The Early Church - Chapter 2 - "According to This Word"

Chapter 2 - According To This Word

In the days of Isaiah there was much religion and little reading of the Word of God. The days in which we find ourselves are very similar. There are a multitude of voices, all crying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." There is little turning to the Bible to hear the Voice of the Living God.
Even among Christians, it is remarkable how little stress there is placed upon a study of God's Word and obedience to it. We have lost the spirit of Isaiah as he cried, "To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them" (Is. 8:20, A.S.V.). A whole-hearted allegiance to God's Word is not popular in this age of expedience.

There seems to be more interest in turning to God's Word for doctrine than for practical matters, especially with regard to methods of carrying on the Lord's work. An evangelist will fight fiercely to preserve the simplicity of the Gospel message, but will manifest an amazing, complete indifference as to whether or not the Bible has any instruction on the methods of evangelization. The teacher will contend dogmatically for details of prophecy, but will show little exercise of soul about the practical matters of local church organization and discipline.
In view of the fact that "Christianity" is not gaining ground in the world, but rather losing territory, it may be well to ask oneself the reason for this fruitlessness.

Why are hundreds of churches closing their doors every year in the United States?
Why are "Christian" nations such as Great Britain and the United States rapidly becoming infidel?
May it perhaps be because true Christians are not emulating the apostles in their methods of doing God's work?
There is perhaps the objection that conditions have changed. Have conditions essentially changed?

Although the traveler of today may drive a Ford instead of riding on a camel, his heart is the same black heart of unbelief as that of the merchant entering Damascus during the days of Paul.

Although today there is a ridicule of the things of God by the so-called intellectual, Paul experienced the same mocking skepticism as he preached in the market place of Athens.

Although the morality of today is at a shockingly low ebb, Paul had the same type of audience as he preached Christ crucified in Corinth, a city which gloried in its one thousand temple prostitutes and was a cess-pool of iniquity.

Conditions have not changed basically. Man has the same evil heart, the same perverted lusts, the same need for the New Birth. Perhaps the methods of the New Testament church, if practiced today, would produce the same glorious results as in Paul's day.

There are three types of instruction which one finds in the Bible: command, example, and principle. If one will saturate himself with Scripture, he should not be at loss concerning a method of action, as to whether or not it is according to God's mind.

Definite Commands
If in the New Testament there is a definite command, either directly by Christ or by the Holy Spirit through the various writers, it must be obeyed. How sad it is to see believers sometimes rationalize away some of the plainest commands of Scripture. There are women preaching today in many churches in deliberate violation of I Corinthians 14:34. There are many other examples of flagrant disobedience to the plain commands of God's Word.

Definite Examples
Where there is the definite example of Christ and the apostles one should seek to follow it. Paul expecially seemed to regard himself as a pattern for Christian life and service. His words are, "Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1, A.S.V.). "Mimic me; do things the way I do them."

Is it wrong to use object lessons in preaching? One needs only remember that the Lord Jesus placed a child in the midst of the disciples with the admonition, "Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). He delighted in object lessons.

How frequently should a local church remember the Lord in the Breaking of Bread? The early churches celebrated this remembrance feast every Lord's Day (Acts 20:7). Surely to the earnest heart of the obedient believer this solves the problem.

Should a local church have a "pastor" who is responsible for most of the teaching, preaching, and visiting, and is salaried by the church? Again as the New Testament is surveyed one must acknowledge that such an office is foreign to the practice of the apostles and early churches. The spiritual care of the local flock was entrusted to a group of elders who earned their own living (Acts 14:23, 20:28). Because of this practice the full-time worker could press on to new fields.

The example of the apostles is being neglected by most of Christendom today, and as a result there is a barrenness and deadness in the Lord's work.

Principles
Besides commands and examples to guide one in his work with God, there are principles, general truths, which will guard one from many mistakes. As one steeps himself in God's Word, a knowledge of God's character and desires will become part of him. Instinctively he will sense whether or not something is in accordance with God's Mind.

For example, one cannot study God's Word without becoming profoundly aware that God is Holy and would have His people be such (I Peter 1:15, 16). God hates sin; His child should hate sin. God is separate from the world; the believer should be separate from the world.

Any move to break down this separation between the believer and the world is immediately viewed with alarm by the saint who has drunk deep of this principle. It may be only a slight trend in that direction, but it must be withstood.

Is there an attempt to enlist the aid of unbelievers in the work of the Lord? With Israel of old, the believer should cry, "Ye have nothing to do with us in building a house unto our God" (Ezra 4:3).

Is there an attempt to "sweeten-up" the Gospel message to soothe the palate of the unbeliever? Is there a great deal of entertainment to attract the unsaved? Paul's words echo down the centuries, "And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (I Cor. 2:1, 2, A. S. V.).

In these days of darkness preceeding the Lord's return there is much departure from simple New Testament teaching and practice. It is a day of novelties and the believer is apt to be swept along with the tide of worldly thinking.

With Isaiah let us cry, "To the law and to the testimony" (Is. 8:20).