Using Pattern Theology to Answer Questions

In this lesson, Mike reviews the arguments used to support the inspiration of the Bible and how to answer questions concerning the faith using the device of pattern theology.
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So far in our study we've tried to respond to various questions concerning different areas of faith, Bible teaching and religion. I've reminded you in each chapter of the guiding principles that we need to remember when having a religious discussion with someone else of another faith or even a person who is a Christian, but has a different opinion about things.

  1. Respect the other person's sincerity. Their beliefs are as important to them as your beliefs are to you. People can believe something as zealously that is false or inaccurate, as they can believe something that is true.
  2. Keep the Bible as your base. God's word is always a better response than your opinion.
  3. Be patient. There's a time for everything even understanding and faith.

Review - Pattern Theology

I want to begin by answering three particular questions repeatedly asked of those who are members of the Churches of Christ:

  1. Why do you not use instruments in public worship?
  2. Why are there no women in the Churches of Christ who lead in public worship?
  3. Why do you take communion every Sunday?

In order to answer these questions properly we need to review some of the last chapter's material on pattern theology. I told you that what distinguishes Churches of Christ from other religious groups are two main things:

1. What we believe about the Bible

We believe that the Bible is completely inspired by God. We hold that all of it is inspired. We believe that it is the only inspired religious or holy book that exists. We also believe that because of these facts, the Bible is the final authority in spiritual, religious and moral matters. Now, we believe these features are true about the Bible for several reasons.

1. The Bible claims inspiration

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
- II Timothy 3:16

Throughout the Old Testament the writers described their writings as direct revelations from God and in the New Testament the writers also confirmed that what they were writing in their Gospels and epistles were the very words of God.

2. The Bible has survived attack

From the days of the Roman Empire until now the Bible has endured and survived non-stop attacks on its credibility. While various empires, religious groups and great thinkers have come and gone, the Bible has survived intact and grown stronger in its reach and influence around the world.

3. The Bible is unique among books

The Bible has been studied and critiqued more than any other single written document, and the results of these examinations have been that the Bible is unique in its insight, beauty, unity of thought and universal appeal. The Bible is a collection of 66 individual books written by 40 authors over a span of 1400 years and it tells only one overarching account without confusion or error. In this regard it is head and shoulders above any other document ever produced by man.

4. The Bible is effective

No other belief system and its writings have had such a positive impact on mankind for so long as the Bible. Some may accuse Christians of doing terrible things in the name of their religion, but when you examine their acts against the actual teachings of the Bible, you quickly find that they weren't really following the Bible in their actions.

For example, the IRA of Ireland and their terrorist tactics in the name of Roman Catholicism were not in line with Romans 12 that says we're not to take vengeance on our enemies in the name of God.

5. The Bible contains fulfilled prophecy

The Bible is the only holy book that contains a record of fulfilled prophecy.

"It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.'
And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,'
And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'"
- Isaiah 44:28

Isaiah lived 100 years before the king that he mentions in this passage was even born. There are 61 direct and fulfilled prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, that are fulfilled exactly in the New Testament. Everything from the place He would be born (Micah 5:2) to the way that He would die (Isaiah 42-50). Only God knows the future.

Therefore, when we as the Church of Christ, say that we believe the Bible is the only true and completely inspired Word of God, we say this because we have arrived at this conclusion based on the evidence that:

  • the Bible makes this claim about itself
  • it has survived over 2,000 years
  • it is special and unique in nature
  • its impact on the world cannot be denied
  • its record of fulfilled prophecies has not been duplicated in any other book

Only a document that has been divinely conceived and recorded can claim all of these features, there's no other plausible explanation. If God didn't write this book, then who did? Certainly not man.

So, to begin with, we're different from other religious groups because we believe that the Bible is completely inspired and the only authority in religion, spiritual matters and morality. Another reason we're different:

2. The way that we Apply the Bible

I said that our approach to the Bible and how we apply it to our practice of Christian living is called pattern theology. Pattern theology is the belief that the Bible contains patterns or blueprints that direct our actions in every area of Christian life. We believe this because when we read the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, we see God's people consciously using God's Word in this way. Noah, Moses, Solomon, Paul and Jude all specifically taught and acted according to this principle.

There are patterns and blueprints that guide us to do the things that God will have us do, not only in how to organize the church and offer Him public worship, but also how to be a good husband, a good wife, how to be a good citizen, how to grow spiritually or how to develop humility. These are the patterns and ways that the Bible teaches us these and other important spiritual disciplines.

These two beliefs and practice: complete inspiration and the authority of scripture, along with the presence of biblical patterns to guide us, are what set us apart from other groups. If you understand these things, you also know the principles I use whenever I'm answering a question about religious practice or Bible teaching.

Questions and Answers

Question #1
Why do we not use musical instruments in our worship services?

This is the most asked question by people who visit and participate in one of our public worship services.

Answer - We don't use instruments in public worship because when we examine the inspired pattern for public worship in the Bible, and specifically what the Bible says about the use of music in public worship, we see that the type of music used in these cases was always a cappella, meaning singing without instruments.

When I say, the inspired pattern, I mean, "What information and direction does the New Testament give me in this area?"

