The Tale of The Antique Ax
There once was a fellow who had an antique ax. He assured others that it dated back to precolonial times. Another fellow became interested in the ax and expressed a desire to buy it at a very hefty price. He asked the owner if it really was as old as he claimed, and genuinely an antique. “Of course it is,” answered the owner. “I wouldn’t lie to you. But you need to understand that over the years it has had several new handles and two or three new heads. But it is the same old ax.”
This is how people sometimes look at the genuineness of the local church of which they are members. They are able to trace the story of their local church (C#1) to an older local church (C#2) from which the ones came to form this congregation (C#1). Then they are able to tie that congregation (C#2) from which those came to a still older congregation (C#3) from which the ones came to form that congregation (C#2)…and on and on back through several generations of local churches. So they, being members of this congregation today, must be on solid ground since they can trace their historical connection to the church of Christ back through enough generations to be basically the same church of Christ that they and their predecessors had been members for all these years. Never mind that, like the ax, there have been several fundamental changes over the years.
A better way is to trace the doctrine and practice of the congregation of which we are members back to the New Testament. No historical confirmation is necessary, except the history recorded in the Bible. If our members were saved like the Bible teaches people to be saved, and we teach others to be saved in the same way; if our worship, work, and organization, as a congregation, follow the pattern taught in the New Testament for the churches of Christ, we are the same as the churches of Christ that followed the apostles’ doctrine in the first century (Acts 2.42). That is what matters. Let us follow Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Hold on to the example of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1.13).