Assessing the Doctrine of the Church of Christ

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This paper is a result of a discussion I had with a couple who grew up in the Church of Christ church. When seeing that they had no problem with the Church of Christ doctrine, I decided to look more into their doctrine to see if my standard was too high, or narrow, and if their doctrine and ours could be reconciled. I went point by point, while trying to keep it as simple and minimal as possible. My purpose in sharing this is not to crate divisions, but to be used as a resource. As Bible-believers we must “earnestly contend for the faith,” and “be ready always to give an answer.” Some of my responses do not have a thorough doctrinal backing as it would take an entire article in itself. Please feel free to send me questions.

A Simplified Biblical assessment of Church of Christ’s basic beliefs and practice from churchofchrist-tl.org 

My notes will be in italics. 

It seems they use other books besides the Bible as several of the scripture references are not found in the Bible. (for example Mos, Mi), which I’m guessing are from the Book of Mormon which is not recognized by Bible-believing Christians as it is in opposition and contradiction to the Bible as God’s revelation, and to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 1:8-9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

Basic Beliefs (of the Church of Christ)

Articles of Faith and Practice

1. We believe in God the Eternal Father, who only is Supreme; Creator of the universe; Ruler and Judge of all; unchangeable and without respect of persons. (Isa 45:15-21; Mal 3:6; Rev 20:11-13; Mi 8:19)

This is vague and basic, but I don’t have any real problems with it. A more detailed explanation of the doctrine of God would be helpful. 

2. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the manifestation of God in flesh, who lived, suffered, and died for all mankind; whom we own as our only Leader, Witness and Commander. (John 5:19-24; Heb 1:1-14; Al 9:54-55; 3 Ne 4:44-49)

 Again, vague and general. As we get into more detail about Christ, His position in the Godhead,  and the extent of His sacrifice, we would probably have serious disagreements. 

3. We believe in the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, which searcheth the deep things of God, brings to our minds things which are past, reveals things to come, and is the medium by which we receive the revelation of Jesus Christ. (John 14:15-18, 26, 15:26, 16:13; Mi 10:3-7)

The Holy Ghost is much more than this list, but He is NOT the medium by which we receive the revelation of Jesus Christ. There is not new revelation (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Revelation 22:18). The Holy Ghost helps us understand what has been revealed by God in the Bible, but does not give new revelations. 

4. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression, and that as a consequence of the atonement of Christ “all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all they that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, can not repent; and unto such, baptism availeth nothing.” (Mi 8:25-26) (Rom 2:6, 12, 13; Mos 1:107; Mi 8:25-26)

This statement is actually in opposition of the verses referenced in Romans 2. They that are without the law (non-Jews) will be condemned without the law according to God’s law on their hearts and their conscience (Rom 2:15). Since I only recognize the Bible as my authority and revelation from God, I’m not sure what the other references may be pointing to, more to I give them credence for the doctrine of salvation. No one is automatically saved as a result of the atonement of Christ, which is not what this statement seems to suggest. 

5. We believe that through the atonement of Christ all men may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel; viz. : Faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ; Repentance and Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; Laying on of Hands for: (a) Ordination; (b) Blessing of Children; (c) Confirmation and the Gift of the Holy Ghost; (d) Healing of the Sick. (John 3:16-17; Hel 5:69-72, 6:1-2; 2 Ne 13:12-17; Mi 8:29; (a) Acts 13:1-3; Mi 3:1-3; (b) Mark 10:13-16; 3 Ne 8:20-27; (c) Acts 8:14-17; Mi 2:1-3; (d) Mark 16:17-18; Jas 5:14-16)

My first issue is the double talk of the first phrase. It is saying that we are saved through the atonement of Christ AND by obeying the laws and ordinances. There is then a huge misunderstanding of Atonement. The word atonement means a covering. The lambs of the Old Testament were a temporary covering which had to be reapplied annually. It was a covering for sins that we could not get rid of by our works and the atonement itself never washed away sins (Hebrews 10:11). Jesus is the “propitiation,” that is the one time sacrifice that God accepted to completely wash away every sin (Hebrews 10:12, 1 John 2:2). This is what salvation is. We are saved from the record of our sins (Colossians 2:13-14), from the penalty of our sin (Romans 5:8-10), and the power of sin (Romans 6). This salvation is a free gift from God because of the sacrifice of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Salvation comes by placing my faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice ALONE, for the forgiveness and pardon of my sins and my justification before a Holy God. The sacrifice is applies to my account by no works of my own, but is a free gift from God because Christ took my punishment upon Himself. When I repent of my unbelief and by faith, receive Christ alone as my Saviour, God saves me and declares me righteous by His high and holy standard. (Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16; Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:6-8; and many, many more).

“Repentance and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” This phrase comes from Acts 2:38 what Peter said the statement to the people there. This was modeled after John the Baptist’s baptism which was called a “baptism of repentance.” Paul expounds on the meaning of the baptism in Acts 19:4 “Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” Repentance is a change of mind, and in the case of salvation, it is turning from what I was thinking about salvation to trusting Christ alone. Baptism is an outward simple of that choice. If baptism was a part of salvation, it would go against Ephesians 2:8-9 as it is clearly a work. Mark 16:16 explains it more clearly. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” The first half of the verse seems to indicate that belief plus baptism is required. However the rest of the verse explains that it is the lack of faith that condemns not the lack of baptism. The thief on the cross was never baptized and Jesus made it very clear that that man would be with Christ. Also, in the book of Romans, which is the most thorough doctrinal book in the Bible, the portion that speaks of Christ’s sacrifice and salvation (Romans 4 and 5), baptism is not mentioned, but rather the importance that it is not attained by the keeping of the law at all, but by faith. Baptism is not even mentioned until chapter 6 which is all about Christian living AFTER salvation. 

Next, the laying on of hands. This is something that is more a formality than a spiritual exercise. For example, we lay hands when ordaining preachers and sometimes with deacons. In the early part of the church age (the book of Acts), it was a transitional time period. They did not have the completed revelation (Bible) and so the Apostles were the ones that would confirm faith in people, ensure their doctrine was correct, etc. So in the early part of Acts, they would lay hands after hearing a salvation testimony, confirming their faith, and thus receiving the Holy Ghost. Somewhere in the middle of Acts, the transition occurred where the people would receive the Holy Ghost simultaneously with their salvation. Romans 8 makes it clear that without the Holy Spirit, you are not God’s child. 

6. We believe in the literal second coming and millennial reign of Jesus Christ; in the resurrection of the Dead, and in Eternal Judgment; that men will be rewarded or punished according to the good or evil they may have done. (Mat 16:27; Rev 20 : 1-6, 12-15, 22: 12; 1 Ne 7:55-62; 2 Ne 12:87-99; A 19:66-69)

There will be a literal second coming followed by the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. There will be two resurrections, however. The first resurrection takes place during the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16), “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power…” (Revelation 20:6). These people who are already saved will stand before Christ at the Judgement Seat of Christ, where they will be judged for the things done of Christ. This is a judgment for rewards, not a judgement for sin. All of their sins were judged on Jesus Christ as our substitute (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Colossians 2:13-14). Even if the believer has nothing to show for his life, 1 Corinthians 3:15 says that though his works are burned up, he himself is saved. There is no additional punishment or torment. Just to reemphasis, BELIEVERS WILL NOT BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR SINS. CHRIST WAS PUNISHED FOR THEIR SINS. 

The second resurrection (Revelation 20) if for those who have died in their sins, without Christ. They will stand before the Great White Throne and give an account for their life. First, they see if their name was in the book of life. Then they will be judged “according to their works” and cast into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity. 

7. We believe in the powers and gifts of the everlasting Gospel; viz. : The word of wisdom; the word of knowledge; the gift of faith; the gift of healing; working of miracles; prophecy; discerning of spirits; divers kinds of tongues; interpretation of tongues. (Acts 2:4-11; I Cor 12:1-11; Mi 10:8-14, 18)

Every one of these gifts listed here have ceased. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 specifically says that the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and tongues will completely stop, upon the completion of the New Testament. (Though the time frame may be debated, it is clear they will stop). This sings gifts were a confirmation of the apostles message as God was still giving His revelation. The “gift” of healing has stopped as well, though God can and does heal as He choses. This gift seemed to have stopped, even in the apostles’ lifetime. Paul was unable to heal Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Trophimus. And of course, Paul was unable to heal his own “thorn in the flesh.” 1 Corinthians 14:32 makes it clear that the gift is subject to the one with the gift, meaning, they have full control over its use. So if the test for a prophet is 100% accuracy, the same test can be applied to the gift of healing, which is not what we see happening. 

8. We believe the fruit of the spirit to be love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. (Gal 5:22-23)

Correct. 

9. We believe that in the Bible is contained the word of God, that the Book of Mormon is an added witness for Christ, and that these contain the “fullness of the gospel.” (BC 44:13) (Ezek 37:15-20; 1 Ne 3:157-166, 191-196;)

The Bible doesn’t contain the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), it IS the word of God. The Book of Mormon is a heretical book as it contradicts the revelation of God. If the Book of Mormon was truly inspired by God, it would be in unity with the overall message and flow of scripture, which is what we see with ALL the human authors of the Bible. The statement is nothing short of blasphemy and heresy. If the book of Mormon was a true revelation of Jesus Christ than Jesus either lied in Matthew when He said “… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Or He was not powerful enough to keep his promise. The reason for the writing of the book of Mormon was because they believed that the church in its entirety had fallen into apostasy. That is not consistent with Christ’s teaching. 

10. We believe in the principle of continuous revelation; that the canon of scripture is not full, that God inspires men in every age and among all people, and that He speaks when, where, and through whom He may choose. (Amos 3: 7; Acts 2: 17-18; 2 Pet 1 : 21 ; 1 Ne 1:82-83)

Revelation 22:18-19 make it very clear that if anyone adds or takes away, God will plague them and even take away their part from the book of life. I’m not sure of all the implications of that, but God doesn’t want us to mess with His book. The revelation has been completed and He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

11. We believe that where there are six or more regularly baptized members, one of whom is an elder, there the Church exists with full power of church extension when acting in harmony with the law of God. (Acts 14:23; Outline Hist p. 35; Ref Bill #1, 1960)

This may be a practice, but has no biblical basis. 

12. We believe that a man must be called of God by revelation, and ordained by those having authority, to enable him to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances thereof. (Luke 6:12-16; John 3:27; Acts 13:1-4; Rom 10:15; Heb 5:4)

God has already called all of His disciples to preach the gospel, no special calling is needed (Matthew 28:18-20). Under the organization of the local church, the church should recognize the call of God of a man’s life, and through his service, it should be clear that God is leading him to leadership (Acts 13:1-4). Again, there is no open or new revelation of God. 

13. We believe in the same church organization as existed in the time of Christ and His Apostles. The highest office in the church is that of an apostle, of whom there are twelve, who constitute special witnesses for Jesus Christ. They have the missionary supervision and the general watchcare of all of the churches. (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11-16; 1 Ne 3:115)

The qualification of an apostle was that they were baptized by John the Baptist, continued through the ministry of Christ, and was an eye witness of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:21-22). One exception was made for Paul as an apostle “born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). There are no more apostles today as a position of the New Testament church. The lose definition can be used as it simply means “sent one,” in which case all believers are apostles. But not in the sense it’s used here. Also, the biblical model is not apostles having watch over the churches, but the churches were and are autonomous, that is, self-governing. That is why in 3 John 9, the Apostle John wanted to go visit a church, but the pastor didn’t want him there, so John honored the wish. If the structure was the apostles where in charge of all the churches, then that pastor would not have been allowed to refuse. 

14. The primary function of the general church, of which each local church is a component part, is missionary and the building up and extension of the Kingdom of God in all the world. (Mat 24:14; Mark 16:15-18) 

Close. The New Testament church does not deal with the Kingdom. The Kingdom is what the Jews are awaiting. The churches job today is the evangelization of the lost, and the building up of the saints for Christian living as they develop Christ-likeness, and share His gospel with the world around them. (Ephesians 4:11-16).

15. We believe that local churches should govern their own affairs, and that general church officials should not dominate or interfere therewith. On invitation such general officers may, with propriety, give counsel and assistance. Local congregations are subject to the Articles of Faith and Practice and must be governed thereby. (Ref Bill #2, 1935, par 3-8)

I’d agree with that.

16. We believe the Church of Christ comprehends the true brotherhood of man where each esteems his brother as himself and wherein the divine command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is demonstrated by the prevalence of social equality. (Mat 22:36-40; Gal 5:14; 1 John 4:7-21; Mos 1:48-49; 3 Ne 12:11) 

For the most part, I agree. The “social equality” is a red flag. I’m not sure how they practice that in a practice sense, but many churches today, because of a misunderstanding of “the Kingdom” have become “social gospel” oriented. That is, it is the churches job to take on social issues and thus usher in the kingdom. 

17. We believe that all men are stewards of their worldly possessions and goods and answerable to God both for how they are used and the manner in which they are secured. We believe that all men are also stewards of their time and talents and are accountable to God for how they are used. We are to pay tithes and offerings to the Church as required by God with the promise of His blessings. We define tithes as 1/10th of our increase. Offerings are donations above and beyond tithes. These tithes and offerings are to be used for the building up of the Kingdom of God in all nations, bringing all people to Jesus Christ through Baptism. (Mark 12:41-44; Malachi 3:8-12; Genesis 28:20-22; Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4-6; Acts 10:1-4; 3rd Nephi 11:11-15; Mosiah 2:37, 42-44; Matthew 28:18-20; Jacob 2:22-24; Alma 10:8; Deuteronomy 14:22)

I agree with all but the last phrase. Again, we are not building Christ’s kingdom, we are spreading the Gospel, and this building His churches. Also, as stated before, we are not brining people to Christ through baptism, we are bringing people to Christ through faith in the Gospel. 

