What Do The Disciples of Christ Believe?
Like most Christians, Disciples affirm
Jesus Christ is the son of the Living God, and offers saving grace to all;
All persons are God’s children. No exceptions!
Beliefs and practices usually associated with Disciples include
Open Communion. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion is celebrated in weekly worship. It is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ.
Freedom of belief. Disciples are called together around one essential of faith: belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Bible, the Holy Spirit study and prayer, and are expected to extend that freedom to others.
Baptism by immersion. In baptism the old self-centered life is set aside, and a new life of trust in God begins. Although Disciples practice baptism by immersion, other baptism traditions are honored.
Belief in the oneness of the church. All Christians are called to be one in Christ and to seek opportunities for common witness and service.
The ministry of believers. Both ministers and lay persons lead in worship, service and spiritual growth.
Long version of Disciples beliefs
“Bible name for Bible things.” “No creed, but Christ.” “Where the scriptures speak, we speak.”
A guide for Christian living and faith.
Disciples characteristically believe that the Bible is understandable. Not uniformly easy to understand, but intelligible to lay members of the church.
Truly reveals God’s purpose in the world—to free us from our sin through Christ.
Alexander Campbell offered rules for interpreting the scriptures: On opening any book in the sacred scriptures consider first the following: the order, the title, the date, the place and the occasion of it.
While not given to defining God, Disciples usually think of God as Creator and as revealed through the life of Jesus Christ. There are no set beliefs about God—all experience the deity differently. Disciples affirm the reality of God in the world but resist temptation to enclose God in human definition.
Gen. 1:1; II Cor. 5:19; John 4:7-8; Ex. 3:14-15; John 1:1-3, 14
Fully man, fully God, the historical facts of his life reveal the human Jesus, the presence of God in this man adds a dimension identified as Christ, which we must accept as faith, not fact. The joining of God with man in the person of Jesus Christ forms the very heart of the Christian faith.
“No Creed, but Christ!” Disciples believe that faith in Jesus Christ is a personal faith. Both the Campbells and Stone taught that creeds were irrelevant and that scripture alone was sufficient for faith in Jesus Christ.
Matt. 16:15-16; John 1:14; John 20:31; John 14:9; and, Colossians 1:15-20.
The Holy Sprit
Barton Stone defined the Holy Spirit as the “energy of God” and did not accept the idea that it was part of the Trinity.
Alexander Campbell advanced the rational view that the Holy Spirit was a product of the scriptures, that it only worked through the scriptures and that it influenced persons through words and ideas.
Through the commitment of your confession of faith, you are expected to conduct your life with a sense of moral responsibility; to participate in the organized life of the church structure; to share in the leadership of worship; to worship regularly, both corporately and privately; to be a responsible steward of all your resources; and, to understand the wholeness and universal character of the church.
Matt. 16:16; Rom. 12:4-5
Disciples generally believe that baptism is an act by which a believer enters into the church universal. Baptism is for mature individuals who are old enough to make their own decisions. The act is usually by immersion in water as the accepted New Testament practice. Baptism serves as a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to discipleship. Baptism also serves as symbolic of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and of faith in life to come.
The Lord’s Supper/Communion
For Disciples, communion is the heart of the worship experience. Disciples celebrate at the Lord’s Table in remembrance of Christ and Christ’s life on earth. It serves as fellowship, drawing the congregation closer together. Communion is thanksgiving for forgiveness of sins and renewal of life and dedication to Christ’s way. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated on Sundays and special occasions. It is administered by lay people and all Christians, of any denomination, are welcome to participate.
1 Corinthians 11:24
Founders of the Disciples movement developed their notions of ministry out of their disdain for formal clergy, their distrust of authority and their firm belief in the concept of congregational freedom.
From the authority received through Christ, each congregation was empowered to ordain and employ persons for pastoral leadership.
The office of ministry in a Christian Congregation rested primarily in the eldership, a select body of upright men ordained to preside over the life of the church, to exercise pastoral oversight to teach the word of God, to maintain discipline, to minister oat the table and to set an example to the flock.
All members are “ministers” entitled to interpret the scriptures and perform church functions.
Alexander Campbell identified three ministerial offices as perpetual:
Bishops, whose office is to preside over, to instruct and to edify the community.
Deacons, whether called treasurers, stewards, doorkeepers or messengers.
Evangelists, sent out into the world (to preach, make converts and plant congregations).
Today we would call these officers, elders, deacons and traveling preachers.
Rom. 10:14-15; Acts 14:23; I Tim. 3:1-7; I Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5
“The Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one.” Alexander Campbell.
The “polar star” of unity became clouded for a time during the late 1800’s as the Stone-Campbell movement concentrated its energies upon the restoration of the New Testament church. This effort led to divisiveness rather than unity, producing three distinct denominations.