You can be just a "Christian." Does this sound strange?
With over 400 religious bodies in the United States it might appear impossible to be a Christian without being part of a denomination. It is not only possible, but there are actually millions of "Christians only" in this and other nations.
Who are these people who seek to be only "Christians"? The congregations of which they are a part are usually known as "churches of Christ." This term is not used in a sectarian sense, but is intended to denote their desire to belong to Christ's church. The Bible says, "The churches of Christ greet you." (Rom. 16:16). However, it is just as correct to describe the church as "the church of God" (I Cor. 1:2), "the body of Christ" (I Cor. 12:27), or "the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). These and similar Biblical phrases are not proper names, but descriptive expressions which show how the church is related to Christ and His Father.
Individually, Christ's followers are known as "Christians" in the Bible. "The disciples were first called 'Christians' in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (I Pet. 4:16). Never does a human name prefix this God given name. Paul was one of the greatest of all Christians, but he did not want disciples to be called "Paulites" or "Paulite Christians." (I Cor. 1:10-17).
Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea. Of course in many ways, we agree with others striving to follow Christ. We believe in the divine inspiration of the entire Bible and that it is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith; in the death of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins; and that after death all men will be rewarded or punished in another life for the way they have lived here. And with all people of religious conviction we insist that the moral principles of Jesus are absolute truths to be exemplified in the personal righteousness of the child of God.
However, we not only believe that the scriptures are inspired, but also are convicted that the New Testament must be our ONLY guide in religious faith. God's Word frequently warns us against changing the divine message (see Gal. 1:6-9). We, therefore, have no creed or catechism to present, but accept Christ as our only creed and the Bible as our only guidebook. In this way we are never prevented by an erroneous creed from accepting any truth which may be learned from God's Word.
It is obvious to thinking people that the religious world is badly divided. Great leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin sought to correct erroneous teachings and practices. But the reformers often started at different points and thus arrived at different conclusions. Division rather than unity has resulted.
Churches of Christ, on the other hand, plead for the restoration of apostolic Christianity rather than a reformation of existing religious bodies. Since all can agree that the early church was right, we should also be able to agree that we cannot be wrong (John 8:32) if we succeed in reproducing that church today in every essential part. While many things have changed in the present century, the teachings of Jesus and His apostles have not. Truth is absolute and unchangeable. God's Word is truth (John 17:17) and can save today as surely as in the first century if applied in the same way. "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Should you visit one of the churches of Christ you will find us worshipping God as did the early disciples -- "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). You will observe that we partake of the Lord's supper, or communion, every Sunday. This is because we are following the example of the early Christians who assembled every first day of the week to "break bread" (See Acts 20:7). Likewise, in every other way churches of Christ seek to reproduce New Testament Christianity -- in organization, in work, and in other areas of teaching.
In few issues is there so much disagreement as in answering the Bible question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). Here again churches of Christ reply by going to the scriptures for their answer. The Bible teaches that Christ shed His blood for our sins (Matt. 26:28), and that without it we cannot be saved (Heb. 9:22). But what does Jesus require of us if we are to appropriate that sacrifice? Those who crucified Him were told to "know assuredly" or believe that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
When these people on the day of Pentecost then asked for further information, they were told, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). Today we teach as did the apostles then, that for Christ's blood to remove our sins we must believe in Him, repent, and be baptized. As we are thus saved from our sins, the Lord adds us to His body, the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). "For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13). The saved, then, are in the body or church of Christ; one cannot be saved and be outside this body.
The early disciples were Christians only. Although we live 1900 years later, we, too, can be "Christians only" if we will follow the same teachings given to these first followers of Jesus. Christ said, "The seed is the Word of God" (Luke 8:11). Just as surely as a planted acorn will produce only an oak, so God's Word will produce Christians and nothing more. We invite your earnest consideration to this plea.
