I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO TELL YOU
By Daren Schroeder
This concise ebook is available free of charge. The only motive behind the writing of it is a genuine concern for you to be right with God. The highest ambition we can have for a fellow human being is for them to be right with their Creator and be eternally saved. Please do not be offended if someone has steered you to the reading of this book. There is nothing more important than being certain about salvation. Please accept it as a gift of love. It is our prayer that this book will be humbly read and be a blessing to your relationship with Christ.
This book will read as if the one who recommended it to you is the writer. The reason this point of view is used is because so many Christians want to share what they have learned about Christ and His Word, but struggle in doing so. The words of this book are their sentiments, though they did not pen the actual words. One struggle that Christians sometimes have is expressing what they want to with clarity, and at the same time not doing so in a way that may be perceived as being abrasive.
While I am trying to set forth the Gospel truth in this book, please except my own apologies in advance if I could have worded something with a greater degree of sensitivity. It is certainly not my intention, nor the one encouraging you to read this book, to come across in a hypercritical fashion. We simply want to share God’s gracious truth in the spirit of love (see Eph. 4:15).
CHAPTER 1 – THE MOTIVE FOR THIS BOOK
I am giving you this book because you are my friend and I genuinely care about you. I am not always good with words. Sometimes my words do not come out very clearly. Perhaps I should not be, but sometimes I am afraid to talk to you and others about spiritual matters because I fear damaging our relationship. Even in steering you to this book, it is my prayer that you will not be offended, but rather, ice will be broken, and that we will grow closer to one another, and come to possess a deeper relationship.
The fact that I have not spoken with you about these things does not indicate a lack of concern for you. I genuinely care about you, and also apologize that it has taken me this much time to present to you what I believe to be the Gospel truth.
Your soul is going to live forever in one of two places. Jesus describes both of these places (heaven and hell) as being eternal (Mt. 25:46). Heaven and hell are both real places of conscious existence (see Lk. 16:19-31). One will be a place of great peace and joy; the other will be a place of suffering and loss.
I am sharing this book with you because I want to have (and I want you to have) assurance that you are on track to live eternally in heaven. Or, if you are not on track, I hope that the teachings of this book (really, the teaching of the Bible) will help lead you there. I am not judging you, but sometimes it is difficult to know the status of someone else’s soul, and I have a sincere desire for you to be prepared for eternal life.
I realize that the uncertainty that I just expressed may have surprised you. I am afraid that many people believe almost everyone is going to heaven. Our society tells us that we are not supposed to question anyone’s faith or religion (or even lack of it). We are told that any religion is acceptable to God.
However, I find different principles in God’s Word. The Scripture says, “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:17). When confronted by God, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”(Gen. 4:9). The implied answer was, “Absolutely!”
Certainly you would agree that it cannot hurt to study and give careful attention to your faith and what God’s Word says, right? Only good can come from the sincere and prayerful study of the Bible.
CHAPTER 2 - AUTHORITY IN RELIGION
To help ensure a productive study, let’s begin our study by briefly discussing Bible authority.
From the very beginning of the Bible we see the importance and authoritativeness of Scripture. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God there were serious consequences for their sins (see Gen. 3:15-19). When Nadab and Abihu offered fire that God had not authorized (or, commanded), they were devoured by fire from the Lord (see Lev. 10:1-2). God has always been serious about man keeping His Word!
This principle certainly does not change in the New Testament. Paul tells Timothy, “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:7). The Lord Himself says in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Notice that to reject the words of Jesus is to reject Christ Himself (see also John 15:7).We cannot have Christ and at the same time disobey His teachings. Also note that it is the Word that will judge man on the last day. That makes God’s Word the ultimate (and only) spiritual standard.
The specific authority we are under today is the New Testament (see again Jn. 12:48). According to the inspired writers of the New Testament, the law (the Old Testament) has been done away with (Eph. 2:15). It served as a tutor to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Today, God has spoken to us through His Son (Heb. 1:3). While the Old Testament was written for our learning (1 Cor. 10:11), and we can certainly profit from studying it, our standard to live and worship by is the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The New Testament, therefore, is the basis of our faith and practice in religious matters today.
Many sincere people (and perhaps you as well) do not understand how important it is to make a distinction between the covenants. Paul tells us that we are to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The most fundamental division of the entire Bible is the one between the old and new covenants.
