“Brethren Church” is a New Testament Christian Denomination spread all over the world. Brethren Church practices doctrines derived from the Bible and is very careful in following Scriptural guidelines for personal, family and church life of the believers. Brethren Church is the New Testament Church established by Jesus Christ (Mathew 16:18) practiced by the Apostles in 1st Century A.D. We believe that the Church came into existence on the Pentecost Day by baptism of the Holy Spirit as present in the Bible (Acts 2).
Over the centuries, Christian Church was institutionalized and hierarchy system established. In 1826 a group of Christian believers studied the Bible thoroughly and understood that the formal Christian Church has deviated from the Biblical principles. They wanted to re-establish the New Testament Church pattern according to the Bible. Thus the first congregation was started in Dublin, Ireland in the year of 1826. The founding members were Dr. Edward Cronin, Edward Wilson, H. Hutchinson, William Stokes, Lord Congleton, J. G. Bellet and J. N. Darby.
During 1833 Mr. Anthony Norris Groves visited India for missionary work. He visited South Indian states Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Mr. John Arulappan of Tirunelveli was a co-worker of Mr. A. N. Groves and he visited formen Travancore for missionary work. Many joined this group and thus Brethren Church movement came to Kerala. In 1894, Mr. V. D. David and L. M. Wordsmith from Colombo, Sri Lanka (both from Tamil origin) came to Trivandrum and conducted many Gospel Meetings in various parts. In 1896, Mr. Gregson visited southern Kerala and preached the Gospel to many. After that, missionaries Mr. Noel & Mr. V. Nagal (who composed the popular Christian song ‘Samayam Radhathil Ngaan Swarga Yaathra Cheyyunnu,,,”) and Mr. J. M. Davis continued this work. Many prominent missionaries from Kerala like Mr. K. V. Simon (great poet) took up the work and more people were added to the Brethren Church movement. Currently there are more than a thousand congregations all over Kerala and other states in India.
In the Bible, the Church has two aspects:
1. Universal Church – Jesus Christ as the corner stone, Apostles and Prophets of the 1st Century A.D. as the foundation on which the believers are built upon by Holy Spirit, one by one at the time of their salvation – that is when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Savior. (Ephesians 2:20 & I Peter 2:4)
2. Local church – This is the congregation of believers of Jesus Christ in a geographical area. Local church is independent and autonomous. No national / international headquarters or head is required to rule or control the affairs of the local church. Local churches are inter-dependent and joined together by the love of Jesus Christ. Local church is guided by ‘Elders’ and all members of the congregation has to obey them (Ephesians 4:11, I Peter 5:1-3). Eldership is a divine process. In Acts 20:28, we read that the Elders are appointed by the Holy Spirit. It is evident that the local congregation has to lovingly respect and obey them. Therefore, it is a divine process which is being successfully followed in the Brethren Church congregations all through the years.
Various church activities including church meetings, worship meetings and all other gatherings are conducted as per the guidelines given in the Bible – New Testament pattern. Elders are responsible for the timely and proper conducting of such meetings. Weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc. are conducted with the concurrence of the Elders of the local church.
In the light of the above mentioned, it is quite clear and evident that Brethren Church is truly the New Testament Church, strictly following the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles true to the Bible. The New Testament doctrines are the chief characteristics in the universal and local church.
Basic doctrines that are followed by the Brethren Church are:
· Jesus Christ – is the Son of God, who is God Himself. He came to this world and made in the likeness of men for saving the sinners (John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:6-7). His virgin birth, blameless and holy life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension into heaven and the Second Coming for the Church are accepted and believed.
· Trinity – We believe in the Trinity of Godship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, i.e. three personalities in one God - all the three personalities are equal, but they are not three Gods, but one God. Jesus Christ is the 2nd person, the Son in the Godhead (II Corinthians 13:14)
· Bible – Bible is the Word of God and it is complete. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament which totals to 66 books. No addition or deletion is allowed (Revelation 22:18)
· Justification by faith – A person becomes a Christian when he personally accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Not by birth or by works, but by faith alone. (John 1:12, John 3:16, Romans 10:9)
· Water Baptism – All those who believe in Jesus Christ have to obey His commandment (Mathew 28:19, Mark 16:16). Infant baptism is not permitted, as the Bible clearly says that those who believe have to be baptized. The baptism is conducted by immersing the person fully in the water – “were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-5)
· Lord’s Table – The local congregation comes together for Lord’s Table ( I Corinthians 11:23-30). Those who believed and got baptized take part in Lord’s Table. No transubstantiation takes place. This is a memorial service to remember Jesus Christ’s propitiative death on the Cross of Calvary. Bread denotes the crushing of His body and the wine denotes His priceless blood shed to save sinners
· Idol worship – is not permitted. (Statues, photos, cross, are not used)
· Worship – All those who believed and got baptized can offer praises and worship. However, women are not permitted to offer public ministry when men are present ( I Corinthians 14:34)
· Lord’s presence – When two or three believers gather in the Name of Jesus Christ, there is He in the midst of them (Mathew 18:20). The Bible does not specify on the size or arrangements for the place of worship. A convenient place where the believers can gather in the name of Jesus Christ is a local church gathering / congregation.
· Holy Spirit – When a person believes in Lord Jesus Christ, he immediately gets sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
· Priesthood – Jesus Christ is the Chief Priest and all believers belong to the royal priesthood. (Hebrews 5:10, 4:14, I Peter 2:9). According to the Bible no ordained or separate priests are required to conduct or lead the worship meeting.
· Evangelization – Believers are commanded to undertake the Great Commission all over the world (Mathew 28:20)
· Judgment – It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). All those who believe in Jesus Christ and saved will be exempted from the judgment (John 5:24, Romans 8:1)
· Resurrection – There will be resurrection for all – resurrection for life for those who believed and resurrection for damnation for those who did not believe (John 5:29, Revelation 20:15)
· Millennium – There will be 1000 years rule of Jesus Christ with his faithful in this world in the near future (Revelation 20:4-7)
· Salvation – Salvation is open to all as God wants all me to be saved, and to come into the knowledge of the truth – without any difference of cast and creed, men and women, geographical difference etc. (I Timothy 2:4)
· Mediator – For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He gave himself a ransom for all (I Timothy 2:5-6)
· Signs, miracles and wonders – gift of tongues – prophesy other than revealed in the Bible. These were special gifts given during the apostolic period (i.e. 1st century A.D.) for confirming the Scripture and also to establish the Church. This is not continuing period (Hebrew 2:3-4, I Corinthians 13)
· Government / Constitution – We honor and obey the constitution & governmental rules and regulations. We believe a Christian believer should be a good citizen of the country he belongs to (I Peter 2:13-20). At the same time our priority will be God and His Word (The Bible) (Acts 4:19-20)
Brethren Churches are also known as Assemblies, Gospel Halls or Gospel Chapels in different parts of the world.