A "denomination" signifies a division or a segment. "Denominationalism" means devotion to denominational principles or interests. All the religious denominations of our day were established by men, hundreds of years after Jesus Christ established His church in Jerusalem on Pentecost, about 33 A.D. (Acts 2).
We claim that the modern-day "church of Christ" is NOT a denomination. Please consider with us why this claim is made.
Christ established but ONE church (Matt. 16:18, Acts 20:28, Col. 1:24, Eph. 4:4). Christ is not divided. The apostle Paul said that religious division is wrong (I Cor. 1:10-13). Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17:20-21). Our Lord did not work against His own prayer for unity by establishing conflicting and contradictory denominations. Denominationalism retards the salvation of lost souls (John 17:21). Denominationalism breeds skepticism and doubt. Different doctrines cause many to lose respect for the Scriptures.
Christians were members of the universal church for which Christ died. When one accepts Christ, there is no need to accept anything else (Col. 2:9-10). When you accept Christ only, you become a "Christian," a disciple of Christ. Others in any place who do the same thing will be, like us, Christians only.
1. It has no denominational founder. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," said Jesus (Matt. 16:18).
2. It has no denominational head. "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). Christ is the Sovereign Head of the church. The undenominational church does not recognize any human head or headquarters.
3. It has no denominational creed. We have no creed but Christ. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" is our confession of faith (Matt. 16:16, Acts 8:37). We have no book of discipline or rule of faith. We practice only the Scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16).
God's Word is sufficient to cover every problem of congregational organization and activity. THEREFORE, HUMAN CREEDS ARE UNNECESSARY. "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3).
4. It has no denominational name. The church of the New Testament was known as:
The individual members of the church were known as:
5. It has no denominational organization. There is no ecclesiastical organization, no popes, no cardinals, no archbishops, no church councils or conventions. Each congregation of the Church of Christ is independent, under the authority of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. We have a plurality of qualified elders (Acts 14:23), just as was found in the first century church.
6. It has no denominational worship. We have no denominational rites or ceremonies. We seek to worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), following the pattern of the first century church. Each Lord's day worship consists of:
7. It has no denominational requirements for membership. We ask people to do only what men and women in the New Testament were commanded to do:
After obeying the gospel, TO WHAT DENOMINATION DID THE FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANS BELONG? Catholicism had its beginning in the 7th century. Protestantism had its beginning in the 16th century. New Testament Christians belonged simply to the undenominational church.
We must have an unreserved commitment to the Bible as the sole, objective standard in religion. Unity can exist only when there is allegiance to a single objective religious authority. When all men will lay down their creeds, disciplines, manuals, confessions of faith, catechisms, think-so's, maybe's, and subjective feelings, and with an unprejudiced and receptive heart turn to the Word of God, then, and ONLY then, will unity result. We must be committed to being nothing, calling ourselves nothing, obeying nothing, and saying nothing except that which is authorized by the Word of God.
Surely, it is possible to occupy an undenominational position. It is our plea for all to abandon the things that divide those who profess to be Christians, and occupy, with us, this undenominational ground.
If we preach ONLY the gospel, it will produce in our day the one, true New Testament church that it produced in the days of the apostles, when no denominations existed.
