The New Covenant writings ARE the divine pattern which must be followed for both fellowship and salvation.
True/False Questions for Al Maxey
Why does a debate about the pattern principle of the New Testament need to take place between members of the church of Christ? Differing views about what God authorizes leads to a fractured fellowship. The participants in this debate stand divided because of their respective views of God's pattern for life and Godliness. In fact, the Lord's church is divided because of differing views of the New Testament pattern. It is my prayer and aim that this study of God's Word will help stem the tide of division in the church. God's desire for His people is unity and uniformity based on the teaching of His Word (1 Cor.1:10). To that end let us give our attention.
The Proposition Defined
By the term New Covenant writings I mean the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, Matthew through Revelation. These books are the Word of God and as such they are infallible and inerrant. By inerrant I mean that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly translated is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the sciences. By the term infallible I mean that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly translated is entirely exempt from error. By the use of the term divine I mean proceeding directly from God. The term pattern refers to the authoritative standard to which men must model themselves in order to be saved and in fellowship with Deity and those who are saved. By salvation I mean being delivered from the power and effect of sin, i.e., condemnation in the devil's hell. By the term fellowship I refer to a mutual sharing, partnership, joint participation, and communion with God and all of those who enjoy deliverance from the power and effect of sin. Thus, the New Covenant writings ARE the divine pattern which must be followed for both fellowship and salvation.
A Few Problems That Impact Our Study
Different hermeneutical approaches to God's Word lead men to different conclusions about what God authorizes. Within the Lord's church there are differences of opinion about what constitutes the New Testament, what inspiration is, and how the New Testament was actually written. Each of the aforementioned views impacts how people interpret the Scriptures. Other factors also come into play when the Scriptures are interpreted. Accordingly, there are differing views in regard to that which God approves and rejects. Because God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor.14:33), differing interpretations of the Word of God are the result of how men approach the Scriptures. God and His Word are not at fault here.
The basis of this discussion needs to be an understanding of what the Scriptures are. To Timothy Paul wrote, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). This passage teaches that the entire Bible, from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 is the product of divine inspiration. The Greek word theopneustos means "breathed of God." Many today fail to recognize this wonderful truth. Many look at the body of writings that make up the Bible as human writings into which "inspiration" was somehow breathed. There are varying degrees of this theory, all of which are incorrect. Paul actually made the case that the Scriptures came into existence because God breathed them out of his mind. The Bible is the Book which declares to man the mind of God, at least as much of His mind that He wants us to know (Deut. 29:29). Any approach to God must be based completely on His Word. If man is to have spiritual life he must live by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). If one takes the position that the Scriptures contain error, he thereby denies that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. That person will never attain spiritual life while fostering this view.
Today it is common place in many "Christian" schools to teach theories that suggest that the Scriptures are the product of men who sewed them together by using sources and oral traditions that were commonplace in their day. Cukrowski, Hamilton, and Thompson, in their highly acclaimed Abilene Christian University production, God's holy fire and the nature and function of scripture, allege that Matthew and Luke copied their material from Mark and another source called the "Q" source (Cukrowski, Hamilton, and Thompson, 2002, p. 109). These men further allege, "The gospels do not purport to be direct eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life. Rather, they trace back to oral and written stories about Jesus remembered by his disciples and shape those accounts in light of the ongoing needs of the church, guided by the Spirit, to understand Jesus' life, death, and resurrection" (Ibid., p. 108). The teaching of this view has been documented at the allegedly conservative Freed-Hardeman University (Hatcher, 2002). Faculty members of Amridge University, where men such as Dr. Curtis A. Cates and Dr. Keith Mosher Sr., who have been known for their defense of inspiration, serve as faculty members, advocate the aforementioned view. This view places the focus of inspiration on men and scholarship and not on God and His Word. This view is probably doing more to strip the New Testament of its standing as the divine pattern for salvation and fellowship than any other factor today.
The New Testament Is Our Divine Pattern
The Bible is the product of God's delivering His mind to men via the medium of words that can be understood, believed, and obeyed. While all Scripture is breathed of God, the New Testament specifically is our divine pattern for fellowship and salvation. In these last days God has spoken to man through His Son (Heb.1:2) and His Son is to be heard (Matt.17:5). To reject the words of the New Testament writings is to reject Christ (John 12:48) and thereby fellowship with Him and salvation. This pattern is the "form" of sound words to which Timothy was to hold fast (2 Tim.1:13). Paul used the word hupotuposin to describe this pattern. This word refers to a "concise representation or form" (Zodhiates, 1993), i.e. "in the sense of standard" (BGDA, 1979, p. 849). Notice that Timothy was to continue to hold to this pattern because "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). But God's foundation stands sure (2 Tim. 2:19). The adherence here is clearly to that solid foundation of truth, which some men will seek to change because they want to follow another standard.
