This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”.  This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.

 

CHANGES IN THE CHURCH

FUEL FOR CHANGE - CONFUSION OVER RESTORATION

 

            Why should there be confusion over the restoration of the church that Jesus promised to build, the keys to which he gave to the Apostle Peter, that were presented to the people by Peter for the first time on that Pentecost Sunday?  Didn’t Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 13 that if we sow the seed of the Word of God that good fruit, that is true Christians, will be the result when it grows and flourishes?  Have men, including those who once understood how God’s seed law works, which tells us that we will always reap what we sow, forgotten that principle?  How is it then that brethren are becoming confused about the restoration of the first century church of Christ in the twenty-first or any other century that the pure word of God is taught?  Yes, there are people that have been blinded and confused, but what is it’s source? 

The following are quotes from an article written by J. E. Choate from the “Firm Foundation”, December, 2002.  “Postmodern theology appeals to a select coterie (a small, select group that associates with one another frequently) of liberal scholars who teach the Bible in “our” colleges and universities.  These brethren have done their advanced graduate study in places like Harvard University, University of Iowa, and Emory University.”  “To our liberal brethren “calling Bible things by Bible names, and doing Bible things in a Bible way” is not the scholarly way to go about doing church.”  The big question in their minds and in much of their writing and teaching is; did Jesus Christ and his Apostles “prescribe divinely ordained patterns for the polity (that’s form of government), worship and practices of the church in the first century and for all time until the Second Coming?”  “By the church, I mean that Jesus promised his disciples to build (Matthew 16:18-20), which emerged more than three thousand strong from the waters of baptism on the first Pentecost after the cross.”  And they claim that we can’t restore the first century church.  Their contention is “that contemporary churches of Christ constitute a denomination whose roots extend no further back than the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement of less than two hundred years ago.”  Send your sons and daughter to sit at the feet of these “so called” scholars and understand that they will no doubt come away confused.  Indoctrinate a generation or two within the church that it is no more than a new denomination generated by men two hundred years ago and I think you can readily understand why they think that they can make it be anything that pleases them.  But is the restoration of the church, through nothing more than the proper teaching and practice of God’s word scriptural?  Continue with me and let’s see.

 

II Kings 18:1-6  NOW IT CAME TO PASS IN THE THIRD YEAR OF HOSHEA SON OF ELAH KING OF ISRAEL, that HEZEKIAH THE SON OF AHAZ KING OF JUDAH BEGAN TO REIGN.  TWENTY AND FIVE YEARS OLD WAS HE WHEN HE BEGAN TO REIGN; AND HE REIGNED TWENTY AND NINE YEARS IN JERUSALEM.  HIS MOTHER’S NAME ALSO was ABI, THE DAUGHTER OF ZACHARIAH.  AND HE DID that which was RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD, ACCORDING TO ALL THAT DAVID HIS FATHER DID.  HE REMOVED THE HIGH PLACES, AND BRAKE THE IMAGES, AND CUT DOWN THE GROVES, AND BRAKE IN PIECES THE BRAZEN SERPENT THAT MOSES HAD MADE: FOR UNTO THOSE DAYS THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DID BURN INCENSE TO IT: AND HE CALLED IT NEHUSHTAN.  HE TRUSTED IN THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL; SO THAT AFTER HIM WAS NONE LIKE HIM AMONG ALL THE KINGS OF JUDAH, NOR any THAT WERE BEFORE HIM. FOR HE CLAVE TO THE LORD, AND DEPARTED NOT FROM FOLLOWING HIM, BUT KEPT HIS COMMANDMENTS, WHICH THE LORD COMMANDED MOSES.”

 

            Now let’s start to look at exactly what he did in detail.

 

II Chronicles 29:3-6  HE IN THE FIRST YEAR OF HIS REIGN, IN THE FIRST MONTH, OPENED THE DOORS OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, AND REPAIRED THEM.  AND HE BROUGHT IN THE PRIESTS AND THE LEVITES, AND GATHERED THEM TOGETHER INTO THE EAST STREET, AND SAID UNTO THEM, HEAR ME, YE LEVITES, SANCTIFY NOW YOURSELVES, AND SANTIFY THE HOUSE OF THE LORD GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, AND CARRY FORTH THE FILTHINESS OUT OF THE HOLY place.  FOR OUR FATHERS HAVE TRESPASSED, AND DONE that which was EVIL IN THE EYES OF THE LORD OUR GOD, AND HAVE FORSAKEN HIM, AND HAVE TURN AWAY THEIR FACES FROM THE HABITATION OF THE LORD, AND TURNED their BACKS.”

