Category Archives: Is the Church of Christ a Denomination?
SOURCE: The first church I remember attending was an Assemblies of God church in Albuquerque, N.M. After we moved, my family joined the Evangelical Free Church of America in St. Louis, Mo. Now I am on staff at a non-denominational church in the area while I finish up my Master’s at a Presbyterian Church of America seminary. And my favorite writer is C.S. Lewis, an Anglican.
These are the ecclesiastical flavors in which my mind has soaked. And I have loved it. I love denominations. That’s not to say that I would like to be in a denomination, but I appreciate them enough to write about it.
Denominations are beautiful. While some within the Church see them as schismatic and unhelpful, I see them as lovely, imperfect variations on a single, pure theme.
But personal preference aside, are denominations actually biblical? That’s a difficult (and perhaps unfair) question.
Try asking it another way. Are Baptists biblical? Are Methodists biblical? Are Lutherans biblical? Or is it only us “non-denoms” who have gotten things right?
On issues that aren’t the Gospel and don’t pertain to the Gospel, Christians have this wild freedom to lovingly differ with their brothers and sisters.
Paul reminds the Corinthian church that he preached to them the pure, unadulterated Gospel. The Gospel is of first importance to the Church (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
Opponents of denominations will argue that Paul is calling the Church to unite around the Gospel and forsake all other creeds and confessions. (“I’m not a (insert denominational label), I’m simply a Christian.” After all, denominations focus us on the secondary issues when what we need to focus on is the primary issue: the Gospel of Christ.
But rather than explicitly forbidding ecclesiastical denominations (a concept that didn’t even exist in the early church), Paul is reminding one local congregation in central Greece to focus on one thing as of first importance. He doesn’t say that other issues are not important. But he is reminding them of the overshadowing primacy of the Gospel.
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All of these combined are referred to as “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) … never used as a singular group or as a proper name…
This is a list of descriptive terms of God’s people.
“the kingdom of Heaven” or “Heaven’s kingdom” (Mt. 16:19)
“the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22)
“who were of the Way” (Acts 9:2)
“the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)
“the church in Cenchrea” (Rom. 16:1)
“the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4)
“the church that is in their house” (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19)
“the church of God in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1)
“the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5)
“the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 4:12)
“the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16; 2 Thess. 1:4)
“the body” (1 Cor. 12:18-25; Eph. 4:16; 5:23)
“Christ’s body” (1 Cor. 12:27)
“the church” (1 Cor. 12:28)
“the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33)
“the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34)
“the churches of Galatia” (1 Cor. 16:1)
“the churches of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19)
“the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1)
“the churches of Judea” (Gal. 1:22)
“those who are of the household of the faith” or “the members of the family of the faith” (Gal. 6:10)
“the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23)
“members of the household of God” or “members of God’s family” (Eph. 2:19)
“the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13)
“the body, the church” (Col. 1:18)
“his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24)
“the church that is in her house” (Col. 4:15)
“the church of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16)
“the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1)
“the churches of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 2:14)
“the church in your house” (Philem. 2)
“the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23)
“God’s household, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15)
A different list provided:
the church (Used 56 times: Acts 11:26 the most common term used in the Bible)
the body, body of Christ, Christ’s Body [body = church Eph 1:22-23] (Used over 50 times: Col 1:18; Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 10:16; 12:27; Eph 4:12)
church of God or assembly of God (Used 10 times: Acts 12:5; 20:28; 1 Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Co 1:1; Gal 1:13; 1 Tim 3:5; 3:15)
churches of Christ or assemblies of Christ (used once: Rom. 16:16)
the way (used 7 times exclusively by Luke in Acts: Acts 9:2; 18:25; 19:9, 23; 24:4,14,22)
flock (used 4 times: Acts 20:28,29; 1 Pe 5:2,3)
the sect, sect of the Nazarenes (Used 3 times: Acts 24:5,14; 28:22)
general assembly (Heb 12:23)
church of the firstborn (Heb 12:23)
church of the saints (1 Cor 14:33)
house of God (I Tim 3:15)
church of the living God (I Tim 3:15)
kingdom of God (Col 4:11 and many other passages)
kingdom of his dear Son (Col 1:13)
kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph 5:5)
family of God/ household of God/ house of God (1 Tim 3:15)
Courtesy Larry D. Crosby
SOURCE: The Church of Christ denomination often state that Christ Church started at Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. But is this really true.
