It is curiously striking at the number of people who read the Bible regularly remain in the dark about the church. Therefore, the purpose of these articles is to bring to light the answer to the above question—What Is The Church Of Christ.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH THAT TAKES THE BIBLE AS THE ONLY GUIDE IN SPIRITUAL MATTERS
In all fairness, it must be acknowledged that most religious groups appeal to the Bible as a guide. That being said, what is it that distinguishes the Church of Christ from other religious organizations concerning this? The answer is found in the word “only.” While various groups attest to the Bible being a guide for them to consider, they at the same time reject it in preference to creed books, manuals and prayer books. These are followed along with and in most cases instead of the Bible. Churches of Christ recognize and follow the Scriptures only. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Pet. 4:11). In fact, we take issues with those who add to, subtract from, or substitute for the Scriptures. “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19). Those who use creeds, manuals and prayer books tell us that these are not substitutes for the Bible but are aides to understanding and practicing the precepts of the Bible. These they say, “contain only the Bible.” If we accept that as true, then why is there a need for them! If they contain more than the Bible, they contain too much. If they are less than the Bible, then they fail to have enough. If they contain only the Bible, then why have them at all? The fact of the matter is, these are the foundation of various sects in religion. The tenets found in them make each of the churches, which they promote, different in faith, preaching and practice; therefore they create and foster division. If religious unity or agreement is ever attained it will be upon the statements of the Bible and not apart from these—and nothing more. All men have the right to reject the words of other men, but who of us has a right to reject the Bible? The Lord declared that His word is the very thing that will judge all of us. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in that day” (Jn. 12:48). The seriousness of that statement cannot be over estimated. It obviously will matter little in the day of judgement whether a particular belief or practice is found in a creed book. Because the Pope in Rome has issued a certain doctrine has no weight or bearing on the eternal destiny of any human being. What is the Church f Christ? It is the Church that uses the Bible as its only guide.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
Of all the figures used to indicate the relationship Jesus Christ has to the Church, this is the most sensitive and beautiful. “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Rev. 21:9). The figure “the Bride of Christ,” takes us back to the Garden of Eden where God placed man and where he created and gave to man the one designated as his “help mate.” Never again was man to be alone and never would there be one that was fitting for him to rely upon. From these well known facts, the Apostle to the Gentiles drew the grand lesson for us. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery (plan): but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:31-32). Thus, the relationship of a husband and wife is an illustration of the tie that exists between Christ and His Bride (the church). A person so joined to Christ never thinks of speaking, going or coming without a mind upon this glorious union. If an individual has an idea that he can be yoked to Christ and be outside (not a member,) of the Church he had better think again, because it is impossible. The importance of being a member of the Church is seen by reading words previous to this in the same chapter. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” Is there a statement anywhere that is clearer or as distinct as “he is savior of the body?” The writer had said, “the church which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). The meaning then is Christ is the savior of the church. Since Christ is the savior of the body, do I want to be in the church or out of the church? If I am a part of (a member of), the church Christ is my savior. If I am not a part of the church (a member) Christ is not my savior. The Jew who was yoked to God in previous times had a problem with the Gospel, which yoked him to Jesus Christ. “Was that not spiritual infidelity?” he asked. Spiritual adultery would mean they were enemies of God (Js. 4:4). Paul understanding exactly the plight of his brethren in the flesh gave attention to that situation. “ “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law to her husband. So then if, while she liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from the law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ: that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom. 7:2-4). When Jesus died on the Cross, He took away the Law (from Sinai), which yoked the fleshly children of Abraham to God. That being the case, they now were freed from that law and could embrace the Gospel that yoked them to Jesus Christ, their spiritual husband without committing spiritual adultery. In the United States there is a movement gaining wide support, as is true in other parts of the world—same sex marriage. Not only is the practice immoral and disgusting it destroys the picture God drew of the church. God’s design was one man (male) and one woman (female). There is no way for people in this early time to know God was drawing a picture of the relationship of His only begotten Son and the Church. One Savior (Jesus Christ) with one Bride (The Church of Christ). Same sex marriage not only strikes a death blow to the home, it goes much deeper destroying that which it is a figure of—another (and greater) Divine Institution which cost the Lord His own blood (Acts 20:28), as “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25). What is the Church of Christ? It is the Bride of Christ yoked to (married to), the Lord.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH THAT IS INTOLERENT OF BAPTIZING BABIES AND LITTLE CHILDREN
