Your Part in the Restoration
by Dave Brown
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The series of five articles contained on this page are intended for those who have been baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38) and into Christ (Romans 6:3) but now find themselves in a situation where they have little support from their fellow Christians because there are few, if any, of them in their local areas. We know that you are sincere in your beliefs and that you want to do everything that you can to restore the worship and doctrines that were practiced by the apostles in the first century under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We know it was Jesus who was sent the Holy Spirit to provide guidance to them (John 14:26) and to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We hope that these articles can help you in this endeavor.
The articles have the following subjects:
1. Case Study of a Lone Christian – the Ethiopian man whose conversion is recorded in the 8th chapter of Acts provides a tremendous encouragement and incentive for those who are “on their own today.” You are not nearly as “alone” as he was.
2. Finding Fellow Christians – steps to take to find a sound bible-based church.
3. Identifying a Faithful Congregation – what to look for and what questions to ask.
4. Starting a New local Work (e.g., a “Church in Your House”) – a number of “home churches” are mentioned in the bible. These are documented, and their examples are to be followed in those areas where there are few Christians. Do not despair, over the years the work will grow. This article is on a separate page -- click on this link to acces it.
5. 187 Years Ago -- a case study of restoration.
Your Part in the Restoration – 1
Case Study of a Lone Christian
by Dave Brown
We read about the establishment of the Lord’s church in Acts 2. It took place on the day of the celebration of the first Jewish holiday of Pentecost that took place 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. (Note that the Jews count the first and the last day when counting, so we are not talking about fifty 24-hour periods – Pentecost occurred on the same day of the week that Jesus was resurrected – the first day of the week). The first local church was established in Jerusalem under the close direction of the Apostles. There was tremendous persecution against the followers of Jesus at this time, and it ultimately culminated with the stoning of Stephen recorded at the end of Acts 8:
“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
This scattering of Christians left many of them without support from their fellow Christians, but they still did the best that they could to proclaim the word of God and to do God’s will. Acts 8:4 states: “They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the word.” It is the responsibility of all Christians (not just the apostles or the “clergy”) to preach the truth to the extent that our abilities will allow (Matthew 28:18-20). Some, but not all, of these Christians had received special gifts through the laying on of the apostle’s hands. An example of a Christian with special gifts mentioned later in Acts 8 is Philip (see Acts 6:5-6).
For our purposes here, we are not as concerned with those special cases of Christians in the first century who had special miraculous gifts. We are more concerned with converts like you and me, who without such miraculous guidance are now trying our best to serve God in His way. A good example of this is the Ethiopian man whose conversion is recorded in Acts 8: 26-39:
26 But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship;
28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Do you understand what you are reading?
31 And he said, How can I, except someone shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he opened not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other?
35 And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, Behold, (here is) water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If you believe with all thy heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing.
Please read that case of conversion above and notice the following:
- His conversion is based on his knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures as well as the gospel message revealed to him by Philip; there were no miracles performed in this regard. The truth of the gospel was all that was needed.
- He did not receive any miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Philip, because he was not an Apostle, did not have the ability to impart miraculous gifts to him (see Acts 8: 18). If an apostle did impart spiritual gifts to the Ethiopian convert we have not record of it in the New Testament.
- As is true of all obedient believers, he did “receive the gift of Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), which was the Holy Spirit Himself (Acts 5:32). While this did not produce miraculous effects, it was received by his knowledge and acceptance of the truth of God’s word, and the sure certainty of his salvation, and thus his being able to “go on his way rejoicing.” He knew that he had done his best to obey God out of a faithful and loving heart.
Surely this man was not converted just to go off and fall away. It is far more reasonable that God had a mission for this man, apparently the first of his race to be converted. But no one had to go with him to establish a church in Ethiopia … the combination of his knowledge of the Old Testament and the gospel that had been imparted to him was sufficient for the task at hand. We do not know if assistance might have been provided later; we do know that initially, this is all that he had. While we do not put our faith in the historical writings of men, history tells us that a Christian presence sprung up in this part of the world dating back to the first century.
