Thrust Statement: The Church is the community of Christ.

Scripture Reading: Acts 20:28; Romans 16:16

            What is the church? What is the doctrinal concept of the church within your own denomination? Do you identify the church as your own particular religious body of believers? Is the church visible or invisible? What constitutes the church? Is the English word church employed in the New Testament in the same way that your denomination utilizes the term? Is the church simply an ecclesiastical institution? Or is the church a God-given community? Is the church in the New Testament the fellowship of Christian believers? Is the church simply the people of God? Do you identify the fellowship that you are associated with as the one true church? What is the nature of the one true church? These are questions that one ought to approach in seeking to understand what the church is.[1]

Today, the English word church is weighed down and encumbered with presuppositions from one’s own unique culture or heritage that frequently stands in the way of understanding the biblical concept of the ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia, “assembly,” “congregation”). This author, Dallas Burdette, left the so-called Baptist Church and became a member of the so-called Church of Christ through the influence of a relative of mine (Elbert Harvey Miller, 1909-1989).[2] I was first baptized by Lee Gallman (Baptist minister of the Second Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL) and later rebaptized by my uncle, E. H. Miller into the Church of Christ.[3] He belonged to a very legalistic group known as the one-cup and nonSunday school Church of Christ. This fellowship identified themselves as the “true” or “loyal” Church of Christ.[4] If individuals failed to subscribe to the interpretation(s) of Scripture as propounded by this odd group, they automatically decided that that fellowship could not possibly be the “true” or “loyal” Church of Christ.[5]

The Churches of Christ were divided then, as well as now, into about twenty-five or more warring factions, each claiming to be the “true” church. I began my ministry with the Murphy Avenue Church of Christ in LaGrange, GA (January 1951). This group broke away from the Park Avenue Church of Christ over the issue of Sunday school, not individual cups. After this division, my uncle (E. H. Miller) became acquainted with the distinctive group that advocated one-cup (drinking vessel) in the Lord’s Supper, which later became a test of fellowship. The one-cup fellowship was also divided over the war question, divorce (exception versus no-exception), grape juice versus wine in the Lord’s Supper, and the breaking of bread versus pinching the bread (bread had to remain one whole).  This strange group taught that all Churches of Christ, except themselves, were apostate. I remained with this fellowship for about seventeen years before excommunication by the so-called faithful believers.[6]

Prior to my ministry within the Churches of Christ, I was told that the Baptist Church was not the “true” church of the Bible. Where do you read of a Baptist Church in the Bible, I was asked? One goes to history to find out when the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches were founded, not to the Bible. Can one read about the Churches of Christ in the Bible? Yes, I was told. The Scripture cited for proof is found in Romans 16:16: ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”[7] Since the church is the bride of Christ, then the church must wear the last name of her husband—Christ. On the surface, this may sound reasonable, but “Christ” was not our Lord’s name; it was His official appellation, or title. Also, the Church of Christ did not have its starting point in AD 33 as affirmed by many Christians within this movement known as the Churches of Christ. Three distinct religious bodies grew out of the efforts (1811) of Alexander Campbell—Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, and the Churches of Christ. Earlier, members of his movement were known as “Campbellites.” When I began my ministry within the Churches of Christ, we were still called “Campbellites” by those outside this so-called Restoration Movement. The Churches of Christ as a whole have always denied that they were a denomination. Yet, it is significant that Campbell, the founder of this movement, understood his movement as a denomination. Listen to him as he writes to a Baptist minister:

Whenever the history of this effort at reformation shall have been faithfully written, it will appear, we think, bright as the sun, that our career has been marked with a spirit of forbearance, moderation, and love of union with an unequivocal desire for preserving the integrity, harmony, and co-operation of all who teach one faith, one Lord, and one immersion.  In confirmation of this fact I am happy to add that no Baptist of good character for piety and morality, has ever been, because of a diverse theory or opinion, excluded from our communion or communities. . . . We, as a denomination, are as desirous as ever to unite and co-operate with all Christians on the broad and vital principles of the New and everlasting Covenant (emphasis mine—Dallas Burdette).[8]

Thirty-one years after his father wrote the Declaration and Address, Alexander Campbell wrote this note to Mr. Broaddus concerning the movement that grew out of his efforts to reunite Christians in all the sects of Christendom. Alexander (1788-1866) understood the true nature of the movement that grew out of his father’s (Thomas Campbell, 1763-1854) efforts to unite Christians in the various sects in 1809. The Churches of Christ, as we know them today, did not exist prior to the nineteenth century. Even though one may find a name, here and there, with the title Church of Christ; nevertheless, there was no distinctive group under this title as a denominational name. Whether one was Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and so on, they all referred to themselves as the Church of Christ.  In 1975, Leroy Garrett wrote an insightful essay on the birthday of the Churches of Christ in which he highlights with concrete dates in order to establish the beginning of the modern day Churches of Christ. He cuts away all underbrush as he focuses on the true dates:

In common with other of our historians, I would date the beginning of the Stone-Campbell Movement as 1801, the year of the Cane Ridge Revival. The writing of the Last Will and Testament (1804) and the Declaration and Address (1809) are other dates of importance in identifying our Movement’s beginning.[9]

 These three dates—1801, 1804, and 1809—should shine like neon lights within the hearts of those whose roots go back to the initial stages of the American Restoration Movement to unite God’s people. This article by Dr. Garrett is one of the most informative and thought-provoking pieces that one can read about the actual birthday of the Church of Christ. His questions about the existence of the Church of Christ prior to the Stone/Campbell Movement remove any valid claim that the Church of Christ existed prior to the Campbells. He writes with forethought as he poses the following probing questions—questions that seek to clear the mind of traditions inherited from the Church fathers that stand in the way of listening anew to the biblical text:

Where was the “Church of Christ” when Luther nailed his thesis to the door of that cathedral in 1517? And where was it when the preaching of Peter the Hermit fired the First Crusade in 1095, or when Emperor Marion called 500 bishops to the Council of Chalcedon in 451?[10]

The truth of the matter is that the Church of Christ—as we know it today—did not exist in the fifth, eleventh, and sixteenth centuries. Again, Garrett illustrates the absurdity of laying claim to AD 33 as the birthday for the distinctive religious body known today as the Churches of Christ. Once more, he asserts with prying sensitivity as he tackles this thorny question among many Christians:

To assert that our birthday is really on Pentecost in 33 A. D. is to beg the question that we are indeed the true church and no one else is. That the Body of Christ, the congregation of the New Covenant scriptures, began on Pentecost in 30 or 33 A. D. is a generally accepted fact of history. But for any one religious society today to claim to be precisely that church is a risky pretension, to say the least. If all the other communions, whether Presbyterian, Mormon, or Roman Catholic, began since that glorious Pentecost, it is likely that the “Church of Christ”—and the “Church of God”—also began sometime since then.[11]

The father of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), along with Barton Stone (1772-1844) are credited as the originators of the movement that Alexander catapulted into orbit. After Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) was defrocked by the Presbyterians, he wrote the Declaration and Address to address the problem of division within the body of Christ. In this declaration, he submitted thirteen propositions to clarify the true nature of the church and fellowship. The first proposition deals with the factual character of the church. At the time of writing this document (1809), Thomas Campbell still belonged to the Presbyterian Church. In his first proposition, he employs the expression “Church of Christ” to set forth the correct makeup of Christ’s community on earth. Within this document he employs the term “Church of Christ” numerous times in this now famous document.  This name “Church of Christ” was a common expression among the reformers to identify the One to whom the church belongs.  Since the denominational church had not yet been born, then he could not have had the modern day Church of Christ in mind. In the following citation from his Declaration and Address, he includes Presbyterians and other religious bodies as Churches of Christ:

Prop. I. That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians.[12]

It is also significant that Thomas Campbell recognized that the Church of Christ exists in various denominational bodies and that each fellowship should work together.  Again, one’s attention focuses on the date 1809. Four years earlier, Barton Stone, a Presbyterian, wrote the Last Will and Testament (1804). Both men sought to unite Christians in all the various sects. Eventually, these two movements merged. This merger today is commonly referred to as the Stone/Campbell Movement—a movement that originally sought to unite Christians in the various sects. Thomas expresses this though of unity in Proposition Two of his Declaration and Address:

Prop. II That although the Church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another, yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them, to the glory of God. And for this purpose they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.[13]

Today, many within the Churches of Christ do not recognize any other fellowship of believers as members of the Lord’s church. On the other hand, the one-cup and nonSunday school Churches of Christ do not even recognize those within the Churches of Christ as Christians that use multiple cups in the distribution of the fruit of the vine and utilize Sunday school in their curriculum for teaching both children and adults. Almost without exception, the Churches of Christ do not accept Baptists as Christians. Don King, son of the late Homer L. King (1892-1983) and editor of the Old Paths Advocate, published recently (February 2006) an essay written in 1969 in the Old Paths Advocate by J. Wayne McKamie concerning “The Baptist Church.”[14] Many within the one-cup and nonSunday school movement do not recognize anyone as Christians that do not subscribe to the narrow views of their distinctive fellowship. For example, as a result of this same mind-set, King’s son, Don King, now editor of the OPA, writes: “Listen, brethren: we believe it is wrong to use more than one cup. We believe people are going to be lost for using more than one cup.”[15] (Emphasis mine—DB)

