Friday, June 24, 2011

Restoring the Church


The Restoration Plea

Ephesians 4: 1-6

Going back to the Bible is necessary to true Christianity. Hello, I’m Phil Sanders, and this is a Bible study, ‘In Search of the Lord’s Way.’ If we’re to find the Lord’s Way, we’re going to have to go back to God’s Word. Won’t you join us in our study today!

Hello, I’m Phil Sanders and we’re here to search God’s Word for the Lord’s Way. We search the Bible, because we know that God’s Holy Word is what teaches us what God wants us to know in order to please Him. God’s Word provides for us a standard, an example, that teaches us His will for our lives. We do well to know and to follow that pattern that He set for us. And that’s what we strive to do on this program, and we’re so grateful that you joined us today. We want to be part of your life each week.

Have you ever broken a favorite dish or maybe dropped a treasured book into the mud? You probably groaned and wished you could bring your prized possession back to its pure and original state. You wanted to restore it, because it was ruined. Spiritually speaking, the restoration plea calls us to bring back to the pure and unbroken state the church as God meant for it to be by returning to the truth that’s found in the New Testament.

Christianity has changed dramatically through the centuries. Many of these changes were departures from the stated will of God in the New Testament. Some changes came as innovations that were never considered in Scripture; other changes came as edits to make the church more up-to-date with culture; and still other changes caused Christianity to be blended with other religions. Well, in the end, the pure Christianity of the New Testament, as God willed it to be, was corrupted. It desperately needed to be brought back to its original condition in order to be what God desired.

Now, if we wear the name of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we seek to truly follow Him? Shouldn’t we abandon every belief or practice that gets us away from His will as declared in the New Testament? Shouldn’t we seek God’s teaching in everything we do? Let’s restore the Lord’s way in our lives.

Now, if you want to think a little more about this topic, we offer the information on this program free. And if you would like a printed copy or CD of our study, mail your request to In Search of the Lord’s Way, P.O. Box 371, Edmond, OK 73083 or send us an e-mail, Or, call our toll-free telephone number, 1 (800) 321-8633. We also stream this program on our website at The Edmond church will now worship in song, and then we’ll read from Ephesians 4, verses 1 to 6.

Our reading today comes from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1 through 6. ‘I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.’ That’s from God’s Holy Word. Let’s pray together. Father, we’re thankful that You bring us together as one people. Father, help us to devote ourselves to Your will fully and freely in everything that we do. This is our prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen!

In the early 1800s many church leaders grew weary of the fussing, the strife and division found in the denominational world of their day. They believed the Lord wanted His people to be united, and all of the bad-mouthing and exclusiveness of the denominations shamed the name of the Lord. Their divisive ways caused people to fall away from Christ into disbelief. They also objected to all that was of human origin that led them away from pure Christianity.

The Lord Jesus prayed in John 17, verses 20 and 21, ‘I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.’ The Lord Jesus wanted His followers to remain united, and the whole concept of denominationalism is actually foreign to the New Testament.

These early church leaders believed that the acceptance of human opinions, and human creeds, councils, human practices, and names caused this divisive and hostile condition. They wanted something better—a pure and true Christianity that went back to the Bible and remained free from human traditions. They knew that if they abandoned the human and concentrated on what was from God, they could find a basis for unity. They could have unity only through following the truth of God’s Word found in the Scriptures. Now, this meant that they had to cast off everything human and denominational and just return to the Christianity that God proposed in the New Testament.

So, they rejected human traditions, human opinions and innovations, since these things cannot be found in God’s word. They believed that they couldn’t require members to believe a doctrine that was not expressly taught in the New Testament. And so they said, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.’ They wanted unity in essentials, freedom in matters of opinion, and love in all things.

They also recognized the New Testament predictions that Christians would fall away from the truth into error. You see, God knew the hearts of men often follow their own paths. You’ll remember the apostle Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20, verses 29 to 30, ‘I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.’ The apostle Paul knew some would fall away from the truth.

The apostle Peter also predicted in 2 Peter 2, verses 1 to 3, ‘But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, (a heresy is a doctrine that divides) even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Now, many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; (that is bad-mouthed) and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.’

Paul was serious about staying with the truth. He told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, verses 1 to 4, ‘I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, (that is to rebuke sharply) rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For (he says) the time will come when they will not endure sound (or healthy) teaching; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they are going to accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth (from the Bible) and will turn aside to myths.”

