In a sermon dealing with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, the preacher stated that the early church, as depicted in this text, had to maintain a special purity, thus explaining why these two members died for lying while present day church liars go right on living. The speaker also alluded to the passages elsewhere in the book of Acts, stating that the early church members held possessions in common, something not practiced today in the church. By noting these obvious differences between the church in Acts and the church today, the preacher admitted what many seem to overlook, forget, or simply ignore- not everything about the church described in the Bible applies to mankind today. In some cases the example of the early church is embraced as our way today, and in others it is not. Some NT words of admonition or instruction are accepted as the rule for us, and others are not.
Once this fact is recognized and admitted, then we naturally ask- how doe we know what to practice and what to see as inapplicable? Various answers to this question have been presented. The specific answers are not really important though. The fact that everyone has to deal with this question is the real issue. No matter what criteria are applied to establish right practice today, someone had to formulate those criteria; and those criteria are subject to debate. Church tradition, the opinions of the church fathers and their creeds, the social mores of ancient societies- none of these things are necessarily conclusive in establishing what early church practices are the rule today. In the final analysis each person or group makes a decision, and that decision is just likely to be influenced by what seems least objectionable to the prevalent assumptions and thinking within a particular group.
Realistically, the Bible talks to me when I want it to, and it doesn't when I don't.