Confronting the Winds of Change
by Rick Martin
In Hebrews 8:5 Moses was instructed to make all things according to the pattern. Today many ridicule the idea of a pattern for the work of the people of God. Some deny the existence of a pattern, or call for changes to be made in the pattern. We must confront those who call for change and not allow them to move us from the pattern.
When someone speaks of the New Testament pattern, they are referring to a concept of a pattern that includes a belief and acknowledgement that the Scriptures are divinely inspired and that they apply to all generations. They have all authority. If one rejects this basic belief, then they are saying the Word of God is irrelevant and man is just left to drift.
The concept of a New Testament pattern includes the idea that the scriptures provide the guidelines to know the will of God and how to carry out that will in everyday life and worship. These guidelines tell us the boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not. It gives the specific requirements of what must be done and a sense of how these things are to be done to please God. Where a pattern can be identified and followed there is no need for guesswork and mistakes.
Patterns are valuable in almost every aspect of life. A lady in making a dress will follow a pattern. A child learning to write the alphabet will find a pattern very useful. Jesus left a pattern that Christians might “follow in his steps”, I Peter 2:21. Patterns are very helpful. What is wanted and decided by one party can be carried out by all. This is the purpose of a pattern.
In the Old Testament, there are some verses that explicitly teach the concept of a pattern. The Lord began the idea of a pattern with Abel. The Lord clearly specified animal sacrifices and not vegetation. So began the pattern of animal and blood offerings and it was continued by Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Offerings with blood were essential in God’s covenant with Israel. God gave Noah specific instructions on how to build the ark. Moses in building the tabernacle was given instructions by God. God gave Joshua exact instruction on how to take the city of Jericho. He also gave David a blueprint for the Temple. All of these examples show us that God wasn’t content to merely request that these men do a certain thing. He was not going to depend upon the accuracy or inaccuracy of their knowledge. He told them exactly what was to be done and how it was to be done. God has always given a pattern for his people to imitate. Had these men done any more or less than that God had set forth, or had they in any way altered or substituted in the plan they would come under the condemnation implied in the warning from Hebrews 8:5. “Make all things according to the pattern.”
In II Timothy 1:13 Paul says “Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul is giving Timothy a pattern or picture, or a sketch or diagram set forth in words which can be described as sound or valid. Timothy was to hold to and follow the pattern. Paul goes on in the next verse II Timothy 1:14 to say “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”
In I Timothy 3:14,15 Paul in addressing Timothy says “these things write I unto you hoping to come unto thee shortly, But if I tarry long that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.” Paul was saying to Timothy “I am setting down in written form instructions to tell God’s people how to behave when they are assembled together.”
Because the scriptures are God’s inspired and eternal word, our goal must be to follow the Bible as closely as we can. The directions or patterns that are given must not be looked upon as being out-dated or irrelevant, even though they may be unpopular with the world’s way of thinking. They must not be changed or abandoned for ways that are more consistent with a modern, secular society.
We must be Bible Christians not cultural Christians. Some have allowed the culture of the time to sway and to determine how the Word will be interpreted. Many have seen how the world does things and like Israel of old they have a desire to be like the nations around them. People of the book must keep their eyes on the word with its inspired direction and pattern and honor and follow it to its precise details. Culture certainly has a way of influencing us and we need to be very careful that it does not pull us away from the pattern. As Christians our goal should be holiness and that means that we should desire to identify and follow New Testament patterns.
It is still God’s will we seek to know and do and we prove our love for him when we follow his commands (John 14:23) “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
The patterns and the teachings found in the New Testament are essential to identify and separate the Church of Christ from false religious groups. One of the things that we must be concerned about is our worship and is there a pattern that we must follow.
It is easy to say what you do in worship is unimportant, just so long as you worship. This is certainly the attitude of the majority of people because man does anything and everything and calls it worship. Jesus teaches that what one does in worship is important and if one offers worship that is of human origin it is worthless. Matthew 15:9 “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
If worship is so important to our spiritual well-being, would God forget to leave us instructions about its proper observation today, when he was so specific about it in the two previous dispensations? God has not left us without a pattern concerning worship.
We have a pattern for our singing Eph. 5:19 and Col 3:16. We should sing without the use of an instrument. Our objection to instruments in worship is not out of a desire just to be different. It is because in churches led by men who were filled with the spirit, no instruments were used in worship. There is nothing to authorize their use.
We have a pattern for observing the Lord’s Supper. It must be observed on every first day of the week because we have an example of a pattern Acts 20:7. We are also given a pattern of how we are to observe it. In the examples found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and I Corinthians, we see the Lord used one cup containing fruit of the vine and one loaf of unleavened bread. This is the pattern that must be followed.
We also have a pattern concerning the teaching. We observed that the teaching done in the Bible was always done in an undivided assembly. We have O.T. examples as well as a N.T. example in I Corinthians 14. We are also told in this chapter that the teaching should be done by men because women are to be silent in the assemblies of the church.
We also have a pattern for contribution I Corinthians 16:1-2. These verses tell us when, who, what, how much and why. There is no command given for doing it on any day except the Lord’s Day or for doing it in any other way.
We also have an example of disciples continuing in prayer, Acts 2:42. Prayer is a command of God and it is an important part of the Christian’s life. It should be part of our worship.
What some want to pass off as worship today is nothing more than entertainment designed to appeal to the senses of men, who have more interest in satisfying their own appetites than they have in worshipping God. Denominations abound with all types of entertainment, clubs and organizations. As the Church of Christ we cannot be influenced to use unscriptural activities in an attempt to build up a congregation.
From the beginning of time, God planned for men to be pattern-keepers, but from the beginning pattern rejecters began to appear. Man’s pride over and over again has led him to spurn heaven’s directions and to reject the pattern that has been given.
There are some issues of concern facing our brotherhood and hopefully and prayerfully God’s word will prevail. In times past we have had parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and others on beyond who have stood firm and faced the challenges of innovations and change in the Lord’s Church. They were locked out of their church buildings and ridiculed by men who called for a departure from the New Testament pattern. Their heartaches, their difficulties, their pain, and their tears must not be in vain. For we today must stand ready to face the challenges of change and innovation that lie ahead. And though the winds of change may come, we cannot be blown from our course. We must confront the winds of change and insist that “all things be done according to the pattern.”