Lesson 3 – The Pattern for the church
Is the New Testament a pattern for men today? Let’s look at how the Hebrew epistle begins: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” This passage affirms (1) that God is, (2) that God has spoken, and (3) that he has spoken unto us in his Son.
Consider the following:
1. The Old Testament and the church
1.1. Promise of the seed – Gen. 3:15
1.2. Plan for the church – Is. 2:1-3
1.3. Christ is the cornerstone – Is. 28:16; Acts 4:11; I Cor. 3:11; Rom. 9:33; I Peter 2:4-8
1.4. Establishment of the kingdom – Daniel 2:31-45
2. The New Testament and the church
2.1. God’s plan for the church – Eph. 3:8-11
2.2. All things fulfilled in Christ – Matt. 5:17; John 17:4; 19:28-30
2.3. This included his death, his resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit – I Cor. 15:1-3; Luke 24:46-47; Heb. 9:15-17, 23; Rom. 4:25; Acts 1:9-11; 2:1-4
3. God’s plan was perfected in the New Testament church
3.1. Luke 24:13-44, especially verses 25-27 and 44
3.2. I Peter 1:10-12
The New Testament is the book for Christianity. But over the centuries men have taken liberties with the teachings of our Lord and have conveniently altered them to accommodate the cultural demands of their day. As a matter of fact, they're still doing it. So that the accumulation of small things amounts to a giant digression from the original pattern. The casual observer may think they're insignificant, not enough to make any difference, but the careful reader and discerner, knows that any alteration, is too much to be tolerated.
II Timothy 1:13-14 - Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing, which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
The New Testament is the “blueprint for Christianity.” If that isn't its purpose, I'm really at a loss to know what its purpose is. From what other source could a person better learn how to become a Christian? Or become a Christian? Or live like a Christian? Or worship as a Christian? There's never been known a Christian who hadn't studied or been taught, then followed New Testament teaching. If you're interested in a study of authentic Christianity, what would you study, if not the New Testament?
In Matthew 16:18 it is written that Jesus made this promise: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus loved the church (Eph. 5:25-30) and with His blood He purchased it (Acts 20:28). While people today speak about the church in many different ways, we are interested to know the answer to this question: “In the Bible, how is the church of the living God described?”
1. The New Testament is THE Pattern
1.1. The New Testament was not merely “human correspondence between or among various human beings.”
1.1.1. I Cor. 14:37
1.1.2. It has been suggested that the New Testament writers never perceived or intended that their writings would become a guide for men throughout succeeding generations, but the statement of Paul contradicts that assertion.
1.1.3. Gal. 1:8-12
1.1.4. It is clear that Paul and other inspired writers did not consider what they wrote as mere human correspondence, but they claimed it was God-given and confirmed by miracles (II Cor. 12:12).
1.2. The Pattern is God-given
1.2.1. II Tim. 3:16-17
1.2.2. II Pet. 1:16-21
1.2.3. John 3:2
1.2.4. I Thes. 1:5
1.2.5. I Cor. 4:16
1.3. The New Testament pattern is authoritative and final
1.3.1. In writing to the church at Thessalonica Paul plainly pointed to the time when Christ shall come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thes. 1:7-9).
1.3.2. Jesus became the author of eternal salvation unto all them “that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).
1.3.3. We shall not escape if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb. 2:3).
1.3.4. Jude 3
1.3.5. It is by the gospel of Christ that we shall someday be judged (Rom. 2:16).
1.3.6. John 12:48
2. Christ and HIS church
2.1. Jesus Christ himself:
2.1.1. Built the church and called it his (Matt. 16:18)
2.1.2. Bled for the church (Acts 20:28)
2.1.3. Loves the church (Eph. 5:25)
2.1.4. Is head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Col. 1:18, 24)
2.1.5. Adds people to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14)
2.2. The New Testament teaches that the church is:
2.2.1. The body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24)
2.2.2. The temple of God (I Cor. 3:16)
2.2.3. The bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32)
2.2.4. The house of God (1 Tim. 3:15)
2.2.5. The church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23)
2.2.6. The church of God (1 Cor. 1:2)
2.2.7. The churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16)
2.2.8. The church (Eph. 3:10)
2.2.9. Built on Jesus Christ who is the ONLY foundation (I Cor. 3:11)
2.2.10. Established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47)
188.8.131.52. It also speaks of:
184.108.40.206.1. One family of God (Ephesians 3:15)
220.127.116.11.2. One kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14)
18.104.22.168.3. One bride of Christ (Romans 7:1-7)
22.214.171.124.4. One body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4)
126.96.36.199.5. One church of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:4)
2.3. The New Testament teaches that to become a part of the church, you must:
2.3.1. Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24; Acts 4:12; 16:31; Hebrews 11:6)
2.3.2. Repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30)
2.3.3. Confess the deity of Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37-38)
2.3.4. Be baptized (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; Colossians 2:11; Galatians 3:24; 1 Peter 3:21)
188.8.131.52. It also states baptism requires:
184.108.40.206.1. Water (Acts 8:36; 10:47; John 3:23)
220.127.116.11.2. Going to water (Acts 8:36; Matthew 3:5-6)
18.104.22.168.3. A burial (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12)
22.214.171.124.4. A planting (Romans 6:5)
126.96.36.199.5. A washing (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22)
188.8.131.52.6. A birth (John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:22-25)
184.108.40.206.7. A raising out of the water (Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12)
220.127.116.11.8. A coming up out of the water (Acts 8:39)
18.104.22.168. It also teaches that by baptism:
22.214.171.124.1. Your sins are washed away (Acts 22:16)
126.96.36.199.2. You are saved from sins (1 Peter 3:20-21)
188.8.131.52.3. You have remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
184.108.40.206.4. You get into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27)
220.127.116.11.5. You get into the church (Acts 2:37-47)
18.104.22.168.6. You put on Christ (Galatians 3:27)
22.214.171.124.7. You walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 3:1)
126.96.36.199.8. You obey Christ (John 14:15; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:48; Hebrews 5:8-9)
188.8.131.52.9. Walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-7)
2.4. The faithful New Testament church:
2.4.1. Worships in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24)
2.4.2. Meets on the first day of the week (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
2.4.3. Worships with a cappella singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
2.4.4. Prays (Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
2.4.5. Edifies one another (Ephesians 4:16)
2.4.6. Takes the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:20-31; 16:1-2)
2.4.7. Gives as they have prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:7)
3. Why the Lord’s church is not a denomination
3.1. The Lord Jesus Christ Is Undenominational
3.1.1. The Lord Jesus is undenominational and anti-denominational.
184.108.40.206. Paul asked, "Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor 1:13).
220.127.116.11. Compare 1 Cor 12:12, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many are one body: so also is Christ."
3.1.2. Denominationalism is based upon the idea that Christ is divided, segmented, fractionalized, denominated!
18.104.22.168. Are we to believe that Jesus Christ sanctions a divided and confused religious world?
22.214.171.124. Paul said: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit...Now are ye the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor 12:13, 17).
126.96.36.199. The uniqueness of the church of Christ is emphasized where Paul said, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph 1:22-23).
188.8.131.52. This "body" is again identified as Christ's church in Col. 1:18; and of that body Paul says there is only one (Eph 4:4).
3.1.3. Men, however are not content with the plainness of such passages, and want to insist that Christ is the founder of anything and everything that claims a spiritual kinship to him.
184.108.40.206. Our friends are often heard to say, "We all worship the same Lord, just in different ways."
220.127.116.11. To the contrary, Jesus is the very embodiment of oneness and unity. He is not divided! He prayed for the opposite of a divided religious world (John 17:20-23).
18.104.22.168. There is but one Lord (Eph 4:4). You cannot have one Lord and many bodies. Neither scripture nor logic will allow it.
3.2. The Gospel Of Christ Is Undenominational.
3.2.1. The gospel is undenominational and anti-denominational.
22.214.171.124. Paul urged the Corinthians, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10). You can search the Bible through and you will never find a more anti-denominational declaration than that one!
3.2.2. The gospel of Christ is one body of truth for all nations and every creature (Matt 28:18-19; Mk 16:15; Col. 1:23). It contains one faith; not many (Eph 4:5).
3.2.3. The gospel is undenominational because it is unalterable.
126.96.36.199. You cannot change the gospel and end up with the product it is intended to produce.
188.8.131.52. Paul scolded the Galatian churches for allowing Judaizing teachers to lead them away from the one truth (Gal 1:6-7).
