When the above question is posed, often the person making the inquiry has a preconception of the answer, which is usually false. It is necessary in such cases to up root their ideas about the Church of Christ before they are ready to receive the truth. Members of the Body of Christ often must follow the instruction given to the prophet long ago, “root out, and pull down, and to destroy, and throw down, to build and to plant.” (Jer. 1:10). Before the good seed can be placed the difficult work of preparing the soil to receive the seed must be done. Notice that the preparation requires twice the work of planting. This pattern is also presented by the Apostle, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (II Tim. 4:2). Reprove false doctrine and rebuking those teaching such is to be done before exhorting men to submit to the truth. Twice as difficult is the labor of preparing the heart by removing wrong beliefs and error than sowing the truth. This article will demonstrate what the Church of Christ is NOT.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH THAT IS NOT ROMAN CATHOLIC
The Roman Catholic Church makes the claim of being the TRUE Church of Christ. This can be shown to be a false claim by considering many of the doctrines that are propagated by the Roman Catholic Church are not founded in the New Testament and were not preached or practiced by the Christians of the first century. Presently consider the name they attach to the Church belies it being the Church of Christ. I am going to do something I usually do not print in these pages—quote a lengthy piece. It is taken from a public debate held in Cincinnati, Ohio beginning January 13, 1837 and continuing for 7 days continuos, except for Sunday. It was between The Right Rev. John B. Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati and Alexander Campbell of Bethany, Virginia. Mr. Campbell presented the following about the name Roman Catholic. “In the first place, the very term Roman Catholic indicates that she is a sect, and not the ancient, universal and apostolic church, the mother and mistress of all churches. If she be the only universal or Catholic church, why prefix the epithet Roman? A Roman Catholic church is a contradiction. The word Catholic means universal—the word Roman means something local and particular. What sense or meaning is there in a particular universal church? It is awkward on another account. If she pretends to be considered the only true and universal church of Christ among all nations and in all times, why call herself Roman? To say the Roman Catholic church of America, is just as absurd as to say the Philadelphia church of Cincinnati—the London church of Pittsburgh,—the church of France of the United States. The very terms that she chooses indicates that one cannot be the universal church. It will not help the difficulty to call her the church of Rome. These words indicate a sect and only a sect, as much as the words Roman Catholic. They signify strictly, only the particular congregations meeting in that place…But suppose we call her “Catholic” alone; and her advocates now endeavor to impress the idea that she no longer be called “Roman Catholic,” but Catholic, this term equally proves her a sect; for in the New Testament and primitive antiquity there is no such designation. It is simply the church of Christ. It is one thing to choose a name for ourselves, and another to have one chosen for us by our enemies. Societies, like persons, are passive in receiving their names. It is with churches as it is with individuals; they may not wear the name they prefer. She wishes now to be called no longer Roman Catholic, but Catholic. She repudiates the appellation of Roman; and claims to be the only Catholic church that ever was, and is, and ever more shall be. But we cannot allow her to assume it; and we dare not in truth, bestow it, for she is not catholic. But, as there is no church known in the New Testament by that name, could we so designate her, she would still be a sect.” (Battle Of The Giants Pages 10-11). Who can deny the assertion by Campbell? The Church of Christ takes the Gospel to all the world and by preaching it presents the terms of entering the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ is therefore universal or catholic, but it is was and is NOT a part of the Roman Catholic Church.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH THAT IS NOT PROTESTANT
A Protestant is defined by Webster as, “any Christian not belonging to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Eastern Church.” Members of the Church of Christ do not belong to these, and of course, when the occasion demands we do “protest” against either of these organizations named. However, be it understood that we “protest” just as boldly and loudly against what is referred to today as defined by Webster as “Protestant” bodies. The distinction that we enjoy setting us apart from any and all “Protestant” bodies is found in the fact that we strive to be exactly what the church revealed in the New Testament was. We find as much error being taught by these bodies as is found in the Roman Catholic Church. I might add, that these bodies recognize that they parted with the Roman Catholic Church she being the Mother Church. Churches of Christ have not affiliated with nor have we ever in history had a part in the Roman Catholic Church. While “Protestant” bodies for the most part have earthly headquarters that establish laws, rules and/or ordinances for the local bodies of their fellowship, we deny that they have that right and “protest” against the practice. Churches of Christ have no creed other than Christ and no rule book except the New Testament to guide or direct each congregation. Each local body determines how and where it will carry on the Lord’s work without interference from any and all other local churches. Elders or bishops are selected from among the members of each local body to oversee the work with each member responding according to possessed ability. Each congregation is to measure up to the requirements of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the Church. When a local church does not meet the requirements of the head Himself, then that local body is banished from fellowship of other congregations. (See the seven churches of Asia Rev. 2 and 3). By reading the epistles, this is apparent, since these were written for the purpose of correcting maladies in each of these congregations. To know the organization, work and worship of one church is to know the same of all congregations. If a person visits a church in Texas or England he would find that the worship, teaching, and practice is the same in each of these as it is in Oregon and Australia. The fellowship of churches of Christ is limited and extended to congregations that are the same. Churches of Christ encourage people to point out where we err in the work and service of Christ. Yet, we “protest” against any deviation from the rule of King Jesus. The Church of Christ is the Church that is NOT Protestant.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS NOT A DENOMINATION
