The Pattern

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).”
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.
Moses was instructed, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain” (Exodus 25:40). The Bible records this phrase, or variations of it, nine times in reference to the house of God. To be mentioned nine times, the pattern must be very important to God. He is very interested in how things are done in His house.

Exodus 26:30 “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

Exodus 27:8 “You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.”

Exodus 25:9 “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”

Exodus 31:11 “and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

Exodus 39:32, 42-43 “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did … According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.”

Numbers 8:4 “And this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was hammered work; according to the pattern that the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.”

Disharmony had marred creation in the first place due to man’s independence and rebellion. Therefore, God required His people to set aside their independence and faithfully follow His lead. It was absolutely necessary. Any generation that refused to follow God’s pattern ended in death and destruction. (See Joshua 22:28; 2 Kings 16:10; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 18-19; Ezekiel 43:10). Israel obeyed the Lord’s instruction and built ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN.
The New Testament deacon, Stephen, was martyred shortly after he testified before the synagogue council. He had referred to the Old Testament story of Moses and the tabernacle pattern.
Acts 7:44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.”
Stephen points out that God had directed the construction and daily operation of the house of the Lord by revelation. It was God’s house, and He wanted it built according to His design. In addition, Stephen referred to the Israelites who had lived around the tabernacle for forth years as the symbolic “church in the wilderness.”
Acts 7:38 “This is the one who was in the congregation (church) in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.”
He reminded his listeners that their forefathers’ constant rebellion had forced them to wander in the wilderness until a whole generation died — even though they travelled in the presence of the tabernacle. Today the Church wanders in a wilderness of conflicting opinions, traditions, habits, and man-made patterns searching for the presence of the Lord “though He in not far from … us” (Acts 17:27).
God was explicit with Moses about the pattern for the tabernacle because it was a shadow of the true tabernacle (the Church), which the Lord would build later.
Hebrews 8:5 “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’”
Hebrews 8:2 “A minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle) that the Lord set up, not man.”
The True Tabernacle – The Church
The true tabernacle – the true house of the Lord, the Church — is the Church Jesus is building.
Hebrews 3:2-6 “Who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Matthew 16:18b “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
If the tabernacle in the wilderness had to be built according to God’s specific pattern, how much more must the true tabernacle, the Church, be built according to the New Testament pattern. Today hundreds if not thousands of books about church planting, church growth, and church multiplication crowd the shelves of Christian bookstores. They tell how to target areas according to demographics, how to promote and market churches, how to conduct services, and how to do whatever it takes to see a church grow in numbers. In other words, they attempt to show leaders how to build the church. Few of these books say, “Let’s go back to the New Testament and build according to the pattern.”
The apostle Paul followed a spiritual blueprint or pattern. First, he laid a foundation, and then he built upon it. He wrote:
1 Corinthians 3:9-10a “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s 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.”
1 Corinthians 3:10b-11 “Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Christian believers are God’s building. We are the Church. However, we are also the Lord’s fellow builders. From the foundation up, builders must build the right way, according to the pattern. Paul warned every builder to “take heed how he builds.” Paul himself worked to keep God’s order in the Church. He said,
1 Corinthians 14:40 KJV “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Colossians 2:5 KJV “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Titus 1:5 KJV “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you.”
Today God is restoring His Church to the same life and power that enabled Christianity to influence and impact the known world in Bible times in one generation. The principle of restoration is one of the most foundational in all of Scripture. It rests on the belief that God’s original works reveal unblemished patterns and blueprints in creation. It also assumes that fallen sinful man tends to stray from the original pattern over time. As man strays, he loses his life and he needs restoration.
The principle appears first in Genesis. In the beginning when man sinned, he lost all God originally had intended for him. He lost his fellowship with God, and as a sinner he could not fulfill his original, God-given purpose. But God immediately made a way for mankind to be reconciled and restored. The Lord established the plan of redemption. Jesus is mentioned first in the book of Genesis.
Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The Mosaic Law instituted restoration into civil regulations of the land. It required the return of stolen goods to their owners — with interest.
Exodus 22:1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.”
Exodus 22:6 “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.”
King Solomon echoed the principle in his wisdom writings.
Proverbs 6:30-31 “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.”
Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s perfect order in the earth until they sinned. Later, the Church followed a similar path. The Church was born following an original visitation of the Holy Spirit. The visitation revealed God’s original design for the Church. Truth and power characterized life among first-century believers; however, soon human pride and sin led Christians astray from the God-given pattern. As a result they lost the life they enjoyed and needed restoration.
The Church was just newly born when Peter preached about the end of its history. Between the beginning and the end, believers woulda enjoy times of refreshing as a result of their faith in Christ (Acts 3:19). Eventually Jesus would return for His bride. Peter said Jesus would return only after all things spoken of by the prophets had been restored.
Acts 3:20-21 “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
The Bible declares that God is restoring His Church and that He will continue to restore it until it is the glorious bride of Christ.
Ephesians 5:27 “so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
If God is restoring the Church, and if the Church will conform to the glorious pattern, then discovering the pattern becomes absolutely essential.
Humanists view man as his own god and believe man is perfectible without God’s help. They think humanity is regressing over time and that things continue to improve as a result of new discoveries and achievements. They do not recognize designs or patterns in origins. They assume everything began in a primitive form and steadily gets better on its own. They see no need for restoration of things that get better by themselves.
Many, even in the Church, have been trained by educators, the media, and politicians to think like humanists. If they believe the Church is automatically progressing, getting better over time, then restoring an original pattern is irrelevant to them.
