Class–Israel’s Return from Captivity (Introduction & Ezra 1-2)

Click to listen: Introduction

Click to listen: The First Return (Ezra 1-2)

Why We Are Not Campbellites

From time to time, Christians seeking to hold the New Testament as their sole authority have been called Campbellites. Often, but not always, this term is used in a derogatory fashion. Whether derogatory or not, the effect is the same. They are applying a human founder (Alexander Campbell) to the body of Christ. There are three reasons it is inappropriate to call those who follow the New Testament “Campbellites.”

First, we do not take the name Campbellite. The choice to simply be known as Christians or disciples seems to bother those who have taken other names (e.g., Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.). They want to be known not only by Christ, but by their human leaders as well. This is the same practice Paul condemned in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. They were making divisions by aligning themselves with human teachers (Paul, Apollos, and Cephas) and were condemned for it. We should not let those unconcerned with the Lord’s instruction pollute what we are trying to do. Instead of accepting the term “Campbellite,” we firmly acknowledge Christ as the only way to heaven (John 14:6, Acts 4:12), accept His teachings only, and take His name only.

Second, we do not accept Alexander Campbell as the founder of the Church. In order for someone to found an institution, they have to start something new. If the institution was in existence or was ever in existence, they cannot be the founder. Jesus declared that He would build His Church, which would never be overcome (Matthew 16:18). Jesus only talks about building one church; all others are not His. Either Jesus did not build His Church, He built the Church and it no longer exists, or Jesus’ Church has been in existence since He founded it. The first two options make Jesus a liar and are unacceptable. So Christ’s church must be in existence, but which Church is His? It must be the one that acknowledges Him as the head and follows His instructions, which is what we do. Traces of His Church have been found throughout the world and throughout the ages. Keith Sisman’s research shows that:

From about 1000 AD in England, Christians called by their enemies derogatory terms such as Waldensian, Lollard, Pelagian and Anabaptist, who baptised believers for the remission of sins by immersion upon confession, have been active in Great Britain and even earlier in Europe. They called themselves Christians and the church – The Church of Christ (http://www.traces-of-the-kingdom.org/)

The reason we rarely hear of the church before the American Restoration Movement is because it was heavily persecuted. Nevertheless, it was still in existence. All Campbell and the other restorers did was point people away from human creeds and to the teachings of Jesus; they didn’t start anything new.

Third, we follow the Bible, not Campbell’s teachings. We don’t just teach and believe what Campbell taught. Many in the church today barely even know of Alexander Campbell and have never read his writings (myself included). What we teach and practice comes from the Bible alone. When we examine issues, we do not immediately turn to Campbell’s writings to see what he said. He wrote no creed book or confession for us. We don’t examine what our “scholars” have always taught and practiced, or assume previous generations were right and do likewise. Instead, we look to the Scriptures. We teach what the Scriptures say, not what Alexander Campbell or any other man says.

While the founders of the Restoration Movement were courageous to turn away from denominationalism and simply follow the Bible; they were not doing anything different than countless other individuals have done since the foundation of the church. They didn’t start anything new; they just paid attention to the instructions recorded to govern the church Jesus established. We do the same when we refuse to blindly follow what men have handed down to us over the last 40, 70, or even 200 years and simply follow what the Bible has to say. We are not Campbellites; we are Christians.

The Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July not only reminds me of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, but two other declarations.

First, a declaration of independence from sin through Christ, recorded by Paul in Romans 6:1-4: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Paul continues to talk about this freedom through the end of Romans chapter 8.

Second, a declaration of independence from denominationalism and made-made doctrines, written by the Springfield Presbytery on June 28th, 1804 (it is a little long, but it is a good read):

THE Presbytery of Springfield sitting at Caneridge, in the county of Bourbon, being, through a gracious Providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily; and in perfect soundness and composure of mind; but knowing that it is appointed for all delegated bodies once to die; and considering that the life of every such body is very uncertain, do make and ordain this our last Will and Testament, in manner and form following, viz.:

Imprimis. We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

Item. We will that our name of distinction, with its Reverend title, be forgotten, that there be but one Lord over God’s heritage, and his name one.

