This sounds like it would come from what some term a conservative legalist, but surprise! it comes from a liberal’s liberal.
What is offered in the letters [of the book of Revelation], therefore, represents a pattern of affirmation and correction, challenge and comfort, supporting the weak and challenging the complacent, which is the foundation of our pastoral and preaching ministry. (emphases mine)
The quote comes from Christopher Rowland, “Revelation,” Global Bible Commentary (Abingdon, 2004): 562. The one-volume commentary is a showcase for liberation and feminist theologies.
The dictionary defines a pattern as “a model considered worthy of imitation; something regarded as a normative example; something intended as a guide for making something else.”
Now, Mr. Rowland wouldn’t agree to my identification of that pattern, no doubt about that. But those pro/digressives who cry that the New Testament holds no pattern for us today are being either ingenious or deceptive. The most stringent non-patternist has his pattern which he follows and derives from Scripture, no matter how minimalist and selective.
Who doesn’t require faith in his plan of salvation? To prove the necessity of faith, where does one go? To Scripture! The pattern is searched for and found there. The problem is that too many stop short as their cloak of liberty hides the complete pattern in the Word of God.
The quote above recognizes that a pattern provides the foundation for ministry and mission. The premises we work from are those we pass on to others. It also recognizes that a pattern exists for the churches. The Asian churches, for the most part, were deviating from that pattern, and the Spirit calls them back to a strict observance of it. So not only is there a pattern to follow to be saved, but a normative model exists for one’s eternal security and for service in the kingdom of God.
Granted that people differ on what that pattern is (though discerning it is not a complicated process), those who deny that any pattern exists are talking in a barrel. Even the most liberal of liberals acknowledge it. The liberation theologists go to Exodus for their socialist interpretation to establish a pattern.
So let’s leave behind the denials, and work to discern the details.