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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life ... That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. [1 John 1:1-3 KJV]

Towards the end of the first century, John the apostle, now an aged man, as heresies and schism began to grow in the early church, rather than 'go forward' to 'further revelation' seeks to re-establish the church as to 'that which was from the beginning'.

The early church was established on nothing other than 'Jesus Christ and him crucified', 1 Corinthians 2:2 : his birth, his baptism, his temptation, his ministry, his transfiguration, his entry into Jerusalem, his sufferings, his death, his bloodshed, his resurrection, his ascension and his enthronement : twelve essentials of the New Testament.

Nothing remained other than to 'hold fast the form of sound words', 2 Timothy 1:13, in the kingdom of God, Colossians 4:11, and to 'wait for His Son from heaven', 1 Thessaloninans 1:10, to return 'in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven', Acts 1:11.


John's message is to hold that which was from the beginning, not to expect, seek, follow after . . . something new. John had already given further revelation, but it was information about what would shortly come to pass, Revelation 1:1, during the Church age.

It was not a new gospel. Thus, in regard to doctrine, conduct, church practice and church government : he refers them back to 'that which was from the beginning'.

Thus was the Reformation. Not a 'further revelation' but a return to that which was from the beginning. A return to the scripture. A return to simplicity. A return to justification by faith. A return to a scriptural form of church government and Christian conduct.

What denominations (within the sphere of Trinitarian, Protestant, Reformed and Baptist profession) confess, publicly, that this is what they do, particularly in times of declension, of backsliding, of confusion, of failure : rather than look forward to a 'further revelation', look back to 'that which was from the beginning' and seek to be re-established on that sure - that apostolic - foundation ?

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  • Wouldn't almost all denominations, except those that teach there will be new special revelations (stronger even than the gift of prophecy)?
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 30 at 11:47
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    @curiousdannii I don't know what each denomination professes. Hence the enquiry. There has been a moving within certain 'evangelical' denominations in regard to the Taylor Brethren controversy which seemed to be 'further revelation'. That is the kind of thing I am trying to establish.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30 at 11:50
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That is a very important point – that the Reformation was not new revelation, but a return to what Christianity had been when the apostle John had emphasised the need to hold to that from the beginning, “That which we have seen and heard” (i.e. Jesus Christ). Christianity needs to hold fast to biblical truth, declaring and living it, while waiting for Christ to come from heaven.

This was shown in John Calvin’s 1539 response to Cardinal Sadoleto’s attempt to persuade the city of Geneva to return to the Roman fold. Calvin explained why that would be a retrograde step by dealing with four topics that are just as relevant today as they were in the 1500s: to recover a truly biblical understanding of worship, to reassert the doctrine of justification by faith alone, to regain from Scripture an understanding of the central importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and to seek to conform the mode of church government more closely to the biblical model.

There are very many denominations today that publicly confess that stance. I only have time to give a couple of examples. The first one is printed in every edition of ‘Sword’ magazine. It states one purpose for the magazine. That it

“is published to bring the unchanging word of God to the people of God and through them to the nations of the world. .. The One who was the horizon of ancient Israel’s prophets is the central message of the apostolic Church in every age. The Jesus-centred Church is God’s prophet to the world – a letter from Messiah. Jesus intends His Church to proclaim His word and reveal His Living Presence to the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit… God’s nature is unchanging. He still communicates through the Holy Spirit as in biblical times. As the full and final revelation of God, Scripture can neither be added to nor taken away from. Without the Holy Spirit we are left with only our rational minds to interpret the written word. With the Holy Spirit’s help. The written Word of yesterday becomes the living Word of today, revealing everything necessary for godly life and salvation…”

A problem with regard to your question, though, is that this magazine is not a denominational one. The people producing it and writing for it come from a range of Protestant denominations. The readership comes from an even wider range of Protestant denominations.

However, the denomination of the Free Church of Scotland has this on its public web-site:

“Perhaps the most obvious feature of the Free Church is the centrality of the Bible in all that we do. The Free Church believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Consequently, everything from our patterns of worship to our church structures seeks to reflect clear Biblical teaching. That’s why, for example, in our worship we sing only the truths of the Bible, hear them read, explained, and applied to our lives in a sermon, and pray for God’s promises in the Bible to be fulfilled in our various circumstances.

The central focus of the whole Bible is to be found in a person – Jesus Christ. Because the Free Church is a Bible Church it is also a Jesus-centred Church, a Gospel Church. Of course, the Free Church is historic. It traces its roots to 1843 and the struggle of the Scottish church to remain ‘free’ from State interference, beyond that to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and beyond that again to the Early Church. However, at the heart of the identity of the Free Church of Scotland is a passion for sharing and living the good news about Jesus Christ – the gospel. So, in all our congregations each Sunday you will hear the same wonderful message explained from the Bible and applied to everyday life: Jesus Christ, both fully God and fully human, came into the world to seek out and rescue lost, sinful men and women, by bearing their guilt and condemnation on his Cross and rising again to life in victory over sin and death and hell. Because of him Christians live transformed lives. It is this message, far more than any historic or cultural distinctive, that defines us. This is what we are about.

The gospel message is for everyone. Jesus commanded his church to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). The Free Church of Scotland takes that command seriously and seeks to bring the gospel to every person in Scotland, and in partnership with other churches, to the whole world.”

So, there are a couple of 21st century examples of what you seek. I hope others will supply more examples.

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