The Restoration Principle
James R. Cope
Temple Terrace, Florida
The difference between policy and principle may properly be considered the basic difference between the "Protestant Reformation" begun in the Sixteenth Century and the "Restoration Movement" of the Nineteenth Century. The word policy often conveys the idea of human wisdom, sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs. Whereas the word principle, derives from the Latin princeps, principis, whence come the English word , , prince," meaning "first" or "chief"; hence, "a fundamental truth; a primary or basic law, doctrine, or the like." Policy may change when in fact principle is "a settled rule of action; a governing law of conduct" (Webster). Compromise is a way of life with persons who consider truth and right as policies. With men of principle, truth and right are never negotiable!
Following the ascension of Christ except for the direct impartation of miraculous powers by the Holy Spirit upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4), the first Gentile converts (Acts 10,11), and the apostle Paul (who claimed that he was "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," 2 Cor. 11: 5), we are unaware of anybody, anywhere, at any time receiving the Holy Spirit miraculously apart from the laying on of an apostle's hands. This being the case, miracles ceased with the death of the last person endowed miraculously through the medium of an apostle's hands. This, then, is our reason for appealing to the apostles' teaching rather than post-apostolic creeds and practices of apostate bodies.
Meaning Of "Restoration"
To restore is to give back or bring back to the first or previous state. Abimelech "restored" to Abraham Sarah, his wife (Gen. 20:14); Nehemiah urged his fellow-Jews to "restore" fields and houses to their deprived brethren (Neh. 5:11).
Illustrative of the "restoration principle" as applied to rule or government was the apostles' question to Jesus following His resurrection, viz., "Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:1-6) Obviously the apostles were thinking about a return of the power and prominence fleshly Israel had exercised over other nations in the glorious days of David and Solomon and also fleshly Israel's escape from the Roman domination of Israel in their own time. It is in this sense that we use the words "restore" and "restoration" in this treatise regarding the "bringing back" of "spiritual Israel" in its faith, practice, attitude toward and respect for the form of government, revealed in Christ's apostles and their contemporaries as they were directed by the Holy Spirit in their oral and written communication. They used the words with which the Holy Spirit supplied them to convey whatever idea God wanted taught.
Biblical Basis of Restoration
Apostle Paul makes the foregoing observations unmistakably clear when he says, "We received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (1 Cor. 2:12,13). Since words are vehicles upon which thoughts ride by reading what men inspired by the Holy Spirit in the First Century wrote, we of the Twentieth Century can understand the mind and will of God now. Every written communication argues the factuality of one person's mental ability to understand the thoughts of another. Unless, therefore, it can be -established that God has changed His will since the completion of the New Testament we necessarily conclude that whatever God willed for man to believe and practice from the apostolic writings then the same God wills nowl If not, why not? Jesus declared, "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my word shall not pass away" (Mk. 13:31).
In the "Parable of the Sower" Jesus said, "Now the seed is the word of God" (Lk. 8:11). It follows, therefore, that there never has been or ever will be any person converted to Christ or developed In the image of Christ apart from the pure word of God, the gospel of Christ, described by the apostle Paul as "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). The gospel, preached by the apostles, produced new persons identified as "Christians" (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16). Those converts to Christ were Christians only and only "Christians" with no sectarian or denominational designations characterizing much of the present religious world professing allegiance to the Bible as God's word. Those non-denominational Christians constituted the only "assemblies" or "churches" ever originating from the apostles' teaching and were identified by apostles as "the churches of Christ" or "the church of God" (Rom. 16:16), also called "the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:29).
The collective (congregational) activities of these Christians were exceedingly simple. These "saints" called such by the apostles, and also described as "sanctified" in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:1,2) -- as a result of the apostles' teaching, assembled on the first day of the week to break bread (observe the Lord's Supper, Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20-33), not to "socialize." In this assembly, each disciple according to his financial ability, contributed cheerfully of this material means toward relief of the poor saints and the support of gospel works (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 8,9; Phil. 1:3-5; 4:14-18). Assemblies also were edified through their mutual study of the Scriptures and by singing and praying and exhorting to love and good works (Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:18,19; Col. 3:16,17; 1 Cor. 14:15; .Heb. 10:21-25).
Each assembly had its own overseers (bishops), also known as pastors (shepherds) and elders and deacons (servants) (Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:17-35; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:14).
There is no reason to think that there was any earthly super-structure of government, or even association restricting any two or all of these congregations under one human head or group to be or do anything collectively! Some 153 years ago, well did Alexander Campbell, a preacher of great influence in the religious world, observe,
The societies called churches, constituted and set in order by those ministers of the New Testament, were of such as received and acknowledged Jesus as Lord Messiah, the Savior of the World, and had put themselves under his guidance. The ONLY BOND OF UNION among them was faith in him and submission to his will. No subscription to abstract propositions framed by synods; no decrees of councils sanctioned by kings; no rules of practice commanded by ecclesiastical courts were imposed on them as terms of admission into, or of continuance in this holy brotherhood. In the "apostles doctrine" and in the "apostles' commandments" they steadfastly continued. Their fraternity was a fraternity of love, peace, gratitude, cheerfulness, joy, charity, and universal benevolence. Their religion did not manifest itself in public fasts nor carnivals. They had no festivals - no great and solemn meetings. Their meeting on the first day of the week was at all times alike solemn, joyful and interesting. Their religion was not of that elastic and porous kind, which at one time is compressed into some cold formalities, and at another expanded into prodigious zeal and warmth.
The order of their assemblies was uniformly the same. It did not vary with moons and seasons. It did not change as dress nor fluctuate as the manners of the times. Their devotion did not diversify itself into the endless forms of modern times. They had no monthly concerts for prayer; no solemn convocations, no great fasts, nor preparations, nor thanksgiving days. Their churches were not fractured into missionary societies, bible societies, education societies; nor did they dream of organizing such in the world. They knew nothing of the hobbies of modern times. In their church capacity alone they moved. They neither transformed themselves into any other kind of association, nor did they fracture and sever themselves into divers societies. They viewed the church of Jesus Christ as the scheme of Heaven to ameliorate the world,- as members of it, they considered themselves bound to do all they could for the glory of God and the good of men. They dare not transfer to a missionary society, or bible society, or education society, a cent or a prayer, lest in so doing they should rob the church of its glory, and exalt the inventions of men above the wisdom of God. In their church capacity alone they moved (Christian Baptist, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7).
The foregoing represents "The Restoration Principle." "The seed is the word of God" (Lk. 8:11). The pattern for the formation of New Testament churches and the power to restore them to the same order of government, work, and worship that existed in the First Century is found in the New Testament. The only obstacle presently preventing such d6restoration" is the application of the apostolic principle of "seed sowing" "in good and honest hearts!" Such a procedure in reality is more than restoration. It is a reproduction of the New Testament order! If not, why not?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 11, pp. 321, 358