In other words, one is going to hell if he or she does not conform to their understanding of God’s Word. Unfortunately, this perspective of agreement is not limited to the one-cup and nonSunday school movement, but rather, it is widespread within the various militaristic splinter groups inside the twenty-five or more divisions in the Churches of Christ. Many authors associated with this movement started by the Campbells have written books on what is known among Churches of Christ as the Restoration Movement. Regrettably, this movement has identified its expansion as the Church of Christ, which philosophy excludes all other believers from belonging to the body of Christ. This shortsighted mentality is what both Campbells fought against, which exclusiveness is what precipitated their movement of unity among Christians within all the sects, or factions. It is in this vein that Alexander Campbell addresses this subject of unity:

The Apostle says, “There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father of all.” But nowhere is it said in the sacred book, There is one opinion. If however, unity of opinion were desirable, to attain it, we must give the greatest liberty of opinion; for though once theory with us, it is now a matter of experience, that the more stress is laid upon unity of opinion the less of it, and the more division; and the less regard paid to it, the less emphasis laid upon it, the more we will have of it. This is founded in a law of the human mind, on which it is unseasonable and unnecessary to expatiate. [16]

            Even today, within many of the Church of Christ colleges and universities, one is not allowed to teach if he or she is a member of a particular brand of the Churches of Christ. This way of thinking borders on sectarianism that is based on a misapplication of God’s Word. Alexander Campbell sought to eradicate factionalism throughout his ministry. He writes with insight once more as he grapples with the inner heart of harmony among God’s people:

I will now show how they cannot make a sect of us. We will acknowledge all as Christians who acknowledge the gospel facts, and obey Jesus Christ. . . . If he will dogmatize and become a factionist, we reject him—not because of his opinions, but because of his attempting to make a faction, or to lord it over God’s heritage.[17] (Emphasis mine—DB)

Sorry to say, this same philosophy of Alexander Campbell is not still taught by many within this once united body of believers. The one-cup movement as well as many other Churches of Christ teach that their distinctive fellowship constitutes the “true” Church of Christ. To illustrate the current attitude within many Churches of Christ, this author, Dallas Burdette, last year (10-06-2005), attended a meeting (called Gospel meeting) in LaGrange, GA (Murphy Avenue Church of Christ) to hear Wayne McKamie. He spoke on “When and Where the Church Was Established.” His objective was to convert one from denominationalism to the “true” church. This fellowship is still teaching the same philosophy that my uncle and others taught me as a teenager. Just this month (February, 2006), as stated above, the Old Paths Advocate, one of their major papers, published an essay by this same author entitled “The Baptist Church” (originally written in 1969), which attests that this same attitude toward other Christians still exists.[18]

Unhappily, many still identify their brand of orthodoxy as the “loyal” church, the Church mentioned in the New Testament. Positively, one can declare that the church is the fellowship of Jesus Christ? One can also state that the church is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Spirit is, one can speak, “there is the Christian communion.” Within the body of Christ, the faithful are bound to each other through their common sharing in Christ and the Holy Spirit. Within the body of Christ, all Christians have one thing in common, namely, Christ and His Holy Spirit. Where the Spirit is, there is the Christian communion. Christians need to recapture the concept that the church of the New Testament is simply the fellowship of Christian believers purchased by the blood of Christ. Bob Ross captures the dilemma that the American Restoration Movement, initiated by the Campbells and Barton Stone, degenerated into:

Despite idealistic mottos and well-worn slogans which embellish the concept of “one church” in all aspects of faith and practice, the “pioneer” leaders who laid down the “old paths” and conceived the “patterns” in the 1812-1850 era would no doubt be astonished at the lack of cohesion which characterizes late 20th century “restorationism.” Men such as father Campbell, Alexander Campbell (the son), Walter Scott, Barton Stone, Jacob Creath, John Smith, and the other early proselytes from the Presbyterians and Baptists, would perhaps launch a “new and improved” reform-and-Unity movement were they on the scene today. Perhaps no professing Christian entity, indigenous to America, has more “splinters” than the “restorationists.” There are even “splinters” within the “splinters.”[19]

This essay focuses upon the positive (biblical) as well as the negative (sectarian) understanding of the meaning of the English word church. Even though this paper concentrates, in part, upon the use of the term “church” by the Churches of Christ, this essay is not intended to condemn the various factions within this once united movement (Churches of Christ), a movement that originally accepted Christians in the various denominations. Later, this movement known as the Stone/Campbell Movement ceased to recognize other believers as Christians who did not utilize the name Church of Christ. This original association, as declared previously, divided into three major division—(1) Churches of Christ, (2) Christian Church, and (3) the Disciples of Christ.

This author grew up, as affirmed earlier, in a pressure group known as the one-cup and nonSunday school fellowship that did not even acknowledge the Christian Church as a part of the body of Christ—a church that had its origin in the same roots. In fact, this strange grouping of Christians would not even accept their baptism. The Churches of Christ later divided and divided and divided until there were at least twenty-five or more warring factions—each claiming to be the “Lord’s church.”  This author, Dallas Burdette, was identified with a very sectarian group that did not admit any other movement within the Churches of Christ as Christians except themselves. Those associated with the one-cup movement were known as the “loyal” Church of Christ. Any one outside this fellowship was not “loyal” to God. This same mind-set is also true of the numerous fellowships within the Churches of Christ, which fellowships also identify themselves by the expression “the Lord’s church.” Generally, when one reads or hears this expression, one can almost, without exception, know that this person is a member of the denominational Church of Christ.

The underlying assumption is that other groups do not belong to God. This unique expression is so ingrained into the hearts of many men and women connected with the Churches of Christ that they no longer accept anyone as Christian except those who belong to their particular party of orthodoxy. Happily today, there are many Christians still linked with the Stone/Campbell Movement that no longer hold to these narrow views, even though they are still associated within this denomination. Many of these believers are seeking to bring about reform. Before analyzing in greater detail the meaning of the English word church versus the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia), this author (Dallas Burdette) turns one’s attention to the title Χριστός (Cristos, “Christ”) in Romans 16:16 in order to bring out the full meaning of the ekklhsia of God in Christ.

Romans 16:16: “Christ”

The idea that the Church of Christ is the only true church is based upon a faulty reading of Romans 16:16. One of the most devastating methods of interpreting the Bible is the isolation of a passage from its context. As a result of this kind of sloppy interpretation by many Christians within the Churches of Christ, one discovers that the various subdivisions within this once united movement have built their various theories within their own distinctive warring party upon texts cut off from their contexts. Why do Christians reach different conclusions when they read the same text? Why do Christians often arrive at opposite conclusion even when exposed to the identical information? The answer lies in the data that he or she takes to the text. If one approaches the text through colored glasses, that is, one’s own set of presuppositions about what he or she thinks the text is saying, one will come away with one’s own set of presuppositions, not the biblical teaching of the text. 

As this subject of what is the church advances in this essay, one should overlook the repetitions found throughout this essay. Repetitions often help one to better understand the text. The three laws of learning are: (1) repetition, (2) repetition, and (3) repetition.  The focus of this section is on the word Christ in Romans 16:16. This is one of the most abused Scriptures in the arsenal of Scripture citations within the Churches of Christ. Since this text mentions the “Churches of the Christ,” it is necessary to analyze this often-misinterpreted Scripture. Yes, the definite article is in the Greek text. Many devout Christians today utilize the term Church of Christ as the name of the church—an interpretation based upon a defective reading of Romans 16:16. Paul concludes his Epistle to the Romans to encourage all the assemblies of Christ to exercise the spirit of toleration for differences within the various communities of Christ scattered throughout the Roman Empire: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ (αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ, Jai ekklhsiai tou Xristou, “the assemblies of the Anointed One”) send greetings.”

The reading is “churches of the Christ,” not Churches of Christ. The distinctive name, Church of Christ, did not come into existence as a denominational name until the nineteenth century. Since this approximate expression occurs one time in the Bible, many Christians assume that this phrase is the name of the church. Some even argue that one can read of the Churches of Christ, but nowhere do you read of the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and so on. On the surface, this argument may appear to be valid, but just a casual reading of chapter sixteen in Romans reveals another descriptive name that is similar to “churches of the Christ. Listen to Paul as he writes: “Greet Priscillab and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles (αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῶν ἐθνῶν, Jai ekklhsiai twn eqnwn, “the assemblies of the Gentiles/nations”) are grateful to them” (16:3-4).

