Are the Examples in the New Testament Binding Today?

The New Testament book of “Acts” is a document of narrative history.  In it Luke, the writer, recounts the first thirty years or so of church history.  Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus into heaven and concludes with the apostle Paul imprisoned in Rome awaiting trial before Caesar.  A large number of the New Testament epistles, or letters, were written during this period.  The ones that were not written during the period covered by Acts were written shortly thereafter.  Taken together, Acts and the epistles tell us what the early church did and how they did it, along with practical instruction on Christian living.  They also include warnings that the “doctrine” must be kept pure.  “Doctrine” is what a person believes, teaches, and attempts to practice.  Take, for instance, these scriptures (emphasis mine, JB):

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. (Romans 16:17 NKJV)

Also,

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16 NKJV)

Again,

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: (Titus 2:1 NKJV)

Further again,

Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. … (Hebrews 13:9 NKJV)

And finally,

Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; (2 John 1:9-10 NKJV)

Thus we have an abundance of witness that it was essential to have the doctrine right in order to enjoy God’s approval.

But then the question comes up, “Was the example of the way the early church did things a part of the doctrine, or was doctrine limited to the moral/ethical teaching of Jesus?”

I believe the New Testament teaches that the example of the early church is a binding pattern for today and all time.  That is, doctrine includes their example.  Examine the following passage:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 NKJV)

“They” is the church.  If the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” then it would appear that the way they did things had apostolic approval.  Look at the phrase again, “they continued steadfastly in ….”  Therefore, if their example in worship, organization, etc. was part of “the apostles’ doctrine” we must follow it today if we are to practice “the apostles’ doctrine” as they did, that is, if we are to restore the church of Christ of the New Testament.  This would appear to me to be a simple, straightforward reading of the text.

It is granted that some of the early congregations had problems, such as Corinth, for example.  But, it is obvious what was approved and what wasn’t.  Continuing with Corinth, they were condoning adultery, they were abusing the Lord’s Supper, and other issues.  But Paul corrected them for these things.  Their wrong practices were clearly identified, not approved, and should not be imitated.

Why would anyone desire to “worship” in ways different from the church in the New Testament?  When they were functioning correctly, which is always clear in the text, they enjoyed God’s approval.  If we worship, organize, and serve as they did, why would we not enjoy the same approval of God that He gave them?  Clearly, if we look like them, and God was pleased with them, He will be pleased with us.  Why would anyone want to try and make it any different?

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One Response to “Are the Examples in the New Testament Binding Today?”

  1. Leon Cole Says:

    We do have to make a distinction between incidentals and what is demanded in binding example such as meeting in an upper room (Acts 20:8).

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