GUIDE TO NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY

What do you do when you find the Good News about Jesus Christ and the church He leads? Now that you want to follow Jesus, how do you get started? How do you identify fellow believers with whom you can have fellowship in Christ’s church? You may even be alone in your faith. Whether by yourself or in an area with many churches, how will you begin your life as a member of the body of Christ? This guide is for you. We can learn from the Bible what the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is like. Sometimes we must search for such a group among the many confusing religious voices that are around us. This puts you in a wonderful position. You can see God work in the world in a very special way. Throughout history many people have searched for faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Every time people call to God to find a way to follow Him, He shows them. The first thing you must do is call out to God. Ask Him to show His love for you while you find the way to believe and obey Him. Our God is kind, and knows everything about you, and He really loves you. He is more determined than you are to help you find the wonderful life He promises to us all – the life all human beings were meant to live. He will answer (Mt. 7:7-11; Lk. 18:1-8). The second thing you must do is to keep studying your Bible. The Bible is the key to seeing how God works, what He asks of you, and how to follow Jesus. This small guide is meant to help you find His path for you. It will not answer all your questions. This guide will give you a picture of how to become the body of Christ, the church, among the people around you. Jesus is the Living Word who will be your real Guide, and this booklet points you to Him. He is also the One for whom Christianity is named – Jesus Christ. The only Guide Book that fully, clearly and originally tells us about Jesus Christ is the Bible. We should not depend on human beings, “who cannotsave” (Ps 146:3). Please do not use this ‘guide’ as a set of rules. It is not a list of decisions made by councils of men. Such religious “tradition” is harmful. People often follow their own traditions instead of God’s commands (Mk 7:1-13; Col 2:8; 2 Tim 4:3-4). This “guide” will only be useful to you if it causes you to turn to Scripture. That is why it shows Scripture references. Please read the Bible for yourself and see to whom this Guide points. The New Testament itself warns us that its words can be twisted to mean things that are not true. While the New Testament was being written, it was clear that many people were turning the Good News about Jesus into a new rulebook or even using Scripture for their on gain (2 Jn1:7-9; 2 Tim 2:16-18; 2 Tim 4:3-4). These kinds of teachers are called “false prophets” (1Jn 4:1; 2 Pet 2:1-3; 2 Pet 3:15-16). Paul tells us in Galatians 1:6-9 that the Good News is a single message that should not be changed. We must be careful. We must listen to Christ, who alone opens the way to God (Mt 17:5; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12).

KNOWING WHAT GOD’S WILL

HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS? DOES HE REVEAL IT? The Old Testament laid much of the foundation for knowledge about God and Christ. It also contained special rules from God for those who lived before the time of Jesus.The Law of Moses showed the Jews how to live, worship, and offer sacrifices. But the Law of Moses was completed and ended by Christ (Acts 7:1-6; Rom 10:4).Christ began His “New Covenant” – the new agreement (Heb 8:6-13; 9:15; 10:9). We are not under the rule of Moses, but of Christ (Gal 3:25; 1 Cor 9:21; Mt 28:18-20). The words of Christ are found in the New Testament, though He often quoted the Old Testament. Jesus gave His words to His apostles. He promised that theHoly Spirit would give them “all truth” (Jn 14:26;16:13;17:8). Thus, their words were not their own, but God’s (Mt 10:20; 1 Cor 2:13). They safely wrote down the will of Christ (1Cor 14:37; 2 Thes 2:15). Christ has returned to heaven (Acts 1:9; 2:35), and so does not speak to us directly today. In order to listen to the teaching of Jesus, we must learn from the New Testament. The Bible is a library of 66 books. It was written by forty different writers who wrote over a period of 1500 years. They wrote what God inspired them to write (2 Pet 1:21). Some of them wrote the history of God’s people. Others wrote God’s laws and judgments for that time. Many of these also wrote prophecies looking ahead to Christ and His church. The Bible has two main parts: 1) The Old Testament which covers the period from Adam until about 400 years before Christ was born; The Old Testament 1.The Pentateuch also known as the Books of the Law. They are the first five books of the Bible and of the Old Testament popularly referred to as the Books of Moses. They are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. 2.Historical Books. These are the books containing a detailed History of Israel and they are the next twelve Old Testament books, namely: Joshua,Judges,Ruth,1 Samuel,2 Samuel,1 Kings,2 Kings,1 Chronicles,2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther 3.Poetry Books. These are also known as the Books of Everyday Wisdom or The Writings. They are the next five books, namely: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon 4.Books of the Prophets. These are sub divided into two, five Major and 12 Minor Prophets, which end the Old Testament. (a)Major Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel (b)Minor Prophets Hosea,Joel,Amos,Obadiah,Jonah,Micah,Nahum,Habakkuk,Zephaniah,Haggai,Zechariah,Malachi The New Testament 1. The Gospels. Consisting of four books, named after the writers who had been with Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John 2. Acts of the Apostles History of the Christian (New Testament) Church 3. The Epistles These are Letters which are divided into two, namely: (a) Pauline Epistles: Letters written by Paul the Apostle to specified Churches. Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (b) General Epistles One written to the Jewish Christians in general, believed to be written by the Apostle Paul, but not confirmed by contemporary Bible Scholars, namely; (i)Hebrews (ii) Seven Letters written to Christians generally, named after the writers. James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude 4. The Revelations This is the last book of the Bible, and of the New Testament The New Testament which records the life of Christ, the King who should be obeyed by all today (Heb 1:2; 5:9) and the results of His work. The New Testament begins with four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. His reporters were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They tell of the birth of Jesus, His early years, the beginning of His public work, His choosing apostles, His miracles, His teachings, His promise to build His church, His trial and crucifixion, His death and burial, His resurrection on the third day, His promise to come again, His sending the apostles into all the world to preach the Gospel to every person, and finally of His return in Heaven. These books were written to build faith in Christ (Lk 1:1-4; Jn 20:30-31). The book, Acts, records the activities of the men whom Jesus chose to carry on His work after His return to Heaven. This book tells how His special messengers, called apostles, preached the Gospel so that people could be saved, started congregations in many places and helped them grow up in Christ. This book tells how men and women were converted, what they did to obey the Gospel and how they worshipped after being added to the church. The book of Acts helps us to see Christ’s pattern for being saved, for teaching others, and for starting His congregations throughout the world. The rest of the New Testament is made up of letters to churches and individual Christians. These letters tell us by command and example how to live the life of a Christian, and how to work and give glory to Christ through being His church (Eph 3:21). Honest study of the Bible is high worship to God. It honors Him as the Creator who made us, and who alone can guide us. It admits that His power and wisdom are far greater than ours. By obeying God’s word through Christ we show our love for Him (Jn 14:15; 1 Jn 5:3), we prove that we truly believe He is Lord (Lk 6:46), and so we become His true followers (Jn 8:31). As we learn from the New Testament we see what Christ’s church is, how to be in it, and what it does in each new place.
THE BIBLE TELLS US… …who we are, …why we are here, and …where we go when we leave this place. Who we are: We are human beings who have been made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26-27). God formed the first man, Adam, out of the dust of the earth, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life “and man became a living being” (Gn 2:7). Our bodies are made of the earth, and they go back to dust at death (Gn 3:19). But our spirit lives beyond death (Mt 10:28; Lk 16:22). After death the spirit “returns to God” (Eccl 12:17). Why we are here: God created us to be children in His royal family (Eph 1:5). As such, God gives us work to do for Him. All things (including humans) were made “by Him and for Him” (Col 1:16). God should be our greatest love: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:30). God gives to each person “his assigned task” (Mk 12:34). We give glory to God by finishing the work He gives us to do (Jn 17:4; 4:34; 2 Tim 4:6-7). And so, like early Christians, we should “be for the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:12; Phil 1:20). Where we go: The Bible speaks only of two possible places after death, when this life and time have ended. One is called Heaven (2 Cor 5:1; 2 Tim 4:18), a place of joy and peace and happiness. It is where the saved live with God (Jn 14:1-3). A place of those who accepted Christ and work in His ways while they were living on the earth, There is also a place called Hell (Mt 5:29; 10:28). It is a place of pain and sorrow. All who put other things above God and His will must be punished there forever (Mt 25:41; Rv 20:8). If we belong to Christ, He takes us to Heaven, to live with Him forever. If we leave Him in life, Hell will be our fiery home. “If we endure, we will also reign (rule) with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2 Tim 2:12).
THE BIBLE REVEALS THE GREAT HUMAN PROBLEM AND ITS SOLUTION. Man’s life on earth comes from God (Acts 17:25; Heb 12:9). Children are gifts from God (Ps 127:3; Prv 17:6), and God’s gifts are good (Jas 1:17; Ps 139:13-14). Jesus used little children as examples for His kingdom (Mt 18:1-4;19:14). His teaching was quite different from religions that say babies are full of sin and wickedness from birth. Our bodies do bear the results of Adam’s sin (Gn 3:17-19); but our souls are not held guilty for the sins of any parent (Ezk18:20). Human life begins with God, and is therefore good and innocent at the beginning (Ps 139:13-14; Eccl 7:29; Rom 7:9). However, a baby will grow up to know the difference between right and wrong (Dt 1:39; Is 7:15; compare Gn 2:17; 3:22). When the child has grown up, and sins with full knowledge, his sin separates him from God (Is 59:1-2). Once separated from God we cannot come back by our good works (Rom 3:1-20; 9:31-32; Is 64:6). And we don’t have power to clean away our own past wrongs. We must have help. God loves us, and in His grace makes the way for sin to be removed. Once sin is removed, we can return to God as in the beginning of our lives. Only the blood of Christ can take away sin. When a person’s sins are washed away in the blood of Christ, he is joined to God again. Man is with the Lord at birth, is separated from Him when he sins, and must be “born again” to have close ties with God again (Jn 3:3-7). When one learns that he has broken God’s law, and has become separated from Him because of sin, he needs to know that he can have forgiveness.
