A Sermon By G.K. Wallace
THE RESTORATION PLEA
G. K. Wallace
The restoration plea is an earnest entreaty to bring back the church of our Lord into its original state. A plea to restore assumes that an original existed and was lost. The restoration plea assumes a pattern existed and could and should be restored.
If there is a standard in religion, a pattern to follow, the work of restoration is simple. The Bible is our guide and we must abide by what is written (I Cor. 4:6). Any message not preached by the apostles is ruled out (Galatians 1:8). The Bible provides all the instructions necessary for our work and worship in the kingdom of God (II Timothy 3:16-17). If any man speaks today he is required to say what the Bible says (1 Peter 4:11). The work of Alexander Campbell and others was based upon this principle: We must be governed by what God says. Thus they began saying, "We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent." The Word of God, only God's Word will produce and restore just what existed in the beginning. To accept the Bible and the Bible alone as a guide in religion will abolish every human creed, confession of faith, prayer book and church manual. Accepting the Bible, the Word of God, as a religious guide will require the abandonment of every human name and also that we do only that for which we have a scriptural precept, command or example.
The restoration plea calls for the reproduction of New Testament Christianity. It is a plea to return to Jesus Christ as our faith is in Christ. We must accept Christ as our guide.
The restoration plea is a plea to accept the word of Christ. There is no such thing as accepting Christ and not accepting the word of Christ (Matt. 7:21). What the apostles taught is what Christ taught and to reject apostolic teaching is to reject Christ (Matt. 10:40). The word of Christ is the New Testament (John 16:14-15, 20:21-23). He who rejects the New Testament rejects Christ. Religions, today, are not based on the words of Christ but the words of men, who with wrap-around collars, speak in church councils.
The restoration plea is a doctrinal plea. The first rule of unity laid down by the Holy Spirit was doctrine (Acts 2:42). The doctrine that doctrine is not important is not only an enigma but unscriptural. To teach that doctrine is not important is to teach the doctrine of demons (I Tim. 4:1).
The restoration plea is a plea to restore the New Testament church. The New Testament church was simply the local church with elders to rule and deacons to serve. There was a plurality of elders in every church (Acts 14:23).
The restoration plea is a plea for the ordinances of Christ-Christ ordained baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:15-16, John 3:5). Christ required a burial in water as baptism and for believers only (Romans 6:4, Col. 2:12, Acts 8:36-39, Mark 16:15-16)
The restoration plea is a plea to observe the New Testament pattern of worship. The God given pattern of true worship is not complex We are required to teach (Acts 2:42). We must assemble on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's Supper and to give of our mean to further the cause of Christ (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:1-2). We arc commanded to eat the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:26-28). We are commanded to assemble (Hebrews 10:25). The Lord's Supper was placed in the assembly (1 Cor. 11:17,28,33). The early disciples assembled on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7). In this assembly the followers of Christ sang hymns unto God (Matt. 26:26-28, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
Instruments of music were not used in the worship of God because they were forbidden. When God specifies he forbids. God specified burial for baptism and thus forbade sprinkling. God specified the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine in the Lord's Supper and thus forbids the use of any other kind of bread or liquid to be used in the Lord's Supper. God specified singing which forbids playing. God specified the heart as the instrument to be used in worship and thus forbade the piano (Eph. 5:19). God specified speaking-teaching in singing and thus forbids humming. God specified the Lord's Supper in the assembly (I Cor. 11,17,28,33), and thus forbids its use as a toy for playing church by a group of children and some well meaning adults.
The restoration plea is a plea for a personal consecration to Christ. The Bible requires men to crucify the works of the flesh (Col. 3:5-11). No man is free to develop his own life style. Repentance requires the changing of an immoral life style. The gospel does not allow man to orient his own style of worship or of living.
We must continue to as people to return to God's plan for church structure and organization. We must plead for correct doctrine in this world. We must plead for true worship, service, and pure living. To abandon such a plan is to abandon the Word of God.
HAVE WE OUTGROWN THE RESTORATION PLEA?
