While instructing Moses concerning the construction of the sanctuary, the ark of the covenant, the table for the bread of the Presence, and the golden lampstand in Exodus 25, God commanded him, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain” (v. 40, ESV).
Have you ever noticed how God has always had a pattern for doing things? With Moses concerning the tabernacle, he was very specific as to how it and all of the furniture within it was to be constructed and then told Moses to basically follow the pattern given to him on Mount Sinai. If Moses had ever been in doubt about how something was to be done concerning the tabernacle, all he had to do was check the pattern. The Hebrew writer alluded to this as a principle for Christians to follow (Heb. 8:5).
God hasn’t told us to build a tabernacle today, but he has told us to build something. Two thousand years ago, the church was told that we as Christians are “God’s building” which is being built upon the only foundation that exists, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-11).The apostle Paul was the one who wrote this to them, and he said that he was the one who had laid the foundation of Jesus Christ upon which others were building. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it” (v. 10).
How did he lay that foundation?
Paul wrote to Corinth the following concerning “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9, NASB): “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:10-13).
He went on to inform Ephesus about “how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:3-5, ESV).
While writing about “the prophetic word” (2 Pet. 1:19), Peter wanted his readers to know “this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Paul, Peter, and the other apostles and prophets who wrote the New Testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Acts 2:4). Their writings are to be considered as coming from the Lord Jesus himself. As Paul wrote to Corinth, “If anyone thinks he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Thus, the New Testament is the foundation of Christianity upon which all who want to follow Christ must build.
Yet, notice that the church was also warned, “let each one take care how he builds upon it” (1 Cor. 3:10b). The reason for this warning is due to the fact that within the New Testament there is a pattern which Christians are urged to heed. Timothy was told by Paul, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). Paul also wrote to Titus that all elders of the church “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Tit. 1:9). Whenever Christians attempted to add to or change in any way what the apostles and prophets were inspired by God to write and teach in the New Testament, they were rebuked and condemned if they did not repent.
For example, Paul wrote to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-10). See also 2 John 9-11, 1 Corinthians 4:6, and Revelation 22:18-19, as well as many other New Testament passages.
This is why it’s so important to study the New Testament. Within its pages we see God’s pattern for the church in that it belongs to Jesus (Matt. 16:18), it is his body (Eph. 1:22-23), there is only one (Eph. 4:4), and it’s grounded in the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:15; John 17:17). We also see God’s pattern for salvation (Eph. 4:5; Rom. 10:17; James 2:14-26; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-27; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 17:30-31; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Eph. 5:23).
Follow nothing but the biblical pattern and you’ll be fine. Depart from it and you’re in trouble.