The Fredericksburg church of Christ
I’m sure you have heard of the churches of Christ, and perhaps you have asked “Just who are these people?” Is there something that sets them apart from other churches in the world? Perhaps you have wondered:
- Where did they come from or what is their historical background?
- What is their message?
- How are they governed?
- How do they worship?
- What do they believe about the Bible?
In the brief overview following, we will attempt to answer these questions. If you desire more information on these or any other questions about the Bible or us, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through this web site and we will be most happy to discuss them with you.
A Restoration Spirit
Members of The churches of Christ want to restore the original New Testament church in our time. Some men in the late 1700’s became concerned that the established church had lost its way and had become burdened down with traditions. It had departed from what Christ had planned for it to be. So men in various parts of the world, of different dominations, studying independently of each other, began to ask:
Why not go back beyond denominations to the simplicity and purity of the first-century church?
Why not take the Bible only and once again “continue steadfastly in the apostles teaching…” (Acts 2:42)?
Why not plant the same seed (the Word of God, Luke 8:11) that the first century Christians planted, and be Christians only, just as they were?
Their plea was to throw off denominationalism and human creeds, and simply follow the Bible. They taught that nothing should be required as acts of faith except that which was found in the scriptures (II Timothy 3:16). Their emphasis was that going back to the Bible did not mean establishing another denomination, but rather a return to the original church of the first century.
We are enthusiastic about this approach. With the Bible as our only guide, we seek to find what the original church was like and restore it exactly. We do not feel that we have the right to ask for anyone’s allegiance to a human organization, but rather only the right to call for people to follow God’s ordained pattern.
For the above reasons, we are not interested in man-made creeds, but simply the New Testament pattern. We do not consider ourselves to be a denomination, nor as Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, but simply as members of the church which Jesus established and for which He died. That is why we wear his name. The term “church of Christ” is not used as a denominational designation but rather as descriptive term indicating that the church belongs to Christ.
God vested “all authority” in Christ (Matthew 28:18) and, thus, He is God’s spokesman today (see Hebrews 1:1-2). Therefore, we are convinced that only Christ has the authority to say what the Church is and what we should teach. The New Testament sets forth Christ’s instructions to his disciples, and it alone must serve as our basis for all religious teaching and practice. This is fundamental with members of the Fredericksburg church of Christ.
We believe that religious division is not in keeping with the teaching of Christ since Christ himself prayed for unity in John 17. The apostle Paul also pleaded with those in the Corinthian church, which were divided, to unite (I Corinthians 1:10-12). We believe that the only way to achieve unity is by a return to the Bible and it alone. We believe any other way would constitute “adding to or subtracting from” God’s Word which is condemned in Galatians 1:6-9 and Revelation 22:18. For this reason, the Fredericksburg church of Christ considers the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice.
Each Congregation of the church of Christ is Self-Governed
Each congregation of the church of Christ is self-ruled and, therefore, independent of every other congregation. It has no governing boards, no earthly headquarters and no man-designated organization. The only tie that binds congregations together is a common allegiance to Christ and the Bible. There are no conventions, annual meetings or official publications. The Fredericksburg church of Christ does cooperate with other congregations in supporting children’s homes, mission work and similar activities, but participation is strictly voluntary on the part of each congregation and no person or group makes decisions on the behalf of other congregations.
Each congregation is governed locally by a plurality of elders selected from among the members. These are men who must satisfy the specific qualifications of the office as contained in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. There are also deacons in each congregation. They must meet the biblical qualifications of I Timothy 3.
Worship is Centered in Five Items
Worship in the Fredericksburg church of Christ is the same as in the first century church. The pattern is important. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). From this we learn three things:
- Worship must be directed to the right object: God,
- It must be prompted by the right spirit,
- It must be according to truth.
