To table of contents
To next lesson

Can we be the church of the New Testament?

Yes, if we hold fast the New-Testament pattern of sound words

Continual shelling during the First World War reduced the countryside in West Flanders, Belgium to a sea of mud. More than a million men died.

The beautiful Weaver’s Guild-Hall at Ieper, built in the 12th century, was reduced to rubble. After the war, the British wanted to leave the whole city of Ieper in ruins as a memorial to the war! Understandably, the people of Ieper thought otherwise! Some wanted to replace the Guild Hall with a modern structure. But city architect Jules Coomans insisted that the Weaver’s Hall be rebuilt.

And with the help of fellow architect, P.A. Pauwels, the building was restored to its original grandeur. When the restoration was complete in 1959, the building looked exactly as it did before. This was possible because they used the original building plans and the same type of stones.

Jesus built His church in the first century (Matthew 16:18). Two millennia later the world is full of denominations that are very different from the church Jesus built. People have used their own plans and their own stones to establish thousands of denominations according to their own liking and for their own glory.

Churches of Christ exist in all parts of the world because certain people want to be nothing more and nothing less than the church of the New Testament. They must endure much criticism, however, from those who call this an impossible dream, an unattainable objective, an impracticable ideal.

Can we be the church of the New Testament? Why not, if we use the original building plans and the same stones, if we follow the pattern of the New Testament?

The question is: Do we really want to be the church of the New Testament? Or do we prefer something else, something modern or something medieval? Do we want to serve God His way or our way?

Many, if not most people in Christendom do not even try to be the church of the New Testament. Is that acceptable to God?

Jesus said about religious groups in His time: “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:13, 14).

If we belong to some religious group other than the church Jesus built, we will be uprooted. If we blindly follow blind guides, we will fall into a pit. We must be the church of the New Testament if we want to be saved.

People in denominations -- which are conspicuously different from the New Testament church -- often try to justify the difference by claiming that it is not possible to be the church of the New Testament.

Can we be the church of the New Testament? Can we be the same church we read about in the Scriptures? Certainly, if we use the original plans, if we follow the original pattern.

Is the New Testament a pattern for the church?

People who want to do their own thing, do not like patterns. Thus, they simply declare that the New Testament does not provide a pattern for the church. What does the New Testament itself say?

Does the New Testament claim to be a pattern?

Paul told Timothy: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Paul told Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

An elder must hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). The law is for anything “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:8-11). Apostate Christians “will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). Thus, these ‘sound words,’ this ‘sound doctrine’ is a pattern that is to be held fast by preachers and elders, and this pattern will be rejected by people with itching ears who want to please themselves rather than God.

Paul wrote to the Romans: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). ‘Form of doctrine’ can be translated ‘pattern of doctrine’. Notice that it does not say that this pattern of doctrine has been delivered to us, but that we have been delivered to a pattern of doctrine! Rather than being subservient to sin, we are now subservient to a pattern of doctrine that we must obey from the heart!

The New Testament is our pattern. Only false teachers claim otherwise.

We certainly can be the church of the New Testament if we hold fast the New-Testament pattern of sound words.

To follow the New-Testament pattern, our speech must be pure. We must avoid theological formulations, and use Scriptural words to express our faith.

These words are not accidental. They are from God. Paul wrote: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Peter wrote: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). To be the church of the New Testament we must use the language of the New Testament in our teaching and preaching.

Human interpretation of these Spirit-taught words is not allowed. We must observe their true meaning. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

These Spirit-taught words come from Christ. We can be the church of the New Testament if we abide in the word of Christ. Jesus tells His followers: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). His word will judge us: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Jesus has given us His word through the apostles and the Scriptures.

The first church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). If we continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, we will be the same church.

The holy Scriptures, inspired by God, provide all the information we need to be the church of the New Testament. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul said: “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14, 15).

In his second letter Paul admonishes Timothy further: “But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

This pattern is normative and must be followed accurately. Paul told the Corinthians not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). John warned: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

Yes, we can be the church of the New Testament, but only if we have the same faith and obey the same gospel contained in the New Testament. Jude wrote: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

The New Covenant must be kept.

In Greek, the word for testament and for covenant is the same [διαθήκη]. A covenant is a formal, solemn and binding agreement relative to the performance of certain actions. A confirmed covenant cannot be annulled or changed (Galatians 3:15).

The New Testament is a God-given covenant! It was ratified when Jesus died on the cross (Hebrews 9:16, 17). Through this covenant God grants blessings on specified conditions. This new covenant lays down the requirements for being a Christian and a church of Christ. These specifications cannot be changed. God, as sovereign Lord, has defined the conditions. We can be the church of the New Testament, but only if we comply with the provisions of the covenant God has given us.

Under the old covenant, God told Moses exactly how the tabernacle was to be made: “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:9). “And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain” (Exodus 26:30).

The necessity of following this pattern is mentioned twice in the New Testament. Stephen said: “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen” (Acts 7:44). In Hebrews it is explained that the tabernacle was a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:5).

God foretold that the old covenant would be replaced: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke” (Jeremiah 31:31, 32).

Can we be the church 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
To table of contents
To next lesson