The major lesson for us today: God provides us with what we need to serve Him. Each of us has far more than the Ethiopian had back then. We have the completed scriptures, both Old and New Testaments – he only had a portion of the Old Testament scriptures. We have ways to communicate with our fellow Christians that this man could not have dreamed of.
Let us go on our way rejoicing – there is much work to do for the Lord. We hope this series of articles will help to prepare us to follow his example. Read over this example again and confirm in your mind that he obeyed the same commands that are exemplified in all other detailed examples in the book of Acts. To review see God’s Plan of Salvation.
Your Part in the Restoration – 2
Finding Fellow Christians
by Dave Brown
This article has been moved to its own page -- to view it click on this line.
Your Part in the Restoration – 3
Identifying a Faithful Congregation
by Dave Brown
In this article we want to provide the scriptural qualifications that distinguish faithful “called outs” (churches) from their false counterparts. We can call them faithful churches and errant churches, since the biblical Greek words that are translated “church” (called out) had no religious significance in the first century, and thus the word itself does not imply soundness. That word is ekkleesía, and examples of its non-religious civil meeting usage are given in Acts 19: 32, 39, and 41.
It is quite clear to most that some churches are so far from the truth that none of our readers would ever be tempted to associate with them. Certainly a church that denies that the bible is the authoritative word of God would fall into this category. This article is not talking about such churches since they have gone so far astray as to no longer be worthy of consideration.
It is not our goal here to be judgmental. But the fact that we are forced to make a decision among local churches forces us to make some judgment. We could let others make the decision for us, but would that excuse us from the consequences of that decision? We could reason that they are all the same, but we know that is not true. We could reason that none of them are doing God’s will. And while this is bound to be true in some areas (i.e., no church is perfect), it is still not an excuse for failing to look for a group that we can work with in good conscience. If this were not true, it would not be commanded (Hebrews 10:25).
When faithful Christians gather themselves together and are doing their best to do everything in the name of Jesus (i.e., by His authority), then they can truly be referred to as being “called out” by the Lord, or as the Greek term “called out” (ecclesia) is translated, a church of the Lord, of God, or of Christ (among many other legitimate descriptors). Let us consider some of the aspects of God’s people in a given local area. The following paragraphs are not exhaustive, but provide basic scriptural guidance in this regard.
- It must be the church of God’s choice. Of course, it will be your choice as well (since you have that freedom), but your choice must be consistent with God’s choice. Speaking with regard to the alternative religious institutions that competed with the Lord’s church in Corinth, Paul gave them a command that was directly out of the Old Testament (Isaiah 52:11): “Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18). If you have been converted out of what you understand is denominational error, then do not remain in that church environment. Find faithful Christians who have the same determination that you do: to grown toward following God’s word as closely as they possibly can. This cannot be done by people who feel that they have already arrived, or perhaps that they are “on the right bus.” These people will openly confess that they are not perfect, and you will be able to tell that they are continually striving to be better people.
- They will have no “endorsement” other than that which comes from their obedience to God’s will. Thus, they will appeal to nothing else but the fact that they are following only what the bible teaches. They will not appeal to any denomination or central ecclesiastical authority because there is no authority other than Jesus Christ Himself. They will not appeal to any denominational name or organization. This is because all churches that you read about functioning in the New Testament were local in nature. The universal church exists, and the word church is often used in this way in the bible (see Heb. 12: 22-24). But there is no indication of local churches being organized in any collective way. The only organized groups of Christians that we read about in the New Testament are local churches. If there was supposed to be some organization above this level, most surely we would be able to read about it (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God spared no paper and ink in detailing such in the Old Testament, and if we were to be under such an organizational structure today, it would be spelled out clearly in the New Testament.
- They will claim to be doing everything according to scriptural authority. Why is this claim so important? Can’t anyone make it? Yes, anyone can make it and many if not most do. So it does not prove that reality. But it DOES prove that they respect the bible, and perhaps that they are making every effort to follow its teaching. What can we say up front about those who say things like: “We do not have scriptural authority for a lot of things that we do?” Do you really want to associate with that group? How about those who say: “The bible is just too difficult for ordinary people to understand.” Do you want to have fellowship with them and promote such a doctrine? Do you see why the claim is so important? It is not because the claim makes it so. It is because without the claim it just cannot be so.
- They will be overjoyed to provide you with scriptural authority for what they do. When you ask them for “book, chapter and verse” for some activity (work or act of worship), they will not get angry. Please do not be reluctant to ask such questions. On the contrary, they will be flattered that you believe that they are willing and able to do this for you. And they will identify you as “one of them” in the sense that you, like they, insist upon scriptural authority for all things. It will make their day. If not, find another group. Remember, the burden of proof is on those who are performing a collective action (work or worship) to prove that what they are doing is authorized. It is not your responsibility to prove them wrong. If they cannot provide proof for what they do, they are, by definition, wrong (1 Cor. 6:4; 2 John 9; ). 1 Peter 3:15: “… but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: (being) ready always to give answer to every man that asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.” And 1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
- Their worship will be consistent with what the New Testament teaches. We have a number of articles on BibleThought.net under the heading of “Authority” that review New Testament teaching with regard to the worship of the church. A group is not to be considered faithful because they are following the things written on this web site or for that matter in any place other than the New Testament itself. In all probability they will not even know about this web site or these other sources, nor will they even care about the writings of men. Is it not amazing that nevertheless, they will be teaching and practicing quite consistently with what we describe here on this independent site that is sponsored and maintained only by an individual Christian?
- Their work will be consistent with what the New Testament teaches. Again, in addition to the acts of worship, we provide details under our “Authority” subject heading for the works of evangelism, edification and benevolence to needy Christians. The local church is not authorized to bind their members to participate in anything except what the New Testament authorizes. Individual Christians have much greater latitude in their personal actions, and they are commanded to use their individual time, energy and finances in doing good toward all men (Gal. 6:10) in the best ways that their consciences dictate. However no person has the right to bind other Christians to any works other than those that are given for the church in the New Testament.
The only way that it is possible for totally independently thinking and acting groups of Christians to come to scriptural conclusions with regard to their worship and work is if they are going to the same source for its authority. Since independently organized groups of Christians have no other source for their authority except the bible, then when you find a group that has come to these conclusions on their own, chances are almost certain that it is a faithful “called out” people of God.
Jesus’ words are so simple: John 14:15: “If ye love me , keep my commandments.” And, John 14:23: Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me , he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” We have no other plea.
Your Part in the Restoration – 4
Starting a Church “in your House”
by Dave Brown
This article has been moved to its own page -- click on this line to access it.
The final article in this series is a well documented case study of some who decided to just follow the New Testament in their service to God.
Your Part in the Restoration – 5
187 Years Ago
Is restoration of the New Testament church possible? Actually, if you think about it, it really is not that difficult. The most difficult part of it is to get past this idea that we cannot or should not try to understand the bible. It can and it should be understood (Ephesians 3:3-4). Next it must be viewed as the final authority on all religious matters (2 Tim. 3:16-17); for, if we do not see it as being authoritative, then what good is it? But once these barriers are broken down, the rest is very easy. See how some people did it 187 years ago (it might be a bit longer than that once you get to reading this article).
187 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 noncommunicants. Here are some excerpts from their story as found in History of Disciples on Western Reserve by A. S. Hayden follow. We submit it to your without comment.
“We assumed that the Christian religion, in its fullness and perfectness, was recorded in the N. T. 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. Do you think the Lord was pleased with them?
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