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Can we be the church of the New Testament?

Yes, if we live according to the New Testament

In this series of lessons we have seen that the New Testament itself teaches that we can be the church of the New Testament:

Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The life of a Christian is the greatest life in the world! By the grace of God we have been cleansed and sanctified to serve God and man.

God’s covenant governs not only congregational activities but also our personal lives. As we start reading through the New Testament, Jesus tells us to repent, to bear fruit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness, to be merciful, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers, to do good, not to call anyone a fool, not to commit adultery, not to look at a woman lustfully, not to divorce our spouses, not to swear, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to love our enemies, to be perfect like our Father, not to be religious for show, to forgive, not to lay up treasures on earth but in heaven, not to worship money, not to be anxious about physical needs, to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, not to judge, to do to others as we want them to do to us, to do what He says, to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, to endure to the end, to be like Him, to preach the gospel ... just to mention a few items selected from the first ten chapters of Matthew!

To be the church of the New Testament we must live according to the New Testament. God not only tells us how to be saved, how to worship and how to organize our congregations, He also tells us how to live our lives.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1,2). In our actions, our bodies must be living sacrifices. In our attitudes, our minds must be renewed, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We have an awesome calling: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

To be the church of the New Testament we must be holy. We must avoid evil and do good.

To be the church of the New Testament we must avoid evil.

In the New Covenant the way we live is referred to as our walk. We may not walk in darkness. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5, 6).

This means that we may not continue in a life of sin. After emphasizing the grace of God, Paul says: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). When we become Christians, we rise from baptism to walk in newness of life, not to stumble on in darkness.

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:3-16).

The days are still evil. We live in a heathen, hedonistic society. Moral values have been jettisoned. Sexual relationships outside of marriage and same-sex relationships are viewed as ‘normal’. It is politically incorrect -- even an alleged violation of human rights -- to expose these works of darkness. This ‘anything-goes’ mentality can infiltrate the church. Like a boat in water, the church can safely sail in a sea of immorality. God designed it to thrive in a hostile world. But if we bore a hole in the boat and allow immorality to flood into the church, it will not be the church of the New Testament.

Paul reprimanded the church at Corinth for tolerating immorality: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles -- that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2).

The church must be pure: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7).

To be the church of the New Testament we must do good.

Jesus tells us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

We must walk in the light. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:7-10).

Notice that we have fellowship only if we walk in the light. Light and darkness cannot coexist. Someone walking in darkness cannot have fellowship with someone walking in light, nor with God.

Notice also that we receive forgiveness of sins only if we walk in the light: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Therefore, walking in the light does not mean that we are completely without sin. Although we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), although we “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12) we still sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We need God’s mercy: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

John goes on to explain: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
“He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:1-6).

Although we sin and need God’s grace, this does not mean that gross sin may be tolerated in the church. People who continue in sin are not walking in the light. To be the church of the New Testament we must uphold the moral standards of the New Testament.

To be the church of the New Testament we must walk as Christ walked. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’” (John 8:12). “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

Our walk must be in truth, in love and according to God’s commandments. In his second letter John wrote: “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (2 John 4-6).

We must walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-5).

To be the church of the New Testament we must bear the fruit of the Spirit. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-25).

Can we be the church of the New Testament?

Yes, if we live according to the New Testament, if we avoid evil and do good, if we walk in the light, in newness of life. Although we are not without sin, we set our minds on things of the Spirit. We live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Walking in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. To be the church of the New Testament we must live according to the New Testament.

Yes, if our leadership complies with the New Testament: if we are guided by Christ through the Scriptures, if our congregations are led and served by qualified elders and deacons, and if our preachers and teachers faithfully proclaim and teach the New Testament of Christ.

Yes, if we worship according to the New Testament. Christians come together on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s supper and to give of their means. They sing and pray. They listen reverently to the word of God.

Yes, if we obey the gospel of the New Testament.

Yes, certainly. If we follow the pattern of the New Testament, if we comply with the conditions and provisions of the new covenant, if we abide in the word of Christ, if we continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, if we hold fast the pattern of sound words, if we use the Scriptures for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction, if we obey from the heart that form of doctrine to which we have been delivered, if we do not go beyond what is written, if we hold fast the faithful word, if we have the same faith and obey the same gospel, if we abide in the doctrine of Christ... we can be the church of the New Testament.
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
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