Larry Ray Hafley


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Contending for the Faith

Pattern Authority, Pattern Worship?


The following requests and questions (in italics below) were submitted to me for comment. We trust the responses will be helpful and will gender study and reflection, not strife and recrimination.

    "For those of you who believe in a "patterned" and prescriptive "worship", would you please supply the following for me?

    (a couple of stipulations....Do it FROM the New Testament ALONE. Do it by PROVABLE Authorial intent)

Reply: Why should we be forced to follow a pattern in reply? Since it is obvious the querist does not believe in a pattern, how can he demand that we follow one?

    1. Where is the term "worship service" to be found in any context remotely close to OUR usage of it today...that is, a formal and set time and place to do the big 5 acts of worship?

Reply: Since we are to speak "as the oracles of God" we may refer to our "service" as "worship," or a worship service (Cf. Josh. 24:14, 15-"serve;" Jn. 4:22-24-"worship;" Rom. 12:2-"spiritual service;" 1 Cor. 11:20; 14:23, 26-"church...come together"--16:1, 2, with Acts 20:7="set time;" Heb. 12:28-"serve with reverence and godly fear;" 13:15-"praise;" 1 Pet. 4:11).

    2. Where are the "5 acts of worship" labeled worship at all?

Reply: Define "5 acts of worship." To what are you referring? Please define the terms of your question "FROM the New Testament ALONE."

    3. Where are the activities of the First Christians stated CLEARLY and explicitly to be emulated?

Reply: Some, though not all, of "the activities of the First Christians" are to be "emulated." "Be ye followers of me" (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). "Walk so as ye have us for an ensample (pattern)" (Phil. 3:17). "Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do" (Phil. 4:9). "Ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God" (1 Thess. 4:1). For detailed information on this point, see Walking By Faith by Roy E. Cogdill. Call (800) 428-0121 to order the book.

    4. Why is a narrative prescriptive, such as Acts 20:7?

Reply: See the Scriptures cited under number three above. Also, add 1 Corinthians 11:2, 23-26; 14:37; 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:4, 6).

    5. How can CLEARLY situational commands become general prescriptions for all time for all people?

Reply: Jesus took "CLEARLY situational commands" in Genesis 2:21-24 and gave them as "general prescriptions for all time for all people" (Cf. Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4-6). You may ask the Lord how he could do this. All we know is that he did it. Do we err, then, when we use the Scriptures as he did, and take "CLEARLY situational commands" and give them as "general prescriptions for all time for all people" (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 2:6)?

    6. Where are the big 5 acts of worship are ever labeled "worship"?...remember, Bible things by Bible names?

Reply: False religious ordinances and actions of worshipers are referred to as "worship" (Matt. 15:8, 9; Acts 17:23, 25; Col. 2:2-23). So, we may properly apply the term, "worship," to scriptural items (Cf. Josh. 24:14, 15; Matt. 28:20; Jn. 4:20-24; Acts 2:42).

Further, when Abraham went to do God's bidding and to make sacrifice, he said he was going to "worship" (Gen. 22:5). Thus, when we go to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God" we may refer to it as "worship," just as Abraham did. If not, why not? Thus, we have remembered, as we were reminded to do, to call "Bible things by Bible names"!

    7. What about the New Testament makes its nature the same as the Torah in scope, intent, and prescription?

Reply: They are not the same in scope, intent, and prescription (Eph. 2:11-16; Col. 2:14-16; Heb. 1:1, 2; 2:1-4; 7:11-14; 8:5; 9:1-15; 10:20, 26-29).

    8. Why does the Torah have all of its worship commands directed as "you will" and NONE of the NT commands, examples or inferences have anything near that?

Reply: Does "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" count (Rom. 13:9-14; Cf. Heb. 2:1-4; 10:26-29; 12:25; Rev. 22:18, 19)?

But, since, according to our querist, there is no pattern, no uniform standard, why should the New Testament be required to use the same language as that of the Old?

    9. How does the "ship and sip" practice we do today as a "restored practice" resemble the Agape feast that was the practice of the First Christians?

