Does the New Testament Contain a Pattern? (1)

by Richard Mansel, assistant editor

Is there a pattern in the New Testament? Does Scripture provide man with what he needs in order to be faithful to God? The answer is yes, to both questions. People ridicule this notion saying that the New Testament does not contain a pattern and that this doctrine fosters division, legalism, and the
impossibility of unity. They fail to understand the purpose for the pattern.

Teaching that the New Testament has a pattern does not mean the following:

First, the presence of a pattern does not deny grace. Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (NKJV). No one can live good enough to be saved on his own merit./1 We must have the grace and blood of Christ to cleanse us from our sins (Romans 5:1,2,9)./2

“Works are an essential part of faithfulness to God. They are fruit of an active faith committed to bringing glory to God (Ephesians 3:20,21; John 15:1-8).”/3 Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He said that we “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). He also established the Lord’s Supper for man to partake of in order to remind him of the remitting blood shed on the cross (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:15-20). Many more examples could be given. Jesus told man to follow him and to obey his commandments.

To obey these commands as God has given them is not to merit salvation. Paul said, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith, and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). We humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God and follow the Scriptures in order to follow
God. We do so because we have faith in Christ’s plan as a child who has complete trust in a parent. We follow Jesus, the perfect example, who was always humble and obedient before God (John 14:10; Hebrews 5:8,9).

The presence of grace verifies that we cannot be perfect in our efforts. However, God has not asked us to do anything within the New Testament pattern that is beyond man’s abilities./4

Second, the presence of a pattern does not destroy God’s plan for unity. One writer has said, “The germ that seems to be the culprit of division within the Churches of Christ is pattern theology.”/5 On the contrary, the pattern is specifically designed to facilitate unity. What man does with it is a different matter. The failures of men do not negate the commandments or plans of God. The problem lies in the pride of men, not in the will of God.

Jesus said that his children would be set apart from the world by the truth of God (John 17:17). Ephesians 4:3 says that we are to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Then in 4:13 he pleads for us to “come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.” Therefore, we should be able to understand God’s plan in order to be united.

Unity is attained when we gather around and in something perfect. We gather in Christ’s body and around the Word of God. To attempt to unite in anything man-made or imperfect is futile.

Following Christ is indispensable to salvation. Paul said, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). We cannot all speak the same things and be of the same mind if we do not have a standard that all can emulate. With God’s help we can.

3/ Ibid.
4/ There will be more on this in the second article.

11 thoughts on “Does the New Testament Contain a Pattern? (1)

  1. I do not take exception with most of the comments of this article, but there is much left unsaid. Could/would Bro. Mansel list each of the paticulars of this pattern, and specify the parameters of it? If faithfulness to God consists of following a pattern contained IN the NT writings, then it behooves us to know EXACTLY what that pattern is. I have been asking patternists for 30 years to simply list the particulars of this pattern. NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM has yet done so. Perhaps Richard will be the first.
    Al Maxey

  2. Al and Bob, thank you for reading my article. As this is just the first part, there will be more to come.
    The New Testament isn’t about lists, it is about a life lived for Christ. We seek a new homeland in heaven. The pattern is a guide to help us get there. It is within the pages of the New Testament in how we worship, how we live within our marriages, raise our children and conduct ourselves daily. It is the guidance of the Savior as we follow behind him daily. We all believe in patterns. We use them when we teach the same doctrines as the brethren in Acts did. Please, keep reading.
    Richard Mansel

  3. Thanks, Richard. I shall look forward to the remainder of your study. However, I hope you will cover what percentage of the NT pattern must be followed for one to be “faithful to God” (your words). Will 50% count as faithfulness? 75%? Must it be 100%? What particulars of the pattern are optional? What particulars are mandatory? If ALL the NT pattern MUST be observed to be faithful to God (and I assume you would condition salvation and fellowship upon compliance with this pattern also), then would it not behoove us all to KNOW specifically and exactly the particulars of that pattern and the specific parameters of it? If faithfulness, fellowship and salvation depend on compliance — if that is your assertion (is it?) — then the person making that assertion is obligated to provide in exacting detail the specifics of the pattern. If not, why not? Again, I have simiply asked for these specifics of patternists time and again for 30 years. NOT ONE will provide them. Why do you suppose there is this universal reluctance among patternists, Richard? If indeed there IS such a pattern, and if you know what it is, and if fellowship, unity, faithfulness and salvation depend upon abiding by it … why not simply give it to us? “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
    Al Maxey

  4. Al, you have asked a truly amazing question. One you are far too intelligent to ask. How much of the New Testament do we have to follow to be considered faithful? Seriously?
    You are there and Jesus is hanging on the cross in intense pain. He is struggling to breathe, blood and sweat sting his eyes. People are laughing and calling Him names. And you would have the audacity to look this innocent man in the eyes and say, “Lord, how much of the New Testament do I have to obey?” Truly, Jesus wept.
    Richard Mansel

  5. Richard, You have given the standard answer that the patternists always give: “Read the NT and figure it out for yourself!” You boldly declare there is a pattern IN the New Testament; that the NT CONTAINS a pattern, but when asked to specify what this pattern IS that is contained IN these documents, you basically just say: “Go read it. Why should I tell you?!” Strange form of evangelism. Let’s face it, Richard. The problem here is that if you ever dared to begin specifying what YOU believe the pattern to be, OTHER patternists would immediately attack YOUR perception of the pattern. Why? Because no two patternists can ever agree on exactly what that elusive pattern IS. That is why we are so horribly fragmented and divided into feuding factions. Every little group has a different view of the pattern (one cup, no class, etc. etc.), with each declaring they and they alone have faithfully reproduced “the pattern,” with faithfulness dependent upon following THEIR version of the pattern. This is why NONE of you will list the particulars, because you KNOW that the moment you do so it will be exposed for exactly what it is: a very subjective list of personal and party preferences. Unity of the One Body is not to be found in a pattern, Richard, but a PERSON: Jesus Christ. When we rally around faith in HIM, we shall be united in spite of great diversity with respect ot hundreds of interpretive particulars. The alternative (which you promote) is a pseudo-unity that is truly only uniformity among factionists. I didn’t think you would actually ever provide the “pattern,” Richard. None of you have in over 30 years of my asking for it. It appears you will not be the first to do so afterall.
    Al Maxey

  6. Bob,
    Sin and pride divide Christians, not God’s Word. Unity in diversity doesn’t produce unity either, only apathy. As I said, the errors of men do not negate the commandments of God.
    Keep reading Forthright.
    Richard Mansel

  7. Isn’t it interesting how the legalistic patternists will dance all around the question, when it is posed to them, but they will NEVER ANSWER IT. I have been waiting for 30 years for one of them to simply TELL US what this pattern is. They won’t do it! That speaks volumes!!!
    Al Maxey, Pulpit Minister/Elder

  8. Sometimes an answer is not given to questions because the querist has improper motives.
    Richard Mansel

  9. And then other times, my dear brother, it is because the person being queried is incapable of a response. Or, even worse, knows only too well that if he dares to respond he will immediately expose his list of patternistic particulars for exactly what it is — a purely subjective list of sectarian preferences that other patternists will immediately attack because of their own sectarian and factional biases. THIS is why, dear brother, NO PATTERNIST in 30 years has ever answered this question, and, in fact, will dance all around it. They don’t DARE answer it …. all of which speaks volumes to insightful disciples of Christ as to the heart of these people.
    Al Maxey, Pulpit Minister/Elder

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