Touching our Island with the Truth and Love of Christ
A statement about our faith. What We Believe Introduction In the latter part of the 18th century, men of different denominations, studying independently of each other, in various parts of the world, began to ask: -Why not go back beyond denominationalism to the simplicity and purity of the first-century church? -Why not take the Bible alone and once again continue "steadfastly in the apostles' teaching..." (Acts 2:42)? -Why not plant the same seed (the Word of God, Luke 8:11), that first century Christians planted, and be Christians only, as they were? They were pleading with everyone to throw off denominationalism, to throw away human creeds, and to follow only the Bible. They taught that nothing should be required of people as acts of faith except that which is evident in the scriptures. They emphasized that going back to the Bible does not mean the establishment of another denomination, but rather a return to the original church. Members of churches of Christ are enthusiastic about this approach. With the Bible as our only guide we seek to find what the original church was like and restore it exactly. We do not see this as arrogance, but the very opposite. We are saying that we do not have the right to ask for men's allegiance to a human organization -- but only the right to call upon men to follow God's blueprint.
The name, "Church of Christ," first appeared in the Federal Religious Census in 1906. Members of the Church of Christ however do not consider themselves a church that was started near the beginning of the 20th century. The movement is designed instead to pattern itself after the church established in the first century and featured in the New Testament.
Early in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a religious reform developed in the United States, Great Britain and Russia which, unlike the sixteenth century Reformation movement in Europe, was instead an attempt to restore Christianity of the New Testament. This process became known as the Restoration Movement.
The Restoration Movement began as an attempt to return to apostolic Christianity for the sake of Christian unity. At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning if the nineteenth, groups in several locations in the United States became disillusioned with the divisions in the Protestant denominations. They began the attempt to return to the simplicity of the New Testament church to achieve unity in Christ. In 1801 many of these groups began calling themselves the "Christian Church." A massive revival took place in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. It is estimated that 30,000 people attended. The Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church hosted the services. Barton W. Stone was one of a number of preachers from various denominational affiliations who spoke at the same time in different parts of the campground. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and his son Alexander Campbell were among the leaders in this work. The two groups that followed these men were combined in 1832, and the resulting group became known as "Christians." The Restoration Movement today includes groups like the Churches of Christ, Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ. Cedar Key Church of Christ continues to emphasize the restoration principles and attempts to be an undenominational church with only the Bible as its guide.
The church of Christ is not a Denomination. For this reason, we are not interested in man-made creeds, but simply in the New Testament pattern. We do not conceive of ourselves as being a denomination --nor as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish -- but simply as members of the church which Jesus established and for which he died. And that, incidentally, is why we wear his name. The term "church of Christ" is not used as a denominational designation, but rather as a descriptive term indicating that the church belongs to Christ. We recognize our own personal shortcomings and weaknesses--and this is all the more reason for wanting to carefully follow the all-sufficient and perfect plan God has for the church. Unity Based Upon The Bible Since God has vested "all authority" in Christ (Matthew 28:18), and since he serves as God's spokesman today (Hebrews 1:1,2), it is our conviction that only Christ has the authority to say what the church is and what we should teach. And since only the New Testament sets forth Christ's instructions to his disciples, it alone must serve as the basis for our teaching and practice. This is fundamental with members of churches of Christ. We believe that teaching the New Testament without modification is the only way to lead men and women to become Christians. We believe religious division is bad. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17). And later, the apostle Paul begged those who were divided to unite in Christ (1 Corinthians 1). We believe the only way to achieve unity is by a return to the Bible. Compromise cannot bring unity. And surely no person, nor group of persons, has the right to draw up a set of rules by which everyone must abide. But it is altogether proper to say, "Let's unite by just following the Bible." This is fair. This is safe. This is right. So churches of Christ plead for religious unity based upon the Bible. We believe that to subscribe to any creed other than the New Testament, to refuse to obey any New Testament command, or to follow any practice not sustained by the New Testament is to add to or take away from the teachings of God. And both additions and subtractions are condemned in the Bible (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18,19). This is the reason the New Testament is the only rule of faith and practice we have in churches of Christ.
Each Congregation is Self-Governed. Churches of Christ have none of the trappings of modern-day organizational bureaucracy. There are no governing boards--neither district, regional, national nor international--no earthly headquarters and no man-designed organization. Each congregation is autonomous (self- ruled) and is independent of every other congregation. The only tie which binds the many congregations together is a common allegiance to Christ and the Bible. There are no conventions, annual meetings, nor official publications. Congregations may cooperate in supporting foreign and domestic evangelism, children's homes, responding to benevolent needs, etc. However, participation is strictly voluntary on the part of each congregation and no person nor group issues policies or makes decisions for other congregations.
We are independent of any denominational structure. We are not bound by any denominational creeds, written traditions, or regional/national organization. We want to be undenominational! We are completely independent and autonomous in terms of our doctrine, practice, and church government. We do have a group of men who are our spiritual guides and leaders. These men are called elders, bishops (overseers), or pastors (shepherds). These men are all members of our congregation and have been chosen solely by us based upon the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. They guide us as a church body and they are responsible to God for our spiritual lives.
