Vol. 3, No. 4
(West Virginia Christian, Vol. 7, No. 9, September 2000, p. 1.)
Churches of Christ occupy a unique position in the religious world in making a plea that is unlike any other. Ours is a call for a complete return to first century New Testament Christianity in every particular.
Many have sought reformation of existing religious orders. We do not. We seek restoration. To "restore" is to "bring back; make restitution of; re-establish, reinstate, reconstruct."
In the New Testament, Jesus promised to build his church (Matthew 16:13-19). His church was established and those who became Christians were added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47). Congregations of Christ's church spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first century world. However, just as the apostles predicted a departure from the Lord's way (see Acts 20:28-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1-2), history records the details of that departure. Men over time changed the doctrine, practice, organization and mission of the church from what Christ intended it to be; and human names, creeds, doctrines and traditions brought continual division to those professing Christianity.
People of faith became aware that the solution to this dilemma was to return to the New Testament pattern for the church in name, creed, organization and practice. This is restoration! And this plea continues! It calls people back to the Bible, and it alone, as our sole authority in religion. Ours is a plea to "speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent." This plea is in harmony with God's will (who gave us the Bible, the revelation of God's will to man to guide us) and is conducive to true unity (for it eradicates all man-created barriers that have been sources of division among religious people).
Unfortunately, some fail to understand this plea. There are those who apparently think that we churches of Christ are urging others to leave "their denomination" to join "our denomination," for somehow "ours" is better than "theirs." But, this is not our plea. We are urging all men and women of good will everywhere to abandon all denominations and simply be members of the one church we read about in the Bible! (See Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4-6).
Christ is the builder (Matthew 16:18), purchaser (Acts 20:28), head (Colossians 1:18), foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), bridegroom (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2) and chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) of his church. It is his church for which we contend, not "ours" or anyone else's. The "restoration plea" is a plea for Christ: his person, word, authority, name, plan of salvation and position.
As Jeremiah called people in his day back to the "old paths where is the good way" (Jeremiah 6:16), so we urge people today back to the old paths of God's New Testament pattern (2 Timothy 1:13). We exhort people to be simply Christians and members of the church we read about in the Bible. The seed of God's kingdom is his Word (Luke 8:11), and as that seed planted in honest and good hearts yielded fruit in the first century, so the identical seed sown today, without the contamination of manmade doctrines and dogmas, will do the same now as then -- make Christians only, members of Christ's one church.
Think on this. If a church is right in origin, doctrine, practice, life and name, it cannot be the wrong church. On the other hand, if a church is wrong in origin, doctrine, practice, life and name, it could not possibly be the right church.
The restoration plea is scripturally valid (for it is true to God's Word) and practically successful (for Christ's church does exist today and whosoever will can be in it). May this clarion call continue, and may we, members of Christ's church, never cease advocating the doctrine of Christ, salvation through Christ, unity in Christ and consecration to Christ.