How did the early church know what to do and how are we to determine what we are to follow?


I have a question about "restoration" and the biblical pattern for the church. Does the entire New Testament apply to us in that we are to follow every teaching for our church to remain biblically sound? If so, did the early church do this exact thing with all 27 books of the New Testament? The reason I ask this is that the New Testament was not canonized when the early church existed, so how did the early church follow every teaching of the New Testament?

Also in relation to the above question, Acts 2:46 says the church in Jerusalem met every day, but in I Corinthians 16:2, the Corinthian church met only once a week. What is the right teaching here and does this mean one of the churches did not follow the biblical pattern or are we just not following the Bible correctly when it comes to issues such as how often we are to meet?

The reason I ask these questions is that recently I read an article about restoration. It claims that different churches did different things at different times. If that's the case, then how are our churches following the Bible as it was written?


What many people forget is that there was a reason for the spiritual gifts when the early church was formed, just as when God first put the Israelite nation together, He distributed gifts to speed things up. Moses wasn't the only prophet at this time. Both Aaron and Miriam were mentioned as being prophets (Numbers 12:1-2). As the tabernacle was being built, we find Bezalel, Aholiab, and many others mentioned: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2-6). But God didn't just give them skills in draftsmanship, He gave them another gift as well. "And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan" (Exodus 35:34).

When the early church formed, many people were given the gift of prophecy. It doesn't mean the same was we use the word today. Prophecy was the ability to speak on behalf of God. In other words, a prophet was a living Bible, in a sense. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13). But it was a temporary measure, put in place until the perfect Law of Liberty (James 1:25), the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), could be recorded. Once that was accomplished, the temporary measures were removed. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:8-11).

The other gifts were just as important. To handle spreading the gospel to all nations quickly there were people with the gift of tongues (languages). To get people's attention and to spread goodwill, there where people with the gift of healing. Because this was brand new and people did not have an opportunity to study the nuances of the New Law, God gave people the gifts of understanding and wisdom, just like Bezalel, Aholiab, and other artisans (Exodus 36:1-2). "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (I Corinthians 12:7-11). None of the gifts were without a purpose. This is something those claiming to have gifts today just cannot grasp. They claim that God gave them gifts because they deserve it. The Bible teaches that God distributed gifts because He had a need to be fulfilled.

This concerted effort, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, resulted in the church starting in a nearly mature form from its beginning. It allowed God to state His Will once. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). False religions must claim that it is an ongoing revelation because it is the only way they can justify modifying God's Plan. The fact that God accomplished revealing His Word at one time for all people in all ages has put a severe stumbling block in front of Satan.

Your second question is related because once again the issue is whether there is justification to modify the Law of Christ. In this case, the argument you read is trying to make a case that there was no fixed pattern to be followed, so if someone wishes to make alterations, God doesn't care. Of course, this contradicts Paul's assertion: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10). Modifying what was recorded is not doing as Paul urged. "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 1:13).

The argument presented is a shell game. The two things being compared are not exactly the same thing, but it flies by so quickly that you don't notice. "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:46). The verse states that the first brethren met in harmony, getting together daily at the temple and going to each other's homes for meals. Where is the mention of worship services? While it mentions people getting together on a daily basis, where does it say that everyone gathered at the same place at the same time? I don't know of too many homes that could accommodate a meal for 3,000 plus people and that is not what is being stated as happening in this verse.

Worship is mentioned in Acts 2, but it is back in Acts 2:42: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." But this verse doesn't tell us how often they met as a church.

The verse in I Corinthians deals with a duty of the church: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come" (I Corinthians 16:1-2). It is a useful verse because it states when the collection is to be made. When combined with Acts 20:7, we realize that the selection of Sunday for the collection isn't arbitrary. This is the day the churches met for worship. "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7). This meeting wasn't done by a sub-group or by a collection of individuals.

  • They came together in one place (I Corinthians 11:20).
  • The gathering was separate from people going over to someone's house for a meal (I Corinthians 11:22).
  • The partaking of the Lord's Supper was to be done together (I Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:33).
  • There is a time when one can be in the church (I Corinthians 14:19).
  • The whole church gathers together in one place (I Corinthians 14:23).
  • During that time acts of worship are offered up to God (I Corinthians 14:26).

I hope this helps you to see that from a false comparison (comparing two things which were not alike), they drew a false conclusion and are teaching false doctrine.

Another aspect of your question is whether we must follow all of what is in the New Testament. In the strictest sense, the answer is "no" because there are records in the New Testament of what some wicked people did. Just because Judas committed suicide, it doesn't give permission to killing yourself. Just because Alexander abandoned the faith, it doesn't give permission for teaching your own doctrines. I gave a lesson a number of years ago attempting to make it clearer when examples are to be followed; take a look at "When Are Biblical Examples Binding?" and see if that helps your understanding.

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