Apostolic Biblical churches are foundationally and essentially patterned after the Apostolic Church of all nations, races and languages which was established on the great Day of Pentecost. This New Testament Church was founded on the gospel message, proclaimed by the apostles from the inspired Old Testament scriptures. The apostles proclaimed that Christ fulfilled all Old Testament Scriptures. This was the very teaching of Christ himself (Luke 24:44-49). The second chapter of the Book of Acts contains the details and of this event and the apostolic teaching and practices of the church which are expounded in the remaining chapters of the same inspired book.
Day of Pentecost On the Day of Pentecost, the newly created body of the New Adam (Christ) became publicly the universal (catholic) Church, God’s new people. They are cleansed by Jesus’ blood and sealed by the Spirit. As such they are given the meaningful sign and seal of baptism, in place of obsolete old physical sign of circumcision. The Church was announced as Abraham’s true seed, entitled to all God had promised him (Galatians 3:26-29). This is the “new creation.” It is set apart from the world by the stamp of approval of Christ’s cross. It is the body which receives the Lord’s “peace and mercy.” It is the, new creation, the true “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:14-17), composed of all believers, Jews and gentiles with no distinction. The promised King/Savior of Israel (Christ) came to and through his own, i.e. through the physical descendants of Jacob (the Jews). Most rejected him. Yet, as he stated to them, God’s power would raise children for Abraham, to replace them even from stones (Matthew 3:9). These are the ones born of God’s Spirit and not of human ancestry or by the will of man (John 1:11-13).
One Church The New Testament Church is the continuation and completion of the Old Testament church or congregation (Acts 7:38). That was the purpose of God’s call to Abram the Hebrew (father of a single nation). His name was divinely changed to “Abraham” (father of a multitude of nations). He was thus promised to be the conduit for the blessing of all families of the earth. The Word of God, in both the Old and New Testaments confirm that such a universal blessing was to be formally actualized through Christ, the Seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 18:8; 22:18; Isaiah 52:15; Psalm 22:25-31; Galatians 3:15-29). Thus, the earthly nation, the land and ceremonial/symbolic elements of the Old Testament period were not the end in themselves. They were the conduit to fulfilling what God intended by calling and blessing Abraham. The goal was the blessing of all nations through Christ, the One Seed. Christ himself not only claimed that fulfillment but also asserted that he sovereignly establishes his kingdom and church through the proclamation of the gospel and discipling of all nations. The New Testament Church enjoys that same qualifications and titles as the Old Testament believers. In the Church is one people of God, one body of Christ; in it there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. (Ephesians 2:11-22; 1Peter 2:6-10; Exodus 19:5-6).
Last Days The Day of Pentecost commenced the “last days,” already spoken of by the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4: 1-2; Joel; 2:28 Acts 2:17). The term “last days,” which means the days after which there would be no more days, speaks of the last period of human history. They are the days during which God speaks to the world through the Son, beginning from Jerusalem as the prophets predicted and Christ announced (Hebrews 1:1-4; Acts 1:8). Human history ends with the gathering and completion of the redeemed people of God, the Body of Christ, from among all nations by the preaching of the gospel and the teaching of all Christ commanded. During the “last days” the gospel makes tremendous advances among the nations and at the same time the believing communities experience periods and phases of opposition, persecution, sufferings as well as weaknesses and apostasies locally, regionally and/or generally (Mark 10:28-31; John 16:33; Acts 14:1, 22, 27; Romans 8:18-39; 2Timothy 1:15, 2:14-21, 3:1-0; Titus 1:10-16; 1Peter 5:8-9; 2Peter 3:3-7, 2:10-11; 1John 4:4, 5:4-5; Jude 18-19; Revelation 1:9, 3:21, 12:11).
Marks of Biblical Churches Biblical churches are characterized by three intertwined and inseparable marks. They are all manifested by what the Apostolic Church practiced. These are: First, biblical churches are characterized by Biblical Worship which is exercised within the fellowship of God’s people. This worship is dominated by the faithful preaching and teaching of the inspired Scriptures, composed of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is the teaching of the prophets who prepared the world for identifying and receiving the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament is the teaching of the apostles which certifies the fact that the Savior came and fulfilled his saving mission as promised in the Old Testament (Acts 2:42). Faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word requires the divine calling and equipping of qualified spiritual leaders “who rightly handle the word of truth” (2Timothy 2:1-2; 14-15). The Bible provides clear directives and specific qualification for spiritual leaders (Acts 6:1-4; 1Timothy 3:1-13; 2Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:5-11; 1Peter 5:1-4). It warns against careless or rushed processes in appointing teachers, preachers, pastors, elders, deacons and other spiritual leaders (1Timothy 5:22; compare Psalm 101).
Second, biblical churches faithfully administer the two ordinances (sacraments), Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These were appointed by Christ himself. These two ordinances are part and parcel of the means of Grace which the Lord provides for his Church. They are meant for the spiritual edification and nourishment of God’s people. They testify to believers of the certainty of their identity as Christ sheep who enjoy his blessings, his care and protection. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper must be carried out faithfully and carefully (1Corinthians 11: 23-29). The Apostolic Church established the correct biblical administration of these two Christ-appointed ordinances. This has been recorded in these teaching of the apostles and practices recorded in the Book of Acts and the rest of New Testament epistles. Appendices which deal in more details about the biblical exercise of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also available for those who desire to study them.
Third, biblical churches strive for unity and purity in doctrine and life as well as for peace and harmony in fellowship within the context of the watching world. They exercise this through pastoral care and the oversight of Christ’s sheep. This, at times, involves the very careful administration of church discipline of delinquent members. The Apostolic Church experienced divine awe as the sanctified body of Christ. From the start the New Testament Church experienced the need for remaining faithful in its doctrine and holy living (Acts 5:1-11).
Church discipline, however, must be approached with a persistently cautious and humble exercise in order to maintain justice and practice self-giving and winsome love. Church discipline is not the exercise of authoritarian ecclesiastical rule over the lives of God’s people. The Church’s authority by nature is spiritual. It does not replace the governments’ rightful judicial and administrative roles, laws and ordinances in civil matters. It relates only to the maintenance of the purity of doctrine and holiness of life among Christ’s sheep. It is not meant to dictate humanly established rules and edicts to bind the free consciences of believers.
Ultimately, the objective of church discipline is not to punish but to edify and win delinquent members and maintain the purity and harmony of fellowship of Christ’s redeemed. It is to guard them against the attempts of the devil to tarnish or hamper their holy testimony to one another and to the world. Church discipline must be rooted in applying God’s directives in the Bible and not humanly devised methods (2Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; 2Peter 1:19-21). Christ, the only head of the Church himself, established the appropriate order, strategy and approach of church discipline in his perfectly wise and gracious teaching in Matthew 18.