Are All Christians Members of the Church of Christ? by Raymond Elliott

     Your answer to this question will be determined by how you perceive the church of our Lord.

     Was the ‘Church of Christ’ begun in the early part of the 19th century by the leadership of men like Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and others?

     If so, then your answer would have to be ‘no’ because the ‘Church of Christ’ would simply be an addition to the already scores of other denominations that have existed for years both in this country and in other parts of the world.

     Thus, to claim to be the ‘only church’ would be the height of religious arrogance and bigotry.  Only narrow-minded people would make such a claim because the ‘Church of Christ’ would only be a part of the whole body of Christ.

     Some would even propose that a person could be a Christian without ever ‘joining’ a denomination, including the ‘Church of Christ.’

     Many of our most influential brethren who claim that the ‘Church of Christ’ is simply a part of the whole, that is, a denomination among others, teach that there are “devout and knowledgeable Christians” in all denominations and based upon the assumption that the ‘Church of Christ’ is merely a product of the Restoration Movement they are absolutely  correct.

     What right do we have to assert that the ‘Church of Christ’ is better than other religious groups if the church is merely a man-made organization?   It must be understood that ‘my tribe’ is just one among ‘many tribes’ and that we are all on the ‘same ship’ heading for glory land.

     Based upon the premise that the church is simply a denomination, each believer has the right to choose his favorite religious organization to join.

     Now let us go back to the question, “Are all Christians members of the church of Christ?” and make every effort to answer it according to the teachings of the New Testament of Jesus Christ.

     We might even ask, “Are all saved persons members of the church of Christ?”

     Our Lord promised in Matthew 16:13-19 that He would build (establish) His church.  And this He did on the day of Pentecost following His ascension (Acts 2).

     The apostles preached the gospel of Christ for the first time.  When many of the hearers believed in what was being preached regarding Jesus of Nazareth who had been crucified, they cried out, “What shall we do?”

     They were instructed by Peter to “repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

     In verse 41 we read that about 3,000 souls were baptized on that day and were added to the number of believers.

     Then we read in verse 47 that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

     It must be understood, therefore, that when an individual, as a penitent believer, is immersed into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, he is added to the church of our Lord.

     Now, if the Lord adds the saved to His church that means all the unsaved remain outside of His spiritual body which is the church of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23).

     Furthermore the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:4 that there is only “one body.”

     Denominationalism, as we understand it today, did not exist when Jesus established His church.   It is true that the spirit of sectarianism existed in the church in the city of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), but Paul condemned such and he corrected the unscriptural practice of Christians calling themselves after different men.

     A major thrust of the Restoration Movement that began in this country in the first part of the 19th century was to lead believers to be Christians only and to be one in the teaching and practice of the word of God.  The intent of the leaders of this movement was not to begin another denomination but simply to be the church of our Lord.

     Also, we should understand that this was not the only effort to restore New Testament Christianity, because many efforts had been made over the intervening centuries to be followers of the Lord and His teachings.

     In fact there were congregations existing in this country before the influence of Thomas and Alexander was ever felt in the religious community.  For example, the Rocky Springs congregation near Bridgeport, Alabama was begun in 1803.   Thomas Campbell did not come to America until 1807.  There were also congregations existing in the state of Tennessee before the Campbell family came to America.

     The truth is, one can be a Christian without ever joining a denomination.  Whenever brethren declare that there are “devout, knowledgeable Christians” in the denominations they have a misconception of the teaching of the New Testament regarding the undenominational nature of the church of Jesus Christ.

     The fact is, when a person who believes in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, repents of his sins and confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and is immersed into Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins, that individual is saved by the blood of the Lamb and is added to the body (church) of Jesus Christ.

     It is the Lord who saves and does the adding of that person to the church.  The individual doing the baptizing or the place where the baptism takes place is of no significance.  The emphasis is on the one being immersed.

     The real problem exists when the person who has been immersed joins a religious organization not authorized by the New Testament.   He should associate with others who have obeyed the commands of the gospel, worship and work with them, and not become a member of a denomination.

     For example when the jailer and his household and Lydia and her household were baptized in Philippi, they constituted the church of Jesus Christ in that city (Acts16:13-16, 30-35).

      Today when missionaries travel into remote areas and teach people about Jesus Christ and immerse the believers in His name for the remission of their sins, the Lord adds them to His church.  There is no reason whatsoever for these believers to seek out a denomination to join, because they comprise the church of Jesus Christ in their village.

     In my humble opinion, one of the hardest lessons to be understood in our world and in our time is the undenominational nature of the church of Jesus Christ.  This problem exists because a person is born today into a world of religious division with thousands of denominations existing, even in our own country.

     No wonder a ‘truth seeker’ becomes confused when considering a ‘church’ to join.’  How wonderful it would be if all believers in Jesus Christ would stand as one and go forth with the gospel of Christ into the entire world.  This is the desire of our Lord as He prayed for such in John 17:20, 21.

     How sad that some of our own brethren are adding to the confusion when they teach that the church of Jesus Christ is simply a denomination!

     It should be the sincere desire of every Christian that men and women from every region of this world would come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1Timothy 2:4).

     Let us make every effort to lead people to Jesus Christ so that they may be saved by His precious blood and the grace of our Heavenly Father (Ephesians 1:7: Revelation 1:5).

      Let us not grow weary and become discouraged in our efforts (Galatians 6:9), even though the church is being divided by some brethren who are teaching error.

     May God’s richest blessings be upon all the elders, preachers, teachers, and all Christians who are endeavoring to be nothing more or less than a New Testament Christian and the church of our Lord Jesus Christ!