By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote Sydney E. AhIstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), p. 451.
In 1829 the Baptists listed the “error” taught by the Disciples. Ahlstrom summarizes their charges: “1. They distinguish simply between the Old and New Covenants and hence abolish the Law of Moses. 2. They hold conversion to be wrought through the Word alone without any direct operation of the Holy Spirit. . . . 3. They believe baptism should be administered on profession of belief that Jaw is the Christ, without examination of experience or consent of the church. 4. They believe that baptism procures the remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit. It is thus man’s obedience which alone can bring him within the purview of God’s ‘electing’ grace. 5. They believe that none have a special call to the ministry and that all baptized persons have the right to administer the ordinance of baptism. . . . 6. They believe that the Christianity of the New Testament is simple and clear, with no element of mystery or mysticism. Creeds and enthusiasm, which obscure this fact, are therefore not to be tolerated.” Some points might need slight clarification, but in general this summary is a remarkably clear statement of the distinctive plea of the restoration movement. As much as 150 years ago, these important truths provide clear landmarks between the churches of Christ and those of men.
I call for a return to preaching this distinctive plea. I understand that this is not the fulness of the gospel. We should not neglect the great truths which we hold in common with most of those who claim the title “Christian.” But must we vacillate wildly between two extremes? One generation preaches the “distinctive” truths to the neglect of all else in the Scriptures. The next generation discovers that vast body of neglected truth and belittles and rejects the distinctive truths.
I wonder how clearly the younger generation today understands the distinctive plea of the church. I wonder how clearly they grasp the New Testament teaching on the law, the operation of the Holy Spirit, the significance of baptism, the rejection of a clergy, and the essential simplicity of New Testament Christianity. I wonder how clearly the world understands the enormity of these differences.
We are in a period of the maturing of conservative churches. As our knowledge becomes broader, deeper and more perspective let us not forget our distinctive plea. Billy Graham says many things the world needs to hear, but the world needs to hear some things he will not say. – Ed Harrell
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 24, p. 750
December 15, 1988