The Restoration Principle

3 — The Way of Christ vs. Worldwide ‘Christendom’

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God . . .” (1 John 4:1).

FROM THE BEGINNING, CHRISTIANS HAVE ALWAYS NEEDED TO “TEST” WHAT THEY HEAR. Paul spoke forcefully when he wrote that “if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). So everything must be measured against what God is known to have revealed in the past (Acts 17:11). Christians are even urged to test themselves: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Jesus taught that His “way” alone would lead to life (Matthew 7:13,14). But the gospel wasn’t the only “way” on offer in the first century. As if the pagan religions weren’t enough, it wasn’t long before previously faithful brethren in Christ began teaching altered forms of the gospel that had to be rejected. Such teaching had been predicted. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

Today, apostasies from the faith have grown to gigantic proportions. Those committed to following “the way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2) are outnumbered by the vast population of what is presumed to be “Christianity” or “Christendom,” but which — it must be said — is only a false or apostate Christianity. This enormous phenomenon is the historical descendant of the apostasy that began in the first century — and it must be viewed as “another gospel” just as surely as the earliest departures from the truth were seen as such.

In sadness, I reject the realm of apostate Christianity (including the “churches of Christ” that have joined its ranks), and I hope you do too. I want to stay away from it and teach my children to stay away from it. And if there are individuals (as there surely are) who have genuinely obeyed the gospel of Christ but are caught in the web of false Christianity, I want to do everything in my power to get them out of the very dangerous environment they are in.

“The churches which we discern through the writings of the apostles (Acts and the epistles) are therefore churches built according to God’s plan, churches which conform to His idea, to His will. Religious groups born of the historical evolution of these primitive or early churches toward a different type will no longer be able to claim this conformity to God’s plan” (Alfred Kuen).

Gary Henry — +

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