Is this unique expression—Church of the Gentiles—also the name of the church, if not why not? Once more, Paul, in writing to the Christians in the province of Galatia, employs another turn of phrase concerning the Church that should cause one to stop and reexamine his or her position on Romans 16:16. Listen to Paul’s phraseology as he draws attention to the community of Christ of the churches in Judea: “I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea (ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς ᾿Ιουδαίας, “to the assemblies of Judea”) that are in Christ” (Galatians 1:22). Is this biblical expression—“churches of the Judea”—also the name of the Church? What is Paul saying in Romans 16:16? He is simply saying that the “assemblies of the Anointed One salutes you”; he was not using this expression as the name of the church anymore than the “churches of Judea” or the “churches of the Gentiles” represented names of the church. As one explores the term Christ (Χριστός, Cristos), one discovers that Christ was not our Lord’s last name, which is a part of the confusion among many within the Churches of Christ. Lawrence O. Richards’ comments are worth citing concerning this misinterpreted title: “We tend to think of  ‘Christ’ as a name, just as ‘Jesus’ is a name. In fact ‘Christ’ is not a name, but a title.”[20]

Jesus last name is not “Christ” (Χριστός, Cristos), even though a very sincere believer taught me this interpretation. No, His name was not Christ; His name is “Jesus” (᾿Ιησοῦς, Ihsous). Matthew gives the words of an “angel of the Lord” to Joseph concerning the name of this One to be born of the virgin Mary: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,a because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Greek word Χριστός (Cristos) is linked to the Old Testament with the idea of anointing. In other words, Jesus was the Anointed One of God. In the time Jesus lived, one witnesses, in the New Testament, the Jewish people’s concept of the coming of God’s Anointed One to redeem Israel.  John the Apostle speaks of Jesus going to the Feast of Tabernacles and His teaching at this feast (John 7:1-52). As a result of His teaching, the people began to ask if He was the prophet or the Christ spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament writings. Listen to John as he presents their thoughts:

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Christ” ( χριστός, Jo cristos). Still others asked, “How can the Christ ( χριστός, Jo cristos) come from Galilee? 42 Does not the Scripture say that the Christ ( χριστός, Jo cristos) will come from David’s familyc and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. (John 7:40-44)

            In Jesus’ day, the Jews as well as the Samaritans knew that “the Christ” would come. This belief was deeply imbedded in their thinking. John records an incident that occurred in the life of a Samaritan woman concerning her confession about a coming Messiah. John’s remarks are quite revealing concerning her use of the term Messiah. Pay attention to John as he captures this intriguing conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman: “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ 26 Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (4:25-26). The Greek text reads: οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται λεγόμενος χριστός (Joida Joti Messias ercetai Jo legomenos cristos), which is translated: “I know that Messiah is coming, the [one] being called Christ.”

After the resurrection of Jesus, He encountered two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. During this encounter, Jesus listened to their despair concerning Jesus being crucified. These disciples had looked upon Jesus as being “the Christ” who would come and redeem Israel. Even though the word Christ is not employed in this conversation, nevertheless, the discussion centers around their previous hope that Jesus was the One to save Israel. John writes: “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place” (Luke 24:21). One of the most revealing passages in the New Testament about Jesus as the promised coming Messiah is found in the trial of Jesus. When Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, the high priest asked Him: “Are you the Christ ( χριστός, Jo cristos),a the Son of the Blessed One” (Mark 14:61)? Jesus answers by saying, “I am” [ἐγώ εἰμι, egw eimi](14:62).

 In Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, he calls attention to the resurrection of Jesus. In this sermon, Peter speaks of the One raised as “the Christ.” Peter says, “Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:31). Later, at the Temple, Peter speaks to the onlookers following the healing of a man crippled from birth. In this message, he again calls attention to Jesus as the Messiah promised by the prophets: “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christa would suffer” (3:18). In the New Testament one observes Jesus Christ without the article between “Jesus” and “Christ.” Surface reading may lead one to read “Christ” as a proper name, which is done by many within the Churches of Christ. The comments by Hesse in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament are extremely helpful in understanding the name Christ with and without the article:

b. χριστός occurs in Paul in the abs., sometimes with art. Χριστός (Jo Christos) sometimes without art. Χριστός (Cristos). In genitive constructions, which are common with Christ, the article of the related term carries with it the article of the genitive: τοῦ Χριστοῦ (tou Cristou), whereas absence of the preceding article means absence of the article: Χριστοῦ (Cristou),315 e.g., οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν μέλη Χριστοῦ ἐστιν; ἄρας οὖν τὰ μέλη τοῦ Χριστοῦ ποιήσω πόρνης μέλη; (1 C. 6:15; → IV, 564, 29 ff.).[21] One may conclude from this that Χριστός means the same whether with the article or without it. Since proper names are used with the article (e.g., Mk. 15:43–45; Lk. 23:25), Χριστός (Cristos) with the article can have the same sense as Χριστός (Cristos) without it. In the vocabulary of older Greek speaking Christianity Χριστός (Cristos) is one of those words which can be used both with and without the article.316 Use of the article does not help us to decide when Χριστός (Cristos) is a title and when it is a name. The uniqueness of the One of whom it is used is in any case expressed.317 Whether Paul says Χριστός (Jo Christos) or Χριστός (Cristos) he has this uniqueness in view. Whereas his non-Jewish readers would take it as a proper name, Paul himself is fully acquainted with the title originally meant by the term.[22]

Whether one says Χριστός (Jo Christos, “the Christ”) or Χριστός (Cristos, “Christ”), one is saying the same thing.[23]  Leon Morris, too, has correctly observed the biblical use and understanding of the word Christ in the world of Judaism. He begins his remarks by calling attention to the prevailing view of the modern Church in its use of Christ as a proper noun rather than a title:

WITH US “CHRIST” HAS BECOME A PROPER NAME. We often refer to our Savior simply as “Christ”, and even if we use the fuller name “Jesus Christ” we still employ the term as no more than a name and we do not see the meaning as Jesus the Christ”. . . . We could perhaps put it this way: Jesus was called “Christ” because he fulfilled all that the title signifies and in due course his title was employed so often that it came to be used as a name with no particular emphasis on its meaning. But when John tells us that he wrote “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (20:31), he is using the title with all the meaning it can convey. If we are to understand what John is saying throughout his Gospel, we must be clear on what “Christ” meant to first-century Christians.[24]


Since the English word church is employed in the English Bible, it is necessary to research this word as to its meaning. Does the New Testament convey the same idea that is prevalent among the Christian community today? One’s failure to understand the meaning of the Greek word actually employed by the Holy Spirit contributes to the divisions that continue to plaque the body of Christ. What is the church? What is the biblical picture of the church in the New Testament? The Greek word for “church is ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia). The ekklhsia equals the fellowship of Jesus Christ, a communion of individuals. The New Testament ekklhsia has nothing to do with the character of an institution or denomination. The body of Christ, or the church, is the fellowship (κοινωνία, koinwnia) of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. F. J. A. Hort, writing in 1897 on The Christian Ecclesia, goes right to the heart of the problem today by pointing out one’s failure to correctly assess the word utilized by Scripture. In his book of two hundred and ninety-four pages, he begins his book by calling attention to the problem that Christians face in their encounter to identify the so-called church:

The subject on which I propose to lecture this term is The Early conceptions and early history of the Christian Ecclesia. The reason why I have chosen the term Ecclesia is simply to avoid ambiguity. The English term church, now the most familiar representative of ecclesia to most of us, carries with it associations derived from the institutions and doctrines of later times, and thus cannot at present without a constant mental effort be made to convey the full and exact force which originally belonged to ecclesia.[25]

The English word church does not convey accurately the Greek word ecclesia. Scholars, down through the centuries, have sought to capture a translation that would adequately convey the meaning of the word found in Scripture, but to no avail. Hort, in his massive and informative book, seeks such a word. In seeking such a definition, he discovers that it is still best to use ecclesia in order to avoid confusion with the English word church, which use creates ambiguity. He, once more, seeks to unravel part of the misunderstanding among Christ’s disciples with the following explanation:

It would of course have been possible to have recourse to a second English rendering ‘congregation’, which has the advantage of suggesting some of those elements of meaning which are least forcibly suggested by the word ‘church’ according to our present use. ‘Congregation’ was the only rendering of ἐκκλησία in the English New Testament as it stood throughout Henry VIII’s reign, the substitution of ‘church’ being due to the Genevan revisers; and it held its ground in the Bishops’ Bible in no less primary a passage than Matt. xvi. 18 till the Jacobean revision of 1611, which we call the Authorized Version.  But ‘congregation’ has disturbing associations of its own which render it unsuitable for our special purpose; and moreover its use in what might seem a rivalry to so venerable, and rightly venerable, a word as ‘church’ would be only a hindrance in the way of recovering for ‘church’ the full breath of its meaning. “Ecclesia’ is the only perfectly colourless word within our reach, carrying us back to the beginnings of Christian history, and enabling us in some degree to get behind words and names to the simple facts which they originally denoted.[26]

 Romans 16:16, when understood in its original context, is not giving the church a name, but rather, it is simply saying,  “the assemblies of the Anointed One salute you.”  Christians are bound to one another through their common sharing in Christ and the Holy Spirit. This fellowship of believers, purchased by Christ on Calvary, does not exist independently within its own self, but rather it flows from its communion with Jesus. One must not separate the horizontal from the vertical—fellowship with one another and Jesus Christ. Just as the Son has communion with the Father, so individuals within the body of Christ have communion with the Son and with one another—vertical and horizontal fellowship. One does not enter into the fellowship by believing in the dogma of a particular fellowship—a fellowship isolated around certain doctrinal interpretations,[27] but rather through Christ Jesus Himself. In Christ, one ceases to be an isolated individual—he or she now belongs to the fellowship of God.

Within Christendom today, many Christians go wrong in that they identify the ekklhsia, or church, of the New Testament to be the historical church of their traditions. Christians frequently disassociate themselves from communion with other believers over doctrinal interpretations of a so-called worship service. One must not read into the New Testament the idea that the Church (ekklhsia) is the image of their particular militaristic splinter group as historically developed over the years. Many fellowships stand alone—Protestants of all shades of various opinions. What divides many Christians is the wrong identification or perception of God’s fellowship. Believers break up when they reach different conclusions in their study of God’s Word. But when Christians associate the church of Jesus of the New Testament as their particular historic church, they greatly err in their understanding of the true nature of God’s ekklhsia. When this author was connected with the one-cup and nonSunday school Church of Christ, he read into the idea of the church of the New Testament his own image of the institutional church as taught to him by godly men. For many within this odd fellowship assumed that they and they alone were and are the children of God. In other word, no one outside this abnormal movement has a relationship with God. This unique movement identified itself as the one true church. Today, many within this movement are beginning to question this position.