It is strange that apostasy would be called growth. The elders at Ephesus were warned of some in their own number who would speak "perverse things" as a sign of progress or growth. Departure is not progress. Swelling is not growth. We need to say what the Bible says. We need to say the same things we have been saying and in the same way. Show me a man with something new and I will show you a man in apostasy. If someone teaches something new I can take the Bible and prove it is not so. Recently someone said to me, "At the Freed-Hardeman College lectures each year we hear the same things over and over." What a blessing! It will be a sad day when the lecture platform here becomes a pulpit for something new. The Gospel never grows old.
Why should we abandon the Gospel for socialism-a system devised by sociologists and political scientists who do not even believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Why do men believe it is growth to worship the creature rather than the Creator? Why do men believe that it is growth to worship God in a way devised by man and not by Jehovah? Is it progress to change the new birth to suit those who do not wish to obey? Is it progress to allow the homosexuals and lesbians a place in respectable society when God forbids it (Romans 1:26-27)? Repentance is a call to change one's life style. Noah asked the people to whom he preached to be righteous (II Peter 2:5). Jonah called on Nineveh to change its life style. John the Baptizer required people to change their life style. The prodigal son had to give up the hog pen to sit at his father's table. Who is he that believes we have outgrown the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, except those who have forsaken Christ?
The lost need to be saved and it takes the blood of Christ to redeem. The lost must accept the grace of God (Titus 1:11). Either grace or salvation as a gift is not a gift unless it is conditional. If it were not conditional it would be forced. God does not coerce one to be saved It is by faith we have access into God's grace (Romans 5:1-2), Faith to save must be obedient (Romans 1:5). The conditions of God's gift, his grace, is in no wise a wage. No man can earn salvation but he can and must obey the requirements of grace. God's grace requires faith (Mark 16:15-16) and baptism to be saved (Acts 2:38) Christ is the Saviour of only those who obey Him (Romans 6:15 Hebrews 5:8-9).
The beloved apostle Peter described these modern day seers as one who have "outgrown" the word of God when he said "but there arose false prophets" who would bring in destructive heresies" and with words make merchandise of you" (II Peter 2:1-3). These teachers have not outgrown the Restoration Plea but they are in matters whereof they are ignorant" (II Peter 2:12).
A so called "new era" does not change the nature of man nor sin, The Gospel is the power to save and Christ is still our Saviour. The conditions that prevail in the world today necessitate a clear and positive proclamation of the Word of God. He who is too big to preach the simple Gospel of Christ is too big to preach. There is no such thing as outgrowing the restoration plea. Trying to hide apostasy by turning a phrase is another way of leading God's people astray.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THE PAST?
The topic of our discussion today is "What have we learned from the past?" It seems we have not learned much. We do not like to look back lest we be reminded. However, for those who are concerned and care about the future it is well to remember from the past these salient facts:
1. We have learned that true discipleship means problems.
Jesus did not come to send peace upon the earth. A man's foes can and may be those of his own household. Often we see father against son, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:34-36). The church in Jerusalem "had favor with all the people" (Acts 2:47) This favor with the public did not last as soon the apostles were put in prison (Acts 4). Hypocrisy was manifested in the congregation by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Murmuring arose among the disciples which caused great concern in the early church (Acts 6:1-6). Soon there were those who arose "disputing" with the early disciples, as a result of such a dispute the beloved Stephen was stoned. A devout Pharisee by the name of Saul. later called Paul, was instrumental in scattering the church in Jerusalem and putting Christians in prison. James was killed by the pompous and blasphemous Herod (Acts 12:1-22). The early church was plagued with a controversy over circumcision that necessitated the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-11). The record of all the congregations established by apostolic men is one that is filled with heartaches as well as joy. We have learned that all who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
2. We have learned that the method and motives of false teachers have not changed.
Paul said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their mouth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent" (Romans 16:17-18). False teachers were in the early church and false teachers are in the church today. The doctrine of Christ has been revealed and no man in apostolic days was allowed to deviate from it and he has no such permission today. All false teachers should be marked and every Christian should turn from them. False teachers in the early church as now, were moved by that which satisfied their own desires. Paul said, "They served their own belly." Today, in the church there are many who are interested more in promotional schemes, the selling of buses and books, than they are in trying to preach the gospel of Christ. Very little, if any, gospel work today is non-profit. The methods of these early teachers was to lead people astray by a "smooth" approach and by "fair speech." False teachers beguiled instead of bludgeoning their listener. Paul says, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been lead astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Tim. 6:10).
