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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The churches of Christ greet you

 
                                 "The churches of Christ greet you"   Romans 16:16 (ESV)
 
Have you ever told someone, usually in response to their question, that you attend the church of Christ?  And then had them ask, "What's the church of Christ?"  I'm pretty sure that this has happened to most of us during our Christian lives.  Well, I got to thinking about those questions and thought that I'd provide a brief overview of just who and what the "church of Christ" is, what it stands for and it's purpose for being in the world.  Perhaps if you're ever asked these questions (again) this lesson might help you answer your interrogator with some simple and ready answers.
 
Who are these people, those who are members of the "church of Christ?"  If asked that, you might want to refer them to 1Pet. 2:9-10 where we see that the members of Christ's church are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
 
You might even take another step here and refer them to Eph. 3:10 where the apostle Paul says that it is "through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known." That right there tells us the "purpose" (vs. 11) for the church.  It was God's "eternal purpose" to save the souls of man through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is therefore the "purpose" of the church to make His Gospel known to the world. 
 
We are the "earthen vessels" spoken of in 2Cor. 4:7 that are tasked with making known this "treasure" (Christ's Gospel) to the world.  In other words, the church is the system developed by God from the beginning and installed by Jesus Christ.  It is His "church" and the only one called that in the New Testament.  Pretty awesome responsibility, isn't it?
 
Ok then, if the church's mission is to get the "message" out to the world, then just what is the "message?"   Again, this is not a complicated answer.  It's the same "message" that Paul traveled throughout his world preaching: "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles."   (1Cor. 1:23)   I really don't see that much has changed today from Paul's day.  The Jews still stumble at accepting Christ and much of the world regards the Gospel as folly and refuses to believe.
 
Perhaps then a question is asked, "How do they worship?"  Here again, the answer is simple.  John 4:24 answers it this way: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."   We recognize that God is not a human being, not the "old man in the sky," but a supreme being, a "spirit" that is all powerful and is the creator of this world and everything in it.  As such, we believe that what He says is "truth."   "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."  (John 17:17)
 
You've no doubt heard it said that the "church" is of the "Restoration Movement."  It is, but that simply means that the "church" strives to restore the worship of God, in truth, back to the original New Testament church.  The one which Jesus Christ identified in Matt. 16:18 when He told Peter that "on this rock (that He is Christ, the Son of the Living God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
 
Interestingly, a leading theologian by the name of Dr. Jung once wrote a book entitled "The Church."  In it he lamented that religion had lost its way because it has become "burdened" with "traditions" and has failed to be what Christ planned on it being.  His remedy: go back to the Scriptures and see what the church was in the beginning and follow that example.  This is what the "churches of Christ" seek to do constantly.
 
The only creed that the "church of Christ" has followed since its inception is what the Bible says.  Not what man says or what synods, religious conventions or some earthly headquarters decides is worship.  In the beginning, each congregation of Christ's church was autonomous, which simply means that it is independent or self-directing.
 
One congregation does not tell another congregation what or how they should do.  If we're all operating "as the Bible speaks" and on that basis alone, there is no need for a hierarchy of congregations.  Really, the only true connection we have with other congregations is that we all recognize that we are members of the same family.  We're all brothers and sisters of each other and with Jesus Christ (Mark 3:25)
 
The basis of that connection can be read in John 13:34-35.  Here's our connection: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
 
There are several other practices and things that differentiate the "churches of Christ" from all of the other religious bodies of the world.  I just don't have neither time nor space to cover all of them in this one lesson today.  What I plan on doing is to cover those differences in a future lesson and will provide scriptural proof of why we practice our religion as we do in the church.
 
As a wrap up to this editorial, let me just say it this way.  We, the "church of Christ" have our faith centered only in the word of God, His truth.   Everything we do in our worship and in the fulfilling of the "mission" is done on the basis of "faith."  And one thing that we must always remember when it comes to how and why we are different is simply this: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."  (Rom. 14:23)
 
Ron Covey
 
       

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