If one wishes change within the various movements within the Churches of Christ, there must be a return to the eternal Gospel, which is the Good News of God’s Way of salvation by faith in and through His Son Jesus. The Gospel can be understood apart from the many inferences and deductions set forth by many godly men and women, which inferences and deductions are often equated with the Gospel.  One’s fellowship with God is not based upon an analysis of abstract reasoning or upon tortuous arguments about orthodoxy. The traditions that many hold to within the various factions within the Churches of Christ should be secondary. Yet, man-made traditions have become shrines where the Word of God should be. It is the shrine of tradition that is adorned rather than the Word of God. It is in this vein that Alexander Campbell drives home the irrationality of making fellowship within the body of Christ depend upon one’s acumen, or sharpness of one’s intellect:

Amongst Christians there is now, as there was at the beginning a very great diversity in the knowledge of the Christian institution. There are babes, children, young men, and fathers in Christ now, as well as in the days of the Apostle John. This, from the natural gifts of God, from the diversities of age, education, and circumstances, is unavoidable. And would it not be just as rational and as scriptural to excommunicate one another, because our knowledge is less or greater than any fixed measure, as for differences of opinion or matters of speculation?

Indeed, in most cases where proscription and exclusions now occur in this country, the excluded are the most intelligent members of the society; and although no community will accuse a man because he knows more of his Bible than his brethren, and on this account exclude him from their communion; yet this, it is manifest, rather than heresy, (of which, however, for consistency’s sake, he must be accused,) is, in truth, the real cause of separation.

If God has bestowed better gifts or better opportunities on one man than another, by which he has attained more knowledge, instead of thanking God for his kindness to the community, they beg God to take him away; and if he will not be so unkind, they will at length put him from among them under the charge of heresy. In most instances the greatest error of which a brother can be guilty, is to study his Bible more than his companions—or, at least, to surpass them in his knowledge of the mystery of Christ.[28]

The Christian church should be a home for the souls of men and women, but, today, many churches are a wasteland between a world that is dying and world struggling for meaning to life. Christianity in today’s world has become for many in this age a stumbling block. Christianity frequently is more of an atmosphere of tradition than it is of the Word of God. Tradition and infallibility of interpretation concerning the “church” have become official within many fellowships. What is needed is a reinterpretation of long-held traditions. Numerous Christians can no longer distinguish between their traditions and the Word of God. When one makes his or her tradition(s) on par with the Scriptures, one deflects attention from the Word itself. Many believers are guilty of exchanging the word of their leaders for the Word of God. For some, the Gospel can only mean what the creed of their particular brand of orthodoxy proclaims. It is not uncommon for believers to confuse the original Word of God with the formulated conclusions of their inherited theology. God’s people need to return to the idea that the ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) is the company of believers. The ekklhsia is portrayed as a body, not a particular denomination. Again, one can also say that the ekklhsia is a family. When one becomes a child of God, he or she is drawn into God’s universal family—a family that experiences relationships with other believers. The local ekklhsia of believers come together to function as God’s called out community to evangelize the world with His Gospel—Jesus as God’s Way of salvation.

Unfortunately, many within the Churches of Christ have made the New Testament a new Torah. This identification is not just true with the one-cup movement, but it is wide spread among the various factions within the Church of Christ denomination. Countless Christian movements within the Churches of Christ utilize the word church in its classification to identify its own unique movement as “the church” for which Christ died, which definition excludes any other movement of believers, that is to say, those outside the Church of Christ denomination from belonging to the body of Christ. Many believers within the so-called Stone/Campbell Movement identify their particular pressure group as the Church of Christ.

Within this distinctive American Reformation Movement, this once united movement, as stated above, is now fragmented into twenty-five are more divisions—many of whom will not fellowship other believers meeting behind the same label with their identical characteristic identifying mark—Churches of Christ. Unless one employs this unique title, numerous Christians reject all other Christians as belonging to Christ. This has led many unsuspecting believers to categorize their movement as “the Lord’s church,” thereby excluding all others from belonging to the body of Christ.  Fortunately, today, many Christians within this Stone/Campbell Movement are rethinking their traditions and reaching out to other believers in the various denominations—believers who also confess Jesus as Lord.

As examined above, the word Christ is not Jesus’ name; Christ is a transliteration of the Greek Χριστός (Xristos = Christos), which means Messiah or Anointed.[29] Also, the English word church is not an accurate translation of the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia). Regrettably, the English word church is the point of confusion and misunderstanding. Those who hold to this narrow concept of the Church are sincere Christians in their beliefs, but, at the same time, they are still misinformed. It goes almost without saying that the ekklhsia of Christ is not an “it,” it is not a “thing,” nor is it an “institution,”[30] but rather it is a unity of persons, that is to say, a people or a communion of individuals who have responded to Jesus as Lord. The word ekklhsia means “congregation” or an  “assembly,” which represents the “people of God.” This communion of persons has been transformed into an ecclesiastical or institutional church. The concept of  “church” has been irrevocably molded by the reformation of the 1500s. The ekklhsia of the first century had no idea of becoming a “church,” that is to say, an ecclesiastical organization. The body of Christ is simply a pure communion of persons committed to Jesus as the Savior of the world. It is a mistake to identify any one distinctive historically developed church as the true communion of the saints. The ekklhsia of Jesus Christ is God’s people or the elect of God; these expressions are the rightful description of God’s chosen people.

 One needs to approach the English word church through the lens of Holy Scripture, not through a pair of spectacles created by the framework of tradition. The word church should call to mind the whole company of the faithful, not just a single denomination. Matthew records the words of Jesus to Peter concerning His new fellowship: “And I tell you that you are Peter,b and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadesc will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus did not foretell about an organized structured association such as the denominational Church of Christ or any other denomination known today. The church is primarily a worldwide community consisting of all those who profess faith in Jesus. The church is essentially a fellowship of persons and not an institution. The community of Christ cannot be an institution. Those within this Body of believers live their lives in one continuous act of worship. The whole life of the believer is a worship of God.

There is but one church, or Christian community, which community exists in local communities/congregations. These local communities are formed to express their oneness in Christ Jesus and, at the same time, to encourage one another in the faith. This concept of the church is often difficult for Christian teachers to accept. Preachers often read the New Testament passages dealing with the Church in light of their own cultural familiarity. In other words, they read between the lines the conception of church in light of their own historical church, not the biblical model of church. There is but one Christian community. Yet this community of believers forms local communities to express their oneness in Christ and seek to encourage one another and promote the Gospel of Peace, namely, Jesus as the Savior of the world. All too often these local communities read the Bible in light of their own cultural background and then claim that their interpretation is based exclusively on the Bible. How do certain distinctive religious groups interpret the word church? Unfortunately, prior teaching colors the way individuals within a particular fellowship determine the conclusions reached.

The Bible is replaced by the weird interpretations assumed by many groups to be the living Word of God. The institutional church replaces fellowship and love among God’s people by adherence to a particular belief system with a prevailing attitude toward dogma of the distinctive affiliation. How can Christians return to the biblical concept of the ekklhsia as found in the New Testament? The answer is found in Alexander Campbell’s remarks about the end of sects in his day, which is as true today as it was then.

It is cruel to excommunicate a man because of the imbecility of his intellect. We have been censured long and often for laying too much stress upon the assent of the understanding; but those who have most acrimoniously censured us, have laid much more stress upon the assent of the mind, that we have ever done. We never did, at any time, exclude a man from the kingdom of God for a mere imbecility of intellect; or, in other words, because he could not assent to our opinions. All sects are doing, or have done this. . . . I will now show how they cannot make a sect of us, We will acknowledge all as Christians who acknowledge the gospel facts, and obey Jesus Christ.[31] (Emphasis mine—DB)

Unity among God’s people can never be achieved through conformity to a particular branch of God’s people. One’s relationship to God is not based upon absolute perfection in knowledge, bur rather it is based on one’s acceptance of Jesus as Lord in one’s life. Christians can no more all think alike on every subject than they can all look alike. The new ekklhsia of God stands under the requirement of unity. With the death of Jesus, He established a new covenant. In this new covenant, God created a new people, who are called, in today’s world, the church. Within this new relationship with God, one forsakes one’s service to Satan and commits his or her whole being into the kingdom of God. As members of the body of Christ, each believer’s task is to walk in a new way of life. He or she lives one’s life in a new context—the body of Christ. The ekklhsia is the handiwork of God through Christ, which is the result of the divine activity of Christ. The ekklhsia has its roots in the eternal plan of God. For any one group of believers to identify their little group as the kingdom of God is the height of absurdity, which irrationality borders on madness. The word church is freighted with a great deal of theological jargon from the various warning factions, each claiming its own uniqueness as the kingdom of God, thereby excluding all others from belonging to God. Within the fellowship of God’s community, each believer has his or her own peculiar responsibility and service to promote Jesus as God’s Way of redemption.

