Denominations and the “churches of Christ”

If you are in a denomination, you are out of luck.

People in hyperconservative churches of Christ say that denominations are not in the Bible, and you can’t be saved in a church that is not in the Bible.

But here’s the problem… the only churches that are in the Bible are churches that existed in the Middle East 2000 years ago.  

Martinsville Church of Christ, Danville Church of Christ, Reidsville Church of Christ… none of these churches existed during the NT times, because none of these communities existed 2000 years ago.

Practicing Faith like the 1st Century Church

“But we’re talking about churches that follow the teachings exactly as the church of 2000 years ago did,” the hyper-conservatives might say. “We do this, and no one else does.”

Let’s look at some of the commands from Scripture. Some are direct commands, others are found using the CofC principle of CENI – such as the non-written but inferred “command” that everyone must take the Lord’s Supper each “first day of the week” or be in sin.

1. Let the woman cut her hair if her head is uncovered. (1 Cor 11:6)

2. Let the woman wear a covering if cutting and shaving the hair be a shame. (1 Cor 11:6)

3. Let the speaker in tongues pray for the interpretation. (1 Cor. 14:13)

4. Let no more than 3 messages in tongues be given in one service. (1 Cor. 14:27)

5. Forbid not tongues (1 Cor. 14:39).

6. Destroy none with non-essentials (Romans 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:13).

7. Have faith before God for things not condemned in Scripture (Romans 14:22-23).

8. “All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

And finally, an oft-mentioned but not any less accurate for it’s inclusion example…

9. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16, I Corinthians 16.20, II Corinthians 13.12, I Thessalonians 5.26, I Peter 5.14) 

Do the “churches of Christ” mentioned earlier obey all of these commands?  

Why do I bring this up? I’m not using this to say that the hyperconservative churches of Christ are not truly following Christ. That’s not my call.  I’m bringing this up to demonstrate that they are not acting just like the NT church.

Of course using Scripture as the model for church is the best idea.   

You should understand something about where I’m coming from on this issue.  I am a big proponent of churches being as much like the early church as possible, I have been for a while now.  Regular readers here know that I am a Christian with a Presbyterian background, but I haven’t attended a Presbyterian church regularly for years.  For the past five years I have been attending a house church, and I love feeling that kinship with my first century brothers and sisters. 

But I don’t find any evidence in Scripture that this is a litmus test that God uses through the ages to save people. We are not saved because of the name or the size of the church we attend – we are saved because of the grace and mercy of God the Father found in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and our response to that work, leading to the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 3:2)  It’s HIS work, not ours.

What about the others?

But what about the others who are trying to do the same thing as our friends in the “churches of Christ”?  Are they up the creek without a paddle?

Remember Rick’s affirmations from a few days ago? It seems like the church he attends is trying very hard to follow the same road taken by believers in the early church. Here are a couple of other churches that I found with a cursory internet search that seem to be attempting to do the same thing, but don’t seem to be claiming to be the only ones who are saved:

New Frontiers family of churches

New Testament Church website

Would our hypercon friends consider the people in these churches to be saved?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Who does the saving?  (whew!)

This is one of those situations (and there are many) where I am so relieved and grateful that the decision of who is saved and who is not saved does not rest on the shoulders of our hyper-conservative friends, or any other people from any other doctrinal background.  

Thankfully, the salvation issue decisions rests on the shoulders of our just and merciful God.  (Exodus 34:6–7, Rom. 3:23-25)

And all God’s people said…