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LESSON 1 – WHY PRACTICE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES TODAY? - BIBLE STUDY
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Copyright© 1985 G. Fred Hamilton All Courses are copyright and may not be used as Courses. The author of the “Why” series is Late Mr. G. Fred Hamilton, a former Director of Christian Missions in Many Lands and an elder and Bible Teacher at Valley Bible Chapel
LESSON 1 – WHY PRACTICE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES TODAY? - BIBLE STUDY
THE WHY SERIES?
WHY PRACTICE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY?
You will study Lessons on the following topics:
Why practice New Testament principles in the Twentieth Century
Why no pastor
Why no collections
Why break bread
Why not women leaders in the church
Why help Missions
Why have a Bible Chapel
What the Christians Believe
What the Christians Do - Matters of Principle and Practice
Why not equal rights
Why did the Holy Spirit come
This series of small pamphlets had its beginning when the Christians meeting in Valley Bible Chapel, Washington Township, New Jersey, were experiencing an influx of outsiders interested in the way in which services were conducted, and in the Bible emphasis of the messages. This influx included numbers of Roman Catholics who were being encouraged to attend Bible studies following the more liberal attitude of the Catholic Church to Bible reading generally. Many of the questions asked by newcomers, like, “Why do you not have a collection?”, “Why do you not have a Pastor?”, etc., called for clear, simple scriptural answers and it was decided to use the opportunity to do this in short papers entitled, “Why...?” The papers were first distributed as inserts for the Chapel Bulletins but they were later made available to all who asked for them and they were used in Home Bible Studies, etc. Some of the more recent issues are more comprehensive, so as to recapitulate the teachings and practices of the Christians and to show their consistency with New Testament principles. The last of the series, “Why did the Holy Spirit come?” is a collection of short papers issued each week during 1983 as part of the Chapel Bulletin. The treatment of the various aspects of this important subject is necessarily brief, and, because of the nature of the Bulletin, generally includes a gospel application. However, it will be seen that this does not detract from the expositional value of the papers, which were printed as a unit at the request of many who found profit from the separate papers and wished to see them published as one of the series.
LESSON 1: WHY THE WHY SERIES?
WHY PRACTICE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY?
WHAT ARE THEY?
Briefly, New Testament principles comprise the apostles̓ doctrine referred to in the Book of Acts chapter 2 verse 42, as exemplified in the practices of the early Church and described in the same Book and in the epistles. It is clear from the words of the risen Saviour in Acts 1 that His departure from earth and the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way would introduce a marked change in divine dealings with men. He had already foretold this in some detail in His “Upper Room” discourse (John 14-17). Thereafter, until the purpose of God during this new period is completed many of the Old Testament instructions for His people on earth no longer apply. On the eve of His crucifixion, the Lord spoke of His return to the Father's House and of the new ministry of the Holy Spirit Whom He would send from the Father. He would guide the disciples into all truth; He would glorify Christ and He would show them things to come. Thus it was that when He came, on the Day of Pentecost, He first united with the risen Head in Heaven all the believers upon earth, making them members of one Body, the Church (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 1:22-23). He did this not merely with the believers from the Jewish race, but as the gospel spread, with believers from Samaria, from Ethiopia, from Romans in Caesarea, and subsequently from believing Gentiles to the Uttermost parts of the earth. For the instruction and guidance of this Church the Holy Spirit imparted increasing light through the apostles and New Testament prophets (Ephesians 3:4-5), at the same time inspiring chosen vessels to write what we now know as the New Testament so that in the gospels, the Acts, the epistles and the Apocalypse we might have a completed revelation of truth relating to the purposes of God, in language inspired equally with the Old Testament, allowing all who want to obey God to be fully furnished for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).
HOW DO THESE PRINCIPLES DIFFER FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT?
