Vol. 3, No. 10
Though it may seem incredible to many sincere religious people, the following statement is, however, true. God never intended the Old Testament to be his final revelation to mankind. Further, even more inconceivable to countless honest and devout individuals is the biblical fact that God has replaced the Old Testament with the New Testament.
Jesus did not come to "destroy" (annihilate as though it never existed) the Old Law, but he did come to "fulfill" it (Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 24:44). The Old Covenant (Testament or Law) had a purpose, which once fulfilled, it was replaced by the New Testament.
The Apostle Paul described the purpose of the Old Law in Galatians 3:22-29.
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Galatians 3:24-25).
John 1:17 informs us that Moses delivered the Old Law, whereas Jesus personally brought the New Law (Gospel, the system of faith).
One way in which it can be seen that God did not intend for the Old Testament to be his final revelation to man is by the Old Law's inability to "justify" sinners. "And by him [Jesus] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Act 13:39). "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).
Hence, Scripture teaches we have been "delivered" from the Old Law (Romans 7:6-7). "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4). The Old Testament has been nailed to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14); it has been "abolished" (Ephesians 2:15-16). "For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious" (2 Corinthians 3:11).
Our hope today resides with the New Testament. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God" (Hebrews 7:19). Jesus Christ and the Gospel provide this "better hope." "But now hath he [Jesus] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). Hebrews Chapters Eight and Nine repeatedly contrast the two covenants, naming the New Testament as the superior of the two. Among other considerations, the New Testament is the covenant sealed with the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 10:29).
It is futile to appeal to the Old Testament today as the law by which to live our lives and obtain God's favor. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4). "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians 2:21).
We can rejoice with Philip, ". . . We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). The law and the prophets tell of the Christ and his church and prepared mankind for the Gospel (Acts 28:23; Ephesians 3:3-13). Finally, truly we can concur with the Apostle Paul, "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14).
To what do the words churches or church of Christ (Romans 16:16) really refer? Does this biblical phrase have any reference to denominationalism? Is the church of Christ today merely one of several denominations that comprise the religious community? What is the church of Christ?
Ironically, at least one prominent commentator exhibits in his writings a notion of the true nature of the church of Christ. Yet, he completely fails to realize that he and his fellows can or need to personally attain membership in it.
Adam Clarke, for instance, refers to the "Church of Christ" as something that is aloof and distinct from denominationalism. Clarke treats the "Church of Christ" as a spiritual structure -- built by Jesus Christ. Commenting on Galatians 6:10, Clarke writes: "Let us help all who need help according to the uttermost of our power but let the first objects of our regards be those who are of the household of faith -- the members of the Church of Christ, who form one family, of which Jesus Christ is the head."
In his comments on 1 Corinthians 14:36, he pens: "Are you the mother church? that you should have rules, and orders, and customs, different from all others; and set yourselves up for a model to be copied by all the Churches of Christ?" Clarke also freely uses other biblical terminology descriptive of the one church of the Bible: "Church of God" (referring to the same verse). Of false teachers addressed in Romans 16:18, Clarke writes: ". . . they have intruded themselves into the Church of Christ . . ." Regarding the canonicity of the Book of James, Clarke further writes of the first century church thus: "The chief and proper evidence of its being canonical must be taken from the fact that it was universally received by the Church of Christ, and without scruple incorporated with those writings, which were, on all hands, allowed to have been given by the inspiration of God."
However, neither Clarke nor those who share his religious heritage conceive of personal and individual membership in the "Church of Christ." He and others demonstrate an awareness of the essence of the 'church of Christ' and neglect to apply that knowledge to themselves personally. Remarkably, none of these imagines that the 'church of Christ' has a physical manifestation and a congregation of which may even meet in their own communities.
There is a spiritual church in contrast to denominations. One does a grave disservice to his own edification and to the promotion of pure Christianity when he identifies the church Jesus built with man-authored sectarianism.
When Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18) or "kingdom" (Matthew 16:19), he was not promising to build an earthly, sectarian church. Jesus also declared that his kingdom (or church) is not of this world, but spiritual (John 18:36).
So, the church of Christ, of which the Bible speaks, is not a denomination! Neither is the church of Christ a spiritual body in which man-made denominations are members. The church of Christ, according to the message of John 15:1-6 (the vine and the branches), is comprised solely of individuals; verse six reveals that a branch is "a man" -- not a denomination.
Hence, there is no legitimate comparison between the church of Christ and denominations; the former is spiritual in nature and originated with Christ, whereas the latter are worldly and the products of men. Additional to these contrasts, the church of Christ is further distinguished from denominations by its distinctive God-authored worship, organization, mission and valid eternal hope, all of which are abundantly declared in the Bible.
What is the church of Christ? It is not a denomination. It is the personal possession of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16) and it is singular -- one church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). It is a spiritual body over which Jesus is head (Colossians 1:18) and into which individual members are baptized (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Finally, the church of Christ is a contemporary duplication of first century Christianity, disclosed exclusively in the Bible (Colossians 3:17). Words fail me to adequately impress upon the mind that the church of Christ of which the Bible speaks and of which all men need to be faithful members is so unique that it has NO RIVALS. Congregations of the churches of Christ meet throughout the world. There may even be a church of Christ meeting in your community.