In the Patriarchal age, God gave Noah a divine pattern to build an ark to the saving of his house from the flood (Heb.11:7). Noah complied with every component part of the divine pattern (Gen. 6:22). The totality of God's Word to Noah was the pattern, not certain parts of His Word. Al, please tell us what part of the divine pattern could Noah have left undone and still have been saved from the flood?
Later, God gave Moses a divine pattern for building the tabernacle. That pattern was full of many details and specifications/component parts (Exod. 25:40, Heb. 8:5). Concerning this pattern, as was said of Noah concerning his building according to the divine pattern given to him, "Thus did Moses according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he" (Exod. 40:16). Al, please tell us what part of the divine pattern could Moses not do and remain well-pleasing to God?
God has given mankind today a divine pattern for building his life. It is the New Testament of Jesus Christ. The pattern nature of the New Testament is inherent in that it is Jesus' New Testament (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15; Gal. 3:15). If the whole or the totality of the New Testament does not constitute God's divine pattern today, what message is conveyed to us by 2 John 9, First Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:6-8; and Revelation 22:18-19 and what do they mean?
A testament or will is a very important document. It is to be dealt with soberly and with respect for the one who made it and for the reason that it was made. A testament or will is not to be changed. All or the totality of a testament or will is binding, not just parts of it. If Maxey has a will, does he mean all of it is binding or is his last will and testament only found in certain parts of his last testament? If his pattern for those who receive his will is not the totality of his will but only found within his will, does Maxey expect those to whom his will pertains to determine what parts of his will are binding? If the whole of Maxey's will is not binding, then how do the recipients of his will determine what parts are binding and what parts are not binding?
If it is the case that the totality of God's Will to Noah constituted the pattern for Noah to follow in building the ark to the saving of his house; And, if it is the case that the totality of God's will to Moses was the pattern for the building of the tabernacle that he might be faithful to God; Then, it is the case that the totality of God's Will for mankind today, the New Testament of Jesus Christ (James 1:25), constitutes God's pattern for building one's life so that God is pleased with it. If the pattern that God obligates man to follow today is not the totality of the New Testament, but it is only found within the New Testament, how is it that men are to determine what parts of the last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ are important to God and, thus, a pattern that man must follow, and what parts of the New Testament are not important to God and, therefore, not a part of the pattern that man must follow?
The pattern of truth followed by the early church was called the "apostles' doctrine" by Luke (Acts 2:42). The apostles' doctrine is the doctrine of Christ. Jesus said to the apostles: "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me" (Luke 16:10). In prayer to His Father, Jesus mentioned the fact that men would come to believe on Him through their (the apostles) word (John 17:20). Paul reminded the Corinthians that the things he wrote to them were the commandments of Christ (1 Cor.14:37). Faithful Christians have the God given responsibility to pass this pattern on to others, without deviation, through sound teaching (2 Tim. 2:2). The New Testament is God's blueprint for life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet.1:3).
One of the lessons of both Testaments is that God will always communicate to mankind what He expects and allows (e.g., Amos 3:7). The covenant people of old involved themselves in perverted, unauthorized worship in which they even sacrificed their own children. It was in regard to this that God said, "Which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind" (Jer. 19:5). The people of old were destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). They were not content to know God's Word and to follow it as their pattern in life (cf. Hosea 8:12). The only way that God's people can be of the same mind (1 Cor. 1:10), learn not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor.4:6), and stand ready for judgment is to learn the divine pattern for life and godliness and follow it exclusively.
Synonyms For The New Testament Pattern
There are several terms used in the New Testament that are descriptive of the divine pattern for fellowship and salvation. Probably the most commonly employed term is "the gospel." Paul said that the gospel of Christ is God's power unto salvation (Rom.1:16-17). The gospel of Christ is God's pattern for salvation as it contains the righteousness of God from faith (the pattern of divine Words cf. Rom.10:17; Heb. 11:1) unto faith (man's obedience cf. Heb.11:6). The gospel of Christ teaches alien sinners how to get into the church of Christ wherein salvation is, and it teaches members of God's family how to stay saved. Al do you believe this? Al are the gospel of Christ and the commandments of Christ one and the same body of teaching, or do you believe that gospel is for the world and doctrine is for the church?