To worship God according to truth is to worship Him according to His Word since His Word is Truth (John 17:17). Therefore we must not exclude any item found in His Word and we must not include any item not found in His Word. In matters of religion, we are to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Since faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), anything not authorized by The Bible cannot be done by faith and whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
The five items observed by the first century church were singing, praying, preaching, giving and eating the Lord’s Supper. As you may know, of these five items there are two where our practice is significantly different in the church of Christ from that of most religious groups. For brevity, we will only focus on those two items, singing and eating of the Lord’s Supper, and provide our reasoning for the difference.
A Cappella Singing – One of the things that most people notice most frequently is that we sing without using mechanical instruments of music; i.e., a cappella singing is the only music used in our worship services. The reason is that we are attempting to worship according to the instructions of the New Testament. The New Testament leaves out instrumental music so we believe it proper to leave it out also. If we used it we would be doing so without New Testament authority.
There are only 8 verses in the New Testament that deal with the subject of music in the worship. They are:
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).
“…about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…” (Acts 16:25)
“…I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (I Corinthians 14:15)
“Therefore I will praise thee among the Gentiles and sing to thy name” (Romans 15:9).
“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Ephesians 5:18-19).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the mist of the Church will I sing praise unto thee” (Hebrews 2:12).
“Is anyone of you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).
The mechanical instrument is conspicuously absent in these scriptures; the only ones in the New Testament that refer to music in worship.
Historically, the first mention of instrumental music in worship was not until the 6th century A.D. and no general use of it until after the 8th century. Instrumental music was strongly opposed by such religious leaders as John Calvin, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon due to its absence in the New Testament.
Weekly Observance of the Lord’s Supper – This is another place where you may have noticed a significant difference between the church of Christ and other religious organizations. This Supper was inaugurated by Jesus Himself on the night of His betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28). It is observed by Christians in memory of His death (I Corinthians 11:24-25) and the emblems symbolize the body (the unleavened bread) and the blood (fruit of the vine) of Jesus (I Corinthians 10:16).
Churches of Christ are different from many in that we observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. Our determination stems from our desire to follow the New Testament example. It says of the first century church, “…and upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread… (Acts 20:7). Some object because the text does not specify the first day of every week and that is true just like the command to observe the Sabbath Day did not specify every Sabbath Day. The command was simply “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The Jews understood that to mean every Sabbath. It seems that by the same reasoning that “the first day of the week” means the first day of every week.
Again, respected historians Neander and Eusebius observed that early Christians took the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.
How does One Become a Member of the church of Christ?
Although, we do not speak of a formula for acceptance into the church of Christ, the New Testament gives certain steps which people in the 1st century took to become Christians. When a person became a Christian, he automatically was a member of the Church. The same is true of churches of Christ today. When one obeys the gospel and becomes a Christian they, at the same time, become a member of the Church. No additional steps are necessary. On the first day of the Church’s existence those who repented and were baptized were saved (Acts 2:38). From that day forward, all those who were saved were added to the Church (Acts 2:47). According to Acts 2:47, it was God who did the adding, therefore, we neither vote people into the Church nor impose any other requirements than that which God has already imposed.
The conditions for becoming a Christian as taught in the New Testament are very straightforward. They are:
- One must hear the gospel, for “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17);
- One must believe, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6);
- One must repent of past sins, for God “commands all men, everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30);
- One must confess Jesus as Lord, for he said, “He that confesses me before men, him will I confess before my father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:32); and
- God commanded that one be baptized (immersed) in water for the remission of sins, as Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins…” (Acts 2:38).
None of these are “church ordinances”, but are commands of God. We do not practice infant baptism because New Testament baptism is only for sinners who turn to God in belief and repentance. An infant has no sin to repent of and cannot qualify as a believer. Baptism is by immersion since the word “baptize” in the original language means “to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to plunge.” Also, the Scripture always points to baptism as a burial (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).
The Gospel Invitation is Open to All
Since Christ died for the sins of the world, the invitation to share in His Grace is open to everyone (Acts 10:34, 35; Revelation 22:17). We do not believe that anyone is predestined to salvation or condemnation. One chooses the path he will follow; to heed the gospel plea of faith and obedience to Christ and, thus, salvation, or to reject that plea and suffer condemnation (Mark 16:16). Each of us makes our individual decision.