Great Mottos of the Restorationists—Then and Now  

Bobby Smith sent an e-mail which had a quiz.  See, if you can answer these questions?  What builds strong bodies in 12 ways?  What do M and Ms do?  Hey, kids, what time is it? (Perhaps this is where our dear Sister Bea Dougan’s battle began).  And then there were some fill in the blanks: You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when ….., I found my thrill on ….., I’m strong to the finish cause …..  The mass media has done a pretty good job of getting our brains to respond to their slogans and jingles, haven’t they?  By the way, you might have to have a brain at least over 40 to get most of those answers correctly because those were the expressions back when Bobby was a little younger.  So to those of you who are a little younger, my apologies for giving you a quiz over something for which you hadn’t already studied, which is terribly unfair.  However, to those of the younger group, give yourself about 30 years, and then you can do exactly the same thing with the next generation.  For your age group will have slogans and jingles just as ours did.  What’s the point?  Communication is an art.  There are those people across the ages who have been able to successfully make their ideas stick by means of easily remembered slogans and jingles.  Solomon put it this way: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a network of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).  Throughout history, from the 200s forward, there have been religious groups who believed that people should try to return to the practices and lifestyles found in the churches of the New Testament.  These believers wanted not only to abandon the churches that followed ungodly practices but also to restore the original practices found in the primitive church.  These groups down through the centuries have been given the label “restorationists” since their desire was not to reform a corrupt church but to restore the original church.  The churches of Christ have this same restorationist outlook.  In this lesson, we want to discuss five great slogans that came from the restoration movement in the 19th century and five great slogans that came from the restoration movement in the 20th century.  These slogans are not inspired, nor should they be seen as scriptural or creedal statements.  They are men's sayings that help us remember our commitment to be Christians only, as were those saints in the first century.

The first slogan was: “No headquarters but heaven, no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”  Most religious groups have some sort of governing body and a central location from which that body diffuses its decisions.  Many religious groups also will have a catechism, a manual of creed book, or a book of discipline which will be elevated to a scriptural status.  This was not the case in the first century church.  Paul declares that Christ was its head in Ephesians 1:22-23: “And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  With Christ reigning in heaven at God’s right hand, there is the church’s headquarters.  The early Christians looked to the Old Testament and the writings of the apostles for their guidance.  Those writings have been preserved in the Bible, and this book alone is sufficient to guide God’s people today.  In a world of a multitude of sects, each with its own creeds and additions, members in the churches of Christ desire to follow no human books but only Jesus, the Son of the living God, who has all authority in religious matters (Matthew 28:18).  Hence, the slogan: “No headquarters but heaven, no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”

The second slogan was: “Do Bible things in Bible ways; call Bible things by Bible names.”  In the days of Nehemiah, we find that the Jews’ children had learned a new language—they had forgotten Hebrew and were speaking the languages of their pagan neighbors from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab (Nehemiah 13:23-24).  In the same way, down through the centuries, many churches spoke with terms not found in the New Testament: affusion, the mass, the eucharist, reverend, purgatory, original sin, transubstantiation, total depravity, just to name a few terms.  “To bring believers to greater unity in Christ, those who were restorationists wanted to follow the advice of Zephaniah 3:9: 'For then I will restore to the people a pure language that they may call on the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord.'  That new language would be the language of the New Testament.  By using scriptural terms, many of the foggy mists that had confused people would be lifted” (Waddey).  Instead of arguing over what way something should be done, the practices of the New Testament were presented as the final rule for conduct.  As the apostle Paul had told the congregation in Thessalonica to make his letters their rule of conduct (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15), so those in the churches of Christ wish to do the same by making the entire New Testament their rule of conduct.  In this way, all believers can achieve a greater unity!  So let us always: “Do Bible things in Bible ways; call Bible things by Bible names.”  

A third slogan was: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”  The restorationists of the 19th century saw clearly that believers “can only do what Christ has authorized in His New Covenant.  We are specifically told to teach disciples to observe all of Christ’s commandments (Matthew 28:19-20), those revealed in the Gospels as well as those revealed in the Letters.  By looking at purposes, principles, and precedents found in the New Testament, believers could more clearly see what they needed to obey.  They also recognized that to please God we must also respect “the silence of the Scriptures”.  In daily living, we understand the silence of a message.  For example, when we go into a restaurant we often see a door that has “Authorized Personnel Only”.  Now if I go in that door, can I say to the manager in my defense, “Well, it did not say: ‘Stay out, Paul!’”?  You know that I wouldn't get much mileage out with that kind of reasoning.  Or here's another example:  Let's say Melinda tells me to go to the store and buy a gallon of 2% milk, a loaf of wheat bread, and a dozen eggs.”  I go and return with the gallon of 2% milk, a loaf of white bread, and some cupcakes.  For some strange reason, Melinda looks a bit agitated, but I reply, “Oh, but you did not say I couldn't buy the white bread and the cupcakes.”  Would such logic get me out of the doghouse?  When the New Testament reveals that baptism is an immersion, Paul calls it “a burial” in Romans 6:3-4, can we justify ourselves by saying, “Well, it doesn't say you can't sprinkle”?  The New Testament says that worship assemblies should be orderly and edifying (1 Corinthians 14:26-33), so how much mileage do we get when we say, “Well, it doesn't say: “You shall not spontaneously dance in the worship assembly!”  Another preacher put it this way: “Christian preachers [in the early church] who taught Gentile brethren that they must be circumcised were rebuked by the apostles because they had not been given a commandment to do so (Acts 15:23-24).  We do not ask, 'Where does the Bible forbid infant baptism or instrumental music?'  We ask, 'Where is such authorized?'  Those who ignore the silence of the Scriptures open a flood gate through which a thousand corruptions pour in unchecked” (Waddey).  So let us remember: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”  

