When we refer to the "Lord's church," we have reference to the church you read about in the New Testament. By "different" we mean unlike, separate and distinct. I submit that the Lord's church is radically different from all the numerous man-made churches. What makes Jesus' church different?
The founder of the Lord's church? The church of the New Testament does have a unique founder – the sinless Son of God. "And I say also unto thee," Jesus stated to Peter, "that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Charles Russell, Henry VIII, or John Wesley did not build the New Testament church; the Lord did! Certainly, then, the Lord being the founder of his church makes the Lord's church separate and different from the many human originated churches. However, I do not believe this is what really makes the Lord's church different.
The origin of the Lord's church? Jesus' church had her beginning in Acts 2 about the year 30 A.D. Jesus had promised that He would build His church and that the church or kingdom would come into existence in the life span of those whom He addressed in the setting of Mark 9: 1. When we consider the origins of current denominations (1520 A.D., 1534 A.D., 1607 A.D., etc.) we are made to appreciate the separateness of Jesus' church. Nonetheless, I do not believe this is the thing that really distinguishes her.
The designations applied to her? The church Jesus founded did not and does not wear human names or designations. For example, there was the church of God at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2) and the churches of Christ referred to by Paul (Rom. 16:16). Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Methodist were designations unknown to the apostolic period. Admittedly, scriptural designations set Jesus' church apart from the others. Notwithstanding, I still do not believe this is the distinctive characteristic.
The public worship in which she engaged? As you study your New Testament you find the Lord's church partook (1) of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; every week, cf. Acts 2:42), (2) engaged in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19), (3) gave of their means (1 Cor. 16:1,2), (4) engaged in prayer (Acts 4:31), (5) and had unadulterated preaching (Acts 20:7, cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-5). The members (Christians) worshiped daily by leading a life of holiness (2 Cor. 7: 1). 1 do not, however, believe ,_this is the primary difference which makes her unlike other religions.
The way the church financed her work? As we study denominationalism we f1hd most denominations financed by a number of carnal, secular methods. There are pie suppers, bingo games, raffles, distilleries, real estate investments, ad infinitum. The church of the New Testament, beloved, was only financed by the Lord's Day offerings of the members (I Cor. 16:1,2). Nevertheless, I do not believe we have found the paramount difference.
Guarded fellowship? Unquestionably, the first century church practiced guarded fellowship (1 Jn. 1:6,7; 2 Jn. 9-11; 2 Thess. 3:6). We acknowledge that guarded, controlled scriptural fellowship is peculiar to Jesus' church, but we still are not persuaded guarded fellowship is the decided difference.
The plan of salvation which she teaches? The plan of salvation as presented in the word of God – belief, repentance, confession, baptism for remission of sin – is only taught by the Lord's church (Jn. 8:24; Acts 17:30; Rom. 10: 10; Acts 2:38). The denominations teach faith only, baptism because of salvation, etc. While the plan of salvation the church of Christ taught and teaches makes her radically different, I do not believe this is the unique peculiarity which separates her.
While all of these foregoing characteristics of the New Testament church set her apart, there is one feature, actually an idiosyncrasy, which is more directly responsible for her separateness than anything else – her insistance upon having a thus-saith-the-Lord for everything she believes and practices (cf. Matt. 28:18; Col. 3:17; 1 Thess. 5:21; Acts 3:22,23; 2 Jn. 9-11). "And hath put all things under his feet," Paul teaches regarding Christ and his church, "and gave him to be the head over all things to the church . . ." (Eph. 1:22).
Beloved, the reason Jesus' church wears scriptural designations, teaches the true plan of salvation, and practices guarded fellowship is because of her conformity to the doctrine of Christ. Denominationalism, quite plainly, is not concerned about New Testament authority. They believe what they do and practice what they do because it is convenient, feels good, or simply what they want to do! Conversely, the church for which our Lord shed His blood seeks to do all they do in the name of the Lord (by His authority, cf. Acts 4:7,12), and speak as the oracles of God (Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:11). This determination to have book, chapter, and verse for everything believed and practiced makes her peculiarly and radically different. What happens when she ceases to demand authority? She ceases to exist and simply becomes another "sectarian order" like all the others around her!