Of Christ or a Group?

Is the Restoration Movement over? Is it completed, or is it a dynamic process that has to continue? Restoration – separate from the historical movement – as an ideal has to continue, and it is beneficial to look back at that time period to help us see how we should pursue this ideal.

To restore New Testament Christianity and emulate what we see in the scriptures is an ongoing effort that every congregation and every generation is responsible for – not looking to what other churches are doing but looking to what Christians of the first century were doing.

Rethinking the Universal Church

Often we think that the universal church is made up of various scriptural congregations, but this reasoning is faulty. Instead, we should look at the universal church as made up of individuals. Churches do not make up God’s kingdom. Individual people do.

When we think of things at a brotherhood-wide level, we may be promoting a sectarian mindset that is not found in the Bible. By and large, matters of faith were dealt with congregation by congregation rather than by the brotherhood at large.

“Of the Group” or “Of Christ?”

For What Are We Looking? We might look for a congregation where we prioritize programs and compatibility with the individuals. What does this group have to offer? What are we searching for – an attractive group? John 14:5-6 and John 17:17 reinforce the importance of searching for truth, and Christ is the source of that truth. If we are of Christ, we will look for truth.

To What Are We Converting Others? Are we trying to convert people to our congregation or to Christ? “You should join our church.” However, in I Corinthians 2:1-2 and II Corinthians 4:4-5, Paul emphasizes Christ over self. Do we preach Christ or do we promote church of Christ? There is a difference.

In What Do We Take Pride? Do we appeal to how we are growing, what we are doing, who identifies with us? Do we appeal for people to look at our group when we study with them? In other words, do we take pride in our church? In Philippians 3, Paul writes about a group he had confidence in while he was a member – the Pharisees. However, Paul disposes of that group mentality, and his confidence shifted from accomplishments to Christ alone. Ephesians 3:11-12 and I Corinthians 3:3-4 both emphasize assurance in Christ.

Where Do We Get Authority? Do we draw authority from synods, boards, and executives? Do we find ourselves saying, “My church believes/practices…?” We appeal to “the church’s” stand on issues, but Matthew 28:18 makes our source of authority clear. Matthew 16:19 & 18:18 limits what is taught to what is bound and loosed in Heaven.

On What Is Our Loyalty Based? If trouble comes along, and the well-being of the group falters, we may leave that church. How often have we asked someone fallen away to return to “the church” rather than to Christ. Galatians 3:27 says we are baptized into Christ. We belong to Christ – not to a specific church or creed.

Conclusion

John 8:31 begins an illustration of people who were lost in the group mentality. They didn’t need Christ – they had their congregation. This idea is also found in Matthew 3:8-9. Yes, being part of a faithful congregation is important, but our faith is not based on the church – it is based on Christ – and, to be saved, we can’t be of the group. We have to be of Christ – Matthew 16:27.

lesson by Tim Smelser

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