Chapter 29: CHURCHES OF CHRIST SEEK TO
RESTORE THE ORIGINAL CHURCH
by John Waddey
Churches of Christ throughout the world are
pleading for the restoration of the original Christianity of the New Testament.
Perhaps you ask, "just what do you mean by this?" The question deserves a clear
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 original state, the church of
Christ. But that suggests that the church has suffered 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 differences
in the original and the modern varieties. Every aspect of primitive Christianity
has suffered from attempts of men to change it to their liking.
The form of church government has been changed
from simple congregational government over the universal church (Compare
Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 1:1).
Names by which the church was known have been
eclipsed by denominational names such as Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran (cp. 1
Corinthians 1:1; Romans 16:16).
The recipient of baptism has been changed by
many from believing adults to infants (cp. Mark 16:15-16).
The form of baptism has been altered by many
from burial by immersion to pouring or sprinkling water upon the head (cp. Rom.
The creed of the church has been displaced by
human doctrines that overshadow the will of Jesus (John 12:48; 2 John 9-10).
The form of worship has suffered as additions
and subtractions have been made (cp. 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 (cp. Acts
2:37-40; James 2:24).
The unity of the church has been shattered by
denominationalism with its myriad of competing bodies (cf. 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 the church and that sinful, fallible men
have presumed to change it. No one 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 existing ones. Christ built his church (Matthew 16:18)
and declared it 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 build
his own church (Jeremiah 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). Had the reformers succeeded in
correcting some or all the abuses of Catholicism, the finished product would
still have been the Roman Catholic church, not the church of 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 preached and
practiced by the apostles of Christ. The church which Jesus established was
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
modernize Christianity has only succeeded in corrupting it. The collector of
fine art objects does not settle for an imitation, no matter how fine. He
diligently searches until he finds the original. So do we. Like the jewelry
merchant, having found the pearl of great price, we are willing to invest all to
possess it (Matt. 13:45-46). We would be simply Christians, nothing more. Since
the words of Christ will judge us in the last day (John 12:48), those words must
be heeded in this life.
STRIVE FOR THE IDEAL
In restoring the church of the New Testament,
we would not seek 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, and prone to sin (Rom 3:23). As a
consequence, every congregation reflects that human weakness in imperfection.
Some are good but others are 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 the apostles.
A UNIVERSAL APPEAL
The idea of restoring New Testament
Christianity has a universal appeal to all men. It looks to that one universal
church founded by Jesus who is its savior (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
Its confession of faith is universal; that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matt. 16:16).
Universally accepted Biblical names are used:
Christian, disciples, brethren, saints, church of Christ (Acts 11:26; Matt.
23:8; Rom. 16:16).
Its teaching on baptism and the Lord's Supper
is universally appealing for they are observed precisely as Christ instructed
(Mark 16:15-16; Colossians 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
Wearing the name of Christ to the exclusion of
all human names. . . Faith in the living, reigning, Christ as the only creed of
the church. . . The New Testament of Christ being the church's only book of
discipline. . . The recognition of the complete authority of Christ over his
church. . . Christ's one church being exalted above all manmade institutions. .
. All the commands of Christ being obeyed by his people. . . The ideals of
Christ exemplified in the lives of all who wear his name. . . Unity in Christ by
faith, repentance and baptism into him?
This would supersede all denominationalism to
the end that there should be one body with Christ as both head and foundation.
The concept of Restoration is not new. It is
an ancient and constant need in religion. Students of church history 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 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, a member of the church one reads of in the Scriptures.
What is the difference in restoration and
reformation in religion?
Why do we need restoration?
Discuss the church of the Bible that should be
Where would we look for guidelines for
restoring the church?
What is the difference between Christ's
original church and a modern denomination?