1. The church is referred to before Pentecost, both by the word “church” (Matthew 16:18; 18:17) and by its figurative names – flock, bride, house, etc. (Luke 12:32, cf. I Pet. 5:2; John 3:29, cf. Ephesians 5:22-31; Mark 13:33-36, cf. I Timothy 3:15).
2. The English word “church” is a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia”, which means a called-out assembly. Jesus’ disciples were both called-out and assembling with Him before the day of Pentecost (e.g. Matthew 4:19; John 1:35ff).
3. Apostles were set in the church (I Corinthians 12:28) before Pentecost (Matthew 10:1-2; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:13). The gospel was preached by them before Pentecost (e.g. Luke 9:6).
4. Ordinances were instituted and observed before Pentecost (John 4:1-2; Matthew 26:26-30).
5. John the Baptist prepared a people ready for the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:17), not for the day of Pentecost. Mark 1:1ff. indicates the gospel age began with John’s ministry. Cf. also Matthew 11:13 and Luke 16:16.
6. The church was commissioned before Pentecost: first the limited commission of Matthew 10:1-4 and then the extended commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
7. Jesus sang in the church before Pentecost (Hebrews 2:12; Matthew 26:30).
8. The last days refer to the church age, and the last days were in existence during Jesus’ ministry (Hebrews 1:2).
9. There was church discipline before the day of Pentecost (Matthew 18:17).
10. The church had a business meeting before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26).
11. The Lord added to the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41-47), so there had to exist a church for people to have been added to it.
12. There was an ordination service before Pentecost (Mk. 3:13-14).
13. The church had a treasurer . John 12:4-6
There is no reason to suppose that the church could not exist with her visible Head present. Nothing in scripture says the church was or had to be started on Pentecost.
SOURCE: Church of Christ members tell their denominational friends that the Church of Christ is not a denomination. But, their friends are simply not buying it. Here are six reasons why:
1. To name an organization or institution is to denominate it. The various, so-called, scriptural names for God’s people are not names at all, but rather, they are descriptions of “what” they are. The English word, “church”, is an erroneous translation of the Greek word, “ecclesia’, which only means a group or assembly. It carries NO religious connotation what-so-ever. To single out a descriptive term, and use it as a title, is to give God’s called out people a title that He did not authorize. Many Church of Christ members try to evade the issue by using the lower case “c” in “church of Christ’. Not only does this evade the issue, but it is grammatically wrong. Failure to use correct grammar cannot keep something from being what it is.
2. But, one might argue, “The ecclesia is the bride of Christ, therefore it should have the name of its husband”. This would be a good argument except for one very important fact. And that fact is that the custom of the bride taking her husband’s name is a Western custom, and it cannot be stretched out of context to cover an Eastern situation. Does the Bible say, “Mr. and Mrs. Ananias?” Does it say, “Mr. and Mrs. Aquilla?” Libraries contain stacks of documentation confirming these two cultural differences.
3. When most logical thinkers see a prominent sign, similar to the signs of all denominations, put up on a building similar to all other denominational buildings, they correctly conclude that the sign indicates property owned by a denomination.
4. And, from the viewpoint of their friends, where do you find the name, “Church of Christ”, in the phonebook? It is very clear to them that it is found in the yellow pages with all of the other denominations. And it does not make any difference whether they spell it with a little “c” or not.
5. Denominations have creeds. Churches of Christ have creeds. And in the words of one of their own notables, “There is only one thing worse than a written creed, and that is one that is not written.”
Probably the most harmful aspect of their creed is the manner in which truth is determined. For example, when an issue comes up, instead of prayerfully studying all sides of it, they seek out the conclusions of the brotherhood preachers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with soliciting the opinions of respected brethren. What is wrong with this approach is the rejecting of all other viewpoints without looking into them. When they do this, the brotherhood position becomes their creed. One very dangerous tenet of this creed is the judgmental position that all are lost who do not agree with it. This attitude is very visible in the so-called “sound” Churches of Christ.
SOURCE: The Church of Christ denomination is much more prevalent in the southern portion of the Bible Belt, and down south if you call them a denomination…well, let’s just say “Them’s fightin’ words!” This is one of their foundational tenets. You might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? Who cares if they think they are a denomination or not?” The answer is that it’s not a big deal, unless you know the logic behind why they make the claim. It is simply this: if they accept being called a denomination, then that would relegate them to a position within the Body of Christ. But their claim is that they are not just a part of the Body of Christ, but that they are THE BODY OF CHRIST!
The sad thing is to hear what great lengths they will go to in order to shun the label of “denomination.” They will actually redefine the term in such a way as to cause the unaware to agree with them. As an ex- member, I have heard so many definitions for the word “denomination” over the years that it’s hard for me to remember them all. The most common one they use is that a denomination is “a group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing.” Now that fits their theology just fine, thank you, because it allows them to say that all denominations are “groups that came out from the original group” which, you guessed it, the original group is them… the Church of Christ! This also allows them to claim that you are not a true Christian and you are not going to heaven, because you don’t belong to the one and only, true Body of Christ. Convenient, but ignorant. A denomination is simply a certain type of the same thing, such as a denomination of money. Let’s say I had $50 in my pocket. And we’ll say that it was a $20 bill, two tens, and two fives. Each of those denominations is a form of paper money. They are different denominations and are of different values but they are each considered to be of the same currency. But according to the Church of Christ denomination, some of the bills are real money but others are not, because a denomination is a “group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing.” Their obvious flaw in this scenario is called “circular logic.” Why are they not a denomination? Because “they are the true body of Christ!” And why are they the true body of Christ? Because “they are not a denomination!” The word “denomination” comes from the Latin word “nomin”, which means “name” and the prefix “de” means “of.” So, “de nomin” simply means “of the same name.” And in the case of the church, it would be of the same name… Jesus!
Paul addresses the issue of denominations in I Corinthians 11:18-19.
He says, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
The Greek word used in this verse for “division” is schism, which simply means a division.
The Greek word used here for “factions” is hairesis, which means dis-unity.
So on the surface it seems as though Paul is condemning these divisions… or is he? In reality, under closer scrutiny, he is virtually endorsing these divisions or denominations. Why? Because he says in verse 19 that the divisions allow our congregations to be separated into groups that can be identified as “approved” or “not approved.”
If I go into a new city and I want to go to a Church of Christ, I simply look in the Yellow Pages under “Churches of Christ.” If I want to go to an Assembly of God, I do the same. This way I don’t unknowingly go to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I’m sure that the Lord would prefer perfect doctrinal unity in all his congregations, but He knows that won’t happen this side of Heaven. Even the three Church of Christ denominations can’t decide on the issues of multiple cups, musical instruments or multiple loaves for communion. So basically we are back to square one, it doesn’t matter so much what you call your church (Church of God, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ, etc.), but more importantly, what you teach.
Paul also addresses this issue in I Corinthians 12:12-31,
12″For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14For the body is not one member, but many.
15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20But now there are many members, but one body.
21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
So we see that God says that there is one BODY of Christ (one Church) but is has many members or parts. Those parts all have their own individual callings and functions. Unfortunately, the Church of Christ denomination says to all other members of the body: “I have no need of you…you are not a part of the body!”
Oddly, the Church of Christ denomination seems to hang their hat on one focal point to “prove” that they are not a denomination. It is that they have no headquarters. They are autonomous. In other words, they say that because the early church had no headquarters, and THEY have no headquarters, that proves that they are not a denomination AND they are more like the original church than YOUR church. Sadly, this is just another example of being blind to the obvious. If you ask them what would designate a “headquarters” they would usually say, “a centralized governing body that decides doctrine and behavior for multiple congregations.” We would agree with that definition. Unfortunately, that leaves the Church of Christ denomination out in the cold, because the early church DID have a headquarters, using the church of Christ’s own definition. It can clearly be found in the 15th chapter of Acts. The sticky subject of what to do with the Gentiles came before the leadership of the church. So they got together as a body of leaders and came up with an official decree, determining the doctrine and behavior to be adhered to by the different congregations, which was sent to many (if not all) the then known congregations in many cities and countries.
So, this proves that the early church DID have a headquarters with a governing body that set down the guidelines for doctrine and behavior. Just another anomaly in the quiver of the Church of Christ denomination.
Strangely, this example sets them at odds with the early church, and yet they see it as something to brag about.