I am currently reading a great book entitled “From Darkness to Light”. Each chapter is written by a different author. It is part of the Restoration Reprint Series of books. The book is about how people left the darkness of denominationalism and came into the light of New Testament Christianity. Ever since starting to read it, I have thought that we need a book like this today! If I were to write my conversion from denominationalism to New Testament Christianity, it would include the following:
I remember as a child, at a fairly young age, going forward one Sunday morning and saying the “sinner’s prayer”. The Wesleyan church which we attended believed that a person should be immersed, but only as an “outward sign of an inward act”. The building where my Dad took us to church did not have a baptistery in it. So a group of us kids went to the Nazarene church in town to be immersed. As I was lowered in the water, I was reminded that this immersion had nothing to do with my salvation. What saved me, according to their teaching, was God’s grace when I went up and repeated the “sinner’s prayer”.
I spent a few years after this in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including being immersed as an “outward sign of an inward act” – this time into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And then I spent a few years not going to any kind of church or “kingdom hall” at all.
This all changed in 1984. I am so grateful for the grace of God that He sent into my life some people who would help lead me out of darkness into the light. Two of those people would be my neighbors, the James family, who constantly invited me to attend the Central Christian Church near my home in Tampa. I am glad that they did not give up on me, but kept persevering as I kept promising that I would attend sometime.
I decided to finally attend and was surprised when I saw people actually carry their Bibles to church with them, and they used them! In fact, I attended a Sunday School class like I had never attended before. God used my new Sunday School teacher Daniel Hefner to teach me some of the basics of the faith. Dan’s goal was that we would learn. In order to meet this goal, he had us memorize Scripture. You read that right! My adult Sunday School teacher had us memorize Scriptures that I still have in my memory today. These Scriptures included verses that would help us win others to come to New Testament Christianity.
I am also thankful that God placed Edgar Harris into my life. Edgar Harris was the evangelist at Central Christian Church. God used him to set me straight on the order of salvation—belief, saved, baptized (as the Wesleyans and Jehovah’s Witnesses taught)? or belief, baptized, saved? All he really needed to do was quote Mark 16:16—He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Edgar Harris became the “Aquila and Pricilla” in my life, as he explained to me “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Using the Jule Miller film strip series, he taught several newcomers the basics of the faith, right in his own study. Between that and his solid Biblical preaching, he convinced me from the Bible that salvation does not take place when one lifts up their hand and says a prayer. Rather it happens when a repentant believer is lowered and then raised in the watery grave of baptism. I remember going up to him and telling him after the fifth film strip that I needed to be immersed, this time into Christ to have my sins finally removed. That evening, October 21, 1984, Edgar Harris immersed me into Christ to have all my sins washed away!
There were many others who would influence me during this time of my life. God used each of them to lead me to the New Testament position. I was so convinced of the restoration of New Testament Christianity that less than a year later I was in Bible college training at Florida Christian College to be an evangelist.
The plea to return to the New Testament position is so logical. And that plea must begin with winning people to Christ the way it was done in the first century church (as we read in the book of Acts).