Jesus died for his church, the bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25-33) Man throughout history has corrupted the church that Christ died for through denominationalism, by adding man-made laws to the scriptures, and by following creeds other than the Holy Bible. It is possible today, to be obedient to the will of Christ. Christians can resolve to restore the church to being the church of the New Testament. (Acts 2:41-47)
The temple of God I Cor 3:16 The bride of Christ Eph 5:22-32 The body of Christ Col 1:18,24; Eph 1:22-23 The kingdom of God's son Col 1:13 The house of GodI Tim 3:15 The church of God I Cor 1:2 The church of the first-born Heb 12:23 The church of the Lord Acts 20:28 The churches of Christ Rom 16:16
Built by Jesus Christ Matt 16:13-18 Purchased by the blood of Christ Acts 20:28 Built on Jesus Christ as the only foundation I Cor 3:11 Not built on Peter, Paul, or any other man I Cor 1:12-13 Composed of the saved, who are added to it by the Lord who saves them. Acts 2:47
Members of Christ I Cor 12:27 ,6:15, Rom 12:4-5 Disciples of Christ Acts 6:1,7; 11:26 BelieversActs 5:14; II Cor 6:15 Saints Acts 9:13; Rom 1:7; Phil 1:1 Priests I Peter 2:5,9; Rev 1:6 Children of God Gal 3:26-27; I John 3:1-2 Christians Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Peter 4:16
Elders (also called bishops and pastors) who oversee and tend the flock I Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; I Peter 5:1-4 Deacons, who serve the church I Tim 3:8-13 Phil 1:1 Evangelists (preachers, ministers) who teach and proclaim the word of God Eph 4:11; I Tim 4:13-16; II Tim 4:1-5 Members, who love the Lord and each other Phil 2:1-5 Autonomy, and is bound to other local churches only by the common faith shared Jude 3 Gal 5:1
Loved the church Eph 5:25 Shed his blood for the church Acts 20:28 Established the church Matt 16:18 Added saved people to the church Acts 2:47 Is the head of the church Eph 1:22-23; 5:23 Will save the church Acts 2:47; Eph 5:23
Purpose the church Eph 3:10-11 Purchase the church Acts 20:28, Eph 5:25 Name its members Isa 56:5; 62:2; Acts 11:26; I Peter 4:16 Add people to the churchI Cor 12:18 Give the church its doctrine Gal 1:8-11; II John 9-11 You should know, to enter the church, you must- Believe in Jesus Christ Heb 11:6; John 8:24 Acts 16:31 Repent of your sins (Turn away from your sins) Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30 Confess faith in Jesus Matt 10:32; Acts 8:37; Rom 10:9-10 Be baptized into the saving blood of Jesus Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16
Much water John 3:23; Acts 10:47 Going down into the water Acts 8:36-38 A burial in waterCol 2:12 A resurrection Acts 8:39; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12 A birth John 3:3-5; Rom 6:3-6 A washing Acts 22:16 Heb 10:22
You are saved from sins Mark 16:16 I Peter 3:21 You have remission of sins Acts 2:38 Sins are washed away by the blood of Christ Acts 22:16; Heb 9:22; 10:22; I Peter 3:21 You enter into the church I Cor 12:13; Acts 2:41,47 You enter into Christ Gal 3:26-27 Rom 6:3-4 You put on Christ and become a child of God Gal 3:26-27 You are born again, a new creature Rom 6:3-4; II Cor 5:17 You walk in newness of life Rom 6:3-6 You obey Christ Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:48; II Thes 1:7-9
Worship in spirit and in truth John 4:23-24 Meet on the first day of the week Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25; Pray James 5:16; Acts 2:42 I Tim 2:1-2 I Thes 5:17 Sing, making melody with the heart Eph 5:19; Col 3:16 Eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week Acts 2:42 20:7; Matt 26:26-30; I Cor 11:20-32 Give, liberally and cheerfully I Cor 16:1-2; II Cor 8:1-5; 9:6-8
One family of God Eph 3:15; I Time 3:15 One kingdom of Christ Matt 16:18-19; Col 1:13-14 One body of Christ Col 1:18; Eph 1:22-23; 4:4 One bride of Christ Rom 7:1-7; Eph 5:22-23 One church of Christ Matt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23; 4:4-6
Is guided by the same word I Peter 1:22-25; II Tim 3:16-17 Contends for the one faith Jude 3; Eph 4:5 Pleads for unity of all believers John 17:20-21 Eph 4:4-6 Is not a denomination I Cor 1:10-13; Eph 4:1-6 Is faithful to Christ Luke 6:46;Rev 2:10; Mark 8:38 Wears the name of Christ Rom 16:16; Acts 11:26; I Peter 4:16 You should know that you can be a member of this church- By doing what people 1900 years ago Acts 2:36-47 Without being in any denomination Acts 2:47; I Cor 1:10-13
Can be lost I Cor 9:27; 10:12; Gal 5:4; Hebrews 3:12-19 But is given a law of pardon Acts 8:22; James 5:16 Is constantly cleansed by the blood of Christ as he walks in the light of God I Peter 2:9-10; I John 1:5-10
Paul tells us that on the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, “and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Jesus instituted this supper to be done in remembrance of Him. Paul said, “as often” as Christians partake of this memorial supper, they “show the Lord's death till he come.” There is no question that the church should partake of the Lord’s Supper (communion), but how often? Is the frequency of partaking of communion just a matter of opinion?