As one seeks an answer to the question, “What Is the Church,?” one is faced with the reality that the word church has no plural (Ephesians 4:1-6). In other words, there is only “one” church and that church consists of all those who have professed their faith in the Lord Jesus and commit their lives to Him. Among some Christians, when one advances the belief that there is only “one” church, this mind-set implies that only one “visible” church and that their denomination is that one factual church and that their “visible” church is their particular brand of orthodoxy. Within Christendom, especially within the Churches of Christ, one observes the difficulty of relationships with other churches. Many within this American Restoration Movement of the Stone/Campbell Movement now identify their branch of the church as the one true church. The truth of the matter is that all branches of existing churches are branches of the one authentic church set forth in the Scriptures. No one group of people can claim, with validity, to be the church and that no one else belongs to God. The church of Jesus the Messiah is not an institution, but a new life in Christ and with Christ—a unity of life with all others purchased by the blood of Jesus.  Thomas Campbell, father of Alexander Campbell, understood that human reasoning cannot and must not be the criteria of unity among God’s people. In his Declaration and Address, he tackles this thorny problem of unity in his own day:

Prop. VII That although doctrinal exhibitions of the great system of Divine truths, and defensive testimonies in opposition to prevailing errors, be highly expedient, and the more full and explicit they be for those purposes, the better; yet, as these must be in a great measure the effect of human reasoning, and of course must contain many inferential truths, they ought not to be made terms of Christian communion; unless we suppose, what is contrary to fact, that none have a right to the communion of the church, but such as possess a very clear and decisive judgment, or are come to a very high degree of doctrinal information; whereas the Church from the beginning did, and ever will, consist of little children and young men, as well as fathers.[32]

Somewhere along the way, many within the Churches of Christ lost the meaning of the Gospel of Christ with its emphasis on grace and forgiveness. Within this distinct denomination, the Gospel is replaced by the so-called five acts of worship. For one to be a part of the true church of Christ, so it is maintained, one must carry out the so-called five ritualistic acts in a prescribed manner. Grace was not a part of the preaching, as a whole, within this movement. This movement then as well as today failed to take into account that every local body of believers is the bearer of the Gospel of God’s forgiveness and is the home of the new fellowship of love. The church of the New Testament stressed justification by faith alone as the heart and substance of the Christian Gospel.[33]

The Gospel is not twenty-seven books. The Gospel is not one’s particular interpretation of the so-called five acts of worship. The Gospel is about God’s way of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. It is about His death, His burial, and His resurrection for the sins of the world.  People need to be told that salvation is the initiative of the free and sovereign love of God. Churches should be preaching that the Incarnation of the Son of God led to the Cross for the redemption of the world. Instead of preaching the Cross of Jesus, many Christians become bigoted and manifest harsh and unlovely features. If the church of Jesus is to win the world, this sectarian attitude must stop—“we and we alone are the channel of God’s grace.” Many churches have substituted the Cross for their theology, but the Cross of Christ cannot be taken out of Christianity without changing the Gospel beyond recognition. What is the church? The church consists of all those who profess faith in Christ as Lord. Every local body of believers is to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Unfortunately, many Christians transform the Gospel of Jesus into a legal code and substitute their concept of a new law for the proclamation of redeeming facts. The church is the vehicle chosen by God to advance His revelation. Why are so many confused about the meaning of the word Church within the Christian community today? Lawrence O. Richards writes:

Anyone may be excused for being a bit confused about the meaning of the word “church”; we use the word in so many ways. It means a particular building (e.g., “the church on fourth street”), a denomination or organized faith (e.g., the Reformed Church in America), and even a Sunday meeting (e.g., “Did you go to church today?”). None of these uses is particularly biblical. The church is a basic NT theme, and we need to understand this meaning-filled word in its biblical sense.[34]

            The English word church is nebulous in its use. The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) is richer and more colorful in its description of God’s new community than the word church. K. L. Schmidt comments on defining the word ekklhsia are well worth citing:

The distinctions mentioned are mostly those of denomination or school rather than of lexical or biblical and theological enquiry. Thus an Anglican may speak of the ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) as the one Church, “the body of Christians.” A Roman Catholic will begin with the universal ecclesia on the basis of Mt. 16:18,1 and he will then go on to emphasise the subordination of the individual congregation to the bishop. The orthodox Protestant will refer first to the whole community, while the liberal Protestant will think of the local congregation, and some confusion may be caused by earlier territorial church government (alicubi regionum). The translations and commentaries reflect this. As always, Cr.-Kö. is a notable exception. This digs deeper, and from the standpoint of biblical theology reaches more valuable lexical conclusions. On the basis of the OT use of ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) for the total community of Israel, it speaks of the “saved community of the NT” which finds expression first as the total community and then as the same community in “local circumscription” (a carefully selected phrase). Express reference is made to the fact that there is not always a hard and fast distinction between the local community and the universal community. [35]

            The English word church is a word that has created confusion within the Christian ekklhsia or community of God’s people. Cecil K. Thomas wrote his dissertation on Alexander Campbell and His New Version in which he calls attention to Campbell and the word church in the translation. This dissertation was later printed as a book. Thomas’ comments are extremely informative since he cites one of the originators of the Stone/Campbell Movement. Listen to Him as he writes about Campbell’s translation of the New Testament called The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ, commonly styled The New Testament (published 1826):

A translation, which was probably as significant as “immerse” was the substitution of “congregation” for “church.” Campbell frequently cited the older English versions for this usage. His reason for giving the reading was that he felt “church” to be an ecclesiastical word. It had taken on a theological connotation which had not attached itself to ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) in its New Testament usage. He felt that the word “congregation” properly represented the Greek word without being cumbered with a variety of meanings such as that of church building or ecclesiastical organization. Campbell was wrestling with a problem that is current today. Hort, in his book on the church, faced a similar problem and decided that there is no true, nontheological equivalent in English. He decided, therefore, to transliterate the words as “Ecclesia” to avoid ambiguity. The prevalent use of the latter term in theological circles today indicates the continuing problem. It is doubtful, however, that Campbell’s translation was an adequate solution. The term “congregation” has become so closely identified with the local aspect of the church that it practically excludes its universal features. Campbell did not offer an adequate solution to the problem, and such a solution has not yet been found.[36]

            The controversy over the translation of the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia) arose in the sixteen century by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Lord Chancellor of England, in his Dialogue (1529) in which he “treated divers matters, as of the veneration and worship of images and relics, praying to saints and going on pilgrimages, with many other things touching the pestilent sect of Luther and Tyndale, by the tone begun in Saxony, and by the tother (“other”—DB) labored to be brought into England.”[37]

            Further, Bruce’s remarks about this conflict between More and Tyndale are informative as to the controversy between More and Tyndale: “In the course of this Dialogue he attacked Tyndale’s New Testament, Tyndale replied in 1531 with An Answer unto Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, and this brought forth from More in the following year a larger work, entitled The Confutation of Tyndale.”[38] One such complaint by More centered on the English word church being translated as “congregation.” Again, Bruce writes about this complaint:

When More’s charges are examined, they amount to nothing more than a complaint that Tyndale translated certain ecclesiastical terms by English words which lacked ecclesiastical associations. Thus he used “congregation” and not “church”, “senior” (in later editions, “elder”) and not “priest” (where the Greek had presbyteries), “repentance” and not “penance”, “love” and not “charity”, and so forth. But no fault can be found with Tyndale in this regard from the standpoint of pure scholarship; in fact, his translations at times are more accurate than those which More preferred. And indeed Tyndale could point to Erasmus, More’s great friend, for a precedent. For Erasmus had not only edited the New Testament in Greek; he had also translated it afresh into Latin. And in Erasmus’s Latin translation the Greek work ekklhsia (“church”) appeared at times as congregatio, Greek presbyteros as senior or presbyter (and not as sacerdos, which in the Latin bible was traditionally reserved for “priest” in the Jewish or pagan sense),  and so forth. Why should such translations be branded as heretical in Tyndale’s English version when they were tolerated in Erasmus’s Latin version? Because, said More, he found no such “malicious intent” in Erasmus as he found in Tyndale. In short, it was not the translation but the translator that More really objected to.[39]


One needs to reexamine the biblical meaning of the word ekklhsia as employed by the Holy Spirit. Just a perusal of the passages in the New Testament that employs ekklhsia, one discovers that the ekklhsia is essentially a fellowship of persons and not an institution. The community of the Messiah (Christ) cannot be an institution or a church. The community of Christ lives by faith and love in the possession of His Holy Spirit—not by an institution or church. In the institutional church, one frequently observes orthodox belief separated from love for one another. God’s living Word is replaced by theology and dogma. The institution replaces fellowship among God’s people. Love is replaced by one’s creed. One can say that the biblical ekklhsia of Jesus Christ is God’s people, that is to say, the elect of God. How does one become a part of God’s elect? Paul answers this question is found in his Ephesian Epistle: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

One should never read his or her idea into the Greek word ekklhsia. Yet, many Christians, unconsciously, read the word ekklhsia as it has historically developed over the centuries into an image of an institution. Even in Acts 2:47, translators add the word “church” into the text. But the Greek word ekklhsia is not in the Greek text. The text simply reads: “And the Lord added the ones being saved from day to day together (ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό).” Every one who repents and accepts Jesus as Lord is added to Christ’s community of believers—added together. The ekklhsia of God is a Christian community—a fellowship of persons living together. For far too long, the ekklhsia, as a whole, has conveyed to the world, at large, that for one to be a Christian, one must subscribe to certain doctrinal beliefs maintained by one of the splinter factions of God’s people. The ekklhsia ought to be a place were one receives support and encouragement and experience forgiveness in and through Jesus Christ. The ekklhsia needs to return to the essential meaning of the Christian Gospel—the Gospel of redemption in and through the blood atonement of Jesus upon Calvary. Christians assemble in response to God’s initiative in the salvation of both men and women as a free gift to those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

It is in the ekklhsia that one looses self and is reminded that in spite of any achievements, one is not his or her own. As Christians gather as a collective body of priests, the Word of God is proclaimed in order to open the hearts and minds of His people to the message of grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Even as the Body of Christ participates in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, one, once more, witnesses to the objectivity and reality of God’s redemption in and through the Messiah. The ekklhsia has been chosen by God as the vehicle of the proclamation of His revelation to a lost and dying world. Having said this, the community of Christ must not transform the Gospel of God into a legal code. The ekklhsia must not substitute their rules and regulations for the proclamation of redeeming facts—death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Gospel must never be turned into a new law.

This essay is a plea to all of the present day warring factions to abandon the belief that they and they alone represent the channel of God’s grace. If one removes the Cross of Jesus as the central thrust of the ekklhsia, one changes Christianity beyond recognition. The people of God must forsake the tendency to become narrow and bigoted and stop manifesting harsh and unlovely attitudes toward the weak. The ekklhsia must recapture the redeeming act of God through the Atonement of Jesus. Remember, the ekklhsia of God is the new radical fellowship of love. As one refocuses his or her attention upon the true ekklhsia of God, one must ever be conscious that within the body of Christ there is new life in and with Christ. The ekklhsia of the Messiah is indispensable to the welfare of any society. Every ekklhsia of God must work to restore the unity for which Jesus prayed in His priestly prayer (recorded in John 17). The ekklhsia must seek to restore the lost unity among Christians within the various denominations—denominations that confess Jesus as Lord.

The general concept of the ekklhsia to the world is totally unintelligible. The ekklhsia needs to recapture that the ekklhsia is the bearer of a divine revelation and redemption. Existing “churches” are branches of the one true ekklhsia of God. No one group by itself is the “church” or ekklhsia.  Every local ekklhsia owes its being to an act of God. For this reason, Christians should bury their divisions. As stated earlier, there is only “one” ekklhsia. Yet, this statement implies to some that their particular party constitutes the only “true” church or ekklhsia. In conclusion, one must say that the ekklhsia of God is not a human organization, but rather it is a community of which Jesus Christ is the living Lord. It is an inward fellowship of faith and love. The ekklhsia must distinguish between matters of faith and matters of their inherited traditions, which traditions are frequently equated with the Word of God itself. Unity can never be realized on the basis of doctrinal agreement; there must always be the freedom of intellectual inquiry. One must reject tradition as an organ of divine revelation. The true ekklhsia of God is a worshipping community with its life in Christ—a life guided by the Holy Spirit. The task of every worshipping community is to carry forward the work of the redeemer. Since the ekklhsia of God is built from above, it has its source in God. The various local bodies of believers must never allow themselves to be brought into bondage to the dictates of some within the ekklhsia. It is appropriate to conclude with the remarks of Alexander Campbell when he began the Christian Baptist publication (1823) in order to bring unity to the divided body of Christ:

But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and founder of Christianity, consisted in this, that THE BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the word, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes to salvation. The belief of this ONE FACT, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into the church.

So long as unity of opinion was regarded as a proper basis of religious union, so long have mankind been distracted by the multiplicity and variety of opinions. To established what is called a system of orthodox opinions as the bond of union was, in fact, offering a premium for new diversities in opinion, and for increasing, ad infinitum, opinions, sects, and divisions And what is worse than all, it was establishing self-love and pride as religious principles, as fundamental to salvation, for a love regulated by similarity of opinion, is only a love to one’s own opinion; and all the zeal exhibited in the defense of it, is but the pride of opinion.

It is again and again asserted, in the clearest language, by the Lord himself, the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, that he that believes the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, is begotten by God, may overcome the world, has eternal life, and is, on the veracity of God, saved from his sins. This should settle the first point; for the witnesses agree that whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Christ, and is baptized, should be received into the church; and not an instance can be produced of any person being asked for any other faith, in order to admission, in the whole New Testament.

The New Testament was not designed to occupy the same place in theological seminaries that the carcasses of malefactors are condemned to occupy in medical halls—first doomed to the gibbet, and then to the dissecting knife of the spiritual anatomist. Christianity consists infinitely more in good works than in sound opinions; and while it is a joyful truth that he believes and is baptized shall be saved, it is equally true that he that saith, “I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”[40]




The story of Pentecost, as revealed in Acts 2, begins a movement that neither the powers of Rome nor the religious leaders of Israel could stop. This movement began with the conversion of approximately 3000 to Jesus of Nazareth.  Following the Day of Pentecost, one observes the apostles and other Christians going forth with passion for lost souls, with power to preach the Gospel, and with purpose to reach people for Christ. These disciples had one thing in mind—the preaching of Jesus as the savior of the world. Today, Christians are to manifest this same passion for the unconverted, the same determination to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the same purpose of making disciples for Jesus.         

The story of Pentecost invokes the story of the Holy Spirit breathing a new community into life. One recalls how the outpouring of the Holy Spirit put, as it were, a fire into the hearts of the disciples of Jesus. This story of God’s power on this particular day should still motivate every person to respond with great joy as he or she reflects upon God’s regenerating power on that festival day. It was now fifty days since the Passover, and the Jews were celebrating the Feast of Weeks or the Festival of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:10).  This day was also called the Day of Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26). It was a festival of thanks for the harvest, which began immediately after the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:9). This culmination of the festival of thanks for the harvest is the day in which God added to His new community about 3000 souls.

Prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift His Father had promised (Acts 1:4). So the disciples waited in Jerusalem for this gift of the Holy Spirit, which was poured out upon them (2:1-4). This act initiated the witnessing of the events that had transpired over a three-year period in which Jesus had conducted His ministry. Surely this event must have triggered in their minds the words Jesus had spoken ten days earlier: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).[41] Also, one cannot reflect upon this statement from the Lord Jesus without reflection upon His statement about the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in  the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Feast of Harvest:

God’s Timing for the New Covenant Movement

God’s timing for the proclamation of His way of salvation through Jesus is geared to reach out to a large number of individuals at one time. This Feast of Harvest celebration is appropriate. People came from various parts of the Roman Empire—Europe, Asia, and Africa (Acts 2:5-12). Luke captures this event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles with glowing words:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven  and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues a as the Spirit enabled them (2:1-4).

Following this speaking in other languages—representative of seventeen nations present—Peter began to tell the multitude about this One who had been crucified less than two months earlier: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (2:22). Not only did Peter call attention to the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry, but also, in this same speech, he calls attention to their guilt and God’s reaction: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (2:36). How did many of the individuals who witnessed this event and this preaching respond? Listen to Luke as he reports the outcome of this bold proclamation of God’s Way of Salvation through Jesus Christ:

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:37-38).

Three Thousand Responded to God’s Grace

Upon hearing these words, Luke informs Theophilus that 3000 repented and were baptized: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (2:41). Yes, Acts 2 is the story about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.  Even though many of the events that transpired on this Day of Pentecost cannot be repeated, nevertheless Christians today can duplicate other things that permeated this body of believers—passion for the souls of men and women, motivation to tell the message of redemption, and an insatiable purpose in life to win people to Christ.


Passion for the Salvation of Souls

            One cannot read the Book of Acts without a consciousness of a deep passion for the souls of men and women. Following the Day of Pentecost, one finds the disciples sharing the Good News about God’s way of salvation on a daily basis: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (2:46-47). They were on fire for the Lord. They participated in public gatherings in the temple courts and in private gatherings in their homes. On one occasion, Peter went to the temple during the hour of prayer—at three in the afternoon—and, while there, he encountered a crippled beggar (over forty years old) whom he healed (3:1-10). This opened the door once more for him to witness concerning Jesus and talk about faith in the name of Jesus (3:11-26).

            One catches a glimpse of the passion that Peter exhibited for the salvation of men and women. This miraculous healing opened the floodgates, as it were, for him and John to witness for Christ before the Sanhedrin (4:1-22). Again, Luke details for Theophilus the intensity with which they preached Jesus:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (5:41-42). 

Numbers Increased to Five Thousand Men

Because of the passion for preaching Jesus, Luke reveals how the number of disciples (only men in this count) grew to five thousand within a short span of time (4:4). Philip preached to people in Samaria and many responded to “the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” by believing the preaching of Philip (8:12).  The numbers of conversions are too numerous to analyze in this message, but the missionary journeys of Paul reveals the passion that he had in preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified.


Story by Tony Campolo

Do you have an intense yearning for the souls of men and women who do not know God? Are you only concerned about the so-called respectable? How do you feel about drug addicts? How do you feel about prostitutes? How do you feel about alcoholics? The following story is told by Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, which illustrates the concern for the lost, even prostitutes. He tells the story of his visit to Honolulu for a Christian conference. Early in the morning, he ventured out of his hotel to find a coffee shop. He found a tiny coffee shop and walked in and sat down. The following is his description of the events:

The heavyset guy in a greasy apron behind the counter came over and asked me, “What do you want?” I told him I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut. As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door suddenly opened, swung wide and to my discomfort in marched 8 or 9 provocative and rather boisterous prostitutes. It was a small place and they sat on either side of me. Their talk was garrulous, loud and crude. I felt completely out of place. I was just about to make my getaway when I heard the woman sitting next to me say, “You know, tomorrow is my birthday. I'm going to be 39.” Her friend responded in a rather nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Do you want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?”

“Come on,” the women sitting next to me said, “why do you have to be so mean? I’m just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you that it is my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

Tony Campolo said, “When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the woman left and then I called over to the counter to the heavyset guy and asked him, ‘Do they come in here every night?’” “Yeah,” he answered. “The one right next to me”, I asked, “does she come in here every night?” “Yeah,” he said, “that’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why do you want to know?” “Because,” I replied, “I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you say we do something special for her? What do you think about throwing a birthday party for her, right here in the diner?”
A cute kind of smile crept over that heavyset man’s chubby cheeks. He answered, “That's a great idea. I like it. That’s great. Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind. I don't think anybody has ever done anything nice and kind for her.” “Well, look” I told him, “if it is OK with you, I'll be back here tomorrow morning at 2:30. I'll decorate the place. I'll even get a birthday cake for her.” “No way,” he said, “the birthday cake, that’s my thing. I’ll bake the birthday cake. “Two-thirty the next morning, Campolo says, I was back at that diner. I picked up some crepe paper and other decorations at the store, and made a sign of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” I decorated that diner from one end to the other. I had that diner really looking great. The word must have gotten out on the street because by 3:15 that next morning every prostitute in Honolulu was in that place. There was wall-to-wall prostitutes—and me.

At 3:30 on the dot the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friend. I had everybody ready; after all, I was sort of the informal master of ceremonies of this whole affair. It was my idea, so when they came in we all jumped up and screamed and we sang, “Happy birthday, Agnes!” And you know, I've never seen a person so flabbergasted, so stunned, so shaken. Her mouth fell open, her knees started to buckle, her friend had to offer her arm to steady her, and I noticed she had started to cry.

When the birthday cake with all the candles was carried out, that’s when she just lost it. She started sobbing. Harry, in his gruff voice mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes, blow out the candles.” Then he handed her a knife, and he ordered, “Cut the cake, Agnes, cut the cake.” Agnes looked down at that cake, and then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I, I mean, if I don’t, what I want to ask, is it OK if I keep the cake a little while? Is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?” Harry shrugged and answered, “Sure, Agnes, that’s fine, you want to keep the cake, keep the cake, take it home if you want.” “Oh, could I?” she asked. Agnes looked at Tony, “I live just down the street a couple doors; I want to take the cake home, is that OK? I'll be right back, honest.” She got off her stool, she picked up that cake, and she carried it out of that diner like it was the Holy Grail. She walked slowly toward the door, and we all stood there just speechless. When the door closed behind her, there was stunned silence in the place.
Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying, “What do you say we pray together?” Looking back on it now, it seems more than a little strange that a sociologist from eastern PA would be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning. But I prayed. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed, and that God would be good to her. And when I finished, Harry leaned over, and with a trace of hostility in his voice he said, “Hey, you never told me you were a preacher. What kind of preacher are you anyway? What church do you belong to?” In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered him quietly, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.” Harry thought a moment, and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t; there is no church like that.  Because if there was one, I’d join it.”[42]

            As one reflects upon this story, one should ask himself/herself: What is it that would entice a man to throw a birthday party for a prostitute? One cannot help but wonder if it is not a desire for the Day of Pentecost to stay alive and for others to repent and to be baptized and to receive the Holy Spirit and to be transformed by the power of God’s Spirit into a fighting force for the cause of Christ. Is not this kind of behavior the kind of behavior manifested by Jesus in His dealings with sinful humanity? Following the healing of a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), Matthew gives an account of Jesus reaction to the Pharisees’ condemnation of Jesus because He ate with “tax collectors and sinners”:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ a For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (9:9-13).

Power to Reach People for Christ

Just as the Holy Spirit enveloped the apostles on the day of Pentecost, so also, every person who responds to God’s grace receives the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Even though Christians today do not receive the unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the same sense that one witnesses on the Day of Pentecost, nevertheless, every Christian still receives the Holy Spirit as God’s gift in order to affirm one’s gift of eternal life. With this assurance of salvation, one can go, as it were, in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming God’s way of salvation by grace through faith.

The church still needs individuals with a passion for the lost. How do you relate to the down-an-out losers of humanity? Are you concerned about their salvation? Are you burdened over the souls of lost men and women? Not only does the church need individuals with passion, but the church also needs individuals with motivation to reach out to those who do not know Jesus as the answer to the sin problem each person faces. As one analyzes the early Christian converts, one readily observes compulsion in their desire to reach out to the lost. One detects that there was power, compulsion, and motivation in their lives as they reached out to sinners to tell them about God’s grace.

Is there the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Is there compulsion in your life for the salvation of souls? Is there motivation in your life to reach out to sinners? As stated above, shortly after Pentecost, one reads that the “number of men grew to about five thousand” (4:4). There may well have been over ten thousand converts to Christianity by this time—men and women.  Surely, this number of conversions represents the power behind the early church. How can you experience the power of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps, one today can experience the power of the Holy Spirit through association with other believers. Have you ever experienced the reality of Christ?  Again, one can experience this reality of Christ by association with other believers.

Christians Do Not Live in Isolationism

Dwight L. Moody

One sure way for one not to experience the power of the Holy Spirit is to live in isolation from other believers. Surely there is truth in this statement: “There is no salvation outside the church.” Again, one could say, “There is no Christianity without communion.” Once more, “There is no love without family.” Dwight L. Moody once called on a leading citizen in Chicago to persuade him to accept Christ. After they were seated, he talked to him about the need to meet with the people of God on Sunday. But the man objected. He told Moody that he could be just as good a Christian outside the church as well as in it. Whereupon, Moody got up and walked over to the fireplace, without saying anything, and picked up the tongs and reached into the fireplace and picked up a blazing coal from the fire and set it off by itself. In silence the two men watched it smolder and eventually go out. The man looked at Moody and said, “I see.”

The early church did not seek God’s will in isolation from other believers. They were told not to abandon the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25) even though the destruction of the old covenant world of Judaism was about to end (AD 70). In spite of persecution against God’s new covenant people, they were told not to abandon, that is, to give up meeting with the redeemed. The church (ἐκκλησία, ekklhsia) is the continuation of the Messianic ministry. There is no such thing as isolationism within the Christian community. Again, the early church did not seek God’s will in seclusion. The Christian community is the company of the committed. It is a company of the redeemed. One cannot understand the idea of “a company” apart from involvement. Christ established His church as a revolutionary company in order to reach out to the world. Christ formed the church in order for it to become a fellowship of witnesses concerning Himself. When one is converted to Christ, this conversion, in and of itself, necessitates one’s witnessing about the One whom God made both Lord and Christ.

Nature of the Church—Not A Building

As one wonders about the nature of the church, one should remember that the church is not a building. The church is people. The church building should be designed as a drill hall for the Christian task force. In other words, the church building should be a launching pad from which Christians are propelled out into the world to witness. The church is the fellowship of the committed. Do you have a mission? If not, then why not try winning your neighbor next door to Christ. The church needs to recapture the Christian banner of motivation to share with the world the message of redemption. The church today, as in the first century, can be a power for God.

The Church Must Have a Purpose

            What does it mean to you to say that the church must have a purpose? In order for you to fulfill your function in God’s community, you must understand that the goal of the church is to win people to Jesus Christ. Christians are partners with God in this wonderful scheme of redemption. It is in this regard that Paul writes:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin a for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain (2 Corinthians 5:19—6:1).

Are you going out into the streets with the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit? Are you going out into the world with the purpose of winning people to Christ?  Do you remember your basic identity? You must! Every Christian must fulfill his or her basic purpose in life—lead souls to Jesus. Does a church that throws a birthday party for a prostitute at 3:30 in the morning impassion you?  If not, why not?


Even though Christians cannot replicate the exact events that transpired on the Day of Pentecost, they can still capture the spirit and zeal that permeated the new community of God on earth. Christians can still exhibit a passion for the souls of men and women. Christians can still display power as a collective body of individuals in reaching out to the lost. Christians can still remember the purpose of their mission—wining souls to Jesus. Christians can still keep in mind their identity—children of God. What does the following words of Jesus mean to you: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:11).  Yes, Christians are to be “salt” and “light” in the world of corruption and darkness. Christians are to tell the lost about Jesus of Nazareth, the savior of the world.

[1] At the end of the major part of this paper, which concludes with remarks from Alexander Campbell about unity, this author (Dallas Burdette) will complete this study with a practical application of a sermon— Pentecost: The Birth of the Church—in order to help one focus upon the true nature of the church and its mission in life. Even though I employ the English word church in this sermon, one should substitute in his or her mind the true meaning of the Greek word ekklhsia.

