What Do We Know About The Simplicity of New Testament Christianity?
Complex! No, complex is not a word that relates to New Testament Christianity. Man is impressed with pomp, ceremony and show. God is unimpressed with "the show of religion" which seems so important to man. God is impressed with simple, humble love and obedience. "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." (John 15:14) The Word of God gives beauty and simplicity to the lives of all who seek Him. Simplicity brings joy and balance. We need to see the things that are important, God, family, friends, loved ones, giving to others and loving one another, simple things.
Tradition, elaborate services, organizations, and endless ritual consume the religious thinking of many. The religious world has forgotten the simplicity of New Testament Christianity. God warns against such things. Observe the following: "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts." (Luke 20:46)
Preachers are called, “Father,” “Reverend,” or “Right Reverend.” The Bible says, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven." (Matthew 23:9) God loves simple living and simple Christianity but men love the showy. "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues." (Matthew 23:5-6) These and many other scriptures are violated continually by man's desire for show and ceremony. New Testament simplicity is far different.
We know that New Testament salvation is simple. Faith is the beginning point of acceptable service to God. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) Faith is the motivation for all obedience toward God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Repentance is also required. Repentance is a change of mind or heart that results in a change in life. "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) It is either repent or perish. Confession of faith in Jesus as Lord also plays a part in our salvation. (Romans 10:9-10) A simple confession of one's faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ is a necessary step in conversion. The final step in becoming a Christian is baptism into Christ. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27) At baptism a person contacts the blood of Jesus that washes his sins away. Every command of God is important and baptism is a command of God. (Mark 16:16) The New Testament plan of salvation is a simple plan, but salvation can be obtained in no other way!
We can know that New Testament worship is simple. Acts 2:42 expresses the simplicity of New Testament worship. We read, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." New Testament worship included: (1) the apostles' teaching. The church must be taught so it can be edified. (1 Corinthians 14:19) (2) The collections were to be made weekly on the first day. Christians were to give and this giving was called "fellowship." (3) Breaking bread or the Lord's Supper was also part of first day worship. (Acts 2:42) Paul delivered to us what Jesus had delivered to him concerning communion. (1 Corinthians 11:23) (4) Prayers are offered as a part of Christian worship (Acts 2:42), and (5) Praising God in song is part of New Testament worship. (Acts 2:47) The Corinthian Christians were commanded to sing. (1 Corinthians 14:15) The New Testament pattern for worship is simple. Let us never forsake New Testament worship. (Hebrews 10:25)
We can know that the New Testament church is organized in a simple way. The church of Jesus Christ is organized under Jesus, the Chief Shepherd. (1 Peter 5:4) He is the head of the church. Elders serve under our Chief Shepherd to oversee the flock, the church. (Acts 14:23) Elders must be qualified men. (1 Timothy 3:1-7) The church also has qualified men who serve, called deacons. (1 Timothy 3:8-13) There are also evangelists or preachers who use God's authority in their teaching. (Acts 21:8) Preachers work and live under the oversight of the elders. Each local church is self-governing and is answerable only to God. This simple New Testament organization will work in any culture and at any time.
We can know the simplicity of New Testament benevolence. Jesus said, "You have the poor with you always." (Matthew 26:1) Jesus went about doing good. (Acts 10:38) Let us follow His example. Christians are to work to meet their own needs and to assist those who need help. (Ephesians 4:28) God's plan is simple. God said, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10) Proverbs 14:21 is a great principle that is still true today. "He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he." Caring for the needy is practicing pure religion. (James 1:27) New Testament simplicity is seen in the matter of benevolence. Those who honor God will have mercy on the poor.
We can know the simplicity of growth as a Christian. Growth is necessary for all living things. In the life of a Christian there must be growth or there will soon be spiritual death. (2 Peter 3:18) Peter describes Christian growth in the following words: "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior." (2 Peter 1:5-11) The New Testament principle is simple, grow or die!
We can know the simplicity of New Testament evangelism. Church growth is simple when God's pattern is followed: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2) Soul winning puts purpose and meaning into Christian living. The psalmist wrote, "Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5-6) The purpose of a Christian is to produce other Christians. (Matthew 7:19-21) God's way is simple. You have learned the truth. Now, go and tell others!
New Testament Christianity is a pure and simple expression of our love and devotion to God. Man may wish for pomp and ceremony. God is pleased with sincere, simple love and service. "...For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Will you accept God's wonderful good news that Jesus died for your sins? Will you be baptized into Christ to put on Christ so that your sins can be forgiven by His blood? "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Believers contact Christ's saving blood by being baptized into His death. Following our response to God's good news we must worship God in spirit and in truth.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA