|Volume 19 Number 10 October 2017||
How Can One Identify
the Church of Christ?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A local church that belongs to Jesus Christ will have several biblical characteristics about which one can read upon the pages of the New Testament. For instance, does it identify itself with a biblical description or name? Or, does it align itself with a manmade doctrine or some man in the name that it chooses for itself? Biblical designations or names for the church in the New Testament include “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) and “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Assemblies of Christ or assemblies of God would still be biblically correct since the word “church” means an “assembly.”
However, there are additional biblical characteristics of the church of the Bible, such as what is taught about the plan of salvation. Our Lord summarized the scheme of redemption in Mark 16:16, citing that belief or faith plus baptism equals salvation. With this the balance of the New Testament agrees when discussing human salvation (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Peter 3:21).
There are still other characteristics of the church of the Bible, such as how it is organized. The New Testament church was congregational with each church being autonomous or self-governing in accordance with inspired instruction (Acts 14:23). When fully organized, a congregation was led by a plurality of elders appointed over the local congregation according to divine qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11). Elders guide or shepherd the flock of God for the Chief Shepherd—Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4), and they must account to God for each soul in their care (Hebrews 13:17).
The church belonging to Jesus Christ worships according to New Testament instruction each Lord’s Day through: singing (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), preaching (Acts 20:7), the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) and praying (1 Corinthians 14:15). There is no particular order revealed in the New Testament for these acts of worship to occur.
The church that belongs to Jesus Christ teaches biblical doctrine without the admixture of manmade dogmas. Part of teaching New Testament doctrine involves instructions regarding Christian living and Christian service.
Jesus Christ remains the Head of His church (Ephesians 1:22). No earthly person has the right to be the head of our Lord’s church. Each congregation follows the biblically compatible guidance of godly men—not a single person. These are some of the ways in which, generally speaking, that one can discern whether a group of worshippers are a congregation of the churches of Christ.
What about Paul
and the Sabbath Day?
Russell G. Bell
Question: Didn’t the apostle Paul and his associates observe the Sabbath many times? As these are recorded in the New Testament, shouldn’t we observe the Sabbath too?
Answer: There are several passages in the New Testament that tell of the apostle Paul and his preaching partners going to Sabbath meetings (Acts 27:1-4). The question is, why were they going to the meetings?
A little background is necessary here. The apostle Paul had been a devout Jew and persecutor of the church of Christ until he saw Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. From that time forward, he went about preaching Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Acts 13-28 record the work of Paul preaching Christ throughout the world.
Notice first of all that Paul was looking for people that were interested in the true God. Therefore, naturally he went into the Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath where people gathered to worship God.
There was another reason. It was the custom in those days that if a stranger, who was a Jew, appeared in synagogue worship, after the reading of the Law and the prophets (Old Testament), the ruler of the synagogue would ask the strangers if they had any word of exhortation. Of course, Paul always had Gospel exhortations for those present. He would always preach about Jesus Christ and His will, the New Testament.
If you will study the context of Acts 13 through the rest of the Book of Acts, you will find that Paul and his company were persecuted and driven from town after town because of the jealousy of these Jews. Why? Because Paul taught them the old law (Old Testament) was finished, and they should follow the New Testament of Jesus Christ. This included the change in the day of worship. This is obvious from Acts 26:6-7, which reads, “and we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we tarried seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.”
Notice, Paul and those accompanying him tarried at Troas seven days, and no mention is made of anything happening on the Sabbath. However, on Sunday—the first day of the week—Christians gathered to observe the Lord’s Supper and hear a sermon from Paul. That is typical, today, of our worship services on the first day of the week. Let us close with a passage from 1 Corinthians 9:20, where we find, “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the Law.”