Listen to what Paul said to some who did not want to make such a distinction, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). It should be noted in the context that Paul is discussing circumcision which was indeed an element of the Old Testament Law that many Christians in Galatia were continuing to insist upon for salvation. Paul, who wrote by inspiration, considered this insistence a very serious flaw in their faith that severed their relationship with Christ!
So, our focus on discussing very important matters of faith in this book is going to be on New Testament teachings. In addition, I should mention that it really doesn’t matter what I think or what you think. The question that settles all spiritual matters is: “What does God’s Word say?” Our challenge is to be honest enough to truly let God’s Word settle these and all spiritual matters.
There is nothing more important than where we dwell for eternity. Isn’t it worth carefully investigating God’s Word to make sure that we are on the right path? This is precisely why I want to share these things with you. Your soul matters to me, and it certainly does to God!
Perhaps a good way to sum up what I’ve been trying to say in this chapter is simply to quote the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:17 where he says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We can’t go wrong if we will truly follow His Words!
Are you willing to honestly allow God’s Word to settle all spiritual matters?
CHAPTER 3 - IS BEING RELIGIOUSLY SINCERE SUFFICIENT?
I personally believe that most people are sincere about their religious beliefs. However, it is widely accepted (and you also may believe) that if a person is religious (and sincere), that will be sufficient for their salvation.
First, let me say that sincerity is commendable. A person most certainly cannot be approved of God if he is not sincere about his faith. However, we also see from Scripture that sincerity alone is insufficient. Please understand that this chapter, and this entire book, is not bringing into question your sincerity. In reality, this book is being given to you because you are sincere and it is thought that you will take the time to read this book and give serious consideration to it as it accords with Holy Scripture.
Before we go on, it may be beneficial for us to consider why this idea of “I’m okay, you’re okay” is so popular today. First let me say that there is a desire to believe this because it provides comfort. People like comfort food and they also tend to like comforting religious teaching (see 2 Tim. 4:2-4). It is comforting to think that most people are right with God. No reasonable person wants someone they know to be lost (or any other person for that matter!). Yet we must base our faith on reality. Our faith must be based on the truth. Merely believing that we are saved does not magically make it so.
Secondly, we live in a time of relativism. Nothing is right or wrong (supposedly). Again, the idea is that you can do it your way; I can do it my way; and everybody will be okay. Yet the Bible claims to be truth (see Jn. 17:17). Jesus says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). According to Christ, and His Word, what we believe and practice religiously really matters! There is a right way; that way is His way!
There is such an intense desire to think that we are right with God that sometimes emotions and feelings can override reality. While religion certainly is heart-felt, we must guard against merely being led by feelings and subjectivity. My feelings do not change God’s Will no matter how strong they may be.
God has revealed His Will to us through the Bible. The Bible can be read, understood, and followed (Eph. 3:4). Normal principles of common sense and logic apply to the study and interpretation of the Bible. Everything is not relative. Just assuredly as the Bible teaches there is truth, it also teaches that there is error. Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32). Looking at it from a different perspective, if we can know the truth, it follows that we can also know error. That which is contrary to the principles of God’s Word is indeed error.
Thirdly, there is so much Bible ignorance in the world. Man today has so many different pursuits that Bible study has certainly become a lost art. Many falsely believe that the Bible teaches that as long as a person is religious in some way, he will be saved. The prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (4:6).
All three of these factors have had an enormous influence upon the masses of people. Perhaps they have influenced you unknowingly.
Let’s turn our focus now to the Ethiopian who served as treasurer of the queen. Although he was a high ranking official, he was remarkably humble. According to Acts 8:27 this man had been to Jerusalem to worship and was now returning. We should emphasize that this man had journeyed several hundred miles to worship! While he was returning from Jerusalem, he was reading from Isaiah the prophet. Let me pause here and say, “What a man!” He journeyed so far for worship (and was most likely not even permitted in the temple because of being a eunuch!), and then upon his return he is still studying the Word of God!
But during all of this, an angel of the Lord was preparing Philip to meet the Ethiopian so that he could be taught the Gospel! Through divine assistance, Philip meets up with the Ethiopian and begins teaching him about Christ using the book (or scroll) of Isaiah. Evidently Philip taught him about obedience to the Gospel because the Ethiopian said, “See here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (verse 37). The chariot was brought to a halt and the Ethiopian was baptized and the Scripture says, “he went on his way rejoicing” (verse 39).
