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Pastor Brant Seacrist

August 19, 2018

"THE FINISHED PRODUCT"

TEXT: REVELATION 3: 7-13
READING:  PSALM 136

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SUBJ: The composite picture of a New Testament Church as derived from the principles displayed in the various Churches of the New Testament.

AIM: That we should discover and seek compliance with the identifying characteristics of the New Testament Church our Lord designed, indwelt, empowered and commissioned.

INTR: There must be no departure from the basic characteristics of the early Jerusalem Church. They are essential as to requirement, identity and purpose. Nothing with regard to Church mission and polity expresses any contrary principle. We consider some questions:
1. At what point do we considered the definition completed in the absence of a concise statement from the scriptures?
2. Do we recognize the period of the Apostles to be an exclusive time of inspired revelation and thus stop at what we find in the Word of God?
3. How do we account for cultural differences?
4. Must we account that the silence of the scriptures is a mandate against certain practices or do we look for the absence of essential principles?

THESIS: We must never become so concerned with the outward form that we neglect the essentially Spiritual and organic entity that is a New Testament Church.

I. From Thomas Armitage: “The true historian must [and all true worshipers] must fix his eye steadfastly at the beginning of his work, upon the New Testament pattern, and never remove; because it is the only guide to truth in every age, and the only authority of ultimate appeal. An exact likeness, therefore, of the Apostolic Churches should be sought at the outset, as the test to which every position and fact in the whole investigation, must be brought back and tried. We can never be wrong in following the pattern found in the constitution of the Apostolic Churches, for here we find and imperious shield for the true ecclesiastical rights of all Christian men. If we make the Apostolic Churches the mere stepping-stone to the investigation, instead of finding in them the standard of all true fact, how can we measure our way through the centuries, or exhibit their wide differences, without confounding all their real distinctions?”
1. The implication here is that many of the principles and practices that have come to be held sacred have evolved and then been justified by the historian as proper or of necessary consequence.
2. History displays the many forms of departure from the Apostolic model and yet, many of those departures find their way into our churches today.
3. It would seem that the appearance of human expediency has led us through a tortuous path to a place where it is demanded of us that we return to the original faith and practice as it was taught by the Apostles. Do we dare go further in looking for justification?
4. Can we, at any point in history, determine that the model we find there has followed such guidelines as these?
5. Can we find our way back to that pure model in the search for the power they possessed?
6. As a matter of personal observation and opinion, it would seem that the many of things retained by the reformers from the Roman Church have carried over into common acceptance by most.

II. Distinctives and principles
1. We are all familiar with that set of precepts that distinguish Baptists from others and we see them in faith and practice at Jerusalem.
1) They followed the Apostles’ Doctrine – looked solely to the Word of God.
2) They acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Christ and therefore as their Head.
3) A body of Baptized Believers committed to each other.
4) They worshiped, they learned, they obeyed and they witnessed.
5) They experienced true fellowship as a body. They diligently practiced the ordinances – not sacraments.
6) They submitted to called leaders and under their guidance developed outward structure that facilitated the spiritual practice. They voted. There was autonomy!
7) From the Pastoral Epistles we learn about the leaders.
8) Paul ordained elders in every place – Galatian churches.
9) They prayed, evangelized, stood solid against opposition and rejoiced at the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake.
10) They exhibited many things that are absent in our churches today.
2. Churches came into existence in various ways. Philip the Evangelist goes to Samaria, Peter is dispatched to Cornelius, Jews and Gentiles find themselves together in Antioch and so on.
3. The Spiritual identity of a New Testament Church is discovered at Antioch in that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to them. This is of course in keeping with the metaphor Paul uses in For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 AND But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
4. Paul consistently and persistently guarded unity in the churches. And insisted on proper order – note the Corinthian abuse of the Lord’s Table and the issue of discipline.

III. What of today?
1. That which seemed pragmatic was not that at all.
1) The reason of the deacons – preeminence to the Word of God.
2) What of immediate Baptism?
3) Of necessity then and now – again the question of distinction to be made from the Apostolic Era.
2. Historic Pragmatism – developing theory from practice and then imposing it on practice again – in other words, if it works if must be ok.
3. The pragmatism of today
1) A “results” oriented religion that appeals to the sensual side of men – feel good.
2) Ornate buildings – no scriptural record of owning property.
4. There is no substitute for the true worship of God
1) We must believe that the Lord’s design was conducive to True Worship
2) In that sense we are certainly bound to the practices as we see them in His model Churches.
3) If then we are inventors of methods to improve that model – we are amiss!
4) We must be held to the standard of that which glorifies God, exalts Christ and promotes true faith. – Therefore we must begin with the mandate of Christ (repent ye and believe the Gospel) and follow the progress through its expression in the New Testament -- to ask, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”