Summary: There is a pattern for the New Testament church in the Bible. But how do you get to it properly. Here are three steps to restore the church of the first century.
Courage to Maintain the Biblical Pattern
Theme: The right way to restore the New Testament Church.
It began in the break room, continued down the hall, and ended in the foyer of the church building. This debate took place at the Brown Trail School of Preaching. It was between Tom Pugh and me. The issues was about if Tom as a member of a congregation had the right to rebuke a preaching during a sermon if he was teaching error. Since Tom is not a elder, and the Bible says an elder can do this, can he as a member stand up and stop the preaching from preaching false doctrine? Tom said he could, I said he could not. As the debate continued I appealed to Acts 18. In this situation Apollos is preaching error. He is preaching that one should be baptized in the name of John and not Jesus. This is major error. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching, they did not stop him immediately, but waited until after the lesson to explain to him the truth more perfectly. The next day of school Tom came over to me. You are right Matthew; the Biblical pattern for a member is to wait to explain the truth more perfectly. Tom is right though, we should always seek to follow the pattern of the Bible to the best of our ability.
There has been fighting over the pattern of the Bible for years. During the Restoration Movement there was the desire to restore the pattern of the early church. There was religious error all throughout America by people adding to the word of God and taking away from it. These men sought to restore the New Testament church. Because of creeds and opinion the early church was hidden away from the world. These leaders believed that if you could restore the New Testament church then the church would realize the same influence and growth that it had in the first century. This idea is called primitivism. It states that if you restore the church to the way it was in the first century than you will receive the same results that the first century church had. It is the assumption that by restoring the church of the Bible than you will receive the same growth, dedication, and influence that the church of the Bible had. We should believe this idea today.
But the problem is that we are no longer growing like the first century church. There was a time where we were. We were growing rapidly in this nation. But recently in the past two decades, the report is that we are stagnant or declining. Why is this so? Maybe we are not living out the pattern of the New Testament church. Maybe we have lost the pattern of the church.
We have made a mistake in this idea of restoring the church. We have focused on restoring the Biblical patterns of the church like organization, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, instrumental music, and doctrine. But we are putting the cart before the horse. We are not called just to restore the church but to restore Christianity. We are focusing a lot of attention of certain church doctrines but leaving out some of the weightier matters. Remember we are not called to Churchianity but Christianity. We need to restore Christianity to the first century style than we will receive the same results that those Christians had in the first century.
We can restore first century Christianity through orderly following these three steps. First, restore the pattern of Christ, second restore the pattern of character, and finally restore the pattern of church. If we have the courage to restore these three aspects of the early church we will receive the same influence and growth of the early church.
Restore the Pattern of Christ
You have to put first things, first in the church. You can not run to discuss church doctrine until you have Christ. He is the focal point of the faith. Someone comes to put on Christ-likeness than there will be constant battles over the church because Christ has not been exalted. There is much debate over church practices, but unless someone has been converted and transformed to Christ, the point has been completely missed. This is the mindset of Peter. Peter mentions that Christ is the cornerstone. In the first century in Palestine, people would build their houses and builds with rocks. There is a ton of rocks over there. To build a good house you had to make sure the cornerstone was perfectly in place. If there was any error in the measurements of the cornerstone, the whole rest of the house would be off. Look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 2:5-7 “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone.” Notice that Christians are the living stones. The church is made up of individual Christians. These Christians must be converted and transformed to the Lord. And Jesus is the cornerstone that the whole church is built on. Jesus is the center of the church, without him the church pattern will fall apart. Conformity to Christ is the number priority in the Biblical pattern for the church. We must have the courage not to get sidetracked into constant debates and fights about church with people who are not living according to the pattern of Jesus. Jesus is the number one priority in restoration of the church.