3. We have learned from the past that there is no guarantee of the survival of a work any place on earth.
Apostasy is possible, not only for an individual but for entire congregations. Paul established the churches of Asia and the book of Revelation contains short letters to these churches with indications of the apostasy and problems that existed among these brethren. The church at Ephesus was told to "repent and do the first works" and some in Smyrna made up "a synagogue of Satan." There were those in Pergamum who were even teaching the doctrine of Balaam. The church in Thyatira even put up with a woman preacher by the name of Jezebel. The church in Sardis was told to repent. Some in Philadelphia did not keep the Word (Rev. 3:10). There were many in the church in Laodicea who were neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:15). In our own land there have been many troubles. All congregations, of the body of Christ, worshipped without instrumental music until after the close of the Civil War. Preceding the Civil War there were, we are told, 60,000 Christians around Lexington, Kentucky. These congregations and brethren were all carried into digression. It could happen to us. Vigilance is the price of liberty.
4. From the past we have learned that restoration is possible.
If a few men like Alexander Campbell could go out among their neighbors with an open Bible and call them back to the old paths so can we. What we need is a dedication to truth and the proclamation of it. If the gospel is preached without excuse and human wisdom it will produce now what it produced then. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom and needs only to be planted in the hearts of men. If the Word of God, the seed of the kingdom, is planted it will produce only that which was produced in apostolic time. That is true restoration. Let us plant the seed and God will give the increase. When men turn from these principles how can God pardon such, as Jeremiah said, "How can I pardon thee? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery, and assembled themselves in troops at the harlots houses; they were as fed horses roaming at large; everyone neighed after his neighbor's wife." (Jeremiah 5:7-8) The restoration requires not only that the primary principles of the gospel be preached but also moral principles and upright living.
The Restoration Movement requires a true worship as directed by our Lord Jesus Christ (John 4:24). We learn from the past that apostasy is possible. We learn from the past that restoration is possible. We learn from the past that we can have a great impact upon the generation with which we live.
A CLARION CALL FOR THE OLD PATHS
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, exhorted his people to return to the "old Paths." He said, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16).
The soul needs rest and there is a good way-the way trodden by the saints in the beginning in which the soul may find rest. The way of God is revealed in the Bible.
In every walk of lift: we have certain guidelines and ways by which we can determine what is correct and right. The airplane pilot has an altimeter to check the altitude of his plane. The driver of a car can check his speed by looking at the speedometer. The barometer will tell us what the atmospheric pressure is. We know what the temperature is by looking at the thermometer. Unless we observe carefully the standards of weights and measurements in our business world. we will be in utter confusion. The religious world is a jungle because it has abandoned a definite standard by which to walk. There should be and there is a way to determine the way of holiness. He who accepts the Bible as God's guide has no trouble in finding and traveling the road to heaven.
Jesus established the church and the church was perfect. The members of the church were not perfect, but God's institution is. The church was called the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23). Paul says this church was the fullness of God. In Colossians 2:9, Paul says that in Christ "dwelleth all the fullness of God." All of God's plans for the world are in Christ. The fullness of God was in Christ. God has no plans for the world outside of Christ. The church is the fullness of Christ and Christ has no plans for the world outside of his church. There is no such thing as being saved outside of the church because salvation was not and is not provided outside of the church. It is true that man can be saved outside of denominations, human churches. churches built by men, but not outside of the church which Jesus built and purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The word church is sometimes used to describe a congregation as John says, "to the angel of the church in Ephesus" (Rev. 2:1). The word church is sometimes used to describe God's people gathered together (I Cor. 11:20). The word church is used to describe the great spiritual body of Christ composed of all the redeemed of the earth (Matt. 16:18). In its universal sense we find the perfect church. It is perfect in organization, in doctrine and in methods and manner of worship. Since the New Testament reveals a perfect organization, a complete and full revelation about God's plans for man and a correct pattern of worship, it behooves us to proclaim this message to the world. To those who are looking for truth it is not difficult to identify God's program in this world.
