Restoring the New Testament Church
by Paul McClung
Every church has its own peculiar
plea. The peculiar plea of the
Not a Denomination
This church of which the apostles
were the charter members was not a denomination. What is a denomination? A denomination is a party, division, class or
sect. The dictionary defines a sect as a
faction of dissenters who have pulled off from an established or orthodox church, holding to a particular creed or
practice. If the church established by
Christ and his apostles in
could establish his church he had to die on the cross and shed his blood for
says “Feed the church of God, which he
hath purchased with his own blood.”
Since Christ purchased this church with his own blood it is his and he
is the head of it. Paul speaking of
Christ in Ephesians
says, “and gave him to be head over all
things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all
in all.” I do not know of anyone
who claims that this church was a denomination, and yet it existed on earth in
a visible form and was free from all man-made laws, denominational names and
machinery for some two or three hundred years.
I also want to add that the growth of this undenominational church has
never been paralleled in the history of men. Thousands upon thousands obeyed
the gospel as it was preached by the apostles and other inspired men and were
added by God to his church. The church
The Falling Away
The apostle Paul
freely predicted a falling away. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, he said, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that
day shall not come, except there come a falling away first and the man of sin
be revealed, the son of perdition.”
Again in I Timothy 4:1,3 we
find these words, “Now the Spirit
speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,
giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils: Speaking lies in
hypocrisy having their conscience seared with a hot iron: Forbidding to marry,
and commanding to abstain from meats.”
History reveals that this departure came as Paul said it would. The departure from the original pattern of
things was gradual but continuous, until within a few hundred years there had
developed the apostate church of
The doctrine of
purgatory teaches that one who dies in sin can go on to heaven after suffering
for a while in purgatory. According to
the theory, if a loved one will pay the priest a sufficient sum of money, he
can by his prayers hasten the escape of the deceased from purgatory. The doctrine of indulgence teaches that one
can by the payment of a sum of money to the priest get permission to indulge in
sin without the Lord holding him responsible.
While Martin Luther was serving as a priest in
Beginning of Denominationalism
These men had been members of the apostate church and by their protests had in mind doing nothing more than reform this church. Their efforts resulted in the founding of several Protestant denominations. True to the definition of a denomination already given, these sects were groups of religious dissenters who had pulled off from an established church, because of their objections to certain of its practices. But these denominations held on to many doctrines and practices which were foreign to the church of which the apostles were members. Finally, it began to dawn on some that the apostate church had gone too far from the truth to simply reform it. They could see that the efforts of the men just mentioned to reform the apostate church had only resulted in the founding of other unscriptural institutions, known as denominations.
In the latter part of the 18th century a movement was launched in this country by Abner Jones, James O’Kelley, Barton W. Stone, and later ably championed by such men as Walter Scott, John Smith and Thomas and Alexander Campbell to restore the apostolic church in all its purity and simplicity.
Because of the
zeal and success of the work of the
When some hear
what I have said, they say, “then Alexander Campbell founded your church.” No! No! Alexander Campbell did not found a
church of his own, he, along with a group of great and good men already mentioned, restored the church which was founded by Jesus Christ and
his apostles in
It is said that
William J. Bryan held in his hand some wheat which was two thousand years
old. It was taken from one of the tombs
A few years ago I
conducted some meetings in
We have a very popular game in this country called “baseball.” It is played according to certain rules and regulations. Let us suppose that people gradually lose interest in the game and quit playing it. But let us suppose that 1,000 years from now, someone finds a baseball rule book and starts playing the game according to the rule book. Would that be a new game, or the old game of baseball restored? If we go back then, to the New Testament which was the rule book used by the apostles and early Christians in their religious activities and follow it to the very letter, adding nothing and taking nothing from it, will we have a new church or the church of the New Testament restored?
The Church Then and Now
Those who are
members of the
What Was the Creed of the Early Church?
The word creed comes from the Latin word credo which means I believe. A man’s creed is what he believes. The early church believed that Jesus is the Son of God. This was its creed, its only creed. The early church never asked people to confess or pledge allegiance to any other creed. This was the creed which Peter confessed (Matthew ). This was the creed which the eunuch confessed before his baptism and becoming a member of the church. When the eunuch asked, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts , 37). You will note that nothing else stood in the way of the eunuch’s being baptized. Thus, the early church did not come together first and vote on those who had made application for membership. Since the New Testament is silent on voting on those who desire membership in the church, we remain silent there also. We ask people to subscribe to no confession of faith today other than that which Philip asked the eunuch to confess—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
What Was the Discipline of the Early Church?
