Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Restoration Plea

In the early 1800s many church leaders grew weary with the strife and division among Christian denominations. They believed that the Lord wanted His people to be united, and all of the bad-mouthing and exclusiveness of the denominations shamed the name of the Lord. Their divisive ways caused people to fall away from Christ in disbelief (John 17:20-23).

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

They believed the acceptance of human opinions, creeds, councils, practices, and names caused this divisive and hateful condition. They left Europe to find religious peace in America but found the same ugliness again. They wanted something better—a pure and true Christianity free from the stains of human opinions. If they could get away from the human and concentrate on what they knew was truly divine, they could find a basis for unity. They could have unity only by following the truth of God’s Word. This meant they had to cast off everything human and denominational and return to a Christianity that knew nothing of denominationalism.

They rejected human opinions and inventions, since these things find their authority not in God’s word but in men. They believed that “nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion; but what is expressly taught, and enjoined upon them, in the word of God.” (Thomas Campbell, Declaration & Address, proposition 3). They said, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” They wanted unity in essentials, freedom in matters of opinion, and love in all things.

The true religion is built upon the rock; the rest are tossed upon the waves of time. (Francis Bacon)

“Loyalty to the restoration principle does not necessarily involve being loyal to the teachings of Stone, the Campbells, Walter Scott, John Smith or to any other man or group of men who have lived since their day. It involves only being loyal to the New Testament.” (Raymond Kelcy, “The Restoration Principle,” Abilene Christian College Lectures, 1954, 119.)

They believed the way to unity was through every person accepting the truth.

If the church was to please God, it would have to return to what God willed in the New Testament. Restoration is necessary, because repentance from error is necessary. One cannot remain in error and still please God.

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

“It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.” Adrian Rogers (Berean Call, Dec. 1996, 3).

By casting off manmade doctrines and practices, the church could restore the doctrine, worship and organization of the New Testament church.

The intent is not to start a new denomination, but to restore the church according to the ideals of the New Testament. Jesus built His church before any denomination existed. His church is not denominational, inter-denominational, or even non-denominational. The church Jesus built was undenominational. It could never approve of unifying the truth with error.

Churches of Christ strive to "do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names." They believe they must “discard from their faith and their practice every thing that is not found written in the New Testament of the Lord and Savior, and to believe and practice whatever is there enjoined.”

The Restoration movement grew out of a conviction that the Bible is the complete and final authority. Just as a seed will produce only after its own kind, so the seed of God’s word will produce the same Christianity today it did in the first century (Luke 8:11).

The Bible is complete in that it gives us all of God’s revealed will for life and godliness.

John 16:12-13 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

2 John 9-11 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

Some believe the primary goal of restoration is to unite all churches. They believe Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 means that all churches should embrace one another on the basis of the most fundamental things. In their minds there are very few essentials. Some feel as long as a person believes in and loves Jesus, he is right with God.

Before Jesus, however, prayed for unity in John 17:20-23, he first prayed for his followers to be sanctified or “set apart” in the truth (John 17:17). Christians are to buy the truth and not sell it (Prov. 23:23).

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Christ did not pray for a unity that sacrifices or compromises the truth. Indeed, it is our faith in the truth that unites us. Christian unity is not ecumenism, where groups unite but maintain conflicting and contradictory beliefs and practices. To be faithful and true, Christians cannot ignore or approve error. Uniting with those who worship in error sells out the truth for compromise.

God has always expected His people to come out of sin when they learn the truth. Repentance means that one leaves sin and embraces the Lord’s will.

· When the church at Pergamum held to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, Jesus sternly warned them to “repent therefore or else I am coming to you quickly” (Rev. 2:14-16).

· Jesus further warned Thyatira not to “tolerate” Jezebel and her teachings but to repent (Rev. 2:20-23).

The work of restoration, then, is actually soul-winning, since it leads a lost soul out of sinful error and back into life. If this is true for an individual, how much more true it is for a group of individuals or a church.

Jesus anticipated the disciplining of whole churches in Revelation 2 and 3. If a whole church remains in apostasy, the Lord will remove its candlestick. It can cease to be in His grace. This is why churches must remain faithful to God and His word.

Let us determine to follow Christ and His word by loving obedience.

With love,



Matthew said...

I really liked Kelcy's quote. The idea of primitivism must continue to carry weight.

Joel1245 said...

Great post Phil and very true. In my opinion, I think the Restoration plea needs to be emphasized more. Or at least I don't see it discussed as often as it once was.

By the way, do you or any one else who reads this know of some good books or resources that discuss the history of the Restoration movement?

Phil Sanders said...


Earl West's series, The Search for the Ancient Order, remains my favorite. Brother West blessed us all with these volumes.

I also like Choate and Woodson's book, Sounding Brass and Clanging Cymbal, for a study of the instrumental music issue.

Some of the more recent books on the Restoration movement, it seems to me, have as their design a defense of the author's doctrinal agenda more than anything. Leroy Garrett's book, I found particularly biased.


Joel1245 said...

Thanks Phil. Yes, now that I think of it,I've heard of Earl West's series but have never read them. How many volumes are there? I checked it out a couple places and noticed four volumes. Is this correct?