by Robert Mallett
Within the United States, as well as around the
world, there is a growing number of people who have come to be known
as "Christians" only. Their congregations are simply called
Christian Churches or Churches of Christ.
The uniqueness of this group lies in its desire
to restore the church of the New Testament, not in its form of dress,
mode of transportation, or in the language spoken or read, but in
its doctrines, ordinances, and faith. Because of this position,
this purpose to restore, we have come to look upon ourselves as
the "RESTORATION MOVEMENT."
This movement is not "just another denomination,"
since we have not chosen a denominational or "man-made"
name, creed, or book of doctrine. Our name, as individual members,
is Christian and as congregations, Churches of Christ or Christian
Churches. As these terms are scriptural and based upon the Word
of God, we can honestly claim to be "Christians only."
We are not the only Christians; we are Christians only!
As to our creed (from the Latin "credo,"
meaning "I believe") we believe in Jesus Christ the Son
of God, as Lord and as Savior. Our book of doctrine, or list of
beliefs, is simply the Word of God. Thus as one man has expressed
it, "We have no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no
name but the name Christian."
Not only are we non-denominational, but in reality
we are not even Protestants. The word "Protestant" is
derived from the protesting of the followers of Martin Luther against
the decision of the Diet of Speier in 1529 which denied liberty
of worship to the reformers. Later other groups in turn broke with
the Lutheran, Presbyterian, or other denominations, protesting some
part of their doctrine. As a result, these "protesters"
went on to form still other denominations.
As a "Restoration Movement" we have
not broken with any particular group in an attempt to protest or
"reform." The early participants in this movement consisted,
instead, of those who broke from a variety of denominations and
religious groups. They did this, not in an attempt to reform any
particular denomination, but rather in an effort to restore the
"original" church of the New Testament.
With the passing of time there have arisen those
who would have us believe that such a restoration is no longer possible-that
the New 'Testament church and primitive Christianity cannot be restored.
The facts reveal, however, that a restoration is not only possible
but also practical and scriptural. Equally important, it is BEING
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "Upon this rock
I will build my church." This "rock" upon which the
Lord promised to construct His church was His own deity, or the
FACT that He (Jesus) was the Christ, the son of God. Upon this firm
foundation Jesus promised to erect a spiritual Kingdom with Himself
as the "chief cornerstone. "
Actually, however, it wasn't until about a year
later, on the Day of Pentecost in the year 30 A.D., that this "construction"
was begun and the church brought into being. On this day the
Apostle Peter stood up before several thousand
of the Jews in Jerusalem and presented to them the fact that they
had murdered their Messiah. In response to this accusation, the
"Now when they heard this they were cut to
the heart, and said to Peter and the Apostles, `Friends, what are
we to do?' `Repent,' said Peter, `repent and be baptized, every
one of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness
of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'
" (Acts 2:37-38).
Later in this 2nd chapter of Acts, Luke records
that "day by day the Lord added to their number those whom
He was saving" (Acts 2:47). This was the church.
As to the doctrines or beliefs of the early church,
they included such things as the deity of Christ, the necessity
for living the Christian life, and the promise of eternal life for
the faithful believer.
Its ordinances were two in number, immersion (baptism)
of the penitent believer in water for the remission of sins, and
the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.
According to the Scriptures, there were several
names given to this body of believers both as individuals and collectively,
but prominent among these were two. In the latter part of Acts 11:26,
it is recorded that "It was in Antioch that the disciples
got the name of Christians" And in Romans 16:16 we read, "All
the churches of Christ greet you" (N.A.S.V.). The term "Christian
church" is also often used because it can readily apply as
a collective name for the entire body of believers.
This, then, is the New 'Testament Church-pure
and simple. It was organized at the command of Christ and under
the direction of His Spirit-directed Apostles. Its teachings, doctrines,
and ordinances, free from all pomp and ritual, were plainly revealed
within the pages of God's Word.
Webster defines the word "restore" as
"to bring back to its original condition."
Suppose you owned an old, run-down, dilapidated
house. Say it was nearly 100 years old. Somehow you wanted to restore
this old house to its original condition and beauty. Although you
never saw it in its original state, from what is left you can visualize
that it must have been very beautiful at one time.
If this were the case, how would you go about
restoring this old house? Would you face it with limestone so that
its weather-beaten wood shingles couldn't be seen? Would you add
several new rooms and possibly enlarge and redecorate the existing
basement? If you did all this, you might possibly have a very beautiful
house, but it would not be a RESTORATION of the original!
Suppose, however, you found in the attic of this
old building the original blueprints, as well as some old photographs
of the house as it was when it was first built. Then suppose you
set about to rebuild that old house according to these plans and
pictures of the original. If you followed the plans in every detail
and then finished the house as shown in the photographs, what would
you have as the result? You would have a RESTORATION of the house
as it was 100 years before.
