By Mike Willis
We want to continue an examination of what the plea to restore the New Testament church means.
5. The plea to restore the New Testament church means the restoration of apostolic evangelism. The early church saw its mission as taking the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the world which was lost in sin. They were committed to the obedience of the charge of the Great Commission.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:19-20).
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mk. 16:15-16).
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And , behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Lk. 24:46-49).
From the Great Commission, we can learn that the apostles preached the gospel, the Word, the Christ. They preached “repentance and remission of sins” in the name of Jesus. In doing this, they made disciples or penitent believers; when these penitent believers were baptized they were saved or received the remission of their sins.
In this apostolic commission is found the apostolic rule of conversion: (a) preach the gospel; (b) faith or belief; (c) repentance; (d) baptism of penitent believers; (e) salvation or forgiveness of sins.
Having noticed the charge of the Great Commission, we can readily see that much of modern preaching in denominationalism (and some among us as well) is wholly unlike the plain preaching of the apostles. Sermons should convict men of sin, show them the way to salvation through Christ, and teach men all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded us. To restore the apostolic preaching of the New Testament church is going to require that we cast aside sermons designed to influence politics, propagate social change, treat temporal ills, create a better self-image, teach one how to manage his finances, teach pop psychology on how to have better inter-personal relationships, teach time management, and other self-help lessons. Many of the sermons preached today would have left the 3000 present on the day of Pentecost still in their sins.
6. The plea to restore the New Testament church means the restoration of the names worn by the followers of Christ. In the New Testament, the followers of the Christ are designated by several names, which names signify the Christian’s character, his relation to other children of God and to their Lord. Here are some of the names by which they were known:
a. Disciples (Acts 11:26). The word “disciples” means “learners” or “pupils” of some great teacher. “Disciples of Christ” means “learners of Christ.” The designation indicates the relation that exists between Jesus and his followers as that of teacher and pupil.
b. Brethren (Acts 6:3). Jesus said, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). The word “brethren” indicates that relationship to God as his children (2 Cor, 6:17-18) and to one another as brothers and sisters. The term indicates that tender and endearing relationship which exists between fellow disciples of Christ.
c. Believers (1 Tim. 4:1). The designation of disciples as “believers” points to their conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16).
d. Saints (Rom. 1:7). The word “saint” emphasizes that disciples have been “set apart” to God. As his set-apart people, they are also committed to walk in holiness. The followers of Christ are to be holy in heart and life.
e. Christians (Acts 11:26). Three times in the Scriptures, the Lord’s disciples are called Christians.
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26).
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (Acts 26:28).
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (1 Pet. 4:16).
A Christian is a “follower of Christ.” This is the “worthy name” by which he is called (Jas. 2:7).
As Christians worked together in local congregations, they also were designated by various terms. They were called the “church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2), “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16), the “house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15), and several other names. Some may object to calling these terms names. Paul exhorted the saints at Corinth not to cause others to stumble saying, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). If I can understand that Gentiles and Jews named two groups of people, I can also perceive that “church of God” is used as a name for a third group of people.
The plea to restore the New Testament is a plea for men to renounce the unscriptural and divisive names by which men are called today. Let us forever throw aside such terms as the following: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Unitarian, Muslim. Let us restore the names worn by the followers of Christ and be content therewith.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 14, pp. 418, 439
July 16, 1992