Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 17, 1968
NUMBER 24, PAGE 1-3,5b

The Church

Luther G. Roberts

The word "church" is a noun, a common noun, and according to the rules of grammar should not be capitalized unless it is the first word in a sentence, or is used to begin a line of poetry, or as a word in the title of a book, or magazine, or as the title of an article in such, and there may be a few other occasions when it is proper to capitalize the word. "Church" when used in the plural has reference to different groups of Christians meeting for worship in various places. (Rom. 16:16. I Thess. 2:14). You will find by reading the New Testament that the scholars who translated it did not capitalize the word "church' when it was given as the translation of a Greek term. But, now, it seems that one can hardly use the word "church" unless he uses it as a proper noun every time it is written and then usually it is made to be the part of a title that refers to a religious denomination. Of course, this is a sectarian use of the term. It is according to the rules of grammar to capitalize a word when it is a part of a title. When the term "church" is used in the phrase "Church of Christ" if it is intended as a denominational title it is, of course, unscriptural. The word is never so used in the New Testament capitalized or not, and it is bad grammar to capitalize it.

There are now many people who claim to have been members of the church about which you can read in the New Testament, and others who still claim to be members of that church, who, in their writings about the church refer to it constantly as "the Church of Christ." Of course, these writers are thinking of the church as a church among churches or a denomination among denominations. One book, which makes the claim of being "Critical Studies in Church of Christism," is filled with sectarian language with reference to the Lord's church. In it you will read of "Church of Christ members," "Church of Christ frolic,' Church of Christ colleges," "Church of Christ homes," Church of Christ minister," Church of Christ pulpits," and I even heard of one reference, not in this book, being made to a "Church of Christ grave."

Also, in a religious journal that is printed with an attractive cover and on good quality paper, there are to be found many times the word "church" used in a sectarian and denominational sense. One phrase found in it is, "In the CHURCH OF CHRIST CHURCH," and another such use is, "In this CHURCH OF CHRIST DOCTRINE..." The writers in the book to which I referred and also the writers in the religious journal are assuming that the church is a sectarian, denominational body, and they are using this language to emphasize their teaching that the church is just a denomination among denominations. And, yet, strange as it may seem, some of these writers claim to be members of this, to them, sectarian body. However, some writers of the book have left what they call "the Church of Christ."

But the church that you read about in the New Testament is not a sectarian body, and when the terms in the New Testament that refer to the saved ones in the collective sense are used with the meaning the inspired writers intended they are not sectarian terms now. The late brother G. C. Brewer did some excellent writing along this line in his early years and some in his later years, and what he wrote about the undenominational state of the church is in harmony with the apostolic teaching.

In a pamphlet titled Is the Church of Christ a Denomination? published by the Gospel Advocate Company, in dialogue form, he represents himself as in a discussion with two other persons on the question which forms the title of the pamphlet. On page 18 of the booklet one of the men supposed to be a party to the discussion is made to ask the question, "Now, Brother Brewer, just tell us why the people are not a denomination? What do you lack? I do not mean this congregation alone, (referring to the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas) but all the congregations of the church of Christ taken in the aggregate. You know they compose a denomination." After denying that this is true the answer is given in the following statement. "In the first place, there is no such thing as "taking the churches of Christ in the aggregate'; there is no corporate body of the churches of Christ. They have no collective connection or organic union. As a corporation or organization or ecclesiasticism they own no property and operate no school or orphanage nor do they print a paper. There are no such institutions among us...." Here he was interrupted by one of his opponents, who asked, "Does this congregation not own this house? Is not the Abilene Christian College a church school? Did not this church recently send a donation to that school? Do they not have men out soliciting aid all the time?" Brother Brewer assured his questioner that he would take up his questions one point at a time, and then he continued.

"1. There is no organic connection between the churches of Christ. They have no central head and therefore no headquarters. Christ is the Head of the church and heaven the headquarters (Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:22, Col. 1:18). Hence no earthly headquarters or source of authority. Each congregation is independent. As a local organization the church has it officials bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1) -but these officials have no jurisdiction over any other church, and they are answerable to no superior official or church dignitary. They answer only to Christ..." "The congregation thus organized may own property but no other church could touch the property. If there should cease to be a congregation, the property would be disposed of as provided in the deed." After another remark by one of his disputants and the answer being given, the writer pays his respect to "church institutions."

"2. Let us next look at schools, orphanages, papers, etc. Church institutions are supported by church money just as state institutions are supported by state money. This state money is appropriated by the legislature and comes from taxation. The same is true in religious denominations. The Methodist Church is your denomination and you must be acquainted with its workings. The Methodist Church at each place is assessed or taxed so much by conference, and these conference dues must be raised. From all sources the Methodist Episcopal Church has quite a revenue. Now, with this money conference builds schools, orphanages, publishing houses, etc. The money for these several purposes is appropriated by conference. Now, the churches of Christ have no conference, no source of revenue, and own no institutions. They do not compose a denomination.

"Some Christians are conducting a college at Abilene, but the institution must make its own way, be financed from the individual funds of its promoters or by freewill offerings. The same is true of papers and orphanages that are' operated by members of the church of Christ. If they were denominational institutions they would be supported by denominational money, appropriated by denominational officials and would not need to have a man out begging funds. But the churches of Christ have no denominational officials, no denominational money, no denominational institutions for the reason that the church of Christ is not a denomination." (Pages 19 and 20, Ibid.)

