Examining the Doctrine of the Church of Christ Denomination
This is somewhat outdated as the site has changed over the years...
Is the Church of Christ Denomination A Cult?
What do the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, and the Church of Christ denomination all have in common? They each claim to have THE Way; THE Truth; and THE Life, and that no one gets to heaven without being a part of their organization! Certainly they can't all be right since their individual doctrinal beliefs are diametrically opposed to one another. In this study guide we will endeavor to examine the claim of the Church of Christ to be God's sole representative on the earth today, and answer the question, "Is the Church of Christ Denomination A Cult? You will notice that most scriptural quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, which is considered by most scholars to be the most literal word for word translation extant today.
We will break this study into three main concerns:
1. Who Is The Church of Christ? A) Are They a Denomination? 2. What Do They Believe? A) Baptismal Regeneration B) No Musical Instruments In Worship C) Denial of the Present-Day Ministry of the Holy Spirit 3. Conclusions A) Their Tactics B) Are They a Cult? C) Closing Comments The meat of this study will be contained in segment two where we will examine their beliefs in the Light of Scripture. Our goal is not to proclaim them to be outside of the Body of Christ, but to simply show the errors in their claim to be the only "True Body of Christ." And though most branches of this denomination are not considered to be an actual cult, much of the organization is "cultic," and this web site will attempt to show you why.
Please keep in mind, on this site we are dealing with HISTORIC church of Christ doctrine. The CHOCD is in a phase of change and many CHOCD congregations are beginning to turn their backs on their legalistic past. But the reality is that most CHOCDs still adhere to their historic roots. We get scores of e-mails everyday from BOTH sides, so we know they BOTH exist. This site is not meant to tear down the CHOCD, just to point out its errors. Please don't take this site as a personal attack on you or your denomination. We are simply trying to level the playing field for those who don't know how to counter the exclusive claims of the CHOCD. We love the members of the CHOCD. We hope that someday, the feelings will be mutual.
One last personal note...please don't confuse our feeble attempts at humor with sarcasm. In our effort to deal with this serious subject in a less threatening way, we seem to have offended some. When you read terms like "Them's fightin’ words," we are not trying to insinuate that southern members of the CHOCD are illiterate. Like I said, it was a weak attempt at humor, nothing more. Mea culpa!
Who Is The Church of Christ?
Most (not all) congregations of the Church of Christ denomination (CHOCD) claim that they can trace their roots back to the original New Testament church, in the same way that the Catholic Church claims that they can trace the papacy back to the Apostle Peter. Both claims are equally spurious. The reality is: in 1906 the CHOCD broke away from the Christian Church which was established in the mid 1800s by Alexander Campbell during the so-called Restoration Movement. (We get numerous e-mails everyday claiming that our historical information about the CHOCD is inaccurate. We now include the link below from the University of Virginia to document the CHOCD historical information)
But right off the bat, this is where we get into one of their greatest controversies. They claim that they are not a denomination, but rather they are the TRUE Body of Christ! To justify this outlandish claim, they rest very heavily on the notion that they have the only biblically correct name of any church. They look down on other denominations for naming themselves after a man (Lutherans) or a doctrine (Baptists) or forms of church government (Presbyterian) and claim that the only scriptural name given to the church is the name that they bear. Since the word Christ simply means "messiah", that translates into The Church of the Messiah. But which Messiah? A better name would be The Church of Jesus Christ, which would also be a scriptural name.
As would: "The Church of God" (I Cor. 1:2) "The Church of the Faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1) "The Church of the Saints in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1) "The Church of the Holy and Faithful Brothers in Christ" (Col. 1:2) "The Church In God Our Father and the Lord Jesus" (II Thess 1:1) "The Church of God's Elect" (I Peter 1:1) "The Children of God" (I John 3:1) Etc...Etc...Etc...
So we see that the CHOCD does not have a corner on scriptural names for the body of Christ, which brings up our next dilemma, which division of the CHOCD are we talking about? For there are at least three different branches of the CHOC that have the exact same name, but believe different doctrines, and often each considers the other to be virtual heretics. One of the dilemmas in dealing with this topic is that each CHOCD congregation is autonomous (independent). Even though there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, most CHOCD still adhere to the same doctrines that they have taught for the last 100 years. One shining exception is Max Lucado. Max is a prolific author and rarely gets into the divisive teaching of the CHOCD, even though he is a CHOCD pastor/preacher. With this in mind, let's look at the three predominant CHOCD groups.
The first group, most commonly known as the "One Cup Brethren" has no musical instruments in their worship service and one single shared cup for communion. The second group known as the "Cups Brethren" has no musical instruments but has multiple cups for their communion service. Then the third group known as the "Instrumental Brethren" has multiple cups and musical instruments. The "One Cup" branch commonly refers to the "Cups Brethren" as the "Digressive CHOC" and calls the "Musical Instrument Brethren" the "Liberal CHOC". Then lastly (as if this wasn't confusing enough) we have a branch of the CHOCD that has actually changed it's name to the International CHOC. The other three branches have branded this group (sociologically and theologically) to be a full blown cult! But this leads us to our first major point, is the CHOCD a denomination?
