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by Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
September, 1999

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Last updated:
September 2, 1999.

IT HAS BEEN SAID that "the creed of Christianity is Christ" and "the rule of Christian faith and practice is the New Testament."  The testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God.  By references to the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament Book of Conversions, we learn how a person may be immersed into the one body, the spiritual body of Christ.  We learn from the teachings of Jesus and his inspired apostles that as one believes, repents, confesses Christ to be the Son of God, and is immersed for the remission of his sins, the Lord himself adds that soul to His church.

The people of the "denominational world," who are led by their creed books formulated by men, ask us, "Where is your Book of Discipline?" If they are asking where is the book we live by our reply is, "The New Testament."  The twenty-one books of the New Testament contain, not only those mentioned above, but also letters, fourteen of which where written by Paul, two by Peter, one by James, one by Jude, and three by John.... all of which were addressed to Christians -- to congregations of believers, and individual Christians who had been saved by the blood of Christ -- those in the state of justification.  They were not directed primarily to the unregenerated, unbelieving world.

The letters of the New Testament were written to the "redeemed," to the "saved," to the "justified," to the "washed," to the "sanctified," to the "saints," to the "beloved of God," to the "elect," to a "peculiar people..."  These are just some of the designations that were applied to the early Christians.  Notice that they denote a relationship to God as Father; to Christ Jesus as Savior, King and Mediator; to the Holy Spirit as Comforter; to the disciples of Christ as brethren in the same family, the family of God.

For us to apply any of these terms to an unregenerated world -- to men living in sin and for sin -- to those who have never been "translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear son," is a willful perversion of the truth, and a violent confusing of God's order of things.

These terms we glean from the Epistles all denote a change of relation. In the kingdom, in the church, in the one body, in the family of God, in the household of God, in the temple of God, the fold of Christ, the new man, all these terms indicate a change of relationship, a transition from a state of condemnation into a state of justification; from a state of alienation into a state of adoption; from a condition of servitude to sin, into service to righteousness and fellowship of the redeemed -- a state of redemption.  Understanding this doctrine and preaching it, we "accurately divide the word of truth," as the apostle Paul would instruct his Son in the gospel, Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15). By failing to observe these rules of Scripture interpretation, God's plan of salvation has been dreadfully corrupted by men in the world, and the great enemy of the cross has gained a great victory over righteousness.

As soon as a sinner becomes a soldier of Christ, he is instructed to put on the armor of God -- he begins to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). And according to Eph. 3:11-13 he puts on the helmet of salvation, he puts on the breastplate of righteousness, he girds his loins with truth, he takes the shield of faith, his feet are shed with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and he wields the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Without putting on the whole armour of God the Christian gives the enemy damaging advantage.

By an intense study of the New Testament letters, the preacher of the gospel finds his instructions recorded.  They serve as his guide, they tell him how to be qualified for and to conduct his work in the spread of the gospel.  Elders, likewise, find in the epistles their qualifications, and the work which they are expected to perform, in teaching, in exhortation, in warning the unruly, in feeding the flock of God, in keeping out innovations, in developing the talents in the congregation, and in exercising discipline.  The deacons, also, discover their duties and qualifications in the letter of the apostles. For elders and deacons the two letters to Timothy and the one Titus are very important.  In this "Book to Live By" the elders find directions for trying offenders against the law of God, and examples for a guide in executing discipline.  Elders and deacons, and proclaimers of the gospel, as well as all disciples of Christ should be knowledgeable in the word of Truth.

In this book, Christian parents will learn how to train their children in the fear of God, how to discipline them, how to set a good example before them, how to encourage them, how to teach them the doctrine of Christ, how to lead them into the family of God and to become a true worshiper of the Lord.  Here the husband who becomes a Christian will learn how to conduct himself before his wife whether she has, or has not yet become a Christian.  Here the wife who becomes a Christian will learn how to conduct herself before her husband whether he has become a believer or is still an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:10-16).  If he is not yet a believer he may be won to the Lord through the good life of his Christian wife (1 Peter 3:1,2).

In this book the husband learns to love and cherish his wife, and to care and provide for her (Ephesians 5:25-29).  Here the wife learns to love her husband, and to keep their home as a refuge from the tempests of life for her husband and children.  Here the Christian employee learns how to serve an employer, not as a man-pleaser, but as a servant in the Lord.  Here children of God learn how to settle all personal animosity and personal disputes.

The personal and official duties are expressed in the New Testament epistles, and, as well as, the reciprocal obligations of elders, deacons and the other members of the church.  Here great doctrinal questions are thoroughly discussed and settled, such as atonement, the resurrection, the final judgment, the Lord's Supper, the ordinance of immersion, the superiority of the gospel over the Jewish economy, the Kingship and Priesthood of Christ, and so on.  The great argument of Paul in his letter to the Romans is to show that the Jewish law has been succeeded by "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," to contrast fleshly ordinances with a spiritual life, and to run a parallel between a system of work and a system of faith.

The First Corinthians is a letter largely devoted to the certainty of the resurrection of Christ, and to the offices of the Holy Spirit. Second Corinthians is a letter Paul devotes to showing the difference between the old covenant and the new; between the letter of the law which kills, and the Spirit which gives life; between the ministration of death and condemnation, and the ministration of righteousness; between the ceremonial law "which is done away," and the gospel dispensation which comes in its stead, and which is the "sufficiency" of God.

In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he rebukes them for preaching "another gospel" and for attempting to Judaize the follows of Christ by imposing upon them the law of Moses, which he styles "the yoke of bondage."  Paul's epistle to the Ephesians contains an argument on "the unity of the Spirit" and what constitutes the "one body" of Christ, of which He is the head.  The Philippian letter shows the difference between the old man of sin and the new life of righteousness.

The Thessalonian epistles have much to say concerning the second coming of Christ.  The apostle James makes a contrast between justification by the works of the law, and justification by Christian works.  In the Hebrew letter we find a comparison made between the kingship of Christ and the lawgiver, Moses, between the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Christ.  The epistles of John are, for the most part, devoted to portrayal of the love of God, and show how the sons of God keep themselves in God's love.  Every letter of the New Testament was addressed to Christians, to the children of God for some specific purpose.

In these short statements we have briefly indicated the discipline of the Christian, showing his written out rule of faith and practice is to be found here.  If the teaching of these epistles were studied and implemented by every Christian, as the Lord designed that they should be, the church would be the mighty power in the world that God intended it to be.