The Church of Christ
[Editor's Note: The following article is taken from Truth In Love, published in Australia.]
This term "church" as used in the Scriptures can refer to all the "called out" ones in one locality or to all the "called out" ones all over the world. Thus in I Cor. 1:2, 1 Thess. 1:1, etc., we find the term referring to the Christians in one locality. But in such passages as Matt. 16:18 and Eph. 5:23-25, the word "church" refers to ALL Christians in existence. The plural use of the term indicates groups of "called out" ones in different localities. An example of this is in Rom. 16:16, "The churches of Christ salute you."
One of the modern uses of the term "church" is to refer to a denomination as the church. This use is unscriptural and therefore misleading to those who seek truth.
There was no denomination in existence when the New Testament was written, nor was it the plan of God ever to have such things as denominations.
Another misuse (or should we say abuse) of the term "church" is in applying it to a material building. Since the term in the Scriptures refers to it body of people, it is a grievous misuse to apply it to "temples made with hands" in which God will most certainly not dwell (Acts 17:24).
In this series of articles, therefore, the definition of the term "church of Christ" will be limited strictly to the way it was used in the New Testament. It will refer to a "called out" body of people either in the local sense or in the universal sense. It will never refer either to a denomination or to a material building.
To understand just what is referred to by use of the English word "church" in the New Testament, we must know just who are the "called out" people and how they came to he "called out." We shall consider therefore what the New Testament teaches about this calling
The "called out" ones who constitute the church of Christ are those who have responded to the divine call. That is to say, they have responded to what God has required of them and not to requirements that men have set forth. The apostle Peter, speaking to the "called out" ones, spoke of the "God of all grace Who hath called us into His glory by Christ Jesus . . ." (I Peter 5:10). The calling, therefore, originated in the Godhead and came to men through the man Jesus Christ (see also II Tim. 1:8, 9).
Hebrews 3:1 tells us that the calling is a heavenly one which proves again that the opinions and traditions of men cannot be included in the calling that produces the "called out" ones known as the Church of Christ.
There are many members of denominations today, who, in ignorance, have responded to a false calling-one which originated partly or wholly by man and is therefore not divine. Such people, though apparently sincere, and very religious, are NOT in the church of Christ because the calling to which they responded is not the real one that came from God.
A traveler who either cannot understand the signposts or habitually ignores them, could be so misguided as to go to Blacktown whilst thinking he is going to Browntown. It will not matter how sincerely he believes he is among, the saved or "called out" ones of the Lord, if he did not obey the right calling, he is not one of the Lord's "called out" ones!
The person called of God is in darkness when the call reaches him. Darkness is a state in which God does not dwell because "in Him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5). It is a state where disobedience of God is the rule and where there is no fellowship with God (I John 1:6).
Until a person realizes he is in darkness he has not heard the calling of God. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The calling came from God through Jesus Christ to sinners and not to righteous ones (Matt. 9:13). Every one of the "called out" ones therefore must have first realized he was in a sinful state (darkness) and therefore, lost.
It is obvious, therefore, that an infant cannot be one of the "called out" ones because he has never reached the state of sin and could not respond to a call to come "OUT OF DARKNESS." An infant could not be among those to whom Peter said, ". . . ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" ( I Peter 2:9).
When a person has responded to this divine calling he is then in a different state from the one in which he was when he heard the call. He has been "called out" of one state and must therefore be in another state.
Put in different terms, the "called out" ones are those whom God has "delivered from the power of darkness" and whom God has "translated into the kingdom of the dear Son of His love" (Col. 1:13).
In between the kingdom of darkness (which is of the devil) and the kingdom of the dear Son of His love (Christ) there must be a definite boundary line. As the person progresses from one kingdom into another there must be a definite point when he has left the one kingdom and entered the other. That point cannot be at the moment he believes the transition is possible, but must be when he has completed whatever action is required by the divine calling. Therefore we must understand what action is required by God's calling through Jesus Christ.
In 11 Thess. 2:14 the apostle Paul said, "Whereunto He called you by our gospel The call of God therefore is the same thing as the gospel which the apostles preached. Whatever the apostles required of sinners when between the calling he may have answered and they preached the gospel to them is what the calling which is given by the inspired call of God requires of sinners.
In the second chapter of Acts, where we read of Peter and the eleven beginning to preach the gospel, we learn that thousands were moved to believe from the evidence presented that Jesus (the One crucified) was appointed both Lord and Christ by Almighty God. Because of their belief in what Peter preached, they said, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). These were people who had become mindful of the voice of God and were ready to act on its bidding.
Peter told them the requirements: "Repent ye and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
We know therefore what is the divine calling. Those who responded are those who acted as thev were bidden. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41 ).
This procedure was not limited only to the Jews on that particular occasion but refers also to "all who are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).
The calling by the true gospel, as the apostles preached it, produced only one universal body of "called out" ones. "Let the peace of God dwell in your hearts to the which also ye are called in one body (Col. 3:15). The many different calls of counterfeit gospels" which many preach today naturally produce many different religious bodies. But the preaching of the original and genuine gospel will produce one body of "called out" ones which have been called to peace.
Every local body of the "called out" ones of the Lord will be the same as every other local body which belongs to the Lord. There can be no denominational names, creeds or differences to arise out of the one true calling from God.
If your calling differs from the genuine Scriptural calling, you should immediately leave the false one and follow the genuine. You have too much at stake to take chances or to procrastinate!
If you have any problem in making such a comparison as suggested the writer will be glad to assist you by correspondence or refer you to someone nearer you who could be able to assist you in person.
Truth Magazine III:12, pp. 18-20