Is The Church of Christ A Denomination?
The CHOCD is much more prevalent in the southern portion of the Bible Belt, and down south if you call them a denomination...well, let's just say "Them's fightin' words!" This is one of their foundational tenets. You might be asking yourself, "What's the big deal? Who cares if they think they are a denomination or not?" The answer is that it's not a big deal, unless you know the logic behind why they make the claim. It is simply this: if they accept being called a denomination, then that would relegate them to a position within the Body of Christ. But their claim is that they are not just a part of the Body of Christ, but that they are THE BODY OF CHRIST! The sad thing is to hear what great lengths they will go to in order to shun the label of "denomination." They will actually redefine the term in such a way as to cause the unaware to agree with them. As an ex- member, I have heard so many definitions for the word "denomination" over the years that it's hard for me to remember them all. The most common one they use is that a denomination is "a group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing." Now that fits their theology just fine, thank you, because it allows them to say that all denominations are "groups that came out from the original group" which, you guessed it, the original group is them... the Church of Christ! This also allows them to claim that you are not a true Christian and you are not going to heaven, because you don't belong to the one and only, true Body of Christ. Convenient, but ignorant. A denomination is simply a certain type of the same thing, such as a denomination of money. Let's say I had $50 in my pocket. And we'll say that it was a $20 bill, two tens, and two fives. Each of those denominations is a form of paper money. They are different denominations and are of different values but they are each considered to be of the same currency. But according to the CHOCD, some of the bills are real money but others are not, because a denomination is a "group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing." Their obvious flaw in this scenario is called "circular logic." Why are they not a denomination? Because "they are the true body of Christ!" And why are they the true body of Christ? Because "they are not a denomination!" The word "denomination" comes from the Latin word "nomin", which means "name" and the prefix "de" means "of." So, "de nomin" simply means "of the same name." And in the case of the church, it would be of the same name... Jesus!
Paul addresses the issue of denominations in I Corinthians 11:18-19. He says, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
The Greek word for used in this verse for “division” is schism, which simply means a division. The Greek word used here for “heresies” is hairesis, which means dis-unity. So on the surface it seems as though Paul is condemning these divisions…or is he? In reality, under closer scrutiny, he is actually endorsing these divisions or denominations. Why? Because he says in verse 19 that the divisions allow our congregations to be separated into groups that can be identified as “approved” or “not approved.”
If I go into a new city and I want to go to a Church of Christ, I simply look in the Yellow Pages under “Churches of Christ.” If I want to go to an Assembly of God, I do the same. This way I don’t unknowingly go to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I’m sure that the Lord would prefer perfect doctrinal unity in all his congregations, but He knows that won’t happen this side of Heaven. Even the CHOCDs can’t decide on multiple cups, musical instruments or multiple loaves for communion. So basically were are back to square one, it doesn’t matter so much what you call your church (Church of God, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ, etc.), but more importantly, what you teach.
It is important to understand why the CHOCD denies being a denomination, so that you can process some of their other doctrinal positions that we will discuss in the next segment.
What Do They Believe?
In this portion of our study we will concentrate on the three main doctrinal areas that they believe set them apart from the rest of the Body of Christ:
A) Baptismal Regeneration B) No Musical Instruments in Worship C) Rejection of the Present Day Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Now as you can see, none of these doctrinal issues is exclusively held by the CHOCD. Many churches erroneously believe in baptismal regeneration. Many choose not to have musical instruments in their worship service. And unfortunately, many reject the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit. But it is the logic that they use in defending their position on these issues that makes them "unique." Click on the buttons to choose your next topic. It is best to go in the order they are listed. Baptismal Regeneration
Baptismal regeneration is simply a 50 cent term used to describe the belief that you are born again and receive your salvation at the moment of water baptism. There are certain verses that they use, out of context, that they feel substantiate their belief. But if you examine each of their verses in context, you will see that the verses clearly do not substantiate their claims. Not to mention the myriad of verses to which they must turn a blind eye, in order to continue believing their works oriented doctrine.
They use three main verses to try to establish their position:
1. Mark 16:16 2. Acts 2:38 3. I Peter 3:21
Mark 16:16 says, "He who believes and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." You notice that this verse does not say, "and he who has not been baptized shall be condemned," which is exactly what the CHOCD would like for you to believe. Jesus is simply making a natural assumption that all believers will be baptized. I would concur with that assumption. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that a believer should not get baptized, unless there is positively no water available, or in the case of a death bed conversion. In such cases the CHOCD shows absolutely no mercy. They will say that it was the individual's fault for waiting to the last minute. "Sorry, Bud, your prayers of repentance are falling on deaf ears 'cause you waited too long, there ain't no pool, river or baptistery for miles." Tell that to the thief on the cross! He didn't have the opportunity to be water baptized and yet because he cried out to Jesus for mercy, Jesus promised him that he would be in Paradise that very day with Him! Now the standard answer that the CHOCD member will pop out of his or her preprogrammed gray matter is that you can't use the thief on the cross as an example because Jesus made that promise to the thief while they were both still under the Old Covenant (which as we all know wasn't fulfilled until Jesus died). But you see, the key issue is not when Jesus made the promise to the thief. The key issue is, under which covenant did the thief die? We know for a fact that the thief died under the New Covenant. How do we know? Because the gospels tell us that when the soldiers came to break the three crucified victim's legs, they marveled that Jesus was already dead. They didn't marvel at the two thieves, because they were still alive. So if the New Covenant was ushered in at the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then anyone who died from that point on, died under the New Covenant. And that would include the thief on the cross!
