monterey church

What did New Testament churches look like?  Did the apostles intend to “order” the worship, teaching, organization and practices of local churches? 

If these are good questions, then we should look for the answers by gathering all the evidence we can from Scripture, and use common sense to make a judgment.  If God intended for churches to be uniform in practice, then the means for reproducing such unity of practice and doctrine should be simple to find and implement. 

There is no hermeneutical dilemma about how to accomplish it.  The methods for such restoration are the same as those used to restore any other historical institution or even.  Like all restoration efforts, the methods we use may seem legalistic, technical and narrow, but all serious restoration efforts—whether religious or secular—can be defined in those terms.

It seems a good idea to begin by listing the pertinent information we can gather from the New Testament about local churches and what they were like.  This is by no means intended to be a complete and exhaustive list of everything pertaining to a congregation, and is by no means intended to serve as a creed of any kind, but is rather a simple and basic “common sense” listing of some of the more important things that we can read.  The New Testament local church was many things, including:

  1. An organization – Phil. 1:1; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1ff; Titus 1:5ff
  2. An assembly – Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 11:18
  3. They taught – Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15
  4. They prayed – Acts 12:5; 1 Cor. 14:19
  5. They sang – Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
  6. They shared the Lord’s Supper together on the 1st day of the week – Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20
  7. They voluntarily gave on the 1st day of the week – 1 Cor. 16:1; Acts 2:44-45
  8. They had a common treasury – Acts 5:1-4
  9. They relieved needy saints – Acts 4:34-35; 11:29-30; 1 Cor. 16:1
  10. They disciplined unruly members – 1 Cor. 5:1-5

Now that we have a basic idea of what a New Testament church was like, it is time for us to consider the fact that there are few principles and teachings more clearly stated, yet more obviously violated, than the New Testament’s exhortation to unity of faith and practice.  David B. Barret, a religious demographer, lists in his World Christian Encyclopedia more than 33,830 separate religious bodies—all claiming to be Christian.  Is there any remedy for this chaotic and scandalous desecration of the name Christian?  The answer calls us to accept a common source of authority and submit to it.  Jesus prayed for unity among His disciples so that His message would not be damaged:

John 17:22-23: The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

The apostle Paul commanded that we strive for unity in a church:

Local churches modeled themselves on one another (based on the teachings they received by apostolic authority):

In the book of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul repeatedly states that he gave the exact same instructions to all of the churches:

The apostles, under the authority given to them by Christ, “set in order” the local churches in the New Testament.  This is evident by the things that the apostle Paul writes to Timothy and Titus:

The Scripture shows us that all the local churches were clearly meant to be uniform in their practice and teaching, and that if we are to seriously attempt to call ourselves Christians, then we should adhere to that same standard of practice.  Moreover, Scripture also teaches us that God intentionally planned all of this in advance, so that the church would be God’s kingdom…a nation of His people who live by His will with their citizenship in Heaven, not on earth:

Hebrews 12:18-29: For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest… (v. 22)  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.  At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 8:5: They [the Jewish priests] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 10:1: For since the law [of Moses] has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

Thus we can see that Christ and His church were always intended by God to be the means by which He would call all men to Himself, everywhere.  This is the kind of church that we here on the Monterey Peninsula strive to be.

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