The denomination of the Church of Christ has been in Britain for many years. However, the International Churches of Christ [ICC] are a relatively new splinter group, first based in London, and then spreading to Birmingham and Manchester.
Figures published through to 31 December 2001 show groups active in Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton. Easily the biggest group is in London. In total during 2001 there were 669 baptisms (522 in London) and the Sunday attendance in December 2001 was 3922 (2892 in London). A detailed breakdown of these figures can be found here. They use other names to try to disguise themselves in some places, for instance, the Manchester Christian Church or the Bible Fellowship.
ICC was ‘planted’ by the Boston ICC which in turn was ‘planted’ by the Crossroads Church of Christ, Tampa Florida. The ‘Crossroads Philosophy’ as known is condemned by other Churches of Christ and the group rejected, but moves were made for reconciliation at the end of 1990. The activities of the Boston group also came in for severe criticism especially on the local College campus.
Most historians say that the denomination of the Church of Christ was founded in the early 1800’s. Based on the idea that denominations were evil and there was only one true Church, Alexander Campbell, his father Thomas Campbell, Barton W. Stone and Walter Scott began teaching and preaching their message. Whereas this appears true from the evidence, some members of the Church of Christ would claim that they had been in existence much longer than that.
ICC has been influenced by the ‘Discipleship movement’. Not everything is wrong in this movement because there is a real teaching of discipleship, but what is termed ‘heavy shepherding’, that is domination, is wrong.
Some secular authorities have wanted to throw out ‘the baby with the bath water’, but we cannot do this. There are some evangelical Christians within the movement and some Christian principles in what they lay down. The mark they overstep is where instruction and encouragement become dictatorship and domination. For instance one secular writer slays ICC for encouraging ‘quiet times’. However, this is a very positive point – spending time getting to know the Lord. It is not the ‘quiet time’ that is wrong only the attitude and manner in which it is taught.
Much of the blame for these wrong structures is put at the door of Robert Coleman’s book The Master Plan of Evangelism. There is certainly ample evidence to show that the evangelistic thrust of ICC comes from this book.
ICC’s Roger Lamb and Kip McKean were originally supported by the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, Texas. When they started teaching, what were felt to be wrong doctrines, the support was withdrawn. Lamb and McKean said that their method of delivering the message came from Coleman’s book. Yet, what is also clear, is that most of the doctrines they are so evangelistic about, were already inherent within the Church of Christ. The complaints and split are mainly concerning method and emphasis.
We need to be able to show from Scripture where their teachings are in error. We quote below from the ICC’s initial bible study in Guard the Gospel. This is now reprinted in a slightly revised form, in their book Shining Like Stars. We believe that when this is compared with evangelical Christian teaching it shows beyond doubt the cultic tendencies of this group.
LESSON 5… OBJECTIVES – to show that 1. baptism is essential for salvation… Paul’s sins were washed away only after he was baptised.
Baptism is a very important act and we are commanded to be baptised – this is not in question. The question we need to answer is, does the Bible show that baptism is essential for me to be saved or does it follow salvation as a testimony to what has happened. Which verses do the ICC use?
Acts 2:38. If this is taken out of context it could mean you need to be baptised to be saved. Initially it does link ‘remission of sins’ with both repentance and baptism. However we must discover what the phrase ‘for the remission of sins’ actually means. Does it mean ‘in order to have our sins remitted’?
In the 1488 times that the Greek word eis is used it is never translated ‘in order to’. If it does not mean in order to be saved what is the meaning in this passage? Peter was talking to Jews in whose mind actions always followed faith. It was natural therefore for Peter to put these two aspects together but it does not show that baptism is an essential part of salvation. However, it is also very instructive to note that on other occasions, for example Acts 2:21 and 3:19 he did not mention baptism.
We must always consider the whole of Scripture. If we believe ICC, then John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-10 are only half truths! Does God really make mistakes like that?
ICC also say of Acts 2:38 that you,
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the indwelling spirit) after baptism.
They equate the gift of the Holy Spirit with being born again and this happens at baptism. Acts 8:14-17 shows this is not true.
Romans 6:3-4. There are several baptisms mentioned in Scripture. Each has three elements.
- The person doing the baptising.
- The person being baptised.
- The medium into which they are baptised.
Romans 6 is not talking about being baptised into water but into Christ. These verses are not talking about an outward act that takes place in water but an inward act that takes place when you receive Jesus Christ. These verses actually prove that water baptism is not essential for salvation rather than the other way round.
1 Peter 3:21. Baptism now saves you, but what is it corresponding to? To the flood. The water did not save them, but the ark did. Who is the ark? Jesus. What saves us? A relationship with Christ. Salvation from one world system to another!