Next we take a look at Acts 2:38 in which the apostle Peter says to the remorseful crowd, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." Now here is a verse they feel is stating that your sins are remitted at baptism. As we all know, if your sins are not forgiven, then you are not saved. But the question that needs to be asked here is: "Is it the baptism or the repentance that brings about the forgiveness?" Now we could get into the structuring of the sentence and try to argue our point from that perspective (the word "for" can be translated "because"), but usually a member of the CHOCD is not willing to accept that form of reasoning, so we go with a much more powerful position. If the forgiveness was brought through the baptism rather than the repentance, how do you explain the presentation that Peter gives in his very next sermon in Acts 3:19? He is speaking to a very similar group and says almost the same thing, but when he gives the plan of salvation, the topic of baptism is left out altogether! He said, "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away." So we see from this second sermon, that it wasn't the baptism that brought the forgiveness, it was the repentance. Then in Acts 10:43 Peter once again states, "To Him all the Prophets witness that, through His Name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sin." Most people reading these Scriptures see the pattern that is developing... it is faith in Jesus that wipes away our sin!
Unfortunately, at this stage of the discussion some CHOCD members will take their pet doctrine of baptism from the extreme to the absurd. They actually will void the efficacy of someone's baptism, if the person didn't realize that their sins were remitted, at the moment of their baptism! I once asked a CHOCD preacher if he thought Billy Graham was saved, and his reply was, "Absolutely not!" When pressed for a reason for his conclusion he said, "Even though Billy Graham has been baptized, he doesn't preach baptism for the remission of sin, so he is not only not a true Christian, but he is also a false teacher!" So much for common sense.
Now we turn to I Peter 3:20&21, which states, "...in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." First of all, we have to examine the comparison that Peter makes of the flood in Noah's day, to water baptism. Did the water save Noah? No, it almost drowned him. So what did the water do for Noah? It separated him from the world, just like water baptism is our declaration that we are separating ourselves from the world. We are dying to ourselves to live in Christ. This verse goes on to say that the water baptism doesn't actually wash our filthy sins from our flesh, but it renders a good conscience toward God because we were obedient to follow His command to be baptized. Jesus was baptized, and I guarantee you it wasn't for the remission of sin... for He was the perfect, sinless Lamb of God! Here again we must reiterate that no true believer should continue in an unbaptized state. Whereas we can see that God expects us to obey Him in this sacrament, nowhere do we see Him judge those without mercy, who have accepted His Son as their Savior. Bottom line? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior...get baptized. It's the right thing to do! The CHOCD somehow seems to think that they are the only ones who baptize their members. I have never attended a Church that didn't baptize their members. It is a command that we simply should not, can not, and will not ignore. But we also cannot point to it (baptism) and say, "That is what saved me." If you are going to point... point to the Cross.
In Colossians 2:11, the Apostle Paul correlates baptism in the New Testament with circumcision in the Old Testament. He says, "... in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ having been buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead." Let's take a close look at this verse, to see what it says and what the ramifications are.
First of all, we see that Paul says that the "circumcision of Christ" is a removal of the flesh that is symbolized in baptism. In the Old Testament, the Jews would circumcise their boys as a part of fulfilling their covenant with God. It was a literal cutting away of the flesh. Baptism was a symbol of dying to the flesh, and rising to new life in Christ. You notice that Paul says "by the circumcision of Christ having been buried with Him in baptism." Paul is saying that baptism is the circumcision of Christ, "through faith." Now why would this distinction be important to understand? Because in Romans 4:10 Paul states emphatically that Abraham was considered righteous by faith, BEFORE he was circumcised! He then goes on to say in verse 11, "...and he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was circumcised ..." In other words, Abraham was counted as righteous before he was circumcised, and the circumcision was simply a "seal", or an outward sign, of the righteousness that he already had! Which is exactly the case with the "circumcision of Christ" (water baptism). It is an outward sign, or seal, of the righteousness you already possess through faith in Christ Jesus.
