The Pattern – Part One
In my study of the Book of Acts (of the Holy Spirit) I was struck by a specific verse the other day. Acts 7:44 states, “Our fathers had the tent of witness (tabernacle) in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.” There is a pattern to the birthing (planting) and building the Church that we would do well to understand and follow.
Starry night skies boast of a divine order in the universe. Planets crisscross the heavens in charted paths. They move precisely and predictably. Astronomers know exactly where was one will travel. Men can set their watches by the movement. Every visible star obeys the order God built into His creation.
God is not the author of confusion and disorder but of peace and wholeness.
1 Corinthians 14:33a “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
Order and harmony are in His nature, and anything that is truly of God reflects His divine order. Intricate details in the balance of nature testify that God created the earth to function in order. When examined closely, even things that appear at first to occur by random or by chance have an exact pattern.
God placed humankind at the highest level of creation. He uniquely created man in God’s own image. Everything about us shows an astonishing intricacy that also reflects the order of God. God marvellously fashioned the human body by divine design. Even the human soul reflects the nature of God.
The Old Testament nation of Israel received the Mosaic Law to establish order in the nation’s civil and ceremonial affairs. Priests and the people had to follow precise instructions when approaching the Lord to worship. God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle (tent) in the wilderness “according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Exodus 25:40). He did not allow the Israelites to stray off and build according to their own design. He did not permit them to follow tangents. God said, “Just make it the way I tell you. Don’t do it your own way or take short cuts.” Faithfulness to the pattern held supreme significance because at the tabernacle God said He would dwell, meet, and speak with His people.
Exodus 29:42-46 “It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.”
Likewise, in the New Testament times Jesus said, “I will build My Church,” a spiritual temple for the habitation of God in the Spirit.
Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Ephesians 2:21-22 “… in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
As Jesus builds His Church, does He have a plan, blueprint or pattern? God required Moses to follow a pattern while building the tabernacle, but is He less careful about the design of the Church? Does Jesus just ad-lib and react as needs arise, or does God have a divine blueprint for ordering His Church in this generation? Fortunately, He did leave a pattern.
Jesus said He would build His Church, and the book of Acts shows Him doing it. Acts preserves the history of life in the first New Testament Church. Written by Luke, it gives modern Christians a glimpse of the divine pattern before men had time to mess it up. J.B. Phillips notes that the reader of the book of Acts “is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in human history … the Church as it was meant to be.”
When Jesus began to build the Church, His powerful dynamics created explosive growth, resulting in the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) touching the known world. The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost; it multiplied in the city of Jerusalem; it eventually spread to the Samaritans, to a Roman centurion, and to the Greeks in Antioch. Starting in Jerusalem and ending in Rome, the Church of Jesus Christ quickly established a beachhead in the Roman Empire. Although ti did not eliminate every problem — members had disagreements and doctrinal differences — it profoundly impacted its generation with truth and purity.
The principles Jesus uses to build His Church are universal and timeless. While methods and programs may vary, principles work in every generation and culture of the world. It is just as important for Church leaders and the people of God — the priesthood of all believers — today to build “according to the pattern” as it was for Moses. The tabernacle Moses built was a pattern or a symbol of the complete plan that was being progressively revealed. The New Testament presents the Church as the fulfillment in time and space of the Old Testament pattern.