GOOD NEWS: FORGIVENESS IS FREE! God’s forgiveness is a free gift offered through His own great love (Jn 3:16; 4:10,14; Rom 3:24; 5:15-16; 6:23). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). We could never earn our way back into God’s presence. God is too high, too holy, too pure, and we are too sinful (Is 6:1-5; 59:1-2). But thanks be to God that He did the work that earned our salvation. He sent His own Son, a part of Himself, to become flesh and to live among us on the earth (Jn 1:1-14). This Son, Jesus, took on Himself the punishment we should have suffered (Is 53; Heb 2:9). He carried our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21). There He paid the terrible price of separation from God (Mt 27:46). So He became the Lamb to be sacrificed, offered once for everyone, to take away the sins of the whole world (Jn 1:29; Heb 10:10-14). Through His blood every person on earth can enjoy full forgiveness, and come back to live with God forever (2 Cor 5:19; 1 Jn 2:2). Like any other gift, the gift of salvation must be accepted. No person - however sincere – can make up his own way of accepting God’s gift. Many sincere, religious people have been lost (Jn 5:39-47; Acts 22:3-4; Rom 10:2-3). Jesus warned that “many” who expect to be saved by Him will be rejected. Why? Because they follow their own way to salvation, instead of God’s (Mt 7:21-23). In this matter as in all matters, Jesus is still Lord. God is still God. Since God is the One who forgives sins, people can only receive the free gift of forgiveness His way (Heb 5:9). In the New Testament, He has clearly shown us how people receive the free gift of His forgiveness. • Become like children, humbling yourself before God, being willing to learn (Mt 18:3-4; 19:14; 5:3; Jn 7:17; Jas 4:6). • Listen to the message of Christ (Jn 6:45; Mt 7:24; 13:23; Acts 2:37-41; Rom 10:17). • Believe in God, and in His Son Jesus Christ (Heb 11:6; Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom 5:1). • Confess that faith in Jesus as Lord, that is, Ruler over all (Rom 10:9-10). • Repent (Lk 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). This means making the firm decision to turn to God and away from sins. Repentance should continue to be a daily decision (Lk 9:23). • Be baptized in water, into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 19:5) in order to receive forgiveness and the gift of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 38; 22:16). • Be faithful to Jesus and His people, because our new life in Christ is a journey together (1 Jn 1:7-10; Phil 1:27-28; Heb 3:13-14). Having received forgiveness and become Christians: • Continue to learn from Christ and follow Him (Mt 28:20; Jn 8:31; 15:4; Acts 2:42). • Walk (live) with Christ, repenting of sins and confessing them, receiving the continued cleansing of Christ’s blood (1 Jn 1:5-9; 2:6; Jn 8:12; Jas 5:16). • Give similar love and mercy to others (Mt 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:2; 25:31-46; Jas 1:27-2:13; 1 Jn 4:7-11). • Keep your confidence and hope in Christ (Rom 8:24-25; 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 3:6, 14; 10:36-39). • Do the obedient deeds of such faith (Mt 7:21, 24; Jas 2:14-26; Rv 2:5; Rom 2:7; 15:18). • Be ready to suffer with Christ (Rom 8:17; Mk 8:31-35; Jn 12:25; Acts 14:22; Rv 2:10). • Overcome (keep winning) by the blood of Christ and by your message (Rv 12:11; 3:21; Rom 8:3139; 1 Tim 4:16). Each of the matters just noted is tied, in the Scriptures, to salvation. Since these are God’s terms (not man’s) each one is essential. These are the responses of real faith. As made clear by Ephesians 2:8-9, they in no way attempt to earn salvation. Having done all God commanded, we are still “unworthy servants” (Lk 17:10). When one believes in the Gospel, confesses Christ as Lord, repents, and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins, he is saved (Mk 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-39). The moment he is saved he is “added” by Christ to His church (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor 12:13). WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM? WHAT DOES IT ACCOMPLISH? Baptism is very simple. But the meaning of baptism is of vital importance. One should want to be baptized because: • baptism leads to salvation (Mk 16:15-16; 1 Pet 3:20-21) • baptism leads to forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) • baptism puts one in Christ and His death (Rom 6:1-4; Col 2:12) • in baptism one puts on Christ (Gal 3:37) • baptism is into Christ’s body, the church (1 Cor 12:13) What Christ did to save man is shown by us in being saved. For example: Christ died for our sins, was buried in a tomb, and was raised up from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-4). When we are converted, we obey “a form” or “pattern” of teaching (Rom 6:17). Just as Jesus made the decision to die for sin, so man decides to die to sin (he repents). Just as Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a tomb, so – in the waters of baptism- the repenting person dies to sin and is buried with Christ. Just as Jesus was raised up from the grave, so is the one being baptized raised up from the “grave” of water. Just as Jesus was raised to die no more, so the one being baptized now rises to “live a new life.” (Please read Rom 6:1-4 and Col 2:11-12 carefully.) Another word for “new life” is birth. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Romans 6 shows that new life starts at baptism, while John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 link the start of new life (birth) with “water” and “washing” (also Eph 5:26). Clearly, the new birth involves baptism in water. This fact can be seen in Paul’s conversion. When Paul (Saul) met and spoke with Jesus near Damascus, he truly began to believe. In repentance, Paul fasted and prayed. He saw a vision, and was healed of blindness. Yet it was after all these things that the messenger of God told him, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). His sins had not been washed away by his belief, by his amazing experience, or by his prayer. His sins remained with him until washed away at baptism. Why? Because it is in baptism that one is placed “into” the death of Christ, where sins are washed away by Christ’s blood (Rom 6:3-4; 5:9; Rv 1:5). Therefore it is not difficult to see – as Christians did for many centuries immediately after Christ – that the new birth takes place in baptism for forgiveness of sins. Some have difficulty accepting that baptism is essential. They say that the “thief on the cross” was saved without baptism (Lk 23:39-43). They forget that the thief could well have been baptized already. “All” or most of the ordinary people had been baptized (Lk 7:29; Jn 4:1). One should also realize that the baptism practiced before the death of Jesus was a temporary kind of preparation (Act 19:1-7). Full Christian baptism only began after the cross, from the time of Matthew 28 and Acts 2. This is so because Christian baptism is “into” Christ’s death (Rom 6:3). The thief could not be baptized into Christ’s death, for Christ had not yet died. Christian baptism has to do with Christ’s New Covenant (agreement). This New Covenant began when Christ died (Heb 9:15). The thief was before Christ’s death. Therefore he was before the Christian covenant and Christian baptism had come into effect. The New Covenant and its baptism could not apply to the thief. But they do apply to us, who have come after Christ’s death. Passages like John 3:16, which say we are saved by faith, clearly include in the meaning of faith its proper responses, such as repentance, baptism and confessing faith in Christ. If a “faith” is unwilling to respond as God directs, it is not true, saving faith (see Mt 7:21- 23; Jn 12:42; Jas 2:26). Have you been baptized as the New Testament describes? If not, and if you now understand the New Testament’s Gospel message, you should be baptized - today. In the New Testament, those who heard and accepted the Gospel were baptized at once “…that day” (Acts 2:41); “…when they believed” (Acts 8:12); “…as they traveled along the road” (Acts 8:36); “…immediately” (Acts 16:33). The same question asked of Saul now is asked of you, “And now what are you waiting for? “Get up, be baptized…” (Acts 22:16). Notice also that Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) was baptized by “a disciple” (Acts 9:10). He did not have to wait to be baptized by someone of great importance. When Paul preached he often did not do the baptizing. Instead he let others do the baptizing (1Cor 1:14-17). In this he was similar to Jesus (Jn 4:2). These scriptures make it clear your baptism’s value does not depend on who baptizes you. In baptism you will be raised through faith in God’s working (Col 2:12). God is ready, and you should be too. Find a body of water deep enough for your body to be “buried” (Rom 6:4; Jn 3:23; Acts 8:36-39). Your friends and relatives will probably want to know more about baptism. You can explain to them why you are being baptized. You can help them to understand that the authority for baptism comes from Christ, not from man. HOW TO BE BAPTIZED First, go to a body of water sufficiently deep to permit your body to be completely dipped under the surface. Baptism is a kind of burial (Rom 6:4). Walk out into the water about waist deep. The one doing the baptizing can gently lower your body under the water. The baptizer should be in a good position to raise your body to a standing position again. Immediately after the baptism, you leave the water and change into dry clothing. NOTE: If no one is available to baptize you, you can ask a friend who is willing to assist you in obeying Christ. Also, a person is baptized only one time scripturally (Eph 4:5). After this one baptism, it would be wrong to be baptized over and over. Sins one commits after baptism are removed by Christ’s blood as one walks with Him, while one is honest and repentant about his sins (1 Jn 1:5-9; Acts 8:22). After you have been baptized, you should teach and baptize others (Mt 28:18-20). If you have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins, you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and you have been added to Christ’s church (Acts 2:38-42). You have found a treasure that others can also have. You should share it with others. Sharing it with them only increases your own enjoyment of it. Of course, before you teach others about New Testament Christianity you should make certain that you understand it well yourself. Keep studying God’s word to make sure your teaching is biblically accurate (Acts 18:26; 1 Pet 2:9; 3:15; 4:11; 1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim 2:2,15; 3:16). After you have studied again all that you have learned about God’s gift of life, His church (family), and how to become a member of it, you should call all of your friends together and tell them about your salvation (like Mk 5:19). You will be able to show them from the Bible what sin is (1 Jn 3:4), what sin does (Is59:1-2), and that one who dies in sin cannot go to Heaven (Jn 8:21-24). You will be able to tell them of God’s love for them (Jn 3:16), and that because He loved them He made it possible for them to be saved through Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 4:10). You can show them where Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:15-16). You can show them that all, “both men and women,“who believed, repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38; 5:14; 8:12) were added to God’s saved people, the church (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 26:18; Eph 5:23-27). Encourage them to receive forgiveness as those people of Bible times did; and as you have also done! The word “church” has been mentioned several times, but…