The idea of sprinkling or christening babies and small children is believed to be a most wholesome doctrine by many, while others who do not practice it think there is nothing wrong with the practice. After all, when the child reaches adulthood if he repudiates the practice he can be re-baptized and no harm is done. There are several things inferred and sometimes stated by this doctrine. (1) That babies are born sinners as they inherit the sins of their parents going all the way back to Adam and Eve. Expressing it in the advocates’ terms, infants and/or little children have original sin. Or, they are inherently totally depraved. (2) Baptism takes away, removes or attains forgiveness of original sin. (3) Sprinkling, pouring water upon or wiping water over the head of the child is baptism. Considering these in the stated order: (1) Children inherit the sins of those before them. The Bible is clear on this point. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezek. 18:20). The Apostle Paul wrote, “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23). It does not take much reasoning ability to grasp the thought that an infant is not able to sin. Even the laws of our land recognize the difference in what a child does and the acts of an adult. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3). What a wonderful time for Jesus to point out the depravity of children and to command the need for children to be baptized, however, He took the opposite road, reminding His hearers that little children occupy a relationship with the Father that all of us should cultivate. To the expression used by the learned standing on this ground, nothing is so ludicrous as to say children are totally depraved. Why, the Devil himself is no worse than that. Totally means completely without any good or possibility of doing anything worthwhile. It is the doctrine that is corrupt—not little children. (2) As we have seen there is no Original sin, however, the practice does declare a truth about baptism. It does take away sin as Saul was told, “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). Baptism does remove or attain forgiveness of sin, as Peter commanded those on Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). Furthermore, he later wrote, “baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Sometimes the advocates of a false doctrine will unintentionally make sense and declare a scriptural truth. It is true that they misapply what the Bible teaches, but at the same time, what they preach about baptism is true when applied to sinful adult human beings who are to believe the Gospel. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mk. 16:15-16). (3) Error again raises its head regarding the MODE of baptism. Bible baptism requires that the candidate go down into the water where a burial takes place, then a coming up out of the water. We have the record of Philip baptizing the Treasurer of Ethiopia. “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out the water…” (Acts 8:37-38). None of this is required unless baptism is immersion. In addition, it is stated that men are to be “buried in baptism” (Col. 2:12). In addition, we are told that others were “buried in baptism…and arose from baptism.” (Rom. 6:3-4). Sprinkling or pouring water upon one requires none of these. What is the Church of Christ? The Church does NOT pseudo baptize babies.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST ASSEMBLES EVERY FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK TO EAT THE LORD’S SUPPER
When Paul preached the Gospel at Corinth many responded by being baptized into Christ (Acts 18:8). Certain problems developed in the church. When these became known to him, Paul wrote a lengthy letter to correct the errors. One problem was their understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and how they were to eat the bread and drink out of the cup. Showing them the correct manner (I Cor. 11:18-25), he stated, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (V 26). So, as often as we eat not only is there a looking back, there is also a looking forward to Christ coming again. They knew how often they were to eat, because it was to be done when they came together (V 18). They came together on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2). Eating a common meal in those days was referred to as “breaking bread.” Inviting a friend to take a meal with you, it was customary to say “break bread with me.” The phrase was naturally adapted to the sacred meal of Christians, as we read, “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them” (Acts 20:7). The Corinthians knew the expression “to break bread” meant the Lord’s Supper. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (I Cor. 10:16-17). Again, the Corinthians ate the Lord’s Supper when they came together and they came together on the first day of the week. If we were to eat the Lord’s Supper once a year then a specific day of a month would have been given. If once a month then a certain day each month would have been stipulated. But rather than these a specific day of the week is named, therefore it is on this day each week Christians are to eat the Lord’s Supper. There has never been a week that did not have a first day. To forsake this assembling together is sinful. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25). How many Christians fail to assemble in violation to this command? How many put other things before the Lord on the first day of the week? Shame on us. What is the church of Christ? The Church that faithfully gathers to eat the Lord’s Supper as often as a first day comes. Barney Owens 1503