Surely the application here can be readily seen.
If we take the church as we find it today, after nearly 2000 years
of wear and tear, abuse and disuse, and try to reform it, we will
never bring it back to its original simplicity and purity. Our efforts
might result in a beautiful ritual and ceremony -that which the
average individual thinks he wants in a church-but you would not
have the original New Testament church!
On the other hand we can take this plan-book or
"blueprint," this verbal picture of the early church,
and "restore" it to its original doctrines, ordinances,
and faith. The desires and doctrines of men would be ignored; the
Bible alone would furnish all the necessary details. If this were
done, what would be the result? We would find ourselves face to
face with the 1st century church alive and functioning within a
20th century society!
Admittedly, all of this sounds very fine, but
can it be done? In actual practice is it possible to take this "blueprint"
(the Bible) and restore the original New Testament church? Yes,
it is! To prove this, let us examine several historical instances
of where it happened.
1. "RESTORATION MOVEMENT" IN AMERICA
During the period from 1794 through 1835, six
separate groups were organized without any knowledge whatsoever
of another's existence. in all six cases, the purpose for organization
by the groups was that they might restore the New Testament Church
as it is found in the pages of God's Word, the Bible. In every case
they settled upon the name "Christian" for their members
and "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ"
for their congregations. Their baptism was by immersion for the
remission of sins, and the Lord's Supper was observed the first
day of every week. All of this, let us reemphasize, came about without
their knowledge of one another's existence.
How was this possible? They had one factor in
common-they all took the Bible as God's divinely inspired Word and
attempted to live and worship thereby! The result was they all restored
Christ's Church in the same way for they all had the same set of
"blueprints," the Bible. Just as six building contractors
could build six identical houses if they all had the same identical
blueprints, likewise these six groups were able to restore the original
church in its faith and practice because they all had the same guidebook.
a. James O'Kelly Movement
The first effort toward a Restoration of Christ's
Church began in 1794 under the leadership of James O'Kelly a Methodist
minister from Virginia. Under his direction, several Methodist
churches in that state took upon themselves the name of "Christian"
b. Abner Jones Movement
In 1801 Abner Jones, a Baptist from Vermont
and New Hampshire, broke with the Baptist church and began an
independent movement for the purpose of returning to the "old
c. Elias Smith Movement
In Connecticut in 1807, Elias Smith, another
Baptist, led his congregation into the New Testament position.
Later, in 1812, he and Abner Jones joined their efforts and went
on to establish congregations each calling themselves simply "Christians"
d. Barton W. Stone Movement
While these events were taking place in the
East, out in the hills of Kentucky a Presbyterian minister named
Barton W. Stone was leaving the Cumberland Presbytery with his
entire congregation. In doing so, this group formed what became
the Cane Ridge Christian Church. In the book Attitudes and Consequences,
Homer Hailey writes: "These people were calling themselves
`Christians,' rejecting human creeds and party names, appealing
only to the Bible for their guidance in faith and conduct."
e. Alexander and Thomas Campbell Movement
About this time, Alexander and Thomas Campbell-
a father and son-both Presbyterian ministers from Pennsylvania,
broke from their denominational background and began organizing
Christian Churches throughout that state. By 1832 the Campbell
group, which by that time far outnumbered that of Stone, united
with Stone's Kentucky churches to form the largest and fastest
growing religious organization of that time. Again, let it be
noted that their union was based upon their identical belief in
the need and possibility of restoring the New Testament Church.
f. Scotch Baptist Movement
The sixth group to enter this growing stream
was that of the Scotch Baptists of New York. Although not as large
as the others, this group also left denominational ties and sought
out others holding the same New 'Testament position.
Here then are groups from Virginia, Vermont,
New Hampshire, Connecticut, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Their leaders came from Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and
Scotch Baptist backgrounds Yet all of them could unite, though
completely independent of each other in their origin and development,
because they agreed upon the need for a restoration of the New
2. "RESTORATION MOVEMENT" IN RUSSIA
About 1860, a sizeable group of Russian Orthodox
from the area of Northern Russia broke with that church and set
out to restore the primitive New Testament church. They called themselves
"Evangelical Christian-." For over 60 years they grew
until they numbered over two million believers in Russia, Poland,
and other Slavic nations
In the year 1918 they chanced upon a copy of the
Christian Standard. Surprised to find it advocating the same position
as theirs, they subscribed to the publication for over a year. By
that time they were convinced that the Christian Churches and Churches
of Christ in America were identical to themselves. Thus, in 1920,
they sent a delegation to America and after a series of discussions
were happy to join forces for a common goal.
