Restored On Principles Of The First-Century Church
During the late 18th century, men and leaders of different denominations throughout the world, each studying individually, began to question the establishment of denominations and creeds and some of the practices that were being taught. These men asked: Why not go back to the origins of the first-century church? Why not rely on the Bible as the only guide to our lives and worship, rather than the creeds of man that had been established over years of corruption in the church? These men encouraged teaching ONLY what the Bible taught, without additions or subtractions, which are both condemned in the New Testament (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18,19).
Each Congregation Is Self-Governed
The restoration of the church of Christ was not the establishment of another denomination, but instead was the abolition of denominationalism that had been destroying Christ’s church. Each congregation is autonomous and independent of other congregations. They are not ruled by a bureaucracy formed by man to govern the activities and worship of the congregation. These type of organizations are not ordained in the New Testament.
Congregations of the churches of Christ are governed locally by the elders selected from among the local members. These are men that meet the qualifications of an elder outlined in the Bible in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Deacons are also appointed in each congregation to help in service to it’s members and in missionary activities. These are men that meet specific qualifications outlines in 1 Timothy 3.
Forms Of Worship
There are five primary forms by which churches of Christ worship. These forms are singing, praying, preaching, giving, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the same five observed by the first-century Christians. Jesus tells us in John 4:24: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
To worship God in truth, we must do so according to his Word, because his Word is truth (John 17:17). Therefore, we must not exclude that which is found in his Word, and we must not include anything not found in his Word. In an effort to worship in truth, the churches of Christ hold firm to the belief that we should Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. In following this belief, there are two forms of worship practiced by churches of Christ that are different from most other religious groups:
- A Cappella Singing
- Weekly Observance of The Lord’s Supper
A Cappella Singing
One of the things most often noticed about churches of Christ is that we sing without the aid of any type of mechanical instrument of music. A Cappella singing is the only form of music used in our worship. The reason for this is simple. We are striving to worship according to the teachings of the New Testament. Therefore, since the New Testament does not ordain the use of instrumental music, we believe it proper to leave it out of our worship. To make use of instrumental music, we would have to do so without the authority of the New Testament, and therefore without the authority of God.
The following verses make up the complete list of New Testament scriptures on the subject of music. Notice the absence of direction regarding instrumental music in these passages:
- Matthew 26:30 – And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
- Acts 16:25 – And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
- Romans 15:9 – And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
- 1 Corinthians 14:15 – What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
- Ephesians 5:19 – … Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
- Colosians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
- Hebrews 2:12 – Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
- James 5:13 – Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
The first appearance of instrumental music used in church worship occurred in the sixth century. The first regular use of instrumental music in worship did not occur until the eighth century. At these times, and in later years, instrumental music was strongly opposed by religious leaders and viewed as a form of false worship. They rightly believed that the introduction of instrumental music by man, without the ordaining of God through the New Testament, made it’s use a form of false worship. This is still the belief in the churches of Christ today.
Weekly Observance of The Lord’s Supper
Another form of worship often noticed about churches of Christ is that the Lord’s Supper is partaken of on the first day of every week. Most religious groups agree that the memorial supper was established by Jesus on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28). Most also observe this supper in memory of the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:24,25). The unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine used in the supper symbolize the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). However, unlike many other religious groups, churches of Christ partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. The reason for partaking every week is due to our determination to obey the teachings found in the New Testament. Acts 20:7 reads:
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.
There are many people in the religious community that will argue that the scripture does not say every first day of the week, only the first day of the week. This may be true, but in the Old Testament, when the Jews were commanded to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) they had no problem in understanding the intent of the command was every Sabbath, although the word every is not in the command. This was also not a point of confusion or conflict for the early Christians who partook of the Lord’s Supper on every first day of the week, as recorded by a number of noted historians such as Neander and Eusebius.
How Does One Become A Member?
Churches of Christ do not have a written set of procedures or initiation steps that must be met for you to obtain membership. The steps necessary for becoming a Christian, a member of Christ’s church, are outlined in the New Testament. The steps taken by the Christians of the first century which resulted in salvation will bring you salvation as well.
The establishment of the church is recorded in Acts 2:38 …and all those who repented and were baptized were saved. Since that day, all who were saved were added to the church. Acts 2:47 tells us that God did the adding. For this reason, there is no established criteria that must be met to be considered a member of Christ’s church other than those recorded in the New Testament. We have no authority to require any more of someone than their submission and obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The conditions taught in the New Testament for becoming part of Christ’s church are:
- The gospel must be heard – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17).
- You must believe – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
- You must repent and turn away from past sins – Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19).
- You must confess Jesus as Lord – Jesus said: Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.(Matthew 10:32).
- You must be baptized for the remission of your sins -Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).
Churches of Christ are known for putting an emphasis on baptism, but the emphasis is not as a church creed or ordinance, but as a command of Christ recorded in the New Testament. Baptism is taught in the New Testament as an act that is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
Baptism is performed as an immersion by churches of Christ, symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3,4; Colossians 2:12). Immersion is used because the original Greek word from which the word baptize comes means “to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to plunge.” Sprinkling does not meet the New Testament definition of baptism and does not properly symbolize the burial of Christ as we are buried in the watery grave of baptism.
We also do not practice infant baptism because the New Testament teaches a baptism for sinners who repent and turn to the Lord, believing Him to be the Son of God. Infants neither have sins to repent of, nor can they affirm themselves as believers.
Churches of Christ believe baptism to be an extremely important part of one’s salvation. The New Testament declares baptism to serve the following purposes:
- John 3:5 – It is to enter the kingdom of God
- Romans 6:3,4 – It is to contact Christ’s blood by being buried with Him in death
- Galatians 3:27 – It is to get into Christ and put on Christ
- Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21 – It is for salvation
- Acts 2:38 – It is for the remission of sins
- Acts 22:16 – It is to wash away sins
- 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:23 – It is to get into the church
Christ died for the sins of the world, and an invitation has been extended to everyone (Acts 10:34,35; Revelation 22:17). His saving grace is available for all to choose. No individual is predestined for salvation or for condemnation. Those who choose to come to Christ in faith, obedient to the commandments given in the New Testament, will be saved. Others will reject His plea and be condemned (Mark 16:16). These will not be lost as a result of a predetermined condemnation, but because they have chosen that path in this life.