Reply: First, we know of no "practice" which may be referred to as "'ship and sip'." The querist will have to be more specific. Second, to what does the querist refer when he speaks of "the Agape feast that was the practice of the First Christians?" Please cite the Scriptures which define and describe this "practice." Too, why should we care what they did since, according to the querist, such practices (including that "Agape feast") constitute no pattern for us today?

    10. Why have we forsaken Acts 2 of daily meeting and promoted the obscure narrative of Acts 20 as a law?

Reply: (1) I know of no one who has "forsaken" such a practice (Cf. "Pray without ceasing," 1 Thess. 5:17; as one may pray regularly, but not always in the same time frame, and still be said to be one who prays "without ceasing," so may we meet from day to day at times, though not always). (2) The practice of meeting daily did not continue (Cf. Acts 20:6, 7). (3) By what rule does our querist make the daily meetings of Acts 2 general and universal in nature while labeling Acts 20:7 as "obscure"? We should like to see the rule, or pattern, which allows him to label Acts 2 a common practice while denigrating the first day of the week Lord's supper as "obscure." Will our querist cite the proof for his arbitrary labeling of Acts 2 and Acts 20, and "Do it FROM the New Testament ALONE (and) Do it by PROVABLE Authorial intent"?

    11. Please define "worship" using ONLY the New Testament"

Reply: We also will ask our querist two things, which if he tells us, we, in like manner, will give him the definition of worship "using ONLY the New Testament." (1) Querist, please define your reference to "Agape feast," "using ONLY the New Testament."

(2) Further, our querist earlier mentioned "'patterned'" and prescriptive "'worship'." Let him define those terms "using ONLY the New Testament," or failing that, let him define "non-pattern and non prescriptive worship" "using ONLY the New Testament." When he does so, we shall define "worship" for him "using ONLY the New Testament."

Concluding Comments

Brethren, whether we believe it or not, or whether we will admit it or not, there is a growing disdain and disgust for "pattern authority" and "pattern worship." The snide questions above reek with it. One may not approve of either the content or character of our response, but whether he does or not, the questions were neither invented nor manufactured, and they will not go away. We may be reviled and ridiculed as "brotherhood watchdogs," but the coming tide of error, indicated by the questions above, is blowing in, and it will not be denied. Someone, without fear of being labeled a "watchdog," is going to have to sound the alarm and give warning of the gusts and gales of the gathering storm (Ezek. 3;17; Col. 1:28).

Remember, if there is no pattern, there can be no perversion. If there is no dogma, there can be no deviation. If there is no rule, there can be no revolt from, or rending of that which is right. If there is no standard, there can be no superstition or sacrilege. If there is no order, there can be do disorder.

While the querist cited above directed his attention to "acts of worship," what is to keep him from also denying a specific pattern for the action and purpose of water baptism? If one may dismiss Acts 20:7 and the Lord's supper "upon the first day of the week," because it is not, as he alleges, a part of any discernible, scriptural "pattern," what is to restrain him from turning his guns next against the form and function of water baptism?

If there is no pattern for the communion of the body and blood of the Lord, is there a pattern for baptism into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6, 17, 18-"that form of doctrine;" 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; Col. 2:12)? Who can say that any action or purpose for baptism is in error if there is no divine standard, no sure, set and certain pattern? Then, what next-the work and organization of the church? If Acts 20:7 is not a pattern, is Acts 14:23, "elders in every church"? By what "rule" or regulation, by what plan or "pattern" may one deny the one but not the other? The fact is that both are gone when once the "no pattern" plea becomes, ironically, the pattern.

It is easier to slap us down for airing such matters, but those of you who despise our efforts had better learn now, as you later will to your detriment, that your "darlings" are not going to fight this fight. They have so demeaned "doctrinal hard-liners" that they can ill afford to stand up and contend for the faith as true soldiers of Christ will and must do (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-17; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4; 4:2-5). Their swords have become butter knives to pat and pet one another and to smear others. The weapons of their warfare are thus dull and ineffective.

You who have fawned over and flattered them are facing their children, in whom is no faith in the New Testament system of work and worship. While we are ready and willing to help you and to do battle with the forces of falsehood, we confess that until you repent and return to your first love, very little sympathy is extended your way.

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