THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
by Mark Dunagan
Matthew 16:18 – “..upon this rock I will build My church”
Romans 16:16 – “All the churches of Christ salute you”
Welcome to a brief introduction to the Church of Christ! If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact us.
The Origin of the Church
From Matthew 16:18 we learn:
The church wasn’t established in the Old Testament. Thus the rules governing this relationship will be found in the New Testament.
The church belongs to Christ, not man.
The church is a very important relationship.
The word ‘church’ is spoken of in the singular, Jesus desires that all believers be united and in one universal body (Eph. 1:20-23; John 17:20-23). Acts 20:28 ‘..the church of God which He purchased with His own blood’.
This verse reveals:
The church came into existence after the death of Christ.
It is an essential relationship, for it is inherently connected with the blood of Christ.
The church isn’t a building, rather it is people who have been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The church isn’t an optional relationship, for one cannot be saved apart from the blood of Christ.
The church is the same relationship known as the kingdom of God (Compare Acts 20:28 with Revelation 1:5-6). Acts 2:38,41,47 ‘…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (KJV).
From these passages we learn:
Hearing the gospel, faith (2:37), repentance and baptism stand between the sinner and salvation.
Upon being baptized one is added by the Lord to the church. The church that the Lord adds us to belongs to Him.
Being saved and being a member of the church are the same thing.
Therefore the church is the body of the saved (Eph. 5:23).
Thus the church that Jesus Christ established came into existence upon the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.
The Undenominational Church
If you have spent much time reading the Bible then you already have realized that there are no denominations mentioned within its passages. Every Christian was simply a member of one united body of believers. Various congregations existed (Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, etc..), but they were all part of the same body. Each congregation practiced and believed the same doctrines or teachings, that is, what was being revealed through the apostles (1 Corinthians 4:17; 14:37). Christians were admonished to remain united, divisions based on following certain leaders within the church, or dividing up the body of Christ into various sects or flavors of Christianity were condemned (1 Cor. 1:10). In fact, even sects based on following elevating one apostle over all others were rebuked (1:12-13).
What Christians Believed/Practiced
This isn’t meant to be a complete list. But here is just a sample. Someone has noted that if you were trying to find something then you would look for its identifying marks, such as the specific characteristics of a car that had been stolen. In like manner, the church that Jesus established has identifying marks.
Worship – Christians assembled on the first day of every week (Sunday) (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1; Heb. 10:25),and observed the Lord’s Supper. Every member partook of both elements (1 Cor. 11:23-26). They sang spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Colossians 3:16); gave as they had been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Collections were not solicited from non-members. They prayed together (Acts 2:42), and listened as the Word of God was taught (Acts 2:42).
Organizational Structure – Jesus was the sole head (Eph. 1:20-23). Each local congregation was shepherded by a plurality of men called elders/pastors/overseers or bishops (Acts 14:23; 20:17,28; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11). The authority of these men was limited to the congregation of which they were members (1 Peter 5:1-3). Thus each congregation was self-governing. The New Testament provides no earthly organizational structure for the church which is beyond the local congregation. Including state, regional, national or a world headquarters.
Basic Teachings – The church that Jesus established taught and practiced:
Water baptism is just as essential to salvation as is hearing the gospel or believing that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16).
Man is born pure and innocent (1 Cor. 14:20).
No one has been predestined for salvation or damnation (2 Peter 3:9).
Heaven and hell are both eternal (Matt. 25:46).
The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit each possess the qualities of Deity (John 1:1; Acts 5:3-5).
Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
All non-Christian religions are powerless to save (Acts 4:12).
God’s moral standard is not changed by time and culture (Galatians 5:19-21).
A Christian can lose their salvation (Heb. 10:26-31).
The unity found in the New Testament wasn’t to last. Through the apostles God predicted a coming apostasy which would hit the church (Acts 20:28-30; 1 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Following the death of the apostles changes started to happen. For example, changes were made in the organizational structure of the local congregation. One elder began to be elevated above his fellow elders and assumed the title of bishop as applying exclusively to himself. Such bishops began to oversee more than one congregation, instead they were ruling a geographical region containing many congregations. Eventually, one bishop assumed oversight over all the congregations, thus the organizational structure found in Roman Catholicism came into existence.
During the early centuries many other foreign practices were being introduced (the Bible clearly condemns adding to the Word-Matt. 15:1-9; 2 John 9; Revelation 22:18-19). We find such human religious traditions as infant baptism, prayers for the dead, the fruit of the vine withheld from the members during communion, a clergy-laity system, and so on. Finally people realized that these things weren’t right and began to “protest”, thus the beginnings of the Protestant religious bodies. While many people had good intentions, and some of the human traditions found in Catholicism were removed, unfortunately the Protestant Reformation only succeeded in establishing even more religious bodies based on human founders, doctrines and practices. Among other things, the Reformation introduced the unscriptural idea of being saved by faith alone, which is a complete reverse of what the Bible says (James 2:24).
The Church of Christ at Creekwood is striving to be nothing more and nothing less than a congregation that conforms to the Church that Jesus established and purchased with His own blood. We urge all believers to come back to the teachings and practices one can find revealed in the New Testament, to discard all human religious traditions which lack book, chapter and verse and to lovingly and obediently speak and practice what the Bible sanctions (1 Peter 4:11). Let’s be content to allow God to tell us how He wants to be worshipped and served.
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