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? The Church is the body of people who have been “called out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9). It is the spiritual house or body where the entire saved are gathered. It is not a physical building or place. Instead, it is a “spiritual house” or “body” made up of God’s own people (1 Pet 2:4-10; 1 Cor 12:12-14). What about all the different “churches”? Satan, “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), has had his way in this world. He has created confusion and division. This has even affected many who claim to follow Christ. They are split into many sects and factions with different names (denominations). These often war against each other. Such shameful division is one of the “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-20). It is against the prayer and will of Christ (Jn 17:21). It also makes it very difficult for people seeking to do right. They ask, “Can one be a member of Christ’s church today?” The answer is, “Yes!” God promised that Christ’s kingdom would never end (Is 9:7; Dn 2:44; Lk 1:33). Jesus promised that His church would not be defeated (Mt 16:18). It is still on earth today. You became a member of it in the same way people did at the time of the apostles. If you have believed what they believed, and obeyed what they obeyed, to receive the free gift of salvation in Christ, then you are a member of the same church with them. Here is another way of saying this: If, as the New Testament shows us, you have been born of water and the Spirit, then you were born into God’s family or household, which is the church (Jn 3:5; Gal 3:26-27; 1 Tim 3:15; 1 Pet 1:22-2:10). God’s word is like a seed (Lk 8:11). When that good seed was planted then, it produced true Christians and true churches of Christ then (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 11:16; Gal 1:22). When it is planted today, it produces the same now. All who have become Christians as in the New Testament can be sure that Christ Himself has “added” them to His one church (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor12:13). The problem is that God’s enemy has sown much bad seed (Mt 13:24-43). Instead of following the word of God, many are following the man-made teachings of their own religions, and even their own “churches” or denominations.These departures from God’s way were foretold long ago (1 Tim 4:1-4; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1-2). The solution is to repent of the sins of division, of selfish ambition, and of honoring men and money above God. Imagine for a moment that the apostles John, Peter and Paul came to visit you today. How would they answer if you asked them, “To which church do you belong?” Surely they would reply, “We are members of the same church of which we were members in Acts. This is the one church built by Jesus.” (See Mt 16:18; Acts 5:11; 1 Cor3:9-11; 10:17; 12:12; Eph 4:4). If you had not yet become a member of Christ’s church, these apostles would urge you to enter it. It is the only one authorized and headed by Christ (Eph 1:22-23). It is the only one of which Christ is Savior (Eph 5:22-27; Acts 20:28). What would they say about how to enter the one church? Exactly what they said to those seeking to enter it in New Testament times! They would say the same thing because Christ and truth do not change (Heb 13:8; 1 Pet 1:22-25). Let’s go a step further. Suppose that you obeyed the Gospel as taught by Peter and the other apostles, but that you later fell into false ways. You became involved in splits and divisions through honoring men instead of Christ. You worshipped in the ways of men instead of in God’s way. What would these apostles say to you? Exactly what they said to Christians who had sins and problems in their day: Christ stands at the door and knocks. Let Him in! Repent of your sins! (Rv 2 & 3). Have “no divisions among you!” “Agree with one another!” 1 Cor 1:10). Literally, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, the word “agree” is “speak the same thing.” How can we speak the same thing? Whose teaching shall we accept? The teaching of Christ as kept for us in the New Testament! Obey God rather than men. Be a member of His church rather than of man-made “churches.” Teach others and help them also to return to Christ and thus to the one church He built. Even if some others may be unwilling, you can and should do what is right and biblical. If you find a place where there is no New Testament church, do as Paul, John, Peter and the other early Christians did! Do what Christ has told every disciple to do. Share with others the simple Gospel message (Mk 16:15; Mt 28:18-20). Teach them what Christ says through His word. Baptize those who believe and repent. In the New Testament, those who were thus added by Christ to His church started to meet together to encourage each other (Heb 10:23-25). You too should start meeting with those born of water and the Spirit, for that is God’s family in that place. The early Christians often held their meetings in their own home (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phlm 2). As needed, you too can meet in homes. On Sundays early Christians met to break bread - the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). You too should do this. All of us are by nature worshipping beings. We don’t need to be told to worship. We do need to be shown.
