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Apostolic Examples
Series: Establishing Authority
Bible study on apostolic examples and authority.

In previous articles of this series, we talked about commands and expediencies. Now, in this article, we continue with apostolic examples.

Standard: Pattern, Form
God's word establishes a standard (pattern, form) we are commanded to follow.

  • "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13).

Hupotuposis, the Greek word translated "standard" in the New American Standard Bible is translated "pattern" and "form" in other translations. It denotes the example and pattern by which we live, to faithfully serve God.

Apostolic Examples, Traditions
We are commanded to follow the apostles' examples.

  • "Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me" (1 Cor. 4:16).
  • "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

We are commanded to practice the things learned, received, and heard from the apostles.

  • "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:19).

We are commanded to stand fast and hold apostolic traditions, and withdraw from brethren who do not hold to the traditions.

  • "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Th. 2:15).
  • "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you" (2 Th. 3:6-7).
  • "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame" (2 Th. 3:14).

When we hold to apostolic traditions, we imitate Christ.

  • "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).
  • "What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3).

Since we are commanded to imitate the apostles, holding to the traditions they've delivered in the word of God, we must follow every example unless it's excluded in God's word.

Apostolic Examples Not Binding Today
In the limited space remaining, we'll briefly review each type of apostolic example not binding today.

Apostolic examples that were sinful are not binding.

  • We are not to sin; therefore, we are not to imitate the apostles in their sin (Acts 17:30; 1 Jn. 1:8-2:2; 3:4-10).
  • We do not imitate Peter when he committed the sin of hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14).

Apostolic examples in keeping the Mosaic Law are not binding.

  • God changed the law under which man lives (Heb. 7:12; Col. 2:13-14). We live under the law of Christ, not the Mosaic Law (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; 2 Jn. 1:9).

Apostolic examples of performing miracles are not binding.

  • Today, people cannot perform miracles; therefore, we are not to imitate the apostles regarding miracles.
  • Miracles were temporary, and have been replaced with that which is perfect. Today we live by the better way, faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13; Jas. 1:25).
  • Miraculous power can only be passed to a person by the laying on of an apostle's hands. Since all the apostles are dead, the power to perform miracles cannot be passed to anyone today (Acts 8:14-19; 19:5-6).

Apostolic examples that were cultural are not binding.

  • Jewish cultural traditions were often connected to the Mosaic Law. Some Jewish cultural traditions were erroneously bound as if they were commands from God (Matt. 15:8-9; Mk. 7:6-9).
  • Christians should not judge others in respect to cultural traditions, and should not allow others to judge them in respect to cultural traditions (Rom. 14:1-15:6; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-11:1; Col. 2:16-23).
  • Paul observed whichever cultural traditions were expedient (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
  • Any lawful cultural tradition may be observed by Christians (Col. 3:17; cf. 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:21; 10:23-24).

Apostolic examples of applying expedients are not binding.

  • Anything meeting the Scriptural criteria of an expedient (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23-24) may be employed as an expedient by Christians. By nature, expedients today will differ from expedients employed during the first century.

The Bible sets forth a standard (pattern, form, example) which we must follow.

As part of the pattern set forth in God's word, we imitate the apostles, unless the example is excluded in God's word.