A Baptist pastor friend has asked me to meet with him and his neighbor (a Church of Christ preacher) to discuss some Bible things that we interpret differently.
I have been away from my computer the last few days and have several services in the next two weeks, so I am submitting my notes for this potential meeting instead of an article.
It is my prayer that these notes will help others understand these issues.
THE NAME OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The name “Church of Christ” is not 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.
The closest thing to Church (single word) of Christ in the Bible is “The Churches (plural word) of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16).
Neither God, nor Jesus, nor any writer of Scripture ever used the name Church of 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 Church member must be in the Church of Christ.
Some Church of Christ members even say, “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 the vast majority of Christians don’t believe that way. Most Christians believe that Church of God is just as Biblical as Church of Christ, 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 say that Church of Christ is the only name that is acceptable to God. The name of the group that worshippers meet with is not the unpardonable sin. None believe calling their Church Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc., is a sin that God won’t forgive.
There are more than thirty denominations (Baptists, Methodists, etc.) in the National Council of Churches of Christ (not a group that this writer likes). All of these denominations call themselves the Churches of Christ, the exact same phrase that is used in Romans 16:16, but this is rejected by the “Church of Christ name 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 Jesus saying “My Church” means the Church must be called the Church of Christ and nothing else.
According to the Bible, the early disciples were called “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4), not the Church of Christ (the single form is not in the Bible). According to the New Testament, it was at the Church at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). This was probably some 8-10 years after the Church began at Jerusalem.
Jesus clearly said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). But Jesus didn’t say those who don’t call it the Church of Christ will go to Hell. Members of the Church of Christ just add that to what Jesus said or they read it into what He said. It is wrong to add to what the Scriptures say.
Is Jesus God? Does the Church belong to God? Does that mean that those who call themselves the Church of Christ instead of the Church of God are going Hell? I suspect that many in the Church of Christ would say, “No!”
BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
In the 1800’s, there was a religious movement called “The Restoration Movement” or the “Second Great Awakening” that 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 music 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 were not a recognized Church. The first time the Church of Christ was ever recognized as a Church by the U.S. religious census was in 1906.
Two of their most prominent early leaders were Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). Many Christians in mainline denominations often looked down on these groups and 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 much resentment on the other side.
Many in the mainline denominations considered the Church of Christ a cult. 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 of Christ says it came out of the existing Churches and returned to its roots. And the mainline denominations say they didn’t return to their roots. They started a new group and called it the Church of Christ. The first Christians were called the Way, not the Church of Christ.
Some in the Church of Christ want people to ignore the Campbells because the Bible teaches that the Church started in Acts 2, not with the Campbells. But the Church of Christ hasn’t completely divorced itself from the Campbells. They quote Thomas quite often. He said, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”
I will repeat myself, “The name “Church of Christ” is not in the King James Version of the Bible. Check it out. But the name “Church of God” appears eight times and “Church of the living God” once. The Church of Christ sometimes speaks where the Bible doesn’t speak, and it sometimes remains silent of things the Bible says (Church of God, Churches of the Saints, etc.).
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Church of Christ believes the Old Testament was given by God and that it is historically accurate, but they choose to ignore many things in the Old Testament unless they are repeated in the New Testament. Some tell their people to ignore most of the Old Testament Scriptures because they are New Testament believers.
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. 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. So even though Jesus said live by every word that God spoke, they remain silent on most of the Old Testament.
There have been splits in the Church of Christ, and one was caused by the use (and non-use) of music instruments during worship services. Some believe using music instruments in worship is Scriptural, and they are called Church of Christ (Instrumental). Others believe using music instruments in worship is not Scriptural, and they are called Church of Christ (non-Instrumental). Obviously, one of these groups is wrong.
The use of music instruments is one of the Old Testament teachings that the non-Instrumental Church of Christ chooses to ignore. They love to quote this, “be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18b-19). They say this means make music in your heart (a spiritual instrument), not with a physical instrument.
Notice that the verse says “Speaking to yourselves in psalms.” The Psalms are Old Testament Scriptures. So, the Church of Christ loves to quote a verse that says “speaking to yourselves in psalms” (Old Testament Scriptures), and some of those Psalms tell us to use music instruments (Psa. 150), but they choose not to do what those Psalms say.
I attended the funeral of a wonderful relative who was a member of the Church of Christ (Yes! I like many members of the Church 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. I have been told that they believe the Holy Spirit meant something different from the normal way of interpreting this, but I am not buying it.
The Church of Christ denies that it is a denomination because there is just one Church. Since there is just one Church, they don’t believe it can be composed of different denominations.
There is just one Church, but it is composed of eyes, ears, hands, feet, voices, etc. And the foot can’t say because I am not the hand, I am not of the body (I Cor. 12:15). No Scripture says one body part has the right to say the other parts are lost because they don’t call themselves the Church of Christ.
For whatever it is worth, when Jesus was talking about “my Church,” He wasn’t talking about the physical body of believers and unbelievers on the earth that call themselves the Church of Christ. He was talking about a spiritual body that is made up of believers only that are on earth and in heaven whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
SAVED BY FAITH NOT WATER BAPTISM (I PETER 3:18-22)
In I Pet. 3:20, Peter mentioned the days of Noah, and said eight souls were saved by water. In I Pet. 3:21, Peter added, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Some people say “saved by water” means people have to be baptized with water to be saved. Others point out that those eight souls were saved by being in an ark on top of the water, not by going down under the water. Those who were in the water perished. The saved were those who didn’t get wet. They were saved because they had faith. They believed God. They built an Ark, got in it and it floated on top of the water.
THE MEANING OF “FOR” (ACTS 2:38)
“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 an 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.
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 interpretation, a person won’t be forgiven until they are baptized.
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.
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. The sequence would be: get saved first, get baptized second and join the church third.
When there are differences of opinion on the Scriptures, it is important to look for other Scriptures to clarify the issue.
In Acts 2:21 (the same chapter and the same writer as Acts 2:38), Peter said, “…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” He didn’t say, “…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord and is baptized in water shall be saved.” “Calling on the name of the Lord” is enough.
In Acts 3:19, Peter said, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” He said “repent and be converted,” not “repent and be baptized with water.”
In Acts 10:43, Peter said, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Notice that all the prophets agreed that whosoever believes in Jesus will receive remission of sins by believing in Jesus (not by believing in Jesus and being baptized with water). Peter is talking about Gentiles that received the Holy Ghost (were saved; Acts 10:45), and they spoke in tongues (Acts 10:46), but not even one of them had been baptized with water. It was the same when Peter preached on Pentecost and at the house of Cornelius. People were saved and spoke in tongues before they were baptized with water.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In conclusion, the word “for” is a little word, but how we translate it makes a big difference. Those who think it means “to get” are very small in number compared to those who think it means “because.” The Bible clearly says, “Not by works of righteousness (such as water baptism) which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
The fact is, it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that puts all believers into the body of Christ when they believe, not after a preacher has baptized them with water (I Cor. 12:13).
The Church of Christ says all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 A.D., so they ignore it. But people couldn’t track all buying and selling, people weren’t compelled to take the Mark of the Beast, the Gospel hadn’t gone all over the world, the Euphrates River didn’t dry up, there was no judgment of sheep and goat nations, there wasn’t enough people on earth for a 200 million-man army to invade the Middle East, the Rapture of the Church didn’t take place, Babylon wasn’t destroyed by fire in one hour, etc., etc. Simply put, it is easy to see that all Bible prophecy was not fulfilled by 70 A.D.
Prophecy Plus Ministries, Inc.
Daymond & Rachel Duck