Are Christians Bound to the Practices of the Primitive Church?

There are those who suggest that the truer Christians are to the practices of the primitive church, the better off the church will be.  This is a noble concept, but is it biblical?  What if after 2000+ years of church maturation we’re not supposed to go back, but far beyond any spiritual accomplishments they had.  Our goal is to come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)  Isn’t it?  So, if we’ve got some catching up to do because we’ve fallen behind where the early church was, then so be it.  If the church has become less mature than when the apostles were kicking up dust, then ok.  If our practices are skewed because our understanding of the precepts, then maybe.    But, even if we’ve backtracked as a church, our goals still lie ahead, not behind.  Our intentions shouldn’t be to recapture apostolic ministry, but surpass it, and carry their baton on to the finish line.

I’ve been toying with this idea:

“We’re no more bound to the practices of the “primitive” church

than we are to the hunting practices of primitive men.”

 What do you think of that statement?

In your opinion, is the church today more mature or less mature than the early church?

Besides Ephesians 4:13, what other biblical passages would you cite to encourage the church to go forward instead of backwards?

0 thoughts on “Are Christians Bound to the Practices of the Primitive Church?

  1. Peter says:

    I agree, brother. We shouldn’t try to imitate the early church, but learn how Christ wants us to express Him, with each other, today. We can learn from them, but if we say that we must follow their practices, we are setting up another form of legalism. Together, as the Body of Christ, the Ekklesia has the Mind of Christ, and we must learn what He desires now.

  2. Doug says:

    I agree, in that we should go forward. What is interesting to me, is to see the initial gospel preached by Christ and His early disciples, then it seems that we reverted back to a form of law right after that. That form of man-made doctrine then took root and grew through the later churches and was expounded upon until this age (or so it seems to me). I know I have read some guys in the 1800s and things that sounded like they understood more of the “original Jesus,” as I say, but it was sporadic. It seems like the Gentiles had to go through all this 2000+ years of ‘man-made’ (and I say man-made loosely) legalism to get us to Christ (as the law is a tutor until we get to Him)…then the next step is the “fullness of the Gentiles,” which then will “provoke the Jews to jealously” for their God. I feel like it has all been a huge process on God’s part to bring His ultimate glory to life. I feel that a true believer doesn’t have to be told to go forward by any man, as God has his heart pressing forward with Him. In other words, the true believer wants to follow Christ, wants to be with God, wants to follow His voice, wants God and cannot get enough of Him! The freedom in Christ, and the grace of God is prevailing and when the Jews see the fruit of the Holy Spirit they knew of before, it will be interesting. I’m just thankful I’m grafted in their tree! So, no, I don’t believe for a minute that we are bound to anything but Christ, and in Him we are saved!

  3. Tom Schultz says:

    The context of your verse is interesting!
    Ephesians 4:11-16(NET) It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God — a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

    “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”…”we all attain to the unity of the faith”…”no longer to be …carried about by every wind of teaching”…”practicing the truth in love”…”As each one does its part, the body grows in love.” Just listing out some of the phrases seems to answer the question. Whether the early church ever approached those goals, present-day churches seldom equip the saints for ministry…they leave it for the professionals; unity of the faith is no more true today than then; there are still hoards of people ready to race after any new teaching or doctrine; while there may be pockets of loving fellowships, there are so many churches where members just come, sit, and leave and where the only part ‘each one’ is asked to do is put some money in the plate.

    IMHO ‘the church’ is no more mature now than then. I saw the same thing teaching college for 25 years…the new batches of students got younger and younger and couldn’t learn any faster than the previous batches. Why couldn’t they learn all I had learned over 40 years in the allotted semester?! I think Jesus knew it would be the same with churches…probably that was why elders were a good idea. “primitive” churches vs. today, like hunting may have some fancier tools, but the basic components are just the same.

  4. JR Woodward says:


    If our goal is for the body of Christ to raise up to the stature of Christ in unity, and if we think that the author of Ephesians is giving us something good and true in this passage, then maybe we need to actually attend to how he says we will get there and accept the various people gifts that Christ gave the church. For if we have any hope of reaching the maturity of Christ and operate as His hands and feet, we ought to remember that He is the archetypical apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, and while no one person is all of those, the author of this passage ties the maturity and unity of the church to these various people gifts that He has given his body.

    I have personally found that an understanding of these five people gifts, and the nourishing of these people in the body enables us to imitate Christ more fully. With that said, I don’t think we are called to live in the first century. We are called to live in our time. As N.T. Wright and others have said, we have been given the first four acts of a five act play, and the last chapter of the fifth act, so we are to know the story so well that we live lives faithful to God in our day. So I say, let’s be rooted in the past, but be a future shaped church, where we allow God’s future to shape our present, so that we might live faithful live to him. As Bosch has said, if we take the incarnation seriously, the word needs to become flesh in our current context.

  5. Marc Winter says:

    The “church” is an imposter organization, that has stolen the public representation of Christ.Paul told us that , “Ravenous wolves (spiritual) would come in after his departure and not spare the flock.” I know it is hard to conceive with our natural minds that, what we call “church” is headed up by a wolf principality. From the consolidation of all of the little wolves under the headship of the wolf principality (the spirit behind Constantine) until the judgement of the harlot in Revelations, Church is not of God.
    This is the greatest gambit in the history of the world system. The enemy thinks he has won the match. For even those who do find faith in Christ, has a false Gospel, and a false Christ presented to them every week by the usurping headship represented by the authoritative leaders.
    The proof of all of this is endless, if we can to see it.

  6. Marshall says:

    not that we have some catching up to do, but more to the 1900 years of baggage we need jettison. Imagine if the “primitive church” had gone forward to become entirely submerged within Judaism of the time. The difficultly of being extracted from everything that is not (no longer) Christ!
    Looking over the early beginnings (though we have precious few notes from then) has proven helpful in our reconsidering all things before our God. It’s not that we’re going back, but that we’re making our appeal to God in Christ to lift the veil of religious vanity & error from eyes.

    • Marc Winter says:

      Marshall, Indeed! We have such a mindset, bound by traditional terminology. Everything in the Lord’s timing, this time is looking pretty ripe as far as I can see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.