Mr. Duck, I enjoy reading your writings, the last two about the Mormon, and Jehovah’s Witnessess. Would you please write on the Church of Christ? They are a cult too, so much brainwashing in the church, you can only associate with people inside the Church; all others are bound for hell. It would be interesting to see what you would have to say.
Name Withheld (I deleted the writer’s name)
THIS LETTER TROUBLED ME
I have many Church of Christ friends and relatives that are nice, friendly people; excellent examples of how Christians should live and treat others. As a pastor for more than twenty years, I had some outstanding Church members. But I know some Church of Christ members that I would rank right up there with the best Church members I know. Nevertheless, on several occasions I have seen the unfriendliness, divisiveness and exclusion that “Name Withheld” wants me to write about.
There is someone in my family who is experiencing this right now. This person came out of the Church of Christ and married a Baptist. This person’s Church of Christ parents have been out of Church for many years, but they have virtually disowned their own son because he joined the Baptist Church. Even though they never attend Church, they are unloving and unkind to their own child simply because of his Church affiliation.
I have had Church members who married Church of Christ members. Many have said that they were discriminated against and looked down on until they joined the Church of Christ. Instead of loving them, the Church gave them the Church was cold and judgmental.
I have known a few members of the Church of Christ to attend and participate in community joint worship services, but those who have are rare. Many refuse to worship with Baptists, Methodists, etc. I attend a weekly prayer meeting with men from several different Churches. We have invited Church of Christmembers to attend, but they won’t. I know of a Church of Christ pastor who was invited to join the Lion’s Club. He seemed interested until his congregation objected. A very young Church of Christ pastor sat in on a panel with three experienced pastor friends of mine. One pastor has a PhD degree, was a seminary vice-president, has more than sixty years of experience in ministry, has authored commentaries, but the young Church of Christ pastor disagreed with this pastor and called him unlearned.
So this letter troubled me. I don’t want to offend my Church of Christ friends and relatives because I respect them and value our relationship, but there is a problem. I wish someone else would address it, but I have been asked for my opinion.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST NAME
The name “Church of Christ” is not even in the King James Version of the Bible, but one can find the assembly of the people of God (Jud. 20:2), the assembly of the saints (Psa. 89:7), the churches of the Gentiles (Rom. 16:4), the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16), the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:2), the churches of Judaea (Gal. 1:22), the churches of God (I Cor. 11:16; I Thess. 2:14), churches of the saints (I Cor. 14:33), the churches of Asia (I Cor. 16:19), the churches of Macedonia (II Cor. 8:1), church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23), church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), etc.
Neither God, nor Jesus nor any writer of Scripture ever used the name Churchof Christ, but the Church of Christ says if there were Churches of Christ there must have been a Church of Christ. And since there was a Church of Christ and there is just one Church every congregation must be called the Church ofChrist.
Some Church of Christ members even say something like this, “If you call a Church anything other than the Church of Christ, it’s not the Church and the members are going to Hell.” But, by far, the vast majority of Christians don’t believe that way. They believe Church of God is just as Biblical as Church ofChrist, the Churches of the Gentiles is just as Biblical as the Churches of Christ, etc. And since the Holy Spirit used all of these different names in the Bible, no one has the authority to overrule Him and say that only one name is acceptable to God. None believe the name of one’s Church is the unpardonable sin. None believe calling their Church Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. is too powerful for the Blood of Christ to forgive.
It’s a fact that there are more than thirty denominations (Baptists, Methodists, etc.) in the National Council of Churches of Christ (not a group that this writer likes). And all of these Churches call themselves Churches of Christ just like in Romans 16:16, but this is rejected by the “Church of Christname only” people. More than one group uses the name Church of Christ (United Church of Christ; The Church of Christ, Scientist; The International Churches of Christ, etc.), but that won’t do for some who contend that one Church means the Church must be called the Church of Christ and nothing else will do. These people do more to destroy unity in the Church than some of the groups they look down on. One would think they would be glad that these other groups call themselves Churches of Christ or Church of Christ, but they’re not.
WHEN DID THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BEGIN
In the 1800’s, there was a religious movement called “The Restoration Movement” or the “Second Great Awakening” that was a split-off from the Presbyterian Church. People in this movement said they were trying to get back to the Bible and, depending on who it was; they called themselves the “Church of Christ,” the “Christian Church” or the “Disciples of Christ.” There was division among these groups (over the use of musical instruments and other things), but all three of these names were considered Biblical at one time or another. And while all of this was going on, the U.S. religious census listed these groups as separate and distinct from the Church. In other words, they weren’t even considered to be a Church. And the first time the Church ofChrist was ever recognized as a Church by the U.S. religious census was in 1906.