As the Lord Jesus prepared His disciples for His ascension and return to the glory from which He had come, He made clear that God was about to make them, and all who would believe in Him through them afterwards, His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Up to the time of their rejection of Him as Messiah, Israel had been God's witness (Isaiah 43) but they had become worse than the Gentiles and the Name of God was blasphemed because of them (Romans 2:24). The witness of the New Testament believers declares that God loves the world of mankind and is prepared to save and bless all who believe in His Son without respect to their birth or nation (Acts 10:34-35). All who are thus added by Him to His Church (Acts 2:47) cease to be Jews, Gentiles, slave or free— they become one in Christ (Galatians 3:29) and all share the new relationships and spiritual blessings which flow from Christ’s mighty sacrifice (Ephesians 3:5-6). Meanwhile, the nation of Israel is in blindness and is no longer called God’s chosen people on earth. This was already foreseen by God in the prophets (e.g. Hosea 3:4) and is more fully explained in Romans chapters 9-11. Coinciding with the removal of Israel from its place of privilege, the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost brought about momentous changes in the economy of worship and service for those who, having believed the gospel, were then called God’s people on earth (1 Peter 2; Hebrews 9-10). There is no longer an earthly sanctuary associated with a Temple at Jerusalem; the true sanctuary is in Heaven. There is no altar on earth where sacrifices and offerings are to be submitted after the pattern of the Levitical economy, nor is there a special priesthood, which alone can offer and serve, as was the case with the family of Aaron and the Levites who were exclusively appointed by divine choice. Instead, the New Testament shows that every believer is a priest to God and has direct access into the very “Holiest” at all times (1 Peter 2:5-9; Hebrews 10:19-22). Christians are not directed, as were the Jews, to celebrate feasts, ordinances, holy days, or even the Sabbath. All these are to be regarded by the Christian as symbols and shadows of the Reality — Christ Himself (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1-18). No longer are there any baptisms and ceremonial washings such as were appropriate for Israel’s earthly system (Hebrews 6); there is but one baptism for the Christian — that by which he confesses before the world that he is identified with the Saviour by Whose death he is saved and separated from the world and its doom (Ephesians 4; Romans 6). Under God’s order in the Old Testament, there was a continuing round of sacred festivals and a repeated reminder on the Day of Atonement each year that sins were not fully removed from the face of God (Hebrews 10). But the believer in Christ is told that “There is now no more sacrifice for sins,” because Christ, by His one offering has put away sin and has perfected for every those whom He has sanctified by His altogether sufficient sacrifice ((Hebrews 10). The Christian celebrates this, not on the Jewish Sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week reminiscent of Christ’s resurrection, by breaking bread in memory of His absent but soon-coming Saviour Whose death is proclaimed by the symbolic feast, as the Lord Jesus Himself requested (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
THE OLD TESTAMENT IS GOD'S WORD: IS IT REALLY NO LONGER RELEVANT?
The Lord Jesus emphasized to the scribes and Pharisees of His day that not one jot or title of what God has written in His Law shall go unfulfilled (Matthew 5:17-20). This, He stressed, was especially so where it was a question of righteousness — the maintenance of standards which God had set, not only in the ten commandments but throughout His dealings with humankind. These necessitate that men should honour Him by obedience to His will and by conformity of behaviour to what He has revealed of His own character. We must recognize therefore, that the Old Testament remains the inspired Word of God and that it contains a wealth of instruction, comfort, guidance and prophetic revelation, as well as of typical foreshadowing’s of Christ and His work which God gave as part of His divine revelation to men (Hebrews 1:1-2 2 Timothy 3:16). It is very important, however, that we read the Old Testament scriptures in their proper perspective and that we do not apply to Christians what God specifically addressed to the Jews. The historic, moral and prophetic unfolding of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms remain for continuing application. These things were written for our learning and for typical instruction (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). But many things had specific application to people and to relationships which do not now exist and we should be careful not to apply them to Christians, however much we draw in the way of lessons and encouragement as we see God’s ways and word as they are described. This is especially true of many divine promises made in Old Testament times and of rewards offered for obedience. For example, God promised to Abraham and his seed an earthly inheritance and He defined Its borders. In due course He brought the people out of Egypt’s bondage and led them through the wilderness, revealing Himself and His purposes increasingly and giving them statutes and laws, most of which applied only to them as His chosen people, as He brought them into the land He had undertaken to give them. If they obeyed, they were promised health, material prosperity and good harvests, victors̓ over their enemies and long life. In entering Canaan, God charged them to be the executors of His solemn judgment upon a number of nations whose iniquity had reached such a state that, like Sodom and Gomorrah before them, it called for divine intervention for the sake of countless children and innocent victims of their evil and abominable practices. It is obvious that these situations do not face God’s people on earth today and that although we may draw many rich illustrations and pictures of spiritual things from what is written, we should not draw conclusions for Christians, which are inconsistent with New Testament teaching. The nation of Israel has now been dispersed among the Gentiles and even though a small remnant has returned to the land and calls itself “Israel” God has not yet begun to fulfil the great prophecies of the last days which have Jerusalem and the Temple as their centre nor will He do until there is another momentous change in His dealings with the earth. In the present period, “the Day of Salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2), Christ is building His Church and to do so He is calling out of the world those who become “not of this world” and whose citizenship is heavenly (John 17:15-16; Philippians 3:20). They are not promised material prosperity nor freedom from sickness (in spite of the widespread modern misunderstanding of the healing ministry, which marked the beginning of the dispensation). On the contrary, all who live godly in this present world can expect persecution and suffering — a privilege which demonstrates their identification with the rejected Saviour and which often brings a special experience of spiritual blessing — the Lord’s compensation even now through the joy of His presence and support (2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-14; Revelation 2:10). These differences must be borne in mind in making applications of many of the Old Testament scriptures. Similarly, the subjects of God’s present dwelling place on earth and the manner and language, which are appropriate in approaching Him, are strikingly different in the New Testament. To follow as examples for Christian gatherings the buildings and ceremonies of the Old Testament and to employ customs and prayers which were divinely given and suitable for use when Jerusalem and the Temple were God’s appointed holy places, is to “build again things once destroyed” and to return from the Substance to shadows that God has now set aside. Christendom has followed this course for many centuries and the results are abundantly evident today. One outcome is that many Christians who have grown up with these practices, find themselves doing things which are directly contradicted by New Testament teaching. One simple illustration is the indiscriminate use of the Psalms in Christian “worship” services. Many of these divinely inspired treasures are rich in their expression of the soul’s experience but some beseech God to execute judgment upon and to destroy their enemies — language quite inappropriate for a Christian to use, although in reading and Bible study there is great profit to be found in proper understanding of God’s ways. Similar confusion arises because of the customary teaching in Christendom that references in the Old Testament to Jerusalem, Zion and Israel mean the Church — this in spite of the clear statements in the New Testament that the truth regarding the Church is a mystery not revealed in previous generations and now specifically made known because it is only applicable to this period of Messiah’s rejection by His earthly people who are now in blindness (Ephesians 3:3-5; Colossians 1:24-27; Romans 9-11).
DON'T ALL CHRISTIANS PRACTICE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES?
Insofar as they believe the gospel and begin to live a godly life and obey many of the clear commands of the Lord Jesus, it may be said that many Christians certainly do follow what is written in the New Testament. But the confusion of understanding about the purposes of God, the character of His ways and the relationships into which faith in Christ brings believers is so widespread that it must also be said that very many Christians do not practice New Testament principles, nor do they follow the example of early Christians as recorded in New Testament books. This should not surprise us. The Lord Jesus foretold that this would happen. The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders of the departure which would follow his own removal and the epistles repeatedly stress the need to beware of false teachers who would arise increasingly, especially in the latter days of the Church’s history. The Lord’s messages to the churches in Asia (Revelation 2 and 3) show the division and error which Satan brought into the professing church even before the New Testament was completed. Bad teaching and departure have increased down the centuries and in our own days, many sincere Christians follow erroneous traditions and human leaders, unaware that their doctrines and practices are unscriptural. This situation is often augmented by well-meaning preachers whose gospel message is sound enough but who advise converts to “join the church of their choice.” In doing so, many true believers swell the ranks of those who traditionally ignore basic principles of New Testament teaching, and they become identified with “churches” which have features resembling those so solemnly censured by the Lord Jesus in His letters to the churches in Asia. It is not without significance that He called upon every individual “who has an ear to hear” to heed what the Holy Spirit is saying through His Word to these churches. The challenge to every Christian as the general situation worsens and the features of the last days multiply, is that everyone who names the Name of Christ should depart from iniquity and purge himself from all that unfits him for the Master’s use (2 Timothy 2:19-21).
TEST LESSON 1: WHY? NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLE TODAY
Place a T (True) or F (False) for your answer at the beginning or end of the question;
1. The original principles of a New testament church were given by Luke in Acts 2:41-42. - TRUE ................................. FALSE ...............................
2. The Jews at the time of Christ was a good testimony to the nations. - TRUE ................................. FALSE ...............................
3. Sacrifices were still offered in the Apostles’ day. - TRUE ................................. FALSE ...............................
4. Bad teaching down through the ages has caused the church to drift away from the New Testament. - TRUE ................................. FALSE ...............................
5. Converts should join the church of their choice. - TRUE ................................. FALSE ...............................
Fill in the blank with CAPITALS LETTERS in the spaces with the correct word/s
6. The Spirit would .................. ...................... and ......................... them ......................... to come.
7. Every ......................... is a priest ......................... God and has direct ......................... in the very ......................... at all ......................... .
8. We ......................... recognize that the ......................... ......................... remains the ......................... word of .........................
9. The ......................... was a ......................... not revealed in ......................... generations
10. Let him the ......................... the name of ......................... depart from .........................
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Updated May 2012 by Shelly Allen