Facts Concerning the New Testament Church
Facts Concerning the New Testament Church
By the Late P.H. Welshimer
"That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me,
and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe
that Thou didst send Me."
- John 17:21
We are often met with the following questions:
1. Are the Churches of Christ (or Christian churches) any
different from other churches?
2. Why do these churches exist?
3. What do they believe?
To answer these questions is the purpose of this tract.
WHY DO WE EXIST?
The object of existence is not to add another to the many denominations that are now found. A divided church is contrary to the teaching of Christ and His apostles (I Corinthians 1:10-11; John 17:21).
The world will never be led to Christ as long as sectarian divisions continue to be emphasized. The prayer of Jesus in John 17, the teachings of the apostles, the condition of the world and the desire of hosts of Christians demand the laying aside of the doctrines of men and a return to the church as it was in the days of Christ's apostles.
Hence, our aim is as follows:
1. The restoration of primitive Christianity and consequent union
of all the followers of Christ in one body (John 17:21).
2. To exalt Christ above party and His Word above all human
3. To build a church of Christ without denominational name, man-
written creed or other barrier to Christian unity, whose terms
of fellowship shall be as broad as the conditions of salvation,
and identical with them.
4. To lead sinners to Christ in the clear light of the New Testament
On nonessentials we admit the largest liberty; on the essentials we appeal to the New Testament. "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent."
The church was called into existence A.D. 30, on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. To know of the organization, its doctrines and fruits, read the Acts of the Apostles. For about two hundred years it was true to apostolic teaching. But by the mixing of Jewish teaching and paganistic ideas, and through political intrigue, the church of the beginning was lost. Centuries of ignorance and superstition passed by during which the Catholic Church usurped the place of the church of Christ.
In the early part of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther broke the shackles and gave to the world the open Bible. Later, Calvin advocated the divine sovereignty of God. John Wesley agitated the question of more spirituality in the churches. Around these ideas great denominations sprang into existence. The people were inquiring for the old paths. While all the churches were doing good, had much of the Scripture in their teaching, and possessed good men, they were nonetheless weakened and handicapped because they were divided.
Early in the nineteenth century there was a general unrest among the churches of America. In all denominations could be found those who believed that the followers of Christ should lay aside the traditions of men and go back to the church described in the New Testament. Among this number were Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander, a young man who had studied in the University of Glasgow. Father and son were members of the Seceders branch of the Presbyterian Church. "They aimed to take up things just as the apostles left them, and thus, being disentangled from the embarrassments of intervening ages, stand with evidence on the same ground on which the church stood at the beginning." They aimed, not to start another church, but to call the people back to the church of the New Testament. They were not reformers, but restorers. They held up the Bible, and by its teaching restored the church of Christ and His apostles.
None doubts but what the church described in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles is the true church of Christ. To restore that church was the work of Thomas and Alexander Campbell. They began emphasizing this feature of Christian work early in the nineteenth century. Today, the people known simply as Christians number several million. Acting as locally autonomous congregations, they cooperate in establishing new congregations, conducting educational and benevolent institutions, and supporting hundreds of missionaries.