THE DISTINCTIVE NATURE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The nature of the church at Bellville is not one that has its origins in the mind of its members or even its leaders or ministers. The distinctive nature comes from a desire found deep in the heart of the author of our faith. Jesus Christ for us must take preeminent in all that we do and say according to NIV Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
“…I will build my church…” “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”(Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). These two verses reveal a promise by Jesus to build His church and its fulfilment on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. It is the distinctive nature of this church, the church which belongs to Jesus Christ that we wish to discuss in this section and emphasise.
The reason I want to address the issue of distinctiveness is that of course the word “distinctive” implies that the church of Christ is a spiritual organism that sets one apart from others. And anyone with the power of observation recognises that there are multitudes of religious bodies in existence that seeking attention.
The church takes its mark from the Gospel which is not only authoritative but the embarkation point for us as His disciples and that is the Gospel. NIV Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mat 28:19-20 NIV)
The Lord did not command us to start churches, He commanded us to make disciples who fashion their lives after Him. We respect His authority and hence we do what He says and not what we think He needs. What makes the church of Christ distinctive and distinguishable from all other groups who claim to follow Christ?
I) The church of Christ is distinctive because of its origin. As was already stated, the church of Christ was founded by Jesus Christ in the city of Jerusalem in the year A.D 33. We recognise that Jesus is the author of the church and that He was the inaugurator of the New Covenant that we have in His blood. NIV John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (Joh 1:17 NIV) The Bible claims its own completeness (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19); therefore, anything added to the scriptures would be transgressing the doctrine of Christ, and that is forbidden (II John 9-11). The church of our Lord Jesus Christ has a high view of Scripture and in all its decisions constantly asks, “Is this in His will?”
II) The church of Christ is distinctive because of its government. The majority of people have a subjective view of the church. Therefore, they think of it in terms of a democracy, various denominations having their own council, synod or conference to which delegates are sent to pass laws in how the church is to be governed and matters regulated. These delegates return to their respective places and congregations to inform the membership of whatever changes in doctrine or practice have taken place. Such practices although it could ensure a certain amount of conformity the practice is absolutely foreign to the New Testament church.
The church of Christ has a Theocratic form of government with only one authority. Jesus Christ is the sole head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). He has made the laws which are to be adhered to in the way the church is governed (James 4:12). Therefore, in the church of Christ we do not vote on matters of doctrine or practice. We submit to the authority of Christ and rather ask what He says regarding His desire for what is expected in the church. Therein is one of the great distinctions between the church of the New Testament and those founded by men. We do not ask “what are the members feeling about this matter” but “what does the Lord require of us”.
III) The church of Christ is distinctive because of its worship. NIV John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." (Joh 4:23-24 NIV).
The characteristics of true worship are set forth in these verses:
- God is the object of our worship.
- That worship must be sincere (from the heart).
- We must worship God according to Truth.
All three elements must be present for worship to be acceptable
Few have difficulty with the first two elements of true worship; however, the third element (in truth) makes the church of Christ distinctive from others. Now I think you know that “in truth” means it must come from God’s word (John 17:17). We practice Christian worship, not Patriarchal or Mosaic, the New Testament of Jesus Christ is the only basis for that truth (Colossians 3:17).
Christians assemble on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2) to offer the following acts of worship:
- Praying to God (Acts 2:42; I Timothy 2:8; I Corinthians 14:15), in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 5:20; I Timothy 2:5).
- Giving as we have been prospered (II Corinthians 9:6-7; I Corinthians 16:1-2).
- Partaking of the Lord’s Supper to signify and reaffirm our belief in His death until He comes (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 11:23-29).
- Singing and making the melody in our hearts (not on mechanical instruments) to the Lord(Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
- Preaching faithfully the word of God to all who are present (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 4:17).
That constitutes worship according to truth.