The church of the New Testament is different than all the denominations in the world. It was different in the first century and it is different today. As Peter said of those who belong to the New Testament Church, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Let us consider some of the Lord’s Church identifying marks.
The Church Followed Apostolic Doctrine
When the early church began, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The early church did not belong to mankind be rather to Christ (Mt. 16:18). He told His apostles that after His departure, the Spirit of truth, “will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit reminded the apostles what Jesus had said unto them (Jn. 14:26). The apostles only spoke and wrote what they had heard and seen of the Spirit (Acts 4:19,20).
Today, the Lord’s church is unique to all other churches in that it abides in the apostolic doctrine. The Catholic Church recognizes the authority of the pope, the decisions of the various Catholic councils, and the Apocrypha (additional books added to the Old Testament). Most Protestant churches appoint synods and councils which have legislative authority over their various groups. Therefore, they have introduced choirs and mechanical instruments of music into their worship. This is why they obey a gospel foreign to the new testament church. Liberal-minded churches of Christ have followed the denominations in support of institutions (hospitals, orphan homes, old folks homes, colleges, etc.) into the work of the church. They perverted the mission of the church from the divinely-revealed mission of saving souls, to recreational activities.
Therefore, one of the identifying characteristics of the church of the New Testament is that it abides in apostolic doctrine. It does not go beyond the word of God (1 Cor 4:6 f; 2 Jn. 9:11) or recognize any other authority than the revealed word of God. (1 Pet 4:11 f; 2 Tim 3:16).
The Church Worshiped On Sunday
The early church assembled on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7 f; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). This day of worship became known as the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). Several imperative events pertaining to the Lord and His church occurred on this day, including the following: The Lord was raised from the dead on this day (Matt. 28:1); He appeared to the disciples in His resurrected body on this day (Jn. 20:19,26); The church was established on this day (Acts 2:1,47); The first gospel sermon was preached on this day (Acts 2: 1). Therefore, the first day of the week was the authorized day of worship for the New Testament church.
This distinguished the first-century church from Judaism which “remembered the Sabbath” (Ex. 20:8). The pagans had no distinctive day of worship as they worshiped any day they deemed holy. As Christianity spread, the influence of the church caused Sunday to become known as the Lord’s day, the day of worship for Christians. It is not recorded in New Testament that the Church assembled together on any other day to sing, to pray, to take the Lord’s supper, to give of their means or to study God’s Word other than on the first day of the week. The assembly on the first day of the week is still one of the distinctive marks of the New Testament church.
The Worship Of The Church Is Unique
The worship of the early church is different than man-made churches. The early church’s worship consisted of the following items:
The early church worship assembly featured someone addressing the assembly from the revelation of God’s word (Acts 20:7 f; 1 Cor. 14).
The Lord’s Supper
The early church assembled upon each first day of every week (Acts 20:7 ff; 1 Cor. 11:20; 1 Cor 16:12) to remember the death of Jesus. They partook of unleavened bread in remembrance of Jesus’ body and fruit of the vine in remembrance of His blood.
Prayer was a part of the worship of the church (1 Cor. 14:15). Their prayers were unique in that mankind approached God through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ (Jn. 16:23-24 f; 1 Tim 2:5).
The early church sang psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in their worship (1 Cor. 14:15 ff; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). They sang to one another, hence, they did not have specially trained choirs to do their singing for them. Although mechanical instruments of music were available for use (they were used in the Old Testament worship), there is no scriptural evidence that they were used in New Testament worship.
When the early church came together, the Lord commanded that a collection was taken (1 Cor. 16:1-3). This contribution was used for the needy saints (1 Cor. 16:1-3) and evangelism (2 Cor. 11:8 f; 1 Cor 9:14).
The worship of the New Testament church still differs from that of denominationalism. Most denominations have forsaken apostolic doctrine. They desire preachers tell some heartwarming stories rather than hearing the Word of truth (2 Tim 4:4) They have rejected the weekly observance of the Lord’s supper for a yearly, quarterly, or monthly observance. Some have rejected prayer through Jesus’ name, and replaced it with the “Virgin Mary” or without recognition of any need for mediatorship. They have rejected congregational singing with choirs or other special singing groups. They have supplemented singing with mechanical instruments of music. They have replaced freewill offerings with Old Testament tithes (2 Cor 9:6,7).
Conclusion: The church of Christ which Christ built, bled and died for is distinctive and different from the rest of the world. If you want to be different from Christ church, adjoin yourself to a denomination. They are all different from the Lord’s church. However, if you want to be added to the one and only church which is the pillar and ground of the truth, you must submit yourself to the gospel of Christ, and then you shall be added to the church by Jesus Christ himself (1 Tim 3:15 f; Acts 2:47). If you believe you have the characteristics of Christ and his apostles, then of necessity you must also attend the church which Christ built and his apostles established, the church of Christ (Rom 16:16).