|Do you know what the Restoration Movement is? Do you consider yourself to be a part of this movement? Do you think that the movement is important to the church? Do you even care?|
Please don't think that I am trying to me a smart aleck. I certainly do not intend to be. However, I hope that you can find an answer to each of these questions in this article.
It would not be possible for me to even come close to giving a complete history of the Restoration Movement in this short article. There have been volumes written about the movement, the key people who founded it, its underlying principles, and how it has progressed. My aim is to acquaint you with the movement and hopefully spark your interest so you will seek to learn more about it.
The Restoration Movement was founded in the 1800's by such men as Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell. These men, along with others, sought to get the church back to following the New Testament as its only source of authority. They also preached against a denominational structure and in favor of local congregations modeling themselves after the churches in the New Testament. They spoke in favor of using the Scriptures as the only source to determine how one receives the gift of salvation.
I am convinced that most people who attend Christian Churches and Churches of Christ which associate themselves with the Restoration Movement do not know what sets us apart from all the rest who claim to be Christian. So, what does set us apart?
We strive for the restoration of the church, both in unity and practice, on a New Testament basis. The church was instituted by Christ. The church is His! Local congregations (we most often call them churches) are just a part of the church which Christ instituted. If this is true, and it is, then we have an obligation to Christ to pattern the local congregation after the pattern which is set forth in the New Testament. By reading and studying the New Testament we can learn how the first churches which came into existence conducted themselves, how they were governed and so forth. Here are a few things we can learn:
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) They continued steadfastly, or in other words, they did not allow themselves to deviate from these practices. They continued in the apostles' doctrine -- they followed the teachings of the apostles. We have these same teachings in the New Testament. We too can, if we choose, continue to follow the teachings of the apostles. They continued in fellowship -- they met together as Christians to worship. They continued in the breaking of bread -- they observed the Lord's Supper on a regular basis. They continued in prayer -- they went to the Lord in prayer on a regular basis. There are many groups today (over 300 major denominations) who claim to be Christian but have gone away from the teachings of the apostles. Just turn on your television and listen to the doctrines being broadcast as if they were part of the apostles' doctrine. Such things as infant baptism, sprinkling or pouring as a form of baptism, speaking in tongues, "once saved always saved," salvation by faith only, faith healing, prophesying (as if relaying a message directly from God), denying that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, and the list goes on and on. None of these "doctrines" can be found in the Scriptures. And if this isn't bad enough, there are other groups who claim to be Christian who deny the deity of Jesus Christ or who follow the teachings of men (latter day saints) who teach things contrary to Christ.
"Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;..." (Acts 6:3) The local church is to be governed by deacons and elders, each office having its own functions or duties. This governing group is to come from the people in the local congregation not a regional or state governing board as is the practice of those in denominations. See also: Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, 1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:5, James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-5, and 1 Timothy 3:1-13. "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." (Acts 20:7) We in the Restoration Movement observe the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day (the first day of the week) as is patterned in this Scripture.
Not only should we pattern the local congregation after those in the New Testament, but the church should be unified. "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." (Romans 12:4,5) Notice in the New Testament that all the local congregations were given the same teachings. A study of this shows that the apostles considered the church to be unified, that all were obeying the gospel, that all were to obey the commands of Jesus, and that all were expected to conduct themselves in the same manner. Are we today to believe that when Jesus returns for His church that He will receive a divided church, a church which teaches different doctrines, a church which has different means by which one may receive salvation, and a church which will not even associate or fellowship with each other? No, He will not! Listen to some of the things Jesus tells the seven churches in Asia as written in Revelation: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5); "... Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10b); "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth." (Revelation 2:16); "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-" (Revelation 2:26); "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (Revelation 3:5); and "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth." (Revelation 3:16) Please read this entire passage in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Do we see here a picture of what Christ expects when He returns? He expects the church (you, I and everyone who professes to be a follower of Christ) to be faithful and not following false teachings. If we don't measure up, then we can expect to have our name blotted from the Book of Life.
No name but Christian. We who associate ourselves with the Restoration Movement wish to be known only as a Christian. We wish to wear only the name of Christ. The name Christian is a Biblical name, "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26b) Also we read in the New Testament that the church was referred to as either the church, the church of Christ, or the church of God. Many people seem to consider themselves a Baptist first and a Christian second, or a Methodist first and a Christian second, or any other man-made name first and a Christian second. We believe that Christian is not just the first, but the only name we want to wear.
Where the Scriptures speak, we speak. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent. It seems that many Christians are ever ready to argue about Scripture. I would like to point out that it is not really necessary to argue about Scripture. The Bible is quite plain in what it says. There are some principles of interpretation which we must follow, but once we do, the truths in the Bible are clear. So therefore we believe that if the Bible addresses a particular subject and a command is given, we should obey that command. We will stand up and defend what the Bible says about how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians. On the other hand, if a subject is not covered in the Scriptures (if the Bible is silent on a subject) then it is not necessary to debate or defend the issue.
The plan of salvation. By reading and studying the New Testament teachings we see that there is a plan of salvation. We are told by the New Testament writers what we must do to be saved. It is not difficult to understand. However, there are many who either try to make it more complicated than it is, or simplify it more than it is, or even to interject man-made rules into what needs to be done. We need to consider all that is in the Scriptures concerning salvation, and then not add any additional requirements. Here is the plan: Faith or Belief (Romans 10:17, John 3:16); Repentance (Luke 13:3); Confession (Matthew 10:32); Baptism [immersion] (Mark 16:16 & Acts 2:38); and Faithful Living (James 1:12).
I hope and pray that what I have given you in this article is enough to show that there is a difference between those churches who associate themselves with the Restoration Movement and those churches we usual call denominational as well as the Catholic church. It is vitally important that we continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine. The Scriptures give us ample warning about following false teaching. If you need or want to know more about the Restoration Movement or want to study more about the principles of the movement, there are many good Restoration writers to choose from. Ask your minister to help you locate this information, he will be glad to help you. Or, write to us. We have several excellent books available by different authors to help you in your study.
All scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
Visit our site at http://www.james1-22.org
Permission to use is granted if attributed to author and his website.
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