The Restoration Plea

Cane Ridge Revival

In the first century, after the Lord’s church was established, there were no denominations like we have today. Of course, there were some who departed from the faith while still holding to a form of religion. A notable example is Diotrophes (3 John 9-11) who took control of a congregation and expelled those who wanted to follow the apostles’ doctrine. But generally, the churches in the first century could be accurately called “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) because they submitted to Christ’s authority and not to that of any man.

While the early church generally enjoyed unity by submitting to the authority of Christ alone, Paul warned of a movement that would change all of this. He wrote to the church at Thessalonica about “the apostasy” that was coming. He personified this great apostasy by calling it “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This “man of lawlessness” was described as one who “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This apostasy would be characterized by certain men exalting themselves among God’s people, claiming to speak for God and exercise authority over their brethren. It is called an apostasy because it would begin with some who were faithful Christians, but they would depart from the faith to follow their own doctrines and practices. This is exactly what denominationalism is. Denominationalism, beginning with the Catholic church, is the great apostasy.
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Non-Denominationalism

Last month I posted an article about the problem of denominationalism. Yet there seems to be a shift occurring in the religious world. We are seeing a gradual move from denominationalism to non-denominationalism. It is becoming more common to pass a church building and see that the name on the sign does not include a denominational distinction. That is one sign of this shift.

Denominational distinctions are becoming less important. It used to be that people would generally identify themselves by their denomination. They would think it strange when you said you were “just a Christian.” Now they tend to simply call themselves Christians, too. This may be a step in the right direction (Acts 11:26; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13), but there is still more that needs to be done. There are two things that have come from this decreased emphasis on denominational distinctions.
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Denominationalism

When talking with people and the topic of religion comes up, they sometimes ask, “What denomination are you a part of?” In answering this question, I tell them I am not part of a denomination. This is a strange concept for many and, as a result, provides some opportunity to discuss spiritual matters with them. Many cannot envision Christianity without denominations. Denominationalism is only natural for them. But is it something that should be accepted or rejected?
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The Source of Authority

Bible

It is important that we have the proper source of authority in religion. If we do not, the result is apostasy. Disobedience is when we do not do everything “in word or deed…in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17) but by other standards of authority as well. Division comes when we do not “all speak the same thing” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

We see this problem when we look at “church history.” When I use this term (church history), I am not referring to the history of the Lord’s church from its establishment on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to the present day. I am using it as most use it – as the history of denominations that claim or have claimed to follow Christ. Throughout this history, apostasy came as the result of people not following the proper source of authority.
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Will Only Members of the Church of Christ Be Saved?

A common criticism about those who are members of churches of Christ is that “they think they are the only ones going to heaven.” It is likely that we have heard this or something similar to it before. The important question for us to answer is not whether people are making this claim or not. We need to be answering the question, “Is it true that only members of the church of Christ will be saved?” The answer to this question, as well as any Bible question, will not be found in the opinions of you, me, or any other man. The answer is in the word of God.
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