Restoring First Century Christianity

Many hard line Churches of Christ claim to practice the real Christianity, saying they follow the Bible only, restoring first century Christianity. That is an oxymoron.

1. First century Christianity did not follow “the Bible”. Their only Bible was the 36 books of the Jewish Bible. They had an oral history of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, and they had apostles or teachers coming to teach them.

bible2. There is no command for us to follow the Bible and the Bible only. The command is to follow Jesus.

3. Trying to reproduce the first century worship service is not one of the goals Jesus set before us.

4. Most of Jesus’ commands had to do with how he wanted the Jewish people of his day to view God, the father, and what kind of relationship he wanted them to have with God. Jesus also commanded the Jewish people of his day to practice selfless living towards the people they came into contact with from day to day.

5. The gospel, or Good News, is not the Bible. The Bible contains the story of the good news, but it is not the good news. Just as the Bible is not the Word of God. The Bible contains the story of the Word of God as it was delivered to various people at various times.

6. Trying to reproduce first century Christianity is a human catechism or creed superimposed upon the good news of Jesus. It is a mindset that came upon the early pioneers of the United States after 250 or 300 years of Reformation struggles, and then the freedom of the United States, free from European religious tradition, combined with the ignorance of uneducated pioneers who had only Bibles and hymn books in their

mote and beam

possession. It is the projection of righteousness onto a five point worship service instead of addressing the very personal social ills that plagued people of the early 1800s: the

Trail of Tears, as educated, voting native Americans had their farms confiscated and were made to move to dryer land out west, as slaveowners and land grabbers wanted to feel righteous in the face of their selfishness, they pointed to the five acts of worship and the biblical baptism that they had reproduced when no other Christian group had done so. It was a case of pointing out the mote in our brother’s eye when there was a beam in our own eye. This mindset was and is a catechism and creed that violates the essence and spirit of the good news of Jesus.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Bible, Command, Example and Necessary Inference, History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Restoring First Century Christianity

  1. Thanks for your information.

  2. john p says:

    I hope we “practice real Christianity” without regard to any particular element of worship. Rom. 12:1-2ff. seems like the best description of NT worship. It begins “in view of God’s mercies”. Thanks for any “mercies” you can muster re: your old fellowship! God, in his mercy, has not given up on us….and is redeeming new souls every week at our very flawed congregations. Critique away—-we need it, heaven knows. But I hope it’s aimed at helping. Thanks.

  3. Jenny says:

    I’ve recently began to notice that leaders in Restoration Movement churches tend to downplay – no, make that outright ignore or deny – the fact that the first century church members relied on the personal testimonies of numerous witnesses rather than the texts we now refer to as the New Testament. There’s no way that can be replicated.

  4. Gary Cummings says:

    The earliest accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus were not written, they were oral sources.There was the standard Kerygma or preaching of Paul, the Logia or sayings of Jesus,and other oral traditions like the Lord’s Prayer. Many of the people of the Graeco-Roman-Palestinian world were illiterate. The people relied on verbal memorized accounts. The prophets who spoke had their new prophetic utterances measured by all of this oral testimony.

    Eventually, the Logia of Jesus was written down in Koine Greek. There was an early Hebrew Gospel of Matthew by the late 50’s perhaps. Our Gospel of Mark may have been the first Gospel in Greek. Luke may have used both plus Q in writing his Gospel. The Gospel of John may have been written
    In the late 90’s. Paul’s writings were from the late 40’s to about the time of his death in AD68.
    Most of the rest of the NT was written prior to or at the Roman-Jewish War of AD 66-70.
    After the war was over the church, as well as all the NT writings, were scattered over the Empire.Different regions had different Gospels and Mark had lost its ending after 16:8.
    It took till 150 AD for a Canon list to be gathered, and another 150 years +/- for most of our Canon
    To be recognized. Revelation always had a tough time staying in the Canon.

    All this being said there was no Bible which contained our New Testament during the time of the Apostles or the Early Church. The earliest split in the church was the one between Greek speaking Jews and Palestinian Jews. Then Saul was converted and became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. This caused a great breach in the Church and each community had their competing memories and sayings of Jesus. The Gospels were even written to various portions of the Empire.
    No one church had the NT writings and it was impossible to make a blueprint from what they had. In fact none of them even had such a thought. They would have thought the claims of the COC to be rather eccentric at best or aberrant at the worst. The early Christian communities valued Faith,repentance,and community more than doctrinal conformity.