The Ethiopian was a very religious man before he was baptized, but yet his religion was insufficient without obedience to the Gospel. Otherwise, why would God have sent Philip to meet him? Why would he have had the chariot stop so he could be baptized in the middle of his journey? Why would his baptism have been such a cause for rejoicing?
Now notice a great man that is mentioned in Acts 10. This man’s name is Cornelius. Look at how this man is described. Verse two says he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” This man was more than just a little bit religious… he was truly and genuinely devoted to God!
When is the last time you heard a preacher, or someone else, describe a man of this caliber, and then mention that he was not a Christian? Or, say something that indicated that such a man may not be right with God? It is extraordinarily rare, isn’t it? Why? Because the view of the majority, plain and simple, is that the religious person is saved. Most would argue that he is saved on the basis of being very religious or sincere.
However, in Acts 10, an angel of God appears to Cornelius and directs him to go to Peter so that Peter can teach him the Gospel! Why? The reason is that the goodness of Cornelius was woefully inadequate for saving his soul. In verse 48, Peter “commanded them [the household of Cornelius – D.S.] to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” The household of Cornelius was yet in their sin because they had not obeyed the Gospel. We can’t save ourselves merely through our goodness or even our religious sincerity! We can only be saved by the goodness of our God and our obedience to His plan!
Perhaps we should also keep in mind that Cornelius was practicing a religion that was born of God. It seems that he was a convert to Judaism. However, with the coming of a new and better way, the Old Testament Law became obsolete (Heb. 8:13). Cornelius was shown that it is not sufficient to merely be religious. It is not sufficient for us either. We must practice religion as God prescribes in the New Testament.
You and I will be held responsible for knowing the expectations of God. Everything is not relative. Again, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by your word, your word is truth” (John 17:17). Just because I deny that gravity is real, that does not change its reality. It is false comfort to suggest that being religious is sufficient. The rich man received comfort in this life, but will suffer forevermore (see Lk. 16:19-31).
Please also notice carefully what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did I not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This passage describes people who called on the name of the Lord and were prayerful people. These folks lived at a miraculous time in history and therefore prophesied in the name of Christ and also cast out demons. These people were miracle workers! Think about it from this perspective. What do most people today say about a person that is genuinely practicing their faith? Don’t the vast majority view that person as having a free ticket to heaven? Yet Jesus says to these individuals who were active and seemingly genuine in expressing their faith, “I never knew you” (verse 23). This is a sobering passage that we should consider carefully.
You see, sometimes man’s ways are not God’s ways (Is. 55:8-9). God has not given us the freedom to practice religion as we desire. Our lone task on this earth is to be obedient to His Will (Eccl. 12:13). He will save those who “obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Do you see how dangerous it is for man to loosen or tamper with the plan of God in any way? (See also 2 Pt. 3:16 and Rev. 22:18-19).
Imagine using the same principles in the work place that many use in regards to religion. In religion, if someone is doing a few things right, his or her faith is rarely questioned. But consider a man that has ten tasks that he is supposed to accomplish each day at work. What would his boss think if he regularly performed only three of them as he was supposed to; some he altered to his liking; and others he simply ignored? More than likely, such a man would have to change his ways or lose his job really quickly, right?
Being sincerely religious is obviously very important, but as we have seen, it is not everything. God has communicated to us in His Word in an understandable way. We need to be good students of His Word, and “be doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
CHAPTER 4 - THE MAJORITY WILL BE LOST
Did you know that Jesus actually says that a minority of people will be saved? He says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
It seems that our Lord more tightly restricts salvation than most people today. I have no doubt that many have great intentions, but since the Bible is absolute truth (see Jn. 17:17), we need to go with what the Bible says rather than what we feel is good or right, or what popular opinion tells us.
Admittedly, it would be nice to think that every individual, or at least the vast majority of people are on their way to heaven, but yet this concept is not in harmony with what God says. In reality, believing that doctrine (that is not taught in the Bible) is like believing in a mirage; it just really isn’t there. This false belief places one’s soul in serious peril. While believing such a doctrine seems pleasant and may bring a certain amount of comfort, it does not change the reality of what Christ says concerning salvation and eternity.
I pray you will desire to know and follow the truth far more than you desire to adhere to anything that is not taught in Scripture. So many people are following man-made doctrines that have no power to save (see Mt. 15:8-9). You may be one of them. Only the pure Gospel of Christ has the power to save the soul (Rom. 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:16; Gal. 1:6-9).
Please remember that I am telling you these things as a friend. Please understand that I am not judging you. The judgment is God’s business, but we are taught the principle of being watchmen for one another (see Ezek. 30, 33). What kind of friend would I be if I thought your house was on fire and I did nothing to warn you? Likewise, what kind of friend would I be if I was uncertain about your most prized possession, your soul, and yet remained silent? What greater love can we have for one another than to genuinely care about one another’s eternal fate? Please know that I genuinely care about you. The minority will be saved. I desperately want you to be one of them!
CHAPTER 5 - WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
Before we get specifically to that question, perhaps we should give brief attention to what God has done to make our salvation possible. After all, it is only because of what He has done, that there is something that we can do to be saved. In other words, the basis of our salvation is not anything we do, but it is what God has done.
What God has done is revealed in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is important to note that the intent of Jesus, here, is certainly not to reveal the entire plan of salvation. It is His intention to show the basis of salvation, which is the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross and the love that motivated it. It is only through the death of the Son of God that man can have hope.
Jesus does not teach here, or elsewhere, that man is saved by faith alone. In fact, the words “faith alone” only appear one time in Scripture, and there this doctrine is condemned. James says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). It is assumed that if an individual believes in Jesus that he or she will do what He says. In fact, notice that earlier in the same chapter Jesus told Nicodemus in verse five, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Jesus did not contradict Himself in this chapter (or anywhere else). We must be very careful about taking a verse and making it mean something it was never intended to mean. This would be like us getting an email from someone and skipping to the third paragraph and second sentence, reading it, and thinking we knew exactly what was going on. We don’t do that with an email from a friend; surely we should not do that with a book from God!
James even ridicules the doctrine of faith alone saying, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!” (James 2:19).
I am not minimizing John 3:16. I am certainly not minimizing the death of Christ. It is the basis of our salvation. Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
God has indeed provided a way of escape. We were dead in our trespasses and sins (see Eph. 2:12). On our own, there is nothing we can do to merit salvation. Our duty is to appropriately respond to the grace and love of God. The way we do so is through our obedience to Him (Jn. 14:15). He is the “source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9).
Now we are ready to look more specifically at our question under consideration: "What Must I Do to Be Saved?”
This question is simplified by the fact that it is specifically asked twice in the New Testament. First, notice with me Acts 2. Peter has been preaching to the Jews on the day of Pentecost as they were assembled together to observe the Jewish feast and he convinces them that the man they crucified was the very Son of God. Pricked in their hearts, they respond saying, “what shall we do?” (verse 37). Peter, who is filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 4), responds saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (verse 38).
Let’s briefly talk about the two prerequisites for salvation that Peter mentions here. First, those present on this day were told to repent. The word “repent” means, “to have a change of mind that leads to a change of life.” Perhaps the concept is best illustrated by considering examples of it. When those who were practicing magic arts (sorcery) responded to the Gospel message, Acts 19:19 says they, “brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.” Hearing the Gospel caused these individuals to give up their sin. That is repentance.
When some saw Jesus conversing with Zacchaeus, they complained about Him being with this man that they considered a sinner. Zacchaeus responded to the Lord saying, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Lk. 19:8). Repentance seeks to do the will of God and make right any wrong that it can. Simply put, to repent means to turn away from sin, and turn toward doing the will of God.
When a thief repents, he quits stealing and makes restitution as much as possible. When a drunkard repents, he sobers up. When someone repents of a false religion, he turns away from error and practices the truth. Man must give up his selfish and sinful will and resolve to follow Christ and His way. We cannot be saved without a genuine desire to do what God wants us to do (repent; see Lk. 13:3).
The other prerequisite for salvation mentioned in Acts 2:38 is baptism. The word “baptism” is from the Greek word baptizo which means “to dip or immerse.” However, we are not dependent on our knowledge of Greek to know the mode of baptism. In Romans 6 Paul likens baptism to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism we die to sin, we are buried with Christ, and we are raised to walk in newness of life. In Colossians 2:8 Paul says, “having been buried with him in baptism…” In Acts 8:38, both the Ethiopian and Phillip, the preacher, “went down into the water.” We see very clearly from Scripture that baptism is a burial in water.
