What is the church of Christ? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Many would say that the church of Christ is just one among many denominations that exist today. In fact, most who seek to find spiritual fulfillment within a denominational church would give this answer.
Our purpose in this article will be to offer a Biblical answer to this question. Why take this approach? The answer should be obvious. If the question concerns a Biblical subject then the best place to go to find the answer is the Bible. Scripture itself points us in this direction: “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God” (1 Peter 4:11). We should speak of Bible things in Bible ways!
So, what does the Bible say about the church of Christ? Let’s begin by addressing the question from the negative. That is, what does the Bible not say about the church of Christ? Many will find the answer to this question somewhat disconcerting.
The Bible does not teach that the church of Christ is a denomination. What is a denomination? In mathematical terms, what is the function of the denominator? It divides. A denomination, therefore, is a part of the whole. It is the result of division. In religious terms, it is simply one church among many that differs from the others based upon variations of doctrine.
Why do differences of doctrine exist in the religious world today? The differences are based upon denominational creeds. These creeds define the various doctrinal views of those within the particular denomination. The creeds, therefore, produce the division that exists in Christendom today.
Such division is contrary to the desire of Jesus. Prior to His death, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him through the preaching of the apostles. His prayer was “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21).
Note in the verse cited Jesus’ reason for desiring unity. It was so that the world would believe that God sent Him. It has been said that denominationalism is the atheist’s strongest argument against Christianity. Arguably, denominationalism actually produces unbelief!
Now, let’s get back to our question. What is the church of Christ? Note the following points found in Scripture concerning the church. Other passages could be cited but these should be sufficient to develop a good understanding of the church of Christ.
The church was established by Jesus Based upon the apostle Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Son of God, our Lord responded, “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). This is a very important point. Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that it would be His church. The church is the called out who belong to Jesus. Given that the church belongs to Jesus, we must not change the nature of it in any. This happens when men impose the tenets of human creeds upon the revelation of Scripture.
The church is the body of Christ Consider carefully the words of the apostle Paul as recorded at Ephesians 1:22-23: “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” God placed His Son as the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ. The analogy is that of the human body with Jesus as the head and those who believe in Him as His body. Christians look to Christ for guidance and instruction. He established the church and we, therefore, respect Him as our head when we submit to His will only (not human denominational creeds).
There is only one church Many are uncomfortable with this point because it contradicts what is so readily embraced in religion today—the denominational concept of the church. In the Ephesian letter, Paul wrote “there is one body” (Ephesians 4:4). Remember, he defined that body at Ephesians 1:23 as the church; therefore, there is only one church. Not many, but one. Continuing his emphasis on unity (i.e., “oneness”), Paul stated that there is “one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). If we can accept what Paul taught about “oneness” in each of these other areas then we should be able to accept what he taught about there being only one body (church).
The church is comprised of the saved The author of the Hebrew epistle referred to the saved as “the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23). Those who have rendered obedience to God’s plan of salvation are the saved. The saved are members of the Lord’s church. Upon their being saved God adds the redeemed to the church. Note the language of Acts 2:47: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
In conclusion, let’s summarize what we have learned in our study of the Bible’s teaching on the church of Christ. First, it is not a denomination. It is a body of individuals who belong to Jesus. There is only one body, which is the church. The church is made up of those who have been saved. Are you in the Lord’s body? Are you a member of the church of Christ? Why not submit to God’s will and allow Him to add you to that church today?