THE RESTORATION PLEA: WHAT IS IT?
There are three inseparably connected and interrelated concepts with reference to the way God’s people approach scripture and their service to the Lord.
First, there is the restoration principle, the principle that says we need to go back to the Bible for authority for all that we believe, preach, and practice in the realm of religion.
Second, for those who take this principle to heart and believe that others should take it to heart as well, a clear and compelling proclamation is made of it. This is known as the restoration plea, a plea to actually go back to the Bible for one’s religious faith and practice.
Third, as the principle and plea are advanced and people see that they are both right and necessary, a restoration movement begins to unfold, a movement that takes people back to the Bible for all that they preach, teach, believe, and practice in religion.
In America, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, conscientious and devout people in various religious denominations began to take stock of the religious situation of their day with the many religious creeds and the many different kinds of churches. Those who were reading their Bibles knew that religious division was wrong (John 17:20-21; I Corinthians 1:10), that Christ had established only one church (Matthew 16:18), that the New Testament authorized the existence of but one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that this one body was the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Thus, men began to see the need to go back to the New Testament alone as their guide in religion—to cast aside human creeds and catechisms, human names in religion, man-made churches, and unscriptural doctrines and practices. They were not the first, however, to do so. Down through the centuries the restoration principle had been recognized and the restoration plea had been made by various individuals and groups.
Advocates of the restoration plea said: “Let us take the Bible as our only guide in religious matters, let us use it as the pattern by which to produce in the present day the church as it existed in the first century—in faith, doctrine, and practice. Let us speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent. Let us call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in the Bible way.”
It was a great idea, it met with more than average success, and today there are thousands of churches of Christ across America and around the world that are committed to the restoration principle and the restoration plea. These churches have no denominational hierarchy, wear no denominational name, advocate no denominational creed, advance no denominational doctrine or practice, and do not aspire to or seek denominational status. They are simply autonomous congregations of Christ committed to being what the church was in New Testament times.
Howard Winters has observed: “In New Testament times, the followers of Christ were simply Christians, nothing more and nothing less. As Christians they were members of the church to which the Lord added them (Acts 2:47), the one built by Christ (Matt. 16:18) and purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). This should be enough to show that to restore the primitive order of things necessitates coming out of denominationalism and being nothing but Christians. Not Baptist Christians, nor Methodist Christians, nor Presbyterian Christians, nor Catholic Christians, but simply Christians, Christians only, Christians apart from sectarian parties and denominational churches” (Up to Bethany: Another Look at the Restoration Plea, p. 15).
Dr. Cecil May, Jr. recently wrote: “The Lord’s church began on the Day of Pentecost following His resurrection and ascension into heaven. Peter preached the gospel of forgiveness of sins through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. People were convicted of sin, ‘cut to the heart,’ and asked, ‘What shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:37-38). Three thousand responded favorably, were baptized, forgiven and added by the Lord to His church.
“The essence of the restoration plea is, ‘If we hear what they heard, believe what they believed, do from the heart what they did, we will receive what they received—forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit—and become what they became—Christians, added to His church.’ People today can respond in the same way and receive the same blessings. When several do and band together to ‘do Bible things in Bible ways,’ they are a church, a congregation, of Christ….
“The nineteenth century restorers did not begin the church of Christ. We are grateful to them because they reminded people that they should come back to just the Bible, laying aside human creeds, sectarian names and anything nonbiblical that divides. We should continue that today” (“Response to a Sermon ‘For’ Instrumental Music,” Dr. May’s answer to a sermon preached in a church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, Summer 2017, advocating instrumental music in the worship of the church).
This is a brief look at what the restoration plea is—a plea to go back to the Bible, back to the God of the Bible, back to the Christ of the Bible, back to the church of the Bible, back to the moral standard of the Bible! Next week, D.V., we will show that the restoration plea is valid.
September 12, 2017
September 13: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN.