Members of churches of christ are people of restoration spirit; wanting in our time to restore the original New Testament church.
The only way to restore Christ's church is to go back to the scriptures to see what the church was in it's beginning, and then to recover in the twenty first century the essence of the original church. In this way we can be sure we are obedient to the will of God and have assurance of salvation. This is what the churches of Christ are seeking to do.
Going back to the Bible does not mean the establishment of another denomination, but rather a return to the original church.
Members of the churches of Christ are enthusiastic about this approach. With the Bible as our only guide we seek the truth of God; to find what the original church was like and to restore it.
For this reason, we are not interested in man made creeds, but simply in the New Testament pattern. We do not conceive of ourselves as being a denomination, nor as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, but simply as members of the church which Jesus established and for which He died.
That is why we wear His name. The term "church of Christ" is not used as a designation, but rather as a descriptive term indicating that the church belongs to Christ.
Churches of Christ are self-governed having no earthly headquarters and no man-designed organization.
Each congregation is self-ruled and is independent of every other congregation. The only tie which binds the many congregations together is a common love and ellegiance to Christ, the bible, and each other. Each congregation is governed locally by a plurality of elders selected from among the members. These aremen who meet the specific qualifications for office in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
There are also deacons in each congregation. These men must meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3.
Items of Worship
Jesus said, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). To worship God according to truth is to worship him according to His Word, because His Word is truth (John 17:17). Therefore, we must not exclude any item found in His Word, and we must not include any item not found in His Word.
In matters of religion we are to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Since faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), anything not authorized by the Bible cannot be done by faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
The five items of worship observed by the first century churchwere singing, praying, preaching, giving and eating the Lord's Supper, the same as in the churches of Christ today.
In two of the five items of worship, the practice of the churches of Christ is different from most religious groups. Let us focus on these two, and state our reasons for what we do.
A Cappella Singing
One of the things people most frequently notice about churches of Christ is that we sing without the use of mechanical instruments of music. A cappella singing is the only music used in our worship.
Simply stated, here is the reason: we ate seeking to worship according to the instructions of the New Testament. The New Testament leaves instrumental music out, therefore, we believe it is right and safe to leave it out, too. If we used instrumental music we would have to do so without New Testament authority.
The Lord's Supper
This memorial supper was initiated by Jesus on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28)It is observed by Christians in memory of the Lord's death (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). The emblems are unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine; symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16).
Churches of Christ observe the Lord's supper on the first day (Sunday) of every week. Again our reason centres in our determination to follow the teaching of the New Testament. It says, describing the practice of the first-century church, "And on the first day of the week....the disciples came together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7).
Just as the Jews believed "remeber the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8), meant every Sabbath day, so we believe "the first day of the week" to mean the first day of every week.
Emphasis on Baptism
The New Testament teaches baptism as an act which is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
We do not practice infant baptism because New Testament baptism is only for sinners who turn to the Lord in belief and penitence. An infant has no sin to repent of, and cannot qualify as a believer.
The only form of baptism we practice in churches of Christ is immersion. The Greek word from which the word baptize comes means "to dip, to immerse, to submerge." The scriptures always point to baptism as a burial (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).
Baptism is extremely important because the New Testament sets forth the following purposes for it:
1) To enter the kingdom (John 3:5).
2) To contact Christ's blood (Romans 6:3-4).
3) To get into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
4) For salvation(Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
5) For the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
6) To get into the church (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Since Christ died for the sins of the whole world the invitation to share in His saving grace is open to everyone (Acts 10:34-35; Revelation 22:27). We do not believe that anyone is predestined for salvation or condemnation. Some will choose to come to Christ in faith and obedience and will be saved. Others will reject his words and be condemned (John 12:48). These will not be lost because they were marked for condemnation, but because that is the path they chose.
Becoming a Christian
The New Testament gives certain steps which were taken by people in that day to become Christians.
On the first day of the church's existence those who repented and were baptized were saved (Acts 2:38). From that day forward all those who were being saved were added to the church (Acts 2:47). According to this verse it was God who was doing the adding. Therefore, in seeking to follow this pattern, we neither vote people into the church nor force them through a required series of studies. We have no right to demand anything beyond thier obedient submission to the Saviour.
The New Testament steps are:
1) One must hear the gospel, "faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17).
2) One must believe,"without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).
3) One must repent of past sins, God "commands all men, everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
4) One must confess Jesus as Lord, "He that confesses me before men, him will I also confess before my father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32)
5) One must be baptized for remission of sins, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins..." (Acts 2:38)
Since God has vested "all authority" in Christ (Matt. 28:18), and since Christ serves as God's spokesman today (Hebrews 1:1,2), it is our conviction that only Christ has the authority to say what the church is and what it should teach.
Since only the New Testament sets forth Christ's instructions to His disciples, it alone must serve as the basis for all religious teaching and practice. This is fundamental with churches of Christ. We believe that teaching the New Testament without modification is the only way to lead men and women to become Christians.
We believe religious division is wrong. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17). Later, the apostle Paul begged those who were divided to unite (1 Corinthians 1).
We believe the only way to acheive unity is by a return to the Bible. Compromise cannot bring unity. Surely no person, nor group of persons, has the right to draw up aset of rules by which everyone must abide. Let's unite by following the Bible.
Therefore churches of Christ plead for religious unitybased upon the Bible. We believe that to subscribe to any creed other than the New Testament, to refuse to obey any New Testament command, or to follow any practice not sustained by the New Testament is to add to or to take away from the teachings of God. Both additions and subtractions are condemned in the Bible (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19)
This is the reason the New Testament is the only rule of faith and practice we have in churches of Christ.
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of god's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."
Ephesians 1:7,8 NIV
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:16,17 NIV
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other disciples,"Brothers, what shall we do?"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Acts 2:37-39 NIV
"The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:8b-10 NIV