HOW TO WORSHIP Keep in mind that not all worship is acceptable to God. This fact has been clear from the beginning. God approved of Abel’s sacrifice, but rejected Cain’s (Gn 4:4-5). To the people of Israel God gave specific rules about how to worship. He was angry at their worship to Him through statues (Ex 32: 1 Kgs 12-13). He punished those who offered “unauthorized fire” (Lv 10; Nm 3; see Note below.) Often what pleases man, or what man thinks pleases God, is “detestable in God’s sight” (Lk 16:15). Jesus condemned “rules taught by men.” They make worship useless (Mt 15:9; Col 2:23). Rather than merely following what suits people’s desires (2 Tim 4:3), study the Scriptures in order to know how God wants to be worshiped. NOTE: When God has told us what He wants, doing what God has not authorized treats God as if He has no mind or will. It places human wishes above God’s word. When man takes the place of God, it amounts to idolatry and rebellion. Therefore it is important to listen not only to God’s commands, but also to His salient. Hebrews 7:13-14 has an example of silence. In His Old Covenant, God commanded that priests must come from Levi. There was salient about priests coming from any other tribe. Though God did not say, “No priest can come from Judah,” the very fact that He had been specific about Levi ruled out Judah. It could only take a change of the Old Law or Old Covenant to allow anyone from Judah to become a priest. In the same way, when God’s New Covenant clearly show us what God wants, we should avoid willfully replacing it or adding something else. That is why, for example, we do not try to drink just any fruit juice in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because we respect God’s will. Christ was clear about using the grape’s drink. Since He is so specific, we try to use grape drink and not some other drink. Of course, where God has not been clear on a certain matter, it would be wrong for us to make rules as if we were God. In all matters we should in love try to reflect God’s will as He has revealed it. In the Old Testament, God chose a place for special worship. This was the temple in Jerusalem (Dt 12, 16; 1 Kgs 8, 11:32). However, Jesus showed that in His New Covenant this rule would no longer apply. “A time is coming and now has come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (read Jn 4:20-24). Today Christians do not have to go to an earthly temple, for they are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). They are also the priests of God (Rv 1:6). Their sacrifices are spiritual (1 Pet 2:5), and so is their place of worship. Where do they worship God? Since God is Spirit, they worship Him “in spirit” – worship takes place in their spirits and hearts where they meet and praise the God who is also Spirit. They also worship Him “in truth” – they “continue to walk in the truth” (3 Jn3). Since the place for worship is in spirit and in truth, there is no time when God’s people are away from that place. We offer our bodies as “living sacrifices” by using our gifts and abilities for God (Rom 121-8; 1 Pet 4:10-11). Even normal or lowly jobs are done in such a way as to please and honor Christ (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-24). “Whatever” we do, even eating and drinking, should be “for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Though all of life is offered to God, the Bible also speaks of more specific worship (Mt 2:2-11; 14:33; Jn 9:38). Much of this is done “continually” (Heb 13:15; 12:28; 1 Thes 5:16-18), and much should be “in secret,” for God’s eyes only (Mt 6:1-18). Christians should also spend much time together, worshiping God and encouraging each other (Acts 2:44-47; Heb 3:13). The first members “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Acts 20:7 show that “breaking of bread” was done on Sunday, as was special giving for the church (1 Cor 16:1). As churches of Christ spread to many parts of the world, some misused their gatherings. So the New Testament helps us to understand how meetings of the church should be conducted. Instructions on gatherings of the whole church are found in the New Testament (1 Cor 11:17-34; 14:1-40; 1 Tim 2:1-15; Jas 2:1-13). From these teachings it is clear that combined worship must be done in a loving way, led by the men, with encouraging messages that can be clearly understood, “in a fitting and orderly way.” Notice that basic instructions for one church were also taught in all the churches (1 Cor 14:33, 37; see Note below). The example given to us by the apostles of the Lord Jesus is to come together for group worship and encouragement on Sunday, the first day of the week. As we read the New Testament, we see the following parts of worship specifically authorized by the Lord: NOTE: Christ’s clear teachings through the apostles were a pattern to be followed and repeated in every place: Mt 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; 8:4; 13:49; 14:23; 16:4; 20:27,32; Rom 1:5; 6:17; 1 Cor 4:17; 7:17; 14:33; 16:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Tim 2:8; 3:15; 2 Tim 1:13; 2:2; 2 Pet 1:3, 12-15; 3:1-2. 