The very direct short answer is that the church of Christ is the New Testament church. That is, it is the church you read about in the New Testament. Everything from its Founder in the Gospels; it’s establishment in Acts 2; it’s growth through Acts 2-28; it’s organization, work, and worship in the epistles; to its ultimate reward in Revelation – it’s all there in the New Testament!
While there are other designations used for the New Testament church in the New Testament, church of Christ (Romans 16:16) is the most recognizable being used today. That is the designation used today by congregations of the New Testament in its various localities for the sake of identification. We could use other scriptural designations – like church of God (Acts 20:28) – but, sadly, many of those designations are being used by unscriptural denominations that do not reflect that to which those designations refer. For the designation being used to be scriptural, it has to be one that is used in Scripture and be used in reference to the same church described in Scripture. Sadly, many scriptural designations are being used in reference to organizations that do not match that described in the New Testament. So, we use “church of Christ” as an expedient form of identification between sister congregations. It is a designation used in Scripture and we are using it in reference to the same church described in Scripture.
If you read that and thought, “he’s claiming that the church of Christ today is the same church – the exact same one! – described in the New Testament,” then you are exactly correct. I am! I have no reservations whatsoever in saying that the church of Christ, Northside that meets at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange, GA is the exact same New Testament church that Jesus established on the day of Pentecost in AD 30 (Acts 2:41, 47). Of course, I obviously don’t mean that we are that exact same group of people that made up the Jerusalem church of Christ. I mean that we are organized just as they were, we work and worship in the same way they did. We have not changed anything about the pattern by which they functioned. We are the same church! Again, I have no reservations whatsoever in saying that. I can say that with the confidence of knowing that I can establish New Testament authority for everything we do. Can you say that about the church to which you belong? When, where, and by whom was it founded? What do you do in your worship? How do you carry out the church’s work? If the answer to any of those questions takes you outside the New Testament, then you’re not in the New Testament church. I don’t mean the expedient means used to do the work or conduct the worship. I mean the actual works themselves, the actual acts of worship themselves. Is it in the New Testament or is it a man-made innovation?
Watch “What is the Church of Christ?” Sunday mornings on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LaGrangeChurchNorthside/
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