Cedar Key church, along with many others, is attempting to keep Jesus and his purposes for His church at the center of our focus. We desire to be restored to the Spirit and teachings of Jesus as revealed in His teachings, lifestyle, and values. We believe the Bible is the absolute authority for this pursuit. THE BIBLE IS GOD'S WORD We trust that the Bible is Godís perfect book of life for life. We believe God has protected the transmission of His Word through the ages so that we can know what He does, says, believes, and feels. The Bible tells us what doctrines to teach and what morals to practice. It establishes the values and ethics we live by and pass on to the next generation. The Bible is Godís word for our individual lives, families, churches, and communities. Through the Bible we can know God and the life that comes through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. CHRISTIAN UNITY Jesus prayed that all his followers"Ömight be oneÖ" (John 17:20-21) The writers of the scriptures often challenged their fellow believers in Christ to have, "Öno divisions among themÖ", and that they may be one unified body or family. (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:20) Jesus never gave any instructions for how to set up governing bodies over many churches that would form a group of Christian believers who would separate themselves from other groups of believers. Jesus did not tell us to identify ourselves as separate from other believers by naming our groups. We never hear the term denomination in the Bible because it goes directly against Jesusí purpose that all believers would live in loving supportive fellowship with each other. Each church in the Bible is responsible to God and His purposes, and they are to select leaders for their group who can shepherd them to accomplish Godís will and purposes through His flock. All Christians have the responsibility to serve God and others. In fact, God even refers to each Christian as a priest in a priesthood of believers. (1 Peter 2:5, 9) Because we are humans, we will never fully achieve our goal of being purely devoted to Christ and his worldwide church with no divisions or distractions. Cedar Key church is committed, however, to the unity of the worldwide brotherhood of all Christians. We believe this unity and fellowship is based in our openness to practicing spiritual unity with everyone, anywhere, who at any time has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior in the way He directs through the Scriptures. We are described as a Church of Christ because we want to be literally known as a people called out of our old way of life by the Word of God to belong to Christ as His people.
The beginning of salvation from our sins and our unproductive way of living is realizing we are lost. The message of salvation that Jesus taught appealed to the weakest of sinners and the most dejected of society, as well as the rich and influential. He showed no favoritism at all and taught the Word of God with clarity and love. When the religious leaders could stand his teaching and influence no more, they plotted to kill Jesus. They did not know that their evil intentions would actually be used by God as a plan to offer salvation to the world, including even them. They crucified Jesus out of envy and jealousy, but His death had universal implications. Because he had lived a sinless life, he did not have to pay any penalty for doing something wrong against God. This is the central piece of Godís plan to save you and me. We have sinned and fallen way short of doing what God put us here on earth to do. Because of our sin, we owe God the due penalty for our rebellion. But God has made a way for us by accepting Jesusí death as a substitute for the penalty we would receive. God is willing to take all of our sins, and allow the punishment Jesus experienced to qualify as a payment for what we owe. He will mark our debt, "paid in full by Jesus Christ." And, because He was raised from the dead on the third day after his death, we can be assured that He has the power to raise us to eternal life when we pass from this physical life. While it is only by the generous grace of God and the loving sacrifice of Jesus that the penalty for our sins has been paid, we must respond to that gift and accept it in God's way. A sinner, then, must come to the realization that he is a sinner and believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for his sins. Faith is much broader than the intellectual acceptance of the gospel. (See John 12:42--43 and James 2:19.)
A commitment to the lordship of Jesus must be made. "God has made . . . [Jesus] both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). This is a conscious decision to change one's life, values, and attitudes, and to begin serving a new master. It is called repentance (Acts 2:38). One cannot be a Christian and continue to live to please himself. He must make a continuing effort to please Jesus. One who comes to Jesus for salvation must be willing to "confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' . . ." (Romans 10:9).
Baptism (immersion in water) is also a part of faith response to the grace of God. When Jesus commissioned His apostles to preach the gospel, He said, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemnedíí (Mark 16:16). The apostles understood this to mean they should teach believing sinners to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. When the apostles spoke to the same people who only fifty days earlier had shouted, "Crucify him! . . .Crucify him!" (Mark 15:13-14), they responded by asking "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Obviously, they had changed their minds about whether Jesus was the Son of God or the impostor they had thought Him to be just fifty days earlier. To those believers Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:14-38).
In baptism the seeking, believing, penitent sinner openly admits his own incapability of saving himself. He dies to his sins, to his old way of life, and to himself as his own master. He is buried in baptism, which unites him with Jesusí death and resurrection, and he becomes part of His body. "Or donít you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? In order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:3-5). One may be baptized during one of our services, or arrange a more private baptism.
The death of Jesus is no longer just His death, but the sinner is symbolically crucified with Christ. There is a co-crucifixion (Galatians 2:20). In baptism, he puts on Christ-"have been clothed with Christ" (Galatians 3:27)-and is "united with him in his death" (Romans 6:5). When the sinnerís faith is so moved that he is immersed with Jesus, he is given a "new life." The change is so drastic, it is called a new birth (John 3:3-5).
While we submit to God's will in these actions, God is at work bringing us into his kingdom, his Church, forgiving and cleansing us of all our past sins, and placing his Holy Spirit in us (Colossians 1:13- 14; Acts 2:38-41; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7; Romans 8:9-17, 26- 27). We become new people (2 Corinthians 5:17), born of God to begin a new spiritual life of service for him (John 1:10-13; 3:1-5).
The Cedar Key Church of Christ accepts responsibility to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who do not yet confess Him as Lord. We observe the communion at the Table of the Lord each Sunday as a central act of Christian worship. We exercise a loving spirit toward all people in the midst of a diversity of opinions. We attempt to reflect the compassion of Christ through ministries of service to the Cedar Key and world communities. The purpose of the church of Jesus has always been to reach the lost of every nation, language, and culture with the message of salvation. We want to do our part in this great task and we believe that it is essential for God's people to be mission-minded.
We welcome the inquiry of all who seek the Way of God in an atmosphere of reverence and unity.