Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 21, 1963
NUMBER 29, PAGE 8-10a

What Is The Church Of Christ? -- (No. 2)

L. A. Mott, Jr.

In a former article we pointed out that the "churches of Christ" of our day claim to be exactly like the churches of Christ of the New Testament, on the ground that we have followed precisely and exactly the same pattern which was followed in those churches.

Paul told Timothy: "Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me." (2 Tim. 1:13) This further emphasizes that the words of Paul and the other apostles are a pattern to be held and followed by us, and from which we must not vary or deviate.

True churches of Christ today are following that pattern without variation. Consequently:

1. We have the same organization as the New Testament church. The New Testament church was not organized beyond the local level. Each congregation was separate and independent. Each congregation was overseen by a plurality of elders, (Acts 14:23), or bishops. These two words describe one and the same office. (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) The oversight of these men was limited to the local congregation in which they were appointed. (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2).

At the founding of a congregation, there was naturally a period of time before the new-born babes in Christ could develop the qualifications listed in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, when the congregation had no elders. But when qualified men were developed, elders were appointed. (Acts 14:23) The doctrine and practice of the church of Christ today is exactly according to this pattern. You will never find a congregation with only one elder, or pastor (which is another name for this office), because the New Testament churches always had a plurality of elders. Never do we read of a congregation with only one elder.

Also, the New Testament had deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8) who were special servants of the church, and evangelists were charged with the preaching of the word. The teaching and practice of churches of Christ today is exactly the same.

2. We have the same worship as the New Testament church. The worship then was, and is now, simple — completely lacking in elaborate ceremony and ritual. The early disciples met together on the first day of the week to break bread. (Acts 20:7) Today, the churches of Christ follow this pattern exactly by observing the Lord's supper in memory of Christ each Sunday. Why do we do this every Sunday? Because that was the practice of the early church. (Acts 20:7) If that pleased God then, it will now. But nothing else will! Why not do it on Thursday? Because that is a deviation from the pattern.

When the early disciples met they had the preaching of the word. (Acts 20:7) So do we! They prayed together (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:15). So do we!

The early disciples sang to praise God and encourage each other. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) So do we! But we never find where a mechanical instrument was used in the worship of the New Testament church or where they were commanded to use one. Hence, endeavoring to follow this pattern, churches of Christ today have only vocal music.

3. We have the same method of raising money as the New Testament church. Then, money was raised, not with cake walks, pie sales, raffles, etc., but by the contributions of members of the church on the first day of the week. (1 Cor. 16:1-2) This practice of the New Testament church is exactly reproduced in churches of Christ today.

4. The money is used in exactly the same ways as it was used by the New Testament church. We are determined not to deviate from that pattern and use the Lord's money for just anything which seems good to us. We will use it only in those ways specified in the pattern laid down by the apostles. The money was, and is today, used for the support of the gospel preacher (I Cor. 9:14; 2 Cor. 11:8) and for the relief of needy saints (Christians). (1 Cor. 16:1-2) Sometimes money is sent from one church to another, but only when that church which receives the Money is destitute and unable to relieve its own needy. This was the practice of New Testament churches. (Acts 11:27-30; 2 Cor. 8:13-15) Today, faithful churches never send money out of the church treasury to human institutions such as orphan homes, hospitals, and missionary societies, for such practice would constitute a departure front the New Testament order. I am sure you understand that we are not opposed to caring for the needy as I have indicated already; neither are we opposed to the support of gospel preachers in mission fields. But we insist upon doing such work in harmony with the New Testament pattern; and the New Testament church never did its work through human organizations.

5. The church today does the same work which was done by the New Testament church. We do not do just anything we feel might be good for the church to do, but only those things specified in the New Testament pattern. Hence, you will not find us, as a church, operating a parking-lot-for profit, a service station, a farm, or a college. I as an individual, might do any of these things, but the church does not. Why? Simply because the New Testament pattern does not call for the church to engage in such secular businesses. The church of the New Testament preached the gospel and upheld the truth (1 Tim. 3:14,15), and cared for the needy (1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 1 Tim. 5:16). This the church of Christ does today.

6. We wear the same names as the New Testament church. As individuals we are Christians (Acts 11:26; 26: 28; 1 Pet. 4:16); as a congregation we are the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2) or the church of Christ. (Rom 16:16) Religiously, we wear no names except those worn by the New Testament church.

7. The plan of salvation, as taught by churches of Christ, is the same as that taught in the New Testament. The New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith (Rom. 5:1); but the faith by which we are saved does not stand alone. Faith without works is dead. (Jas. 2:17, 26) We are not justified by faith only. (James 2:24) Rather, saving faith, by its very nature, involves obedience to the gospel. (Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:22) Saving faith involves baptism into Christ (Gal. 3:27) which Peter says is "for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38. The doctrine of the church of Christ then and now is the same.

8. Baptism is practiced in the same way now as in the New Testament. Then, it involved a burial in water and a resurrection. (Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:12) While some have departed from this, we insist upon holding to "the pattern of sound words."

9. The terms of entrance are the same. In Acts 2: 47 we learn that the Lord adds the saved to the church. We are baptized into the one body. (1 Cor. 12:13) One enters the church today in exactly the same way it was entered in the days of the apostles.

10. Let me summarize: Other points could be discussed but I believe this is enough to illustrate the ground on which we claim to be the church of Christ of the New Testament. I see an automobile and carefully observe its every detail, and note that it is a Chevrolet. Then later I see another automobile which I also observe carefully and notice that it is the same in every detail as the other. I may not even see its nameplate but I can be sure that it is a Chevrolet too. The church of Christ today is identical in faith, doctrine, and practice with the church of the New Testament. Hence, after a careful consideration of the evidence, I affirm without the slightest degree of hesitation or uncertainty that they are one and the same.

"But We Cannot All See The Bible Alike."

I do not believe this is the real reason for our differences. Paul predicted that "in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." (1 Tim. 4:1) The result is division: some following the faith; some following doctrines of demons. It is clear that the reason for division is not that all cannot understand the faith alike, but rather, that some simply are not following the faith.

Paul told Timothy to preach the same things which he preached. (1 Tim. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:2) But he warned of some who would teach a different doctrine. (1 Tim. 1:3; 6: 3) Now I am persuaded that the reason of our differences in faith, doctrine, and practice is not that we are unable to understand alike those same things Paul taught. Some just do not think it is important to teach the same things Paul taught. That is why we differ — because we have a different attitude toward the New Testament. Some are not teaching those same things. They are teaching a different doctrine and the result is that their faith and practice is different from the New Testament.

Now let us see if that analysis is not correct:

1. Why do we differ on the name of the church? Is it because we cannot understand Acts 11:26, 1 Cor.1:2; and Rom. 16:16 alike? No! We differ because some do not think it is important to wear just the Bible names.

2. Why do we differ on the action of baptism? The Bible clearly describes baptism as a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) But Luther's Catechism says: "It may be performed in any one of three ways; namely, by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. One mode of baptism is just as valid as the others." (p. 147) Why do the Lutheran preachers and I differ on this? Surely, everyone can see that the Bible is clear and simple, but we differ because he is following Luther's Catechism and not the Bible at all!

3. Why do we differ on the plan of salvation? The Methodist Discipline's ninth article states: "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." But James said: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (2:24) Then someone says, "But we cannot see it alike." No, that is not it. The Bible is clear and all can understand it alike. But the real question is: Do we want to believe and follow the Bible, or will we leave the Bible and follow some other book? We differ with the Methodists on this subject, for instance, because they are following the Discipline and not the Bible at all. Let them give up the Discipline and we will be able to unite on the Bible. Someone says, "You believe you are the only one right; you want everybody to do what you say." No! I believe the Bible is right and we are all wrong unless we follow the Bible and the Bible alone.

4. Why do we differ on the terms of church membership? Hiscox says: "It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,' and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, 'baptism was the door into the church.' Now it is different; and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their 'experience,' and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members. And while they cannot become members without baptism, yet it is the vote of the body which admits them to its fellowship on receiving baptism" (The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p.22).

As long as Mr. Hiscox is discussing the practice "in the Apostolic age" (that is, what the Bible teaches) we are in agreement. Baptism was the door into the church (see Acts 2:38, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13). So we are not divided because we cannot see the Bible alike. Rather, we differ because he decided the New Testament plan is inadequate, for now it is different. It is not a question of understanding the Bible. The question is: Is it important simply to obey the Bible?

This is enough to illustrate the point. Let me conclude.

Conclusion and Appeal We are divided and we are different. Now here is the reason: Members of the church of Christ reject every human creed and opinion and are determined to teach the same things Paul and the other apostles taught. Thus, our faith and practice is the same as that of the apostolic church. We are, indeed, the church of Christ. Modern denominationalism is teaching, not the same things Paul taught, but different doctrines. Hence their faith and practice is different — different from that of the church of Christ today, but more important, different from that of the apostolic church in the New Testament.

What all need is to get back to the faith and practice of the New Testament church. Then we would all be the same — united upon the truth of God's word.

Human creeds teach some truth but much error. It is not the truth in them which makes a person a member of a human denomination. For instance, it is not the truth in the Methodist Discipline which makes one a Methodist. I believe everything those people believe that can be found in the Bible. But I am not a Methodist. Hence, it is not the Bible which makes one a Methodist; it is that in the Methodist creed which is not in the Bible.

Notice that human creeds and opinions are the foundation of denominationalism:

1. The Catholic Catechism when faithfully followed produces a Catholic.

2. The Episcopal Prayer Book when faithfully followed makes an Episcopalian.

3. The Presbyterian Catechism produces a Presbyterian. This it does every time. It never makes a person a Catholic or Methodist. It always makes him a Presbyterian.

4. Luther's Catechism, if faithfully taught, makes a person a Lutheran when he believes and follows it.

5. The Methodist Discipline makes Methodists.

6. When a person believes and follows the doctrines in the Baptist Manual he will be a Baptist.

But watch it! If we cast aside every human creed and opinion, and believe and obey the Bible, all the Bible, and nothing but the Bible, we will all be the same — just Christians and members of the Lord's blood-bought church. You see, if we believe and follow the same pattern the apostles and early disciples followed, we will be the same thing they were — nothing more nor less, nor different. I am sure you can see now that this is exactly what God wants you to do. I, therefore, appeal to you to lay aside everything not authorized by God's Book, and be just a Christian, determined to serve faithfully in God's church, trusting Him for a home in glory after awhile.

— 1254 Enota Drive N. E., Gainesville, Georgia