A Bible Q-n-A viewer sent me these questions that, to him, presented some consistency issues with his view of the church of Christ. As always, with questions like these, I cannot speak for every preacher or congregation claiming to be the church of Christ. There is no such thing as “church of Christ doctrine.” There is only Bible doctrine. One is or is not a faithful member of the church of Christ based on their adherence to Bible doctrine, not some “Church of Christ Manual” or “Church of Christ Creed Book.” The answers I will give to these questions are the Bible’s answers.
I want to thank Kyle for the questions and for giving the opportunity to study what the Bible says about these things and to share them with you.
Question #1: Where Was The True New Testament Church Prior To The Early American Restoration Movement?
According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800’s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?
It is true that in the early years of American religious freedom men began calling people back to the true New Testament church of Christ. Men like Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and many others, preached a return to true biblical Christianity and refuted denominational error with great success. From that time up to the mid 1960’s, the church of Christ was the fastest growing religious body in the world. However, none of these ever claimed to have “established” anything. They never claimed to be the “founder” of a new church or denomination. Rather, they opposed the very idea of anything “new” in religion and called for a return to “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16).
I cannot say for certain that these men never claimed to be restoring something that had completely vanished from existence. I have read a great deal of their writing and I don’t recall ever seeing such a claim. If they did claim such then, according to Scripture, I would have to disagree. Many of these men had their resolve for restoration kindled by their exposure to earlier calls for restoration. While not getting into a detailed discussion of church history here, I can say that even a casual study of their backgrounds and influences shows that the restoration spirit most certainly did not start with these men.
The Bible says that the church has been in existence from the time of its establishment on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 (Acts 2). While Kyle’s quotation of Matthew 16:18 is used out of context to make this point, the Bible does indeed teach it. When Jesus told his disciples that “the gates of [hades] would not prevail against it” he is referring to his death (cf. Matt. 16:21-23). It means that even though he would die, his soul would be in hades (Acts 2:27), that would not prevent the establishment of his kingdom, the church.
For the biblical teaching on the longevity and indestructibility of the church we must to turn to other passages. For example, in Daniel 2:44, we are told by prophecy that once the kingdom would be established it would “never be destroyed.” Again, in Daniel 7:14, the prophet says that the kingdom of Christ is that which “shall not be destroyed.”
I have heard some say that during the dark ages the church was not on earth in “actuality” but that it was still present in “seed form,” and therefore not destroyed. However, I do not believe this can be accurately stated. When the Bible says the kingdom would never be destroyed it is not talking about the indestructibility of the word, the seed (Lk. 8:11), (1 Pet. 1:23). It is talking about the indestructibility of the church! The only way one could make such a statement as a matter of factual truth would be to know factually that there were no true New Testament Christians worshipping God in spirit and in truth anywhere in the world at any given time throughout history. I do not believe that anyone could make such a claim as factual knowledge.
The Bible says the kingdom of Christ would never be destroyed and I believe what it says! Just because there is no historical reference to a religious body worshipping and working as the church described in the New Testament, does not mean that there were none. If there was anywhere in this world those who, rejecting man-made doctrine, worshiped and worked purely according to the word of God then there was the church of Christ.
So, in answer to the question, prior to the early American Restoration movement the church was right where it has been since Christ established it nearly 2,000 years ago. It is the body of faithful disciples following Christ according to his pure doctrine (2 Jn. 9-11). Regardless of how small or how obscured from the pages of history it may have been.
