By Earl Robertson
The church of Christ is different! And the fundamental reason why this is true can be stated quite simply: we believe that the New Testament is a divine blueprint for what the church ought to be in every age, and it is our responsibility to build according to this pattern.
God has a pattern. God has always had a pattern for His great institutions. When God gave Moses instructions for the building of the tabernacle, He said, “According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Ex. 25:9). Centuries later, when God selected Solomon to build the temple, “David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch of the temple, and of the houses thereof . . . and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit” (1 Chron. 28:11, 12). And David told Solomon, “All this have I been made to understand in writing from the hand of Jehovah, even all the works of this pattern” (v. 19).
If God was so concerned about the temple and tabernacle (physical buildings) that He gave His people a pattern and demanded that they build according to the pattern, could He be so unconcerned about the church (a spiritual house) that He had no blueprint for it? The tabernacle is a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). The tabernacle was a shadow; the church is the reality! Since the shadow had a pattern, the reality must also have one.
We have a duty. Since God has a pattern for the church, we have a corresponding responsibility. Our duty is to judge every item of faith, every practice, by God’s pattern. This explains why churches of Christ are concerned about many questions which seem “silly and childish” to the average denominationalist. When we insist that one must be immersed in water for the remission of sins to become a member of the Lord’s church, there are many who reply, “What difference does it make?” We reply, “God’s pattern shows just how one becomes a member of the church and this pattern includes baptism.”
We must judge every item of faith engaged within the church, and every practice, according to God’s pattern. We never have scriptural recourse from such action. God requires water baptism for salvation and entrance into the body of Christ, which is His church; from this divine requirement there is no recourse!
Often we are asked why we do not use instrumental music in our worship. When asked, we reply, “The divine blueprint does not authorize it.” If the divine blueprint-the word of God-does not include it, who is man to presumptuously include it within the plan? Preachers cannot add it to the divine plan with impunity. All such high-handed acts will be answered for in judgment!
The religious world long ago left the Bible. We are now pleading for a return to the word of God; a restoration of the ancient order-restoring the things of God according to God’s way. This commitment allows action only upon the basis of what God’s word says-“according to the pattern” (Heb. 8:5).
Of course, most religious folk are making this claim. But compare their religious actions with this claim! Some churches of Christ make the claim that the church is only the spiritual body of Christ with a spiritual mission, but most of their time is spent in a social mission. Their religion has to do with this world rather than involving itself with actions that pertain to the world to come. Just recently the East Frayser church in Memphis built a quarter million dollar gymnasium. The preacher says, “The objectives for the building will be Bible instruction and community service through fellowship and recreation. We will have supervised recreation for youth, adults and senior adults.” How many churches would either object to this action or give instructions from the divine pattern to authorize the same?
The New Testament is the pattern for New Testament churches. Every church must build according to this pattern. If we do not build according to this blueprint, then by what shall churches be built? Do not be afraid to ask for divine instructions for the things the church is doing where you worship. Your soul is involved and you will most assuredly give answer to God for whatever you have engaged in as spiritual service offered unto him. Make sure of what you do!
Truth Magazine XXIII: 18, p. 300
May 3, 1979