Mark 16:16. Condemnation comes because of not believing. It does not come because of not being baptised.
Acts 22:16. Sins washed away at baptism? We need to ask, is there evidence that Paul was already converted at this time and this again was an outward act to signify what had already happened within? First we have the clear revelation that Paul called Jesus, Lord [Acts 22:8], something he would not have done until there had been a change of heart. Second Ananias called Saul, brother. It, of course, could be used in the sense of brother Israelite. But it is very doubtful if Ananias would have called Saul this, knowing all that he had done in the past. Added to this if you read the original account in Acts 9, Paul was healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. The latter being a clear sign of God’s saving work within a man, before he was baptised.
Other Scriptures to note:
Matthew 28:18. We are told to make disciples AND only then to baptise.
1 Corinthians 1:17. Paul declares that he was not sent to baptise but to preach the gospel! This shows beyond any doubt that baptism is not essential for salvation.
Acts 16:31. They were first to believe in Christ and only then baptised.
1 Corinthians 15:1-5. Paul makes known the essentials of the gospel. They are all about the person of Christ and not about baptism.
There are some verses that ICC admit are problems [see Shining Like Stars, pp.289, 290]. These are ones, therefore, which are good to use. Luke 23:43 – when did the thief on the cross receive baptism? Romans 10:9-10,13 and John 3:16 that are both clear promises of salvation without baptism. If God is not true to His Word then I cannot rely on Him at all!
The Holy Spirit. Definition: God’s (personal) presence… Received at baptism… Hence necessary for salvation… since the Cornelius incident, there has been no Holy Spirit Baptism… there are no gifts of the Holy Spirit today.
Acts 2:38-39. These verses go way beyond the 120 in the upper room and still apply for us today.
Ephesians 4:18. Be being filled with the Spirit – continuous.
1 Corinthians 13:10. Gifts are only partial, not the fullness. They reveal God to us in this world now. However, when that which is perfect – the Kingdom of God – is come fully they will pass away. The gifts remain until then.
FALSE DOCTRINES PERTAINING TO CONVERSION… salvation by “faith alone”… salvation by “praying Jesus into your heart” (sometimes termed “accepting Christ”)… “Once Saved, Always Saved.”
Ephesians 2:8-10. By grace you have been saved, [past tense], through faith that is the gift of God. This has nothing to do with works. After being saved, we walk in the works that we were created for.
James 2:14. This passage is talking to brethren, those who have been saved. Now walk in works prepared.
Verse 22 tells us that faith is perfected by works. Faith does not come through works but they ensure that faith can be seen.
Verse 26 shows that the body is in existence even without spirit but there is no action. The faith that is within a person is not full until it is expressed.
Philippians 2:12. We do not work towards salvation, but we work out what we have already received. NB v.13, God is at work in you.
Matthew 24:13. This does not say, if we do not endure we will lose eternal life. Compare Luke 21:18,19, where in the same context it talks about not a hair of your head will perish. We may indeed lose physical life but not spiritual.
Hebrews 6:6. Verse 8 tells us that they come close to being cursed and burned. See 1 Corinthians 3 below in this context.
Hebrews 10:26. The key here is sinning wilfully.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15. There are two possible types of building material. The first is that which man builds and this is made of wood, hay and stubble that will pass away. The second is God’s, of gold, silver and precious stones, which are of eternal value. Verse 4 shows that there is a reward for doing God’s works but it is not being born again. Salvation is separate from man’s works. All works can go but salvation is still there.
The majority of churchgoers have never repented.
This leads to a vigorous evangelising of these very churchgoers.
Be personally involved in one another’s lives, lest sin cause anyone to forfeit his/her salvation . . . daily contact – must persevere to the very end (no “once saved, always saved”).
This leads to an over emphasis on discipleship.
Come to all the services… Be supportive of leadership – follow them as they follow Christ… relationships with the people we are closest to must not get in the way.
This leads to the conclusion that ICC’s meetings are vital. You must obey the leadership without question and cut off your old family ties.
Many in ICC will already have a personal relationship with Jesus. For such our primary aim is probably to show them the cultic tendency to claim that their church is the only one that can really bring salvation. If we can lead them away from ICC they will not then be stumbling others with their false doctrine and will be able to grow properly in the Christian life.
For those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus share with them that it is not the outward acts, baptism, bible reading, hours of prayer, etc., that save but knowing Jesus [John 5:39,49]. Share the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 2:8-10] and passages concerning His friendship and love [John 15:13-15].