The Church being “unique” means “it is one of its kind, without or having no equal or like.” The words of Peter immediately come to my mind, when he spoke of the Lord’s own as “a peculiar people.” Since the Church is people that makes the Church peculiar, does it not? There is no word or term that is expressive of the Church more than the word “unique.” In this article my continuing attempt is to show in various ways the uniqueness of the Church as the Church of Christ is indeed one of a kind, has no equal and there is none like it.
THE CHURCH IS UNIQUE BECAUSE IT HAS NO AFFILIATION WITH DENOMINATIONS
To get this before your mind I shall mention only a few things as space is surely too limited for more that that.
- The Church is different in name. We read of the Apostle Paul using the expression “churches of Christ.” (Rom. 16:16). A number of churches were by Paul sending greetings to the brethren in Rome therefore were called “churches of Christ.” Now if only one congregation sent a greeting would not that church be called a “church of Christ?” The churches established by the authority of men declare there is “no importance in the name disciples are to wear,” “that one name is as good as another,” or that “we can choose whatever name we wish to be known or distinguished by.” Well, when the name of the church Christ died for, the name of the church Christ sent forth the Apostles to declare is in the mix, then the name is important, one name is not as good as another, and we have no right or authority to choose the name we wish to wear. All people recognize the name Church of Christ as being scriptural and therefore being right. Being called the Church of Christ is unique in the religious world.
2, The Church stands out in position. Denominations claim (the Roman Catholic sect excepted); to be branches of the Church of Christ as established in the New Testament, Members of the Church of Christ deny that these sects are branches of the true church. We likewise insist that these sects be abandoned and that all claiming to follow Christ should make an effort to return to the oneness of the Church of Christ in Apostolic times. When Jesus spoke of the Vine and branches in John 15, He was speaking of various members of the body of Christ abiding in Him, not laying a foundations for denominations to be formed.
- The Church is different because of the method of conversion. Once more all denominations (the Roman Catholic sect excepted) regard conversion to result because of a work of the Holy Spirit directly upon the sinner. While members of the Church of Christ hold that conversion is accomplished by the submission to the word of truth that came by the Holy Spirit.
- The Church is unique in regard to evidence of salvation. Denominations hold to what is called the “witness of the Spirit” giving to the convert a better felt than told experience or some type of feeling within one’s body. Members of the Church on the other hand declare that the evidence of salvation is the result of certain conditions revealed in the gospel being complied with. When a person’s own conscience concurs with said conditions the evidence of pardon is seen in the promises that are attached to the conditions.
- The Church stands alone on the subject of baptism—its subjects and its design. The sects declare that sprinkling, pouring water upon or immersing are all accepted according to the particular choice of the denomination. Many of these practice infant baptism, others baptizing children of a young age, while very little significance is attached to the ordinance. Members of the Church hold that immersion only is commanded and exemplified in the New Testament therefore it only is the accepted means by God. Members of the Church also believe and teach that the “one baptism” is to obtain the remissions of sins, therefore must be obeyed to obtain pardon by those aged enough to understand its signifiance.
6, The Church is unique because of its practice regarding the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper. Denominations teach that each sect can determine how the Lord’s Supper is to be eaten and how many Lord’s Days a year this is to be done. Members of the Church gather each (every) Lord’s Day to partake of the Lord’s Supper in the way the Lord set it forth in the world. It must be admitted to their shame that some congregations have changed the elements in the Lord’s Supper making it like the Corinthians who were corrected by Paul into their “own supper.”
THE CHURCH IS UNIQUE BECAUSE EVERY MEMBER IS A PRIEST
Every denomination from the Roman Catholic on down the line have some type of functioning priest even if they are called by another name or have a different designation. In all they are separated from the members of said church being divided into the clergy and the laity. They may be called priest, pastor, presiding elder or minister. They are selected and set apart from other member of said churches in order to visit the sick, offer up prayers and take the confession of sins from the members. Such practices find some scriptural likeness in the Old Testament through the Law appointed by Moses, however such are unknown to the New Testament. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (I Pet 5:3). These words were written to the elders watching over a congregation. The word “heritage” interests us because it refers to the various members of the congregation. It comes from the Greek word kleron which is the plural of kleros showing it is not a single member of the church that is singled out as God’s own, but that all the members are His heritage. The kleros is the word from which we derive to the word clergy. Every member of the church is God’s clergy meaning every member has a lot or portion in the body. The Rheims translation (1582) says. “neither as overruling the Clergie.” There are not specific persons set apart as the clergy rather every member of the church the moment membership is obtained in the body—at that moment becomes the “clergy of God.” Furthermore, Peter said, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” These called “the holy priesthood” are those who “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of they word, that ye may grow thereby.” (I Pet. 2:5 & 2). Just as every Christian is to work at growing in Christ by feeding upon the word of God so are they to offer up spiritual sacrifices. It is incorrect to select a few to function as priests. ”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1). You will notice that the people Peter called the “holy priesthood” Paul says they are “a living sacrifice” that are “holy acceptable to God.” Every Christian has the right and the duty to present their body a living sacrifice, making the Church of Christ unique.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS UNIQUE BECAUSE THERE IS NO OBSERVANCE OF RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS
Religious holidays or holy days are many and various among the denominations deriving many if not most of them from the Roman Catholic Church. These are acknowledged or celebrated at stipulated times. There are two especially singled out that are so revered that when one does not participate there is often ridicule and sometimes shunning from social gathering that have nothing to do with religion. These are Easter and Christmas. These are highly esteemed and religious devotion is expected at these times. There is a story (whether true or not, I do not know,) which emphasize the expected obligations of Christians on these days. It is said that a preacher at Easter time said at the close of his sermon, “I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas because I know I will not see you until then.”
