Restoration Principles

Premises For Restoring the New Testament Church

In recent years various voices from within professed churches of Christ have begin to question the idea of restoring the New Testament Church. Some have said that we have been wrong in our rejection of the denominational world. Anytime people question our existence or purpose we are being given an opportunity to explain the host of biblical teachings that support the idea of restoring New Testament Christianity. At the same time, we can also cite the wrong assumptions which support the philosophy behind denominationalism.

  1. Apostasy Would Happen

By their actions, the denominational world is forced to concede that a major apostasy never hit the church. And yet the New Testament predicted the complete opposite (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). Who presently represents the fruits of this apostasy?

  1. We Can Understand The Bible Alike:

This can be proved using various lines of evidence: 1. First of all, there is to be only one body of believers (Colossians 1:18 'He is also head of the body, the church'; Eph. 4:'There is one body..'). But if we can't all understand the Bible alike, then God is the cause of unnecessary division (1 Corinthians 14:33). 2. Men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), therefore we must be able to understand a revelation from God. 3. God chose a written method of revelation. If God knew that we couldn't all understand the Bible alike, then why didn't He directly communicate to each individual? The fact that God's revelation is in book form and that we are commanded to read it to understand is another proof that all can understand it (Ephesians 3:3-4; Colossians 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:13). 4. Disobedience to the written word is viewed as disobedience to God (2 Thess. 3:6; 3:14 'And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter….'). 5. The written word is 'profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness' (2 Timothy 3:16). But if all can't understand the Bible alike, then could it be used as an instrument in reproving anyone? Or for correcting anyone? Or for teaching anyone? If the people to whom you are instructing will not understand the Bible in the same way you understand it, then how can it be useful for teaching? Doesn't the word "teaching" inherently infer that teacher and student must be on the same wave length? 6. Along the same lines, how can a congregation withdraw from anyone, if we can't agree on what the Bible says? If we can't all understand the Bible alike, then how can anything be labeled as a definite act of sin? (Matthew 18:15-17) 7. All the passages concerning exposing error (Ephesians 5:11; Titus 1:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:3), and rebuking those in sin (2 Tim. 4:2), assumes that the person in error can see his error when it is compared to the truth, it is also assumed that others can see the difference between the truth and error. 8. If we can't understand the Bible alike, then how could anyone handle it in an inaccurate manner? (2 Tim. 2:15) 9. Could the people who first received the Scriptures understand it alike? If not, then why did God have letters written to them? Why did God answer their questions in written form? (1 Corinthians 7:1); why did God rebuke their wrong attitudes and actions, in a written form? (1 Corinthians 6:1ff). And why was the solution to the problem given in written form? (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

Point to Note: I have found that this attitude, 'We can't all understand the Bible alike', is often used for selfish purposes. That is, it is used to protect the person who is teaching error. But the person who teaches the error, doesn't use this same principle concerning others, in fact they often accuse others of being in the wrong, of leading us down the wrong path, of advocating hurtful and ignorant positions. Those who advocate this position are not accepting of every interpretation, they do not always allow(in a loving way) others to believe something different than what they are advocating.

  1. Unity Includes Doctrinal Unity:

Which also can be proved using various lines of evidence: 1. You cannot separate love for God and adherence to His Word (Matthew 7:21-26; John 12:48 'He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings…'; 14:15 'If you love Me, you will keep My commandments'; Acts 7:51-53 Where not keeping the commands in the written law of God is equated with resisting the Holy Spirit (Deity). This is the fundamental premise underlying 2 John 9 '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.' 2 John 6 'And this is love, that we walking according to His commandments…' 2. It doesn't make any sense to argue that doctrine shouldn't determine our fellowship with each other, when doctrine does determine our fellowship with God. (1 John 1:3-7 'what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father…If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light (practice the truth) as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…') 3. One of the premises underlying withdrawing is that we do not have fellowship with a professed Christian who is in rebellion to God. But if unity isn't doctrinal, then how can withdrawing or church disciple (Matthew 18:15-17) be justified? What constitutes any sin is simply a rejection of some Biblical doctrine (1 John 3:4; 1 Corinthians 5:11). If doctrinal unity isn't necessary then why can't we fellowship people presently involved in theft, fornication, homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, idolatry, etc….? 4. The fact that the congregation is to be protected from false teachers and false doctrines is another proof. God even goes further than this, He links false doctrine with destroying the most vital asset that any Christian possesses, i.e. their faith (2 Timothy 2:17-18 'men who have gone astray from the truth (an absolute, objective body of truth does exist) saying that the resurrection has already taken place (which contradicts a biblical doctrine: John 5:28-29) and thus they upset the faith of some'; 1 Timothy 1:19 'keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.') 5. Everyone, to a point practices a unity based on someone's doctrine. The denominational world and even those involved in the 'unity in diversity' philosophy find themselves saying one thing and yet practicing some thing completely different. Every group draws a line concerning what doctrines it will accept and or tolerate and what isn't acceptable. Even the most professed 'liberal minded groups', will request that you leave or attend elsewhere if you start pressing certain ideas. It has been my experience that people press for 'unity in diversity' as long as they are the underdog, but once they find themselves in control, all of a sudden certain subjects aren't discussed anymore. 6. Anything sort of the belief that we can understand the Bible alike and that we can have doctrinal agreement, places us in the situation of picking and choosing which erroneous views can be tolerated and which cannot. We have embarked on the road towards becoming a denomination among denominations if we adopt the previous attitude. For what would be the real difference between us and any denomination if we are tolerating simply different errors, but equally dangerous?

  1. Every Doctrine Is Important:

This is seen from the fact that according to the New Testament, the following doctrinal deviations result in condemnation: 1. Denying that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:3). 2. Mandatory celibacy for those having the right to marry (1 Tim. 4:3). 2. Binding laws concerning food (4:3). 3. Advocating the worship of angels (Col. 2:18). 4. Asceticism (Col. 2:21-23,8). 4. Advocating circumcision as essential for salvation (Galatians 5:1-4; 1:6-9). We tend to rank erroneous concepts, but to God any twisting of His word is equally dangerous with any other perversion (2 Peter 3:16). Denominationalism tends to rank doctrines, i.e. we can remain in fellowship with you if you agree with us on the following basic (more important?) doctrines. But to God error concerning the nature of Jesus Christ or the fact of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12), is just as dangerous as error concerning circumcision, food, and so on. The passages which warn about not adding to or taking away from the Word of God, do not have a clause which reads, 'You can remove everything but….and still have the truth' (Revelation 22:18-19). 5. To contend that we can have unity by agreeing on five or so essentials is to say that the vast majority of the Bible is completely useless.

  1. Old Testament Precedent:

The New Testament writers note that what was previously written was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4). The reason that Jesus and the apostles so frequently quoted from the Old Testament is because God hasn't changed. God still feels the same way about disobedience, sin and unbelief (1 Corinthians 10:1-11 'Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction….'; 2 Peter 2:1-9 'But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you…For if God did not spare angels when they sinned…and did not spare the ancient world…and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah…and if He rescued righteous Lot…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment').

When the people of God in the Old Testament found themselves off-track, what was God's attitude. Did He say, 'Oh well, accept this new deviation?' 'Accept those who are spreading this error?' Did He justify those who were drawn into such errors? Was His attitude, 'Truth has many sides?'

Points to Note: 1. When Cain offered the wrong sacrifice, God expected him to make amends and offer what had been commanded (Genesis 4:1-7). 2. The person advocating the worship and acceptance of other gods was to be put to death, even if they were a close relative (Deut. 13:1-9). 3. When Jeroboam set up the two golden calves in the northern kingdom, and linked them to the worship of the true God (1 Kings 12:28), God didn't overlook this deviation. Rather, the text says, 'Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan' (12:30). 4. A strong doctrinal emphasis runs throughout the whole Old Testament: (a) God called Abraham away from idolatrous relatives (Joshua 24:15), people who believed the wrong things. (b) The 10 plagues were judgments upon the false gods (false religion) of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12). © The First Covenant was based on a commitment to God and definite doctrines (Exodus 24:3 '…and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!"'). (d) The conquest of Canaan was based on removing various ethnic tribes who believed and practiced the wrong things (Deut. 7:1-5). (e) The whole distinction between Israel and the nations which surrounded her (Canaanites, Philistines, etc…) was based on a doctrinal difference in belief and practice. (f) Some of the greatest accounts in the Old Testament were struggles based on doctrinal differences (Elijah and the Prophets of Baal-1 Kings 18). (g) Godly kings in the Old Testament conducted religious reforms. (1) Hezekiah: 2 Kings 18:4 'He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars'; 2 Chronicles 29:3-6; 31:3 ' it is written in the law of the Lord'. (2) Josiah: 2 Chronciles 34:3-7; 30-33 'Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments…to perform the words of the covenant written in this book'; 35:1-6 ' do according to the word of the Lord by Moses'; 35:12 ' it is written in the book of Moses'. The same sort of reforming attitude can be seen in the life of Ezra (7:10) and Nehemiah (10:28-29 '..are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God's law, which was given through Moses, God's servant…'; 13:23-31).