Is the church of Christ a denomination?

And what about the church of Christ established in the first century, was it a denomination? There were those who lived at that time who thought of it in that manner. When the Apostle Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome to be tried in the court of Caesar, he remained for two years in his hired house under house arrest (Acts 28:16-31). It was during that period of time that he had opportunity to proclaim to some Jews about the spiritual kingdom, which is the church. These chief Jews who had been invited by Paul to his house responded, by saying unto him, “But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22). The very fact that they called the church a sect shows that these Jews thought of it as having been broken off of Judaism. But, of course, this is not true! The Jewish religion was no longer in effect; it had been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17).

One definition of the word “denomination,” as given by Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, is a religious group or sect. This same dictionary gives a meaning for the word “sect” as being a religious group separated from an established church. But the church of the first century was not “broken off” of an existing church or religion. It was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts, chapter 2). There was not a single denomination that existed in the first century A. D. Some congregations of the church, such as the one at Corinth, had some factions within it that were condemned by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). However, it was still the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2). Among the seven churches of Asia, at least two, were drifting away from the truth and were in danger of being rejected by the Lord (Revelation 2:5; 3:3). There were warnings in Biblical times that some would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10).

How do we determine in modern times if a church is a denomination or the same church that we read about in the New Testament? Church succession is not the answer since there were warnings about those who would depart from the faith. It might prove that a religious group developed from some who had already digressed. The seed of the kingdom is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). And the spiritual kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13). Thus, if we plant the seed of the spiritual kingdom of our Lord, rather than the doctrines and creeds of men, then there will exist the same church established by Him through the inspired teachings of the apostles (1 Peter 1:23; Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 1:16).

As to whether or not the church of Christ in our time is the New Testament church or just another man-made denomination can be determined by what is taught in the Bible concerning the redeemed. We invite you to study with us concerning this matter. Let us compare it and other churches with what is taught in the Bible about the church.

--Dub Mowery


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