The Same Movement, Yet We Are Different
Daniel Austen Sommer (1878-1952) was the son of the gospel preacher, Daniel Sommer. In 1916, D.A. Sommer debated J. Roy Wright of the Christian church. The debate dealt with several issues, including instrumental music in worship and missionary societies. In his first speech, Sommer pointed out something that he and Wright had in common.
"About a century ago a movement started out to try to bring the people back from the traditions of man to the plain, simple way as taught in the word of God. Elder Wright belongs to that movement; I belong to that movement; and yet we are different. And why? Because in the course of the years things have been introduced into this reformation that have been contrary, as many have believed, to the principles with which we started out — that where the Bible speaks we speak, and where the Bible is silent we are silent." (Wright/Sommer Debate)
The Restoration Movement was an effort by individuals to leave the churches of men and abandon the creeds of men in order to simply follow the pattern found in the New Testament. Yet a century after the movement began, Sommer and Wright – who could both claim to be part of that movement – were debating serious differences they had in the work and worship of the church.
Today, nearly a century after Sommer's debate with Wright, the differences among those who claim to be part of the same movement have only grown. Even among "churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16), we see churches supporting colleges and other human institutions, operating day cares, erecting "fellowship" halls, welcoming women preachers, moving the Lord's Supper to Saturday evenings, tolerating unrepentant sinners and false teachers, and more.
The problem today is the same as it was in Sommer's day – the introduction of things that are contrary to the fundamental principle of the movement. That principle, as Sommer pointed out, is this: "Where the Bible speaks we speak, and were the Bible is silent we are silent."
That principle is not just a good idea derived from human wisdom. It is based upon some fundamental passages in Scripture that describe our responsibility toward God's revealed word.
"Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…" (I Peter 4:11).
"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).
"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 1:13).
"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (II John 9).
"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).
It does not matter if an individual or congregation claims to be or is classified as being part of the Restoration Movement. We must have enough respect for the Lord that we simply follow the New Testament as our only rule of faith and practice. This will surely put us at odds with the religious world as a whole. Sadly, it will also often put us at odds with many of our brethren. But we must be content to be among the few that are faithful to the Lord than to go along with the many who demonstrate a preference for the doctrines, opinions, and practices of man.