Easter is somewhat understood as it is mentioned in scripture. Herod the king wishing to vex the church further he “had apprended him (Peter), he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” (Acts 12:4). To those who have not investigated from this passage Easter is thought to have been practiced in Apostolic days. However, the American Standard and other translations state, “intending after the Passover to bring him forth to the people.” All commentaries of merit, dictionaries, lexicons, and encyclopedias render it as “Passover.” One example will do here, quoting from Cruden’s Complete Concordance, under the word Easter “(The Passover. The name Easter was given later to the Christian celebration of this season).” Why then the word Easter in the King James Version? Well, in 1611 when the King of England—James ordered the translation, Easter was practiced (the Passover by Christians was not, so, to please the King the word Easter replaced Passover. The same is true regarding baptism, which is a transliteration of the word baptizo. Had it been translated, as it should have by “dip, submerse or immerse” then sprinkling would have ceased to be practiced, however the King had been sprinkled, thus the transliteration rather than translation. It behooves those desiring to know what the word baptism means to investigate the matter. Likewise those wishing to know the meaning of Easter should investigate the term. When translated in Acts 12:4 “Passover” it would be seen that this was a Jewish Holy day and not one for Christians. Christ nor His chosen Apostles ever practiced Easter, never commanded Easter and said not a single word about Easter. Why (?) because it was not pleasing to God to observe such a day. It is totally man made; therefore by rejecting it the Church of Christ is unique.
Christmas has origin with the Roman Catholic Church and not with the church our Lord promised to build and established in the world by shedding His blood. Look at the word: Christ—mas. Clearly a Mass of Christ, Never do we read in God’s word of a Mass for Christ or for that matter a Mass for anyone or anything. The celebration of Christmas came much later than the completion of the written word. This is one of the things Jesus warned all about, “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” (Mt. 15:9). I know of nothing that is so connected with the “doctrines of men,” as is Christmas. The Lord also declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me,” (Jn. 14:6). There is nothing in the estimation of this scribe further from the truth than the things that men do as worship to the Father than the practice of Christmas. From the manger scenes on down the line. The wise men are pictures as kings who were present in the manger, when it is shown they arrived much later—close to two years later, when they visited Jesus after the family had moved into a house. That there were three of these, which the Bible does not say. There could have been two or two hundred. Then there is the despicable story of Santa Clause who is declared to know everything about children—if they have been good or bad; that he travels around the globe in one night (however long) and delivers presents to the good child. Parents ought to hang their heads in shame for overtly telling this lie to their children. I personally know of a young girl that told the truth about Santa Clause to some of her class-mates in school, was then chastised by her teacher.
Ace Collins writes in his book “Stories behind the great Traditions of Christmas,” writes on page 9-10: “There is no doubt that today this holy time of year is our most frenetic, stressful season. It is therefore only natural that Christians lament that the real reason for the season seems to have been largely forgotten in the midst of cookie baking, decorating, and office parties…Before we brood too much over the ruin of what we think Christmas must have been like in generations long past, we might actually feel better encouraged about the season we celebrate today when we consider what Christmas was really like in the old days. Only in relatively recent times, the past two hundred years, has Christmas been celebrated by most Christians. Up until the 1800s, the day recognized as Christ’s birthday was largely a pagan celebration. Those who bemoan the lack of religious zeal in modern Christmases would have been appalled at the way people in early America celebrated the day. Christmas was not a time of worship, prayer, and reflection; rather, it was a day set aside to sing bawdy songs, drink rum, and riot in the streets. For centuries, Christmas was anything but a holy day. It was most often a sinful parade of excess, a day of ignoring laws and even terrorizing citizens…” Now, that is what a historian who is a friend to Christmas writes about the matter. I also suggest that we read the language of the Apostle about celebrating such days religiously. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” (Gal. 4:10-11). Indeed he was speaking of holy days and times given the children of Israel under Old Testament law—days that God had ordained for them to observe, but were made of none effect by the death of Christ. I ask you: that being truth of those things, can we think that pagan days brought into service as being Christian can be observed as pleasing to God? That makes the Church of Christ unique we refuse to celebrate these days and other like them declared holy days by men.
Barney Owens 1711