Through many denominational acquaintances I have made from Bible studies, I have been able to identify a noticeable pattern. It seems there are always three specific things that distinctly separate the church of Christ from everyone else. Three points stand out as completely foreign to my religious friends. Of course, things like no musical instruments in worship, men only in church leadership, no central headquarters, or taking the Lord’s Supper every Sunday are obviously different from the denominations. But, they all understood those topics and simply proposed arguments to justify their doctrinal positions. When these other topics became part of the discussion, however, it was as if I had began speaking in a foreign language to them. It was clear they were not fully comprehending what I was saying. The three topics were always: sole authority of the New Testament, the Biblical concept of the kingdom, and Scriptural baptism. Our stance on these these doctrines caused a severe disconnect in those religious friends.
Sole Authority of the New Testament
Almost every Protestant denomination will claim “Sola Scriptura,” (Latin: by scripture alone) as their maxim. This is the theological doctrine that scripture is the sole, infallible rule of faith and practice. However, they will then turn right around and have a central headquarters somewhere to whom they answer! They will often also have a creed, discipline, or confession that they follow in addition to the Bible. This completely contradicts sola scriptura. There is also a consistent confusion as to the separation of the Testaments. Old Testament practices are incorporated into New Testament Christianity which, essentially, ignores Colossians 2:14. This is one major point that separates the church of Christ from all others. We truly believe that the Bible only is our sole authority in all things religious, (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3).
Biblical Concept of the Kingdom
The grand majority of our religious friends have been sold a false bill of goods. They’ve bought into an idea of a rapture and a second coming of Jesus where He establishes a throne on earth. Basically, it is a doctrine of second chances. We call it Pre-millennialism. Sadly, it completely distorts one’s understanding of what the kingdom of God truly is. From what I have witnessed, the church of Christ is the only church that adheres to what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. According to passages like Revelation 1:9; or Mark 9:1 in conjunction with Acts 1:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 4:20, the kingdom has already come. If you consider Matthew 16:18,19; John 3:3, 18:36; and Colossians 1:13 together, then the kingdom is the same thing as the church, just like the church is also called the “body,” (Colossians 1:18). This is one of those doctrines that unmistakably separates us from all other religious bodies.
I cannot tell you how many times I have explained, “Salvation is on the other side of baptism, not on this side of baptism,” (Acts 2:38, 22:16; Galatians 3:27). It is simply a difficult truth for many of our religious friends to accept. For some reason, man has always had a problem with obedience (cf. Genesis 3).
Baptism has to do with obedience and there’s just something about it that causes many religious people to rebel against God’s commands. Any small child can easily understand the phrase, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16). But a full grown adult can’t quite seem to grasp the concept. This separates us from our religious friends because they have been taught that it is not necessary, that you are saved by just believing. That is not what the Scriptures teach! Space does not allow me to elaborate more on these, but suffice it to say that these are the three biggest “sticking points” for anyone outside of the church of Christ. We need to teach these more and do it with love and humility.