 

            As soon as he came to the throne of Judah, Hezekiah set about doing what some today are declaring cannot be done.  But Hezekiah, in fact, completed his work and accomplished what some in our day insist cannot be accomplished; the restoration of pure Bible religion.

 

Hezekiah’s Restoration Movement

 

            Hezekiah’s first objective was to cleanse and purify the temple.

 

II Chronicles 29:5  AND SAID UNTO THEM, HEAR ME, YE LEVITES, SANCTIFY NOW YOURSELVES, AND SANTIFY THE HOUSE OF THE LORD GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, AND CARRY FORTH THE FILTHINESS OUT OF THE HOLY place.”

 

            What this job boiled down to be was simply to go into the temple and carry out every unclean item and throw it into the Kidron Valley; Jerusalem’s garbage dump.  After cleansing the temple Hezekiah then called to the people in Jerusalem to join him in worship to God as God had commanded.  We can do the same thing today by cleansing our hearts and minds of man’s substitute religion and turning to the Word of God.

 

II Chronicles 29:35  “AND ALSO THE BURNT OFFERINGS were IN ABUNDANCE, WITH THE FAT OF THE PEACE OFFERINGS, AND THE DRINK OFFERINGS FOR every BURNT OFFERING.  SO THE SERVICE OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD WAS SET IN ORDER.”

 

            Hezekiah’s second objective was to reinstate the system of sacrifices required of the Israelites and celebrate the Passover.  The Israelite nation, particularly the northern kingdom, hadn’t worshipped in this fashion for many, many years.  So the king sent out his messengers throughout both kingdoms calling people to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and what a celebration that turned out to be.  The thousands of sacrifices, the singing, the words of encouragement from their king, the Levites ability to remember and restore proper service to God brought them back into harmony with Him and they could see and understand that for the first time in their memories.  We can do the same thing today.

 

II Chronicles 30:26  SO THERE WAS GREAT JOY IN JERUSALEM: FOR SINCE THE TIME OF SOLOMON THE SON OF DAVID KING OF ISRAEL there was NOT THE LIKE IN JERUSALEM.”

 

            For the first time in a long, long time, their prayers reached heaven and God heard them!  And they knew it!

            What follows this celebration is the natural result of turning once again to the true God and true Biblical or Scriptural worship.  As the people left Jerusalem they smashed, cut down, destroyed, tore up, and demolished every sign of apostasy they could find.  They tore down the high places, Asherah poles, images, sacred stones and they even had to destroy the brass snake that Moses had made to cure the Israelites of snakebite in the wilderness (Numbers 21) because it had been turned into an object of idol worship.

            The final objective of Hezekiah’s restoration and reformation had to do with the restoration of the contributions required to support the Levitical priesthood.  Understandably without this support they could not function in the temple service and the means would not be available to make the sacrifices that God required.  All of this restored worship to God as God had required of his people at that time and their relationship with the Almighty:

 

II Chronicles 31:20-21  AND THUS DID HEZEKIAH THROUGHOUT ALL JUDAH, AND WROUGHT that which was GOOD AND RIGHT AND TRUTH BEFORE THE LORD HIS GOD.  AND IN EVERY WORK THAT HE BEGAN IN THE SERVICE OF THE HOUSE OF GOD, AND IN THE LAW, AND IN THE COMMANDMENTS, TO SEEK HIS GOD, HE DID it WITH ALL HIS HEART, AND PROSPERED.”

 

            Of course, Hezekiah was not the only Israelite or Jewish leader to accomplish a restoration of true worship to God; Josiah did likewise (II Kings 22:1 - 23:30) and Ezra and Nehemiah did the same thing again in Jerusalem when the Persian king allowed them to return to their homeland.  These men undertook the task of restoring true worship to God under the assumption that this end could indeed be accomplished and it was.  We all know and understand that today if we sow a grain of wheat we will reap wheat, if we sow a grain of corn we will reap corn.  The parallel supported by the immutable laws of God is that if we sow the same seed in the hearts of men today as the apostles sowed in the first century we will reap the same result.  The people who hear and obey will become the same thing that they became at Corinth or Ephesus in Paul’s day; Christians, children of God.  And those who obey these teachings can be called without fear of contradiction the “called out” or church that belongs to Christ.

            However, as we noted in the beginning, the attitude we find among many who claim to be part of the Lord’s church today is that the true church cannot be restored.  They take the position that restoration is an ongoing, continual process, with the accompanying implication that the process will never come together in a completed condition; something definable, or identifiable.  Where do they get this?  They got it from their schooling in the denominational seminaries where they absorbed the theological views of such human philosophers as Alfred North Whitehead, Henry Nelson Wieman, and John Dewey.  The teaching of these men, referred to as “process philosophy”, included the idea that truth and reality are relative and always in a state of flux, subject to change.

