God established His Truth. We have it in the New Testament and it consists of both commands as well as examples of how to carry out His will and intention. God's truth remains the same whether people perceive it as the truth or not. In fact, the Lord Himself even said as He revealed it that a great apostasy would come (1 Tim 4). This would occur because men would lose the right attitude toward the unchangeable truth of God's word. When their hearts, or attitudes toward the revealed standard of God's authority changed, then their practices, and even their terminology changed. That is why "parties" and "divisions" came to exist. Not because there is a pattern, but rather because of man's cavalier attitude toward it.
To revere the Lord by looking into the pages of the New Covenant to try to find and apply the pattern is not sectarian or being a "partyist". I need not join some party or schism or group. My loyalty must be to Christ. But this loyalty does not express itself apart from loyalty to His Word. I may not even agree with all my brethren who approach the Scriptures with this same determination and respect on everything. But as they, too, out of loyalty to Jesus look to the pages of the New Testament to discover and put into practice the pattern, I can have fellowship and respect as I join with my fellow heirs of Christ's glory and promise in looking toward heaven and assisting one another in proving all things (Acts 17:11). As we do this together, we are not being "partyists" in any bad sense of the term at all.
If we are going to be careful not to join in with the "great apostasy" of 1 Tim 4, it will be necessary not to lose the perspective they lost that led to their falling away (as in the first paragraph above). We have wonderful instructions about the local church in the epistles. There are commands... do this... do not do this. We need to apply those commands to our local churches today. For example, 1 Cor 11 has some commands about the Lord's Supper; both the "do this" as well as "Do not do this" varieties. We should be careful to follow this teaching. But we also have, in the Book of Acts, examples of these churches being established. We have examples of what they were taught. We have examples of how they obeyed the commands of God. Again, taking our example of the Lord's Supper, we learn by example that early disciples partook of it on the first day of the week. Now we can conjecture why. We know the first day of the week was referred to as "the Lord's Day" so partaking of the "Lord's Supper" on that day fits. We could observe that it was on this day that the Lord rose from the grave. But what we know for sure is that this is what faithful disciples did in carrying out the commands of God. We know this. So what do we do with the inspired account of the examples of carrying out God's commands? Do we treat them as mere historical drama of questionable usefulness today? Or do we reverently seek to obey the Lord's commands using these examples as His illustration, or pattern, of carrying out His will?
I know what I choose to do, and it has nothing at all to do with being part of a party. Some may call me "legalist" or "traditionalist" or worse (it happens). I'll pray for the Lord to touch their hearts, but I'll not let their opposition, and sometimes malice, detract me from my goal. As long as the Lord Jesus calls me "blessed", that's alright with me.
By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 12.6; June, 2005