The point that the CHOCD seems to miss is that baptism is SYMBOLIC. They readily chastise the Catholic Church for believing in transubstantiation, yet when it comes to baptism, the CHOCD makes the same mistake as the Catholic church: taking something literally that was supposed to be symbolic. The Catholic church says that the bread and wine (during Communion) literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus. The CHOCD says that baptism actually remits your sins. They say that according to the book of Romans that you are literally buried with Christ through baptism. Noooo… baptism SYMBOLIZES Christ’s death. It SYMBOLIZES your death, burial and resurrection. You don’t come out of the water with dirt in your mouth, do you? Now, we realize that it can sometimes be hard to discern when something is to be taken literally as opposed to being a type or symbol. When it comes to baptism, though, there are simply too many Scriptures that give the plan of salvation...and leave the subject of baptism out altogether. If baptism was the actual point at which God washes away our sin and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, why do so many members of the CHOCD fall away from the Lord? There is an atheist organization in Illinois called Skeptics Inc. whose entire board of directors are almost all EX- CHOCD preachers! Why? Legalism kills! As with all issues of faith, the letter of the Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life! (II Corinthians 3:6)
The CHOCD claims that they "have no creed but the Bible," (which, ironically is a creed) but in reality many in the CHOCD have a book that they use as a "guideline" for church doctrine. It is called, "Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ," by Leroy Brownlow. Chapter 14 is entitled, "Because It Gives Scriptural Answers To the Question- What Must I Do To Be Saved." This chapter would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad to see to what extent the CHOCD will go to promote their position on baptism. In this chapter Brother Brownlow dissects the question, "What must I do to be saved?" He examines the question word by word. When he gets to the word "do", he says, "It is not what I must get, think, feel or believe. The word "do" suggests activity on the part of the man being saved. Salvation is not a matter of passiveness, but of activity. God saves; still man saves himself by obeying the gospel, God's power to save (Rom. 1:16, Acts 2:40). Take the word "do" out of Christianity and you destroy it. You never read of an inspired man telling a sinner that there is nothing for him to do to be saved." Now I don't know about you, but I would consider the Apostle Paul to be an "inspired man", and oddly enough he is the only man recorded in scripture to have ever been asked this question verbatim, "What must I do to be saved?" It was asked of him by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30. Keep in mind that Brother Brownlow's answer was "It is not what I believe" that saves me. Paul's answer, on the other hand, is just the opposite. When asked by the jailer, "What must I do to be saved?," the Apostle Paul answers, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!" Mr. Brownlow's answer is a classic example of not being able to see the forest because of the trees!
Paul says in Ephesians 2:8&9 that "We are saved by GRACE through FAITH and not of ourselves, it is a GIFT of God, NOT as a result of WORKS, that no one should boast." If you ever stand before Christ Jesus and He asks you why should He let you into Heaven... you had better say, "Because of what You did for me on the cross," not, "Because I was baptized"!
Truth is always true. If you believe a certain doctrine, but through the study of God's Word, you find that your belief is not upheld scripturally (even if only once), then you need to seriously re-examine that belief. Regarding baptismal regeneration, a good case in point can be found in Acts 10:1-48. Here we find an example of a man named Cornelius, receiving the Holy Spirit, evidenced by " speaking in tongues and exalting God." And being amazed by the whole ordeal, the Apostle Peter (who had been preaching the gospel to the Cornelius household when the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them) stated in verse 47, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did..." Clearly we have in this example, a case where a person was obviously saved before he was water baptized. The Apostle Peter declares their salvation by saying that they had "received the Holy Spirit, just like we did!" The only way around this scenario is to deny that a person that is filled with the Holy Spirit (evidenced by speaking in tongues and glorifying God) is actually saved. And believe it or not, that is exactly what the CHOCD says! It never ceases to amaze me what some people are willing to swallow in order to protect what they feel is biblical, even if it denies the very Bible they seek to uphold.
It is really the Apostle Paul that puts the icing on the cake on the issue of baptism, by stating in I Corinthians 1:17, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel!" Now if baptism is the point of salvation, this statement would be utterly blasphemous. But in reality, it simply confirms what the rest of the Bible already teaches... that we are saved by grace, not works of any kind! As human beings, it is in our nature to want to earn our salvation. There is nothing wrong with wanting to please God! The problem comes in when the way we want to please God conflicts with the way He wants it. If we look at Romans 10:9-10, we see God giving us the plan of salvation in a very simple and straightforward way. The Apostle Paul says that we are saved by confessing that Jesus is (our) Lord! Now that can't be true, can it? We don't get saved by simply believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord, do we? That is just too easy. There must be more to it than that, isn't there? Don't we have to do something to earn it? According to human wisdom, we have to deserve such a great gift. But in issues of life and salvation, sometimes we have to set aside our earthly "wisdom" and simply accept God at His Word. It's like the bumper sticker that says, "God said it; I believe it; and that settles it." Whether we understand God's Mercy and Grace or not, doesn't change His terms. He has made it simple so that anyone can be saved. But man comes along and tries to make it "better." But you cannot improve on perfection! God's ways are higher than our ways, and He says that salvation is a gift, that no one can earn. So my advice is to take God at his word and receive the greatest gift ever offered; Salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ!
