You can be just a Christian! Does that sound strange? With hundreds of religious bodies in our country it might appear to be impossible to be a Christian without being a part of a denomination. It is not only possible but there are millions of “Christians only” in this and other nations.
The churches of Christ
Who are these people who seek to be Christians only? The church of which they are a part is usually known as the “church of Christ.” This is not a term used in a sectarian sense, but is intended to denote their desire to belong to Christ's church. The Bible says, “all the churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16). However, it is just as correct to describe the church of which we read of in the Bible as “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27) or “the household of God” (Galatians 6:10). These and similar Bible phrases are not proper names, but descriptive expressions which show how the church is related to Christ and the Father.
Individually, in the Bible, Christ's followers are known as “Christians.” “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). “If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name”
(1 Peter 4:16). “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). Never does a human name prefix this God-given name. Paul was one of the greatest of all God’s servants, but he did not want disciples to be called “Paulites or Pauline Christians” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12). The gospel only makes Christians only.
A Distinctive Plea
Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea. We believe in the divine inspiration of the entire Bible and that it is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith. We believe in the death of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins; and, we believe, that after death all men will be rewarded or punished in another life for the way we have lived here. And with all people of religious conviction, we insist that the moral principles of Jesus are absolute truths to be exemplified in the personal righteousness of the child of God.
The Bible Only
However, we not only believe that the scriptures are inspired, but we also are convinced that the New Testament must be our guide in religious faith. God’s word frequently warns us about changing the Divine Message (Galatians 1:6-9). We, therefore, have no creeds or catechism to present, but accept Christ as our only creed and the Bible as our only guidebook. In this way we are never prevented by an erroneous creed from accepting any truth which may be learned from God’s word.
Restoration, not Just Reformation
It is obvious to thinking people that the religious world is badly divided. Great leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin sought to correct erroneous teachings and practice. But the reformers often started at different points and thus arrived at different conclusions. Division rather than unity resulted.
Churches of Christ, on the other hand, plead for the restoration of apostolic Christianity rather than a reformation of existing religious bodies. Since all can agree that the early church was taught right by the apostles, we should be able to agree that we cannot be wrong if we succeed in reproducing the church that resulted from that teaching in every essential part. While many things have changed in the twenty-first century, the teaching of Jesus and his apostles has not changed. Truth is absolute and unchangeable. “God’s Word is truth” (John 17:17) and if applied in the same way, can save today as surely as it did in the first century. “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
When you visit the Lehman Avenue church of Christ you will find it worshiping God as the early disciples did - “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Every member sings songs of praise without the instrument of music as the early church did (Ephesians 5:19). You will observe that it partakes of the Lord’s supper or communion, every Sunday (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). This because we are following the example of the early Christians who assembled every first day of the week “to break bread” (Acts 20:7). Each member is given the opportunity to give as they have been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1-20, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Prayers of thanksgiving and petition will be sent up to the throne of God and a lesson will be presented from the Bible. Likewise, in every other way the Lehman Avenue church of Christ seeks to reproduce New Testament Christianity - in organization, in work, in worship and in other areas of teaching.
How to be a Christian
In few places is there so much disagreement as in answering the Bible question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Here again, churches of Christ reply by going to the scriptures for their answer. The Bible teaches that Christ shed His blood for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28), and that without it we cannot be saved (Hebrews 9:22). But, what does Jesus require of us if we are to appropriate that sacrifice? Those who crucified Him were told to “know assuredly” or “believe without a doubt” that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). When the people on the day of Pentecost asked for further information on what they should do, they were told, “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Today, we teach as the apostles did - in order for Christ to remove our sins, one must be baptized. When we are thus saved from our sins, the Lord adds us to His body, the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). “For in one spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The saved, then are in the body or church of Christ. One cannot be saved outside the body of Christ.
The early Christians were Christians only. Although we live nearly 2000 years later, we can also be Christians only if we will follow the same teaching that was given to the first followers of Christ. Jesus said, “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). Just as surely as a planted acorn will produce only an oak tree, so God’s Word will produce only Christians. It will produce nothing more and nothing less. We invite your earnest consideration of this plea.