The divine pattern is also called the "doctrine of Christ." Notice that Mark referred to the fact that Jesus was teaching his gospel (Mark 1:1, 14-15). Mark said that this gospel was Jesus' doctrine (Mark 4:2). Acts 13 and 14 employ the following terms to describe the message Paul and Barnabas preached: "the word of God" (13:5,7, 44, 46, 48), "the faith" (v. 8), "the right ways of the Lord" (v. 10), "the doctrine of the Lord" (v. 12), "the good tidings" (v. 32), ""the word of the Lord" (v. 49), "the gospel" (14:7, 21), "the word" (v. 25). Notice John's teaching about the doctrine of Christ:
Those who abide in (continue to live by) the doctrine or teaching of Christ have both the Father and the Son (they are saved and in fellowship with Deity and all of the saved). Those who go beyond the established boundaries of this divine pattern "have not God." John said further that those who come to God's people and bring not "this doctrine" are not to enjoy Christian fellowship and those who fellowship them are joint heirs of their sin. Because John used the demonstrative pronoun "this," it is understood that the body of teaching known as the "doctrine of Christ" is so distinct that it can be identified and set apart from the doctrine of men. Al, do you believe that the reference to the "doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 1:9-11 is to Jesus' teaching known as the gospel.
This body of teaching known as the gospel of Christ or the doctrine of Christ is also referred to as "the faith." This is "the faith" which was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Some brethren do not like the concept of law keeping. They refer to those who insist on keeping God's laws as legalists. Al, do you believe that keeping God's laws is a negative thing? Notice that the Bible calls "the faith" "the law of faith" (Rom. 3:27). This law is to be obeyed to get into the church (cf. Col. 2:12 -- "through the faith"), and it is to be obeyed to stay in the church (Col.1:23 -- "if ye continue in the faith").
What Does The Pattern Detail?
The New Testament writings are God's pattern or design for all that we do in life. Paul said, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col.3:17). Please observe that all that one says or does needs to be directed by the Lord's pattern. All that we say or do must have His authority. To do a thing in one's name is to do a thing by one's authority. When Peter and John were arrested in Jerusalem, they were asked, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" The Council wanted to know where Peter and John received the authority or power by which they had healed the impotent man (Acts 3:1-11). Notice that the apostles claimed the name or authority of Christ for their deeds (Acts 4:10). After being charged not to preach or teach in Jesus' name (Acts 4:18), the apostles when out and filled Jerusalem with their "doctrine" (Acts 5:28). Preaching and teaching Jesus cannot be accomplished without preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ.
The pattern details exactly how one gets into the church wherein salvation is. The New Testament teaches that there are five steps required to get into Christ or the church. Men are to hear the Word (Rom. 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of their sins (Acts 2:38), confess Jesus before men (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of their sins or to have their sins washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
The New Testament pattern teaches those in the church how to stay in fellowship with God and the faithful. The Bible teaches a pattern for the organization and structure of the church (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:5). The New Testament pattern describes the work and mission of the church (Matt. 28:18-20; Gal. 6:10; James 1:21; Heb.10:24; Rom. 15:2). Christians are under divine obligation to be in a congregation that is structured after the divine pattern, and one that follows the divine pattern in its work and worship. The Bible teaches one pattern for worship which is specifically based on God's Word or truth (John 4:24; 17:17). There are five acts of New Testament worship which are authorized by Christ. For example, the pattern teaches that the Lord's Supper may only be observed on the Lord's Day and that in the assembly of the saints (1 Cor. 11:18; Acts 20:7-12). Additionally, Christians are to sing in worship unaided by mechanical instruments of music, which violate the divine pattern and constitute sin (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). The New Testament pattern for worship each Lord's day also includes giving of our money (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9), prayer (Acts 2:42), and the preaching/study of the Word (Acts 2:42; 20:7).
The New Testament pattern offers catalogues of sin from which the faithful must abstain (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor.6:9-10; Col. 3:5; Tit.2:12a), and offers a pattern of godliness that is to be imitated (1 Cor. 11:1; Tit. 2:12b; Phil. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:21). In all that men say or do, the utmost consideration needs to be given to behavior that is authorized by Jesus, because he will judge us one day by his infallible standard of truth. This self evident truth was acknowledged by one preacher who said:
Some men mock God's divine pattern, ridicule those who follow it, and allege that patternists must produce a numerically organized list of obligations. Will those who allege that there are but a few obligatory matters in the New Testament please produce a list of what they see as the exclusive pattern for fellowship and salvation? Al, by the time we have concluded this debate will you have produced your numeric and codified pattern of obligatory matters necessary for fellowship and salvation? Ultimately, God placed the responsibility on each person to identify the plan of salvation and to obey it, to find a congregation that follows the New Testament pattern in its structure, work, and worship, and join its ranks, or else start one, and to abstain from the works of the flesh while serving God in life. What is so difficult about that? Nothing if you really love the Lord. The New Testament is our pattern and follow it we must if heaven is our goal.