"God is love," 1 Jn.4:16. He has demonstrated His love to us in the giving of his Son Jesus, Jn.3:16, Rom.5:8, 1 Jn.4:9. He in turn reasonably expects that we love Him in return. This is true under both the Old and the New Testaments. In Deut.6:5, Moses commanded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul. and with all your strength." In Matt.22:37,38, Jesus answered the lawyers’ question saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." and of course the second was "love your neighbor as yourself." The importance of love in the church and in the lives of Christians can never be overestimated. The love that God expects to find in our lives is love that can be commanded, He commands it. The problem is that love is a word in the world that gets way overused without stopping to define what it means. We most often associate love with romantic love, but we recognize family love and brotherly love as well. These are things we associate with love. Some in the world also associate tolerance for sin with love and a lack of tolerance for sin is seen as lack of love. The real question we need to ask is what does God most associate with love? To answer this question we need to look to Jesus. We need to learn to love ‘the Jesus Way’.
Jesus is God's expression of love to us and Jesus teaches us what it really means to love. Jesus taught what it means to love God by the example of His life. In Jn.14:31 Jesus said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. ..." God sent Jesus to live and to die for mankind so that mankind could have our sins forgiven. Yet there were things about this that were difficult even for Jesus. He was "sorrowful" at the prospect of the cross. He prayed "let this cup pass from Me:" but then He added "not as I will, but as you will." Matt.26:38,39, Jesus taught us that love for God means obeying God at all costs, no matter what! "As the Father gave me commandment, so I do" is the most basic principle of love given by Jesus.
The night before his crucifixion Jesus was very careful to so define love that there would be no mistake about what He meant when He commanded love. In Jn.14:15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, Keep My commandments." This is love the Jesus way. As Jesus' love for the Father was manifested by his obedience to the Father’s commands, so Jesus expects us to understand that our love for Him will be manifested by our obedience to His commands. Amazingly Jesus will not let this go, He continues to press the point. In Jn.14:21, Jesus pursues, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me..." This is love the Jesus way. We can identify love in our own lives and in the lives of others by asking this question 'do we keep his commandments or are we constantly looking for a way around them. In Jn.14:23, He says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word..." This is love the Jesus way. Now Jesus moves beyond commandment and says we need to keep His "word", not just His commandments but his word. Jesus' most basic teaching tools were His life and His word. We need to keep and respect the message of both if we love God, if we love Jesus.
But Jesus is not finished teaching what love means. In Jn.15:10, He said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." This is love ‘the Jesus way’. We understand that God loves us, and that Jesus loves us, but Jesus clearly says that to abide in his love we must keep His commandments. All of this is taught the night before His death. Even then Jesus knew there was more to say that could not be said just then, in Jn.16:12,13. He said, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;.." The Holy Spirit did come and did guide the apostles and prophets into all truth. We have that truth today in the scriptures, the inspired word of God. So Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 14:37 "...the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." To love God and love Jesus we have to keep all the words and commandments not only as spoken by Jesus but as written by the Lord’s apostles and prophets. There are none we can disobey or ignore or downgrade as of lesser importance and still demonstrate love to God or love to the world.
Approximately 30 years later, the apostle John is still teaching the same message Jesus taught about love. In 1 Jn. 2:3-5 we read, "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
Keeping the commandments and word of Jesus is so important. We are branded a liar if we say we know Him and yet do not keep His commandments. The love of God, the kind of love God expects to find in our lives is perfected in our lives as we keep his word. John further defines what God means when he commands love, in 1 Jn.5:2-3, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
Loving God and keeping His commandments are a matched pair, trying to have one without the other is of no use, is probably impossible and would be only half of what God expects of our lives. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. We are sadly mistaken if we think we can love God, or our neighbors, or our brethren, or our families without keeping His word, His commandments. Loving the Jesus way means keeping and obeying the commands and teaching of the New Testament, this is the love that God expects to find in our lives.
Listen to John one more time, 2 Jn. 6, ‘This is love that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” Loving God, Loving Jesus, Loving our brethren, Loving our neighbors, Loving our enemies, all involve finding out what God has taught, and then obeying what He has taught. This is love the Jesus way. Without obedience to the word of God there is no love. When people think they can do whatever they want, without obeying God and that things will all be okay because God is love, mercy and grace, they are living and teaching a message of no love.
All of this leads us back in a big circle to Jesus’ words in John 13:34,35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
People in the world who are not Christians love one another. Parents love their children, children love their parents. Patriots love their country. Social activists love the poor and the downtrodden. Does their love mean that they are all Christians? If love in general is the defining mark of a Christian then are we not forced to admit that all who love, at least according to their own definition, are Christians? The answer to this is no! Because the love that Jesus was speaking of here is not love in general, is not a love defined by man. The love that defines Christians is love as Jesus defined it in the following chapters of the book of John. John14:15,21,23,31 and John15:10,12-14. The love by which all will know we are Christ’s disciples is the love of obeying and keeping the words and commands of Jesus as delivered to mankind in the writings and teachings of His apostles and prophets. When we love ‘the Jesus way’ all will know that we are the disciples of Jesus.
