Close to 200 Years Ago - from History of Disciples on Western Reserve by A. S. Hayden
Restoration Now! by Andy Diestelkamp
Back to the Beginning by Bryan Gibson
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Close to 200 YEARS AGO
from History of Disciples on Western Reserve by A. S. Hayden
In March, 1827, five or six couples formed “a society for the investigation of Scripture subjects.” They were Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and some with no denominational standing. Here are some excerpts from their story, found in History of Disciples on Western Reserve by A. S. Hayden.
“We assumed that the Christian religion, in its fullness and perfectness, was recorded in the New Testament, and what could not be there found was no part of Christianity. We also assumed that this was an intelligible document, for, if not adapted to the common intelligence of mankind, it could not be received as a revelation from God to man.”
“Sometimes we discussed the intelligibility of the Scriptures, their all sufficiency for the purpose of enlightenment, conversion, Christian perfection, church government. Then the ‘special call’ to the ministry: how does faith come; how many kinds of faith; which is first in order—or repentance; can a sinner believe and obey the gospel... without some super-added spiritual influence from above; should an unbeliever pray for faith; is the gospel a dead letter, or does it possess quickening power; when, where, and by whom was the gospel first preached. The difference between the first and second commission which Christ gave to his apostles; apostolic succession; the abrogation of the Mosaic dispensation; the subjects, mode, and design of baptism; should a sinner be baptized on the confession of his faith in Christ, or on an approved experience. All of these subjects were under earnest discussion for about one year.”
“These were great questions, and on account of our old theologies, they were exceedingly perplexing. No doctrinal standard was appealed to. All human authorities were ignored. The Bible was our book; Jesus Christ and his apostles were our umpires; and our work was personal in its object. We were sick of denominationalism.”
“We had but two alternatives between which to choose; either to transmit religious partyism, with all its bitter fruits, to our rising families, and live and die in that state of doubt and uncertainty, vacillating between hope and fear, the inevitable result of a mixed profession; or to find relief by going back to the old record, to ‘look up the old paths and walk therein.’”
“In the month of May, 1828, we determined to enter into church relations. Two preachers, concurring with our principles, were asked to preach for us, and administer baptism, and assist in a formal church organization on the NT basis. On Saturday preceding the second Lord’s day in June, 1828, these brethren came. Before preaching, a few were baptized, and more on the day following. Then thirteen ‘gave themselves to the Lord and to one another.’”
Thus began the Deerfield church of Christ in the Western Reserve—a section now known as Ohio. These people had honest hearts, faith in God’s word, and courage to stand by their convictions. Where is their kind now?
by Andy Diestelkamp
Great cynicism has been expressed about our willingness as humans to learn from the past and its mistakes. George Santayana warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Bernard Shaw said, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience!” G. W. F. Hegel put it bluntly, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” Perhaps a quote from Will Durant explains why this is. “We spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.”
Since the first century those who have professed to be Christians have had to deal with issues (just read 1 Corinthians). The first churches had internal squabbles and doctrinal disagreements, and we are not immune from such. Everything from worldliness to traditions has a great impact on how we think and reason and even how we read Scripture. This in turn affects how professing Christians and the churches of which they are a part act. It doesn’t take but one generation of warped thinking to produce apostasies.
Historical texts (both inspired and uninspired) are full of examples of these digressions from doing the will of God to doing the will of man. Occasionally, some will awaken to the major drifting that has occurred and attempt to restore the original ways. True restoration rarely goes over well. The implication that we have drifted from the truth doesn’t sit well with most people, especially with those who, like Pilate, question if there is such a thing as truth.
Restoration is a dominant theme throughout the Bible. Beginning with Genesis 3, when sin caused man to be denied access to the tree of life, God’s word points us to the hope of that access being restored (Rev. 2:7; 22:14). The message of Scripture is that man is the consummate sinner and God the ultimate restorer (Job 33:26-30). God offers restoration, but He does not force it. He will allow us to suffer the consequences of our sins. This truth comes through clearly in God’s dealings with His chosen people of the Old Testament, the Israelites (Is. 42:21-25). When sin has overtaken a people, someone needs to cry out for restoration and deliverance. It is against God that we sin; and, thus, restoration must involve a return to His ways and obedience to His will. This is no less true today.
The basis for restoration is not what we think would be best. We are the sinners. We are the ones who have broken fellowship with God. The solution to the problem cannot come from us (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23). This does not mean that we have no ability to choose to do right, but that the correct way of life is not of human origin. What is right, true, and correct is determined only by God.
Another dominant theme in Scripture is the need to base restoration on a divine pattern. Again, God illustrated this for us in His dealings with the Israelite nation. Read Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:1, 7, 11, 30, and note the details! Could these be ignored? Of course, Israel fell away several times and neglected the temple and the law. When men set their minds on restoration, they were not at liberty to do it just any way their hearts desired (2 Chronicles 24:1-4, 12, 13). Going back to the original is what restoration is all about.
The Mosaic covenant was a copy and shadow of heavenly things (Heb. 8:1-6). Though it is now obsolete (vs. 13), we can see why so much emphasis was placed upon following the pattern. Now that we are under a better covenant established on better promises, it would seem that faithfulness to the revealed pattern would be all the more important.
Many churches are following popular opinion and are more concerned with pleasing men than with pleasing God. Political correctness appears to be more important than scriptural correctness. Believers, it is time for restoration. Let us throw off the creeds and traditions of men and get back to the pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13, 14).
Of course, this restoration call has not resonated well in our current culture. However, this call is not just for other churches. It is a call for us. With each generation comes the need to point back to the pattern of God’s word. If we fail to do this, then before you know it we will have raised up a generation that may be religious and following patterns, but not divine patterns. Restoration never stops! It must continue with each successive generation.
If we expect others to be willing to restudy and reevaluate their faithfulness to the divine pattern, then we must be willing to do the same with every doctrine and practice. Failure to do this will just lead us into doctrines of men, human creeds, and the elevation of our traditions over the commandments of God. It happened to Israel. It happened to the Pharisees. It even happened to those who named Jesus as Lord. If it could happen to them, it can happen to us. Therefore, we need to be diligent to present ourselves to God as workers who need not be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15).
Are we willing to restudy and restore and then reject any traditions that hinder restoration, or are we content to simply be part of the Church of Christ denomination that has its roots in the American Restoration Movement?
Are we going to take the course that the so-called Disciples of Christ took and the Christian Church is taking? No, thank you! True churches belonging to Christ will be content to align themselves with Scripture and feel no loyalty to anything or anyone other than Christ.
Back to the Beginning
by Bryan Gibson
“Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). Back to the beginning. Wouldn’t it be great if we did that to settle religious questions today? Let’s go back to the beginning in this article to see what was true of local churches in the New Testament, and what should therefore be true of churches today. Study carefully, and then compare your church to what was taught “from the beginning.”
Let’s begin with this basic point. New Testament churches were taught the same doctrine—the apostles’ doctrine, or the doctrine of Christ. So whatever they did in terms of organization, work, and worship, they were taught to do so, and their instruction came from the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17; 14:34-35; 16:1-2; Colossians 4:16; Acts 2:42; 20:26-27; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Want to know how your church should be organized, what it should do in worship, what its work should be? Go back to the beginning, to the pattern left by these New Testament churches.
[Editor’s comment: many, if not most denominational people will not believe that this is even possible. Study intently and you will see, the Bible not only provides all of the information necessary to accomplish this, but it does so in a very understandable way through commands, examples and inferences that lead to inescapable conclusions. The presentation of this information in such concise documentation is itself VERY STRONG evidence that this assemblage of writings is not some concoction of mankind; it is indeed from God Himself. If the Bible were of men, then they would be right: it would be impossible for us to make enough sense out of it to guide the worship and working of local churches.]
New Testament churches were sternly warned against following any other doctrine (Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:8, 19, 22-23; Revelation 2:14-15). How can a church claim to be “of Christ” if it does not follow the doctrine of Christ? Remember the passage at the beginning of this article: “...If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).
The work assigned to these New Testament churches was distinguished from the work assigned to individuals within the church (1 Timothy 5:16). The argument, “anything the individual can do the church can do,” is completely opposed to the teaching in the New Testament. There is some overlap in responsibilities, such as support for the preaching of the gospel (Philippians 4:15; Galatians 6:6), but this still doesn’t mean that the church can involve itself in anything and everything. How do we know what God expects the church to do? That’s right. Go back to the beginning. Look at the pattern in the New Testament and follow that.
New Testament churches raised money for their work by the voluntary contributions of their members (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; 11:8). No other method was used, and they certainly didn’t solicit the support of those outside the church. Have you thought about all the different methods used by churches today to fund their work? They sure didn’t go back to the beginning to find them.
New Testament churches had regular worship assemblies, and these were conducted according to the instructions of the Lord. A distinction was made between what should be done “at home” and what should be done “in church,” or in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 34; 14:34-35). Let’s go back to the beginning, observe what they did in the assembly, and then be content with that. To do otherwise would be to go beyond the word of the Lord, and we are specifically forbidden to do that (2 John 1:9; Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:6-9).
For more information on the organization, work and worship of churches as given by the New Testament pattern, click here.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?
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