Member of the church of Christ often times have a stigma attachment to their religious affiliation. When we encounter someone who asks where we go to church, and we respond by stating, “the church of Christ” followed by the location place of assembly, the inquirer often grimaces’ a bit in frustration or confusion or makes a negative comment. The comment is usually to the tune, “oh’ you are the ones who think you are the only ones going to heaven.” Or, “oh’ you are the ones who don’t believe in music.” Or, as someone recently responded to me, “Oh’ your one of those.”
Having been a member of the Lord’s church for several years I have grown accustomed to these kinds of responses, but I refuse to remain passive when someone’s perception has been so skewed by denominational theology they do not realize the singular nature of the church established by our Lord Jesus. The truth of God’s word regarding the unified nature of the church of Christ can be easily defined. The challenge to us as Christians is to reach those whose minds have been prejudiced against the truth.
After the young man responded to my informing him that I was a member of the church of Christ with, “oh’ your one of those;” He then asked if I was “traditional or contemporary.” I sat down beside him and shared with him the following… “Collectively we are a group of Christians who love God, and who love each other. Who are a relatively small group. The ‘world view’ is that we are conservative. The truth is we are simply careful to walk in the light of God’s revealed will. That is the source of our faith. We trust in the gospel as God’s power to save, and we refuse to charge the church for entertainment or recreation. And, we stand opposed to denominationalism. The door is open to anyone who desires to look into what we believe, teach, and practice. If it is true embrace it, if false – we will change!”
WHAT ARE YOU?
When you engage in a religious discussion and the question surfaces, “what are you?” How do you respond? Do you identify yourself with some religious denomination? Is the answer “Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, or maybe the modern day “non-denominational.” The “non-denominational” identity generally has it’s roots in “inter” denominationalism, (i.e. one may maintain their denominational identity, only they are members with a group under a different name). It should be noted that many denominations have chosen to cloak their denominational affiliation by operating under a different sign out front, but they remain true to their denominational allegiance. What should concern every honest seeker is that denominationalism at its very concept – it is contrary to the will of God!
THE PLAN AND PRAYER OF JESUS
When Peter had confessed that Jesus was indeed the Christ, Jesus responded, “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” (Matthew 16:18). Singular possessive is the tense of the noun. Jesus never had intentions of building many churches. When the first gospel message was preached men and women responded by being baptized for the remission of their sins. The result was “the Lord added them to the church.” I ask, “what denomination were they a member of?” None, for none existed. (ref. Acts 2:38-47)
Throughout the early stages of the church we find a consistent response to the gospel of Christ. (Ref. Acts 8:12,13; 36-38; 22:16; 10:48; 16:33) When the apostle Peter addresses those who had obeyed the gospel he stated, “you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23). Our new birth is realized when we are born of the water and of the Spirit. When we receive the message of the Spirit through the gospel, and are baptized in water for the forgiveness of our sins we are added to the church of Christ. This is the plan and purpose of our Lord.
A PEOPLE OF THE BOOK
The foundation of our faith is from the word of God. (Romans 10:17) The word that was revealed to us has been written within the pages of the Bible. This is the final word by which all will be judged. And, this word is sufficient to furnish us to every good work. (Ref. Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) For this reason we are known as a people of the book. When one states, “oh, your one of those.” You might reply, do you mean one who accepts the revelation from God as the source of our faith, and the basis for truth. Yes, I am one of those – aren’t you?
ARE YOU A “CARNAL” CHRISTIAN?
“Carnal” is not a word we use often in our everyday vernacular, but when considering denominationalism – this is a term the Holy Spirit utilizes to describe it. We are divinely warned that some will depart from the faith, and doctrines will be devised that seek to please men, but will be rejected by God (1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). One of the “popular” doctrines is the acceptance of denominational theology. However, Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-21. “That we would all be one.”, and apostle Paul condemned denominationalism in 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 and admonishes is to be of the same mind and the same judgement. Paul goes on to say that such thinking in denominationalism is “carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:4). Some have suggested that denominational theology is more inclusive, and will lead more people to Christ. However, the weapons of our warfare are not “carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). Winning others to Christ is not through adapting a doctrine or theology that suites our own carnal, fleshly desires, but is one that brings every thought into the captivity of Christ.
by Dennis Carrow