Is Apostolic Tradition Obsolete?

Monday Discussion

ekklesia“Suppose a newly planted first century congregation in Alexandria, Egypt wrote a letter to the apostles in Jerusalem.” So begins the first chapter of editor Steve Atkerson’s 2005 book, ekklesia: To the Root of Biblical House Church Life. He continues …

Imagine that this church consisted of Jewish believers who had heard the gospel on a visit to Jerusalem. Now that they were back home in Egypt, they didn’t quite know what to do next. So, in their letter to the apostles was a series of questions about church life:

Dear Apostles …
Why is it that we meet together as God’s people?
What should we do in our meetings?
How often should we meet?
Does it matter where we meet?
Should we build a temple like in Jerusalem or at least a synagogue building?
What type of church government should we have?
What should we look for in church leaders?
What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper?
How often should we eat it? Annually, like Passover?
Should we eat the Lord’s Supper as a true meal or a token ritual?”

How do you suppose the twelve apostles would have answered their letter?
(ekklesia, page 11)

It is an intriguing question and an intriguing book, but it raised another question for me.

My question:

Does the fact that these questions are not asked in the New Testament and not completely answered in the New Testament tell us something of the latitude of forms that the Spirit of God intended to be possible over the course of nearly 2000 years and counting?

Follow-up Question:

Should this make those in the attractional camp and those in the organic camp less critical of one another’s forms?


5 thoughts on “Is Apostolic Tradition Obsolete?

  1. Not only should we be less critical of each other’s forms; we should have less of a tendency to believe that one particular form is normative and “biblical” and thus should be used across the board, without consideration of cultural or generational differences. This happens all too often in my opinion–a particular model sees some success and is immediately imitated in all kinds of different situations. Karl is right; the message is much more significant than the method.

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  2. Is the message really more significant than the method? Is this question answered as “only one” or “both/and?” If it appears that there is a significant difference between message and method, it means we need to pray and study both until the Spirit teaches us how they are the same. There is a message behind the method. We need to understand the message rather than try to gain righteousness by copying the method (form), which we really can’t do anyway, and glorifying the “how we do it” as some sort of church “doctrine.” (I know about that, because I have done it.)

    I disagree that the NT doesn’t provide answers to all the questions listed above. There is a spiritual-based scriptural answer to every one of them. It’s good to recognize that our present answers are inadequate, but let’s not say then that the Scripture doesn’t address them, when we just haven’t searched the mind of God deeply enough to find the the real answer.

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    1. I’m not sure the “method and message” can ever be the same; the message is always primary and it is impossible to “gain” righteousness by any method. Only Christ’ imputed righteousness to the believer is necessary or sufficient for salvation.

      I agree that “it is good to recognize that our present answers are inadequate”.

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