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When God gave us His holy word, He gave us a pattern to follow.  The Bible is not a collection of random sayings and stories, but it is a complete book with a harmonious theme and a pattern to be followed.  It reveals to us Godís plan for the salvation of man, which He brought about through His Son Jesus Christ.  It not only tells us what God has done to save us, but it also tells us what we must do in order to be saved.  This is the pattern that we are to follow, just as Paul told Timothy to ďretain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ JesusĒ (2Tim. 1:13).

Perhaps the clearest revelation of Godís pattern for the Lordís church is found in the book of Acts.  There we find story after story of how the gospel was spread and people were saved in the first century.  In these accounts, we see a repeated pattern of preaching by the apostles and other Christians followed by the obedience of those who heard and believed.  Not every detail of the pattern is repeated in every account, but the complete pattern is clear when viewed altogether.

Let us consider one account in particular, which tells us of the church at Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:19-26).  By reading this passage, we learn some very basic truths about the Lordís church.

First, disciples of the Lord came to Antioch after fleeing from Jerusalem due to Saulís persecution.  When they arrived, they ďpreached the Lord Jesus,Ē and ďa large number who believed turned to the Lord.Ē  This is an example of the simple pattern found throughout the book of Acts.  Disciples of Christ told the good news about Christ to others, and those who believed turned to the Lord.  By other accounts, we know that turning to the Lord involves repentance and baptism (Acts 2:37-41; 3:19-21; 8:12).  Perhaps the details of these conversions at Antioch are not recorded because it is assumed that the reader would understand what ďturning to the LordĒ encompasses by this point in the book.

Next, we notice what became of these new believers after they had turned to the Lord.  When news of these believers at Antioch reached Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to them.  When he arrived, he ďwitnessed the grace of GodĒ and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord.  He also went to Tarsus and brought back Saul, and they all gathered together taught many other people.  They grew and multiplied as ďconsiderable numbers were brought to the Lord.Ē  Again, this is typical of the pattern seen throughout the book of Acts, for those who turned to the Lord always gathered together in fellowship with one another to serve and worship God (Acts 2:42-47).  They also multiplied in numbers as the gospel sounded forth from them and others believed (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:12; 9:31; 12:24; 13:48; 14:1, 21; 16:5; 17:4, 12, 34; 18:8; 19:10, 20).

Let us also notice the various descriptions given for this one body of people.  They were believers who had turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).  They were recipients of the grace of God (Acts 11:23).  They were called the church, disciples, and Christians (Acts 11:26).  All of this describes the same people.  Therefore, by this pattern, if any believe and turn to the Lord, then they receive the grace of God.  If they receive the grace of God, then they are part of His church.  If they are part of His church, then they are disciples and Christians.  If any one of these descriptions applies to a person, then all of the descriptions must apply.  One cannot be a disciple of Christ or a Christian without being in His church.  One cannot receive the grace of God without believing and turning to the Lord.  According to Godís pattern, all of these words simply describe various aspects of the same group of people.

Thus we see that there is a pattern for the Lordís church that is simple and easy for us to follow.  This pattern is further revealed throughout the New Testament, which gives us the full revelation of how the Lordís church is to grow and function.  Therefore, let us study the Scriptures and carefully follow Lordís pattern so that we may be the Lordís church indeed.  Let us do Godís things in Godís ways that we may be Godís people.

Stacey E. Durham



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