The Restoration Principle
16 — Making Clear the Difference
“. . . praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3,4).
TODAY, I WANT TO TOUCH ON A SENSITIVE SUBJECT: THE “DISTINCTIVENESS” OF THE LORD’S CHURCH. I believe that, for the most part, the individuals in the world who are faithful to Christ know the Scriptures well enough to order their congregational life by the apostles’ teaching — with the result that those churches would be recognized by any fair observer as “belonging together” because of their similarity.
Some of those churches may not even know about the others, but having used the same template, they will still resemble one another. And they will be dissimilar to churches that don’t adhere to the apostles’ teaching. Consequently, the churches that belong to Christ will be observably different — or “distinct” — from apostate churches.
Now, two clarifications are important. First, among the churches that resemble one another outwardly and seem to belong to the Lord, there will be some that don’t actually belong to Him because they are corrupt inwardly and have been disowned by Him. Sardis, for example, was not what it appeared to be (Revelation 3:1).
But second, there may be some individuals who have truly obeyed the gospel but are embedded in apostate churches because, at that point in their lives, they don’t know any better. If these individuals keep studying the New Testament honestly, they will come to see the dissimilarity between churches in the first century and the church they are members of. If they find out there are people near them who do worship according to the Scriptures, it is to be hoped that they’ll have the courage to leave where they are and receive a hearty welcome in one of the Lord’s congregations.
Still, it is a valid generalization to say that individuals who belong to the Lord worship with congregations that belong to Him — and these congregations are both similar to one another and dissimilar to the churches of men. They are distinct in ways that are extremely important, and I believe we need to get over our hesitation in pointing out this distinctiveness. But more about that tomorrow.
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair” (C. S. Lewis).
Its Meaning and Importance Today
- Apostasy Began to Arise in the New Testament Period
- The Way of Christ vs. Worldwide “Christendom”
- The Apostolic Norm
- Drifting Away
- The Restoration Principle (1)
- The Restoration Principle (2)
- Individual Apostasy
- Congregational Apostasy
- The Book of Hebrews: Do We Need It Anymore?
- The “Gravitational Pull” of Apostate Christianity
- We Need to Be Warned Against Apostasy (1)
- We Need to Be Warned Against Apostasy (2)
- “Pluralism” and the Local Congregation
- The Duty of the Watchman
- Making Clear the Difference
- Contending Earnestly for the Faith
- Whither Our Children?