According to the New Testament gospels, Jesus promised his apostles that after his death, they would be guided into all truth. In keeping with this promise after Jesus resurrection and ascension back into heaven the apostles began to preach the gospel of salvation through faith in him. The ones who accepted this good news, believing in the divinity of Jesus, repenting of their sins and being baptized the forgiveness of their sins they became God’s chosen people under the New Covenant. They were referred to as citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, members of household or family of God, and part of the body of Christ. These new believers had been asked to join nothing, but when they were saved from their past sins they became members of the “church”.
Following its miraculous beginning on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the church grew rapidly. However, through the years these who were God’s people under a new covenant departed from the inspired teaching of the apostle just as God’s people in the Old Testament fell into sin after the law was given from Mount Sinai.
In order to avoid these mistakes of false teaching, the Oxford Church of Christ seeks to return to the divinely guided church of the New Testament. We believe that if we hear the same gospel and respond in the same way we will be members of the same church. So if you ask us “who are you?” We respond we are a congregation of God’s people, a church like the ones you read about in the New Testament, a church belonging to Christ.
In the New Testament we find no one was asked to join the church. They were encouraged to believe in Jesus as God’s son, to repent of their sins and to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. When they obeyed this teaching they became members of the church. We are a fellowship of brothers and sisters who have responded in this way to the good news of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Through the years statements of faith (creeds) have divided religious people. We believe that the inspired New Testament is an adequate and universally accepted statement of faith. Therefore, we seek to resolve question of faith or practice by the teaching of the New Testament. This purpose has led to the following congregational teaching and practices:
The offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is the offer of life and hope. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul says that those outside of Christ are without God and without hope in the world." Our message is that in Christ there is hope and life.
Our world despairs of anything better, of finding any meaning and purpose in life. The materialistic view offers neither a reason for values and goodness nor any promise of something to make this life worth the struggle. The Christian faith provides those ultimate answers and also offers the hope without which we live in frustration and alienation.
Our efforts are directed to bring that hope to each individual. We are not interested merely in getting people to “join our church” simply to play a numbers game. We want to offer hope and life. We do that primarily by teaching the good news of Jesus in a variety of ways, but also through acts of benevolence, counseling and friendship. We offer hope through our benevolent program and have offered hope for homes through sponsorship of community film series' on the family and on marriage. Our concern is for the whole person, but our main concern is that the whole person be reconciled to God.
Our desire is that when people think of the Oxford church of Christ, they will think: They teach a message of truth that offers salvation and hope. They build up and do not tear down. They want to share the most important thing in the world. They are a people of hope.
The Oxford church of Christ believes and teaches that the lifestyle of individual Christians must be in accord with the teachings of scripture if that person is to be pleasing to God (Gal 5.19-24). Some of Jesus' harshest words were for religious people who said a lot about religious correctness but were prideful, arrogant, deceitful and hypocritical (e.g., Matt 23). Many of Paul's letters (e.g., Romans, Ephesians, Colossians) start with teaching on doctrine (what we should believe) that provides a foundation for teaching on the need to imitate Christ in daily living. The Bible teaches that how we act and live individually on an everyday basis has a great deal to do with how we stand before God. We believe that and try to put it into practice, but sometimes we fail. We apologize for our failings, but we still want to point people to a faultless Savior.
We teach that baptism is the point at which God acts in a person's life to bring salvation (1 Peter 3.21). It is the point of dying to one's old, sinful lifestyle (Rom 6.1-10). When a person is baptized, they actually destroy their previous spiritual identity and start a new life as a part of Christ (Gal 3.26-27). We accept anyone who has completed the process of faith, repentance and baptism as described in the Bible as a brother or sister in God's family.
According to the New Testament teaching we accept into our fellowship all who have received forgiveness for past sins through their faith in Jesus as God's son, repentance from past sins, and baptism for the forgiveness of those sins. You become a church member at the exact same time you become a Christian--when you are baptized. Just as a baby is born and joins a family at the same time, Christian conversion and church membership are simultaneous (Acts 2.46, 1 Cor 12.13).
