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Fulton County Gospel News

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Are We Campbellites

By Marvin Rickett

Members of the denominational world often call members of the churches of Christ Campbellites. Many do it in derision, but some honestly believe this is properly what we should be called. They believe the term church of Christ should be reserved for that invisible body which contains the good people out of all denominations, and not be worn by any one "sect." They believe that we are a sect founded by Alexander Campbell in the early 1800s.

Do we have any right to wear the title Campbellite? Or do they have any right to call us Campbellite? There are two possible situations that would give credence to the term Campbellite: (1) If Alexander Campbell actually founded (originated, began) the church of Christ, or (2) if we follow Alexander Campbell's teachings. A person is called a Lutheran because Martin Luther actually founded the Lutheran church. A person is called a Calvinist because he believes and practices religious tenets that are peculiar and unique to John Calvin.

Did Alexander Campbell found (originate, start) the church of Christ? If so, when? Alexander Campbell came to America in 1809 from Northern Ireland. His father, Thomas Campbell, came to America in 1807, and had been teaching the principles of restoring New Testament Christianity a year before Alexander came. He had written down these principles in the "Declaration and Address." From these principles, the Campbells learned they needed to be baptized (immersed) for remission of sins, so they were baptized in 1812. On New Year's day in 1832, the Campbells combined their movement with the Stone movement. On which of these dates did Alexander Campbell found the church of Christ?

The answer is, none of the above. In 1794, James O'Kelley had determined to restore the church of Christ in Virginia with a group called the "Republican Methodists." This was when Alexander Campbell was only 6 years old, and 15 years before he came to America. In 1804, Barton W. Stone and five other men drew up a document called, "The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery", in which they set forth principles of restoring the church of Christ. This was when Campbell was only 16 years old and 5 years before he came to America. None of these men founded the church of Christ, but they were members of the church of Christ years before Campbell allegedly "founded" it.

Jesus Christ founded (originated, started) the church of Christ in A.D. 30. In A.D. 28, He said "Upon this Rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Luke said that in A.D. 30, "the Lord added to the church daily" (Acts 2:47). Paul called congregations "churches of Christ" in A.D. 57 (Romans 16:16). All O'Kelley, Stone and Campbell did was restore the original New Testament church that Jesus had founded over 1700 years before by using the Bible as the only authority and guide in faith and practice. And O'Kelley and Stone did it before Campbell! But no one calls the church O'Kelleyites or Stoneites. Campbell received that "distinction" because that with his superior mind and personality he became the leader in restoring the Lord's church.

Does the church of Christ today follow Alexander Campbell's teachings? There is nothing peculiar or unique of Campbell's teaching that we believe or practice. If Campbell taught something the Bible already taught, we believe and practice it, not because Campbell taught it, but because the Bible teaches it. If Campbell taught anything that the Bible did not teach we do not accept it. For example, Campbell advocated the missionary society; the Bible does not, and therefore we do not accept the missionary society. Campbell taught that immersion was necessary for remission of sins; the Bible teaches that immersion is necessary for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16), therefore we believe and practice immersion for remission of sins. Campbell preferred the name "Disciples of Christ," the Bible gives the new name "Christian" for followers of Christ (Acts 11:26), therefore we wear the name "Christian" instead of Campbell's preference, "Disciples of Christ." Campbell advocated taking the Lord's supper the first day of each week; the Bible also advocates taking the Lord's Supper the first day of each week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11: 1734), so we observe the Lord's Supper the first day of every week.

We are not Campbellites. We repudiate the title. It is an insult to call us that. Campbell did not found the church of Christ. We believe and practice nothing that was peculiar to Alexander Campbell. We are Christians. The church of Christ is the church Jesus built. We believe and practice only that which we find authorized in the New Testament (Col. 3:17). Campbell tried to practice this same principle of believing and practicing only that which he found authorized in the New Testament. He was a leader in popularizing and explaining this principle. We appreciate the work he did. But he did not found a church.

We wear no man's name. The Lord wanted us to wear His name. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). We invite all religious people to wear this name. Yet, to have the right to it, they are obligated to omit all human creeds, doctrines, and names; and do His will.

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