My , I find this one to be one of the better ones in the writing Bro. Norm. I suppose any reader could see that while I do appreciate your diligence and it is most refreshing to see students of the Bible seeking to get it perfectly right…. I have always found that in conversation if one will give a Church of Christ enough rope they will hang themselves. Let us look at your statements Bro. Norm. Now , YOU state that outside of the Church of Christ one cannot be saved as in a denomination… those are your words , however , before the Church of Christ came to be ….. where in the world where men saved? because Barton Stone of course as other "restoration leaders" had plenty of ties with the Baptist church. So , did they come and get saved in this Church of Christ? try as you may Bro. Norm the Church of Christ is a denomination. Denomination meaning to denominate or diveide you guys do exactly that and EVEN within yourselves you are denominated (Music , no music , one cup , many cups , liberal , conservative , clapping , no clapping ) ….. Bro. Norm you guys are so divided. You are part of a denomination and anyone reading must understand that the Church of Christ make the claim "They are not a denomination" because if they did not then there entire "doctrine" (yes they have one of those as well) would come to shambles when teaching they are the true church. So , you say the church was around ….. but really 99.9% of churches were Methodist , Baptist ….. ehh even Catholic and you will find the assortment of others but the Church of Christ which you claim to be the true church … well it wasnt in exisitence as we know it today so therefore there unforunately must have not been any hope until the "restoration fathers" came along. Guys , to teach you are the ONLY church is very very dangerous as are many of the Church of Christ teachings. I pray anyone who comes across this website will take your Bible and truly study and seek God ….. do not simply take a word and run with it. The name Church of Christ … well its a play on words because its not about that name. The "Church of Christ" is ANYONE saved and washed in the blood of Christ whether be Methodist , Baptist , Pentecostal and so on. If they are saved and washed in the blood of Jesus they are part of this body of Jesus Christ. Its about being part of him not a part of some denomination. I hope everyone will seek God on the matter and study most sincerely to see what God says on the issue.
I contemplated for a long time whether or not I would post your comments. There were a couple of reasons that I thought I would not. For one, they are too long. If you disagree with what I have written then just state your disagreement and why. If you want to write your own posts then start your own blog.
For another thing, your comments are not honest. Neither are your questions for that matter, hence the section title. You are not an honest seeker for truth but a defender of denominationalism. You already have your mind made up, so it really doesn’t matter to you what the Bible says.
I have decided to go ahead and publish your comments so that the honest reader can see for themselves the inability of the skeptic to oppose true biblical doctrine. I would ask that you shorten them up some for future posts. Just tell me what it is you disagree with and why and I will answer it. Bible Q-n-A is not the place for you to post your "articles." I'm completely open to debate anything I post on this site, lets just try to keep it concise.
I gave Scriptural reasoning to the “question” of where the saved were prior to the restoration movement. They were in the same place they are now, in the church of Christ. I wrote a great deal regarding my conviction that the church of Christ has been worshipping God in spirit and in truth from the time of its establishment in A.D. 30 (Acts 2). I showed why we do not claim any of the early American restoration preachers as “founders” of the church of Christ. Yet you continue to attribute “founders” for us! We have a Founder, his name is Jesus the Christ! (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 3:11; Matt. 16:18).
You continue to claim that the church of Christ is a denomination. Did Christ establish a denomination, Kyle? Is Christ divided? (1 Cor. 1:13). We are the church of Christ because we observe only the doctrine of Christ. We are not divided from those who so practice doctrinal purity. We are in unity with any who uphold biblical doctrine to the exclusion of man-made doctrine. Just because some who claim to be the church of Christ have forsaken true biblical doctrine doesn’t mean the church of Christ is divided. It means they have departed from the faith, they are no longer the church of Christ (Rev. 2-3).
Paul said that we are thoroughly furnished unto every good work by the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). So what denomination are we directed to by the word of God? None! When the New Testament was written there was no such thing as denominations and there should be no such thing as denominations today. Denominationalism is not a good work of Christ. It is man-made heresy.
My goal for sites like Bible Q-n-A is to turn as many people as possible away from sinful denominationalism to the truth of God’s word and his one true church (Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4-6). There is one church just as assuredly as there is on God!
Zamokuhle Biyela says
Was there ever a time in history where there was no denominations? What denomination did Paul and the rest of the apostles belong to? Do all denominations believe teach the same plan of salvation? Does the Gospel put anybody to any Denominations? I also believe that it is not enough to call us ourselves church of Christ unless we teach the doctrine of Christ, while I believe that wearing the name of Christ is a doctrine of Christ but I believe we must continue to search the scriptures and allow it to make us completely true disciples.
Amen! Thank you for those good comments.