[2] My remarks about E. H. Miller’s concept of the Church do not take away from my respect for this great man of God in his earthly life. He acted in good faith as he set forth his views. His traditions, nevertheless, blinded him to a more accurate reading of the many Scriptures he cited in order to bolster his presuppositions, even though this mindset was involuntary. His views resulted from a lack of proper consideration of context.  In spite of the fact that he misapplied so many Scriptures, one must say that his misunderstanding was not rebellion against God, but rather an honest mistake of the heart. This man loved the Lord with all his heart. I have never known a man who was more dedicated to God’s service than this man.

[3] I was actually baptized three times. After being in this movement, I was baptized a third time while attending a Gospel Meeting in Lowery, AL. So much stress was laid upon baptism  “for remission of sins” that I could not remember if I understood this point fully at the time my uncle (E. H. Miller) baptized me. If one wishes to pursue the rebaptism controversy within the Churches of Christ, one should go to and click on SERMONS and then click on BAPTISM and then click on Rebaptism in the Stone/Campbell Movement.

[4] For a Brief History of the One-Cup and NonSunday School Movement go to and click on SERMONS and then click on ONE CUP AND NONSUNDAY SHOOL MOVEMENT and then click on essay.

[5] See Homer L. King (1892—1983), Sermons and Writings of Homer L. King (Stockton, California: Old Paths Advocate, 1969), 191, writes:


I see nothing “denominational” in referring to the church as the “true church of Christ”, the “faithful church”, not even the “loyal church”, unless you refer to some who are not “true”, not “faithful”, or not “loyal”. These adjectives merely point out a certain characteristic, but are no part of the name.

[6] Today, changes are taking place in this movement.  In August, 2005, preachers from the one-cup and nonSunday school movement flew in from different states to study with me for two full days. Again, this coming April 7 and 8,  (2006) there are other preachers from this movement flying in to study with me for another seminar on How to Study the Bible (I have withheld the states in order to protect them from the wrath of the religious leaders in this movement.). I have discussed the one-cup movement since I grew up in this movement and understand the mind-set of this fellowship. Many of my relatives are still a part of this movement Those associated with this movement or those who have been associated with the Churches of Christ in general realize how devastating it is to disagree with the religious leaders, especially preachers. Preachers can be fired for apostasy for advancing the notion that there are Christians in other denominations or acceptance of instrumental music. My objective in doing this analysis of the church is to promote unity among the people of God. Many within the Churches of Christ do not know their own historical background as their origin. Whether one is a member of the Baptist Church or Church of Christ, they are all a part of the ekklhsia of God. In the city of Montgomery, AL, the Churches of Christ are divided over many issues. This essay is needed to help Christians understand the true nature of the church.

[7] All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, unless stated otherwise.

[8] See Alexander Campbell, “The Editor’s Response to Mr. Broaddus,” Millennial Harbinger, New Series, 4,  No. 12 (December 1840): 556.

[9] Leroy Garrett, “Is August 17, 1889 the Birthday of the Church of Christ?”, Vol., 17, No. 1 (January, 1975): 7

[10] Ibid., 6.

[11] Ibid., 6, 7. See also C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ (Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 1988). This book is one of the most informative books dealing with the historical background leading up to the denominational Church of Christ.

[12] Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address and Barton W. Stone and Others, Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, 1809, 1804 (St. Louis, Missouri: Mission Messenger, 1975), 44.

[13] Ibid., 44, 45.


[14] J. Wayne McKamie, “The Baptist Church,” in Old Paths Advocate, Vol. LXXX, No. 2 (February, 2006): 8, 9.

[15] Don L. King, “Editorial: Proper Perspective,” Old Paths Advocate, Vol. LXVII, No. 9 (September, 1995): 2.

[16] Alexander Campbell, “To Mr. William Jones, of London, Letter IV,” Millennial Harbinger 6, No. 3 (March, 1835): 111-112. Note: “expatiate” = develop, expound, or elucidate.

[17] Alexander Campbell, Christianity Restored (Rosemead, California: Old Paths Book Club, 1959), 122, 123. This citation is cited from Alexander Campbell, “Millennium,” Millennial Harbinger 1, No. 4 (April, 1830): 146.


[18] Wayne McKamie, “The Baptist Church,” Old Paths Advocate, Vol. LXXX, No. 2 (February 2006), 8,9.

[19] Bob L. Ross, Cambellites, Cow Bells, rosary beads, and Snake Handling: A Refutation of Anti-Instrumental Music in Worship (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1994), preface (no page number). This book can be ordered from Baptist Biblical Heritage, PO BOX 66, Pasadena, Texas 77501-0066, telephone (713) 477-4261.

b Greek Prisca, a variant of Priscilla

[20] Lawrence O. Richards, “Christ,” in Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Regency, 1985), 162.

            a Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.

c Greek seed

                a Or Messiah

a Or Messiah; also in verse 20

315 Bl.-Debr. § 259, v. also § 253 f.

[21] The NIV translates this verse: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute?” Transliteration of Greek words are mine (DB).

317 A being sui generis, Bl.-Debr. § 254. Such designations without art. are often very close to proper names. Cf. Cerfaux, 294: “Christ is the key word in Paul’s epistles. It is repeated more than 400 times, while Jesus occurs only some 200 times. Even if Christ were only a proper name, as is often maintained, it would be worth while investigating what aspect of Jesus is denoted. But does not the word Christ, originally the term for a class, often remind us of its original sense in Paul’s usage? Is not this the reason why it is combined with certain fixed formulae?”, 296: “If Χριστός (Cristos) were merely a proper name, why does he never say κύριος Χριστός (Jo kurios Cristos) instead of κύριος Ἰησοῦς? (Jo kurios Ihsous)”

[22]Hesse, “Χριστός,” in Gerhard Friedrich and William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 540.

[23] Ibid., 541

[24] Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 68.

[25] F. J. A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia: A Course of Lectures on the Early History and Early Conception of the Ecclesia (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1989), 1.

[26] Ibid., 1-2.

[27] “Doctrinal interpretations” deal with the various interpretations that have crystallized into frozen traditions inherited from the forefathers in the American Restoration Movement of the Campbells, not the Deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, or ethical behavior.

[28] Alexander Campbell, “To Mr. William Jones, of London, Letter IV,” Millennial Harbinger vol. 6, No. 3 (March 1835): 112.


[29] See Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John, 68, where he writes:


The term is, of course, basically a Hebrew term. We start with the Hebrew word m*v!^j, the participle of the verb meaning “to anoint”. Thus the word basically means “anointed”. If we transliterate this into English we get “Messiah”, and if we translate it into Greek it becomes Christos, which we transliterate as “Christ”. Thus we get the equation “Christ” = “Messiah” = “anointed”. The basic question accordingly concerns the meaning of anointed.

[30]The word institution is used in this context of an established organization or corporation (as a college or university). In other words, the ekklhsia (congregation) is not a political entity with a ruling class (as a nation).

b Peter means rock.

c Or hell

[31] Alexander Campbell, “Millennium—No. II,” Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 1, No. 4 (April, 1830): 145-146.

[32] Thomas Campbell, “Declaration and Address,” in C. A. Young, Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1985), 110-111.

[33] For a detailed study of “justification by faith alone,” please go to “Overview of Romans” [ONLINE]. Available from [accessed March 14, 2006] located under caption Biblical Studies and then under the subheading New Testament and then under subheading Romans. Paul and James (2:24) do not contradict one another concerning faith. Paul and James begin at different points or times in the Christian life. Christians are not saved by deeds but by faith. On the other hand, Christians are saved for good deeds. Paul begins with the concept that no one can earn the forgiveness of God; James begins with one who professes Christianity—the person who already claims forgiveness and a new relationship with God. One can state emphatically that no one can be saved by works; but equally one can also say that no one can be saved without producing good works in his or her walk with God. Both Paul and James are in total agreement.

[34] Lawrence O. Richards, “Church,” Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985),164.

1 There is a certain exception in L. Kösters’ art. “Kirche,” in the Roman Catholic Lex. ThK.2 V, 968 ff., when he writes: “In the NT used at an early date by Hellenists in Jerusalem for the (assembled) local Christian congregation, then for the total Christian community.”

Cr.-Kö. H. Cremer, Biblisch-theologisches Wörterbuch des nt.lichen Griechisch, revised by J. Kögel11, 1923.

NT New Testament.

[35]K. L. Schmidt, ἐκκλησίσ, in Gerhard Friedrich and William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 503.

[36] Cecil K. Thomas, Alexander Campbell and His New Version (St. Louis, Missouri: The Bethany Press, 1958), 186.  Thomas mentions Hort in his citation—F.  J. A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia: A Course of Lectures on the Early History and Early Conception of the ecclesia (New York: Macmillan company, 1898).

[37] Cited by F. F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961, 1978), 39-40.

[38] Ibid., 40.

[39] Ibid., 41.

[40] Alexander Campbell, “The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union”, Christians Baptist, Vol. 1, No. 9 (April 1824):176, 177, 178. Campbell uses the word institution in a different sense than what I (Dallas Burdette) affirmed earlier in this essay. The word institution should be interpreted within its own context. Apparently, according to the writings of Campbell,  he uses the word institution  to denote the Christian society of believers, not a political or structural organization with a ruling class of officers.

[41]All Scripture citations are from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), unless stated otherwise.

[42] I am indebted to Brett Blair, “Episode II: Birth of the Church,” for this story (cited verbatim).  See “Episode II: birth of the Church” [ONLINE]. Available from [accessed 17 May 2002, located under SERMONS.  To access the sermons on this website, one has to pay an annual fee of 49.95 (Level I).