What Is The Church of Christ? (Steven Deaton)
Many people view churches as essentially the same. It is the way they are conditioned from their youth up. Every church in their eyes is a denomination and differs very little from any other church. Sure, there are a few that are really “out there,” like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but change the name on the sign and you get the same old song.
This jaded view is also applied to congregations designated as a church of Christ. However, it is not an accurate view for the most part. Churches of Christ are quite different than the typical denominational church. To begin with, they are not part of any denomination. They have no affiliation with a larger body that oversees or advises the thousands of congregations. Rather, they are independent and self-governing. This is because churches in the New Testament were autonomous. The churches were overseen by a plurality of elders (Acts 20:17, 28-32; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). These churches were not tied together in a larger earthly body. Thus, in the New Testament we only see local congregations and the universal body of Christ, the latter of which was overseen by Christ alone (Eph. 1:22, 23).
The Church Belonging To Christ
As stated above, the New Testament only speaks of two religious organizations approved by God; the universal body of the saved and local congregations. The universal church is the church Jesus promised to establish (Matt. 16:18). There is only one, as Paul wrote, “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4; cf. 1:22, 23). It is in this one body that men are reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). Christ is the head; the saved are the body (Eph. 1:22, 23; 1 Cor. 12:27).
The church belongs to Christ because He purchased it with His blood. “…the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Therefore, it is the church of Christ.
The Churches of Christ Salute You
Paul wrote that the “churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16). Various congregations sent their greetings to the Christians in Rome. Local churches in the New Testament consisted of Christians banding together to worship and work in the Lord. Acts 9:26-28, shows us a picture of Paul seeking to become a member of the church in Jerusalem. They were understandably leery of him. However, after Barnabas informed them of his preaching and labor for Jesus, they accepted him and he worked with them; “So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (Acts 9:28).
The Church of Christ Today
The Church of Christ exists today. The same way people were added to the church in the first century is the way it is done today (Acts 2:38-47; 1 Cor. 12:13). Those who are added join in the work of a local congregation that is nothing more or less than a church belonging to Christ; no denominational ties, no hierarchy to answer to, no entanglements financially, no subjugation to a central earthly authority. They are simply free to act as their conscience dictates, that is, as they understand the word of God.