The "Pattern" of Love

M. Irons

One of the beliefs that kept us in the Assembly was the teaching that there is a correct New Testament pattern for the church, and only George knew what it was and could teach us about it. The Plymouth Brethren had seen it at one time, but in recent years had lost the vision. There had been others, such as Brother Sparks, but he was no longer living. So we were left completely dependent on George and the Assembly. There was nowhere else to worship, because no other church was truly "according to the pattern". I question whether the New Testament teaches this concept in the way that George and the Brethren applied it to the church. It does seem to teach something else in regard to a "pattern".

The New Testament uses the word for pattern only three times. Heb. 8:5 is a quotation of Exodus 25:40. God told Moses that the tabernacle he was to make was a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. Now we know what that means -  Jesus our great high priest sits at the right hand of the throne of God, serving in the true sanctuary. The book of Hebrews is telling us that the Old Testament pattern was all about Christ.

Nothing is said about the church following a correct pattern for gathering in order to express Christ. If this were of supreme importance, wouldn't the writer of Hebrews have gone on to spell this out clearly, so that future generations could read for themselves and follow it meticulously, as Israel did when they built and rebuilt the temple generations after Moses?

The second occurrence is in I Tim. 1:13-16, where Paul, speaking of his conversion, says that he had been a blasphemer and a violent man, but "the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus", so that in him, "the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as a pattern"--the pattern of Christ Himself in us.The third use of the word for pattern is in Titus 2:7, where Paul tells Titus to show himself a pattern of good works.

So we might infer that since the coming of Christ, His pattern is in us, expressing Him in deeds of love. In fact, I Cor 13, which speaks of the most excellent way, is not about Christians meeting in the correct way to express the pattern. It expressly says that even if believers were to have special insight to fathom all mysteries, and have all knowledge of how things ought to be done, without love it is nothing. Love is what is of utmost importance.

One of the positive aspects of the assembly was that there were many opportunities to learn to love one another. Saints lived together, served in ministries together, served one another in times of illness or need. We were taught to keep an eye on each other, and even though our concern was often expressed in a legalistic or controlling way and stemmed from mixed motives, in many cases the love for one another another was genuine.

This is one of the things that makes the dissolution of Assemblies painful - people miss one another. A large part of this is due to the unhealthy dependence and codependence fostered in the Assembly "biosphere". Speaking for myself, at least, the element of "fixing" other people was a big part of it. I have found that attitude difficult to tease out and get rid of. For other people, it seems to be felt more as missing authority figures for direction in life.

Nevertheless, entwined in the mix were many strands of genuine love and care. Heb 6.10 says, "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." He counts the love we have shown one another as love shown to Himself! This pattern - the pattern of Christ's love in us - is something of lasting value and significance, and it abides, even though the "pattern of the gathering" as we experienced it proved to be illusory.

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