What Is the Purpose of the New Testament?

I grew up being taught that a major direction of our Christian life was to be directed toward the restoration of the ancient patterns of New Testament blue_bible-733325Christianity.  For many years I never questioned that mindset.  From my earliest abilities to comprehend I was taught this was among our first and primary responsibilities.  I cannot tell you the number of sermons I heard mention Scripture as the “blueprint” for the New Testament church.  It was strongly implied that the most important thing we could do was make sure that we adhered to the patterns Scripture laid down for us.  In the minds of those who taught me, this foundational fact was as real as God Himself.

As I began to question this teaching I began to question many other things as well.  I had never considered the validity of these points.  I searched the Scriptures with the utmost diligence but the results were always the same.  Scripture did not teach my responsibility was to restore the church.  There were questions that continued to haunt me as I considered this so called foundational truth.  Questions such as, “How do I know God intends that the church be restored?”  “What proof did I have that God lost the church?”  “If God lost the church who was I to appoint myself as the one in charge of restoration?”  “Would we have the ability to restore something God lost?”  The mindset that we are self-appointed restorationist is the height of arrogance and self-righteousness.  In fact this borders on blasphemy.

The doctrine of restoration was one of the goals entertained by the Pharasees.  Their entent was to restore Judaism to the purity it held when given to Moses at the mount.  Is there a parallel here or am I reading too much into the similarities? 

The writings of the New Testament weren’t intended as a pattern or as a rule book.  Scripture was given for an entirely different reason.  First, Scripture was written to show the way of salvation, how we become reconciled to God.  Second these writings of God show us how we deal with the various problems Christians face everyday.  Third, Scripture allows mankind to know certain truths about God.  This allows us insight into God’s personality and integrity.  With this knowledge we are able to build relationship with God.  This is part of the spiritual aspect of Christianity which can’t be found through the doctrines of patternism and restoration.  Think about it!

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7 Responses to What Is the Purpose of the New Testament?

  1. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell, You have expressed an important insight for us all with clarity and force. Like the scribes and Pharisees hated Jesus, some will hate you for toppling their idol.

  2. I wish that the goal of the Restoration Movement had always been to restore the relationship between people and their God.

    Maybe we wouldn’t be at the place we are now.

    But it’s never to late to begin!

  3. As a people we aren’t evil just misdirected. The restoration Jesus shed His blood for was a restoration of relationship between God and man.

  4. Jim Bird says:

    I tend to agree with you on the points that you made. However, I would caution about swinging the pendulum to far in the other direction. I believe the original intent of the Restoration Movement was to create unity by exposing and eliminating all the creeds of men. I guess one needs to ask if that is still an appropriate thing to shoot for.

  5. James,
    I haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope all is well with you. I to believe that unity should be our direction. This was the wish of Jesus and it ought to be ours as well. Unfortunately I fear that instead of restoring unity by eliminating creeds we may have installed a direction of division by setting up our own unwritten creed based in patternism. The major question we must ask is this, “Is our mission one of restoring proper patterns or is our mission preaching Jesus. If we continue to preach Jesus to the multitudes the Lord will find a place to add those who accept the gospel. God will keep His promises. Our duty is to let Him use us in preaching the message of Jesus.

  6. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell, Probably the best source for those interested in the beginning of the Restoration Movement is, DISTANT VOICES,
    by C. Leonard Allen, c. 1993 ACU Press. It provides a detailed account of the revival that occurred at Cane Ridge, KY in Aug. 1801, and some significant events following. It continues by relating some of the men and women in the movement who were ignored because their thinking would not bow to mainstream voices. It was enriching for me to learn that Campbell’s son-in-law and doctor, Robert Richardson, had such meaningful thoughts about the Lord’s supper. For anyone interested in where we have come from, the book is rewarding.

    The 1801 revival at Cane Ridge, KY is known in American history as, “The Second Great Awakening”. Yet a well known cofC preacher today ignores it in his brief history of cofC. Such ommisions are one manuver of those who want to control others.

  7. June says:

    Well, the problem with what you’re saying is this… Paul plainly stated his purpose in writing some of the epistles: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” So while he didn’t dictate rules/patterns for some of the stuff we seem to enjoy arguing about (to our shame), he did provide a pattern for some important aspects of church life: prayer, roles/demeanor of men vs women, elders, deacons, public reading scripture, doctrine, exhortation, care of widows, etc.

    That said, I agree that there is more liberty than most perceive, and I see little evidence that one congregation has authority to judge/interfere with another congregation (afterall, don’t we each have enough problems of our own?). Each individual congregation needs to pray, study, and do its best to emulate what we see in scripture, from worship to doctrine to shepherding/discipline — and if someone wants to call that restoring or reforming, then I suppose that’s reasonable.

    So far when I read history and biographies, I see the old men working for unity (the right motive), talking to each other to better understand what is right (although they certainly disagreed passionately, too); we’ve focused so much on what the other guy is doing wrong that I don’t think most church members have any concept of Who God is, of the great doctrines, or even of regeneration/transformation. And we’re so nasty in the process.

    Think about Paul’s directive: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be *kind* to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must *gently* instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Then read some COC debates — ACK!

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