Church history is divided into four periods: 1) The Age of the New Testament Church, 2) The Age of Apostasy and Departure, 3) The Age of the Protestant Reformation, 4) The Age of Restoration. Let’s look at this last period.
Restoration assumes apostasy, departure, and change from the original. The New Testament predicted that such would occur, and it did. In time, a plea began to be made to return to the original—to go back to the church as it is described in the New Testament.
Three things about restoration are worthy of note: 1) the restoration principle, 2) the restoration plea, and 3) the restoration movement. The restoration principle is easy to comprehend. It simply says that to whatever extent apostasy and corruption have occurred, restoration needs to take place. People frequently restore an old car, house, or piece of furniture. Religiously, the restoration principle refers to the concept of restoring Christianity today as it was in the beginning.
The restoration plea articulates the restoration principle. Peter, in effect, made the restoration plea when he urged, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
A restoration movement comes from making the restoration plea. As people realize wherein departures have occurred and are motivated to return to God’s way, a movement back to Him takes place. People can see the logic of going back to the original order.
The Bible gives validity to such a movement. Long ago, God’s Old Testament people had departed from Him. The call went forth: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it’” (Jeremiah 6:16). That same reaction toward original New Testament Christianity is often witnessed today.
To restore New Testament Christianity in its purity is what churches of Christ are about today. “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). It will produce in the twenty-first century what it produced in the first century—people who are members of the original church. We are committed to speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining silent where it is silent, to calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things the Bible way.
We have no hierarchy, no earthly headquarters, and no creed book or church manual written by men. Christ is our only creed and the Bible is our only guide. We invite all to come with us as we strive to go back to the Bible, back to the God of the Bible, back to the Christ of the Bible, and back to the church of the Bible. —Hugh Fulford (adapted)