What is the difference between the Church of God and the Church of Christ?
Topic(s): Church, Denominationalism
The church Jesus came to establish (Matthew 16:18), for which He died (Acts 20:28), and to which belong all the saved (Acts 2:47), is identified in the New Testament as the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2) and the church of Christ (Romans 16:16). The terms are used to identify the rightful owner or head of the church, and not in any way as a denominational designation for two differing religious bodies.
However, the differences between modern-day churches of Christ and the Church of God are many. The question is difficult to answer as there are sometimes substantial differences between individual churches of Christ, just like there are substantial differences among groups within the Church of God. I am not familiar with all the differing branches of churches of God, but will attempt to answer this question according to what I do know (or think <I know!) about the Church of God in relation to mainstream churches of Christ. If what I write is not consistent with your belief or practice, please understand that I am not trying to misrepresent anyone, but am simply working from personal experience or from information available on the Internet.
1. GENERAL ORGANIZATION: The Church of God is a denomination, with most having some type of earthly headquarters and a ruling body. For example, one branch of the Church of God has headquarters in Cleveland, TN, while another has headquarters in Anderson IN. I'm sure there are probably others.
Churches of Christ are autonomous, that is, we have no earthly headquarters and all congregations function completely independent of one another. This is the pattern given for the church in the New Testament. There were no formal organizations to govern or unite the various congregations. They were simply united insofar as each congregation was in adherence to the teaching of the New Testament. The Bible knows nothing of denominational organization, speaking only of the church in the local or universal sense.
2. CONGREGATIONAL ORGANIZATION: Congregations of the Church of God are led by the local preacher, sometimes called the pastor. This individual possesses great authority in direction and decision-making in the local congregation.
Churches of Christ are led by elders, men who meet the qualifications as set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The word translated pastor in the New Testament applies to the work of these men, and not to the work of a preacher. The word is the Greek poimaine (Strong's # 4165), and is translated "pastors" in Ephesians 4:11 and numerous other places translated "shepherd(s)". The verb form is translated "feed" in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2. Additionally, elders (also known as bishops or pastors) are always found in a plurality in the local church (Acts 10:17-18; Philippians 1:1), never as one man ruling in a local congregation.
3. WORSHIP Churches of God utilize instrumental music in their worship, and also utilize women in leading roles in the work and worship of the church.
Churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in worship, believing such is unauthorized by the New Testament. All references to music in the church have to do with singing. There is no command to the church to use instrumental music, neither is there any example of the church using instrumental music in the New Testament. You can see a more in-depth discussion of this topic on our website at www.housetohouse.com.
Churches of Christ do not allow women to take leading roles in the worship of the church, being mindful of the prohibitions against such in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, and in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
4. MIRACLES Churches of God generally believe in the possibility of miraculous healing and tongue speaking.
Churches of Christ believe the age of miracles ended at the close of the first century. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches the cessation of the miraculous when that which is perfect is come. That which is perfect is the completed revelation of God, the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) which supplies us unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) in things pertaining unto life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
5. SALVATION Churches of God (according to the website of the group based in Cleveland TN) believe in salvation by faith only (at least as I understood the website). Salvation is followed by baptism in the Holy Spirit and tongue-speaking as evidence of Divine approval.
Churches of Christ believe salvation comes through faith in the gospel (Mark 16:15-16); repenting of sins (Luke 13:3,5); confessing faith in Christ (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10); and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
6. END OF TIMES Churches of God believe in the return and literal reign of Christ on the earth.
Churches of Christ believe the kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:16-18), and will be delivered up to God when Jesus comes again (1 Corinthinas 15:23-24). A thorough refutation of premillennial theory can be read at www.housetohouse.com. Go to the webpage and select the topic "church" from the pull-down menu on the left side. The last question in the list is "What is Premillennialism?"
According to what I have read (again from the Cleveland TN website), there are additional differences between the two religious bodies. These are only a few that could be addressed in brief fashion.