Webster defines denomination “a religious sect.” Then sect as “a religious denomination, especially a small group that has broken away from an established church.” From the very beginning men have tried to make the Church of Christ a segment, sect or denomination of some religious group. The Jews tried to make the church a part of Judaism that had broken off. As a prisoner in custody of the Roman authorities Paul was granted certain liberties, whereupon he sent for the “chief of the Jews together” to explain the reason for his imprisonment. At this time they said to Paul, “we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:16, 17, 22). No longer are we troubled by the Jews in this way; however; people have difficulty thinking of the Church without thinking of it in a denominationalism or sectarianism sense. We encounter this when people inquire, “what denomination or church are you a member of?” Usually we respond, “I am not a member of any denomination, I’m a member of the Church of Christ.” Facial expressions show they just don’t get it, as we are met with a look of puzzlement or sometimes with a sneer. Preachers often make fun of the Church to the point of making statements that are entirely false, such as, “they think they are better than everybody else” or, “they think no one can be right but them.” While these and like statements are not true, it does need to be said, the New Testament does teach, number one, that there is one church and number two, condemns divisions within the church. Jesus promised to build one church as declared in Matthew 16:18. “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He did not promise to build a church for Moses, John the Baptist, or Peter. He did promise to build “His” Church. We are informed that Jesus purchased the church with the supreme price of His blood. “The church of God (ASV the Lord), which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Obviously God the Son (Jn. 1:1-3, 14) is meant as it was He that took upon Himself a body of flesh (Phil. 2:5-8), in order to sacrifice Himself for our sins. He died for His church not a church for Joshua, Paul or John. The Church is the Body of Christ, “Who now rejoice in…afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). There can be no doubt that the Body of Christ is the Church of Christ. The same writer says, “there is one body” (Eph. 4:4). Think about it, “One Body, which is The Church.” Alternatively, “One Church which is The Body of Christ.” One does not mean there is no Church. One does not mean there are two, two hundred or two thousand churches. One is the smallest number—One Church—one must have help to misunderstand that. The second thing, division is sinful. Sometimes people (even preachers), will encourage others to “join the church of their choice,“ or, thank the Lord “for so many churches enabling each person to select one to join that is pleasing to them.” In anticipation of the Lord uniting all men in the Church at Jesus’ birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:14). Speaking to the Jews the Lord foresaw the unity of them with other nations (Gentiles). “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (Jn. 10:14). It is easy enough for us to accept the “one shepherd” as we reject the claims of any and all, except Jesus Christ. Our difficulty comes when we are told there is “one fold.” Yet, both are found in the same phrase of Jesus. There are not many shepherds over the one fold, nor is there one shepherd over many folds. One shepherd—Jesus Christ; one fold—the Church of Christ. When the Church was established the prediction of Christ became a reality. The Apostle Paul writing to the church of Ephesus proclaimed the fulfillment of the passages above (Lk. 2:14 and Jn. 10:16). Ephesians 2:13-16, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Those who were nigh were the Jews, the afar off were the Gentiles. These were united in the Body (Church) of Christ. The middle wall of partition was the Law of Moses separating the Jews from all other people. The law was abolished by the Cross when Jesus shed His blood opening the door for all men to enter into the Church. However, the peace has been disturbed by the establishment of the denominational system, which once more divides people into various churches. Does this please God? It does not. Division is sinful. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). Rather than obey this inspired injunction some who have claimed the Lordship of Jesus blatantly shout that division is good and one speaking this doctrine and another speaking a different doctrine is pleasing to God. Furthermore, those who cause divisions are to be marked. To the Romans Paul wrote Rom. 16:17-18), “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not out Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Rather than mark those who teach contrary doctrines many mark those that contend for the pure faith of the Lord Jesus. Division and those who preach it are praised, when teaching and practicing the false ways ordained by men. The simple are lead away into churches that will not obey Christ and innovations are introduced into the worship that have no foundation in God’s word. It remains for the Church of Christ to stand apart from denominationalism.
Barney Owens 1506
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