Sermon on Church Doctrine | A Patterned People

A Patterned People

Around 200 years ago, men were caught up in denominationalism, and they began to study the Bible. They realized that what the Bible taught about church practice and what they did concerning church practice were not quite the same. Thus, was born the “Restoration Movement,” an attempt to restore as closely as possible the New Testament church.

Inherent in the idea of “restoration” is the idea that God has given a pattern that needs to be duplicated. It’s just like the girl who had plastic surgery to look like the Mona Lisa—she had seen the pattern and wanted to look like it. If we are to look like the early church, there must be some pattern that we can follow to accomplish such a restoration. Is there such a pattern? Is what those involved in the Restoration Movement did valid? Let’s think about those questions this morning:

Man Needs a Pattern to Follow

Man is incapable of knowing what to do unless God tells him. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10:23).

Man needs a standard from God.

God Gave Patterns to His People

God gave Noah detailed instructions concerning the building of the ark. Genesis 6:14-16.

What if Noah had made the ark differently than God had instructed? What if he had not used gopher wood? Would the ark have floated? What if he had made the length of the ark 299 cubits? Would it have floated? What if he had put the door of the ark in the front? Would it have floated?

Noah and his family were saved from the Flood because Noah did what God commanded.

God gave Moses detailed instructions concerning the construction of the tabernacle.

Notice that God often told Moses to be sure to build the tabernacle just as God commanded. “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Ex 25:9). “See to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Ex 25:40). “You shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain” (Ex 26:30). The author of Hebrews recalled those instructions when he informed his readers that the Jesus could not have been a priest under the Old Testament (Heb 8:4-5).

Notice some of the instructions God gave Moses concerning the tabernacle. The table for the showbread was to be made from acacia wood; it was to be two cubits in length, a cubit in width, and a cubit and a half in height and overlaid with pure gold (Ex 25:23-24). If Moses had changed these instructions would God have been pleased? Moses was to make a lampstand of pure gold; it was to be hammered work; six branches were to come out of its sides, three branches on one side and the other three on the other side (Ex 25:31-32). If Moses had made four branches on each side, would God have been pleased? The tabernacle was to be made with ten curtains of fine woven linen, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim woven into them (Ex 26:1). What if Moses had made the tabernacle with eleven curtains? Would God have been pleased?

At times God’s people disregarded the pattern he sat down for them. At these times, God showed his anger.

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, died when they offered fire before the LORD that he had not commanded them (Lev 10:1-2). It’s not exactly clear what this “strange fire” was. We do know, however, that this was contrary to the commandment of God, for Moses records that this profane fire was fire “which He had not commanded them.” God had previously commanded that no strange incense be offered upon the altar of incense (Ex 30:9). Will God not punish us if we do not follow his commandments?

When Uzza reached out to touch the ark of the covenant, God struck Uzza dead (1 Chr 13:10). God had commanded that no one touch anything holy lest he die (Num 4:15). Furthermore, God had commanded that the ark of the covenant have poles on its sides and the ark was to be carried by these poles (Ex 25:14), but David was transporting the ark by a cart (1 Chr 13:7). Because the ark was not carried as God commanded, Uzza reached up to stable the ark when it began to fall of the cart, and God struck him dead. David acknowledged that God was right to take vengeance on Uzza: “The LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order” (1 Chr 15:13). Can we expect God not to break out against us if we do not consult him about the proper order?

God Gave a Pattern for His People in This Age

That God gave a pattern for his people today can be seen in the commands of Jesus.

The apostles were to teach new converts “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). If Jesus did not instruct his disciples to do things a certain way, how could the apostles teach new Christians to observe all that he taught? Jesus laid down a pattern about how his disciples are to love one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). The pattern was his example; Christians are to love one another the way Jesus loved us.

That God gave a pattern for people today can be seen in the fact that Christians were warned about those who deviated from what he instructed. “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim 1:3). “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrine” (Heb 13:9). Notice what John wrote the Elect Lady concerning those who taught that Jesus had not come in the flesh (2 Jn 9-11).

This goes back to what we saw in the Old Testament concerning Noah’s ark, the tabernacle, the fire on the altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant. God had said, “Do it this way.” Noah, Moses, Nadab and Abihu, and Uzza could not do it their own way. Likewise, in this era, God has spoken. Man cannot do it his own way.

That God gave a pattern for people today can be seen in the displeasure of God when individuals deviated from that pattern.

“Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor 5:5). Paul, writing by the Spirit, said, “This man is not living up to the pattern God has given concerning morality. Do not tolerate his behavior. Put him out from among you.”

Jesus told the church at Pergamos to repent of having those there who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:15-16).

Jesus condemned Jezebel in the Thyatiran church for seducing his “servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:20).

If we deviate from his pattern, can we not expect God to be angry with us? Can we not expect him to execute vengeance on us?

That God gave a pattern for his people today can be seen in his telling us to do all things according to that pattern. “Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). “By the name of the Lord Jesus” means by his authority, according to his will. If all things we do must be done by the authority of Jesus, does that not mean that God has given a “pattern” for his people today?

The question comes down to this: “Are we going to follow God’s pattern or are we going to do things our way?”


This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.

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