Many Christians in mainline denominations often looked down on these people. Two of their most prominent early leaders were Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). This is why some who looked down on these groups often called them Campbellites, a term that many in the Church of Christ resented. In turn, the Church of Christ looked down on the mainline denominations as infidels, a view that caused a lot of resentment on the other side. Many in the mainline denominations considered the Churchof Christ a cult. And many in the Church of Christ said those in the mainline denominations are lost. Those in the Church of Christ said they didn’t begin in the 1800’s or in 1906; they just went back to what the Church was when it began. And those in the mainline denominations said facts are facts and saying otherwise doesn’t make it so especially if you are teaching things that contradict the Bible and what the early Church believed. So the Church ofChrist said they came out of the existing Churches and returned to their roots. And the mainline denominations said they didn’t go back to their roots they started a new group.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). But the only Scriptures that existed when Jesus said that are in the Old Testament. So those thirty-nine books are about Jesus. This is a paraphrase, but Jesus once told some Jews, “If you don’t believe the writings of Moses, you won’t believe me” (John 5:46-47). So those who don’t believe the Old Testament writings of Moses won’t believe Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that procedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). “Every word that procedeth out of the mouth of God” includes the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Paul said “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). “All scripture” includes the Old Testament. There’s more, but time and space must be considered.
The Church of Christ believes the Old Testament was given by God and that it is historically accurate, but they don’t believe anything in the Old Testament applies to the Church of Christ unless it is repeated in the New Testament. Since Jesus, and most of the New Testament writers, quoted from the Old Testament, and since the New Testament says all Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness many Christians in mainline denominations believe the Church of Christ has departed from Biblical teaching in this area.
There have been splits in the Church of Christ and one was caused by the use (and non-use) of musical instruments during worship. Some believe using musical instruments in worship is Scriptural and they are called Churchof Christ (Instrumental). Others believe using musical instruments in worship is not Scriptural and they are called Church of Christ (non-Instrumental). Obviously, one of these groups is wrong.
As far as this writer knows, all of the Churches of Christ near his home are Churches of Christ (non-Instrumental). The Churches cite verses about Christians singing in their heart and they say this means Church members are to sing a cappella (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16). Mainline Christians believe these verses mean what we sing with our lips must agree with what’s in our heart. This agreement of the lips and heart has nothing to do with the use or non-use of musical instruments.
In the mind of mainline denominations, part of the problem stems from the fact that the Church of Christ (non-Instrumental) picks the verses they want and ignores or throws out the verses they don’t want. Instead of letting the Bible speak where it speaks and remain silent where it is silent, they choose to silence the Bible when it contradict their doctrine.
For example, the Old Testament reveals that King Solomon built theTemple and dedicated it to God. He scheduled a dedication service and the Bible says, “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (II Chron. 5:13-14). The Jews used musical instruments in their worship service and the glory of God showed up and filled the Temple. His presence was so strong the priests couldn’t even stand up. It’s obvious that the God who never changes didn’t object to the use of musical instruments at that worship service. There are other passages such as Psalm 150, but there’s a need to move on to the New Testament.
Revelation Chapter 5 talks about a great worship service before the throne of God in heaven. Verse 8 says, “And when he [Jesus] had taken the book, the four beasts [living creatures] and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours which are the prayers of the saints.” In this heavenly scene, the twenty-four elders (who some believe represent the Church) are using harps (stringed musical instruments) to worship Jesus in heaven. There are other passages about worshipping with harps in heaven. And there are passages about angels blowing trumpets in heaven for other reasons (Rev. Chapters 8-11), but the point is that all of these passages that mention musical instruments in heaven are explained away and thrown out. And after they throw out the Old Testament, the Book of Revelation and the other passages that mention musical instruments the non-Instrumental group is left with verses that don’t mention musical instruments. They think that leaves them free to say that there is no Scriptural support for the use of musical instruments during worship. It’s about the same thing as throwing out all the different ways God refers to the Church except one. Narrow it down enough and it will say what you want it to say.
I attended the funeral of a wonderful relative who was a member of theChurch of Christ. The service was held at her Church. The singing was a cappella. It was beautiful, but the song leader blew on a pitch pipe (a music instrument) to help us sing without using music instruments. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have an explanation, but I won’t buy it.
Ephesians 4:4-6 reads, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” The Church of Christ clearly teaches that the one baptism mentioned in these verses is baptism by immersion in water. But is that true? Notice the following comparison between Eph. Chapter 4 and I Cor. Chapter 12.
