Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1957
NUMBER 16, PAGE 6-7a

The New Testament Church II.

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri


God gave His law to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai through Moses, the mediator of the covenant. (Gal. 3:19). They entered into covenant relationship with God by accepting the terms of the covenant (the law). The law was given to this one people and to no other nation. The people were to be ONE people, UNITED by the law. It was not God's purpose or will that they be divided in religion. Unity or oneness would be accomplished by all adhering to the law. The inspired Stephen speaks of this great event in these words: "This is he (Moses), that was in the church (congregation, assembly) in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount and with our fathers: who received the living oracles to give to us." '(Acts 7:38). The word "ekklesia" in this verse certainly means the whole people assembled or gathered together into a congregation to accept and receive the law which would unite them to God in a covenant. The ekklesia (church or congregation) would then mean the one people, the Jews.

The destruction of this unity began when the people requested a king that they might be like the nations round about and in so doing they rejected God. (1 Sam. 8:5-7). After the death of Solomon, the united kingdom divided. This rejection of God and the desire to be like the people of the world led to the captivity.

During the period between the return from captivity and the birth of Jesus, several Jewish sects arose which further divided the Israelites. Though not embracing the majority of the people, nevertheless, they were influential and held positions of dominance and power. They were the religious leaders. The Pharisees had compiled some 633 rules, regulations and rituals which they meticulously kept; the Sadducees were a materialistic sect of skeptical Jews rejecting the teaching about the resurrection, immortality and the existence of angels; the Essenes were a group of ascetics believing in fasting and monastic life; and the Herodians were a politically-minded party. A sect means a "choice." The peculiarities of each sect created each one. All these were man-made; God did not create them. Jesus says of them: "Every plant (doctrine) which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). Jesus condemned division and strife and every doctrine which was not God-given.

Jesus came to build but one church. The gospel was intended for all people regardless of race or social standing. All were to be united to God in one body by the cross. (Eph. 2:16). In the apostolic age there was but one church. The Restoration Movement is the plea for undenominational Christianity and for unity on the authority and basis of the New Testament. It is God's will that there be but one church. On the night of Jesus' betrayal, He prayed that those who were converted by the preaching of the gospel might be united in oneness as He was with His Father: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe in Me through their word: that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me." (John 17-20-21). The last clause is a result clause. All are to be one in order that the world might believe. Division has been the cause of much infidelity. The prayer of Jesus re-remains unheeded. Many are too proud to surrender their social standings, their friends or their hobbies for the sake of peace. All this results in a failure to bring the lost to Christ. Evidently they consider the price too high for all must give up every false doctrine, yield themselves to the will of God in humility.

The apostle Paul commanded unity in the name and authority of Christ: "Now I beseech you, brethren by the name (authority) of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Cor. 1:10). Now this would be impossible unless there is a means of attaining such. The basis of attaining this is the apostles' doctrine or the New Testament. There was but one church when Paul wrote these words but there were seeds sown in the congregation which would lead to sectarianism. Division would be accomplished by following men. In the following verses Paul condemns them for this practice: "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:13), Men of the past have seen the folly of division and the inconsistency of sectarianism and have advocated unity upon the authority of God's word. The plea of Martin Luther the founder of the Lutheran Church was this: "I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves 'Lutherans' but 'Christians.' Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not permit that any should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How, then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease my dear friends, to cling to party names and distinctions; away with them all; let us call ourselves only 'Christians' after him from whom our doctrine comes."(Stork: Life of Martin Luther, pg. 289).

John Wesley ranks foremost among the Reformers... He too condemns sectarianism:" Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgotten; and that we might all agree to sit down together as humble loving disciples at the feet of a common Master, to hear His word, imbibe His Spirit, and transcribe His life into our own." (Wesley's Notes on the New Testament, Preface, Pg. 7).

The greatest preacher the Baptist Church ever produced is Charles H. Spurgeon. He makes the following astounding statement: "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the 'Baptist' name will soon perish, but let Christ's last forever." (Spurgeon's Memorial Library, Vol. I, pg. 168).

Albert Barnes, the scholarly Presbyterian writes: "Christians have contended long enough. It is time that they should hear the parting admonitions of their Redeemer, and go unitedly against the common foe. The world still lies in wickedness, and the friends of Jesus bound by the cords of eternal love, should advance together against the common enemy, and spread the triumphs of the gospel around the globe. All that is needed now, under the blessing of God, to convince the world that God sent the Lord Jesus, is that very union among all Christians for which He prayed." (Barnes' Notes on the Gospels, pg. 339).

Adam Clarke is the greatest scholar ever to come from the ranks of the Methodist Church. Here is what he believes: "in the book of Acts we see how the church of Christ was formed and settled. The apostles simply proclaim the truth of God relative to the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ; and God accompanies their testimony with the demonstration of His Spirit. What was the consequence? Thousands acknowledge the truth, embrace Christianity, and openly profess it at the most imminent risk of their lives. The religion of Christ stands in no need either of human cunning or power. It is the religion of God, and is to be propagated by His power; this the book of Acts fully shows; and in it we find the TRUE MODEL after which every Christian church should be builded. And when all churches or congregations of people professing Christianity shall be founded and regulated according to the doctrines and discipline laid down in the book of Acts of the Apostles, then the aggregate body may be justly called the holy, apostolic, and catholic church. (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. V, pg. 680).

These men from the past generations were stating what they believed conditions should be according to the doctrine of the New Testament.

This can be accomplished. Men must give up the pomp and power vested to them; they must surrender creeds, tradition and disciplines written by men. By accepting the New Testament alone, all will become simply Christians united and reconciled to God in one Church. All will teach and preach the same doctrine; have the same plan of salvation. All presiding congregations such as the Sponsoring Church which forms an inter-church organization to dictate the policy and program of the local congregation will be abolished; all Popery and Controlling committees will be done away along with synods and Conferences. Each congregation will be free having its own elders and deacons to aid in maintaining the work. Any organization larger than the local church is foreign to the New Testament.

Not only the form and organization of the church, but the worship will be practiced according to the Apostolic church. The organ and mechanical instrument which hinders rather than helps congregational singing will be removed. Likewise, worship will be conducted without liturgies. Prayer will be offered to God intelligently, not by ecstatic emotions. Christians will assemble around the Lord's table on the first day of the week to break bread and remember Him in His own appointed way. When the Word of God becomes our only instruction, unity will be attained.