184.108.40.206. If Paul had felt that the other "gospel" of the Judaizers was just as good as the gospel of Christ he would have sanctioned it too. But he didn't!
3.2.4. How can you take the gospel of Christ, which is undenominational and anti-denominational, and produce denominationalism?
220.127.116.11. If an impure product comes from a pure source, then, something is wrong.
18.104.22.168. James asked, "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter" (James 3:11).
22.214.171.124. If the source is contaminated the product will be different than what is intended.
126.96.36.199. James continues, "Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain yield salt water and fresh" (vs 12).
188.8.131.52. You cannot get variant products from a singular, pure source.
184.108.40.206. If you do, something is amiss and as James says, "My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (vs 10).
220.127.116.11. Therefore, the only way to get denominationalism out of the undenominational gospel is to pervert (change) it into something of an opposite character than what was originally intended!
18.104.22.168. To get Christians, and Christians only, you need nothing more than the pure seed – the word of God (Lk 8:11; 1 Pet 1:23).
3.3. The church of Christ is undenominational.
3.3.1. The church of our Lord is undenominational and anti-denominational. This fact is easily proven.
22.214.171.124. In respect to the Kingdom, Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matt 12:25).
126.96.36.199. In passages already alluded to (1 Cor 1:10; 12:12-13, 24-27; Eph 1:22-23; Col. 1:18; Eph 4:4), the Bible shows the church of Christ to be a singular spiritual body, and the saved everywhere added to it (Acts 2:47).
188.8.131.52. Human reconciliation to God is in the one body (Eph 2:16).
184.108.40.206. In saying "one body," Paul did not mean many.
220.127.116.11. He did not say that we are reconciled to God "in the body of our choice."
18.104.22.168. This would be the same as men saying, as they do today, "We are saved in the church of our choice." If not, why not?
3.3.2. The church of Christ has an undenominational system of belief.
22.214.171.124. Paul wrote, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightiest charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim 1:3).
126.96.36.199. The denominations make no secret of the fact that they teach "other (different) doctrines," and plenty of them.
188.8.131.52. Therefore, they are able to say what the various churches believe and teach on various matters. "The Baptists believe..." "The Methodists believe..."
184.108.40.206. The question for us is not, "What does the church of Christ believe..." The question is, "What does the Bible teach?"
220.127.116.11. This undenominational system of belief eliminates the need for a governing structure that ties congregations together and forms a common body of beliefs and practices, thus comprising a denomination.
3.3.3. It is with this in mind that I remind you that this lesson is designed to show that the New Testament church is both non-denominational and changeless.
18.104.22.168. There is currently in our brotherhood a fascination with change, the likes of which we have never seen before.
22.214.171.124. We in the Lord's church are being constantly bombarded with the same message: "We need change!"
3.3.4. The prophets of change are leading the church into apostasy.
126.96.36.199. I call them prophets because they have suddenly burst on the scene in the spirit and power of Elijah, crying out, not for repentance and a return to God, but for change and renewal among churches of Christ.
188.8.131.52. Some of the leading proclaimers are Jim Woodroof, Rubel Shelly, Mike Cope, Lynn Anderson, Marvin Phillips, Max Lucado, etc...
184.108.40.206. And what kind of changes are these brethren calling for? They claim to be calling for change in "church doctrine," which is the terminology that has already been exposed as fallacious in that it equates "Church of Christ doctrine," with "Baptist doctrine," etc.
220.127.116.11. Sandra W. Milholland wrote, "Even if you're excited about the winds of change blowing through our movement, you may be feeling frustrated, confused, even a little frightened that so many of the church's teachings are being challenged (Wineskins, Vol. 1, No 8, p 22).
3.3.5. In reality, they are insisting on change in our interpretation of the Bible (the "new hermeneutic") on such doctrinal matters as the role of women in the church, salvation by grace, the necessity of baptism, instrumental music in worship, marriage-divorce-remarriage, and fellowship with the denominations.
3.3.6. I don't know of anyone who is opposed to change per se, but it depends on what that change is.
18.104.22.168. The change these brethren have in mind is the type that will make the churches of Christ more like the denominations. That is exactly what these brethren mean by their buzzwords of “change” and “renewal.” What else could Mike Cope have meant, when he wrote, “The new hermeneutic includes an appreciation for what God is doing among other groups of believers?” (Wineskins, Vol 1, Number 4, p 5).