            The influence that this teaching can have upon the New Testament church is dangerous, unbiblical and implies several conclusions that are wrong;

 

(1). It implies that we can never achieve a restored condition.

(2). It implies that we can never know whether we have achieved a restored condition.

(3). It implies that either the church of Christ is not the church of the New Testament or that the church of Christ is simply one among many other religious groups that exist (with divine approval) in differing degrees of nearness to the New Testament Church

(4)  It implies that a local congregation cannot be a fully restored New Testament church as long as there are individuals in that church who have not “struggled” with every truth pertaining to restoration

(5)  It implies that status as a New Testament church is unattainable so long as individual members are not all they should be in terms of faithfulness or personal behavior.

 

            The requirements for restoration of the first century church today include structural, organizational and doctrinal details.  In other words if we plant the same seed, people obey the same commands (hear, believe, confess, repent and be baptized), follow God’s pattern in terms of structure and organization (elders, deacons, etc.) and teach the same doctrine as the first century church we can and have restored the true Body of Christ.  Just as Hezekiah and others after him did in ancient Israel by doing what was necessary to return God’s people to a right relationship with the Almighty can be done today.  All we have to do is to follow the same pattern, restore the true patterns for church government, worship, doctrine and righteous daily living.

 

            From the beginning God’s laws regarding seed are common and applicable to the sowing the seed of the Kingdom as well as the seed of the grass, herb or tree as we’re told:

 

Genesis 1:12  “AND THE EARTH BROUGHT FORTH GRASS, and HERB YIELDING SEED AFTER HIS KIND, AND THE TREE YIELDING FRUIT, WHOSE SEED was IN ITSELF, AFTER HIS KIND: AND GOD SAW THAT it was GOOD.  AND THE EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE THIRD DAY.”

 

            Jesus illustrates this principle himself in his parables, as we noted at the beginning of this lesson:

 

Matthew 13:18-23  HEAR YE THEREFORE THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.  WHEN ANY ONE HEARETH THE WORD OF THE KINGDOM, AND UNDERSTANDETH it NOT, THEN COMETH THE WICKED one, AND CATCHETH AWAY THAT WHICH WAS SOWN IN HIS HEART.  THIS IS HE WHICH RECEIVED SEED BY THE WAY SIDE.  BUT HE THAT RECEIVED THE SEED INTO STONY PLACES, THE SAME IS HE THAT HEARETH THE WORD, AND ANON WITH JOY RECEIVETH IT; YET HATH HE NOT ROOT IN HIMSELF, BUT DURETH FOR A WHILE: FOR WHEN TRIBULATION OR PERESECUTION ARISETH BECAUSE OF THE WORD, BY AND BY HE IS OFFENDED.  HE ALSO THAT RECEIVED SEED AMONG THE THORNS IS HE THAT HEARETH THE WORD; AND THE CARE OF THIS WORLD, AND THE DECEITFULNESS OF RICHES, CHOKE THE WORD AND HE BECOMETH UNFAITHFUL.  BUT HE THAT RECEIVED SEED INTO THE GOOD GROUND IS HE THAT HEARETH THE WORD, AND UNDERSTANDETH it; WHICH ALSO BEARETH FRUIT, AND BRINGETH FORTH, SOME AN HUNDREDFOLD, SOME SIXTY, SOME THIRTY.”

 

            The Holy Spirit through Jude reminds us that our work will never be done; that we will continually have to contend for and defend the seed we’ve been given.

 

Jude 3  “BELOVED, WHEN I GAVE ALL DILIGENCE TO WRITE UNTO YOU OF THE COMMON SALVATION, IT WAS NEEDFUL FOR ME TO WRITE UNTO YOU, AND EXHORT you THAT YE SHOULD EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCE DELIVERED UNTO THE SAINTS.”

 

            The fact remains indelibly evident: the church of the New Testament not only can be restored in our day – but that she has been restored.  At the risk of sounding to those who are unlearned or troubled by liberal theologians and false brethren I, and hopefully all of you, are members of that church, the family of God and as such we are GOD’S PEOPLE, BLOOD BOUGHT AND HEAVEN BOUND if we continue to be faithful.  Speaking to Thomas who doubted:

 

“JESUS SAITH UNTO HIM, I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE: NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER, BUT BY ME.  IF YE HAD KNOWN ME, YE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN MY FATHER ALSO: AND FROM HENCEFORTH YE KNOW HIM, AND HAVE SEEN HIM.” John 14:6-7