There is only one universal church, but the life and functioning of that church is lived out in local congregations of Christians, like the Oxford church of Christ. A Christian needs to be an active, involved member of a congregation (1 Cor 12.12 ff, 1 John 3.18).
When a Christian moves from one town to another, he identifies himself with a congregation of Christians in that new city. There are no entrance requirements for becoming a church member that are any different from becoming a Christian. A committed disciple will seek to function as an active member of the Lord's body wherever he is. To be committed to Jesus but not to be committed to the church is impossible (Matthew 25).
The power of worship assemblies comes from Christians meeting in harmony with one another (Matthew 18.19-20) to praise and honor God. People also have the opportunity to be taught and encouraged by what takes place. In addition, the believers are reminded that the cause of Christ is one that has enlisted many people, all of whom are committed to Christ.
The details in the New Testament about worship assemblies are sketchy, but we do know some important elements of the services. We know that there was the sharing in the Lord's Supper, evidently on a weekly basis (Acts 20:7). We know there was teaching from Scripture. We know there was prayer (Acts 2:42). We believe there was a collection taken (1 Cor. 16:2).
We also know that the early Christians sang songs and hymns (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). The historical record indicates that they sang without being accompanied by musical instruments. The use of musical instruments in worship is not mentioned in the New Testament, whereas singing is commanded of all worshipers.
The Oxford church of Christ seeks to follow the pattern of the New Testament in its worship assemblies. We assemble for the same reasons early Christians did: to worship God, to teach and encourage each other, and to be reminded of the visible fellowship of believers. We want to accomplish these Biblical ends by following Biblical means. We believe that there is strength and assurance that comes from being faithfully submitted to the ways of God's Word.
During the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the evening before he was crucified, he instituted what we know as the Lord's Supper or Communion. He took bread and wine (grape juice) and gave special significance to them: he called them his body and blood, given for the new covenant. He told the disciples that, whenever they partook of this meal, to do it "in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11.23-26).
In Acts 20.7 we see that this "breaking bread" was the reason for the church's assembly on the first day of the week.
In 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, Paul says that the communion (or fellowship) around the Lord's Table was to be a reminder of Christ's death for them, a reminder of the fellowship that believers had with each other, and an opportunity to realize how Christians should live since they had been ”bought with a price.” The proper attitude was to be humility, not arrogance or insensitivity toward others.
Salvation was accomplished once and for all by the death of Jesus on the cross. Communion allows the church to weekly return to the death of Christ and their reconciliation to Him. The Lord’s Supper is an important statement of the unity of Christ’s body. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” 1 Cor 10.16-17, NIV
How did the church function in the first century? How were all of the needs met? How did it do such an effective job of communicating the gospel to the people of that day?
The pattern we see in the New Testament was for elders to oversee the work of each congregation (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1). They are also described as bishops or overseers (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1-5) or pastors, shepherds, elders or presbyters (Acts 20.17-31) and provided the leadership for the congregation. Deacons were appointed for specific duties within the congregation (1 Tim. 3). Deacons were, as the meaning of the word implies, servants who carried out needed functions but who were not cast in the role of leading the church. Men known as ministers, evangelists, proclaimers, or preachers had responsibilities to teach the church and also to share the message of Christ with others (Eph. 4, 2 Tim. 4). They had a significant role in the life of the church, but their “authority” is only in their role as proclaimers of the Word.
Our perception of the church today is influenced by the existence of many denominations, but in the New Testament the church is thought of in only two concepts: the universal church and the local congregation. All Christians felt the kinship of being one in Christ, and sometimes congregations helped each other (1 Cor. 8), but each congregation operated autonomously. No group or body larger than a local congregation but smaller than the universal church was known in the first century or in the New Testament.
The Oxford church of Christ is a part of no denomination or sect. We enjoy the fellowship of many congregations in many places throughout the world, and at times cooperate with them on certain works. But our life and decisions result from our autonomous identity as a congregation of God's people.