Here then were more than two million New Testament
Christians arriving at an identical position, though separated by
thousands of miles from any one else believing the same things How
was this possible? They had one thing in common-a desire to restore
the New Testament church using the Bible alone as their source of
faith and practice.
3. "RESTORATION MOVEMENT" IN GHANA
A third incident of an indigenous Restoration
Movement occurred in more recent years in the form of the "Universal
Christian Church" of Ghana, on the continent of Africa.
Early in December of 1961 some Christians in Wichita,
Kansas, received a letter from a young man in Shama, Ghana, asking
for a copy of the Bible. The Bible was sent and soon they were flooded
with such requests Learning of this, the Ark Valley Christian Church
of Wichita took upon itself to furnish these Bibles as a missionary
In May of 1963 one of those who had received a
Bible wrote the Ark Valley congregation to inform them that he had
begun preaching the simple New Testament gospel and that many were
ready to be baptized. In August of that year Max Ward Randall, missionary
to Zambia, and Cyril Simkins, professor at Johnson Bible College,
went to Ghana and to their surprise were met by hundreds of Christians.
While in Ghana, these two men held a number of preaching services
and baptized several.
In February of 1964 Max Ward Randall, with his
wife Gladys, preached in seven cites of Ghana. Thousands heard them.
Over one hundred more were obedient to the faith.
How did all of this come about? How were these
people taught? They had available the
Word of God and they were prayerfully searching
and studying its pages. They read, believed, and so far as they
could understand, did as they were commanded of the Lord.
4. "RESTORATION MOVEMENT" IN CHILE
The "Bible only" makes "Christians
only." This is true not only in the formation of large groups
but also as related to isolated individuals or separate congregations.
Several such instances have been found in the South American country
In 1962 a congregation calling itself the Christian
Church was found in the northern desert town of Vallenar. Without
fanfare or publicity it had been quietly practicing the local autonomy
of New Testament Christianity for several years under the leadership
of a retired employee of the National Airlines of Chile.
In 1963 a group of three churches and several
preaching points in southern Chile were providentially brought into
contact with Bertrand Smith, a missionary who had labored for fourteen
years in Chile. This group of congregations, calling themselves
the Evangelical Church of Christ, had withdrawn from a Chilean Pentecostal
denomination in an effort to return to the practices and precepts
found in the New Testament. Though retaining much of the heartfelt
emotional expression of their Pentecostal background, they had turned
back toward the New Testament ideal in ordinances and congregational
practice well before contact with any missionaries from the United
In 1966 another group of three churches was found
in the islands off the southern coast of Chile. This area of few
roads is nearly inaccessible, and most of the people are illiterate.
These congregations had been established by a farmer of German ancestry,
Ivar Fohman. They simply considered themselves "the church"
and had never seen a need to take an identifying name. They practiced
the ordinances as described in the New Testament and were very conscious
of their local self-government. After functioning many years under
Brother Fohman's leadership, because of his failing health they
set out to contact someone who shared their beliefs to assist them.
They rejected several denominational offers either because of differences
in doctrines or for fear of losing their self-government. Finally
they were providentially guided to Bertrand Smith, and other missionaries
in the country, who shared their essential concepts of New Testament
doctrine and practice.
These isolated examples further serve to il-lustrate
that wherever men accept only the teachings of the Bible, it can
only make them Christians! God alone knows how many more individuals
and congregations will someday be found following the same, simple,
New Testament pattern.
Yes, Christ's Church, as it is found in the New
Testament, CAN and IS being restored even in our own day! Why? Because
there is a New Testament church to be restored. How? Through a return
to the Bible as the only source of faith and practice. A return
to the historic position: "WHERE THE BIBLE SPEAKS, WE SPEAK;
WHERE THE BIBLE IS SILENT, WE ARE SILENT."
1. You must believe
Not just a "head faith" but a "heart
faith" that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Read: Romans 5:1, Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 10:13, John
2. You must repent of sin.
Repentance is a "turning from sin"
and involves both a sorrow for sin and a true desire to live nearer
to Christ in the future. Read: Acts17:30-31, II Peter 3:9.
3. You must confess Christ.
This is a public witnessing to the fact that
you do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Read: Matthew
10:32-33, Romans 10:10, Matthew 16:13-17.
4. You must be baptized into Christ for the remission
Baptism is not just a religious ceremony but
is an act of saving faith whereby the believing repentant, confessing
sinner comes into contact with the blood of Christ. Read: Acts
2:38,1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27, Mark 16:16,
The Christian life involves many things.
26:41, Luke 18:1.
John 5:39, 20:30-31, Acts- 17:11, Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 2:15.
Matthew 18:20, 26:26-29, Acts 20:6,7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Hebrews
Matthew 28:10-20, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Revelation 2:10.