Being Connected to the New Testament Church

One seeking to prove his membership in the same church that he reads about in the New Testament, by historically tracing an alleged unbroken line of succession back to the first century church, is like the fellow who claimed to have an antique ax.

The story goes that he was trying to sell an ax to a museum as an antique dating back to a famous historical figure. When questioned, he was adamant that it was the very same axed owned by that famous person. After more intense interrogation, he still insisted that it was the same ax, but it may have had a few new blades and new handles through the years.

The way to trace ties to the New Testament church is to follow the New Testament teaching in doctrine and practice. When one obeys from the heart the New Testament plan of salvation, he is added to the number of the saved — known as the church (Acts 2.47) — the “one body” of Ephesians 4.4. When a group of these people meet and work together in a locality, following the New Testament teaching for local churches in the first century, they are the same kind of local churches. They do not have to be concerned with tracing historical ties, generation by generation, back to the beginning, nor do they need to be concerned with establishing a historical connection with movement — be it the Reformation or Restoration. They are simply the results of the word of God — as the “word (or seed) of the kingdom” (Matthew 13.19) — having found honest hearts and producing fruit after its kind. The same seed sown in the first century will produce the same fruit in the 21st century when it finds the right soil (honest hearts).