Another very important point concerning baptism is in regards to its purpose. Peter was very careful in Acts 2:38 to make this clear. Again, he said, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). The word “for” here, denotes the purpose of baptism. It is for the purpose of obtaining the forgiveness of sins. That is the motive for baptism.
The vast majority of the denominational world teaches that baptism is merely a symbol of a previous salvation that one has obtained. (You may also have been taught this.) Many say that it shows the church that an individual has already been saved and that they have made (past tense) a commitment to Christ. This is a very significant matter because God always wants us to do the right thing for the right reason. The reason we do something matters to Him.
Some, trying to get around the fact that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins say that the word “for” really should be translated “because.” In other words, Acts 2:38 should read (according to them), “Repent and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins.” This translation changes the purpose of baptism. However, there are many problems with this argument: (1) Not one single reputable version of Scripture uses the word “because” here. (2) This exact same construction in the original language (and almost always in English also) is used in Matthew 26:28 which says, “for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The construction of the end of this verse is identical to Acts 2:38. Let’s substitute the word “because” for the word “for” in Matthew 26:28. It would then read, “for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many because of the forgiveness of sins.” That doesn’t make sense! There is no reason that this word should be translated one way in one verse and another way in a different one. (3) Another problem is the plain teaching of so many Bible passages. (Please read: Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, and Acts 22:16.) These passages clearly state the purpose of baptism and link it directly to salvation.
Since New Testament baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, it is always portrayed as an urgent matter. The Ethiopian had the chariot stop so that he could be baptized while on his journey back from Jerusalem. Why didn’t he just wait until arriving home? Paul baptized the Philippian jailor in the middle of the night (see Acts 22:25, 33). Why such urgency? Paul himself was told by Ananias earlier, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Sin is an urgent matter! Baptism is the final step of obedience before God washes our sins away!
Now briefly notice with me the other time in Scripture when it was asked what a man should do to be forgiven. Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi when the jailor asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul responded by first saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (v. 31). If we stopped reading right here we might not get the complete picture. The question may be asked, “Does belief save?” The answer is, it can and it will if that belief causes man to do all that God asks him to do.
The concept of belief is sometimes used to represent the entire process of conversion. It would be rather awkward if the Bible writers thought they had to spell out the entire plan of salvation every time they spoke of conversion.
In the narrative we are looking at, we notice that the jailor repents. It is likely that he is the one that put the stripes on Paul and Silas… now he is tending to their wounds.
But notice as we look at the text, verse 32 says, “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Notice that he gave the “cliff notes” before, but now he is elaborating on what they need to do. Verse 33 then says, “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.”
Notice that not only was the family baptized, but the act of baptism was not something that should even be put off until the next day. The Bible is careful to point out that it was done “at once.” By this time it was well past midnight. Again, this emphasizes the urgency of being baptized and having our sins washed away.
Why is it urgent that we turn away from our sins and are buried with Christ in baptism? It is urgent because baptism is the dividing line. It separates saint from sinner. It separates the lost from the saved. The Bible says, “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Today we have the opportunity to make things right with God. The truth is, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Ananias asked Saul, “And now why do you wait?” (Acts 22:16). Are you waiting? Have you been buried with Christ in baptism for the forgiveness of your sins. Don’t risk your eternal soul! God’s infinite grace is available to you. It can wash away all of your sins so that they are remembered against you no more! The truth can set you free! (see Jn. 8:32).
CHAPTER 6 - THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH
Did you know that within a couple hundred years of the establishment of the church in the first century, man corrupted the simple organizational pattern God had established? Many decided it would be better if the organization of the church mimicked the structure of the Roman Government. Thus, men became bishops, ruling over multiple churches, and eventually a man was selected to rule over the entire newly organized church. Since that time church organization has evolved in many different directions.
Let’s consider some fundamental factors of church organization that we see in Scripture. An extremely important principle we will notice is that God established an organizational pattern for His Church in His Word that man has no right to tamper with. In fact, here is a question to carefully ponder: If we change the organization that God ordained for His church, does it remain His?
