A Question I Was Asked:
WHAT IS RESTORATIONISM, AND THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT?
Should You Join a Restorationist Bible Study?
A Consideration of Third Wave Charismatics and the Restoration Movement. PLEASE NOTE: Sometimes the term 'restorationism' is used differently, including to refer to the sects such as the Christadelphans and Jehovah's Witnesses. We use it (we think, in the correct way)to refer to the successive waves of the charismatic movement.
Restorationist movement claims that the office of Apostle
still exists today in exactly the same powerful first century AD
form which we find in the New Testament. So within Restorationism
various charismatic individuals can be found who claim to hold
this office. They also claim that the Old Testament office of
Prophet still exists today although they would deny that this is
an Old Testament office, pointing to the 'prophets' of the New
Testament such as Agabus.
The movement emphasizes the belief that God's miraculous working in the Gospels and Acts describes the normalChristian life which all true believers should still experience in our day. Restorationists therefore seek to restore today's churchto reflect that perspective. Interestingly, the group frequently referred to as 'Restorationist' usually do not use that particular term for themselves yet often recognise themselves as “Third wave charismatics.”
Three "waves" of restorationism can be detected through the 20th century, and ongoing into the 21st century, and it is probably fair to say that all 3 groups are still around. Before preceding, let us just briefly pause to identify these groups:
One of the central planks of third wave restorationist belief is that we should see evidence of miracles all around us in today's church, and if we don't see that it just proves how far the church has departed from God. However, the evidence of the Holy Bible is that miracles only accompanied the major events in God's plan for Mankind – most notably the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles! The Bible seems to show that miracles were 'clustered' around these important events.
Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore we would expect Him to do some very special things. We cannot make everything that Jesus said and did the normal standard for all Christians of all ages!
In the first place, His miracles provided evidence for his identity: His miraculous ministry was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew. 11:3-5). Jesus Himself cited his utterly unique miracle ministry as one of the evidences for his Messiahship (Matthew. 11:3-5; Mark 2:9-11; John. 5:36; 10:37,38).
Like the miracles performed by Jesus in the gospels, when Jesus later leaves this earth to return to Heaven, the miracles we read about in the Book of Acts are performed by a uniquely called people (the Apostles) during a unique time (the beginning of the New Testament Church). Okay, so how and why were the first century Apostles unique?
1. They saw Christ in the
Luke:1:2; Acts:1:22; 1Corinthians:9:1; 1John:1:1.
2. They were witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Luke:24:33-41; Luke:24:51; Acts:1:2-9; Acts:10:40-42; 1 Corinthians:15:7-9.
3. They were specifically empowered to work miracles, often of a most spectacular sort.
Matthew:10:1; Matthew:10:8; Mark:16:20; Luke:9:1-2; Acts:2:43; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4.
4. They were authorized to write Holy Scripture.
Matthew 10:40; John 14:26; 15:26,27; 16:13.
I think I am correct in saying that no modern 'third wave' “apostle” claims that points 1, 2 and 4 apply to themselves, yet they enthusiastically claim point 3.
The Apostles were a unique group of men who were ordained of God to confirm what happened during the ministry of Jesus and were granted special gifts and powers for this purpose. Notice how this is confirmed in Hebrews:
'How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.' (Hebrews 2:3-4, NIV, my emphasis).
Notice here that this clearly tells us that the purpose of the signs and wonders in the early church were for the intention to confirm and testify “this salvation” as “first announced” by the Lord. 2 Peter 3:2 also speaks in the past tense about these men, and notice how Acts 2:43, Acts 5: 12-16 and Acts 15:12 confirm that the miraculous 'signs and wonders' were for the ministry of the first Apostles:
'The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people...' (Acts 5:12).
Again, both these texts are written in the past tense. 2 Corinthians 12:12 specifically confirms that 'signs and wonders' denote an apostle and also places these things in the past tense: '...were done among you...'
That deals with the office of Apostle which, in a true New Testament sense, cannot recur at the present time therefore, I believe, the office should be respectfully left alone and not arrogantly claimed by any! For more specific information about the office of 'Prophet' which is being repeatedly claimed by 'Third Wave Restorationist' leaders please refer to my article, Are There REALLY Prophets in Today's Church?
Plus Points of Restorationism
First of all I would say that most “third wavers” do not amount to being a cult (although, be wary!). They loosely genuinely stand in the traditions of the great evangelical 'faith of our fathers'. The 'Third Wave' has also shown a refreshing willingness to challenge the errors of earlier charismatics and of Pentecostalism. Several restorationist writers are very positive towards developing more doctrinal understanding, and keen to challenge the excesses within their own group. They have to be praised for this. They also can be praised for challenging many of the assumptions of denominationalism.
But a Warning!
The charismatic enthusiasm for the spectacular is always dangerous. Countless lives of true Christian faith over the centuries, for instance, have often been marked by amazing answers to prayer (George Muller is just one of many examples), but have otherwise shown little concern or interest in the spectacular gifts, yet restorationism would tend to denigrate such men and women for standing within denominationalism rather than having a passion to embrace a first century 'supernatural restoration'.
But many of us would say that evidences of the supernatural frankly prove nothing and could even denote the presence of evil influences, whilst the Holy Spirit works where He wills and often just as much in quiet unassuming lives of faith!
What about joining a 'Third Wave' Bible Study? Are more mainstream evangelical Christians likely to encounter problems?
These groups will sometimes be found to be extreme and “prophecy” will usually play a part in their meetings. Despite this I have little doubt that some 'third wave' Bible study groups are not all bad. It will be up to the judgment of the individual whether such groups would be good places to attend. My own judgment? Be extremely wary! There will be serious doctrinal misunderstandings in these groups despite their sincerity (such as the misunderstanding of the correct doctrinal approach towards miracles and the office of Apostle which I have briefly considered here, to say nothing of their acceptance of modern “prophets” some of whom have made highly unbiblical claims). I can only say that I would not personally attend such a group nor could I recommend attendance of such a group.
Robin A. Brace, 2005.
It is also probably essential to read:
What are the 'Signs of an Apostle'?
What Does it Mean to be 'Filled with the Spirit'?