Is Our Practice to Be Regulated by Scriptural Example?
Any one of you read Of Domestical Duties?Â William Gouge wrote it in 1622.Â I was looking for a very old book for our church to use in family devotions and I found his book.Â I’m guessing that when Gouge was done, others didn’t think it necessary to write much else on this subject.Â We are going over his chapter called “Duties for Children.”Â Some of his points I have not read anywhere else, although they are thoughts that parents contemplate in child-rearing.Â Maybe no big surprise, but Gouge doesn’t shoot from the hip.Â He takes his points from exegesis of Scripture, mainly using examples in the Old Testament.
For instance, Gouge uses examplesÂ as authority for the practice of parental consent.Â Â He says that children should never get a job that will take them away from home without the parent’s consent.Â They shouldn’t marry without parental permission and no minister should perform the marriage without the expressed authority of the parents.Â Â He breaks all of these down with supporting references and explanations.Â In this realm of parental consent, he ends with:Â “Children’s forbearing to dispose any of their parents’ goods without consent.”Â Here is his evidence:
In that Isaac was pleased to send Jacob to Padan Aram without any great provision, it seemeth that Jacob made conscience of taking any thing privily, but went as his father sent him with his staff (Gen 32:10). And the apology which he made to Laban his father in law concerning things taken away (Gen 31:36), sheweth that he held it unlawful for children privily to convey away their parents’ goods. What is my trespass? what is my sin? [saith he] what hast thou found of all my household stuff?Â Doth he not hereby imply, that if Laban’s daughters had taken away any of their father’s goods, it had been a trespass and sin?Â The Apostle saith of the heir [who of all the children may seem to have the greatest right] that as long as he is a child [that is, under the government of his parents] he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all (Gal 4:1). If he differ not from a servant, what right can he have at his pleasure to dispose his parents’ goods? hath a servant any such right?
GougeÂ makes his case usingÂ examples from the Bible.Â Historically, the doctrine and practice of churches and Christians have been regulatedÂ by Scriptural examples.Â To them, this was normal.Â Are examples somehow less authoritative today?Â Are they less imposing as Biblical commands?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the Apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”Â Peter had the same idea in 1 Peter 2:21, when he wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”Â The Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t physically around for Paul or PeterÂ to follow, so how were they able to follow Jesus?Â They used his example.Â That example today must be read from the Bible.Â Paul especially had to rely on the reports of what Jesus did to understand how to follow Him.Â You won’t find it in the Mega-church Seminar for Church Growth.Â Â Instead you’ll have toÂ dig into Scripture and rely on how it says that Jesus and His apostles practiced.
Does it matter if we pattern our churches after the examples in the Gospels and Acts?Â Does it make any difference if we don’t imitate what we read that Jesus did in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?Â Or are these examples actually to regulate what we do as churches and Christians?Â A big part of the practice of many churches are methods not found in the examples of the New Testament.Â Are churches that do not regulate their operation by the pattern revealed by God in Scripture in reality acting in disobedience to God’s Word?
A Scriptural means of church growth is crucial.Â Jesus said, “I will build my church.”Â 1 Corinthians 3 says that the church is grown by means of eternal materials that stand the test of God’s judgment.Â Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that everything must be built upon the rock, something lasting in contrast to the sand.Â We do war spiritually, not carnally (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).Â How we do it matters.Â Silence doesn’t mean permission.Â He gave us the example in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles to follow.Â When we don’t follow His example, it is akin to us building it and not Him.
John wrote in 1 John 2:6, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”Â How He walked is recorded in the New Testament via examples.Â If we abide in Him, we will follow His example.Â When is it that we do not follow His example?
- In any area, when we practice differently than how He did.
- When put in the same situation as He was in, we act or respond differently than what He did.
- We do everything His way, but occasionally we add our way to His.
- We leave out some of what He did.
William Gouge looked all over the Bible to study its examples.Â From those, He learned the duties of the children, the father, the mother, a husband, and a wife.Â He didn’t limit his doctrine and practiceÂ to declarative statements or commands.Â He knew, as should we, that the examples ofÂ Scripture along with all the rest of the Bible can and will equip a man unto every good work.