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NEW TOPIC: Suffering

181 Years Ago

Back to the Beginning

Restoration Now

Your Part in the Restoration

 

This series of articles is intended for those who have been baptized for the remission of their sins but now find themselves in a situation where they have little support from their fellow Christians because there are few, if any, of them in their local areas.  We know that you are sincere in your beliefs and that you want to do everything that you can to restore the worship and doctrines that were practiced by the apostles in the first century under the direction of the Holy Spirit who was sent by Jesus to provide guidance to them (John 14:26).  We hope that these articles can help you in this endeavor.

 

The articles have the following subjects:

1.      Case Study of a Lone Christian – the Ethiopian man whose conversion is recorded in the 8th chapter of Acts provides a tremendous encouragement and incentive for those who are “on their own today.”  You are not nearly as “alone” as he was.

2.      Finding Fellow Christians – steps to take to find a sound bible-based church.

3.      Identifying a Faithful Congregation – what to look for and what questions to ask.

4.      Starting a “Church in Your House” – a number of “home churches” are mentioned in the bible.   These are documented, and their examples are to be followed in those areas where there are few Christians.

 

 

Your Part in the Restoration – 1

Case Study of a Lone Christian by Dave Brown

 

We read about the establishment of the Lord’s church in Acts 2.  It took place on the day of the celebration of the first Jewish holiday of Pentecost that took place 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus.  The first local church was established in Jerusalem under the close direction of the Apostles.  There was tremendous persecution against the followers of Jesus at this time that ultimately culminated with the stoning of Stephen recorded at the end of Acts 8.  

 

“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles”  (Acts 8:1).  This scattering of Christians left many of them without support from their fellow Christians, but they still did the best that they could to proclaim the word of God and to do God’s will.  Some, but not all, of these Christians had received special gifts through the laying on of the apostle’s hands.  An example of a Christian with special gifts mentioned in Acts 8 is Philip (see Acts 6:5-6).

 

We are not as concerned here with those special cases of Christians in the first century who had special miraculous gifts and could receive guidance directly from the Holy Spirit.  We are more concerned with converts like you, who without such miraculous guidance are now trying your best to serve God in His way.  A good example of this is the Ethiopian man whose conversion is recorded in Acts 8: 26-39.  Please read that case of conversion and notice the following:

·        His conversion is based on his knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures as well as the gospel message revealed to him by Philip; there were no miracles performed in this regard.

·        He did not receive any miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.   Philip, because he was not an Apostle did not have the ability to impart miraculous gifts to him (see Acts 8: 18).

·        As all obedient believers, he did receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32), and certainly this included the assurance of his salvation and his being able to “go on his way rejoicing.”

 

Surely this man was not converted just to go off and fall away.  It is far more reasonable that God had a mission for this man, the first of his race to be converted.  But no one had to go with him to establish a church in Ethiopia … the combination of his knowledge of the Old Testament and the gospel that had been imparted to him was sufficient for the task at hand.  We do not know if assistance might have been provided later; we do know that initially, this is all that he had.

 

God provides us with what we need to serve Him.  Each of us has far more than he had back then.  We have the completed scriptures, both Old and New Testaments – he only had a portion of the Old Testament scriptures.  We have ways to communicate with our fellow Christians that this man could not have dreamed of. 

 

Let us go on our way rejoicing – there is much work to do for the Lord.  We hope this series of articles will help to prepare you to follow his example.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Part in the Restoration – 2

Finding Fellow Christians by Dave Brown

 

First, let us establish the fact that it is essential for us to associate with our fellow Christians if at all possible.  The following is one of the most definitive commands in the New Testament.

 

Heb 10:24-27: “… and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting (one another); and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.  For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries.”

 

It is essential that we not only restore ourselves as individual Christians seeking the purity of God’s word to guide our lives, but that we restore those local churches that provide the means by which Christians can worship and work together.

 

A failure to meet together is not the only sin mentioned in Hebrews 10, but it is the one that is specified immediately before the consequences are detailed.  But we should not need such threatening commands to motivate us to want to meet together “to provoke [each other] unto love and good works.”  We should see from Acts 2 and throughout the book of Acts and the epistles that the early Christians worshipped and worked through their local churches.  It is important that we seek out and find fellow Christians with whom we can work, worship and pray. 

 

What is the best way to go about this?  The good news is that there are more resources at the fingertips of faithful Christians to provide assistance in this regard than ever before.  The bad news is that in many countries whose citizens have religious freedom, such as the United States, there are many counterfeit organizations claiming to be the true church of our Lord.

 

The remainder of this article will deal with finding groups of faithful Christians.  We refer you to the next article as far as their evaluation is concerned.