1 Corinthians 14 describes a Christian assembly in the first century. Scripture Study “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The apostle Paul, therefore, went on to tell the evangelist Timothy, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). He also told him, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). Clearly Christian meetings gave a special place to learn from the Bible. The apostle Peter wrote, “If any one speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Pet 4:11). Why is there such a strong emphasis on God’s word? Because there is a great difference between what is “from heaven” and what is “from men” (Mt 21:25; 1 Thes 2:13). Christians honor God by listening to His word, sharing it and obeying it. Prayer Prayer is speaking to God. Jesus taught that prayers should praise and thank God from the heart (not for show or repeated ritual, Mt 6:5-15). At times fasting goes with prayer (Mt 6: Acts 14:23; see below). Prayers free us from worry, because in prayer we give all our concerns to God (Phil 4:6; 1 Pet 5:7). We should try to ask for things that are in God’s will (1 Jn 5:14; Lk 22:42). Early Christians prayed alone (Mt 6:6; Acts 10:9), and together (Mt 18:19-20; Acts 1:14; 4:24; 12:5,12; 20:36). In the meetings “the men,” as spiritual leaders, led in prayers (1 Tim 2:8-14). Christ is our only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5). Because of Him we come to God confidently (Heb 4:16; 10:19-22). We know that God answers our prayers (Mt 7:7-11; Mk 11:24; Jn 15:7; Jas 5:16). Temple worship of the Old Covenant used incense (Ex 30:8-9; Lk 1:10). The New Covenant is silent about such incense in Christian worship. Instead, the true spiritual incense is used, namely our prayers through Christ (Rv 5:8; 8:3). Fasting Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fast.” He said, “When you fast” (Mt 6:16-18). Christ expected His people to at times go without food for God. He Himself fasted (Mt 4:2), and His disciples would fast later (Mt 9:15). Like prayer and giving, fasting should usually be in secret, for God’s eyes alone. But groups in the early church fasted and prayed together before important events (Acts 13:3; 14:23). By this means they expressed to God their deep concern, and their seriousness in the matters about which the prayed.Times of fasting should not be made into rules to be imposed on others. Like prayer and giving, they should come from hearts that truly want to honor God. Singing Singing is the natural response of a joyful heart to God (Jas 5:13). The early Christians sang different kinds of songs to God (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Psalms were often taken from the Old Testament book of Psalms. Hymns and spiritual songs were often made up by the Christians themselves, and were based on Scripture's teachings (“let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Col 3:16). In the Old Covenant the music of man-made instruments was offered as worship to God. The New Covenant is silent about such instruments in Christian worship. (As all know, they are “lifeless, “ 1Cor 14:7.) Instead, God wants the spiritual music of thankful hearts to go with our singing (Eph 5:19). While our songs and spiritual music go to God, our songs also encourage and teach our fellow members (Eph 5;19; Col 3:16; 1 Cor 14:15, 26). If you do not already have good worship songs, make up your own, based on Christ’s word, and help your fellow Christians to learn them. Giving In order to help suffering Christians in Judea, churches of Christ in other areas, sent money to meet their needs. On Sundays each Christian set aside money “in keeping with his income” (1 Cor16:1-2). This was then collected and sent to the elders in Judea (Acts 11:29-30). The Christians in Macedonia were very poor, yet they still gave with “rich generosity” (2 Cor 8:2). Paul urged other churches to follow their example, because such giving proved how real their love was (2 Cor 8:8). Later, the church in the city of Philippi sent “gifts” (aid, payment) to help the apostle Paul preach the Gospel. (Those who spend much time in preaching and teaching have a right to be supported and supplied for that work, 1 Cor 9; 1 Tim 5:17-18). The gifts, both private (Mt 6:1-4) and as a church (1 Cor 16:1-6) that help the Lord’s cause are “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil 4:1-19; Heb 13:16). Old Covenant Jews were required to give a tenth (a tithe) of their income. The New Testament is silent about such a fraction for Christians. Instead, it makes giving a far more spiritual matter of willingness, joy, trust, love and generosity (2 Cor 8 and 9). The Lord’s Supper The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is described best by the Lord Himself in saying “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:25). Jesus used two things to stir our memory of His death. The unleavened bread stands for the body of Christ (Mt 26:26-29). Eating from it is “a participation in the body of Christ.” The grape juice (fruit of the vine) stands for His blood of the covenant (see NOTE below). Drinking from it is a “participation in the blood of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16). Participation or communion means sharing. The Bible does not teach that the Lord’s Supper takes away sin. But Christ does meet with His kingdom people, spiritually eating the meal with them (Lk 22:16-18; Mt 26:29; 18:20). That is why every Christian should want to participate every time the Lord’s Supper is eaten. How poor our faith is if we reject Christ’s invitation, failing to “proclaim the Lord’s death” (1 Cor 11:26), and failing to encourage our spiritual family (Heb 10:25). Early Christians met “on the first day of the week” to eat the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 2:42). The Old Covenant had weekly Sabbaths, and once a year the Passover. The New Testament shows that Christians are no longer