Restoration: A Treasure in Earthen Vessels

God intended that man should obey Him. Man's history has been one of disobedience, with only a few exceptions. The work of Noah was an effort to bring man back to God's way but it was largely a failure and man was destroyed.

God gave Israel a law at Sinai. Moses had not come down from the mountain with the two tables of stone until there was rebellion against the law of God. Time after time God sent prophets to warn Israel of the fruit of their disobedience, but finally the children of Israel went into captivity because they did not hearken to the law or the voice of the prophets. They returned from that captivity a chastened people, but they were not fully converted to the will of God. We have but to read the books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi to see that the rebellion against God's law was still there.

John the Baptist came to turn the heart of the children to the fathers and the heart of the fathers to the children, lest the Lord should come and smite the earth with a curse. It is said that John only had one sermon. It was that men should repent. His preaching was not academic. He told the king that he had no right to be living with his brother Philip's wife. He was killed for his trouble.

Jesus began to preach where John left off: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” With few exceptions the teaching of Christ to the people of His day was that though they obeyed outward forms, their heart was not right before God. Jesus died according to the purpose of God that He might provide salvation for all mankind. God had required the obedience of man always. While the law of the New Testament has greater grace than anything that went before, it does not alter the fact that man must obey. Let us notice a few Scriptures that show this: “He that believeth in the son hath eternal life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36), “And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching hath both the Father and the Son” (II John 9).

God knew the heart of man and He knew that, despite the warnings, man would still rebel against God's law. We quote two Scriptures of a number that might be quoted to show how true this is. “I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29,30). God did not intend that man should go this way for Paul adds: “Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). Then we read: “But there arose false prophets among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them and bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (II Peter 2:1). This apostasy would not be a minor thing, for Peter adds: “And many shall follow their lascivious doing, by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of” (II Peter 2:2). This rebellion is still so prevalent in our day that there are those who say there is no such thing as truth.

The events of 6000 years serve to tell us that disobedience to the law of God is folly. Listen as God warns us: “And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you, whose sentence now from of old lingereth not and their destruction slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:3).

Paul warned that “... the mystery of lawlessness doth already work” (II Thess. 2:7). A perusal of history shows how true these predictions were. However, we can be glad that despite sword and flame the voice of restoration was never entirely dead. The story of these attempts has been told many times and we can thank God that in the last part of the 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th Century many different people urged a return to the way of God as revealed in the New Testament. Such a movement could only please God and confound the forces of Satan. Such slogans as “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent,” were echoed across the land. We would call “Bible things by Bible names.” We would be “Christians only and only Christians.” Tens of thousands responded with enthusiasm to this effort.

However, it would seem that many were not and are not willing to have a complete return to New Testament Christianity and because of infirmities of the flesh the effort must always go on. Paul says “I have not yet attained.” Let us realize that we must go on toward the goal unto the measure of the stature of Christ. How could our goal be better stated than in the language of the Holy Spirit? “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17,18). Surely we must all say that we have not attained but let us press on.

J. C. Bailey, 1982, Dauphin, Manitoba

Published in The Old Paths Archive