It would be strange if the Lord instituted a memorial and gave no guidance how often it should be done. The Jews received explicit instructions when they were to observe the Passover, Pentecost, and other memorials. The New Testament is clear that the early church assembled each first day of the week [Sunday] for worship. 1 Corinthians 14:23 speaks of the whole church “come together into one place” and Hebrews 10:25 warns against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” The first day of the week was the time for the early church to assemble and partake of communion.
Luke tells us that Paul came to Troas “and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). The verse before states, “we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days” (Acts 20:6). Paul and his company had waited a full seven days at Troas so that they could meet with the Christians of Troas on the first day of the week, “when the disciples came together to break bread.” Their stated purpose in coming together was “to break bread,” meaning to partake of the Lord’s Supper, or communion. The writings of many ancient writers such as Pliny, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and others show that the universal practice of the early church was to meet each first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
But was it every first day? When God told the Jews to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), they understood that it was every Sabbath day that was intended, even though God did not specifically say to remember every Sabbath day. When Paul wrote, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2), didn’t he mean that each first day of the week was the day for Christians to give? Each first day of the week, [the day of the Lord’s resurrection, and the day the church was established], is the day Christians are to observe communion. No other day is authorized by command or example of scripture.
Long before the New Testament writers spoke of baptism, the Greeks used the very same word to describe the process of dipping, immersing, or submerging something. The root word “bapto,” from which baptism is derived, is translated as a form of dip in several passages: “dip the tip of his finger in water” (Luke 16:24); “when he had dipped the sop” (John 13:26); and “he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood” (Revelation 19:13). When English scholars began translating the New Testament into English from the original Greek, they sought to avoid controversy by transliterating the word for baptize (that is, substituting the letters of our alphabet for the Greek letters), rather than translating the word (giving the actual English equivalent). This allowed people to continue to believe and teach that either sprinkling, pouring, or immersion was scriptural baptism, despite the clear meaning of the original language. “Immersion” properly translates “baptism.” For example, a literal translation of Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized,” would be “repent and be immersed.”
The first recorded practice of sprinkling came some two hundred years after the establishment of the church. Ancient historian Eusebius said that third century church leader Novatian, supposing he was dying, “received baptism, being besprinkled with water, on the bed whereon he lay (if that can be termed baptism).” Sprinkling, or “clinic baptism,” was reserved for the ill, and was held in disfavor generally until the council of Ravenna, in 1311, said that baptism was equally acceptable by sprinkling or by immersion. Substitution of sprinkling for immersion is an ancient innovation, but is not biblical.
Only immersion fits the Bible pattern. The nature of baptism is such that it requires “much water.” “John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized” (John 3:23). Sprinkling or pouring requires only a “handful” of water, but immersion requires “much” water.
Also, baptism requires a going down into the water, and a coming up out of the water. Luke records the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch: “As they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? . . . And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip” (Acts 8:36-39). They both went down into the water so Philip could immerse him. Finally, New Testament baptism requires a burial and a resurrection. Paul describes the act of baptism this way: “We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5). Sprinkling and pouring do not picture a burial and a resurrection as immersion does.