For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which are in
Judea in Christ Jesus; for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even
as they have of the Jews (1 Thess. 2:14).
It is not the name of a local church that distinguishes it as
being a pattern of the New Testament. The church may have a very unique title such as
"The New Testament Church of Jesus Christ" and yet it may not follow the pattern
displayed in the New Testament. It is not even the creed formulated by a local
church that gives it the distinction of being patterned after the New Testament. The
creed, as far as it goes, may be very true to New Testament theology, but yet the church
may be far from meeting in a New Testament manner. Obviously, no church would meet New
Testament credentials if it did not teach the basic truths of the New Testament; however,
it is not just the doctrine taught, but it is also the practices of the church that
distinguish it as being New Testament in character.
In the verse above we are told that the Thessalonian believers became
followers of the churches of God in Judea. These were the first churches of the New
Testament. From this same verse we learn one of the distinguishing characteristics of the
early New Testament churches.
A distinguishing mark of a New Testament church is that it its
members suffer many things from their own country men. It is not a popular gathering.
The people of the community do not enjoy being with the members of the church. Those who
meet together in a New Testament church understand that they will suffer ridicule, shame,
and mockery. In some communities they understand that they may suffer physical harm, loss
of property, or loss of jobs. Obviously, the degree of suffering varies under the
provisions of the existing law in each community. NEVER in the New Testament is the local
church portrayed as a gathering which is openly and warmly attended by the majority of the
community. "And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which
was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and
Samaria...." (Acts 8:1).
Consequently, a church that is truly practicing New Testament
principles will not seek to be popular in the community. It will not be devising ways and
means to make itself acceptable to the community so that people will feel comfortable to
walk in off the streets. Certainly it will not seek persecution, but it will expect it.
Those who come together will do so because they are willing to pay a price in order to
meet and hear the Word of God proclaimed in truth. They are there because they hunger for
true fellowship and the truth of God. In other words, God motivates their coming together.
They are not brought in by the fanciful techniques employed by the attractive designs of
The questions then to be asked in looking for a New Testament church
are: Does the local church seek to preach and teach the Word of God without any
limitations or compromise? Does the local church put more emphasis on being acceptable to
the community than on being faithful to God’s Word?
The answer to these questions are vital. These questions manifest a
struggle that takes place in every congregation of God’s people. We want to be liked
and accepted. We want to be like other churches. We are often offended when the church is
too different. We use other excuses for not meeting with them, but this is often the
"Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach"