It was generally thought and taught that there were some three-hundred (300) different religious groups in existence in the early 1960’s. The number of different churches in 2020 far exceeds that number. It appears that many of the year 2020, are similar to those in the land God would give to Israel, where it was said everyone did “whatsoever is right in his own eyes.” (Deuteronomy 12:8). Israel was told, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereunto, nor diminish from it.” (12:32).
A principle upon which all can agree is as follows: If two disagree about a matter, (1) both could be wrong; (2) one could be right and one could be wrong; but (3) both cannot be right. For example: 2+2=4. If one said 3 and the other said 5, both would be wrong. If one said 3 and the other, 4, only the one who said, 4, is right; the other is wrong. Both cannot be right unless both give the same answer. To see that all can see things alike, consider the following: One purchases an item for $ 9.95, taxes and any and all other expenses included. The purchaser hands the cashier a ten dollar ($ 10.00) bill. The purchaser expects to receive five (5) cents in return. The cashier understands that five (5) cents is what should be given the purchaser as change. No knowledgeable person would disagree with this.
The writer’s father told him that the word of God is just that simple. He said that the writer did not have to take a letter written to him at Freed-Hardeman College, now Freed-Hardeman University, to have it explained to him. He would then add that God has written a letter made up of sixty-six (66) books, and that readers could study it, rightly dividing it (2 Timothy 2:15), and understand it. If not, God has given a book which He commands one to follow, knowing that one cannot understand and follow it. Absurd!!!
Question: Can the Church of the first century be duplicated today? Answer: YES!!! The next question is, How? The answer is simple. A popular TV program says, “Follow the evidence.” This is certainly true with regard to the New Testament Church. Follow the Biblical evidence, and do not worship in vain, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9). In so doing, the Church of the New Testament can be reconstructed.
A seed always reproduces after its own kind. Okra seed produce okra; never, apples, rice, or any different plants.
With these principles in mind, consider the following. Of what church(es) were the apostles members? Was Peter a Jew? Was Andrew a Greek Orthodox? Was James a Lutheran? Was John a Methodist? Was Philip a Baptist? Was Thomas a Catholic? Was Matthew of some holiness group? Was Bartholomew a Mormon? Was James the Less a Jehovah’s Witness? Was Simon a Seventh-Day Adventist? Was Thaddaeus of the Community Church? And was Judas of the Disciples of Christ, called Christian Church? To what church did all others belong? None of these, or others, even existed then? Beloved, none of these churches had a name, a creed book, or such like, until a couple of hundred years ago, yet the church of the New Testament is some two thousand (2,000) years old. Many current churches began a short time ago.
All of the apostles were members of the same church, kingdom, which Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:13-19), and which He did establish on the day of Pentecost, following His resurrection from the dead. (Acts 2; Colossians 1:13). The Lord “added” the saved to them, the church. (Acts 2:37, 38, 41, 47). He did not depend on anyone voting anyone into some group, or even the church, or refusing to do so. Jesus prayed for them to all be one (John 17:20-23), speaking the same thing, undivided, and perfectly joined together (1 Corinthians 1:10), united in faith (Ephesians 4:13), through the truth (Ephesians 4:14, 15; John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:22). The body, the church (Ephesians 1:22, 23) in this way is “fitly joined together. (Ephesians 4:16). There is to be “no schism in the body” (1 Corinthians 12:25), no division as is seen in the religious world.
The Church, the Kingdom of God, was ruled by overseers, also called elders (Acts 20:17, 28), bishops (1 Timothy 3:1-7), presbyters (1 Timothy 4:14), pastors (Ephesians 4:11), and Shepherds. (1 Peter 5:1-4). Deacons also served. (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Evangelists, also called preachers, served, preaching the word. (2 Timothy 4:2; Acts 21:8; 8:26-39). Members, called saints, and such like made up the body. (Romans 1:7).
Their worship was simple. The faithful assembled “upon he first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Hebrews 10:25) to hear “the apostles’ doctrine” (preaching), to fellowship (contribute), to break bread (communion, Lord’s Supper), to pray, and to sing. (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 2:12). They met to worship God, not entertain themselves and/or others. Some today, like the Corinthians, “come together not for the better, but for the worse.” (1 Corinthians 11:17). Their worship is more like a concert than worship of God. There are many modern innovations. The mission of the first century Church was simple and clear. They were to go to every person in the entire world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16) with the saving gospel of Jesus (Romans 1:16), which they did by around A. D. 62. (Colossians 1:23).
The lost were saved by the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9), when they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17, 18). They believed (Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24), repented (Luke 13:3, 5), confessed Jesus’ Deity (Matthew 10:32, 33; Acts 8:36, 37), and were baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16), to enter Christ and His body (Galatians 3:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 1:18), by burial in water. (Romans 6:1-5; Acts 8:38, 39).
The only creed these Christians had was Jesus. They “went every where preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4). They did not have the creed books, manuals and disciplines churches use today. This writer once asked a young lady to choose between what the Bible said and her creed book. Amazingly and unbelievably, she picked up her creed book. Good friend, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;….” (1 Peter 4:11; Colossians 3:17). Following the Bible only will make Christians only. Following the manuals, creeds, disciplines, and such like, will make the religions one sees today. Churches of Christ have no creed other than Jesus and the inspired word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Visit a church of Christ, and “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:10-12).