Notice that nowhere in Scripture do we see the authority for any governing body above the local level. I am afraid that this simple principle has fallen by the wayside in the religious world is a whole. In the Scripture we see that each congregation was autonomous. That is, it was independent of other congregations and was “self-ruling.” Nobody from outside the church had any authority over another church; not even any kind of counsel or governing body. Peter tells elders in 1 Pt. 5:2, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” They were not to shepherd the one in the next community or across the country… but Peter said, “the flock… among you.”
Again, this simple Biblical principle of autonomy is widely ignored today. Some churches have individuals that are over many churches (usually in a certain area). Sometimes churches have boards and councils that serve as governing bodies for those particular religious organizations. Many have a single man that oversees the church that they refer to as the “Pastor.”
Paul outlines the fundamental structure of the church in Philippian 1:1 where he says, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” How simple is that? The church as God intends is simply made of overseer, deacons, and saints. But sadly, few religious groups follow that pattern. Does yours?
God intended the church to be led by overseer (He also referred to them as pastors, bishops, and elders). He intended deacons to serve under them. Both elders and deacons have prerequisites they must meet before serving in these positions (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).
All members of the body of Christ were referred to as saints (or Christians – see Acts 11:26).
One other factor that should be emphasized is that although there are certainly leaders in the church, the New Testament does not teach a “clergy/laity” system. Instead, the Bible teaches that all Christians are priests of God (see 1 Pt. 2:5, 8). While there are certainly different roles in the church, Paul says concerning rank: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Many religious groups have one man that they call the pastor, who serves as the leader of the church. The word “pastor” as we noted earlier, is actually another word for elder. As Paul is talking to the elders in Acts 20 he calls them “overseers” and refers to the church as “the flock” (v. 28). In 1 Peter 5:2 he tells elders to “shepherd the flock of God.”
Never does the New Testament teach that there should be a single man (called by any name) who has authority over the church. Every time elders or pastors are mentioned in the Scripture, there is a plurality of them (see Acts 20:17-18; James 5:14; Titus 1:5; 1 Pt. 5:1-2). Not only is this God’s way, but we can certainly see great wisdom in this organization.
The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Being the head, He directs His church through His Word. Not even church leaders have the right to tamper with God’s Word. No man may add to or take away from what God has said (see Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
What about the organization of the church you attend? Is it organized according to the clear and distinct pattern of the New Testament?
CHAPTER 7 - WORSHIP ACCORDING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
As we have already mentioned, Scripture itself claims to be a pattern (see 2 Tim. 1:13). A part of that pattern is the worship that God intends for Christians to engage in as they assemble together.
There are many things that God has left to our discretion. For instance, He does not command us to gather at a certain hour for worship. Likewise, He does not designate what kind of facility we should worship in. Since this is true, we are free to use our judgment. These are matters of opinion, not of faith (or of necessity).
Patterns, however, have always been important to God. Noah was told to build the ark according to the pattern that God gave Him (and he was commended for doing so; see Gen. 7:5). In Leviticus 10, we see two individuals who did not think it was important to worship according to the pattern. Evidently it was important because God took their very lives for ignoring, or making a substitution, for His plan (see verses 1-4). Do we have a right today to say (or imply) that God’s pattern for worship is not important?
Let’s consider a few important principles concerning God’s pattern for worship in the New Testament. The Lord’s church started worshipping by the direction of the inspired apostles on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In this verse, three of the five acts of worship are mentioned (and some believe that fellowship may have reference to giving). As we look at the rest of Acts, as well as the rest of the New Testament, we see that God’s plan involved five acts of worship: (1) The apostles’ teaching (God’s Word; 2 Tim. 4:1-2); (2) The breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper; Acts 20:7); (3) Prayer (1 Tim. 2:8); (4) Singing (Col. 3:16; Eph, 5:19); and (5) Giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2). These actions alone are authorized by God for worship. This is important because Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We must have authority from God for worship. We cannot devise our own system of worship. Worship that has no Scriptural authority is merely a “commandment of men” which the Lord condemns in Matthew 15:8-9.
