DISTINCTIVES

Our vision is to glorify God through our love for Jesus as we make disciples of all nations and as we multiply new congregations that hold to the practice of the early church.

• Early Church Practice
• Family-Integrated Worship
• Smaller by Design
• Focused on Making Disciples
• The Doctrines of Grace
• Historic Christian Orthodoxy
• New Covenant Theology
• Relationships over Programs
• Complementarian Gender Roles
• Relaxed Atmosphere
• The Lord’s Supper as a Holy Meal
• In-depth Bible Teaching
• Elder Led Consensus
• Biblical Inerrancy

Tradition: A Strategy for Success

Tradtions

A church alive is worth the drive. Jesus did not leave us wondering how to encourage spiritual growth. Through the apostles, He equipped the ancient church with strategic, timeless traditions to make disciples. Success in fulfilling God’s purposes for His body awaits your church if you adopt the apostolic traditions found in the New Testament. What evidence is there that New Testament traditions for church practice were not merely described in Scripture but were intended to function in a normative way?

 

Holding to Tradition Is Praiseworthy

1 Corinthians 1114 constitutes a four-chapter section on church practice. In this passage, Paul revealed his attitude about following his ecclesiological traditions: “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1Co 11:2). The Greek for “traditions,” paradosis, means “that which is passed on.”[1] In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Gordon Fee pointed out that in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, paradosis specifically refers to religious traditions regarding worship.[2] (This same Greek word in verb form is found a few paragraphs later with regard to the practice of the Lord’s Supper—that it was “passed on” from Paul to the church (11:23). The words “even as” in 11:2 indicate the degree of their compliance with these traditions: exactly as passed on to them. Paul praised the church for holding precisely to his traditions regarding worship. He would likely feel the same about our churches following the traditions he established for church practice. (This article is abridged. The original is posted NTRF.org)

 

Holding to Tradition was Expected

The churches of the New Testament were expected to follow apostolic traditions for church practice. In the four-chapter section on church practice referenced above (1Co 1114), Paul quieted those who disagreed with his traditions by appealing to the universal practice of all the other churches: “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1Co 11:16). This statement was designed to settle any objections. Prior emphasis had obviously been given to certain practices that were supposed to be done the same way, everywhere. Just to realize that one was different was argument enough to silence opposition. This indicates a uniformity of practice in all New Testament churches.

The Corinthians were tempted to do things differently from other churches. Thus, after detailing how worship services should be conducted, Paul chided: “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?” (1Co 14:36). The obvious answer to both questions is no. These two questions were designed to keep the Corinthians in line with the practice of all the other churches. If the Corinthian church had no authority to deviate from the traditions of the apostles, do we? Holding to apostolic traditions (New Testament church patterns) was expected in the first century. Perhaps it should be today as well.

(You are reading a shortened version of the article.)

 

Holding to Tradition Is Commanded

2 Thessalonians 2:15 commands: “stand firm and hold to the traditions.”[3] It is not just apostolic teachings to which we should adhere, but also apostolic traditions (as revealed exclusively within the pages of Scripture).[4] The overall context of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 refers to the apostles’ teaching tradition concerning eschatology, not church practice per se. However, the word “traditions” (2:15) is plural. The author clearly had more traditions in mind than merely the one teaching tradition about eschatology. Would this command not also apply in principle to traditions regarding church order, which are modeled in the New Testament? We are to follow the traditions of the apostles, not only in their theology, but also in their practice. (A lot more about this can be found at NTRF.org).

 

Holding to Tradition Is Logical

It is logical—it just makes sense—to follow the church practice tradition of the apostles (as recorded in Scripture). If anyone truly understood the purpose of the church, surely it was the apostles. They were handpicked and personally trained by Jesus for three years. The things Jesus taught these men about the church were naturally reflected in the way they set up and organized churches. If the apostles were to return and see how modern churches function, would they be pleased or grieved?

 

Professors

J.L. Dagg: Early Southern Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg believed that since the apostles “taught us, by example, how to organize and govern churches, we have no right to reject their instruction and captiously insist that nothing but positive command shall bind us…. Respect for the Spirit by which they were led should induce us to prefer their modes of organization and government to such as our inferior wisdom might suggest.”[5]

Jim Elliot: It was missionary martyr Jim Elliot’s firm conviction that “[t]he pivot point hangs on whether God has revealed a universal pattern for the church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct…. It is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the church, to find and establish that pattern, at all costs.”[6]

(You can access more scholar consensus at NTRF.org)

 

Perspective

The church traditions of the apostles are simple, strategic, and scriptural. The most neglected of their practices are intentionally smaller congregations, participatory worship, celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly as a fellowship meal, and servant leadership that builds congregational consensus. Incorporating these traditions into our churches today can result in tremendous blessings. Such churches have a bright future and tremendous potential if their leaders maintain a focus on disciple-making in the context of dynamic, Spirit-filled early church practice. It is a divine design!  (You can read more at NTRF.org.)

[1]Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 615.

[2]Gordon Fee, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 499.

[3] Imperative mode in Greek.

[4] Apostolic tradition, as recorded in the pages of the New Testament, is to be distinguished from the later historical tradition of the Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

[5]J.L. Dagg, Treatise on Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 84.

[6]Elizabeth Elliot, Shadow of The Almighty: Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), 138–139.