|WORD OR PHRASE||EPHESIANS 4||I COR. 12|
|One body||Verse 4||Verses 12, 20, 24, 25|
|One Spirit||Verse 4||Verses 4, 11, 13|
|One Lord||Verse 5||Verses 5, 12|
|One faith||Verses 5, 13||Verse 9|
|One baptism||Verse 5||Verse 13|
|One God||Verse 6||Verse 6|
|Gifts||Verse 4||Verse 8|
|Apostles||Verses 28, 29||Verse 11|
|Prophets||Verse 28||Verse 11|
|Teachers||Verse 28||Verse 11|
|Knowledge||Verse 8||Verse 27|
|Body of Christ||Verse 12||Verse 27|
|Carried||Verse 14||Verse 2|
|Another||Verse 32||Verses 21-25|
|Parts||Verse 16||Verse 23|
|Spirit of God||Verse 30||Verse 3|
For the most part (agreeably not all), Eph. Chapter 4 and I Cor. Chapter 12 are about the same thing. Paul mentioned baptism in his letter to both Churches, but Paul never used the word “water.” He told the Church atEphesus there is “one baptism,” but he didn’t say he was talking about water baptism. Paul told the Church at Corinth, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” But he is clearly saying the Holy Spirit baptizes people into the Body of Christ. The one baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not a preacher baptizing someone in water. When the Holy Spirit baptizes a person into the Body of Christ that person is saved. But when a preacher baptizes a person in water that person may be saved and they may not be saved. Salvation is not being baptized by water in the baptistery at the Church of Christ or any other Church. Salvation is being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ wherever it happens.
This is not to say that water baptism is not important. It is very important. It must not be diminished or set aside. But what the Holy Spirit does is far greater than what the preacher does. What the Holy Spirit does is the real thing. What the preacher does is a very important and beautiful symbol. There is a difference. One will get a person into heaven. But the other may be a waste of time and water.
COMING UP OUT OF THE WATER
Church of Christ preachers say when the Ethiopian Eunuch came up out of the water that means he was immersed (Acts 8:38-39). No! It doesn’t. He may have been immersed, but that’s not what coming up out of the water means in those verses. Philip went down into the water and he came up out of the water, but Philip wasn’t baptized or immersed. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch walked down into the water. Philip baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch. Then, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch walked up out of the water.
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” The Church of Christ says this means water baptism is essential. Where is the word “water?” Where is the word “essential?” It looks like someone has stopped throwing things out and started adding to the Scriptures. Jesus simply said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” That’s true whether the person is baptized with water or by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ as long as the person believes. But if a person doesn’t believe, the Holy Spirit won’t baptize him into the Body of Christ and water baptism won’t do him any good.
There are many more differences, but this article will close with the big one. It’s extremely complicated, very controversial, very important, and there are at least four different interpretations with so-called experts in the Greek language contradicting each other.
Acts 2:38 reads, “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.” Much of the controversy centers on the word “for.” The Greek word is “eis.” My Greek dictionary gives many different definitions depending on how it is used in the verse (“purpose,” “intent,” “so much that,” “to the intent that,” “so that,” etc.). My English Dictionary gives twenty different definitions depending on how it is used in a sentence (“in favor of,” “in order to obtain,” “in order to get,” “in order to become,” “because of,” “by reason of,” etc.). And my research shows that there is and endless amount of debate about the grammatical construction of the sentence: words that are second person plural, third person singular, etc. But regardless of the above, the Church of Christ says there is no ambiguity about the verse.
That’s the first opinion. The Church of Christ associates two words in this verse: baptism and forgiveness. They say the Greek word “eis” means “in order to obtain” so a person needs to be baptized in order to obtain forgiveness of sins. According to their translation a person won’t be forgiven until they are baptized.
There’s a second opinion. Some evangelical Christians associate the same two words: baptism and forgiveness. But they say the Greek word “eis” means “because of.” (Not in order to obtain). This is just the opposite of what the Church of Christ says. It means a person should be baptized because of the fact that they have been forgiven.
There’s a third opinion. A seemingly small group associates three words in the verse: repentance, forgiveness and baptism. This group says the Greek word “eis” means “in order to.” They say the verse means a person must repent in order to be forgiven and they must be baptized in order to show that they have repented.
There’s a fourth opinion. This may be the largest group and it involves all three words: repentance, forgiveness and baptism. This group simply says the verse means repent if you want to be forgiven. Then, be baptized.
There’s a lot more to Acts 2:38 than this and it doesn’t seem so unambiguous to me. A big part of it depends on who do we choose to believe.
A LETTER TO “NAME WITHHELD”
Dear “Name Withheld”
It grieves me to see this in the Church, but there’s no doubt that it is there. I wish that it was different because I have great respect for some people I know in the Church of Christ. But I believe the “Church of Christ” deceives people about when they began and the fact that the name “Church of Christ” is the only name that is Scriptural. I don’t agree that I have to belong to the earthly group called the Church of Christ or I will go to Hell. I much prefer to belong to the heavenly group called the Church of Christ and I know that there is a difference between the two. I don’t agree that music in a worship service is unscriptural because I don’t throw out the Scriptures that teach otherwise. I don’t agree that “one baptism” means that “water baptism is essential.” I don’t agree that coming up out of the water means immersion. I believe that Mark 16:16 is saying believing in Jesus is essential not water baptism is essential.Acts 2:38 is probably over my head, but I don’t think the Church of Christinterpretation is consistent with many other Scriptures. For example, Peter, the same man who spoke the words in Acts 2:38, said, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” He said “repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” not “repent and be baptized that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck