The Church Restored
The fact that religious divisions are numerous is undisputable. As we view these varying schools of thought we ask ourselves the question, "Is it God's will that these divisions exist?" The fact that most religious bodies tolerate these divisions is proof that they sanction their existence among mankind.
Yet in studying the writings of the New Testament we find that unity was a common attribute of God's people. The two words, 14 church" and "Christian" are scriptural terms which need no additional identification. The Savior of the world spoke of "my church" (Matt. 16:18). Luke, the inspired recorder, wrote about "the church" (Acts 20:28). The apostle Paul spoke of "the body" (I Cor. 12:27). Likewise, the inspired writers wrote about "Christians" (Acts 11 :26), "saints" (Rom. 16:5), or "disciples" (Acts 9:1 ), each time referring to those who obey God according to the pattern revealed through the Holy Spirit.
Some people today call themselves "Lutheran," some "Methodist," some "Baptist," and some "Catholic." We have pointed out that in the apostles' time such names did not exist. There was no, need of them. When salvation was mentioned there was only one group-the church; there was only one convert-the Christian. All Christians were part of one body, the church. Is this pleasing to Jehovah God, the author of our salvation?
To answer this question let us consider the following example. A carpenter is hired by a man to build a house. The prospective home owner presents the carpenter with a complete set of blueprints and specifications. The carpenter begins to build the house. But as he progresses, he decides that the living room, if built according to the print, will be too small. So he adds a few feet to the length of the room; changing the lay-out of the house, improving it according to his own reasoning. After the house is finished, the carpenter presents himself to his employer to collect his wages. But the employer refuses to pay him because the house that the carpenter was to erect was, never built. The house that was constructed was not the one that the carpenter was to build, nor was it a part of their agreement.
The same truth is evident when applied to the word of God. The Bible sets forth God's plan for the construction of His kingdom. If the church is established according to this plan, the existing institution will resemble in every way the New Testament church. If it does not resemble the church of New Testament times, it is not built according to the original pattern. From these facts it should be evident that the religious divisions which exist are not justifiable, either in the light of God's word or in the light of human reasoning.
We now have arrived at these conclusions: Whereas in the first century the church grew and flourished as "the church", and converts to Christ became simply "Christians," we have now hundreds of denominations, each claiming the blessings of God, yet each differing in name, origin, practice and creed. It is alarming in the light of Bible teaching, to see how far from the original most denominations have strayed. Today, apostasy is the rule rather than the exception! But is this full-scale abandonment of God's plan authorized by Him?
For an answer to our question, let us hear the apostle Paul: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). The gospel message is God's power unto salvation. Why then should man gamble with his salvation by adding to or taking from this saving power? Why should he not dwell in the safety of the Lord Jesus?
Let us hear more: "But though we or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any other gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8). Men dare not use the dissecting knife of human opinion upon the inspired word of God. The pure gospel message is the word that must be preached. If any other gospel is delivered, the bearer of the false message becomes a curse. Those who accept the false teaching become enslaved to a curse. What then must we do to be assured of salvation ?
To answer this question, we need to be familiar with the events which brought about the present religious situation. During the first century, the church of, God prospered under the guidance of inspired teachers and pastors (elders). Shortly afterwards, however, because human creeds were bound upon people and because pagan innovations penetrated the worship, the New Testament church digressed steadily from the original order. Later, recognizing that the apostate church was no longer an agency unto eternal life, but rather unto eternal damnation, courageous men such as Luther, Zwingli, Knox and Calvin led the way in a spiritual reformation. Still later, Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott and others undertook a restoration based upon the plea: "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." These men did not pretend to know all the answers to God's mysteries. Instead, they dedicated their lives to a thorough search of the Bible in an effort to uncover the truth. Where one man's work was halted by death, the other's began.
Today there are men and women known only as "Christians," members of the "church," striving to serve God Almighty after the pattern of things set forth in His word. These people are not Lutheran, they are not Baptist, they are not Methodist or Presbyterian. Rather, they are children of God, whose only law is of heaven, whose only creed is the Bible. They speak where the Bible speaks, and where the Bible is silent, they are silent. Nothing becomes a part of their worship unless it is taught in the New Testament. Nothing is bound upon men unless it was bound by the Spirit-directed apostles of Bible times. THIS IS TRULY THE CHURCH RESTORED, for it is "built upon the foundation of, the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner-stone" (Eph. 2:20).
Truth Magazine, V:2, pp. 18-19