OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
Many preachers speak of a period of time known as the Restoration. That time period existed from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. Many members of the Lord’s church do not have much knowledge of this period of time. Because of their ignorance, they do not appreciate the principles of restoration, nor the men who set them forth.
The first century church was warned of a coming apostasy. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…” (I Tim. 4:1). This departure began in the second century. By the fourth century, it manifested itself in the form of the Catholic Church. During the next twelve hundred years, the departures in doctrine and practice multiplied. This time frame has been labeled by historians as “The Dark Ages.”
In the 1500s, men began to see that the practices of Catholicism and the teachings of the Scripture did not coincide. Their call was not for a new church. They only wanted to see reforms made to the existing Church. Martin Luther, himself a Catholic priest, was one man who cried for reform. Many heard his cries. At that time a diligent study of God’s Word began.
Many followed Luther who continued the call for Reformation. Many of these reforms were in harmony with God’s Word. Error, however, is difficult to overcome. It is difficult for the mind to see truth when it has been poisoned with false doctrine. Therefore, many reformation attempts fell short. Creeds were often written in order to explain newly found beliefs. These creeds brought forth what is known as denominationalism. Once a creed book came into existence, man either had to defend his creed or believe the Bible. Those who chose their creed united to form a denomination. Thus, the religious world became greatly divided by the commandments of man.
In the late 1700s, there arose several men who called for Restoration. It should be remembered that these men were members of the denominations that existed in those days. Thomas and Alexander Campbell, for instance, were Presbyterians. They saw the religious division that existed in the world. They came to understand that division is condemned by the Scriptures. In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” These men were well aware as to why division existed. They pled for the unity of believers. This unity could only be obtained, they believed, by restoring the church of the first century. No longer was there a desire to reform Catholicism or an existing denomination. They exhorted the religions of the world to restore the church of which the apostles and the first century Christians were members, the church of the Bible, the church of the first century.
In order for restoration to occur, several principles needed to be followed. The following is a list of some of them:
1. The Bible was to be the only guide. The restoration leaders believed the Bible is the inspired Word of God (II Tim. 3:16-17). They knew this was not true of the creed books of men. These were man-made. If the creed books were discarded, the Bible would be the sole authority in religious matters. This should not present a difficulty to anyone because the Bible is all-sufficient (II Tim. 3:17). It makes a man perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
2. Give up denominational names. The names of the sects were seen as one of the causes of division. These names had doctrines revolving around them. Most of the names were not found in the Bible. If these names were set aside, the name “Christian” would prevail. This name acknowledged one’s belonging to Christ. This name was the only one under heaven given among men whereby one must be saved (Acts 4:12). Surely the wearing of this name alone would not be difficult for those who claimed to believe in Jesus.
3. Call Bible things by Bible names. So many practices found within the denominations could not be found in the Bible. These practices were called by many different names. It was believed that it was imperative to call things only by Bible names. This would simplify the Christian religion and would unite those who were true believers. This practice was taught by one of the apostles of Jesus. Peter wrote: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (I Pet. 4:11).
4. Do Bible things in Bible ways. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed His disciples to teach those they baptized to observe all things that were commanded (Matt. 28:20). In other words, one must have New Testament authorization before he could engage in a religious practice. Take for instance the practice of sprinkling as baptism. This practice was not found in the New Testament writings. It had evolved over time. It began as “clinical baptism.” At first it was administered to those who were critically ill who were deemed unable to be immersed. Over time, it became a standard practice for all baptisms. Romans 6:3-4 refers to baptism as a burial. The very term “baptism” means “to dip, to plunge, to submerge, to overwhelm, and to immerse.” Thus, the restoration leaders exhorted others to engage only in the practice of immersion. This would be doing baptism in Bible ways. To do otherwise was questionable at best, and sinful at worst.
5. Speak were the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent. This principle is found in Colossians 3:17. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” If a practice did not have the authority of God’s Word supporting it, it was not to be done. This is most appropriate seeing that all will be judged only by what the Word of God teaches (John 12:48). Anything more than God’s Word constitutes an addition. Additions to God’s Word were plainly forbidden (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).
These principles were Biblical. The principles promoted unity. As they were taught,
many latched onto them. Thus, a Restoration Movement began. Soon the church of the first century was restored to her rightful place in the world. Individuals became members of the one body (Eph. 4:4). They called themselves by the name “Christian” (Acts 11:26). The church patterned all of her practices from within the Word of God.
We must keep these principles alive today. If we do not, the church will be absorbed into denominationalism. She will practice a unity-in-diversity that is not authorized in the Scriptures (John 17:20-22). She will begin to commit whoredoms that will bring upon her the wrath of God. Let us resolve to hold tightly to the restoration principles. We want the church of the first century to exist in more than seed form (Luke 8:11). We want our children and grandchildren to be members of that holy body that existed in the first century.