In particular, the Bible emphasizes that the first century church observed the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Recently I saw one of the local denominations advertising that they were offering the Lord’s Supper on a particular Sunday. The concept of choosing one, two, three, or four different Sundays a year to offer the Lord’s Supper is completely foreign to Scripture. It is a man-made practice. The Scripture teaches that when the early church came together on the first day of the week, they partook of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, it was the primary reason for the gathering (see Acts 20:7). Just like they gave, prayed, sang and studied the Scripture, they most certainly observed the Lord’s Supper. Who is man to change this pattern? Do we have the right to say (as some argue), it will be more meaningful if we do it less frequently?
It makes sense that we remember the Lord every Lord’s Day! Back in Acts 2:42 Luke records, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Notice they were “devoted” to each of these aspects of worship (or continued in them “steadfastly,” as some versions read). Can one say he is “devoted” to or is continuing “steadfastly” in the Lord’s Supper by taking of it one or two times per year?
In Acts 20:6-7 we see that Paul had delayed his stay in Troas so that he could break bread with his brethren on the first day of the week before he left. Did it just happen to be the Sunday the church was going to partake of the Lord’s Supper? Or, does it make more sense that they were doing this each first day of the week and Paul knew that?
Let’s also briefly consider the music portion of the service in the first century church. It was what we refer to as acapella (that is, without instruments). Instruments in the church assembly were not introduced until hundreds of years after the time of the apostles. They are clearly an addition to God’s plan. The Bible is filled with warnings concerning adding to the Word of God (See Dt. 4:1-2; Prov. 30:5-6; and Rev. 22:18-19).
In Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 Paul commands singing. He, in fact, commands singing with the heart. (The heart is the instrument to be used.) Perhaps we should remember that worship is not something we do to appease ourselves, but to glorify God!
You may be tempted to say, “But David used instruments.” If you said that, you would be right! David most certainly did (see Ps. 43:4; Ps. 150:3-5). Actually, there are more than sixty references to worshipping God with instruments in the Old Testament! However, the Old Testament Law has been done away with (Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:13). We continue to learn from it (Gal. 3:24-25), but we are not subject to it. We will be judged by the Word of Christ, the New Testament (see Jn. 12:48).
How many times is God worshipped with instruments in the New Testament? The answer is zero! It is rather telling of the desires of God for such an abrupt change to occur between the Old and New Testaments. We should also note that David was commanded to use the instrument! (see 2 Chron. 29:25-28). What a vivid contrast we find in the New Testament. Immediately after the apostle Paul instructs Christians to worship God with singing, he says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord” (Col. 3:17). David was commanded to play the instrument. We are commanded to sing and to do all things by His authority. Can man really say that he has authority from God to day to worship with instruments of music?
Worship, even according to the very definition of the word, is about honoring or bowing down to God. Certainly it must honor God when we worship how He asks us! Isn't it rather arrogant for man to tamper with the way God says He should be worshipped? We must always remember that we are the worshippers and God desires “true” worshippers to do so “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24). Worship is not primarily about our preferences. It is primarily about His preferences!
There simply is no authority for instrumental music in the New Testament. The inspired pattern calls for Christians to simply sing to the glory of God and the encouragement of one another (see Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).
I should mention that we are not saying the use of instruments of music is inherently sinful. However, it is clear that God does not desire for us to worship Him with them today.
Some people justify different religious practices by saying, “Well, the Bible does not say, ‘Do not …’” What they fail to understand is that when God tells man how he is to do something, that eliminates other options. Sometimes we refer to this as the “law of silence.”
Let me give you an example. When we observe the Lord’s Supper we do not have the right to say, “Well, the Lord does not say, ‘Thou shalt not use rice for the Lord’s Supper.’ Therefore, it must be an acceptable practice.” Using rice for the Lord’s Supper is forbidden. How? Through God’s silence. God has told us what to use (unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine - Mt. 26:26, 29; see also Ex. 12:15), therefore, nothing else is authorized by Him. God does not have to say, “Do not use rice.” “Do not use tea,” etc.
It should also be noted that many times God gives us freedom. Where God is not specific, we have freedom. For instance, God has not told us how many songs to sing in worship, thus we (or, church leaders) have the right to choose. God has not told us what time the church should meet on Sunday, thus man is free to make a decision that he feels is prudent.
Are you a true worshipper? Please understand that more is involved than being sincere. As we have already studied, sincerity is so very important, but yet so very inadequate if not channeled through truth. God’s Word provides direction for worship that pleases the Father.
(It may be a few weeks or so before the next chapter is added. Please check back before long. May God bless you.)