By Garreth L. Clair
The title of this article is taken from a book by Leroy Garrett, titled “The Stone Campbell Movement” which I have recently read carefully. The book is called a history of the reformation movement (not restoration movement). From the documented cases within the book of statements attributed to both Stone and the Campbells it would seem that the author hoped to tone down the concept of restoration patternism as he considers it divisive and exclusive. I hope to address the concept of Leroy Garrett and others who consider the concept of restoration and patternism to be divisive and unacceptable to the promoters of unity
Unity is surely desirable among all saints because of the prayer of our Lord for it (John 17:20,21), and for the peace and happy disposition that it could bring to all religious people. Unity is not an impossibility; it may be attained on the basis of what God says about its attainment. Unity cannot be attained on the basis of feelings, what the reformers have said, upon the conditions set forth by the restorationsts, or formulas worked out in Tulsa or in Joplin. Men may have no effect upon the attainment of unity any further than they may deviate from the revealed truth; indeed, they may form some kind of union but to attain unity they must not proceed any less, any further, or suggest any thing else than that which the Lord has authorized to accomplish that aim. While unity seekers may find an acceptable formula to everyone concerned in that most desirable aspiration, the, only formula acceptable to God is, to unify upon that which he has already revealed once for all time (Jude 3). Those who seek for unity must recognize that those of us who are considered to be patternists (the Bible being that pattern) are also interested in unity on that basis, the pattern.
To accuse those of us who make up the church of Christ of being by nature exclusivists is, I believe an accurate description of us. Indeed, we are convinced that the Scriptures reveal a pattern for the salvation of the lost. That pattern contains a list of five items. The five items in God’s pattern for the salvation of the alien are (1) hearing (Rom. 10: 17), (2) believing (Mk. 16:15,16), (3) repenting of all past sin (Acts 2:38), (4) confessing with the mouth Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:9, 10; Matt. 16:16), and (5) baptism for remission of sin (Acts 2:38; etc.). We are convinced that only those who comply with these conditions from God’s book will have their sins remitted. If this concept is divisive who has made it divisive? We did not. It is our sincere desire to see all men everywhere follow this pattern to the saving of their soul from sin. Is that divisive?
This concept of salvation from sin is only divisive to that one who refuses to comply with the conditions that God has set forth in his book of authority. No doubt there are a number of abstract and unsound concepts that may deprive one of reason and contribute to an outright refusal to come to God’s pattern and be saved, yet if one will consider and accept the conditions of pardon, then unity on this point exists between him and me. I would be willing to accept anyone in fellowship who can show from the Divine pattern another way to be saved from sin. I have searched the Scriptures nearly 27 years for another way; there is only the one pattern that we have shown. The pattern for salvation from sins is so clear to one who will search the cases of conversion in the book of Acts, rightly divide them (2 Tim. 2:15), and apply the conditions toward himself and be saved. Then fellowship may exist between that one and all others who have done likewise.
Because many refuse to follow the biblical pattern in order to be saved from past sin, should we loosen the concept contained in God’s Word to include them in the group that God considers saved? I think not. Because I insist upon compliance with the commands of Scripture for all, does that make me divisive? If that is to be deduced from my actions, I plead that it is totally unreasonable from a scriptural p6nt of view. I plead that it is unreasonable based upon past occurrences revealed to us regarding God’s attitude toward those who failed to comply with his instructions. Notice please the following:
1. In the Old Testament:
A. Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:9,17; 3:1-24). Adam and Eve knew that God had required obedience. They disobeyed, brought death upon the whole family of mankind, and were cast out of paradise (Eden).
B. Cain offers an unacceptable sacrifice and then kills his brother Abel (Gen. 4:3-16). Cain knew that God required a blood sacrifice and ignored it, bringing himself then to kill his brother and cause God to curse him.
C. Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain (Gen. 19:23-30). Sin was again dealt with by God. Sodomy was not approved by God and the sinners received their just due.
D. Aaron’s golden calf (Exod. 32:1-32:35). The people knew that God only should be worshiped. They refused to recognize God as God, thereby many were destroyed.
E. Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1; Num. 3:1-5). The two sons of Aaron knew that God had given instructions on everything that pertained to the tabernacle worship but they departed from divine instruction and died.
From these Old Testament examples and many others we are made aware of God’s attitude toward following his patterns. It is apparent that long before Leroy Garrett and his friends were born God required that man follow the Divine pattern. The insistence of God that men follow his pattern predated the American restoration movement by several thousand years.
II. In the New Testament:
A. Christ tempted by the Devil (Matt. 4:1-11). Jesus referred the Devil to the Divine pattern in each of the temptations thusly saying, “it is written.”
B. Peter and John’s position (Acts 4:18-20). Peter and John were threatened by the authorities and told not to teach any further concerning Christ. They presented to the rulers the fact that they had no choice but to reject their order and continue to serve God according to the pattern.
C. Ananias and Sapphira his wife (Acts 5:1-11). Apparently these two people were aware of God’s law, yet they rejected the law and were destroyed.
D. Stephen (Acts 6:9-7:60). Stephen knew God’s attitude toward rejection of the pattern, yet he defended it to his last breath.
E. Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48). Cornelius was one of the pious unimmersed, yet he was not saved from sin. He had not complied with the Divine Pattern. After he had complied with the pattern, he was saved and was accepted into the fellowship of God.
F. God’s rejection of all who follow the law of Moses (Romans). God has no regard for those who follow a law (even though he at one time approved it) that has been abrogated or one contrary to the pattern now binding.
G. Man cannot reject the Divine pattern today and hope to be saved from sin (Heb. 2:14).
H. How can we possibly escape condemnation, having testimony of so many who did comply with the Divine pattern and were thereby made acceptable (Heb. 11:1-40; 12:1,2)?
God required that all men comply with his conditions as far back as the early New Testament era as we have documented. Can the concept of compliance today be accurately described as divisive and those of us who insist upon that compliance be justly condemned as pattern followers, etc.?
In the scheme of revelation patterns may be found the Divine pattern for salvation of the alien. Those of us who desire to please God have no other choice but to so teach, insist, and defend that proposition. If those of our religious neighbors castigate us for this and call us all matter of venom, that still does not change the truth of God’s instruction to us or to them. To suggest that by absolutely abiding within the pattern there can be no unity with the denominations and that position itself is divisive we admit, yet is that such an hindrance to biblical unity? Surely our friends in the Christian Church, the Disciples Church, the Baptist Church, etc. have no greater desire for unity than we do, but our insistence on following the pattern is none the less divisive and God intended it to be so to all who will not conform thereto. We are concerned, we want unity, we will unify with any and all who will accept the Divine pattern, and a beginning place might well be the surrender of the denominational forms of faith only and a compliance with the Divine pattern on salvation from sin.
When in the previous paragraph we suggested that compliance with the Divine pattern on the plan of salvation might be a starting point, we did not imply that the accepted ideas found in denominational circles regarding faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are acceptable to us or to God. I simply imply that the Divine pattern gives the formula for salvation from sin with the right understanding of each item, as baptism (according to the Divine pattern) is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21), a burial in and a coming out of the water (Rom. 6:14; Acts 8:36-39), places one in covenant relationship with Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), and that there is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Any person who is not thusly baptized is not in fellowship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit and therefore may not be fellowshipped by me. Since, in reality my fellowship is with the Godhead conditioned upon my faithful obedience to the pattern, any fellowship I may have with others is incidental to that fellowship with man. As we have defined baptism, so must we insist upon the proper attitudes, motives, mode, etc., with regard to the other actions contained in God’s pattern for the salvation of the alien.
In concluding this article, to the charge that the church of Christ preachers (at least this one) teach patternism, that the compliance to the Divine pattern causes division (i.e. causes some to reject us), I readily admit. To the charge that Stone and the Campbells with others of the restoration period began the concept, that there can be no unity where patternism (an appeal to the Divine pattern) exists, that those of us who insist upon following the pattern are divisive, this I deny.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 2, pp. 42-43
January 21, 1988