Now, early church history confirms that Christians began teaching and practicing things that were never taught or authorized in the New Testament. Within 500 years after the apostles died, a whole new vocabulary developed and there were many innovations in the church. For instance, the New Testament says nothing about things like holy water, nothing about lent, penance, infant baptism, intercession of the saints, sprinkling for baptism, the sacrifice of mass, nothing about that; nothing about the celibacy of priests; nothing about purgatory, or confessing to priests. There’s nothing mentioned about archbishops, or popes; no worship service ever had instrumental music; and the idea of salvation by faith alone was not in the Scriptures; the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved,’ you can’t find that in the Bible.

You see, the Bible never contemplated the idea of so many different groups with different names, and creeds, and organizations, and different forms of worship. The Bible actually condemns the perpetuation of new doctrines that differ from the teaching found in the New Testament.

And so, century by century Christians moved farther and farther away from the simplicity of New Testament Christianity. They no longer followed God’s pattern for the church found in the New Testament but became something very different. God’s way was corrupted by the will of man. So, if the church is to please God, it has to return to what God willed in the New Testament. Restoration to the Lord’s way is necessary, because repentance from error is necessary.

No one, hear me now, no one can remain in error and still please God. The Bible says in James 5, verses 19 to 20, ‘My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.’ You see, straying from the truth can put our souls in peril with a multitude of sins. By casting off these sinful, manmade doctrines and practices, we can restore the doctrine, the worship, and the organization of the New Testament church.

And our intent is not to start some new denomination, but to restore the church according to the ideals of the New Testament. That is the church that Jesus built. You see He built His church before any denomination existed. The Lord’s church is not denominational; it’s not inter-denominational; it’s not even non-denominational. The church that Jesus built was undenominational and ‘pre-denominational.’ The idea of denominationalism is foreign to the New Testament. The Lord Jesus would never approve of unifying the truth with error.

The New Testament never entertained the idea of so many groups with different names, creeds, organizations, and forms of worship. And the Bible actually condemns the perpetuation of new doctrines that differ from the teaching found in the New Testament. So, churches of Christ strive to ‘do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names.’ They believe they must discard from their faith and their practice everything that’s not found written in the New Testament of our Lord and Savior; and to believe and to practice whatever is instructed there.

The concept of ‘restoration’ grew out of the conviction that the Bible is the complete and final authority. Now, just as a seed will produce only after its own kind, so the seed of God’s word will only produce the same Christianity today that it did in the first century. Now, in Luke chapter 8 and verse 11 the Lord Jesus says, ‘Now the parable is this: that the seed is the word of God.’ You remember that parable of the sower. Now, as long as you keep a pure seed, you will have a pure Christianity. If you corrupt the seed, the teaching of the Word of God, then what you will have is a corrupt Christianity.

The Bible is complete in that it gives us all that God has revealed for us to know. It has God’s revealed will for our life and godliness. Jesus promised His apostles in John 16, verses 12 to 13, ‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The Bible is all-sufficient; that means it contains every spiritual truth that we need to have eternal life and to live the Christian life in order to please God. We aren’t lacking anything that God wanted for us.

But many people are not content with the pure teaching of the gospel, and so they say we must change. Well, we ask, ‘Change to what?’ If they call for change that leads us back to the doctrine of Christ; well, we can rejoice in that. But if they call for change that leads us away from God’s will to fit popular thinking, let’s not be fooled.

When people go beyond the Scriptures to teach other doctrines, they produce something other than the church that Jesus built. And they are making a church in their own image rather than honoring God’s will. To add to the Scriptures, to take away from the Scriptures, to edit the Scriptures to fit today’s culture into the Scripture is to corrupt the pure message or seed and to substitute for it something that will not accomplish God’s intended purpose. You know, rather than fall for a substitute, let’s demand pure Christianity.

The Lord Jesus desires unity in His followers; but before He prayed for unity in John 17, verses 20 to 23, he first prayed for his followers to be sanctified or ‘set apart’ in the truth. (John 17 and verse 17) Jesus wanted all His followers to know and practice the truth. Christ didn’t pray for a unity that sacrifices the truth or compromises the truth. No, it’s our faith in the truth that unites us. Christian unity is not ecumenism, where groups unite but maintain their conflicting and contradictory beliefs and practices. Oh, No! To be faithful and true, Christians must hold to the truth and refuse error.