There are several interesting things about the teaching done by brother Brewer in this pamphlet in the light of the practice of many churches of Christ then, (the booklet must have been written between 1940 and 1950, for it was during the time of World War II when brother Brewer was in Lubbock following his sojourn in California where he was when brother Pepperdine built Pepperdine college) and in view of the practice of many more churches since about 1950. The practice I refer to is that of churches of Christ contributing to colleges, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions which, "On the theory that the end justifies the means, brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do work the church itself was designed to do." And, also, what becomes of the argument that what the individual does the church does, in the light of this teaching that individuals may contribute to these institutions but the churches may not, for that would make them into a denomination and the money appropriated for them would be denominational money?

But to return to the quotations from the Pamphlet, the author continued, "3. As to your finding churches at different places wearing the same name and practicing the same things, that can be done in the New Testament. We have the church of Jerusalem, at Antioch, at Ephesus, at Philippi, at Thessalonica, and at Corinth, etc;. There was more or less of cooperation among these congregations but there was no organic connection. They were independent. They had no pope, cardinal, presiding elder, or any such machinery as the denominations that men have organized and called churches have." Following a statement by one of the other parties to the "dialogue" the writer said among other things the following: We do not belong to any denomination. We belong only to the church Christ built upon the rock, over which he is Head, and we have no rules of government, no methods, and no system except that which he gave us through the inspired apostles. I am sure that these laws and methods do not seem sensible or businesslike to men, or they never would have established denominations of their own with laws and machinery of their own devising."

"P. 'But do you not think that we must have organization and business in religion?'

"B.: 'Yes, but I think the Lord's way is businesslike and far better than man's way. A local congregation as an independent organization is the only organization the Lord ever authorized.' (Emphasis mine. LGR)

"S.: 'Well, you know the Lord teaches us to take care of orphans and educate our children. We need organizations for this purpose. You admitted that if your institutions were church owned, they would not have to beg. That seems to be an admission that the denominational method is the best.'

"B.: 'No. it only shows that men will work according to their own plans more readily than they will submit to the laws of the Lord. Members of the denominations pay taxes, but members of the body of Christ give as they are prospered (1 Cor. 16:2). They give as they purpose in their hearts (II Cor. 9:8), not grudgingly or of necessity because required by their church officials. The Lord doesn't want his work carried on by the devil's money.

"S.: Do you people not have any organization except the local church?'

'B.: 'Absolutely none.' "B" is for Brewer (LGR)

When one of his trio makes the observation. "Well, I think we ought to have some sensible organization...." we have this answer, "Yes, you denominational people are like Israel. You say. 'Up, make us gods which shall go before its.' Like Israel, also, you want a king. They were not satisfied with God as their Ruler and Leader, and clamored for a king, and God gave them Saul. You know the result. Division, wars oppression and finally ruin. And that is just the results of denominationalism. It causes division, rivalries contentions, and sectarian hatreds. Nothing so hinders union among religious people as denominational machinery, monetary interests and high-salaried official positions. Of course, it is natural for men to boast of their powerful organizations and startle the world with statistics. But how different the spirit and teaching of the New Testament.. "

Thus did brother Brewer defend the simplicity of the New Testament church and show that it is not a denominational institution. Later in the conversations "Stranger." as he is called. is requested to read sonic scriptures that pertain to the church as a body. "Partyman." as the other member of the "trio" is named. makes the remark, "Yes. but it is said distinctly that there are many members in that body and that is what I believe exactly. All the churches are members of the one great Spiritual body."

'B." answers, "To be sure. there are many members but the individual Christians are the members. The church is compared to the physical body. One body but many members as hand, foot, eye, ear, nose, etc. So we — Christians — constitute the body of Christ. Read the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. Paul there illustrates the unity of the body not its divisions and he says in the twenty-fifth verse that God had so distributed these spiritual gifts and so 'tempered the body together.' 'that there should be no schism (or divisions, margin) in the body.' and in verse twenty-seven he says. 'Now ye (Christians) are the body of Christ and members in particular.' The denominations are themselves bodied with many members instead of being members of one body.- Later, in the discussion one of the antagonists brings up the "invisible church" and says that the visible church is divided into branches. "Did not Christ say something about the vine and the branches?" The answer to this question was "Christ said, 'I am the vine, ye (disciples - individuals) are the branches: He (not the church) that abideth in me, and I in him (not it), the same bringeth forth much fruit' (John 15:5). Division and parties are wrong, I tell you, men."

So, in discussion with these two imaginary gentlemen, the truth concerning the church as revealed in the New Testament is set forth clearly as the body of Christ, those who have been saved by the blood of Christ in obedience to the gospel of Christ. One cannot come to Christ and not come to His church. One cannot be faithful to Christ and not be faithful to His church. Christ said, "I will build my church." Paul said it was built, "So then ye (saints at Ephesus) are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built (having been built) upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded ("As component parts of the one building. The reference is to individual Christians, not communities", M. R. Vincent in Word Studies in the New Testament) for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:19-22).

— Tucumcari, New Mexico