Item. We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Item. We will, that candidates for the Gospel ministry henceforth study the Holy Scriptures with fervent prayer, and obtain license from God to preach the simple Gospel, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, without any mixture of philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, or the rudiments of the world. And let none henceforth take this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

Item. We will, that the church of Christ resume her native right of internal government,—try her candidates for the ministry, as to their soundness in the faith, acquaintance with experimental religion, gravity and aptness to teach; and admit no other proof of their authority but Christ speaking in them. We will, that the church of Christ look up to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest; and that she resume her primitive right of trying those who say they are apostles, and are not.

Item. We will, that each particular church, as a body, actuated by the same spirit, choose her own preacher, and support him by a free-will offering, without a written call or subscription—admit members—remove offenses; and never henceforth delegate her right of government to any man or set of men whatever.

Item. We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, may cast them into the fire if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.

Item. We will, that preachers and people cultivate a spirit of mutual forbearance; pray more and dispute less; and while they behold the signs of the times, look up, and confidently expect that redemption draweth nigh.

Item. We will, that our weak brethren, who may have been wishing to make the Presbytery of Springfield their king, and wot not what is now become of it, betake themselves to the Rock of Ages, and follow Jesus for the future.

Item. We will, the Synod of Kentucky examine every member who may be suspected of having departed from the Confession of Faith, and suspend every such suspected heretic immediately, in order that the oppressed may go free, and taste the sweets of Gospel liberty.

Item. We will, that Ja———, the author of two letters lately published in Lexington, be encouraged in his zeal to destroy partyism. We will, moreover, that our past conduct be examined into by all who may have correct information; but let foreigners beware of speaking evil of things which they know not.

Item. Finally we will, that all our sister bodies read their Bibles carefully, that they may see their fate there determined, and prepare for death before it is too late.

Witnesses: ROBERT MARSHALL, JOHN DUNLAVY, RICHARD M’NEMAR, B. W. STONE, JOHN THOMPSON, DAVID PURVIANCE.

The Witnesses’ Address

We, the above named witnesses of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, knowing that there will be many conjectures respecting the causes which have occasioned the dissolution of that body, think proper to testify, that from its first existence it was knit together in love, lived in peace and concord, and died a voluntary and happy death.

Their reasons for dissolving that body were the following: With deep concern they viewed the divisions, and party spirit among professing Christians, principally owing to the adoption of human creeds and forms of government. While they were united under the name of a Presbytery, they endeavored to cultivate a spirit of love and unity with all Christians; but found it extremely difficult to suppress the idea that they themselves were a party separate from others. This difficulty increased in proportion to their success in the ministry. Jealousies were excited in the minds of other denominations; and a temptation was laid before those who were connected with the various parties, to view them in the same light. At their last meeting they undertook to prepare for the press a piece entitled Observations on Church Government, in which the world will see the beautiful simplicity of Christian church government, stript of human inventions and lordly traditions. As they proceeded in the investigation of that subject, they soon found that there was neither precept nor example in the New Testament for such confederacies as modern Church Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, General Assemblies, etc. Hence they concluded, that while they continued in the connection in which they then stood, they were off the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, of which Christ himself is the chief corner stone. However just, therefore, their views of church government might have been, they would have gone out under the name and sanction of a self-constituted body. Therefore, from a principle of love to Christians of every name, the precious cause of Jesus, and dying sinners who are kept from the Lord by the existence of sects and parties in the church, they have cheerfully consented to retire from the din and fury of conflicting parties–sink out of the view of fleshly minds, and die the death. They believe their death will be great gain to the world. But though dead, as above, and stript of their mortal frame, which only served to keep them too near the confines of Egyptian bondage, they yet live and speak in the land of gospel liberty; they blow the trumpet of jubilee, and willingly devote themselves to the help of the Lord against the mighty. They will aid the brethren, by their counsel, when required; assist in ordaining elders, or pastors–seek the divine blessing–unite with all Christians–commune together, and strengthen each others’ hands in the work of the Lord.

We design, by the grace of God to continue in the exercise of those functions, which belong to us as ministers of the gospel, confidently trusting in the Lord, that he will be with us. We candidly acknowledge, that in some things we may err, through human infirmity; but he will correct our wanderings, and preserve his church. Let all Christians join with us, in crying to God day and night, to remove the obstacles which stand in the way of his work, and give him no rest till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. We heartily unite with our Christian brethren of every name, in thanksgiving to God for the display of his goodness in the glorious work he is carrying on in our Western country, which we hope will terminate in the universal spread of the gospel, and the unity of the church. [Witnesses' Address taken from Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union, Charles Alexander Young, editor, 1904; Reprint, Old Paths Book Club, 1955]