Monthly Archives: April 2013

In Search of the Ancient Order (4)

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

In Search of the Ancient Order (3)


Is there a pattern set forth in the New Testament for the church of Christ? As we have seen previously, the testimony of the Old Testament is that such would be the case, for it prophesied of a kingdom that would be ordered by Messiah (e.g., Isa. 9:6,7). The apostle Peter wrote that those prophets of old looked forward to our time, i.e., the Christian Dispensation (I Pet. 1:10-12). Thus, we may expect to find a pattern in the New Testament for the church which Christ built (Matt. 16:18-18). Let us therefore turn our attention to what the New Testament teaches on this subject.

Jesus Himself foretold the establishment of the church (Matthew 16:18,19):

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Notice, first of all, that the word “church” is used synonymously with the word “kingdom” in these verses and elsewhere. For example, Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of heaven was “at hand” (Matt. 4:17), and then later spoke of the establishment of His church (Matt. 16). But when He stood before Pilate, He again spoke of His kingdom (John 18:36; cf . Acts 2:41,47). Thus, >Paul could both be in the kingdom (Col. 1:13)and in the church at the same time (Col. 1: 18). John, when writing to the seven churches of Asia, could say “I am your companion in tribulation and in the kingdom” (Rev. 1:9).

The terms “church” and “kingdom” simply denote two different aspects of the nature of the Lord’s people. In relation to the world, the Lord’s people are “called out” (II Cor. 6:17) and with respect to the government of the Lord’s people they are a kingdom (i.e., a state the head of which is a king).

Notice, first of all, concerning this passage (Matt. 18), that Jesus said He would “build” His church. When any house is built there is a blueprint that is followed if the house is to have any utility at all.

Second, the laws for the church were to be sent from heaven. Jesus told Peter, “And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (19b). This same statement is made to the other apostles, as well (Matt. 18:18). This passage makes it plain that there is a pattern in heaven to be followed by the church on earth. The verb tense of the word “bound” is significant. It means, in essence, that whatsoever they bound on earth was already bound in heaven.

The apostles were not going to decide any doctrine on their own (Matt. 10:19; cf. Acts 15:28). What they spoke was given to them by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13). Not just the ideas, but the very words they spoke were given to them (I Cor. 2:13,14; II Pet, 1:16-21). To deny that there is a pattern for the church of Christ is tantamount to denying the inspiration of the scriptures. A serious charge, indeed!

(To be continued)

Eric L. Padgett

In search of the Ancient Order (2)

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Isaiah is often referred to as the Messianic prophet because he so often speaks of the coming Annointed One. One such familiar passage is found in Isaiah 9:6,7. The passage reads:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

No serious Bible student can doubt the Messianic import of these verses. Yet these words describe in no uncertain terms a divine “order” to the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. First, Messiah is described as having the government resting upon His shoulders. Can anyone seriously conceive of an empire that has no order, no law, no form, no pattern to its government? The “key to the House of David” rested upon His shoulders, the emblem signifying the authority of the one who had the key to order His kingdom (Is. 22:22). Having this authority, He can open and no man can shut, and shut and no man can open (Rev. 3:7). Thus, having the authority of the divine government (Matt. 28:18-20), He permits some things and forbids others. This is the very essence of a pattern.

Second, this Prince has a kingdom (a dominion, a rule, a realm). Again the question needs to be asked can a kingdom exist without order or form (Matt. 12:25)? Jesus said to Peter and the apostles, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). In the Lord’s kingdom there are things that are binding, things that are obligatory. Indeed, the very terms for entrance into this kingdom are restrictive (John 3:3,5).

Third, please note very carefully that Isaiah said Messiah would sit upon the throne of David to order His kingdom. Peter said the Lord sat on the throne of David, the throne of His kingdom, when He was resurrected from the dead (Acts 2:25-31; cf. Acts 13:32-37). From that time on, at the establishment of the kingdom on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, the disciples “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Those who keep not this doctrine are not to be fellowshipped (II John 9-11). Paul instructed young Timothy to “in all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness” (Titus 2:7).

Finally, observe the word judgement (a verdict, either favorable or unfavorable, pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree; a human or divine law). This word is found over three hundred sixty times in the Old Testament and is used in various ways. For instance, this word is translated “ordinance” in Exodus 15:25. In Exodus 21:1 the word is used of a series of laws regulating the treatment of others, including slaves. God set forth a pattern for the building of a tabernacle which was to be made after a certain “fashion” (Exodus 26:30). Indeed, there is no righteousness without God’s judgement (Isa. 26:9), and a people who refuse to accept God’s pattern are backsliders (Jer. 8:4-7) because God is known by His judgements (Ps. 9:16; 89:14).

Clearly, then, we can see and understand that even the Old Testament prophets foretold of a kingdom that would be ordered by Messiah. In our next installment we shall notice what the New Testament says about the order of the kingdom, the church of Christ.

Eric L. Padgett

In search of the Ancient Order

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Some in the past have made the utterly fantastic claim that the effort to “restore the ancient order” is in “opposition to the spirit of God.”  Furthermore, it is said, seeking a pattern in the New Testament for the church is an effort to climb up to God “some other way.”  They ask: “If there really is a ‘pattern’ for the church, or one that details man’s approach to God, just where is it?”  They dismiss the desire to return to the ancient order as just another subjective expression of dissatisfaction with the present condition of things.

In truth, everyone who loves the Truth should be completely dissatisfied with denominationalism, liberalism, rejection of God’s word, and general ignorance of God’s will.  We should always be completely dissatisfied with anything other than what God commands.  Obviously, those who make such outrageous claims as those mentioned above are not.  But in opposition to the sentiments expressed above Paul addressed these words to the Galatians:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8,9).

Certainly Paul thought there was a set of doctrines to be preached and obeyed and attached to them an importance such that he expressed a divine imprecation on those that thought and practiced otherwise.  Indeed, the church is the very means by which man approaches God (Matt. 16:16-19; Heb. 10:1-27).  The church is not merely a part of the plan of salvation, the church is the plan of salvation (Eph. 5:24-32).  One cannot be saved unless he is a member of the church (Acts 2:47).

Is there a pattern for the church?  The Old Testament prophesies the establishment of the church many times: II Samuel 7:12-17; Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:44; etc.  Is it not of signal importance that these were prophecies of a kingdom with a throne and a law?  It would be interesting to hear an explanation of these verses, especially of words such as “set,” “establish,” and “build” found so many times in these passages, from those who deny that there is a pattern for the church.

(To be continued…)

Eric L. Padgett