Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
In an earlier post, you stated that the church of Christ (if following all of the biblical teachings) is the "one true church". Would that also be true if the church name were to be a different "biblical" name (such as church of God)?
Dear Teachable Student,
The name a congregation puts on its door must be a biblical name, but it doesn’t have to be ‘church of Christ’ – it can be any of the names for the church found in the New Testament. Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16). There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world. Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that it makes it easier for brethren across the country to find congregations if they are traveling, moving, etc. Another practical reason is that many of the other biblical names (such as ‘church of God’ – Gal 1:13) are already used by churches that aren’t following God’s Word, and it gets confusing for people when we use a name that our society has associated with a particular denomination. It isn’t required that a congregation use the name ‘church of Christ’; what is required is that we always follow the Bible pattern for everything we do, and that includes the name we use.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter He is going to build His church on him. Why would Jesus build His church on a man? I know, in a sense, it also had to do with Peter's confession in the previous verses, but Jesus specifically says He will build His church on the apostle Peter. Why was Peter given a higher level of authority?
Dear Building Inspector,
Jesus didn’t build His church on Peter; He built it upon a much sturdier foundation – Peter’s confession. This is one of those times where what Jesus said can be a little confusing to us English-speaking folks because there is a little bit of color that the Greek text gives that makes the text a little clearer. In Matt 16:18, when Jesus tells Peter, “You are Peter”, He uses the word ‘petros’, which means ‘a small stone, boulder, a detached stone’. Then Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build my church”. The word used for ‘rock’ is ‘petra’ in this case. ‘Petra’ means ‘a rock ledge, cliff’; ‘petra’ is the word used for a massive and immovable rock that is attached to the earth. Jesus is making a play on words in Matt 16:18. In essence, He is saying that even though Peter is a rock, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of God is an even sturdier foundation than Peter is. Peter is a small rock, but faith in Jesus as God’s Son is a massive, living rock that you can build the church upon.
Some teach that there is only one church. Is this true? And if so, which church is the TRUE church... according to the Scriptures?
The Truth And Nothing But The Truth
Dear The Truth And Nothing But The Truth,
The denominational world is confusing… exactly the opposite of God’s church (1 Cor 14:33). The term ‘denomination’ comes from the idea that a church believes that it is a subgroup of a larger religious body. Lutherans worship and teach differently than Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., but they all believe themselves to be christians – this is wrong. Jesus said that there is only one path to heaven (Matt 7:14) and there is only one true church (Eph 4:4-6). Denominationalism teaches that how you act and worship are matters of opinion, but Jesus said that how you act and worship are matters of truth (Jhn 4:24). The only way to find the one true church and avoid denominationalism is to find a congregation that simply teaches what the Bible says – no creeds, no opinions, no personal agendas. If we truly love Christ, we will follow His commandments (1 Jn 5:2).
Everything a church does (worship, membership, how they teach to be saved, how they spend their money, even their name) needs to have Bible verses backing them up (1 Tim 3:15). A church needs to be able to explain the reasons for why they do what they do (1 Pet 3:15).
Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a Biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16). We worship by singing (Col 3:16), studying the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), praying (2 Thess 3:1), taking communion (only on Sundays – Acts 20:7), and taking up a collection (also only on Sundays – 1 Cor 16:1-2). We teach that you must hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe God’s Word (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Mk 6:12), confess Jesus as your Savior (Lk 12:8), and be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21). We do all these things because they are practices found in the Bible. If you want to be the Lord’s church, you just stick with what the Lord says.
There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world. Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’, but then again, many churches that use that name aren’t faithful. A Bible name for a church isn’t enough to make it faithful. We have helped others, like yourself, looking for New Testament Christianity find faithful congregations in their area by contacting other preachers and christians that we know. We’d be happy to do the same for you. If you feel comfortable, just let us know what general area you live in, and we will try and get you in touch with a congregation that lives like your Bible reads (our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org). It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism. Thanks be to God that there is a better option!
Where we worship, there are a great number of people in need of healthcare. It seems every time the announcements are made, we mention several who have missed because they are sick or in the hospital. Where does the burden of responsibility lie for a church meeting the needs of its sick? Considering the purpose of the church includes assembling, where do we stop in our efforts to help people assemble?
Dear Support Staff,
Technically, it isn’t the job of the church to make sure people get to church services; it is the church’s job to make sure services happen. That distinction can be seen in Heb 10:24-25 because individuals were rebuked for forsaking the assembly. It is the individual’s responsibility to make it to services, not the church’s job to drag them there.
Having said that, we shouldn’t be cold-hearted toward people’s needs. If there is a way for others to “do good to the household of faith” (Gal 6:10) by providing rides, that is more than appropriate and a great example of christian hospitality (1 Pet 4:9). But once again, we are talking about individuals helping other individuals.
The church is told to assemble on the first day of the week as a minimum (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:1-2). That is the sum total of God’s command for the collective local body – it is very generic. Within that generic command, a congregation can decide where, when, etc. based upon what is expedient and useful. The specifics are left up to the local church to decide using wisdom (Pr 4:7). The church has to factor in the needs of every member (ailing and healthy) when deciding when to meet. It isn’t about meeting the needs of one particular group of people; it is about trying to balance everyone’s needs. That looks different in each congregation because each congregation is made out of a unique collection of people.
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false? What must I look for? Thank you for your time and help.
On The Alert
Dear On The Alert,
Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.