All of this is especially true in the Lord’s church, “purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28.
We must live and and teach a message of love "the Jesus Way". In a very practical way when we take the Lord's church and turn it into a playground for the ideas and entertainment of man we are practicing and teaching a doctrine of no love, at least not love "the Jesus Way".
Oh! The pain and the hurt that God’s people and Christ’s church are subjected to when love ‘the Jesus way’ is not practiced and love in the way of the world is substituted.
Historically, restoration in the church has been practiced because some wanted unity, because others wanted Christians to be holy and separate from the world. I believe we should practice restoration so that we can love God and love one another ‘the Jesus way’. We will never have the love that Jesus had or the love that God wants us to have without going back to the scriptures for everything we do in faith and practice as Christians. Let us love God and love one another ‘the Jesus way’.
One of the amazing things about the great and awesome God who created the Universe is that He has chosen to speak, to communicate, with mankind. Moses wrote to Israel in Deut. 4:12 "And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words,..." At the baptism of Jesus, (Matt. 3:17) it was the voice of God sounding from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Of course, God has also spoken through the act of creation (Psa. 19:1) "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." Also the "invisible attributes" of God, such as power and glory are "understood by the things that are made," Rom. 1:20. Then God has also spoken to various prophets both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The prophet Jeremiah wrote; Jer. 1:4, "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;...'" Yet concerning the gift of prophecy we read in I Cor. 13:8 "...But whether there are prophecies they will fail;..." We do not understand this to mean that a specific prophecy from God would fail to come to pass, but that the gift of prophecy itself would come to an end. Today we are not looking for new prophets with new messages from God. Yet the question remains; Does God speak to man today? In Hebrews 1:1, we read, "God , who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son..." The writer Jude in vs. 3 wrote of, "the faith which was once for all delivered..." this is past tense. The faith was delivered. Today we are not expecting a new gospel or a new message from God. God has spoken to us by His Son, Jesus.
In John 1:18 we read, "...The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Jesus is God's declaration of Himself to mankind. Is God speaking to mankind today? The answer is Yes, through Jesus, and how do we learn from Jesus? Jesus said in John 12:47, 48, "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him;..."He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, ...the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day."
One of the things Jesus did while He was here on earth was speak with authority (Matt. 7:29, Matt. 28:18). His words are God's message to mankind, then, now and tomorrow. Paul, the apostle of Jesus to the Gentiles, wrote in I Cor. 14:37, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." The things written in the New Testament are the commands of the Lord. When we read the New Testament, we are reading Jesus' words to us today. When we read the New Testament, we are hearing God speak to mankind today. The Bible was not just for the people of the past. The Bible is God's word for mankind today. The question is, Will we Listen?
Roger Boone and Raymond Fox
The Original Gospel
The announcement thrilled the crowd, firing their souls with expectant hope. It was brief, forthright and authoritative. It was spoken in the obscure Roman province of Galilee, but it would ultimately reach every corner of the world. It was spoken about the year 30 A.D., but it would remain just as powerful through the coming centuries of time.
The announcement? It was the opening proclamation of Jesus the Christ when he began His earthly ministry: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15.
During the next three and a half years, Jesus preached his saving message. Multitudes who sought peace with God and escape from fear and guilt dedicated themselves to following Him. But, those who blinded their eyes and closed their hearts stubbornly rejected the truth about Jesus and crucified Him. Three days later, though, Jesus arose from the death tomb, proving beyond any doubt His claim to be the Son of God.
Christ's death and resurrection ushered in a new beginning when, just seven weeks following His resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, His church was established. The followers of Jesus continued to proclaim the gospel and to establish the church with the power He gave them, exactly as He directed.
Restoring the Original
Nineteen centuries have passed since that triumphant beginning of Christianity. During times passage, the history of Christ's religion and the church that He built can be summed up in one word: change. From the early days of Christianity until the present, man has sought to add his own philosophies and traditions to Christianity while ignoring many of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus. For this reason, many modern day concepts of Christianity bear little resemblance to the original Christianity of the New Testament.
Change is usually motivated by the thought that the moral and doctrinal teachings of Jesus must be modernized to keep up with the "progress" of society. But has man really changed? (Romans 1:21-32) Despite his tremendous technological advances, does not modern man still have the same basic spiritual needs of his ancestors? (Romans 3:23) Has Christ changed? (Hebrews 13:8)
The members of the church of Christ believe that Christ is still able to meet the needs of man completely, without adding to or taking away from His message in any way. Christ's life, His word, and His plan for the church are dynamically relevant to contemporary man. That is why the church of Christ seeks to restore New Testament Christianity to its original simplicity and purity.
