We believe the church today should be the same as that in the New Testament in organization, name, worship, law of conversion, and in principles of Christian living. Members of the church of Christ hold that the New Testament writers were inspired of God and believe, therefore, that the New Testament is true and contains the final and complete revelation from God to man (John 16:13; II Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3). Members of the church of Christ believe that the Old Testament was also inspired; however, as a part of God’s eternal plan, it was only a preparation or “tutor to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). We humbly cherish the hope that we, today, are following this pattern set forth in the New Testament. It is our only rule of faith and practice.
Members of the church of Christ contend that the church was established on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ in A.D. 33 in the city of Jerusalem.
The term, “church of Christ” is not used as a denominational appellation. It is simply a descriptive term indicating the fact that the church is the possession of Christ. Members of the church of Christ believe it right to wear a name which gives honor and glory to Christ. Salvation is in Christ’s name (Acts 4:12), and we are to do all things in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:16–17).
The church of Christ has no earthly headquarters and no universal organization. Each congregation is autonomous or “self-ruled” and is independent of every other congregation. Churches may cooperate in the accomplishment of good works, but their autonomy is carefully maintained. We pray and believe that the organizational pattern of the church of Christ is divine in origin. Jesus Christ is recognized as the supreme ruler over the church (Colossians 1:18).
No fallible man serves as earthly head over the church. The sole unit of organization in the church of Christ is the local congregation. Each congregation is separate and independent in its government. Christ has delegated authority in the management of the local congregation to the elders, pastors, or bishops … three different terms referring to the same office (Acts 20:17, 28; Ephesians 4:11; I Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:5). There is a plurality of elders in every congregation (Acts 11:30; 14:23). The qualifications for these men are described in I Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5-9. They have no authority over other congregations other than the one they serve.
The church of Christ also has special group of men called deacons. They serve under the direction of the elders. Their qualifications are given in I Timothy 3:8–13.
The church of Christ also has men known as preachers (I Timothy 2:7), ministers (I Timothy 4:6), or evangelists (II Timothy 4:5). They likewise serve under the direction of the elders of the local congregation. We do not refer to our preachers with the term “Pastor,” believing that this term as used in the New Testament refers to those men who have the oversight of the congregation. Neither do our preachers assume religious titles such as “Reverend,” inasmuch as this term is used only one time in the Bible (Psalms 111:9) and, in this instance, refers to God. We believe the New Testament makes no distinction between so-called “clergy” and “laity,” and that preachers are no more worthy of titles than other members of the church.
We believe that the Bible gives us instruction regarding five items of worship and these we attempt to follow:
- Teaching or preaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7)
- Praying (Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 14:15; I Thessalonians 5:17)
- Giving of our means. We do not teach the law of tithing, as we believe that it was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). We do believe, however, that we—who live under a better law with better promises, with our great prosperity—would consider it unthinkable to give less than 10 percent of our income to the Lord. We teach the members of the church are to give liberally and cheerfully (II Corinthians 16:2).
- Singing. One of the things which people most frequently notice about the church of Christ is that we sing without the use of mechanical instruments of music.
- The Lord’s Supper. This is a memorial inaugurated by Jesus Christ on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28). It is observed by Christians in memory of the Lord’s death (I Corinthians 10:24-25), and in communion of his blood and body (I Corinthians 10:16). Members of the church of Christ observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. Such pattern is set by the New Testament example: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them” (Acts 20:7).
Members of the church of Christ believe there are certain steps which must be taken in obedience to the commands of the New Testament. We believe that these steps bring about salvation and, at the same time, make one a member of the church.
These steps are four in number: (1) Faith. This results from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and is stated as essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; John 8:24, 20:30–31; Hebrews 11:6). (2) Repentance. This, too, is commanded (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Repentance is a change of mind which causes one to turn away from sinful practices. It is commanded for everyone (Acts 17:30). (3) Confession. This is an outward confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9–10). (4) Baptism. Baptism is not taught by members of the church of Christ as a “church ordinance,” but as a “command” of Christ. We believe the New Testament teaches that baptism is an act which is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16).
We believe that the proper subjects for baptism are taught persons (Matthew 28:19), believing persons (Mark 16:16), penitent persons (Acts 2:38), and persons who have confessed Jesus (Acts 8:37). We believe that scriptural baptism must be an immersion in water.
The Greek word from which the word baptize comes means “to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to plunge.” The scriptures always point to baptism as a burial (Acts 8:35–39; Romans 6:3–4; Colossians 2:12).
We believe baptism is extremely important because the New Testament sets forth the following purposes for it: (1) it is to enter the kingdom (John 3:3–5); (2) it is to contact Christ’s blood (Romans 6:3–4); (3) it is to get into Christ (Galatians 3:27); (4) it is for salvation (Mark 16:16, I Peter 3:21); (5) it is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); (6) it is to wash away sins.
The above was taken from Guy V. Caskey’s What is the Church of Christ?.