The early church followed the inspired teachings of Jesus and the apostles, which we now have in the New Testament. This is exactly what we use today. If we used more or less, we would lack just that much being the church of the New Testament. This is also why we confine ourselves to what they did in the matter of voting on new members and the confession that we have people to make.
What Was the Organization of the New Testament Church?
A study of the organization of the church of which the apostles were members will reveal that Christ was the head of it. “And he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians ). He was its only head. It did not have a head on earth. The apostles were his ambassadors (2 Corinthians ). As such the apostles could speak with authority to all the congregations Christ is still the only head of the church and the apostles are still exercising authority over the church through theft inspired word which they left us in the form of the New Testament (Luke 22:30). Each local congregation, when fully developed, had its own elders. Acts says, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church.” These elders were also known as bishops, pastors, and shepherds (Acts , 1 Peter 5:1, 4). They governed the church along with the assistance of the deacons. That each church had its own bishops and deacons can be seen from reading Philippians 1:1 “To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Each congregation was separate from every other church or group of churches, subject to no authority outside the local congregation other than Jesus Christ and his apostles. This is the exact organization which churches of Christ have today.
Nowhere in the New Testament do you read of the” Pope’ or the “president” of the church. Neither can you read of the Arch bishop, cardinal, nor of the general assembly, the convention, the conference, or the presiding elder. The church of the New Testament was completely free from all of the denominational machinery, and ecclesiastical systems which can be seen all about us today. It is true that the churches of New Testament times supported evangelists or preachers, but there is nothing to indicate that they exercised control over the churches as “pastors,” or as a “clergy.” They were a teaching and not a ruling class (2 Timothy 4:2). The New Testament is also silent on such expressions as “Reverend,” “Father,” “Rector,” or the clergy as applied to the preachers. You will find none of these expressions used in the churches of Christ today to designate our preachers. This is no accident. Neither is it because we just want to be different. It is a part of our determination to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.” If we should use any of the above mentioned expressions to designate our preachers we would lack just that much being the church of the New Testament.
What Name Did the Early Church Wear?
One of the names
it wore was “
The names worn by all churches have their significance. They either point to some person who originated them or to some peculiarity of the group. The name “Roman” points to Rome, “Lutheran” to Luther, “Presbyterian” to a form of church government, and “Baptist” to the practice of immersion. A church intending to restore New Testament practices would certainly have to avoid the use of such names. All of these names had their origin several centuries after the death of the apostles.
Of What Did the Worship of the
New Testament Church Consist?
worship consisted of: observing the Lord’s Supper, contributing of their money,
singing; teaching the Word of God, and praying.
Weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper was a part of the worship of the
early church. Acts 20:7 says, “And upon the first day of the week, when the
disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” This shows that the weekly observance of the
Lord’s Supper was a regular practice of theirs.
This will help you to understand the admonition of Hebrews “Not
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but
exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Most all churches cite these passages to
justify the weekly assembly of its members for worship. If they authorize the weekly assembly for
worship they also authorize the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. Others may observe the Lord’s Supper at Lent,
once a year, quarterly, or monthly. But
How did the early church raise money for the carrying on of its work? I Corinthians 16:2 says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” Nowhere do we find an apostle telling them that the law of tithing was binding; many gave far more than a tenth. Each gave as he was prospered, as he himself purposed in his heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). Nowhere do we read of the early church taxing each member so much. Neither do we read of the early church staging pie suppers, rummage sales, or parties of any kind to raise money for the church. Community begging was not engaged in. Many have been gratified to find in the churches of Christ today the New Testament pattern of church finance restored.
In the worship of the churches of Christ today you will find many prayers offered just as they were in New Testament times (1 Timothy 2:8). You will also find in our worship singing just as they sang then. A careful study of the New Testament will reveal that the singing of the early church was “a cappella”; that is, it was not accompanied by any mechanical instrument. Paul in giving instruction to the early church said, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians ). Their singing was the “fruit of their lips” and made a sacrifice that was well pleasing unto the Lord (Hebrews ). Knowing what the early church did in the manner of making music in their worship, if we are loyal to our plea. “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent,” we will use nothing but vocal music in our worship. If we should use a mechanical instrument we would be going on and abiding not in the teaching or doctrine of Christ. In 2 John 9, reading from the American Standard version we find these words, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” Any church that uses a mechanical instrument in its worship lacks just that much being what the New Testament church was.
What Was the Teaching of the Early
Church as To How To Become a Christian?
On the day of
Pentecost, Peter preached Jesus as the Christ, the son of the Living God. He called upon the men of
Since the church of Christ today teaches the same things the apostles taught, since it worships in the same way, has the same organization, wears the same names, and has the same creed, we believe that we are the New Testament church and not just a denomination. Can this be said of the church of which you are a member?