In the next few pages you will find what it means to return to New Testament Christianity. Please read them and thoughtfully consider Christianity in its original beauty.
Roger Boone and Raymond Fox
Authority: the Bible or Man?
One of the first steps in returning to New Testament Christianity is for us to decide who will be our authority in religion. Who or what can tell us how God wants man to live? There are really only two possible authorities to choose between: the Bible or man.
The problem with accepting man or the opinions of man as our authority in religion is that man's wisdom is fallible and his knowledge is finite. In his egotistical arrogance, man has tried to devise his own ways of coming to God. He has even tried to conform Christianity to fit his own ideas of what he thinks God requires of man. The prophet Jeremiah recognized that man's wisdom is unreliable and wrote, "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." Jeremiah 10:23
In the New Testament, Jesus made it plain that we cannot come to God on the basis of man's authority. He said, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Matthew 15:9 Man cannot be our authority in religion!
The Bible: the Word of God
The Bible is God's revelation to man. Therefore only the Bible can tell us how to come to God through Christ. Read carefully what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16,17
The word "inspiration" literally means "God-breathed" and implies that God used certain men to write exactly what He wanted them to write. Since the Scriptures are inspired by God when you read them, God is speaking to you through them.
Furthermore, Paul pointed out that we do not need God to speak to us in any other way. He said in the verse above that the Scriptures, when applied, would make "the man of God complete," complete in every need. Paul continued to say that the Scriptures would thoroughly equip us "for every good work." Thus, the Scriptures alone will bring us to God if we have a willing heart.
Returning to New Testament Christianity means realizing that God still speaks today through His word. For this reason the Bible is our only authority in religion. Our goal as the church of Christ is to "Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent."
Roger Boone and Raymond Fox
Returning to the Christ of the New Testament
Throughout the history of Christianity, man has tried to mold Jesus into a myriad of incongruous images. People have found in Him a hero for a hundred political causes. They have seen in Him a founder for a thousand diverse denominations. At the other end of the spectrum, some have denied that He even existed; but to deny His existence is to deny the irrefutable testimony of history. Returning to New Testament Christianity means returning to the Christ of the New Testament.
Who is Jesus?
This is the question many people ask: "Who is Jesus?" He is not just a man. He is not just a good man. He is "the only begotten Son" of God. 1 John 4:9 To believe that Jesus is the Son of God is not a step of blind faith. Belief in Jesus is belief based on evidence. Jesus proved Himself to be the Son of God.
Since Jesus has proven that He is the Son of God, the real question is not, is He the Son of God? Instead, the real question is, what will you do about the fact that He is the Son of God? How will you respond to Jesus? You can either accept Him or you can reject Him. Once, after a group of half-hearted disciples turned back from following Him, Jesus turned to His remaining disciples and asked, "Do you also want to go away?" Peter gave the answer for all of us when he said, "But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." John 6:68-69
If you reject Jesus --- to whom shall you go? No one else can lead you to God. To return to New Testament Christianity, we must return to Jesus. Jesus is the only way!
Roger Boone and Raymond Fox
Learning About Jesus
Because of the variety of religions wearing the name "Christian," the meaning of the name "Christian" has become vague and sometimes empty. The Testament, however, is very precise in its use of this name when the Scripture says, "The disciples were called Christians." Acts 11:26 Christians are disciples of Christ. The word "disciple" primarily means "learner." Jesus, as the Son of God and the Savior of man, is the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. His disciples are those who devote their lives to learning from Him. A Christian then is a learner who, with the open New Testament, listens in rapt attention to the powerful, incomparable teachings of Christ and considers with loving reverence the holy, spiritual life that He led. But being a disciple is something for more than just learning: it is following Jesus is everyday living.
When Jesus invited people to be His disciples, He summoned them to action. His invitation was, "Follow me!" Jesus set the example in His life for His disciples to follow. Not only did He teach them, "Love your neighbor as yourself," He also showed them by His life the practical meaning of love. Peter wrote that Jesus left, "an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21 In every situation in life, disciples can ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" Having learned of Jesus, they know the answer. Then, because they follow Jesus, they do without reservation what He would do.
Sometimes doing what Jesus would do is not easy. Loving those who may not love you, for instance, can mean sacrifice, yet it is one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus. So there must be a third aspect to the New Testament concept of discipleship, besides learning and following, and that is dedication to the example of Christ. Christians sometimes ask themselves, "How far must I go in following Jesus?" Jesus anticipated this question when He said, "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:27 Jesus challenged His disciples to follow Him no matter what the cost. For Christians, discipleship must not be just a part of their lives, it must be their life.
Returning to New Testament Discipleship
Today, Christians need to return to the original meaning of discipleship. They need to dedicate themselves to learning and following Jesus. The members of the church of Christ are committed to the New Testament ideal of discipleship and invite you to join them in striving to follow the example of Jesus.