judged by such things (Col 2:16). Instead it shows that Christ is our one true Passover (I Cor 5:7). We remember His death in the weekly Lord’s Supper. Yet our Sabbath is not a physical day. It is the true spiritual rest we enter when our work is finished (Heb 4). NOTE: “Leaven” is yeast, or anything used for making bread rise. In Scripture it sometimes stands for sin (Lk 12:1; 1 Cor 5:6-8; Gal 5:9). Unleavened bread (bread without any leaven) was closely tied to the memory of Passover (Ex 12). When Jesus first gave the Lord’s Supper, it was during the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mt 26:17). It is thus fitting that the pure and holy Christ, who is our Passover, should be pictured by unleavened bread. Jesus took unleavened bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples to eat (Mt 26:26-29). That is why we use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. It is easy to make unleavened bread: Mix flour with water, oil and salt. Stir this until it is a thick paste. Shape it for baking, and then cook it briefly. Jesus also took “the fruit of the vine; gave thanks for it, passed it to His disciples, and said, “take this and divide it among you…drink from it, all of you’” (Lk 22:17; Mt 26:27). “Fruit of the vine” was the Hebrew way of saying “grapes,” which in their dry form are called “raisins.” Grapes are common in many parts of the world. In many other places one can still buy bottles or cartons of grape juice or grape wine. Where neither of these is available, a kind of grape juice can be made by boiling raisins in water. Jesus chose the juice of “the fruit of the vine” to picture His blood for us. Therefore we do our best to honor that choice, and to make arrangements for a supply as we take the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week. HOW IS THE CHURCH ORGANIZED? You have noticed by now the Old Covenant had many physical things that pointed ahead to the true spiritual things of Christ and Christianity. The same is true about the church. Old fleshly Israel was a physical nation with an earthly king, capital and temple. The church is a spiritual nation, with a spiritual King, capital and temple (Jn 18:36, Heb 12:18-29; 1 Pet 2:5-11; Eph 2:19-22). Therefore its organization is also spiritual rather than earthly. The King, Lord, or Head is Jesus Christ (Jn 18:37; Eph 1:22-23; 4:5). He has all authority (Mt 28:18). We must listen to everything He tells us; those who fail to listen to Him will be cut off from God’s people (Acts 3:22-23). The King’s capital is a heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling place of God (Heb 12:22). Christ reigns at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 2:33-36). Christians do not look to an earthly headquarters, for they are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). Their loyalty and obedience belong to heaven rather than to men (Acts 5:29; Gal 1:10; 2:6; Col 2:8-10). The King’s word has been passed on by His apostles with the help of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13; 2 Pet 3:2). What they and their fellow-prophets clearly commanded is His word and must be followed (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Thes 2:15). Evangelists and teachers are to guard this apostolic word (2 Tim 1:13-14), and to pass it on “with all authority” (Ti 2:15; 2 Tim 4:1-5). Sometimes Christ’s evangelists form teams in which some lead and others are trained (Acts 16:1-3; 18:5; 20:4; 2 Tim 2:2). The King’s special nation is the one church. It is also called the body, temple or priesthood (Eph 1:22-23; 2:11-22; 4:4 1 Pet 2:9). Its members are the kingdom on earth (Rv 1:6; Col:13). Each member is a brother of Christ (Mt 12:50; 23:8; Gal 3:26), and spiritually sits with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6, 18). Each has full access to God through Christ, the High Priest (Heb 10:19-22; 1 Tim 2:5). This means that they do not go through other mediators, mediums or priests, of any kind. The King’s people should gather in each community to encourage each other in obedience to His will (Heb 10:25; 1 Cor 11:18; Acts 9:26). This group that regularly gathers is called a local “church” or “congregation” of Christ. When it is fully formed, it should have overseers (elders) and special servants (deacons). These are not self-appointed. Rather, congregations of Christians discern and appoint men for these roles who meet the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 3; Ti 1; 1 Pet 5; Acts 6:3; 14:23; 20:28). Though leaders have authority and should be obeyed (Heb 13:17), their leading is like Christ’s (Mt 20:25-28). They mainly use humble service, personal example and sacrifice, prayer and careful teaching. If a member openly rebels against Christ, and refuses all efforts to win him, the other members should expel him (Mt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5). The local church is like a family in its relationships (1 Tim 5). It cares for its poor, and does as much good as it can for others (Acts 4:32; 11:29; Gal 2:10; 6:10). It shares with others its greatest treasure, the Gospel (Acts 8:4; 13:1-3). Each congregation should help to plant new congregations in new places (Mk 16:15; Acts 13:14; 19:10; 1 Thes 1:8). The King’s will is that every person on earth has opportunity to be saved through the Gospel (Mt 28:19; 2 Pet 3:9; Rv 5:9). Therefore it is vital that each place on earth should has a local gathering of New Testament Christians who serve as lights to those in darkness (Phil 2:15; Eph 5:8).