The scriptures reveal that Christianity has been ordered after a pattern and therefore possess a distinct identity. Back of the pattern and the identity of the church lay the eternal purpose of God. His plan of redemption was foreordained before the foundation of the world. Christ fulfilled it (Eph 1:9-11; 3:10-11); the Holy Spirit revealed it to the apostles (1 Cor 2:6-10) who wrote it for us to understand (Eph 3:3-4). The church’s doctrine and practice was measured by this divine blueprint. Jesus wrote letters to 7 churches, giving principle guidelines for all His churches (Rev 2 & 3). He commanded unity of all believers on the basis of the apostles’ word (Jn 17:20-21).

The pattern emerges in Paul’s 1 Cor letter, and warned against divisions: be of the same mind (1:10). Only a pattern resident in the apostle’s doctrine can produce that unity. He taught the same doctrine everywhere in every church (4:17; 7:17). He gave the same orders to all the churches (16:1). The apostles’ doctrine is a blueprint for the church of Christ for all time and in every place: in name, organization, doctrine, worship.