Is "church of Christ" Scriptural?
Introduction: It is good that we are concerned about what is scriptural. Indeed, we are taught to have authority for all we believe and practice (I Pet. 4: 11, I Thes. 5: 21, Col. 3: 17). Many will be lost in the Day of Judgment because they worked iniquity or lawlessness (Matt. 7: 21-27, no authority for their beliefs and consequent practices).
I. The church is an essential feature of New Testament teaching.
A. Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16: 18, 19). Notice the importance placed on the church in Jesus' promise (Acts 20: 28, Eph. 5: 22-33).
B. The church is indispensable (Acts 2: 47; Gal. 3: 26, 27 cp. I Cor. 12: 13 ; Eph. 1: 3, 7, 2: 16, 2 Tim. 2: 10).
C. A number of commands presuppose the church in order to be fulfilled (I Cor. 16: 1, 2, Eph. 5: 19, Heb. 10: 25, 26, I Tim. 3: 15, see context).
II. Religious names of churches.
A. We are told that there are now thousands of different denominations in America. Each religion has a distinguishing name.
B. However, no more thought is usually given to the scripturalness of a designation than to the religion itself. Church names often glorify their founder, philosophy, or when they claimed to have begun. Lutheran, Baptist, and Pentecostal are examples.
C. Such names of churches are absent in the New Testament, just as their doctrines are foreign to Holy Writ.
III. Scriptural designations.
A. We read of such designations as "the church," "church of the Lord," and "church of God" (Col. 1: 18; Acts 20: 28, ASV; I Cor. 1: 2).
B. You will notice that these descriptive phrases glorify God, not man, particular teaching, or time of origin. You never read of Lutheran, Baptist, or Pentecostal because these religions were started many centuries after Jesus built his church (Matt. 16: 18, 19, Acts 2: 47, KJV).
C. Regarding "church of Christ," we read the following: "Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you" (Rom. 16: 16).
D. Christ is the founder of his church, he provides the teaching, he has assigned the work, he is her husband and head, and he died for the church (Matt. 16: 19; 2 Jn. 9-11; I Tim. 3: 15; Eph. 5: 22, 23; Acts 20: 28). Moreover, Christ is the savior of the church (Eph. 5: 23).
E. Therefore, it should be no surprise that we read of "churches of Christ." It is true that it takes more than the right "name" to be the Lord's church. However, the right designation is required. Men can be united around Jesus' name and glorification, however, seeking human matters divide (I Cor. 1: 10 ff.).
F. It is of significance that at different times in history when men sought to be united and forsake denominationalism, they have often selected the term "church of Christ." Alas, most of these movements have failed to realize that it takes more than just the right designation to be the Lord's church (many have simply sought unity in diversity in doctrine).
IV. The Community Church Movement.
A. The doctrine and practice of unity in diversity continues to prosper in America. The Lord's church is now becoming more involved in this movement. "We must do away with our distinctive pleas, nature, and 'church of Christ' designation," we are now hearing.
B. More are now advocating "Christians meet here" being the sign placed outside the buildings. When asked if they believe "church of Christ" is unscriptural, they usually reply, "no, but people think of "church of Christ" as another denomination." Should we cease having a meeting place altogether because church buildings are abused? Should we abandon water baptism because of Catholic and denominational teaching relative to baptism or because someone might think that by "baptism" we mean Holy Spirit baptism?
C. I submit that "Christians meet here" is becoming more identified with the Community Church Movement. Besides, where is such an expression, "Christians meet here" found in the scriptures? "Since there is no official name for the church, any descriptive term will suffice," it is explained. Why not stay with a designation found in the scriptures?
D. It matters not what term or terms are selected as the designation for the local church, there will be attendant abuse. However, the Community Church Movement seeks to redefine and present a different church. The change visibly starts with the sign out front and then focuses on such doctrines as fellowship and a shift away from book, chapter, and verse preaching and practice. The thrust is toward inclusiveness, tolerance, and acceptance (see 2 Jn. 9-11). The Community Church religion is unity in diversity personified.
E. The stage, in many ways, is set for the Community Church Movement within churches of Christ. The recent decision on the part of Florida College to defend one of their Bible teachers who has become notorious for his teaching that the days of Genesis are ages or vast periods of time, claiming that we must learn to accept divergence is just another way of advocating unity in diversity and adding fuel to the Community Church Movement within non-institutional churches of Christ.
Conclusion: The winds of change are present and strong. It is good that we examine all we do religiously and never become complacent. However, the trend to change the sign out front to "Christians meet here" is usually part of a package deal to do away with the identity of the Lord's church and replace the Lord's church with a conglomerate of religions and teachings under the canopy of acceptance and unity in diversity. Alas, Florida College is now a major player in such impetus, I am afraid. (For related reading relative to Florida College click on, "Schools Among Brethren" and "The 'Days' of Genesis 1 - a Review.")