By Ronny Milliner
We profess to be like the church of the New Testament. Of course, we understand that statement to mean the ideal church or to imitate the good in the churches of the New Testament. Certainly there are some things in some of the churches in the New Testament that we would not want to do. For examples consider the abuse of the Lord’s supper at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:17-22) or the toleration of a false teacher at Thyatira (Rev. 2:20).
What churches in the New Testament would you want the congregation of which you are a part to be like? Let me suggest rive for your consideration.
Colosse’s “love for all the saints” was part of Paul’s thanksgiving for them (Col. 1:34).
Certainly this trait should be part of God’s people. Love is the badge of discipleship (Jn. 13:34-35). It is to “be without hypocrisy” (Rom. 12:9-10) and continuous (Heb. 13:1). “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
“Love for all the saints” will certainly go a long way to solving a lot of problems that sometimes * arise between brethren. Love win do away with selfish ambition and conceit (Phil. 2:24). Bitterness, wrath, evil speaking and such like cannot abide with love (Eph. 4:31-5:2).
Paul told the Colossians that love “is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14).
Paul was confident of the Roman Christians for they were “filled with all knowledge” (Rom. 15:14).
Knowledge is beneficial for a church. It will help it grow (1 Pet. 2:2) and increase our faith (Rom. 10:17). A knowledge of the Scriptures will help us in resisting temptation like it did with Jesus (Mt. 4:3-11). We need to be grounded in the truth in order not to be deceived by false teachers (2 Pet. 3:16-18; Jude 3-4). A Christian who has been talking to his Baptist neighbor concerning inherited total depravity certainly isn’t going to be deceived by some Bible class teacher who teaches that man has to sin because of his “depraved nature.” If we have kept our swords sharp fighting denominationalism, we will be better prepared to keep error out of the church. It is sad to think of the later history of the Roman church when it came to the departure from the faith. Yet this fall is possible in any generation of the church if it does not have a good knowledge of the truth.
Let’s remember that God destroyed ancient Israel “for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6).
Paul was grateful for the church in Thessalonica, because it “sounded forth” the word of the Lord (1 Thess. 1:8). The Great Commission still needs to be carried out (Mt. 28:19-20).
Not only is Thessalonica, a worthy example here, but so also is the church in Jerusalem. The early disciples were described by their enemies as having “filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28). We can see how this act was accomplished by noting their practice in verse 42. “And daily in the temple, and in very house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Even in the face of persecution these early Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
Also, let us be like Thessalonica in that we sound forth the word of the Lord not only in our own little community, “but also in every place” (1 Thess. 1:8).
Paul’s greeting to the church in Philippi included “the bishops and the deacons” (Phil. 1:1).
It is God’s purpose for the appointment of “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). This plan is for the feeding and guidance of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2). God wants this arrangement so that the flock win have worthy examples to follow (1 Pet. 5:3; Heb. 13:7). It is for someone to turn to for help in time of need (Jas. 5:14-15). Someone else needs to be watching out for my soul besides myself (Heb. 13:17).
Certainly a church can exist and function without elders, but it is missing a great deal in that condition.
Paul had a lot to condemn in his first letter to Corinth. They were guilty of several sins. But notice in the second letter, how they responded to Paul’s rebuke. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
The only cure for a church guilty of sin is repentance (Rev. 2:5,16; 3:3,19). How many churches are there that need to repent of going beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9), division (1 Cor. 1:11- 12), failing to purge out the old leaven (1 Cor. 5:6-7), leaving their first love (Rev. 3:16)? Whatever the sin, confess it and forsake it to obtain mercy (Prov. 28:13).
Is the congregation of which you are a member like one of these churches? Let each church of the Lord seek to develop these worthy traits.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 9, pp. 259-260
May 7, 1987