The Uniqueness Of The New
In the past several weeks, we have trained our focus upon what the Bible reveals about the New Testament church. We have considered such a topic from different perspectives, including:
• why there are so many churches today;
• that we serve a God of patterns;
• the New Testament church in prophecy;
• the New Testament church in reality;
• the pattern of the New Testament church.
Today, we conclude this series of articles by considering the unique nature of the New Testament church.
A UNIQUE FOCUS
At Baskin Robbins, you can get your favorite of an available 31 different flavors at any given time. Such diversity and choice in an ice cream shop is great. However, folks have tried to do the same when it comes to religion. The church page of the local newspaper encourages readers to "attend the church of your choice this Sunday." And indeed, the choices are many. In fact, there are over 10,000 different flavors of "Christianity" which people in the religious world may now choose from. There is doubtless a church in existence which meets with the likes and dislikes of just about everyone, and if a suitable one is not yet present, rest assured, one is soon to be created to address any unappeased segments of the population. However, this “choose the church you like” approach to Christianity is for those who are seeking to please themselves, not the Lord.
If our aim is to please God, then we will seek to assemble with a group that only teaches and practices what is pleasing to the Lord. Recall, David acknowledged "...the temple is not for man but for the LORD God." (1 Chr 29:1) Too many approach the church as though it were for man, not for God. Do not be mistaken, the New Testament church is the Lord's church, not our church; it follows the Lord's direction, not the whims and desires of man.
NOT A DENOMINATION
The New Testament church is NOT a denomination. It is simply the church which we can read about in the New Testament. As has been discussed before, denominationalism is contrary to the will of God. It is akin to the sectarianism that is condemned in the New Testament.
In the first century, all that distinguished one church from another was location. The church at Philippi was like unto the church at Ephesus; the only difference being location. Denominations are not so. They are distinguished by doctrinal differences.
If we chart our way back far enough, there is only one church – the church we can read about in the New Testament.
SOURCE OF AUTHORITY
The New Testament church appeals to the writings of the New Testament alone for it's authority. There are no additional documents (ie. the historical books which are given equal, if not greater weight by the Catholics); there are no creed books or manuals like those used by the Protestants (ie. Westminster Confession) — the Bible is the only authoritative document in the New Testament church.
However, the claim to use the New Testament alone for authority is pointless if it is not applied. Thus, we must, in our service before the Lord, do and teach what is commanded and taught in the Scripture, neither going beyond (1 Cor 4:6) nor falling short (Jms 4:17) of that which is given. We should expect book, chapter and verse to be given for such things as are practiced and taught; for ths we shall know the source is of God and not of man.
SOME EXAMPLES OF UNIQUENESS
There are several doctrines or practices which distinguish the New Testament church from the rest of the religious world. Here, we shall consider a few of these.
Baptism necessary for salvation (Mk 16:16; 1 Pe 3:21)
Such a doctrine is rejected by the majority of the religious world as an attempt to work for one's salvation. However, the New Testament reveals that the penitent sinner is forgiven in baptism (Ac 2:38; 22:16), and through being baptized into Christ, we put on Christ (Gal 3:27).
Some do teach the necessity of baptism, but err in regard to the subject of baptism, choosing to baptize infants. Jesus explicitly said, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved..." (Mk 16:16). An infant is not capable of believing. The proper subject for baptism into Christ is the penitent sinner who believes in Jesus as the Christ, and seeks to inherit the promises of God.
Children are born pure (Ro 7:9; 2 Sam 12:23)
The doctrine of Calvinism is prevalent in most Protestant denominations. Among the five tenants of Calvinism is "Total Hereditary Depravity", which teaches that we are born dead in sin, tainted by the sin of Adam. The Catholics teach the same, calling it "Original Sin". This doctrine is foreign to the Bible.
Jesus taught that we need to be "converted and become as little children" if we are going to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3). It is not children who need to be converted, it is those who are of a responsible age who must be converted, and become as the little children. It is those who are of responsible age, who have not repented and turned to the Lord who are bound up in sin, not the little children. They are innocent.
Paul tells us that he "...was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, I sinned and I died." (Ro 7:9). If he was born in sin, then he would have been dead before the law came, as well as after. He was innocent and free from sin before he was of a responsible age to keep the law.
After David's first son born to him by Bathsheba died, he comforted himself, saying, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2 Sam 12:23) Realize, this child was not in a covenant relationship with God when he died, for his death came when he was seven days old, one day before he would have been circumcised according to God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants. And yet, David comforted himself with the knowledge that he would see him again. Did David expect to go to hell in eternity, or was he assured that his infant son would be in heaven?
No instrumental music in worship (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16)
In most religious groups today, instrumental music is widely used. This, despite the fact that the reformers responsible for the forming of these denominational groups were opposed to the use of instrumental music in worship.
Not once in the New Testament do we find instrumental music used in worship. It was appropriate in Old Testament times, for the Lord gave instruction to use the harp, the trumpet, etc., but consistently in the New Testament, we are commanded to sing.
Weekly observance of the Lord's supper (1 Cor 11:23:26; Ac 20:7)
Some groups take the Lord's supper annually, some quarterly, some monthly, etc.. The New Testament pattern is weekly. The taking of the Lord's supper is mentioned in passing in Acts 20:7, but the inference of the text is important. The disciples came together to break bread on the first day of the week. The first day of what week?
When the Jews were commanded, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex 20:8), they understood correctly that God meant each and every Sabbath day. Likewise, when we read about the Christians gathering to break bread on the first day of the week, we should correctly understand that we are to do so each and every first day of the week.
Spiritual, Not Physical Focus (Ro 14:17; 1 Cor 11:22, 34)
Many today have fellowship halls, gymnasiums, and the like in some fashion associated with their meeting places. Some are providing day care and counseling services. More and more, churches are attempting to provide for every aspect of man's life. But the Lord did not intend His church to be a family life center or social club.
There is nothing wrong with Christians enjoying each other's company with a meal or with games, etc., but this is not the work of the church. The church is responsible for evangelism (Ac 8:4), edification (1 Cor 14:26), and benevolence (Ac 4:34-35). The church is not authorized to engage in the duties of the home, workplace, community or government.
Let it be our desire to be nothing more or less than a Christian, not a part of a denominational group, but part of the Lord's church, as can be found in the New Testament.
By Unknown Author
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