, 41.
2. Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; 20:28, et al.
3. Eph. 5:23, 1 Pet. 1:3.
4. John 1:1-3; Phil. 2:5-8; 2 Tim. 1:8-10.
5. Luke 19:10.
6. Acts 2:47.
7. Acts 20:28.
8. Gal. 4:4; Mark 1:15; Luke 9:51.
9. Luke 24:44, Matt. 1:22-23; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; Acts 3:18;
13:26-33.
10. Eph. 3:8-10; Isa. 2:2-3; Heb. 3:6; Eph. 1:22-23.
11. Acts 20:28; Matt. 26:28.
12. Matt. 7:21-23.
13. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:20.
14. 1 Co. 1:2; Rev. 2:1, 8, 12.
15. Rom. 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 16:1, 19
16. Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18.
17. James 4:12; John 12:48; 2 John 9-10.
18. Matt. 7:29; 28:18; Col. 3:17.
19. 2 Cor. 5:10; Acts 17:31.
20. John 14:1-3; Acts 2:32-33; 1 Pet. 3:21-22.
21. Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:6-8.
22. Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1-8; Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4.
23. 1 Tim. 3:10-13; Phil. 1:1.
24. Eph. 3:8-11.
25. Rom. 10:14, 17; Acts 18:8.
26. Jude 3; 1 Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-21.
27. John 17:17; 8:31-32; 1 Pet. 4:11.
28. Heb. 6:18; 2 Cor. 12:18; 1 Pet. 2:21.
29. 1 Cor. 14:33.
30. 1 Pet. 4:11.
31. John 14:6; Matt. 7:21-23.
32. Eph. 4:5.
33. John 4:24
34. Matt. 15:8-9, Luke 6:46.
35. Acts 4:31; 12:5, 12; Eph. 6:18.
36. Col. 3:16.
37. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16.
38. Heb. 13:15.
39. Acts 2:42; Eph. 3:5.
40. Acts 20:18-20; 2 Tim. 4:2-4.
41. 1 Cor. 11:24-26.
42. Matt. 26:29; Acts 20:7.
43. 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 1:5; 1 Cor. 9:16-14.
44. 1 John 3:3; Rom. 12;1-2; Matt. 6:33; 16:24.
45. Col. 2:6-7; Eph. 6:10-13, 18; 2 Pet. 1:8-11.
46. 1 Tim. 3:14-15; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Tim. 6:11-12; Rev. 2:10.
47. 1 Cor. 11:22.
48. 2 Tim. 4:3-4.
49. Rom. 3:4.
50. Rev. 4:11; Eccl. 12:13-14.
51. 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9.

 





 

 

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