18. We believe that men should labor for their own support and that of their dependents. Ministers of the gospel are not absolved from this responsibility, but when chosen or appointed by the church to devote their entire time to missionary work, their families are to be provided for out of the general church funds. The admonition of Christ that the ministry should not provide purse or scrip for their journey, but go trusting in God and the people is applicable. (Mat 10:9-10; Luke 22:35-36; 1 Cor 9:16-18; 1 Pet 5:2-3; Mos 9:59-62) 

I agree that we are to provide for our own. The support of a missionary is interesting. Paul’s writings make it very clear that churches should support missionaries (2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Philippians 4:10-19).

19. We believe that the temporal affairs of the general church are to be administered by the general bishopric under the direction of the general conferences of the church and under the supervision of the Council of Twelve. The temporal affairs of the local churches shall be administered by local bishops under the supervision and direction of the local congregations. (Acts 6:2-6; Ref Bill #3, 1931) 

Aside from the “counsel of twelve” and the denominational practices or oversight, I would agree with this. The pastors (bishops) of the church should take the oversight (1 Peter 5:2), with the assistance of thew deacons for temporal things (Acts 6:1-6).

20. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as established by the Lord in the beginning as being a union between one man and one woman. Any other type of relationship such as homosexuality, polygamy, multiplicity of marriages, common-law marriage and cohabiting are not sanctioned by God and are disharmonious with the plan for His creation. In case of a breach of this covenant by adultery (fornication), the innocent one may remarry (Mark 10:6-9; Mat 5:31-32, 19: 3-9; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; 3 Nephi 5:80)

I mostly agree, however, I do not believe the Bible allows for remarrying until one spouse dies. Though most Christian churches take the position as laid out here. Ironically, they do not believe in polygamy or multiplicity of marriages, yet they believe in the teachings of Joseph Smith. 

21. We are opposed to war. Men are not justified in taking up arms against their fellows except as a last resort in defense of their lives and to preserve their liberty. (Al 20:47-52) 

Commands such as “thou shalt not kill” are personal laws. Person to person, murder is wrong and sinful. God puts the punishment of wrong-doers in the hands of God-ordained government (Romans 13). When it comes to war and national enemies, the personal laws do not apply. The logic behind this doctrine would say that Christians should not be in law enforcement or in the military. Yet David, a man after God’s heart, was a valiant warrior, and that spoken of him is a positive light. The mighty men, brought great victories for God. Samson, one of God’s judges killed many of God’s enemies. Exodus 15:3 “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.”

Personally and individually, we should strive to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:8).

22. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and in the restoration of the ten lost tribes. (Is 11:11-12; Jer 16:14-16, 31:10-12; Ezek 36:21-28; 3 Ne 10:1-7) 

I agree, though they could elaborate more on this point. 

23. We believe a temple will be built in this generation, in Independence, Missouri, wherein Christ will reveal himself and endow his servants whom he chooses with power to preach the gospel in all the world to every kindred, tongue and people, that the promises of God to Israel may be fulfilled. (Mic 4:1-2; Mal 3:1-4; 3 Ne 10:4; Eth 6:8) 

WHAT?! That’s quite specific. No, the temple will be rebuilt on the temple mount as Jesus spoke in Matthew 24. The witnesses will be the 144,000 Jewish evangelist, 12,000 from each tribe, plus the two witnesses sent from God, Elijah and Moses. (2 Thesselonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1-7, Revelation 7:4)

24. We believe that a New Jerusalem shall be built upon this land “unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph. . . ” “. . . which city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot.” (3 Ne 9:57-59, 10:1-4; Eth 6:6-8; Revelation to Joseph Smith given Sept, 22 & 23, 1832) 

The New Jerusalem will be a part of the final state after the New Heaven and New Earth. It will come down from from God out of heaven where we will ever be with the Lord. This is the final eternal state for the redeemed. (Revelation 21-22). If all they have to go off of is the “prophecies” of Joseph Smith, that is a shaky foundation, at best. 

25. We believe that ministry and membership should abstain from the use of tobacco, intoxicating liquors and narcotics, and should not affiliate with any society which administers oaths or covenants in conflict with the law of God, or which interferes with their duties as free men and citizens. (1 Cor 3:16-17; Eth 3:86-98) 

I don’t have a problem with this. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

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