You can be just a “Christian.” Does this sound strange?
With over 400 religious bodies in the United States, it might appear impossible to be a Christian without being part of a denomination. It is not only possible but there are actually millions of “Christians only” in this and other nations.
THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST
Who are these people who seek to be only “Christians”? The congregations of which they are a part are usually known as “churches of Christ.” This term is not used in a sectarian sense but is intended to denote their desire to belong to Christ’s church. The Bible says, “The churches of Christ greet you.” (Rom. 16:16). However, it is just as correct to describe the church as “the church of God” (I Cor. 1:2), “the body of Christ” (I Cor. 12:27), or “the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). These and similar Biblical phrases are not proper names, but descriptive expressions which show how the church is related to Christ and His Father.
Individually, Christ’s followers are known as “Christians” in the Bible. “The disciples were first called ‘Christians’ in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (I Pet. 4:16). Never does a human name prefix this God given name. Paul was one of the greatest of all Christians, but he did not want disciples to be called “Paulites” or “Paulite Christians.” (I Cor. 1:10-17).
A DISTINCTIVE PLEA
Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea. Of course, in many ways, we agree with others striving to follow Christ. We believe in the divine inspiration of the entire Bible and that it is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith; in the death of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins; and that after death all men will be rewarded or punished in another life for the way they 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 also are convicted that the New Testament must be our ONLY guide in religious faith. God’s Word frequently warns us against changing the divine message (see Gal. 1:6-9). We, therefore, have no creed 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 Rather Than 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 practices. But the reformers often started at different points and thus arrived at different conclusions. Division rather than unity has 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 right, we should also be able to agree that we cannot be wrong (John 8:32) if we succeed in reproducing that church today in every essential part. While many things have changed in the present century, the teachings of Jesus and His apostles have not. Truth is absolute and unchangeable. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and can save today as surely as in the first century if applied in the same way. “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Should you visit one of the churches of Christ you will find us worshipping God as did the early disciples — “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). You will observe that we partake of the Lord’s supper, or communion, every Sunday. This is because we are following the example of the early Christians who assembled every first day of the week to “break bread” (See Acts 20:7). Likewise, in every other way churches of Christ seek to reproduce New Testament Christianity — in the organization, in work, and in other areas of teaching.
HOW TO BE JUST A “CHRISTIAN”
In few issues 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 our sins (Matt. 26:28), and that without it we cannot be saved (Heb. 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 that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
When these people on the day of Pentecost then asked for further information, they were told, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Today we teach as did the apostles then, that for Christ’s blood to remove our sins we must believe in Him, repent, and be baptized. As we are thus saved from our sins, the Lord adds us to His body, the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13). The saved, then, are in the body or church of Christ; one cannot be saved and be outside this body.
The early disciples were Christians only. Although we live 1900 years later, we, too, can be “Christians only” if we will follow the same teachings given to these first followers of Jesus. Christ said, “The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). Just as surely as a planted acorn will produce only an oak, so God’s Word will produce Christians and nothing more. We invite your earnest consideration to this plea.