Key verse to remember: Hebrews 6:1-3, "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so."
In other words, it’s time to mature or grow up. Stop being hung up on something you did 50 years ago. What are you doing NOW? So you got baptized, GREAT! What have you done for the Lord lately? Other members of the Body of Christ look at the CHOCD and wonder, "What is their hang up? Why do they spend so much time and energy on something that they did so LONG ago?” We are all baptized, my friend. Let's move on, like Hebrews 6 says. It's not about water, IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS!
No Musical Instruments in Worship
In dealing with this topic, you need to keep in mind that not all CHOCDs agree on this subject. So before you begin to witness to them about musical instruments, you need to find out where they stand on the issue. It would be easy to see why a person might ask, "What's the big deal if they have musical instruments, anyway?" Well in reality, it is no big deal, to you or me, but it is to them. Such a big deal, in fact, that they say if you do have musical instruments in the worship service, then your worship is PAGAN! This is also another area where we get a glimpse of the schizophrenia that so often accompanies this type of legalism. Because many of the same people that say it is evil to use musical instruments in worship to God in the church service, will use musical instruments to worship God at home! It's because they see some sort of invisible, nonexistent dichotomy between the church service, and everyday life. It's as though you act one way in church, and another way at home. That might explain why in some CHOCDs, right after the worship service is over, and they've studied the Word, and taken communion, half the congregation heads for the back door to "have a smoke." This is especially true in the southern states.
Their main reason for outlawing musical instruments in the church service is because they say that it is not mentioned in the Bible. You may remember their slogan is, "We speak where the Bible speaks; and we are silent where the Bible is silent." Unfortunately for them, ignorance is not bliss… it's just plain folly. Unbeknownst to them, the Bible very clearly does give us permission to have musical instruments in our worship to God, whether it's in a corporate worship service or in the privacy of our own home, car or wherever the Spirit might lead. Ephesians 5:19 says "... speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs..." and correspondingly Colossians 3:16 says to, "... admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." So Paul makes it clear that we are to sing "psalms," but which psalms? Obviously he is referring to the Psalms of David! And many of the Psalms say to worship God with musical instruments, such as Psalm 150. Also, many of the Psalms were directed by David to be accompanied by a musical instrument, such as a harp or lyre. We also see that the worship of God in heaven will also include musical instruments as found in Revelation 15:2, “They held harps given to them by God.”
But let's dig a little deeper into the actual definition of the word psalm. Most serious students of the Bible own a concordance. This is simply a reference book that lists all the key words and phrases in the Bible, in alphabetic order. The most commonly used concordance is called, "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible." It's approximately 1500 pages long. It also has a Hebrew and Greek dictionary in the back, where you can actually look up certain words in the Hebrew and Greek languages, which is what the Old and New Testaments were written in, respectively. If you were to take the time to look up the word "psalm" in the Greek dictionary, you would find this definition (#5568): "A set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp, or other instrument)." The root word of psalm is "psallo" which means to means to twitch, twang or pluck.. such as pluck a string of a musical instrument. We even see this term used in this same context to this day: in the southern states, the old timers "psalm" (pick or pluck) cotton. Obviously, from its text and its definition, a psalm was normally accompanied with a musical instrument.
Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of what happens when you establish your doctrines in haste! Can you find the words "musical instruments" in the New Testament? No. "Then let's keep them out of our worship!" But wait, Brother, doesn't the word "psalm" mean: "a song accompanied by a musical instrument?" Well, at this point they will choose their tradition over the Bible, because they don't want to be confused by the facts! And if you think that's bad, you should hear some of the straws (verses) they grasp at out of context, to buttress their erroneous conclusions. There are several examples we could cite that they wrongly claim substantiates their position against musical instruments in the worship of God, but for the sake of time, we will just look at the two most common. The first is what they call an "argument from silence." In reality it would better be described as a "straw man argument." What they say is that there were never any musical instruments used in the Temple worship, in the Old Testament. The reason that would be an issue to them is that they make a correlation between the Temple and the Church. Then you can point out that they are completely wrong in their assumption, by citing one of many scriptures, such as II Chronicles 5:12, which clearly shows musical instruments in the Temple.
II Chronicles 5:11-14 took place at the dedication of the Temple:
"The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians-Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives-stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD .Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
'He is good; His love endures forever.'
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God."
So we clearly see God sanction the use of musical instruments in worship by endorsing the proceedings by filling the Temple with His Glory.
The CHOCD will usually then come back with the moot argument that "There were no musical instruments in the Most Holy Place." Well, there were no accapella singers in the Most Holy Place, either! This is why we refer to this as a "straw man argument." It's totally without merit. It doesn't prove anything, let alone their point!