There is not a lot of information about worship and music in the New Testament. It is more focused on the attitude one has in worship, rather than the mode or the style of worship offered. However, there is enough information to help us come to a conclusion.

  1. Our worship is to follow the New Testament pattern, not the Old Testament pattern.
  2. The New Testament directs us to sing.
    • There are only a few references to music in worship but in every one, the instructions are to "sing" without the accompaniment of an instrument.
What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
- I Corinthians 14:15
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- Ephesians 5:19
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Colossians 3:16
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
- James 5:13

Each of these verses talks about music and worship to God and each uses a word that literally means to sing a cappella.

  1. The New Testament never mentions instruments in accompaniment to worship. I stated before that there are 181,253 words in the King James Version of the New Testament, and not a single one of these refers to instruments of music in Christian worship. We sing and only sing in worship because the only information in the Bible about music in worship directs us to sing without instruments, when doing so in public worship.

When you use instruments in public worship, you are doing so without the support of the New Testament. In addition to this, there is no pattern for the use of instruments and it goes against the blueprint outlined in the New Testament for music in worship. Of course, outside of public worship, our choice of music is guided by what is moral, proper and edifying, not whether it has instruments or not.

Question #2,
Why are there no women leading in worship or teaching adult Bible classes?

Again, the basic answer is the same as the answer to question number one: the New Testament pattern not only doesn't show or give us an example of women doing this, it actually specifically teaches against a women taking on these roles

1. No examples

In all of the New Testament there isn't a single example of any woman leading in a Christian worship service. Women like Dorcas, or Phoebe, or Lydia are mentioned and they are seen as serving, but not in a public worship service. There are, however, many references to men leading and teaching in worship services (Acts 2:42; Acts 13:1-13).

2. Specific Instructions

In addition to this there are specific instructions as to who ought to teach and who shouldn't teach when the church meets.

34The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. [...]
37If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.
- I Corinthians 14:34;37

Paul's instructions for conduct in the church.

11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
- I Timothy 2:11-12

There are reasons for these instructions, but basically it seems that God has given the spiritual leadership role in the church to men and not to women. This has been the source of contention for 2,000 years, because it has not always easy for weak and sinful men to be good spiritual leaders and it is not easy for weak and sinful women to submit. However, this order is the pattern for leadership in the church that God has set forth. Whether this model is popular or easy is not the point. The key is that it is still the pattern that we seek to follow in organizing the church according to God's instructions.

There are hundreds of different ministries in the local church and both men and women are encouraged to fulfill these roles as best they can. All of these except the role of elder, deacon or preacher are open to women. This is the pattern we see in the New Testament for service and leadership in the local congregation.

Question #3
Why do we take communion every Sunday?

Again, the answer is that we do it this way because we have examples and instructions in the New Testament to celebrate the Lord's Supper in this manner on this particular day. We know that the first day that the Apostles and new disciples took communion was on a Sunday, because in the first century the first communion taken after Jesus ascended was taken on Pentecost Sunday.

38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- Acts 2:38-42

Pentecost was on a Sunday, the Apostles and disciples first began sharing the Lord's supper on that Pentecost Sunday and afterwards we read that they continued taking communion on each Sunday.

Now, for a brief period of time while the church was in Jerusalem there is some evidence that the church took communion whenever they gathered in addition to Sunday but this practice was replaced by a regular Sunday observance as the church spread. (Acts 20:8; I Corinthians 11:23-26; I Corinthians 16:1-2).

If we take the bread and the fruit of the vine each Sunday, we are following as closely as possible the pattern established in the New Testament concerning the taking of the communion.


Before closing out this chapter I want to give you a few guidelines in the use of pattern theology so that you can arrive at accurate and consistent conclusions in your study of the Bible.

1. Obedience when it speaks, discernment when it is silent.

When the Bible explains or commands or provides an example of what it wants us to do, our response is to understand and obey. For example, we don't need 500 commands or examples to be baptized, one will do.

God gives us enough information and confirmation of information to guide us, but when we have just one or two commands or instructions about a matter, these have more authority than 10,000 commands or instructions given by human thought or opinion.

When God gives us information in His word then this is what we use, and we eliminate everything else. On the other hand, when the Bible is silent on a subject, and we can find no commands, no examples or relevant information, then we have to use Christian discernment and judgment.

For example, the Bible does not give information about birth control. We have to use Christian judgment in this matter and allow each couple to have their own opinion using the general principles in the Bible of not harming life and maintaining proper care of our bodies and budgets. In other words, when it comes to using pattern theology, we should strive to have unity in doctrinal matters, tolerance in matters of opinion, and love in all else.

2. Know the difference between what is cultural and what is eternal.

There is a lot of debate over issues in the Bible that stem from the fact that people fail to discern the difference between things that were cultural in nature and applicable only in the first or second century, and those things which are eternal principles that remain always. Things like the women wearing veils, the washing of feet or meeting in homes. These and other things were subject to change because they were part of the culture and habits of the first century and they were permitted by God. The taking of communion, singing in the assembly, male spiritual leadership, among other things were specifically commanded and given by God and they cannot be changed, regardless of the culture.

So when you hear debates over various issues, ask yourself, "Is it a cultural matter or is it a spiritual issue? Once this is discerned then go ahead and see what the guideline, pattern, outline or plan in the New Testament is for these things?

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