I come from an interesting religious tradition. A tradition that, like many other traditions, has its pros and cons. The words on our sign outside my congregation say “church of Christ.” What does that mean? For many decades there have been groups of Christians with that name. But who are they? What do they believe? Does the name on a sign really matter? Would it be okay if we didn’t even have a sign?
Over the next few weeks we are going to explore some of these questions by studying the history of the churches of Christ. This history is called the “Restoration Movement,” and it started in the late seventeen hundreds. However, before we get into the history of the restoration movement, we have to briefly study the history leading up to that point; starting from the 1st century.
The church began in Acts 2 while Peter was preaching the first sermon of this new covenant. He talked about the promise of a savior and how that this messiah they had hoped for is Jesus. That day 3,000 souls were saved for the family of God. However, later on, the apostle Paul prophesied a falling away of the church. They would leave the elementary, but foundational, teachings of the Gospel. They would forget their first love in Christ and change the message of God (2Thess. 2:3-4; 1Tim 4:1-3; Act 20:29-30).
In the second century and following we know that this began to come true. We have writings from people we call the “church fathers.” While these men had no authority, they at least give us some historical ideas as to what the first centuries of the church were up to. Their literature shows us that some decided that instead of having a plurality of elders over a self-governed congregation, they would have one elder in charge of the congregation, then they evolved to having one elder over the region, then country, and then finally the world. This elder was allegedly the only one who could “properly” interpret the word of God. Sadly, while surely starting with good intent, these traditions provoked corruption leading to a falling away of God’s saving message. Now such an elder in called the pope. Unfortunately, this continued to evolve until finally, so many of the perfect, simple, and loving teachings of Jesus were corrupted.
Some good students of the Bible sought to change this and reform the Christian Church. This was around the fifteen hundreds and it was called the Reformation movement. They were called “protestant” because they were protesting against what was then a very corrupt Catholic Church. This is where people like Martin Luther and John Calvin come in. Finally, in the late seventeen hundreds, began what is called the Restoration Movement; the movement which started the church of Christ as we know it. Our next post will continue this journey. – Jesse
Suggested Reading After Reading This Article: Restoration Movement Part 2: In the Beginning
Suggested Reading After Reading This Series: