Wes McAdams has an interesting article at Is the “Church of Christ” a Denomination? Wes manifests a lot of wisdom; he's a breath of fresh air in the "Church of Christ" denomination (yes, that's tongue-in-cheek).
There are two things I'd like to point out about this article of his:
the definition of "denomination" really comes from the action of
denominating, or naming. To insist that all Christians are in a
congregation wearing the name "Church of Christ" is to denominate, and
is to make that body of believers a denomination.
Wes does not do that. He is careful to note that the label "Church of
Christ" is not required on the building or group.
fact, a more common label in the New Testament is "church of God", or
"The Way". There are dozens of labels in the NT for the body of Christ.
"Church of Christ" is perfectly acceptable, although I would lower-case
the "c" of "Church" to make it clear that this is a description rather
than a proper name.
2) As Wes rightly points out, "If you are a Christian, you are already a member of the church of Christ!"
what some of us fail to realize is that it's possible, at least
theoretically, for a Christian to only know the religious church in
which he was raised (say, Baptist), but via independent study has come
to sufficient knowledge to be scripturally converted into a true
Christian. Not knowing enough yet to come out of the "extra" trappings
of a denomination, he might very well consider himself a Baptist
Christian. Many within the Restoration Movement would not recognize such
a person as a member of the church of Christ, but if he truly is a
Christian, but merely a Christian in error (who of us isn't in error, at
some point or another?), then he is indeed a member of the church of
we divide ourselves from such a person, we have divided the true church
of Christ, and have made the "Church of Christ" into a denomination.
other words, the church of Christ is larger (at least theoretically)
than the "Church of Christ" "brotherhood", as defined by signs above the
door and registrations in brotherhood lists of churches and adherence
to brotherhood publications.
Wes is correct; the church of Christ is not a denomination. But the
"Church of Christ brotherhood" is (if it's exclusive, even in principle,
of other possible Christians).
Wes says, we are "Christians only"; but he neglected to quote the rest
of that phrase coined by the early Restorationists - "But not the only
agree with Wes: Let's "lay down our man-made traditions, titles, and
creeds and be Christians only!" But let's not make the mistake of
claiming that we're the only Christians.
Two final points:
- in Acts 19, Paul found "some disciples" who were ignorant on some
important points concerning conversion. They had not even been properly
baptized! But the scriptures testify that they were indeed, "disciples"
- God testified to Cornelius and crew that he had cleansed (past tense)
their hearts by faith when he gave them the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9).
This occurred *before* they were baptized - Acts 10:44-48.
of these two final points is intended to negate the command to be
baptized, at which it becomes "official" that we are a Christian, but it
does highlight that baptism does not save because of the action of
bathing, but rather that baptism is the "loyalty-pledge" generated by a freshly-cleansed conscience (1 Pet 3:21), just as in the case with Cornelius.
God's concerned with the inside of the cup, not the outside.
rebel against the idea that baptism is a seal, but I encourage you to
consider 2 Cor 1:22 (when are we sealed? when we're given the Holy Spirit; when are we given the HS?) and Eph 1:13 and Eph 4:30 and Rom 4:11 + Col 2:11-12 (circumcision is a seal of having already attained
righteousness by faith; baptism is the "Christian circumcision"; you do
have no business claiming to be saved or claiming to be a Christian
prior to baptism, because we can't see the heart, and should go by the
"letter of the law" (as well as we can, without relying on our success
in the matter but rather on Christ's right-ness given to us by faith);
but God can see the heart, and he goes by the spirit of the law, and at
least in the case of Acts 19, he considered improperly-baptized
believers to be "disciples".
We must be wary of excluding those whom God may very well have included.