What Do We Mean By Restoration of Christianity?
New Testament Christians throughout the world are pleading for the restoration of the original Christianity of the New Testament. Those to whom this plea comes are sure to ask, "just what do you mean by this?" This is an altogether reasonable question that deserves a clear answer.
The word restore is defined "to bring back to or put back into a former or original state" (Webster). Applied to Christianity, it suggests that we are seeking to put back into its former or original state, the church of Jesus Christ. But that suggests that the church has suffered an erosion or deterioration over the years. Any person who carefully reads his New Testament and then examines the Protestant-Catholic versions of Christianity will be struck by the vast differences in the original and modern varieties. Over the centuries every aspect of primitive Christianity has suffered from the attempts of men to change it to their liking.
- The form of church government has been changed from simple congregational government with local elders to a large, complex, pyramid government over the universal church (Compare Eph. 1:22; Phil. 1:1).
- Names by which the church was known have been eclipsed by denominational names of human origin such as Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran (Compare 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 16:16).
- The recipient of baptism has been changed by many from believing adults to infants (Compare Mark 16: 15- 16).
- The form of baptism has been altered by many from a burial by immersion to pouring or sprinkling water upon the head (Compare Rom. 6:3-5).
- The creed of the church has been displaced by human doctrines that overshadow the will of Jesus (John 12:48; II John 9-10).
- The form of worship has suffered as various additions or subtractions have been made (Compare Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:19).
- The gospel plan of salvation has been obscured by schemes advocating salvation by good works or by faith alone (Compare Acts 2:37-40; James 2:24).
- The unity of the one church has been shattered because of denominationalism with its myriad of competing bodies (Compare John 17:20-23). These and other changes have robbed believers of a clear vision of what Christianity was originally like. The seriousness of the matter is seen when we recall that an all-wise, infallible God designed and instituted the church and that sinful, fallible men have presumed to change it. No man or group can ever hope to improve on God's work!
NOT A NEW DENOMINATION
To restore does not imply that we create a new denomination better than the existing ones. Christ built His church (Matt. 16:18) and it is declared to be "one body" (Eph. 1:22; 4:4). Denominational division is condemned in Scripture (1 Cor. 1:10;
Rom. 16:17). Even a better denomination would still be unacceptable for it is the work of men competing with the true church of God. It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps or to build his own church (Jer. 10:23).
NOT A REFORMATION
We do not propose to reform an existing denomination. Martin Luther and John Calvin set out to reform the corrupt medieval Catholic church. They learned as did others that such institutions are impervious to reform. A reformation is an "amendment of what is defective, vicious, corrupt or depraved" (Webster). If the reformers had succeeded in correcting some or all the abuses of the Catholic church, the finished product would still have been the Roman Catholic church, not the church of Christ that the Lord established in Jerusalem (Matt. 16:18).
Our goal is to go beyond all the sects and denominations which have evolved, to the original Christianity that was preached and practiced by the apostles of Christ. The church which Jesus established was precisely and exactly what God wanted it to be. Its faith, worship and practice perfectly met the needs of humanity. Every attempt by uninspired men to improve upon, or modernise Christianity has only succeeded in corrupting it. The collector of fine art objects does not settle for an imitation or replica, no matter how fine. He diligently searches until he finds the original. So do we. Like the merchant seeking goodly pearls and having found one pearl of great price, we are willing to invest all to possess it (Matt. 13:45-46).
We would be simply Christiansnothing more. To accomplish this we must be governed by the Bible alonenothing more. Since the words of Christ will judge us in the last day (John 12:48), it is those words that we must heed in this life.
STRIVE FOR THE IDEAL
In restoring the church of the New Testament, we would not seek just to be like the church at Corinth, Jerusalem or Laodicea. Every congregation then as now was made up of human materials. While the design and blueprint of Christianity was conceived in heaven, the disciples that constitute a congregation are always human, fallible, and prone to sin (Rom. 3:23). As a consequence, every congregation will reflect that human weakness in imperfection. Some were good, yet others were average or poor. But the ideal is set forth in the divine plan and every Christian in every age should strive to measure up to it. If we dedicate ourselves to following the Bible in all matters of faith and practice, then we will be the same kind of Christians as were Peter, John and Paul.
A UNIVERSAL APPEAL
The concept of Restoration is not new. It is an ancient and constant need in religion. The student of church history will find many voices who made this plea. It is not a local movement. Around the world, independent groups have sprung up with the announced goal of going back to the Bible and restoring original Christianity. This common commitment cannot but bring these disciples together in Christ if sincerely followed. It is not a governmental or institutional movement. Rather, God-fearing individuals are making their way out of the darkness of religious confusion into the pure light of God's eternal truth. It is our prayer that you too will commit yourself to be an undenominational, New Testament Christian and a member of the church one reads of in the Scriptures.
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- The idea of restoring New Testament Christianity has a universal appeal to men of all nations.
- It looks to that one universal church that Jesus founded and is saviour of (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 5:23).
- A universal book (the Bible) is set forth as the only rule of faith and practice, the only authoritative and complete repository of all that is necessary to serving God and preparing for eternity (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- Its confession. of faith is universal; that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16).
- Universally accepted scriptural names are used: i.e., Christian, disciples, brethren, saints, church of Christ, etc. (Acts 11:25; Matt. 23:8; Rom. 16:16).
- Its teaching on baptism and the Lord's Supper is universally appealing for they would be observed precisely as when instituted by Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Col. 2:12; Matt. 26:26-29).
- It has a universal aim which is to exalt and spread the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Could any honest soul object to such spiritual principles as:
- Wearing the name of Christ to the exclusion of all human names . . .
- Faith in the living, reigning, interceding Christ being the only creed of the church . . .
- The New Testament of Christ being the only book of discipline accepted by the church . . .
- The complete authority of Christ over his church being recognised and restored . . .
- Christ's one church being exalted above all man-made institutions and organisations . . .
- All the commands of Christ being obeyed by his people . . .
- The ideals of Christ being exemplified in the lives of all who wear his name . . .
- Unity in Christ by faith, repentance and baptism into him, superseding all denominationalism to the end that there should be one body of which Christ is both Head and Foundation?
adapted from an article by John Waddey