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Sunday, January 8, 2017 am

GOD’S PATTERN FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH SUFFICIENT

                This year, as I have announced, a theme I am going to focus on is the New Testament church.  In my next lesson, I intend to introduce this study and will note some of its content at that time.  As a preliminary lesson, today I want to present a lesson about the pattern that God has established for the church. 

It is a spiritual tragedy that God’s pattern for the church is either being totally ignored or watered down for the sake of pleasing the whims of men.  Many denominations have completely changed the purpose and work of the church.  To many denominations their primary work is to engage in general benevolence, business, secular education, entertainment, politics, recreation, social work and whatever is that latest trend that can be justified in the name of good works.  While such works may be good, wholesome and even commanded within their proper sphere, the question arises: WHERE IS THE AUTHORITY?  While each of these things is justified in their minds in some way, the truth is that the SIMPLE NEW TESTAMENT pattern for the church has been lost with many.  So in this lesson we want to establish there IS a pattern for the church in its work, worship, purpose, organization, doctrinal teachings and authority.  As we study the church this year, we will notice these qualities in much more detail.  So let’s get started. 

 I.                    God’s Simple Pattern

A.      The purpose of the church simply stated is: “The pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15)

B.      In all that the church does, it must keep that in mind.  Within God’s word we find a pattern showing the church engaged in supporting evangelism, limited benevolence to saints in need, the edification (or building up) of the saints and worshipping God.  We also find guidelines for how each of these works were carried out.

C.      We find how they were organized.  Local churches were always independent and autonomous in their work.  Local leadership was limited in their oversight.  While there was cooperation, it was always concurrent (meaning two or more churches doing the same thing at the same time while maintaining their independence – for example, in supporting Paul – there were occasions when more than one church supported him, yet they sent their support directly to him (2 Corinthians 11:8) )

D.      In our study of the church we will address each of these.  But in this lesson we want to address why this pattern is so important.  We ask, Is God’s pattern adequate?  NOTE: By adequate, we do not mean, just enough, but is it sufficient and able to do what God intends for her to do?

 

II.                 The Elements of God’s Pattern

A.      God Planned the Church

a.        Ephesians 3:10-11 – the church was established and accomplished according to His eternal purpose.

b.       Old Testament prophecies attest to this fact – cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:44; etc.

c.        The Tabernacle was a pattern of that church – Hebrews 8:1-5.  This passage tells us that as divine instructions were given concerning the tabernacle God had something else in mind, which is why He was so specific in His instructions.

d.       John the Baptist taught – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand – Matthew 3:2

e.        Jesus taught it during His ministry – Matthew 4:17, 16:18, etc.

f.        Acts 2 records the fulfillment of that plan.

g.       Are God’s plans adequate?

 

B.       It Has a divine purpose

a.       Ephesians 3:10 – The church demonstrates “the manifold wisdom of God”.  It was a demonstration to principalities and powers in heavenly places of God’s wisdom.

b.       1 Timothy 3:15 – It is to support the truth (not make its own version in ANYTHING)

c.         It IS the saved (in its universal sense) - Acts 2:47

d.       It always has been and is still spiritual in its nature –
John 18:36 – My kingdom is not of this world.
Romans 14:17 – the kingdom of God is NOT eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Luke 17:21 – Jesus said, “the kingdom is within you” 

e.       Is God’s purpose adequate?

C.        It is revealed by the Holy Spirit in God’s Perfect Revelation

a.       A study of divine inspiration shows that what God says is ALL that we need
 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All writings inspired are profitable…make the man of God complete
Jude 3 – what was revealed in the first century WAS complete

b.       2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given unto us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…

c.        We have NO right to add to or take away from His word – Galatians 1:6-9, 1 Corinthians 4:6

d.       Even the apostles, who were guided by the Holy Spirit realized their boundaries – Galatians 1:10-12 – concerning Paul.
Consider Acts 15 where they were involved in resolving a conflict concerning circumcision.  As you study that chapter you find that the decisions they made were NOT their own opinions, but the work of the Holy Spirit through command, example and necessary conclusion.  In writing their decision they said, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” (Acts 15:28)

e.       Is God’s revelation adequate?

D.       Its Function is Under Divine Supervision

a.       Why are we called the “church of Christ”?  Because it IS!

b.       The church belongs to Jesus – it is HIS – Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23.

c.        With Christ as the HEAD of the church, we are the body.  1 Corinthians 12:27
Can the body operate independent of the head? – describing the church at Corinth as a body, Paul showed how each part is important and needed (12:12-27).  But in all that we must never forget we are UNDER the head.

d.       Ephesians 5:22-24 – The church is subject to Christ as the wife is subject to the husband.  Note Paul’s main point in vs. 32, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church”

e.       Matthew 28:18-20 – when His apostles were instructed to “make disciples” they were told they were told, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”

f.         1 Corinthians 3:9-11 – Christ is the ONLY foundation we can build on. Paul warns the brethren at Corinth to take heed how you build on that foundation.

g.       Is God’s supervision adequate?

 Thus we can see some elements of God’s pattern for the church that show it to be sufficient to accomplish His will.  Yet, it is evident that man has continually rejected this pattern.  What are the consequences of rejecting this pattern?  Let us consider for a few moments some of these. 

III.                 When We Reject God’s Pattern

A.      We are saying God’s pattern is not sufficient

a.       Can anyone deny that God’s way is best?  Would anyone DARE to challenge God’s ways?

b.       Jeremiah realized, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23)

c.        “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

B.      We are saying His pattern is flawed

a.       When man sets out to change the purpose of the church he is finding fault with God’s purpose.  He is saying he knows better than God himself what is best

b.       In finding fault with the church you always find man applies human wisdom – Isaiah 55:8-9, God says His thoughts and ways are not the same as ours.  AND His ways are higher than ours.

c.        Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 1: 25 that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man.

d.       I would like to think that God knows what He is talking about as He set His pattern for the church.

e.       Does God know what He is doing?

C.      We reject His divine instructions

a.        The big problem today in too many instances is that man simply rejects the inspired word of God as their final source of authority.  They simply don’t care what God’s word says.

b.       In Mark 7:6-9 – Notice esp. vs. 9, “All too well you reject the commandment of God.”

D.      We are saying we don’t need Jesus as our head

a.     Many churches proudly claim a founder other than Jesus.  And while they give lip service to Him, they actually put more weight on their personal doctrines and leaders

b.    The problem with this is summed up in Acts 4:12 – “Nor is there salvation in any other name…”

E.       We are putting the desires of man above the desires of God

a.    In every innovation that has been introduced since (and even during) the first century, it has always been to please men and not God.  Therein lies the problem.

b.    Paul even warned Timothy to preach the word because this would happen – 2 Timothy 4:2-4.

 

In this lesson we can see that God is serious.  When it comes to the church, as with so many other things, He knows what is best.  He knows what He is doing.  That is why we can and should engage in a serious study of the church.  And may we in our studies resolve to ensure that we are is the true CHURCH OF CHRIST!  Think about it!