A study of Church History/Restoration Movement: Church Growth and Apostasy

28 Jul


Is it possible to read your Bible, and from your reading, see that in the New Testament there is a Church that Jesus established? Is it possible to see in the Bible, that God set forth His standard of acceptance in salvation, worship, church organization and daily living? Is it possible to follow the teachings of God, revealed in the New Testament, to direct our lives in the same way as He did first century Christians?

The answer to all the questions above is a resounding, yes! For since the writing of the New Testament, men and women of all walks of life have studied their Bibles, and seen how one, even to this day, can become a Christian the way those in New Testament times became Christians.

They have seen how one can establish the Church of the New Testament and emulate its structure, worship, and activity.

Someone has rightfully expressed that we should always remember to stop and show appreciation for the bridges we have crossed. For the Christian this is especially true! Not only are we to be thankful for the work of the apostles and early church workers in the 1st century A.D., but we should also remember the value of all those since who have directed others to give up the shackles of religious error, only to take on the truth revealed in God’s Word.

Someone has said, “We are standing on the shoulders of giants.” We often take the church for granted. An example is found in Lexington, Kentucky; in 1900 it was grounded having many faithful congregations. Had a college “College of the Bible” etc. In the 1960’s Basil and Margie Overton went back into this area once again having to establish N.T. Christianity. In less than 60 years the area went from faithful to non-existent. The church today can do this if we take it for granted.

We need to study Church History for several reasons.

  1. Help us learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid them.
  2. To build upon their successes, so we can grow from them.
  3. Help us to appreciate God’s Church.

“Restoration” Defined

When one speaks of a “restoration” plea, several things are implied. First, there is the suggestion that there is a divine “pattern” for human conduct. Second, God expects conformity to that pattern. Third, in the nature of things, rebellious and frail men will digress from that heavenly way. Fourth, it is the responsibility of those who revere the Lord’s will to restore, the primitive order, and call their fellows back to the “old paths” (cf. Jer. 6:16).

There are numerous New Testament passages which stress these truths. Let us consider a few.

  1. The early church is clearly a model for us in that it “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Why was that an important point for Luke to make if the pattern of the “apostles’ teaching” is irrelevant? Moreover, the multitude of believers “were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32), suggesting a unity of practice in their Christian decorum.
  2. Paul reminded the saints in Rome that they had been made free from sin due to the fact that they had been obedient to a certain “form” [pattern] of teaching (Rom. 6:17,18). Can such a passage yield any sense if there is no pattern?
  3. The Christians in Rome were admonished to “mark” (be on the look-out for) and turn away from those who were causing divisions “contrary to the teaching” which they had learned (Rom. 16:17). If there is no pattern of New Testament doctrine, how could one ever be required to “turn away” from those who do not conform to it?
  4. The inspired Paul instructed the brethren in Corinth not to go “beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:6 – ASV). This clearly demonstrates that spiritual activity is regulated by the Scriptures.
  5. The primitive Christians were warned repeatedly about “falling away” from “the faith” (cf. 2 Thes. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1ff; 2 Tim. 4:1ff). The expression “the faith” has to do with a body of doctrinal truth. If there is no doctrinal “pattern,” how could one ever “fall away” from the faith? Note also that identifying marks of apostasy went beyond so-called “core” matters, such as the deity of Christ. They concerned things like the forbidding marriage and prohibiting certain foods (1 Tim. 4:1ff).
  6. Paul spoke of the “pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) which the early Christians were being taught and in which they were to “abide” (2 Tim. 3:14). These truths were to be passed on to others (2 Tim. 2:2), and men were to be charged not to teach a “different doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). How in the name of common sense can men read these passages and not know that there is a body of sacred truth with which we must not tamper?
  7. The writer of Hebrews affirmed that Moses, in constructing the tabernacle, was warned by God that he must “make all things according to the pattern,” which was shown to him at Horeb (Heb. 8:5). Do we, as recipients of the “better covenant” (Heb. 7:22; 8:6), sustain a lesser responsibility as we minister to God in his church—of which the tabernacle was but an inferior type (cf. Heb. 9:1-10)? It is unbelievable that anyone would dare to argue such.
  8. John unequivocally states that those who go beyond the “teaching of Christ” have no fellowship with God (2 John 9).

We may also associate the term with the pleas of the Restoration Movement such as:

  1. “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where it is silent.”
  2. “Do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names.”
  3. “In matters of doctrine unity, in matters of opinion liberty, and in all matters, love.”

God has been working toward restoration ever since the garden. Paul was involved in restoration  hundreds of years before Alexander Campbell was even born. As we discuss restoration, we mean as much the restoration of the law under Josiah, as we do the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. Our concept of restoration must be expanded far beyond an American movement of the last two hundred years.

Ungodly men are always the enemies of the faith and of the peace of the church:

(Jude 1:3-4)  “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. {4} For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

(Jude 1:17-18)  “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. {18} They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.””

The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries have been preeminently an age of denominations. We need to be clear about what God and the Bible say about the church.

The Reality of the Church

In the city of Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after His ascension, Jesus established the church. Acts 2 records the activities that took place on that day and the prophecies which those activities fulfilled.

Being originally designed by Jesus, the church is, therefore, divinely organized and constituted.

Since Jesus is its head ((Ephesians 1:22)  “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,”and chief cornerstone ((Ephesians 2:9-10)  “not by works, so that no one can boast. {10} For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”)

…only the characteristics He has set forth for it in His supreme authority are approved of God. No authority has been given to any man, body of men, or ecclesiastical body to change any of its features:

(Matthew 28:18)  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Identifying Christ’s church: Designations.

House of God

(1 Timothy 3:15)  “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

The body of Christ

(Colossians 1:18)  “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

(Colossians 1:24)  “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

The “called out”

(Matthew 16:18)  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

(Ephesians 5:23-25)  “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. {24} Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. {25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

The temple of God

(1 Corinthians 3:9)  “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? {17} If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

(Ephesians 2:19-22)  “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Government and organization.

Jesus is the supreme ruler:

(Colossians 1:18)  “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Serving under Jesus were the apostles whose ministry was perpertual through the inspired writings. Since that revelation is complete, they have no successors.

(1 Corinthians 13:10)  “but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

(2 Peter 1:3)  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

 (2 Timothy 3:16)  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”

(Ephesians 4:11-16)  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. {14} Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. {15} Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. {16} From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

The sole collective functioning unit is the local congregation. Each congregation is free from ecclesiasticism, synods and councils and is independent and autonomous. The authority of the local congregation is vested in a plurality of elders (bishops, pastors, overseers, shepherds).

(Acts 14:23)  “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

Deacons are servants within the congregation who work in conjunction with the elders.

 (Philippians 1:1)  “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:”

The only creed is Christ. Its sole rule of faith and practice is the New Testament. Its terms of admission are the same as in the book of Acts: obedience to those things which put one into Christ and grant remission of sins: faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, and faithful living.

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Posted by on July 28, 2016 in Church


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