Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
12. Why do Christian Churches or Churches of Christ refer to themselves as "New Testament Churches?"
When closely examined, the beliefs and practices of many denominations are a strange of mix of Old and New Testament teaching. Among such groups, the church of Christ today is seen as a continuation of ancient Israel with some updating. While continuity exists between God's genuine people throughout the ages, there are also major distinctions to be drawn.
At the outset, let me state without equivocation that I believe the whole Bible is inspired of God and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). While the whole Bible is inspired, not all of it is applicable to Christians. Hermeneutics (the science of interpreting language) helps the Bible student learn the correct interpretive principles that make such distinctions. The major principle here is to interpret the Old Testament by the teachings of the New Testament. Many denominations interpret the New Testament by the Old Testament and in so doing "get the cart before the horse."
A church is a New Testament Church because it understands that God's will for His people today can be discovered there. The New Testament alone instructs us how to become a disciple of Christ, a part of God's today family. The New Testament alone tells us that the Elders and Deacons (Ministry Leaders) comprised the church's leadership. The New Testament alone tells us how to live as Christians.
The Old Testament is not a forgotten book. According to Paul, the Old Testament was written for our instruction. It was to serve as the "teaching master" to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). If you want to know the mind of God on many moral issues, search the Old Testament and examine them in light of New Testament teaching. If you want to discover examples of godly living, seek the examples of the faith of godly men in the Old Testament. If you want to understand the importance of faithfulness, examine the history of Israel to see what happened when they were unfaithful to God's ways.
But if you want to know how to be saved, look to the New Testament. The Old Testament required annual sacrifices as an expression of faith in God, but they could not save (Heb. 10:4). As a result, the old sacrificial system gave way to the one true sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If we lived by the Old Testament, it would be necessary to offer sacrifices to atone for sin. Jesus ended that with His death and resurrection (Heb. 9:28).
I want to emphasize one major point of continuity between God's Old Testament and New Testament people. All were saved by faith! Furthermore, it was only those in God's Old Testament people who had faith who can be considered the genuine Israel. God's people were those who trusted God, listened to God, obeyed God, and lived for God. Racial descent was inconsequential. The same is true today.
I am not entirely satisfied with this answer. Perhaps you might have specific questions about this topic which I can answer more clearly. I continue to mull the question, and while I have a good idea of the answer, I've not thought about it sufficiently to put my thoughts down coherently, precisely, and briefly.