What is the difference between the churches of Christ and denominations? I would like to tell you a lot, but in some cases not that much. Does this mean that the churches of Christ are a denomination? I will let you decide at the end of this article.
The church of Christ gets its name from the bible, but then so do a few denominations (Rom 16:6). e.g. The church of God is a biblical name but does this make them the Lord’s church?
The church of Christ sings without the use of instrumental music, but then so do a few denominations (Eph 5:19). e.g. The Primitive Baptist don’t use instrumental music, but does this make them right with God?
The church of Christ takes the Lord’s supper each Lord’s day (Acts 20:7). Some Baptists and most Catholics take the Lord’s supper each Sunday, but does this make them right with God?
The church of Christ have bible studies each Lord’s day and mid week, and have women teaching some of these classes. Most every denomination do exactly the same.
The church of Christ are ruled by its elders in each local church. Some Baptists also have self autonomy, but does this make them right with God?
So, the question deserves a direct answer” What is the difference between the churches of Christ and denominations? In order to become a member of the church of Christ, one must obey the same gospel as did every Christian convert in the New Testament. They first must hear the gospel taught or preached (Rom 10:17) (How that Jesus died, was buried, and arose the third day_1 Cor 15:1-4). They must be believe with their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is the Christ (Rom 10:9,10). They must repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). There are a few denominations which teach a doctrine similar to the gospel of Christ, but none exactly as the apostles taught. Paul warned that any additions to the gospel is strictly forbidden (Gal 1:6-9).
No one joins the church of Christ, but are added to the church by Jesus Christ once they have obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:47). This is contrary to most denominational beliefs which allow people to join their church.
The church of Christ does not have any written doctrines. They abide by the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn 9). This is the same doctrine taught by the apostles (Acts 2:42). Most all denominations have their own handbook and man made doctrines which are strictly forbidden by the scripture (Mt 15:7-9).
The church of Christ worships God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23,24). This means that they worship exactly the same way the apostles and new testament Christians worshiped. They preached, they prayed, they sang without instruments of music, they remembered the Lord’s death by taking the communion, and they gave of their means (Acts 20:7 ff; Col 3:16; 1 Cor 14:15; 1 Cor 11:25-26; 1 Cor 16:1-3). As mentioned earlier, some denominations do a few of these things, but none do them all, except the churches of Christ.
Yes, many local churches of Christ have added a few denominational doctrines and traditions, but most all still adhere to the gospel of Christ. Each local church of Christ has the right to worship God any way that they choose. This is called self autonomy. As each member of the church of Christ will be judged individually at the judgment, so will each local church of Christ be judged. Consider the churches of Asia in Revelation which for the most part had fallen away.
When the churches of Christ are compared to denominations, one can see the difference. However, the most important question each local church of Christ needs to ask themselves is this: Are there any differences between them and the 1st century churches of Christ? Some liberal local churches of Christ have already joined the ranks of denominations, though they still call themselves the Lord’s church. What all members of the Lord’s church need to consider is, “is close”, close enough? One must obey the complete gospel of Christ to be added to the Lord’s church, and one must must obey the complete doctrine of Christ in order to receive a crown of life. The church in name only will not save you. The church without the gospel and doctrine of Christ will not save you. One must be faithful to all of these in order to be saved. A little denominational doctrine will destroy the church. Sadly, in some places, it already has.