Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1959

"All Speak" (I Cor. 14:23.)

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

The New Testament congregation, constituted and set in order by the apostles, furnishes the pattern to which all congregations must conform. The congregation can do its work in making "increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love," only as it conforms to the pattern ordained by the apostles. The failure of congregations today to succeed in their work, as did the New Testament congregations, is caused by their failure to observe the apostolic order of things. The New Testament congregations evangelized the world in thirty-five years. They also abounded in every good work, including "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction." To so do again, they must get back to the apostolic order.

Much time and labor has been spent on subjects pertaining to first principles. To first principles. To "receive the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls," the divine order of the worship, the edification, and the work of the congregation, is of superlative importance. Many who are familiar with subjects pertaining to first principles have little or no knowledge of the working of a New Testament congregation. They think of the New Testament congregation in the terms of a human denomination and want it to copy after the human denominations.

It must be remembered that every thing connected with the worship, edification, growth and work of the congregation comes from God. To be done "by faith," all such things must be commanded by the Word of God. God can be served only in his appointments. "For I make known unto you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11,12.) The congregation, its order of worship, and work, is wholly and entirely of divine origin. There is not a human idea or thought in it. There is no area in which man can follow his own wisdom. Areas in which man can use his own judgment are not a part of the faith, but are purely circumstantial and incidental. "The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Phil. 4:9.)

All things in both the material and spiritual worlds began in miracle. In the material world God spake all things into existence. Their reproduction is through law. The introduction of the Christian religion, the beginning of the gospel, was accomplished in a series of the most marvelous and wonderful miracles of infinite magnitude. When Jesus, in his last interviews with his apostles, before his ascension, gave them the great commission to give his teaching to the world, he commanded them to return to Jerusalem and wait, before beginning to preach, until they were miraculously inspired. '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.) The apostles were "clothed with power from on high" on the day of Pentecost. "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. "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them," and men and women from seventeen nations, who spoke seventeen different languages, "were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in his own tongue, wherein we were born?" Peter preached and people from seventeen countries heard him in their own language.

When the apostles began to travel and preach, new congregations were established by people obeying the gospel. Preaching the gospel will not start any thing but a congregation. Congregations cannot grow and develop without teaching. To meet this necessity, while the New Testament was being written, the apostles were empowered to bestow spiritual gifts. This shows that all the teaching that is done in the congregation must be from God by divine inspiration. Men cannot teach their own thoughts or ideas, or what seems best to them, in any area or part of the work of the congregation.

All the work of the New Testament congregations was directed and guided by the inspired apostles and by men in the different congregations upon whom the apostles had bestowed spiritual gifts.

When an inspired man visited a place, and a new congregation was formed by men and women obeying the gospel, the inspired man did not sit down to stay with them permanently, but remained only long enough to start them off right. He gave them the ordinances of divine service and taught them how to live the Christian life. He then departed, got out of the way, and gave them an opportunity to do their own work. A congregation can grow and become strong in the Lord, and autonomous, only as it is able to do its own work.

The spiritual gifts were bestowed upon the various brethren in the congregation. They were also bestowed upon the various women who were to do their teaching privately and not to engage in public speaking. The bestowal of the spiritual gifts on the various members of the congregation in New Testament times, while the New Testament was being written, brings to the congregations today some very vital and much needed lessons on how to edify and build themselves up in love. The apostles, as they were guided by the Holy Spirit, ordained that all the brethren participate in the teaching, instruction, edification and exhortation of the congregation. The diversity and variety, thus enlarging and strengthening the instruction and edification of the congregation, by all the brethren having a part in it, is necessary to its being properly taught.

In First Cor. 12. 13, and 14th chapters, Paul discusses and regulates the uses of the spiritual gifts bestowed on the different members of the congregation. Paul says: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1 Cor. 12:7-11.)

In the next chapter Paul explains that these miraculous gifts were temporary. He says: "Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part: but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:8-10.) "That which is perfect" is the complete revelation of the Christian religion by the miraculously inspired apostles. It is the completion of the New Testament. It is the full, complete, perfect and miraculously written record of the teaching and practice of the apostles in the New Testament congregations.

Every man in the congregation today, with the completed Bible in his hands, has every thing that was revealed by all of the inspired men of every order. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16,17.) "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3.) The command is, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Col. 3:16.) This command is to every Christian, to every member of the congregation. It is not to any special class in the church. It is not to a clergy or preacher class. Luther said, "One well acquainted with the Scriptures is a good theologian." All the members of the congregation, who "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," are good theologians. They can conduct the worship and services of the congregation. They can have a part in teaching and edifying it. The congregation cannot be properly taught, instructed and developed without all doing their part of it.

A man with a spiritual gift, or miraculously inspired, did not have to study to edify the congregation. After he had spoken, he studied what the Spirit said by his mouth. The teaching, procedure and example of the inspired men are to be followed until the end of time. The miraculous inspiration that revealed and guided it was what passed away when the full revelation of the Christian religion, and the writing of the New Testament, was completed. No teaching, nothing that was preached, no precedent or example that was set, passed away. Only the miraculous inspiration ceased when it accomplished its work. Every thing the miraculous inspiration said and did remains. With the coming of "that which is perfect" all miraculous inspiration is in the Bible. The example set by the New Testament churches in conducting their meetings, teaching, worship and work must be faithfully followed today and always.