Is the Church of Christ a good biblical church?
Is the Church of Christ a good biblical church? Do all the Churches of Christ have the same ‘faith plus works’ salvation theology?

Edited from Used by permission

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer due to the phrase Church of Christ being of such a broad description. There are many churches who refer to themselves as the 'Church of Christ.' Even within the Churches of Christ there can be significant differences between the churches.

There is no doubt that many in the Churches of Christ are genuine believers in Christ who desire to truly worship, follow, and obey Him. At the same time, there are other Church of Christ churches that are borderline cult-like over their preferences, practices, and doctrines.

While we will not with one broad brush condemn all the Churches of Christ or every church that refers to itself as the "Church of Christ," we will nevertheless express some of our concerns about what the Church of Christ traditionally believes and teaches.

One "minor" Church of Christ issue is not allowing musical instruments in worship services.

While we entirely agree that a church is well within the freedom God gives to not use musical instruments in worship, the problem is that some within the Church of Christ are fanatically against musical instruments and many are fanatical to the point of declaring any church that uses musical instruments as not being a true church.

This is only becomes a 'salvational issue' when the theology being taught is that we are saved by 'doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason,' or in other words, saved by what we do rather than by trusting in the One who can save.

Such dogmatism over a non-essential issue is often the mark of a cult, not the mark of a good biblical church.

A second issue is the fact that some in the Church of Christ claim to be “the one true church,” outside of which there is no salvation. By no means do all Church of Christ members believe this, but it is prevalent enough to warrant a concern.

Some go so far as to argue that since the name is “Church of Christ,” that indicates their church is the one and only true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is completely unbiblical. There is no one church or denomination that encompasses the entire Body of Christ.

The “one true church of Christ” is comprised of all who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, depending upon Him alone for salvation. Thus the Church is composed of true believers everywhere, no matter what their local church or denominational affiliation is. The claim of exclusive access to salvation is another common identification of a cult, not the teaching of a good biblical church.

Another very important issue is the Church of Christ’s emphasis on water baptism as being necessary for salvation. Church of Christ advocates point to Scriptures such as Acts 2:38, John 3:5, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, and Acts 22:16 as biblical evidence that baptism is required for salvation.

There is no denying that baptism is very important. Baptism is intended to be an initial act of obedience to Christ, an illustration of Christ’s death and resurrection, a public declaration of faith in Christ, a step of identification with Him, and a proclamation of desire to follow Him.

And in the minds of the early Christians, water baptism was so inextricably linked with salvation that the two have been viewed by some as inseparable. Thus the idea that a person could receive Christ as Savior and not be water baptized was completely foreign to the early church.

With that said, however, water baptism is not required for salvation. There are biblically plausible and contextually valid interpretations of each of the above Scriptures that do not indicate water baptism as being necessary for salvation. There are over 150 verses in the New Testament that declare salvation is received by faith (i.e. faith is the noun; belief is the verb), with no mention of baptism or any other work requirement of the believer (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

If water baptism is necessary for salvation, these Scriptures are in error and the Bible is contradictory. And in no place in Scripture does it ever tell us that those who are not baptized in water will not be saved.

Finally, Church of Christ advocates will often argue that when the Bible speaks of salvation “by faith,” it is speaking of a faith or belief that produces 'the necesssary works of obedience', such as repentance, confession and being water baptized.

Here they are very careful to claim that while water baptism is not a work that earns salvation, it is a necessary "a work of God" that is required before salvation can be granted.

For the Church of Christ members, the requirements of water baptism and confession are no less important than faith (i.e. belief) and repentance. The problem with this is that, while it may seem to be a subtle difference from the biblical doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, it is in fact a most crucial difference.

A person who has genuinely received salvation will produce good fruit simply because of being born again. Good works are the inevitable result of the believer's own regeneration and salvation (Ephesians 2:10). What differentiates a living faith from a dead faith in James 2:14-26 is the presence of good works in the life of the believer, not the requirement of works.

Thus, Church of Christ advocates would be right to denounce a church if teaches that 'intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel' as sufficient for salvation- as some in the Church of Christ will assert that this is what the doctrine of justification by faith alone supposedly teaches.

However, don't be fooled or misled in the distinction that is being made.

While it is faith in Jesus Christ as YOUR ONLY SAVIOR that saves a person, genuine faith in Jesus Christ will invariably because of regeneration produce the fruit or the result of good works in that of the life of the believer.

Thus, to say that 'good works are a necessary pre-condition for salvation' is to make salvation a work of the believer, not on the already finished work of Jesus Christ.

As Titus 3:5 declares, “He (Jesus) saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

So, are Church of Christ churches good biblical churches?

This is a question that cannot be answered with an all-encompassing response.

You may be attending a Church of Christ that does declare that salvation is God's free gift to us, brought to us by Christ, and received by faith. However, if there is an extreme over-emphasis on the absence of musical instruments, a claim of exclusive access to salvation, or a doctrine of salvation that is works based, these are marks of a church that definitely should not be attended or participated in.

This requires discernment on the part of a believer considering joining a Church of Christ church, for the answer to this question depends entirely on which type of Church of Christ it is.

Added note from the ministry of Church of Christ dilemma

To better understand Church of Christ theology, it should be noted that the Church of Christ view of the fall is very similar to that of Pelagian theology in that they believe or assume that humanity is basically good or morally neutral, and that man has the moral power and ability to save himself through his own obedience to the moral and religious requirements of the New Testament.

This is to say that Churches of Christ deny (or minimize) the effects of the fall, and do not believe that Adam's sin adversely affected man's moral ability to follow commands and laws in order to be saved. Thus, is it the Church of Christ view of the fall (that the effects of the fall were negligible) that is the enabler of a salvation theology of works.

By contrast, evangelical Christianity begins with the understanding that man's heart is inclined towards evil, and that he has an inherit in-ability through New Testament law-keeping to be declared righteous in the sight of God and in this way save his own soul.

That is why evangelical Christianity believes that man is in desperate need of a Savior and the perfect righteousness that God provides as a gift to all and upon all who will place faith in Jesus Christ.