What Is Distinctive About The church of Christ?
(from "What is the church of Christ?" by B.J. Clarke)
It Has A Distinctive Pattern
Whereas man made churches follow "the doctrines and commandments of men" (Matt. 15:8-9), the Lord's church follows "the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9). The first century Christians were not adherents to the Law of Moses, for Jesus had nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14). The old covenant was replaced by a new covenant, a better covenant with better promises (Heb. 8:6-13; 9:15-17). The church of Christ in Jerusalem was guided and governed by the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). The things that Paul taught the Corinthian church were said to be "the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37). The church was not then, nor should it be now, loyal to the creeds, manuals and catechisms of uninspired men. The motto of 1 Peter 4:11, if practiced consistently by the religious world, would lead to the practice of distinctive New Testament Christianity.
It Has A Distinctive Plan Of Salvation
The plan of salvation, preached by the early church, is not at all difficult to determine. A combination of the following passages teaches that men needed to hear the Word of God (John 6:44-45; Rom. 10:17; Acts 2:37), believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only Saviour (John 8:24; Acts 4:12), repent of sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 17:30), confess Christ (Acts 8:35-37; 1 Tim. 6:12), and be immersed in water in order to be forgiven by the blood of Christ and enter the church of Christ (1 Pet. 3:20-21; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41,47).
It Has A Distinctive Worship
Regarding the matter of worship, the Lord's church is distinctive, to say the least. There is no emphasis upon showy, sensational, entertainment. The only emphasis is to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The early church engaged in five acts of worship. Let us consider each of them briefly, noting in particular what is different about them as compared to denominationalism.
1. Preaching. There were no drama troupes or "praise teams" leading the worship of the early church. Rather, it pleased God for preaching to be the avenue by which His people would learn of His will for them (1 Cor. 1:21; Acts 2:42; 20:7).
2. Singing. The distinctive practice of the Lord's church is to follow God's command to sing and make melody in the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). In the year 666 A.D. Pope Vitalian approved the use of an organ in the worship of the Roman church. Despite his decision, it would be many years before the practice of instrumental music would be well received by the Catholic Church in general. Historian Robert Brumback observes:
There is just as much authority for the mass, the worship of images, for purgatory, and for the adoration of Mary as there is for instrumental music in church worship. Not until the apostasy developed and the papacy was formed did mechanical music find its way into the church worship. There is no mention of its use in the New Testament church nor any mention of it by the apostles. For hundreds of years after the death of the apostles there is no mention of its use. Ambrose, Chrysostum, Eusebius and Basil wrote much about the worship of the church but they do not make mention of mechanical aids to the worship..No one who is guided by the scriptures can be led to believe that instrumental music was connected with the worship of the early church.[i] John Rowe adds, "The general introduction of instrumental music can certainly not be assigned to a date earlier than the fifth or sixth centuries."[ii]
3. Praying. The early church continued steadfastly in prayers (Acts 2:42). These prayers were directed to the Father through Jesus Christ (1Tim. 2:5). The practice of praying for the dead came into practice about 380 A.D.[iii] Praying to the dead began about a century later.
4. Giving on every first day of the week. God has devised a distinctive plan for the church to raise money?for every member of the church to give on the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:2). God's distinctive pattern for fund raising was perverted by, among others, Pope Pascal I who promised that the torments of purgatory could be shortened by the payment of certain sums of money. The doctrine was expanded to teach that one could purchase indulgences, i.e., forgiveness for sins not yet committed. By the year 1190, this doctrine was a major part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.[iv] It was not a part of the doctrine of the Lord's church. Moreover, the early church conducted no raffles, no bake sales, and no chili suppers.
5. Observing the Lord's Supper every first day of the week. According to the New Testament the early church met on the first day of the week to partake of communion (Acts 20:7). They partook of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine in order to commemorate the death of the Savior (1 Cor. 11:23-29). These items were emblematic of the body and blood of Jesus. In contradiction to the Scriptures, the Second Council of Nice (787 A.D.) upheld the idea that the literal body and blood of Jesus were present in the elements of the Lord's Supper.