It has become almost impossible for me in my close study of the remarkable part of Bible, conventionally known as the Acts of the Apostles, without being profoundly stunned as to how in many respects, the contemporary church looks more like a large corporation managed by CEOs and corporate executives other than “the eklessia” led by humble, tender shepherds described in the New Testament.
Firstly, I see Christianity, the real thing and how it went on before it was suffocated by over-organization and over revelation. The most intriguing scenario to me is how they preached the gospel of salvation without ‘a New Testament’. They had testament in the form of the “apostles’ doctrine.”
I like to talk about the apostles’ doctrine.
For a long time, I use to believe and teach that the apostles’ doctrine is what the apostles taught by the authority of Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the New Testament. But, while I would not really denounce my long term understanding of the term, I would gladly say that my understanding of it has recently deepened. It did because I studied the Apostles life style pre and post accession.
The Apostles had watched Jesus personally involved in people’s lives, day after day after day for
the few years they spent with Him. They watched how He would call people, like the woman caught in adultery, to repentance without condemning them. They witnessed Him preach scriptures to people and not at people.
In addition, they witnessed Him, put His arms around lepers, make friends with prostitutes, eat lunch with tax collectors, and zealots. They observed Him spend time with children, and never stopped showing compassion, and healing the hurting emotionally, physically and mentally.
They had watched Jesus do everything that Glorified God’s name.
All what they saw and knew about Him became known as ‘the Apostle’s Doctrine. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers Acts 2:42 (NKJV)
Their central focus was
- breaking of bread
It was the most fitting symbol of their fellowship since it reminded them of the basis for their unity which is salvation in Christ.
The Bible records that:
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47 (NKJV)
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” Acts 4:32-35 (NKJV)
The warm fellowship won admiration and brought liberty that never existed. It set a lot of people free from the legalistic chambers of religion and tradition.
However, would you really say that the present day church is still operating within the ambit of the above act that built it? Well, this forum is not for verdict so I leave you to answer that question. But I think the foundational origin of what has formed and nourished the early church is fast disappearing in our present day assemblies because attention is given to denominational and theological opinion which separates us instead of focusing on Jesus Christ Who unites us. We spend time either taking grace for granted or insist on mixing the doctrine of grace with law.
This is not supposed to be because the historical gospel of Jesus Christ brings love and unlimited freedom to the believer, hence the need to keep it so. Jesus said: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36.
I leave you with Paul’s advice to the church in Galatia:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV.
I have made a choice to rediscover and practice apostolic Christianity as embedded in the scriptures and to do as commanded by God and not as convenient for men.
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