Next, they usually will cite Amos 6:5, which they claim proves that musical instruments are evil. Rather than quoting the entire chapter here, please read all of chapter six of Amos and I'm sure you will immediately see the flaws in their logic. We see in these verses that God (through the Prophet, Amos) is pronouncing woes upon those "who are at ease in Zion." And one of the sins that they were committing was that they were "inventing musical songs and instruments, just like David." First of all, if it was a sin to invent songs or instruments "like David," then it would have been a sin for David to do it, too! But this chapter also refers to them "eating beef" and "lying down on beds of ivory." Are these sins, also? NO! It is just a list of things that they were doing that revealed their apathetic hearts. It wasn't because these things were evil, in and of themselves, but because that's all they did. They were more concerned with the pleasures of their daily lives than they were with doing God's will.
The funny thing about the CHOCD on this (or any other) issue is their bizarre bi-polar view of the Old Testament. As soon as you quote something out of the Old Testament, they are on you like stink on a skunk, saying, "That's the OLD Testament and we are not under the OLD Testament!" But two minutes later they quote the Old Testament to back up their position.
So we see yet another example of how the CHOCD is willing to bend and stretch the Scriptures to fit their mold. But alas, anyone with "eyes to see" and "ears to hear" can quickly detect counterfeit doctrine when faced with the authentic truth of God's Word. The issue should be dealt with graciously through the words of our beloved Apostle Paul, as he attempts to deal with a similar issue in Chapter 14 of his letter to the Romans. I encourage you to stop and read the whole chapter right now. Paul simply states that on nonessential issues, such as eating meat or celebrating holidays, please don't be judgmental. If you want to eat meat or celebrate a holiday as unto the Lord, then fine. But please don't judge your brother who seeks to abstain. And I'm sure Paul would say the same thing about musical instruments, especially when he already said they were permitted in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16! It is simply a personal preference. I have friends that attend churches that worship without instruments, and I say, "More power to you!" But the CHOCD says that if you include musical instruments in the worship of God, then your worship is Pagan (Godless)!
Now if Paul says not to judge your Brothers in non-essential issues, then the CHOCD is clearly overstepping their boundaries in this case. My suggestion to the CHOCD is to take the log out of your own eye... then you'll be able to read your Strong's Concordance better!
Like we said earlier, no one cares if the CHOCD wants to leave out musical instruments in their worship, that is their prerogative. The reason that this issue is so egregious is (because of their legalistic view about everything) they judge and condemn everyone else who chooses to use musical instruments like David did and as the Apostle Paul instructed.
The real issue then becomes legalism, which absolutely permeates their thinking. As an example, many people outside of the CHOCD are not aware of the extremely legalistic CHOCD position on marriage. They teach: if you were married but your spouse runs off with another man or woman (and years later you remarry) they insist that in order for you to become a member of their denomination, you must divorce your current spouse and track down your first spouse and remarry her. If she refuses to remarry you, you then must remain single for the rest of your life!
I received an e-mail the other day from a frantic and frustrated lady. Her 92 year old dad (Jerry) was dying. Someone from the CHOCD sent a preacher over to see him because, although he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, he had not been baptized for the remission of sins. According to the preacher, Jerry was going to hell (although the old man had been a Christian for over 40 years). When the CHOCD preacher found out that Jerry's first wife had run out on him 50 years ago and that he had remarried, the preacher told him that "if he wanted to go to heaven," he would have to do TWOthings:
1) Get re-baptized the CHOCD way
2) Divorce his second wife (of 45 years) and repent for remarrying.
Never mind the fact that they had three children. Never mind the fact that the man wasn't even a believer when he remarried. Never mind...anything. Just do it! And the senile old man, infused with fear and doubt, divorced his wife of 45 years. When he died, she was left penniless and brokenhearted. The CHOCD preacher, on the other hand, walked away with his head high (and nose in the air) "knowing" he just saved that man's soul. Many people outside of the CHOCD are shocked to hear the convoluted "logic" in this hyper-legalistic perspective.
Remember, LEGALISM KILLS (II Corinthians 3:6)! It's a cancer than knows no bounds. You start out with a legalistic approach to any spiritual issue and eventually everything you do is out of fear. You develop a "better safe - than sorry" perspective on life. You start thinking that God is out to get you. He is watching you, just waiting for you to step out of line so He can squash you like a bug! Perfection ceases to be just a goal, it instead becomes a mandate. "If I want God to love me, I MUST be perfect." Sounds an awful lot like Mormonism. Which should not come as a surprise, because legalism is the main ingredient in every cultic organization. "It's my way, or the highway (to hell)."
Most believers are willing to tolerate a certain level of legalism. Some folks would say that I am legalistic about a few things. Each person has to determine where to draw the line. Some Christians say that you should be in church every time the doors are open, at least Sunday morning and Sunday and Wednesday night! If the Scriptures stated that as a standard, then I would agree. But cultural norms and human traditions should not be elevated to the same level of authority as the Bible.
In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus said, "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees when He said that. They were the legalists of His day. I would venture to say that He would say the same thing to the CHOCD: "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
Denial of the Present-Day Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Once again, there are various positions on this issue within the CHOCD, but this is probably their most grievous error. Because it goes way beyond just rejecting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in I Corinthians chapters 12-14. It also includes the rejection of His "enduement of power." Jesus said in Acts 1:4-8 that He would "baptize them in the Holy Spirit" and they would "receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." And we see the fulfillment of this promise on the day of Pentecost. Peter said in Acts 2:39, that the promise of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for every believer, for "as many as the Lord our God shall call!" In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus had also promised that the miraculous would follow those that believed, in Chapter 16, verse 17. Jesus promised in John 14:16, that the Holy Spirit "would be with us FOREVER!" Paul said in Romans 11:29 that, "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."
The only verse that they can even attempt to take out of context to uphold their dispensational outlook is I Corinthians 13:10, that states at some point in time ("when that which is perfect comes") the miraculous will be done away with. They believe "that which is perfect" was the canonization of the Scriptures. But when you read this statement in context, you see that it couldn't be what or when they say it is. First of all, the Apostle Paul virtually tells us when it would happen, in verse 12, by telling us what would transpire at the arrival of "that which is perfect." He says, "For NOW we see in a mirror dimly, but THEN we will see face to face; NOW I know in part, but THEN I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known".
To prove that the miraculous didn't cease at the canonization of the Scriptures, all you have to do is plug their theory into verse 12, every time Paul says the word THEN. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but THEN, at the canonization of scripture (300 AD), we will see face to face; now I know in part, but THEN, at the canonization of scripture, I shall know fully as I also have been fully known." The term "face to face" was used in Paul's day (as it is in our day) as a very literal term. At the canonization of scripture, who or what did Paul see "face to face?" At the canonization of scripture, how did the Apostle Paul grow in knowledge? He had been in Heaven for over 200 years! The fact of the matter is that when Paul referred to "that which is perfect" he was simply referring to the second coming of Christ, or when we would go home to glory, whichever came first. Will you gain knowledge when you get to heaven? Absolutely! Will you see anyone (Jesus, for example) "face to face?" Undoubtedly! So this verse is obviously a very precarious place to hang one's hat in an attempt to prove that the miraculous workings of God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, have ceased!
But some (not all) of the members of the CHOCD go even further in their defiance of the Holy Spirit, and say that he is not even a person of the Trinity. The Bible is very clear in attributing personhood to the Holy Spirit by stating that the Holy Spirit has a will (I Corinthians 12:11); that He can be grieved (Eph 4:30); that He would be our Teacher (John 14:26) and more. Many of the CHOCDs even come dangerously close to committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31) by saying that any manifestation of the miraculous in this day and age are all 100% demonic! Take it from me, I am living proof that God still performs miracles today. Because in 1979, while a member of the CHOCD… I committed suicide. My family was falling apart, and thanks to the erroneous teachings of the CHOCD, all I had to fall back on was a "religion," not a living, personal relationship with the living Lord of the Universe. So faced with a future of hopelessness and despair, I took an overdose (130+) of sleeping pills, and laid down to die. But because of the mercy and grace of our loving Creator, a minister friend of mine from the Christian Church came by (after the pills had been in my system for nearly six hours!) As he struggled to help me get dressed to go to the hospital (with the rescue squad on its way), I lapsed into a coma. I went stiff as a board and my eyes rolled back in my head and I keeled over. But on the way to the hospital, as my friend prayed for me, I came to! I had no adverse side effects, other than being thirsty and feeling like I hadn't slept in days. The doctors didn't have a clue. My minister friend didn't even know what to think either. My own earthly Father went to the grave suspecting that the whole thing was an effort to get attention. Hey, you don't take over 100 sleeping pills to get anyone's attention but a mortician!
So now maybe you can see why I feel so strongly about reaching the poor souls that have fallen prey to the dead theology of the CHOCD. Legalism robs a believer of their Joy! And since the Joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), then legalism is a parasite that will sap you of your ability to stand when the storms of life come your way. If the CHOCD wants to be a TRUE representation of the New Testament Church, then they must embrace that which the original church embraced. I am grateful for the basic biblical foundation that I received while in the CHOCD, but even more grateful that Jesus has shown me a "more excellent way!"
The CHOCD uses four main tactics in debating their pet doctrines. These tactics are generally used by all cults. They are:
1. Change the subject 2. Take scripture out of context 3. Straw man arguments 4. Ad hominem attacks (attacking you instead of the issue)
The way to counter these tactics is very simple: Stay on the subject until you are allowed to make your point! And remember, your opinion is no better than their opinion. Base all of your conclusions on the Final Authority… God's Word!
Are They A Cult?
Years ago the Lord gave us an acronym for cults:
C. Claim to be The Only True Christians U. Unorthodox Extra-biblical Revelation L. Lying Leaders (History/Doctrine) T. THE Way (Salvation is found only in their organization) S. Salvation By Works (obedience to ordinances such as baptism)
As you can see the only area that the CHOCD doesn't qualify for the title is that they don't have any unorthodox extra-biblical revelation that they would put on par with God's Word. But, they do:
1. Claim to be the Only True Christians 2. Lie about their history, by claiming that they can trace their roots to the day of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts. They also mislead people about some of their doctrines, by not telling prospective members what they really believe up front (Billy Graham is not a true Christian?). 3. They are the one and only true "Body of Christ." No one goes to the Father outside of their denomination! 4. Their salvation occurs the moment they "DO" their part and get baptized. And you must recognize that it is the baptism that remits your sins, or it is of no effect!