It should not be hard for one who is looking for the truth to go out into the religious world, with a New Testament, and to find, if there exists such a people, those who worship God according to truth and walk in the old paths. That the church existed and was established by Christ can not de denied. We have the gospel of Christ which is the seed of the kingdom. We need only to plant the seed to have the plant and the fruit that should exist.
Several years ago, while preaching in one of our great midwestern cities, one evening someone stole my car. I had a new car, the banker and I did, and it was unceremoniously taken away from me. I called the police. They came and began to ask of me questions, such as, "What was the name of your car? What model was it? What color was your car? What is the motor number and license tag number of your car?" Suppose I had replied, "It doesn't make any difference about the name of the car, just get me a car. It doesn't make any difference about the model when it was started, just get me a car. It doesn't make any difference about the motor number, I am very broad minded, just get me a car." They would have locked me up for the night so that I might get home safely. However, with these marks of identification the police went out into the darkness of the night and before daylight brought to me my car that had been stolen. This same group of policemen could not find the church of Jesus Christ in the city where they served. They could not find the church because the preachers had either removed the marks of identification from the church or were ashamed or afraid to read identification marks to them from the Bible I ask, "What is the name of the church to which you belong?" someone says. "It does not make any difference about the name." By this answer you know he has a name that is not in the Bible. I ask, "When was your church started? Did it start on Pentecost or after Pentecost?" If I am told it does not make any difference when the church started, I know then that this person belongs to a church that was started by man and about which there is nothing said in the Bible. You hear people saying, "It doesn't make any difference how you are baptized just so you are baptized." You know immediately that they were not baptized according to the scriptures. When you hear people say that, "It doesn't make any difference about the items of worship," you know immediately that they are not worshiping like the New Testament teaches. When you hear men saying that, "Doctrine is not important," you know immediately that he or they are false teachers. When you hear men saying that, "It doesn't matter whether you belong to the church or not just so you are sincere." You know immediately that such a one is not a member of the body of Christ.
A Christian has a choice of congregations where he may worship but not of the church to which he may belong. The sooner we learn that the church, to which Jesus referred when He said, "I will build" is the great spiritual body of Christ, the family of God, the easier it will be for us to stay within the old paths.
The only way to be added to the church in New Testament times was to be baptized into Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27, 1 Cor. 12:13, Acts 2:41-47).
It is easy to identify the church if we will find the people who have been baptized in Jesus name for remission of sins who "keep the ordinances" (I Cor. 11:2). There can be no additions and no subtractions to God's ordinances. God specified the elements of his worship and that which adds another element can not be an aid. God specified the bread and the fruit of the vine in the Lord's Supper. Jelly on the bread would not be an aid but an addition because it is another element added to be eaten in the Lord's Supper. Mechanical music could not be an aid to vocal music because it is another element of music, and thus, is an addition and not an aid. Mechanical music in worship is as much an added element to the worship of God as would jelly be on the unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper.
The church can be restored by taking the Bible and following it as a guide. The church can be, today, as it was in early times by following the apostolic pattern. The New Testament reveals a pattern for worship and a pattern for doctrine that cannot and must not be ignored. Let us look for a group of people who call themselves Christians (Acts 11:26). Let us find a group of people who respect the New Testament organization of the church, preach sound doctrine, worship as the Bible directs, and live and worship as God directs. The Gospel is God's power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). The word, gospel, comprehends the entire and full message of Christ in this dispensation. The Gospel is the way of God, so let us inquire for it and walk in it. If we do not walk in the right way we shall walk over the precipice and fall into the bottomless pit.
-From Pages 269-277, Freed-Hardeman Lectures, 1978, Theme: The Future Of The Church.