The Lord Jesus said in John 8, verses 31 to 32 that, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ Now, Jesus distinguished true disciples from others by their willingness to abide in His word. What we believe may not matter to today’s culture, but what we believe and practice matters greatly to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament provides for us examples and patterns showing how God wishes for us to respond to His grace, how we should come to Him in faith and obedience, how we should worship, how we should live, and how we should organize ourselves, and how we should treat one another. Some object to the concept of patterns in the New Testament, but the Scriptures are clear about the need to follow the apostles doctrine and their example. God expects us to believe and to obey His instructions that are found in the New Testament.

For instance, Romans 6, verses 17 to 18 says, ‘But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form (or pattern) of doctrine to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness.’ Second Thessalonians 2 and verse 15 says, ‘So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.’ The apostle Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1, verse 13, ‘Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’

I tell you, if the sun, the planets, and the moon in our universe follow a pattern, if every cell in our body has a DNA pattern, and if every leaf on every tree follows a pattern, why would we suppose that the Lord’s church has no pattern? If there is no pattern to the church, then it’s the only thing that God ever produced that didn’t have a pattern.

The New Testament speaks of the love and the grace of God, but these 27 books also have commands, and instructions, and examples for us to follow. The Lord Jesus said in John 14, verse 15 that, ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’ And Jesus demonstrates how this will affect our relationship with God in John 15, verses 8 to 10.

The Lord said, ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.’

Obedience to the Lord is not some kind of legalism; obedience from the heart is how we love God. And if we wish to abide in the love of God, we must be obedient to His commandments. Let’s pray. O Father, help us to put away the error from our lives and to follow only the things that are taught within the words that Your Son Jesus gave to us and found in the New Testament. Help us to love you and to be obedient. It is in the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen!

God always requires people to repent of their sins when they learn the truth. Repentance means that we leave error and embrace the Lord’s will. Repentance is how we’re restored to the Lord. Do you need to repent? Do you attend a church that goes beyond the teaching of the New Testament? Are you a true disciple that abides in the words of Christ? If you aren’t, repent and restore yourself to God.

Restoration leads the lost out of sinful error and into eternal life. And if this is true for an individual, it’s also true for groups and churches. You know, even churches can fall from God’s grace, when they abandon the truth. Jesus anticipated disciplining whole churches in Revelation 2 and 3; if they didn’t repent He was going to cast them out. When a church falls away, the Lord will remove its candlestick. And so we must remain faithful to God and His word.

We have to hold to the truth at all costs. If we unite with error, we have corrupted ourselves. We’d rather speak the truth with the Lord than to fall for the devil’s popular lies. We’d rather lovingly teach the truth that gives—even if at first it offends, gives life—than to spread a false hope that destroys. You see, love demands that we tell the whole truth of God, because it’s the truth that saves.

The truth is there is only one gospel, one body or church, and one baptism. And in order to enter the Lord’s church, we have to believe with all of our hearts that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And out of that faith and love, we repent of sin, we confess the Lord Jesus, and we’re baptized. The one baptism of Jesus Christ is an immersion in water for, that is, so that your sins may be forgiven. And when you are baptized, the Lord will add you to His church. Why not be baptized today?

We hope you’ve been challenged to think by today’s study. And if you want a free printed copy or a CD of this message, then mail your request to In Search of the Lord’s Way, P.O. Box 371, Edmond, OK 73083 or send us an e-mail, Or, call the Search office. The number is 1 (800) 321-8633. Now, our programs appear on our website at, and you can access them in a printed, audio, or video format. We offer Bible Correspondence courses, just let us know. We also offer free study sheets that go along with our programs. You can download them free at our website or you can call and request them. Now, we’re not here to exploit you, and we won’t put you on a mailing list.

Please go and worship at one of the churches of Christ in your area. They’re the reason that we don’t ask for money. And if you’re looking for a church home, we’ll be happy to help you find one. Churches of Christ love and want guests, and you’ll be glad you went. Well, we’ll be back next week, so keep searching God’s Word with us and tell a friend. God bless you and we love you from all of us at In Search of the Lord’s Way.”