The New Testament Example
"What is it then, brethren? when ye come together, each one of you hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (I Cor. 14:213) "For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted." (Verse 31) In the meetings of the New Testament church, "each one of you" took a public part, "one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted." The example set in the New Testament churches furnishes the pattern for all churches to follow "unto the end of the world."
The apostles are the teachers of the Christian religion. "And Jesus came to them, and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore. and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:18-20) The things that Jesus commanded the apostles to teach are the things that can be taught "by faith" and that are pleasing to God. All must follow the example set by the apostles in conducting the worship and work of the church, as well as in obedience to the first principles of the gospel.
After giving the apostles the great commission, Jesus said' "And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) The preaching of the first gospel sermon was a stupendous miracle. Men and women of seventeen nations heard it in their own language, wherein they were born. The precedent or example set by the apostles in showing "every creature" what to do to be saved was miraculously guided. All agree that it must be followed today by all who want divine assurance of being saved. It is also most obvious that the order of worship and work ordained by the apostles in the church must be observed by all who desire their worship and service to be acceptable to God. The fact that it was miraculously given, and that it is miraculously recorded in the New Testament for the guidance of all, shows that it must be faithfully adhered to today. When the miracles of revelation ceased, the pattern miraculously given remained.
In examining the teaching, preaching and the examples set by inspired men, it must be remembered that, with the completion of the miraculous revelation of the Christian religion, nothing ceased and passed away except the miracle by which the revelation was given. The things revealed by the miracle remained. The teaching and preaching done miraculously by inspired men, and the examples they were miraculously guided to set, remained for the guidance of "every creature" in becoming a Christian, and in the worship and work of the church, "unto the end of the world." From the death of the last inspired apostle, who completed and closed the Bible canon, until the end of time, all miraculous inspiration is in the Bible. From that time until time ends, God speaks to man in the Bible. The apostles are today preaching through the Bible things that they preached in person while alive. Jesus said to them: "And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:20)
1 Cor. 14:26-31, and many other passages, reveal the order of things that the apostles were miraculously guided to ordain in conducting the public meetings of the New Testament churches. It does not contemplate entertaining the assembly with the pleasing eloquence of one man. "Each one of you" was taught to take a part, "one by one," in saying something for the edification of the congregation.
Now, until the full revelation was completed, and the New Testament finished, spiritual gifts were bestowed upon the different members of the congregation to enable them to edify it. Congregations are what they are taught to be. There can be no growth and development without teaching. A congregation that is not taught remains in infancy, helpless and unable to conduct its own worship and service, or to manage its own business. It cannot care for itself. When an apostle visited a place to preach the gospel, a new church was established by men and women rendering obedience to it. But the apostle did not sit down to stay with them, as is done today. He taught them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly and delivered to them the five ordinances of divine service. He then departed to preach the gospel in a new field. He left them to grow and develop by observing the ordinances themselves. Had the apostle remained to conduct their worship and services for them, the new congregation would have remained as big a baby, and as helpless to care for itself, as are many of our congregations today without their "minister." The only way a church can grow and develop, and be properly taught and strengthened in the faith, is to conduct its own services and do its own work, as the apostles taught and ordained in the New Testament churches. "And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit the brethren in every city where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see how they do." (Acts 15:36)
The spiritual gifts bestowed on the different members of the congregation ceased when the New Testament was completed. "But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you." (1 Cor. 12:31) The "most excellent way" is the completed New Testament. When any man has the Bible in his hands, he has the full, finished and completed revelation from God to man. He has all things that Jesus commanded the apostles to teach. (Matt. 28:18-20) The Holy Spirit taught them all things, and brought to their remembrance all that Jesus said unto them. (John 14:26) He has all the truth. (John 16:13) He has all things that pertain unto life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He has all that God has revealed through the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The command to every member of the congregation is to, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a work man that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." (2 Tim. 2:15) Anyone who studies the Word of God is amply able to teach and to preach. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." (Col. 3:16) Luther, who ended the dark ages of the long Papal night of over twelve and a half centuries, by finding a copy of the lost Bible in an old library in Germany, said' "One well acquainted with the Scriptures is a good theologian." With the temporary spiritual gifts all the brethren took a public part in the edification of the congregation. With the "most excellent way" of each one having a completed copy of the New Testament each one who obeys the divine command to "study," is certainly not less able to so do.
We humbly and kindly submit, that, if the elders of every congregation would do the work that the apostles ordained that they should do, and turn the preacher or preachers loose to give themselves fully to preaching the gospel "publicly, and from house to house," in every neighborhood, it would revolutionize the world, as it did in the first century of the Christian era. The churches of Christ stand upon a position that neither infidelity nor denominationalism, in any of their forms, can stand up against, but before which they must flee in confusion and disgrace. Unless the elders do their work, and the preachers preach, no one can anticipate such a glorious desideratum.
1509 McGavock, Nashville, Tenn.