The church was built according to the divinely inspired pattern (Matt. 16:16-19). Just as soon as the church was established (Acts 2:47), that same pattern for the church was communicated to the disciples and was to be steadfastly adhered to by them. Luke wrote, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). This pattern is constantly affirmed throughout the New Testament.
Concerning the apostles’ doctrine, the New Testament is plain:
Whosoever transgresseths and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: Far he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (II John 1:9-11).
If we are so bold as to tamper with the pattern, we will loose our soul. Furthermore, Paul states that we are to “hold” to the traditions the apostles gave us (II Thess. 2:15; 3:6; cf. I Cor. 11:1,2 where this word is translated “ordinances”). The things which Paul (and the other apostles) taught were to be universally followed by all congregations of the Lord’s people (I Cor. 4:17; Col. 4:16). This constitutes a pattern to be followed.
We continue in the apostles’ fellowship by obeying their doctrine, the doctrine of Christ. John wrote, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). What is the light? God’s word (apostles’ doctrine, gospel, faith) is the only illumination that can direct our path to the portals of heaven (Jer. 10:23; Ps. 119:105).
The breaking of bread is the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:26-29). Is God pleased when men tinker with His pattern in this matter? Ask the Corinthian brethren. They attempted to change the Lord’s supper and Paul, by inspiration, condemned the practice (I Cor, 11:20). If there was no pattern for the church to follow in worship then why would it matter that these brethren did not eat the Lord’s supper? Paul surely believed that there was a God-given pattern for the worship of the church and he condemned these brethren for disregarding it (I Cor. 11:17; Gal. 1:6-9).
And what of prayer? Is there any type of pattern at all for it? Yes, there is. Is not this the reason the Lord said, “After this manner therefore pray ye…” (Matt. 6:9-13)? Are the words of Paul in regard to prayer without significance (Col. 4:2-4; I Tim. 2:1-3)? Who can deny that these commands are to be followed?
These things were obeyed in every assembly of the Lord’s people. For instance, “many were gathered together praying” on more than one occasion (Acts 12:12). We know it was on more than one occasion because Peter knew exactly where to go. Further, when Peter went in, he began to preach to them (v. 17). Luke tells us that the disciples gathered together on the first day of the week to partake the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). We are also told that Paul preached to them on the occasion. This is exactly the pattern we follow today. When Christians gathered together according to the commands of the Lord, they took up a collection (I Cor. 16:1,2), sung hymns (Eph. 5:19), and offered prayers.
All these passages and more clearly attest to a pattern for the church.
Eric L. Padgett