What Is The Restoration Plea?
"In spiritual matters restoration is the return to the ideal state that Christ desires of His church. Of course, this assumes that there is an ideal state, that there has been a movement away from that ideal into error, and that there is a mandate to return to that ideal. The need for restoration becomes necessary because repentance from error is necessary (Revelation 2:14-16). The notion that one may acceptably remain in error indefinitely is never considered in the New Testament (2 John 9; Revelation 2:20-21). The American Restoration Movement sought to return to the ancient order of things. The Restorationists believed that Christians ought to ‘speak where the Bible speaks’ and to ‘remain silent where the Bible is silent’. They wanted to cast aside all human names, creeds, and practices and go back to the Bible. They wanted to do Biblical things in Biblical ways. They believed that the movement away from the Bible brought error and division, that it was a curse upon Christianity, and that it ought to be abandoned. As a result, they began an intensive study of the Scriptures to see what God desired from the early church. They believed that if they went back to the forms and patterns found in the New Testament church, that they would please God and stand in His favor" (Adrift Postmodernism in the Church, Phil Sanders, p. 95).
Old Testament Precedents For Restoration: Romans 15:4
- First of all, the pattern found in the Old Testament is one of a continual departure from the truth God had revealed. Adam and Eve departed from God in the garden (Genesis 3). Cain offered a sacrifice that did not conform to God’s requirements (Genesis 4). Noah’s generation was in complete rebellion to God (Genesis 6). Noah’s descendants disobeyed the command to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1; 11:4). The generation that came out of bondage continually rebelled against God (Exodus chapters 14-32). The generation that arose after the time of Joshua went into apostasy (Judges 2:10-11). The book of Judges illustrates one apostasy after another (2:11-23).Eventually the northern Israelite tribes become so bad that God removes them off the land and sent them into exile (2 Kings 17).Eventually the same thing happened to the southern tribe of Judah (2 Chronicles 36). Even after a remnant returned from captivity, they still hadn’t learned their lesson (Malachi chapters 1-2; Ezra chapters 9-10).
- Secondly, God demanded a return to the faith or law that He had revealed. Through Jeremiah, God said, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls’" (6:16).
- We have the example of King Hezekiah. He was the son of the weak and unprincipled Ahaz and had inherited a nation filled with sin and idolatry. But despite his father and the culture that surrounded him, Hezekiah had a heart set on serving God:
2 Kings 18:3-7 "And he did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 4He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. 5He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. 6For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. 7And the LORD was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him".
The above passages not only tell of Hezekiah’s clinging to the Lord, but how such faith was manifested. Hezekiah did not depart from following God, but "kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses". Faithfulness, and love for God demanded a return, a restoration in Israel of what God had originally commanded at Mount Sinai, a devotion of one’s to God is demonstrated in following His original instructions in Scripture. Right attitudes or sincerity is not enough. "We too need to learn that the approval of God follows those who are willing to keep their hearts and their actions firmly focused on serving Him. This is significant because it helps us to understand how God looks at people and particularly us. God makes it clear that He strongly supports the person whose heart completely belongs to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), and such a devoted heart is demonstrated by keeping His commands.
- The example of King Josiah teaches the same truth. Once again, following the death of Hezekiah, the Jewish nation went back into apostasy (2 Kings chapter 21). But Josiah, unlike his father or grandfather, did right in the sight of God and did not deviate to the right or left (2 Kings 22:2). Under Josiah, restoration involved understanding precisely that deviations from the revealed will of God in Scripture brings God’s wrath (2 Kings 22:10-13; 16-17). Restoration involved preaching the word of the people (2 Kings 23:2), and the determination to follow exactly what God had originally revealed (23:3). Chapter 23 makes it clear that Biblical restoration involves ceasing all unscriptural practices and instituting all Scriptural practices (23:21). Notice what God demanded, "That he might confirm (perform) the words of the law which were written in the book" (23:24). God did not call such attention to Scripture "legalism", rather, He said, "There was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might" (23:25). Yes, restoration is the heart and soul of the "Great Commandment" (Matthew 22:36-37).
The Biblical Basis For Restoration In The New Testament
- An apostasy would hit the church (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3), and did, manifesting itself first in the Roman Catholic Church (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12), and secondly in the Protestant denominations that followed.
- The Eternal Nature of Jesus’ Teachings Demand Restoration after an Apostasy: "The restoration idea is built upon the conviction that God has given us an eternal message to which He expects us to hold" (Sanders p. 101). That is, if the New Testament contains all truth (John 16:13), contains the final will of God, the final covenant for mankind (Hebrews 1:1-2), is the faith once for all revealed(Jude 3), will judge people at the last day (John 12:48), and sets forth a doctrinal and moral standard for all generations (Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8), then the doctrines revealed in the First Century must be obeyed in every century if we are going to be pleasing to God (John 14:15; Matthew 7:21-23).
- "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). "Such passages make it very clear that Jesus expected His teaching to be carried forward till the end of time. The changing of the millennium will not change the Word of God" (Sanders p. 103).
- Seeing that the Word of God will never be corrupted (1 Peter 1:23), and the church or kingdom of God is produced when this word is preached (Matthew 13:19), we must conclude that the church that Jesus established and planned can be produced in every generation, or place, when the Word of God is faithfully preached and when people obey it.
- The New Testament letters clearly teach that God has zero tolerance for false doctrine. This is seen in how the apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, quickly sought to nip any deviation from the truth and how such deviations were exposed by forceful preaching(Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-4; Colossians 2:1ff; 1 Corinthians 1:10ff; 5:1ff; 6:1ff; chapters 12-15; 2 Thess. 3:6-14; 1 Timothy 1:3,20; 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 1 John 4:1-3).
- There is the repeated command to hold true to the teachings revealed through the apostles: (1 Corinthians 11:2; Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:13; 3:14). "The Restoration Plea says, ‘Let us go back to the teaching of the New Testament, to Christ and the apostles’. It points to that generation because Jesus promised the apostles that they would be guided into all the truth (John 16:13). It points to that generation because the faith was once for all time delivered to the saints in their time (Jude 3). It points to that generation, because it was then that Jesus inaugurated the new covenant with His blood. Once the terms of a covenant are set, those terms can never be annulled or changed (Galatians 3:15; Matthew 26:28)" (Sanders p. 107.
- Occasionally one hears such statements as this, "Which New Testament church do you want to go back to? Do you want to restore the doubting, immature, and immoral church at Corinth?" Such an argument misses the point miserably. The desire is not to produce the errors of a First Century congregation (remember God told the Corinthians to repent). Rather, it is produce the will of God in a congregation today.
- In our time some want us to stay adrift on a sea of doctrinal uncertainty, suggesting that we cannot really know the will of God for sure. Such a thought never occurred to godly men like Josiah or Hezekiah. "It is Satan who majors in doubt and confusion; he loves nothing better than to keep men undecided" (Sanders p. 108).
- The more that our Postmodern culture creeps into individuals or a congregation, the less desire people will have in returning to New Testament Christianity. Sanders makes the following observation: "The postmodern mindset is not interested in finding truths revealed in centuries past; it is more interested in developing its own faith and in allowing others to do the same. It does not wish to restore but to reinvent. Truth to the postmodernist is manufactured not discovered. Far from wanting a pure religion, the postmodernist wants his very own religion" (p. 93).
- One writer complained that "restoration theology" is past-oriented rather than outward looking and future oriented. But what did God say through Jeremiah? Seeing that God revealed all truth in the First Century (John 16:13), where should we look for this truth, in the future or in the past?
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017