The fourth slogan was: “Be true to truth, oppose error, and bear with humanity.”  Jesus once prayed in John 17:17: “Sanctify them [the apostles] by Your truth, Your word is truth.”  To know truth and to know error, we must know the teachings found in the New Testament.  This great motto also emphasized that we must be patient with others.  Not all Christians are at the same level of maturity.  Not all will have the same strength of conviction on a particular issue.  We must be able to also recognize those who are leaving truth for error and those who are coming out of error into the truth.  There is also a great difference between some members who may be confused and some members who are deliberately seeking to promote false doctrine.  Paul's good advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 would be good for all of us to put into practice: “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they many come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  Saving others, not just cutting them off, should always be our goal.  So let us “Be true to truth, oppose error, and bear with humanity.”  

The fifth slogan was: “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity.”  What are matters of faith?  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).  So God has spoken on matters of faith.  For something to be considered a matter of faith, we usually say there must be an apostolic command, an approved example, or a necessary inference.  As a practical example, we might ask, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?”  Well, we know that Jesus and the apostles commanded it (Jesus said belief and baptism were necessary for salvation in Mark 16:16; and Peter told those who heard the first gospel sermon to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins remitted in Acts 2:38).  Jesus Himself was baptized, and He commanded the apostles to baptize, so it is no surprise that 3000 were baptized after Peter's first sermon.  Through apostolic command and approved example, we see that baptism is a matter of faith.  Some matters of opinion can also be called matters of expediency.  There are matters which are necessary, but about which we have no command, example, or necessary inference.  For example, we see that baptism is immersion, but how are we to do that?  Well, we have several options, don't we: we can go to a river, a lake, large cattle tough or bathtub, or a baptistry.  We can all have our opinions on this matter.  Now, someone could ask, “Well, if baptism is basically symbolic showing death to sin and rising to a new life, why don't we have people just lie down in a casket—to show their death to sin, and then stand up and exit the casket—to show their new life?  The New Testament shows us that water is a necessary element for baptism.  Substituting a casket in the salvation process has no command, example, or inference to support it.  Hopefully, we can see there is a great difference between an expedient and a substitute.  Using trays to pass out the emblems of the Lord Supper is an expedient, but to eat hamburgers and fried potatoes would be an unapproved substitute. Using a PowerPoint to illustrate a sermon is an expedient, but showing a comical video instead of listening to God's Word is an unapproved substitute.  Using songbooks is an expedient, but playing an instrument is an unapproved substitute.  There are topics which aren't addressed in the New Testament, so things are not always as easy to determine as this explanation may sound.  So we see that love and striving to hear each other out is necessary in all our interpretations and practices.  “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity.”  

Trying to restore the original church in each generation is not easy.  We must continue to learn more about the early church and its practices.  We must evaluate our current practices to really see how well we are doing.  Other slogans from members in the 20th century are also very interesting.  

The first slogan from the 20th century is: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.  The Bible is right” (Hancock).  Another minister often used this slogan to conclude many of lessons.  He was trying to show that the Bible must serve as our standard in all religious matters.  If God's Word reveals something on an issue, we should believe what it has to say and be obedient to its teachings.  When we submit ourselves to what is taught is the New Testament, many issues can be settled.  For example, how should a local congregation be governed?  Many churches have answered that question in many ways; some have councils, some have synods, some boards.  But what does the New Testament teach?  It shows that elders and deacons were appointed in local congregations (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13).  These leaders were not to serve as a board of directors but as shepherds who watch over the members' spiritual welfare (1 Peter 5:1-4).  It is also significant that each congregation had a plurality of elders and that one elder was never seen as the head or superior leader over a congregation (Acts 14:23).  So this is what has been revealed by God.  This is the governance of the churches of Christ.  Why should we try to practice some other arrangement?  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.  The Bible is right.”  

The next modern motto is: “Let's retain what God wants retained” (J. P. Lewis).  Another brother expressed the same idea like this: “We must have God's approval for everything we do” (D. Miller).  And still another brother put it this way, “If we throw out God-authorized standards for worship and behavior, we do so in disrespect for God's authority” (G. Clark).  We can see that all these brethren are concerned with the question of authority, especially God's authority or approval in all matters of worship and behavior.  Men can think of all kinds of practices and behaviors in the name of religion.  Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 some false teachers who would forbid marriage and eating certain foods.  Paul says that these men are inventing practices that God never approved or authorized to be done!  We often run the same risk in our day.  People can come up with all kinds of innovations for worship and behavior for various motives.  But are they practices which have God's approval and which God retained in the New Testament?  Let's stay with God's authority.  “Let's retain what God wants retained.”  

A third modern motto is: “Good carpenters build according to the pattern” (Music).  Just as a good carpenter will not follow his own whims but the plans drawn up by an architect; so good church members will not follow their whims but the pattern that we find in the New Testament.  Paul told the Roman brethren in Romans 6:17: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.”  The expression “form of doctrine” could also be translated “pattern of teaching”.  A similar expression is found in Paul’s writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”  These verses show us that Christians in the first century had obligations to live according to certain standards that the apostles had taught them.  We wish to live by those same obligations.  One brother put it this way: “Even though we understand that we will never restore the New Testament church perfectly, to make an attempt is to honor the [restoration] principle; while to ignore the Bible and have a 'do it yourself' religious program [complete with doctrines and commandments of men which lead to vain or useless worship—Matthew 15:9] is to take an entirely different stance toward God and His will” (J. D. Thomas).  “Good carpenters build according to the pattern.”