So are they a cult? No. Are they as close as you can get to the edge of that perilous pit without falling in? Based on the Word of God, I would say an emphatic "YES!" If you are a member of the CHOCD, please seek the Lord's help in attaining true freedom in Christ. You might start by reading the book of Galatians.
If you have a loved one in the CHOCD (especially the International CHOC), please do all that is within your realm of influence to reach them.
My personal relationship with Jesus Christ has been one of great sorrows but even greater joys. Ironically, when I became a member of the CHOCD, my father's side of the family basically disowned me because they were mostly atheists. But then when I left the CHOCD, I became the "black sheep of the family" on my mother's side, because they were all from the CHOCD! But I have never regretted the decision, and I never will. The love, joy and peace that I have found in a personal intimate relationship with Jesus, far surpasses what any list of "DOs and DON'Ts" could ever offer!
Our biggest concern for our brothers and sisters in the CHOCD is the snare of legalism. The CHOCD seems to be more concerned with the length of your hair than they are the condition of your heart. They tend to strain gnats and swallow camels. They seem to be more concerned with peripheral things and miss the weightier matters. I have seen CHOCDs that knew some members were molesting members of the church and nothing was done about it, but GOD FORBID if anyone puts up a Christmas tree! There just doesn't seem to be any balance.
The CHOCD claims to be an exact duplicate of the original New Testament church. When you point out how radically different they really are from the original NT church, they blow it off and say, “That was then, this is now.” Well, then don’t claim to be a duplicate of the early church. Facsimile? Maybe. Duplicate? No way.
If the CHOCD is a duplicate of the original church (and they “speak where the Bible speaks, and they are silent where the Bible is silent") then why don't they:
Greet one another with a Holy Kiss? Romans 16:16 says, “Salute one another with an holy kiss.” Why don't they have signs following them? Jesus said in Mark 16:17-20, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; (18) They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Why don’t they sell all of their belongings and share everything with each other? Like in Acts 2:45, “And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
”Why do they forbid to speak in tongues? I Corinthians 14:39 says, “Brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
When someone is sick in your congregation, do the Elders come over and anoint the sick with oil and pray for healing? James 5:14 asks, “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Why don’t you meet together, everyday like the early church did? Acts 2:46, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.”
The fact is the CHOCD sometimes speaks where the Bible speaks and sometimes they are silent when the Bible is silent. The problem is that they are inconsistent. When you ask them if they “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” they will say, “that was just a mid-eastern custom.” But if you ask them if “it is a shame for a woman to cut her hair,” then that is a COMMANDMENT!
The bottom line is that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. It's all about what JESUS did on the cross, not what somebody does in some puddle of water. It's the blood that remits sin, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Even if baptism was essential, 99% of the protestant church is baptized, so like Hebrews 6 says, let's move on! We baptize every single new believer, just like the Lord told us to. But after the baptism, we teach the new convert to move on to maturity. Why keep looking back at your baptism, when you should be looking forward to Jesus.
Too many churches concentrate on the Body of Christ (the church) instead of its Head. It's all about JESUS!
TO MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST:
If you can serve the Lord with all your heart in the CHOCD and stay strong in Him until the day you die, then stay in the CHOCD. The web site is not for you, then. It is for people who are in the CHOCD that are looking for more of Jesus. They are tired of a religion, and want a true, deep, sincere relationship with God. So if you have been wondering, “Is this all there is?” The answer is, no. Jesus has a lot more for you than just a "religion." He wants to have a real, vital, genuine relationship with you, and it is just a prayer away!!
For those of you who are members of the CHOCD but don't think that this site accurately represents your beliefs, please remember that not all CHOCDs are the same. This site does not portend to represent every single viewpoint espoused in the CHOCD. My advice is: change your name. Why have so many denominations called the "Church of Christ" when you all believe different doctrine? What we have documented in this web site is mainstream CHOCD doctrine and has been since Alexander Campbell initiated the "Restoration Movement" in the mid 1800s. If your CHOCD teaches something other than what this web site says you teach, then your church has changed its position from that of the historical CHOCD.
The ministry of FREEDOM QUEST was established to offer the Truth of the Gospel, without compromise or malice. Our goal is to "speak the truth in love." If we have offended you in any way, we apologize. But if all we have done is offend your traditions... then maybe it is time to examine whether your faith is truly established on the Word of God or the doctrines of man.
This study guide is NOT under any copyright, and may be accurately reproduced by anyone, anytime, for any reason!
You can reach us by mail at:
Freedom Quest Ministries PO Box 277 Calhan, Colorado 80808
This Study Guide can be found online in its entirety at www.chocd.org