Restoring today the original body of believers that was first established in the first century will not be easy. It will not be easy if we find ourselves comfortable in an existing religious group that has little or no support from the word of God. Continued compliance with the religious traditions of our fathers is often an effort to spare ourselves from any “spiritual” pain that we must endured in order to journey back to the authority of the word of God. Nevertheless, if we are to restore our confidence in the gospel and reassure our faith, we must go on this journey through the word of God. We must commit ourselves to restore the truth of the gospel and the resulting family of God that we read about in the New Testament.
We must remember that there was usually no spiritual pain when we moved into creating after our own desires or religious traditions a “church” that was pleasing to ourselves. There was no pain when we fell into the trap of meritorious* performances of our traditional religiosity that we received from our fathers. But in order to back out of any established traditional religion,** there will inevitably be conflict within our own minds, and possibly with those who have no desire to go on this restorational journey with us.
In making the journey out of traditional or experiential religion, we will better understand the misguided traditional religious paradigm into which the Son of God Himself came in the first century. Judaism was far removed from what God originally established at Mount Sinai. But because the Jews, by the time of Jesus, had created a religion after their own traditions, it was the right time in history for the Son of God to show up with some good news of freedom from religious bondage.
Every restorationist must understand that in order to restore the church of the New Testament, there will always be opposition. People simply feel satisfied to remain within the confines of their own religious (“church”) bondage. There is a sense of security there. The first thing a long-time released prisoner wants, who initially stands free on the outside of a prison, is to turn around and walk right back into the bondage of the prison. By this time in his life he has become “institutionalized,” and thus finds it quite frightening to stand free outside prison walls. Prison bars give him a sense of security. It is the same with those who have for years lived behind religious prison bars.
We would assume that those who take a stand to bring people outside the prison walls of religion will find it difficult to convince others that we must restore the authority of God’s word in all matters of faith. We must restore the gospel as the prime motivation to get us where God wants us to be.
We must never forget that religion brings us into the bondage of ourselves, and there is no freedom in bondage. After reconsidering who Jesus was, those priests of Acts 6:7 found enough courage to finally believe that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God. They finally had enough courage to take the plunge into Christ through the waters of baptism. They joined the host of those who would base their faith in the will of God. Today, we can ask for no less from other religious leaders to follow their example. One may initially come to ask questions in the night. However, the brave must eventually step forward in daylight hours as Nicodemus did in order to reveal his or her loyalty to Jesus and His word (See Jn 19:38,39).
When we use the phrase “one church,” different people have different reactions, or interpretations. If a particular group of churches are networked together on the basis of a common name, some system of common government, or identifiable order or performance in assembly, then any member of one of these groups would conclude that their network of churches is the “one church.” Or, some might interpret the phrase “one church” to refer to a particular group that is unique in name, Sunday-morning ceremonies, and the autocratic control of a dynamic leader. Those who would make this definition of the “one church” would conclude that every assembly of adherents reaffirms “their church” as standing alone in the midst of a world of differing churches that are denominated from one another.
In our present religious world, the list of different religious groups – “churches” – goes on endlessly. Nevertheless, there is some truth scattered here and there throughout the present catalog of endless churches. The result of this endless religious confusion should produce at least one good motivation in the hearts of gospel-living Bible lovers around the world. We should search for some Divinely inspired Dictionary, and then go to work to discover the gospel that gave rise to the “true church” of disciples in the first century. Only in God’s word is there any hope of discovering this gospel and the “one church.”
In order to accomplish the incarnational journey of God’s love to deliver us out of this world and into His loving eternal presence, He had to demonstrate that He was from the God of love and grace. And in order to do this, there had to be a sacrificial offering to sanctify all those He would take out of this world. This sanctifying sacrifice was necessary in order to cleanse us of sin that separates us from the eternal God into whose presence the Son seeks to deliver us when He comes again. This sacrifice thus demanded His crucifixion. If we would participate in this good news, therefore, there are conditions on our part in order to be linked with His crucifixion. The benefits of the gospel journey of the Son of God was and is conditioned on our faithful obedient response to His journey into and out of this world for us.
We responded to His awesome love because we needed hope in the midst of a world of suffering and physical death. We needed the proof that only a resurrection could provide. And therefore, He delivered for this proof by His own resurrection from the dead. But still this was not enough. We needed an example of how to be delivered from this present world of suffering. This good news was illustrated by His own ascension to God, His Father and ours. Therefore, He ascended out of this world in order to reign at the right hand of the Father. This is the gospel message we needed! And thus, it was incumbent upon us to respond to this overwhelming good news journey of the Son of God.