22.214.171.124. What “other groups of believers” do you think brother Cope has reference to? Let him tell you: “Earlier summer I saw in Christianity Today (a denominational journal) an article on The Restoration Movement. I tore open to that page, eager to read about us. What a shock to find out that it wasn't even about us -- it was about another group. And they stole our name!”
126.96.36.199. These brethren make no secret of the fact that they covet an increased fellowship among the denominations and a total re-shaping and re-structuring of the Lord’s church in order to get it more into line with current denominationalism.
3.4. The Name “Christian” Is Undenominational.
3.4.1. The name of Christ is undenominational and anti-denominational (1 Cor 1:12).
188.8.131.52. At least four different groups had formed in the church at Corinth taking four different names.
184.108.40.206. This is a small-scale version of the large-scale division that we see today with a multitude of denominational names.
3.4.2. The New Testament church is unique in that it has no proper name.
220.127.116.11. Denominations have proper names, and these names originated in religious differences that sprang up after the New Testament was written.
18.104.22.168. The New Testament identifies the Lord's church as simply "the church" (Matt 16:18); “churches of Christ” (Rom 16:16); “the church of God” (1 Cor 1:2; and in plural form in 1 Thess 2:14); “the kingdom of God” (1 Thess 1:3-5) and “the house of God” (1 Tim 3:14-15).
3.4.3. The divisive principles of denominationalism always suggests the party names worn by separate fellowships, whether those principles have to do with ordinances (Baptist), particular church theories (Seventh Day Adventist), methodology (Methodists), some form of government" (Presbyterian) or personal preference as to distinguished leaders (Lutherans), even though Martin Luther said, “I pray you leave my name alone and call not yourselves Lutherans but Christians.”
4. Reformation is not the Answer
4.1. Church history reveals gradual changes in the form of church government paved the way to apostasy, and ultimately to the development of Roman Catholicism. The time finally came when certain men began to protest against the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. John Wycliffe contended that the decisions of the papacy and man-made councils should be weighed against the teaching of Holy Scripture. Martin Luther protested against the abuses of indulgences (and other Catholic doctrines) and on October 31, 1517, he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the church building at Wittenburg, Germany. When called upon to recant, he firmly refused. He said: “Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the scriptures or by evident reason (for I believe neither Pope nor councils alone, since it is manifest they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is held captive by the Word of God; and it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience, I cannot and will not retract anything.” John F. Rowe, who wrote of the above quote, “Memorable words, if only he had adhered to them.” Unfortunately, for all his spoken allegiance to the Word of God, Luther, as many others, was more interested in reforming the Catholic Church than he was in restoring New Testament Christianity.
4.2. Instead of really solving the problem of apostasy, the Protestant Reformation Luther began ultimately led to the proliferation of even more denominational bodies and sectarian groups. Luther did great and eternal damage in developing and promoting the false doctrine of salvation by faith only.
4.3. John Calvin exerted to oppose the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Having said that, I must also point out that there is hardly a denomination on the face of the earth that has not been tainted by his false theology.
4.4. The work of men like Luther and Calvin led people away from Catholicism – right into the arms of Protestant denominationalism. As one group splintered off from another, new denominations were born.
5. Restoration of the Original Pattern is the Answer
5.1. John F. Rowe gives us the prescription that would cure apostasy: “We accept the good that preceding reformers have accomplished, and honor those who have rescued the Bible from the grasp of a despotic hierarchy, but whatever they taught contrary to God’s Word, we reject! What the early reformers left undone, we propose to complete; by which we mean an entire restoration of the ancient order of things, in faith and practice, in doctrine and discipline.”
5.2. It is the same prescription given by Peter in I Peter 4:11.
5.3. What is involved in speaking as the oracles of God? Speaking where the Bible speaks involves two primary things: (1) speaking only that which is in accordance with the TRUTH of the Bible (not adding to the Word of God), and speaking ALL that the Bible says (not subtracting from the Word of God).
Jesus Christ is the head of the church. His legislation is found only within the sacred pages of the Holy Bible. The faith has been “once for all delivered” (Jude 3) and we will be judged based upon that inspired word. If all mankind would determine to go back to the Bible and the Bible alone for their rule of faith and practice, then apostasy (both in and out of the church) would end.