I am convinced that before the return of the Lord, the Church will be restored according to God’s design!
When Jesus said, “I will build My Church,” He went on to say, “the gates of Hades (Hell) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church Jesus is building is an overcoming, triumphant Church. His statement implies that if a local church does not conform to His pattern, then He is not building it and the gates of hell will prevail against it.
The apostle Paul warned the Church leaders to take heed how they build. Jesus is the foundation, but Paul said not everything built on the foundation will last.
1 Corinthians 3:12 “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…”
A house of gold, silver, and precious stones will endure, while a house of wood, hay, and straw will not last. For that reason every local church or “house of God” will be tested. Fiery trials reveal the true qualities of each house.
1 Corinthians 3:13 “… each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”
A house built according to the pattern will last.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15 “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
The Builder (Jesus) wants His co-labourers to use eternal building materials and to follow the pattern He has revealed. All who study God’s pattern must commit themselves to use it. True leaders long for the Church to reflect God’s pattern and purpose. Every leader who is following Jesus and loves the Church wants the dynamics of the Church to be ordered by the Lord. No one has the right or freedom to build the Church in his or her own way. No one has the right to decide what it should be like, how it should operate, its mission and lifestyle. Moses had no choice how he was to build and neither do we.
Programs do not always – in fact, seldom – build a house of gold, silver, and precious stones. They might be important and may benefit the members of the local church but they are not the essence, dynamic, or purpose of the Church. They certainly do not make the Church come alive. They are often additions to the house. They are rooms in the house at best.
Adjustments will be necessary, and everyone has to be willing to make adjustments to build according to the pattern. Throughout their lives, individual Christinas have to make adjustments. As they do, their vision of what God’s Church should look like gets clearer. They see God’s pattern for their lives and for the Church more fully before them. If they are wise, they will make whatever adjustments might be called for by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, the Bible.
If believers are not teachable, they will not see and understand the Lord’s pattern for the Church. If they do not grasp the pattern, they surely will not implement it. An unteachable person says, “I have done it this way for 30 years, and I will continue to do it this way until mI die.” That is the way of death. Seeking the heart of God for His Church, receiving revelation of what the blueprint looks like, and constant change and adjustment to build according to that pattern, will be part of the daily life of any believer who has decided to glorify the Lord and do what He has called us to be and do.
The Book of Acts contains more than the birth and the history of the early Church. It is the second half of a two-volume Gospel, Luke, a medical doctor, wrote the books to reinforce his reader’s faith in the living Jesus Christ. As he narrates history he also teaches theology. He explains the dynamics of the first New Testament Church and illustrates the principles by which it should be build and the way it must function.
His first volume, the Gospel of Luke, covers Jesus’ life and teachings. Acts follows what the Holy Spirit continued to do and teach in Jesus’ Name through the Church. Opening statements in both volumes reveal Luke’s purpose:
Luke 1:1-4 “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
Acts 1:1-3 “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
Luke’s readers needed to know with certainty that what they were believing and doing had been started by Jesus and continued by the Holy Spirit. Their faith in Jesus and their experience of the Body of Jesus, the Church, needed to be founded on an authoritative, orderly witness. Luke provided it for them — and for believers in every nation today.
The Jerusalem church is the first fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18 that “He would build His Church.” For several years, the church faithfully followed the pattern, although it had an advantage over many churches today. All the converts had the same ethnic heritage. As Jews, they shared a background in Old Testament Scripture. It enabled them to correctly apply the teachings of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Modern day believers often have difficulty correctly applying the teachings of Jesus without a good, proper understanding of Old Testament Scriptures.
The distinctive of the early church are seen in:
Acts 2:38-47 “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Acts 4:31-35 “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Acts 5:12-16 “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”
The same distinctive should be explored and implemented in local churches today. These distinctive show…
The New Testament Church had a clear doctrinal and experiential foundation. It began with repentance, demonstrated by an initial experience of believer baptism by immersion in water. It was then energized and controlled by the Holy Spirit who empowered and enabled the Church to fulfill it’s mandate and purpose (Acts 1:5, 8)
Converts immediately identified with the community of believers. They did not become spiritual “Lone Rangers.” Those who responded to the preached Word recognized a covenant relationship with one another as a logical part of their personal covenant with the Lord.
A leadership structure of trans-local apostles and prophets as well as local elders governed the community of faith. The twelve apostles appointed by the Lord composed the original leadership team. With the leading of the Holy Spirit, they did not hesitate to exercise the authority the Lord delegated to them (Matthew 28:18-20).
Believers entered into a new lifestyle almost immediately — a pattern of receiving and living according to the instruction of the apostles (Acts 2:42). As a result, they lived together in a vibrant and dynamic fellowship.
Given to prayer and praise, the New Testament Church was a worshipping community in love with the Lord. Christians visibly celebrated His Lordship.
The presence and power of Christ was evident. The Lord confirmed the preached Word with miraculous signs and wonders (see: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Mark 16:20). The supernatural events brought the fear of the Lord upon believers as well as upon their neighbours and onlookers.
Members took fellowship seriously and expressed it practically. They lived a lifestyle of selfless service, living out the dynamic of the cross putting others first before their own comfort, safety, and security.
Believers maintained unity (Ephesians 4:3, 13; 1 Peter 3:8). They  assembled together at various places and times for worship, instruction, and for simply sharing their lives together.
Neighbours and people in surrounding areas were impresses by the markedly different life in the Christian community. Many chose to believe the Gospel of the Kingdom and became a part of the remarkable community.
The pattern demonstrated in the book of Acts is still the pattern for the Church today. The Lord is restoring and building His Church according to the same principles and dynamics. They hold true today and will continue in every generation. The closer we come to the return of the Lord, the more we will experience, in our own lives and churches, the living reality of the dynamics of the New Testament Church.
Begin now to study the pattern. Believe it, contend for it, and to believe God for the wisdom to implement it.