 

Names?  We are often asked what our “religious affiliation” is, and this is a difficult question to answer.  It is not because the answer is difficult – it is not.  Most simply put: we are Christians trying to serve God the best that we can according to His revealed word.  However, this is not the answer that the inquirers are looking for.  It is too general.  They want a name.  We feel most often this is because they are locked in the denominational mind set.  It is impossible for them to conceive of local churches faithful to God just springing up spontaneously based on obedience to His word.  This leads them to believe that there must be some denominational interaction among these local churches, and this organization must have a name.

 

We are not hesitant to say that most local churches that we have found to be faithful to the lord refer to themselves as a “church of Christ.”  But we will also state emphatically that there are many local churches who wear this as a name only, and who have long since departed from insisting upon book, chapter and verse for all of that in which they engage.  This is important to know in selecting a group of Christians with which to worship and work.

 

We do not view “church of Christ” as a unique name.  It should be considered as a description rather than a name, because there are the many other such descriptions given in the New Testament.  [For more details see “Name for God’s People” under the Church topic.]  But, since most sound congregations use this term to identify themselves, this is an excellent starting point.  We certainly would not encourage groups to avoid this name just for the sake of being different.

 

Since you have access to the Internet, the following URL:

 

Church listings of local churches stating they are totally bible based

 

is recommended.  The site itself contains many references, and it has three other URLs that have the same goal.

 

The name does not guarantee that these groups are sound, this is a good start.  It is not our job (nor anyone else’s on this earth) to investigate all local churches to see which ones are sound and which ones are not.  It is the job of each local member of each of these churches to make sure that the church that they work and worship with remains faithful to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Part in the Restoration – 3

Identifying a Faithful Congregation by Dave Brown

 

In this article we want to provide the scriptural qualifications that distinguish faithful “called outs” (i.e., churches) from their false counterparts.  It is not our goal here to be judgmental.  Only God makes Christians, and only God gives eternal life.  When Christians gather themselves together and are doing their best to do everything in the name of Jesus (i.e., by His authority), then they can truly be referred to as “called out” by the Lord, or as the Greek term “called out” (ecclesia) is translated, a church of the Lord or a church of Christ. 

 

It must be the church of God’s choice. Of course, it will be your choice as well (since you have that freedom), but your choice must be consistent with God’s choice.  Speaking with regard to the alternative religious institutions that competed with the Lord’s church in Corinth, Paul gave them a command that was directly out of the Old Testament (Isaiah 52:11): “Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:17-18).  If you have been converted out of what you understand is denominational error, then do not remain in that environment.  Find faithful Christians who have the same determination that you do: to follow God’s word as closely as they possibly can.

 

They need no sanctioning other than that which comes from their obedience to God’s will.  Thus, they will appeal to nothing else but that.  They are not part of any denomination.  They will not appeal to any denominational name or organization.  They will not appeal to any hierarchy or any organization above the local church as their authority.  All churches that you read about functioning in the New Testament were local in nature.  The universal church exists, and the word church is used often in this way (see Heb. 12: 22-24).  But there is not a sign of it being organized in any collective way.  The only organized groups of Christians that we read about in the New Testament are local churches.  If there were supposed to be some organization above this level, most surely we would be able to read about it (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  God spared no paper and ink in detailing such in the Old Testament, and if we were to be under such an organization today, it would be spelled out in the New Testament.

 

They will claim to be doing everything according to scriptural authority.  Why is this claim so important?  Can’t anyone make it?  Yes, anyone can make it and making the claim within itself does not prove anything.  However, what can we say up front about those who acknowledge that “we do not have scriptural authority for a lot of things that we do?”  Do you really want to associate with that group?  How about those who say: “The bible is just too difficult for ordinary people to understand.”  Do you want to have fellowship with them and promote such a doctrine?  Do you see why the claim is so important?  It is not because the claim makes it so.  It is because without the claim it just cannot be so.

 

They will be overjoyed to provide you with scriptural authority for what they do.  When you ask them for “book, chapter and verse” for some activity (work or act of worship), they will not get angry.  (Please do not be reluctant to do so.)  On the contrary, they will be flattered that you believe that they are willing and able to do this for you.  And they will identify you as “one of them” in the sense that you, like they, insist upon scriptural authority for all things.  It will make their day.  If not, find another group.  Remember, the burden of proof is on those who are performing a collective action (work or worship) to prove that it is authorized.  It is not your responsibility to prove them wrong.  If they cannot provide proof for what they do, they are by definition wrong (1 Cor. 6:4; 2 John 9).

 

Their worship will be consistent with what the New Testament teaches.  We have a number of articles on this site under the heading of “Authority” (see the Articles Index) that review New Testament teaching with regard to the worship of the church.  A group is not to be considered faithful because they are following the things written on this web site or for that matter in any place other than the New Testament itself.  In all probability they will not even know about this web site or these other sources, nor will they even care about the writings of men.  If in doubt about anything, just ask (see the paragraph above).

 

Their work will be consistent with what the New Testament teaches.  Again, in addition to the acts of worship, we provide details under our “Authority” subject heading for the works of evangelism, edification and benevolence to needy Christians.  The local church is not authorized to bind their members to participate in anything except what the New Testament authorizes.  Individual Christians have much greater latitude and are to use their individual time, energy and finances in doing good toward all men (Gal. 6:10) in the best ways that they individually see fit.  However no person has the right to bind other Christians to any other works than what are given for the church in the New Testament.

 

The only way that it is possible for totally independently thinking and acting groups of Christians to come to the same conclusions with regard to their worship and work is if they are going to the same source for its authority.  Since independently organized groups of Christians have no other source for their authority except the bible, then when you find a group that has come to these conclusions on their own, it must be a faithful “called out” people of God.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Part in the Restoration – 4

Starting a Church “in your House” by Dave Brown

 

OK, you have looked all over, tried to contact Christians in your area, asked everyone you know, searched the Internet, and you still cannot find a church that you can conscientiously work and worship with that is close enough to you to make it practical.  Let me just say that yours is a unique and awesome opportunity – to begin a new work in your area.  This must have been the same challenge facing the Ethiopian man who was converted in Acts 8 as he “went on his way rejoicing.”  In this article we will present the authority for, and hopefully some tips to help you in this endeavor.

 

First of all, we want you to rest assured that the starting of a new work is a rightful thing for any Christian to do.  Most of all, please recognize: This requires no sanctioning from any pre-existing organization or group.  Your only obligation is to the Lord.

 

Many of the churches that we read about in the New Testament were relatively small groups that were started by even smaller groups of individuals.  Many met, initially at least, in individual homes.  Just to impress this fact, the following is a listing of first century “house” churches that we read about in the New Testament:

·        Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19);

·        Nymphas (Col. 4:15);

·        Philemon (Philemon 2).

In addition, we have examples of the upper rooms of houses being used to gather the church together (e.g., Acts 20:8).

 

We do not mean to leave the impression (as some have falsely concluded) that “house churches” are the only example that we have, and are thus binding.  There is no unique example for the church meeting place.  They met where it was most expedient to meet.  For example, in addition to members homes we have examples of them meeting in the temple (Acts 2:46), in the Jewish synagogue that was borrowed for this purpose (Acts 19:8), in a private school that was made available (Acts 19:9), and even in buildings that were acquired for this purpose (James 2:2 – this could be an example of where an entire synagogue was converted).

 

The resources set aside to facilitate the meeting of a local church depend totally on the number of Christians involved and the resources that they can gather and contribute to the Lord for this purpose.  A large group might rent, borrow or purchase a building to meet in.  A smaller group might begin by meeting in the house of one of the members.

 

What we are saying is that the absence of a separately established meeting place is not a reason for a church to not meet together.  If this church is only composed of two or three, so be it.  We recommend that if you feel that the best alternative for you to serve God is by having the church (it might just be your family) meet in your home, then you should consider the following:

·        Establishing a sign (temporary that is put up on meeting days if necessary) stating some to the effect that “the church of Christ meets here” and giving the times of services).

·        Placing ads in the local newspaper or radio station.

·        Letting Christians in other places and especially in nearby towns know where you are and what you are doing.

·        Putting the details of the local church on the various web sites that have been established for that purpose.

Generally what we are saying is that you are a legitimate church!  Act like it!  Let other Christians know, but more importantly, let those of the world know where you are and where you stand.

 

Conducting services could be quite difficult if you have never done anything like this before.  But rest assured, the Lord is with you (Matt. 18:20).  Your singing will be beautiful to Him, as will all of your worship no matter how feeble you might think it appears to men.  God’s power is made perfect in our physical weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9).

 

We realize that some of our readers may be in areas like the Ethiopian in Acts 8, who had little if any guidance from other Christians.  Of course, you have access to information sources that he never did, and potential aid from Christians from around the world.  Recognize the acts of worship that the local church is both authorized (see the Authority article topic) and required to engage in, and thus make provision for the following in your services:

·        Prayer

·        Singing

·        The Lord’s Supper

·        Preaching and/or bible reading

·        Giving.

This last item is not to be taken lightly.  If it is just one family involved, then the money should be set aside as dedicated to the Lord and only used for scriptural purposes.  When the church grows and others are involved it is essential that the amount and use of the funds be totally open and known to all so that things are done honorably in the sight of all men (see 2 Cor. 8:21, which is in the context of the use of funds contributed by Christians).  Funds may be used to facilitate and support any scriptural act of worship or work of the church.

 

We hope this series will get you and many others started in your collective service to the Lord.  If we can be of any assistance in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact us.