  5. garycummings says:

    It is impossible to be a first century church in the twentieth century. The cultural contexts
    of Graeco-Roman-Palestinian world are drastically different from the American-Western,-Enlightenment world view. There are a lot of reasons for this. Ours is an individualistic society, while in the world of the first century the emphasis was more communal,tribal, and family orientated. To take Scripture out of that context and import it here by sectarian fiat warps the intent and message of Scripture. By the very nature of this theological time travel, the true nature and teachings of Jesus get morphed into a glorified super-American ideology which disguises itself as a church. Once this happens we get the Church of Christ cult.

  6. BH says:

    Jesus said I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. His church will always be around, always had been since it was founded, and has no need to be restored by some “Restoration Movement”. No matter what the Church of Christ says that may be right and other denominations wrong perhaps wrong on the Church of Christ is not and never could be the one true church because it claims it had to be restored to existence.

    • Gary Cummings says:

      BH, I agree/ I believe in the church within the church. I believe that the “called-out” of Jesus have always existed in many churches: including the Roman Catholic Church. For a 1,000 years, the RC Church was it. Was it the True Church? No. Were there true Christians within it? Yes. They composed the church, which the gates of Hell never prevailed against.

      • BH says:

        I am glad you agree. It amazes me how much the Church of Christ places such importance on knowing what the Bible says on every little thing and they miss this part about the church and the gates of hell. It really makes you think if they blow it on something like this, a very basic doctrine about the church, then you have to ask yourself what else did they probably miss.

      • Brian says:

        I believe exactly what you guys do, that Jesus church has always existed, and so I am with the spirit of what you guys are saying, but there are some factual errors that you made which need to be pointed out. The RC church was NOT “all there was” for 1000 years. They were certainly the majority voice, and since the winners always tell history, they label dissenters as “heretics.” Interestingly for us though, an in-depth study of those “heretical groups” from the 4th century up until the reformation and later presents amazing results. Many groups existed who were persecuted for being simply “followers of Christ.” The problem is that the RC commits libel against these groups, and gives them slanderous names which they never called themselves. A couple examples are those who the RC refers to as Donatists, and Paulicians. Do some research into what those guys preached and practiced, and it will knock your socks off. Just between these two groups, you can trace a line of faithfulness from the 4th century (before Catholicism actually began) until at least the 19th century!!! Anyway, I don’t believe the “restoration” view that the church was lost for 2 millennia; that doesn’t glorify Christ, it glorifies man. But, at the same time, we would also be in conflict with Christ to call a human institution his church. If any RC members during the middle ages were truly followers of Christ, it was always and only IN SPITE of the RC. However, always seems to have been also groups of believers on the fringes. It seems to me that Jesus’ disciples have always been on the fringes of society, forced there by their unwillingness to conform to the expectations of mankind, seeking rather to obey God.

      • garycummings says:

        My statement was a general statement, not an exclusive statement. Of course there was the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as sectarian movements within the RC Church like the Albegensians and Waldensians. The Lutherans, Calvinists and Anabaptists did not come along till the 1,500’s.. Even within the RC Church there were reform movements like the Franciscans which challenged the RC Church, but became just another order. That being said, much of what was true Christianity did survive within the RC Church, like many of the orders and monastic movements, as well as the Celtic Church, which had its own of worship, more or less independent from Rome.

        I am very aware of the Donatists, as well as the Montanists. The Donatists were basically exterminated by the RC Church under the spiritual direction of Augustine to “compel them to come in.” He definitely was “COC” before the time of Campbell and Stone and Sommer and Lipscomb..
        Augustine just remodeled the Christian faith after Rome. So from about 600 to 1600 AD, The RC Church was the main church in the West. That is about a 1,000 years, and I am sure that were plenty of saved people within it, who were saved by faith, just as we are. I never said the RC Church was “all there was:, rather the RC Church was “It”, being the main representation of the Christian faith in the world, for good and bad.
        Thanks, Gary

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