What Makes the Church of Christ Different?
by Billy Moore
"You say the Church of Christ is not a Protestant denomination, but I know you protest the Catholic religion for I have read a lot of your writings, so what makes you different from the other churches. You look like one of many churches to me."
Yes, we have said that that church of Christ is not a protestant denomination, and we have said that for very good reason. Christ established his church in the First Century A.D., beginning in the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). "The church ... is his body" (Ephesians 1:22,23), and "there is one body" (Ephesians 4:4), therefore, Christ built but one church.
After the passing of the apostles there was an apostasy -- a falling away from the faith (Acts 20:29,30; I Timothy 4:1-4; II Timothy 4:1-4), which ultimately came to be known as the Catholic Church, with doctrines and practices not authorized by Christ and his apostles. In 606 A.D. Boniface III, Bishop of Rome, became the first "universal Bishop", later known as the Pope. In the Eleventh Century the Catholic Church divided into two groups, Roman and Greek, with the Roman Catholic becoming the greater of the two.
Many were unhappy with the Catholic Church and began to lift up their voices against it, and the "sale of indulgence" (selling the right to sin without having to make confession to the priest) was just too much, and open protesting was strong. In 1517 Martin Luther, a Catholic Priest, wrote his famous thesis pointing out 95 things he thought to be wrong with the church, and was excommunicated by the Pope and would have been put to death, as so many others had been. But he had friends in high places who helped him. Many shared the views of Luther and within a few years there were many who had joined with him, thus the first Protestant Church was born - the Lutheran Church. (Although Luther pleaded with them "call not yourselves Lutheran ... but Christians", none the less the name stuck. In the 1530's John Calvin left the Catholic Church, starting the Presbyterian Church and in the same decade King Henry the Eighth broke away, starting the Church of England. These were the first three Protestant Churches.
That was the Sixteenth Century! The church of Christ was established in the First Century A.D., 1500 years before there was a "Protestant Church", therefore I think I am justified in saying that the church of Christ is not a "Protestant Church". Yes, the church does protest against Catholicism, but it is not a Protestant Church. It is the body of Christ to which saved people are added by the Lord day by day (Acts 2:47).
"But What Makes You Different From Others?"
The church of Christ is different from the Protestant Denominations in several points.
- We have no organization larger than the local church. This in itself sets us apart from most Protestant Churches, who have district, State, National and international organizations. In the New Testament there was no organization larger than the local church, with bishops deacons and saints in those local churches (Philippians 1:1).
- We have no creed but Christ and his word -- the New Testament. There is no Manual, Discipline, Catechism, etc. as is found in Protestant Churches. The early disciples were taught not to add to or take from the inspired scriptures (Revelation 22:18,19), or teach any other gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We still follow this charge and have no other creed.
- The name that we wear makes us different. Look at the Protestant Churches and see what they call themselves. They wear names that give honor to the man who started them, or to some particular practice. By what name were the early disciples called? They were called Christians (Acts 11:26) and were not to be ashamed to suffer as a Christian (I Peter 4: 16). That is the name we use today. As a collectivity, the early disciples were called the "church" (group of people), "church of God" (group of people that belongs to God), "churches of Christ" (groups that belong to Christ). There was no "specific" name for the local churches. Today, we refer to the church in the same manner. But we do not wear some name that gives honor to men or to practices.
- The worship we render to God is different. We eat the Lord's Supper "upon the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), which necessarily infers a weekly observance. Most Protestant churches do not have the Lord's Supper each week. Our music in worship is a cappella, just as it was in the New Testament (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). Most Protestant Churches use instrumental music in worship.
- We teach the plan of salvation just as the apostles taught it: believe in Christ as the Son of God, repent of sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:36,37; Mark 16:16). Most Protestant Churches teach that one is saved "by faith only", before and without being baptized.
- The concept we have of the church makes us different, for we believe that church consists of those who have been saved (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22,23). The Protestant Churches teach that the church consists of all the Protestant Churches, that each is a part (denomination) of the body of Christ.
These are some of the things that make us different from Protestant Churches. The differences have to do with faith and practice. We plead for "speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent." The church of Christ of the New Testament was not a Protestant Denomination. You do have a choice. You can be just a Christian, a member of Christ's church.