by R ichard Mansel
The purpose of this series of articles has been to prove that the New Testament pattern exists. Before something can be enumerated, its existence must first be established.
Several important points need to be made.
First, the New Testament pattern is no more or less than a standard that all men can follow./1 The Apostle Paul said by inspiration, “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, NKJV). The pattern means, “an example, mold or outline.”/2
Without a standard, there cannot be “sound words.” Actually, there cannot be any doctrine that can be verified as absolute truth. Scripture speaks of those who did “what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). This is presented as being contrary to God, not the heart of God’s plan. Without a standard, everyone can do what is right in their own eyes. Sin is a “transgression of the law,” so dispensing with the standard means there can be no law and no sin (1 John 3:4). The lack of a standard leads to universalism, which is soundly condemned in Scripture (Matthew 7:13-14; Mark 8:34).
Paul told the Galatians, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Paul presented a standard that all the preaching they heard should be judged against (cf. 2 John 9).
Jesus gave the Great Commission and told the apostles to go into all the world teaching what they had been taught (Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:26). He established a standard that they were to follow and proclaim. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says that the Scriptures are sufficient for doctrine and righteousness and able to make us complete. If there is not a standard, then the Bible becomes an irrelevant book of suggestions.
Second, the New Testament pattern is not the reason for disunity. Critics claim that the recently-formed doctrine of the New Testament pattern is the cause of religious division. Those who profess this will have to prove that prior to this doctrine that complete religious harmony existed in Christianity. Furthermore, they must prove that all of Christendom, outside of those who believe in the New Testament pattern, is completely united.
Yet, we know that even those who do not believe in the New Testament pattern are completely divided. Furthermore, if all those who believe in the New Testament pattern died tomorrow, religious disunity would still plague the religious world for years to come. Obviously, the pattern is not the culprit; sin is (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-20).
To say that the pattern is the source of religious disunity is to work backward against all common sense and logic. Ancient people thought flies came from ruined meat. Each time they saw ruined meat, flies were there, so they concluded that this was their source. We now know this was the result of scientific ignorance. Likewise, to say that division is the result of the standard of God’s Word is to display Scriptural ignorance.
Third, the mishandling of the New Testament pattern does not negate its existence. There are those who have misapplied the pattern, causing division. This can easily and sadly be affirmed. Yet, the mishandling of the pattern and the presence of the pattern are two separate issues. The existence of so many people with eating disorders does not mean we should all stop eating food. Admittedly, more work does need to be done on how to properly apply the Word of
God. However, discarding it for the sake of faux unity is not God’s answer.
Fourth, truth will always be attacked. Paul said, “but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7; cf. Matthew 5:11,12; 2 Peter 3:15,16).
To say there is no New Testament pattern may sound good, and proclaimers of this doctrine will offer peace, love, and enlightenment in its place. Yet they are leading their followers down a dangerous path where God’s will is obliterated. False teachers appear to be loving and full of grace yet “inside are full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Remember, Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). And he is fabulously successful.
2/ Gerhard Friedrich, editor. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 8:247.