"Do All Things According to the Pattern"
"As long as you're honest, that's all that counts." "God doesn't care, just as long as everything is done for the glory of God." Or, "Just so you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, nothing else matters." These statements represent many peoples' feeling about God's will for us. It seems that these statements place the sole importance on a person's attitude. Yet, the questions we need to ask are, "How does God judge us? By our hearts, or by our deeds?" Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible have clear statements on these questions. If one is expecting the answer to be one or the other, then the answer given by the Bible may be surprising. More passages than usual will be studied to ensure that the basis of this conclusion is God's word, and not our opinion.
The title of this article refers to a quote found in three different places in the Bible. First, when God instructed Moses how to build the tabernacle in the Old Testament, He told Moses to "make all things according to the pattern" (Exodus 25:40). This reference is repeated in the book of Hebrews as a reminder of doing all things today "according to the pattern" (Hebrews 8:5). A similar statement is made in Ezekiel, during the Jews captivity in Babylon. In the middle of a 9-chapter description of the dimensions of the new holy city, God tells Ezekiel:
"And He said to me, 'Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name. ... Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangements, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms, and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them. This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.' " Ezekiel 43:7-12
The very length of this 9-chapter discourse speaks of the emphasis that God places on observing details. This section became ultimately fulfilled in the New Testament church, and it continues to apply to us today. When we study the exact "dimensions and pattern" of the church, we will recognize how badly man has corrupted it and strayed from God's way. Yet, the solution is the same today as it was then: Study all of the details of God's pattern (the entrances, exits, etc.), and then keep the whole design and all its ordinances. As students in search of truth, it is our goal to establish God's Will and make "all things according to the pattern."
These accusations are often leveled against truthseekers, who try to closely adhere to God's Word. But, the Bible both condemns and condones these attitudes. It depends on what is implied by the charges. First, the Bible clearly condemns, or teaches that going through the motions is not what God desires. Please consider the following passages from the Old Testament:
"'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:6-8
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, and a broken and contrite heart - These, O God, You will not despise" Psalm 51:16-17
Do these passages imply that God does not care what we do as long as our heart is right? As we look at more scriptures, we will learn that it is not the sacrifices or rituals alone that God desired. They were worthless if the heart is not right, but these statements do not necessitate that we conclude that God does not care about the correctness of our actions. These passages do not teach that God does not care about actions, but it does teach that actions alone are not enough.
Is Love Enough?
Love is emphasized by everyone today. It is one of the most powerful themes of the Bible. In the New Testament, Paul expressed the importance of love in the following passage:
"Though I speak with the tongues of mean and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." I Corinthians 13:1-3
Sometimes the above passages are quoted in an effort to dissolve mankind of any responsibility to obey God's commands. However, please note the fundamental error in logic. The above passage emphasizes and mandates love as our motivation, but it neither deemphasizes, releases us from, nor negates the commandments of God. Just because God requires love, does not imply that He does not require obedience. It is a leap in logic, and an unfounded assumption to go from these passages to this erroneous conclusion. But, how do we know this is so? We can answer this question by examining God's comments on this exact problem - loving and good intentions without obedience. We can find an answer by studying examples of how God dealt with such cases.
God's Direct Statements
In giving both the old and new laws (testaments), God directed people not turn aside from the commands of the law. In fact, he told them not to add anything, or do anything that he had not authorized. Please examine the following passages from both the New and Old Testaments:
"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2
"Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to to according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go." Joshua 1:7
"He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" ... "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men" Spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3,9
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8-9
"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" I Peter 4:11
"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." II John 9
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
From the above passages, we learn several things about how God expects to follow His Word: It is sin for us to give permission for practices that were forbidden God, and it is sin to forbid the practices that were permitted by God. People were accursed by God for doing this. It is transgression (sin) to go outside, or beyond the limits of Christ's teaching. Finally, we are instructed to speak, or teach, where the Bible has spoken. This limits us to God's Word as authority. Now, let's examine some Old Testament examples to see how God handled people who strayed from His will.
The following examples illustrate different facets of the above statements. First, let's examine a case that involved priests incorporating a new addition to the Old Testament worship. The consequence of their sin was immediate death. What was this heinous crime?
"Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the Lord spoke, saying: "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy, and before all the people I must be glorified."' So Aaron held his peace." Leviticus 10:1-3
Earlier, God gave instructions to use a certain kind of incense (Exodus 30:9, 34-38). Aaron's sons offered "profane" incense by using a type which the Lord "had not commanded them". What is the lesson for us? Whenever God gives us specific instructions or commands, He expects us to keep it. We see both from the direct statements above and this example, that it is sin to go "outside" the boundaries that God has authorized."
The next two cases teaches even more directly deal with our question, "How does God deal with people who do wrong things with a good motive?" Saul, the Old Testament king of Israel, deviated from God's will to do something that he thought would be better. God instructed Saul to "utterly destroy" the nation of Amalek. But, Saul saved the king of Amalek, and he saved animals for sacrifices to the Lord. It would seem that sacrifices to God are good thing. Please read the prophet Samuel's response to Saul from the Lord:
"So Samuel said: 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'" I Samuel 15:22-23
Later we learn that Saul's motive was not actually good, but his heart was truly wicked. However, this next example raises the standard even higher. It is the example of Uzza.
In this example, King David is escorting the Lord's ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. However, he is not doing in the manner that God prescribed:
"So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzza and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart." ...
"And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
"And David became angry because of the Lord's outbreak against Uzza, and he called then name of the place 'Outburst Against Uzza' to this day." II Samuel 6:3-9
David was very angry because the Lord killed Uzza. Probably like us, he could not understand why God would kill a man trying to do a good thing. Was not Uzza trying to prevent the ark from falling and being damaged? He did break God's command to not touch the ark (Numbers 4:5-6, 15), but wasn't he doing a good thing? Later, David realized why God acted as He did.
"Then David said, 'No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever." ...
"For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order." ...
"And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the Word of the Lord." I Chronicles 15:2, 13, 15
From this example, we learn a great lesson. If we fail to seek God's way first, we have sinned at the very beginning. It is only a matter of time before we "unknowingly" break God's law. Once we have, then we stand condemned before God. In Uzza's case, the consequences also brought immediate physical death. While God may not kill us immediately today, the condemnation of sin warrants a postponed, but much more significant death - spiritual.
The New Testament Teaching
Often we assume that God has changed since the Old Testament, and since the coming of Christ, God has become a god of love, rather than wrath and judgment. But, is this really what the Bible says? Please examine the following quote from Jesus:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity.' " Matthew 7:21-23
Just because we think we do good things, or proclaim Jesus as recipient of an action's glory, does not make it right. Moreover, Jesus says that there will be surprised people on Judgment Day that will be condemned as sinners. What is the sobering lesson? All things must be done according to God's will to be right. The end never justifies the means, and neither does ignorance or purity of motive provide excuse!
An Impossible Task
These passages present what seems an impossible task. How can we hope of getting to heaven without making some accidental mistake, even with constant study and prayer? This troublesome question has a Bible answer, but it demands our faith. First, we see that God is not some god of fury that enjoys destroying people, nor does He watch from heaven, waiting for people to sin, so He can kill and condemn them. But, the Bible teaches another disposition:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
The apostle Paul speaks of the "riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering" and that the "goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4). God does not want us to be destroyed and seeks every opportunity to be saved. As part of this desire, He has given us the following promise upon which we can rest:
"Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal this even to you." Philippians 3:15
God has promised to reveal our sins of ignorance to us. We must be sure that we have the proper heart - honest, loving and seeking truth - so that we will recognize the opportunities. God has promised both longsuffering and providential care. Our faith calls upon us to trust Him, and with this we can rest secure and confident in Him.
It is necessary to cover these scriptures, so that we may be firmly grounded in this truth. With this conviction and motivation, we will be better prepared to deal with questions about God's plan of salvation, His organization and work that He gave the church, as well as other Bible doctrines. If we are not convinced that God cares about how we respond to His will, then we will not be ready to seek His will. We must first appreciate the Bible's teaching on God's expectation, His wrath, His loving care, and His faithful guidance.
Now, we will focus our search on the distinction between the New and Old Testaments. This subject will greatly affect our understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Failure to properly recognize this distinction may cause us to do the very thing that this study has warned against - "adding to", "taking away", straying to "the right", or to "the left".
Next: New and Old Testaments
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