What Is An Apostolic New Testament Church?
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to meet with the first century Christians?
One of the greatest blessings on this side of heaven is to gather with others of like-minded faith who take God and His Word seriously. We are a group of believers saved by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work (Ephesians 2:8-9) who gather together around the Lord Jesus, seeking to follow only the directions given in the New Testament.
Our Lord Himself first spoke of the Church when He declared that He was it’s builder and would establish it on a sure foundation.
Ephesians 5:25 (New International Version)
Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Matthew 16:18 (New International Version)
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
There may be some things about a local church like this that are different for you:
Christ is the gathering centre.
Matthew 18:20 (New International Version)
“For where two or three come together in My Name, there am I with them.”
1 John 1:3 (New International Version)
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is an important part of our gatherings.
The main purpose of this time is to minister to the heart of God, giving thanks for our Saviour who took our place on the cross and nailed all our sins to His cross.
Colossians 2:13-15 (New International Version)
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
The word “baptism” is the English form from the Greek word “baptizo” which means to submerse or immerse. All newly converted people in the New Testament Church were immersed in water immediately after becoming born-again Christians.
Acts 2:41 (New International Version)
Those who accepted His message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Christ commanded that this be done.
Matthew 28:19 (New International Version)
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
By the way, there are many who meet like this all over the world. We are a part of the Body of Christ around the world who is non-denominational, evangelical, Bible-based and who operates in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, we believe that all those who sincerely confess and follow Jesus as Lord and Savoir are members of this one body of Christ, and we are united by His blood. We may be many members, but we are one worldwide church of believers. Our focus is Jesus Christ as Lord, regardless to the differences various believers may have in their understanding of the Bible. We are all united in Christ; He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
It is important to be not only a Bible-believing church, but a Bible-obeying church. It is of the utmost importance that the Holy Spirit be given His place in the local church.
To be gathered in His Name is to meet by His authority, submitting to His Lordship, and following His Word. There is no division between “clergy” and “laity” in the New Testament. Elders (shepherds) in the New Testament are ordained by the Holy Spirit and are sanctified (set-apart) as shepherds or spiritual over-seers of the local church. The Bible is clear that elders will one day give an account of those the Holy Spirit has placed under their care. Elders in the New Testament are always in the plural.
Deacons take care of the administration and business of the church.
The Bible teaches that we are all believer-priests and can bring our worship directly before God.
Hebrews 13:15-17 (New International Version)
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise‚ the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
What about baptism?
What about Church Membership?
Strictly speaking, the only Church membership spoken about in the New Testament refers to the act of placing a new believer into the Body of Christ. This happens the moment a person is saved.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (New International Version)
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Ephesians 5:30 (New International Version)
For we are members of His body.
We are happy to receive anyone into fellowship who confess Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and Lord and has a consistent Christian life and testimony.
Being received into fellowship means that you are ready to embrace the privileges of local church life and are willing to accept responsibilities. These include regular attendance when possible; using your gift(s) for the up-building of other in the Church; submitting to one another and coming under the covering the Spiritual oversight in the church; and sharing as the Lord enables you in the financial needs of the local church as an act of worship.
Malachi 3:10 (New International Version)
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this, “says the LORD Almighty,” and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
At the very outset of the New Testament, it is striking that the Lord Jesus and the Apostles labored to establish only one institution, the local church.
1 Corinthians 3:10 (New International Version)
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
The local church lies at the heart of God’s program for today.
Francis Schaeffer writes, “The Church did not sit there as a group of believers with no form. The New Testament form is commanded by God. These norms are not arbitrary, they are God’s form for the institutional, organized Church and they are to be present in the twentieth first century as well as in any century.”
A cursory study of Church history reveals that for more than 500 years, God has been in the process of restoring the Church to the glory He always intended. He has accomplished this by taking the Church through one restoration movement after another, beginning with the close of the dark ages. At that time, God used Martin Luther to begin the call to reformation by revealing to him that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). One after another, lost truths have been restored to the Body of Christ: Salvation by faith alone; believers’ baptism; baptism of the Holy Spirit; the second coming of Christ for the Church; healing in the atonement; the authority of the believer; power in the Name of Jesus; faith in God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in full operation in the Church.
By the 1950’s, God had also begun to restore the five-fold ministry, His gift to the Church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (New International Version)
It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
Ephesians 2:13-22 (New International Version)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with it’s commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.
The five-fold ministry has been described as God’s hand extended to the Church to equip for the work of the ministry. The little finger refers to the teacher. It is fashioned such that it is able to enter into the ear so that God is able to dig into our hearing and impart understanding of the truth of His Word and of the things of the Spirit.
The ring finger speaks of the pastor. He is wed to the people of God and united to them with a heart connection.
The longest finger signifies the ministry of the evangelist reaching out into the world, drawing sinners from the darkness.
The index finger is the pointing finger which speaks of the ministry of the prophet who points out sin and unrighteousness in the Church and in the land. The prophet gives direction to the body of Christ as he hears God’s voice for the Church and for the nation.
Lastly, the apostle is represented by the thumb: the grasping ministry. As the thumb is the only digit able to easily touch all the other fingers, the apostle is able to touch the other four ministries and work with them toward a unified effort to accomplish the will of God for the Church.
Does the New Testament provide a pattern?
What is God doing now?
We are living in a time when God is moving powerfully by His Spirit. We have the wonderful privilege of being a part of the present restoration movement.
The 1950’s saw an explosion of the healing-deliverance evangelism ministry. God used anointed evangelists to gather His flock out of the darkness of dead religious traditions and awakened a world that had been deceived into believing that God was dead.
The pastors were restored in the 1960’s to guard and shepherd those who the evangelists had gathered.
In the 1970’s, teachers were the standard by which all ministry was measured. God raised up teachers who began to methodically and systematically to teach the Bible and demonstrate its authority as the very Word of God.
The supernatural gifts of the Spirit began to take on new importance and significance. Praise and worship became a dynamic part of the Church. Teaching centers became a popular alternative to the organized Church as a hunger to be taught and trained in the gifts of the Spirit developed.
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the emphasis shifted again and the spotlight fell on the office of prophet. The Prophetic Movement was birthed during this decade. The value of their gift was not appreciated in the beginning. During this decade, we learned that the office of prophet was more than just one or two unusual individuals who could hear the voice of God. Instead, great numbers of prophets where being raised up all over the world and pointing the way to God.
In the mid 1990’s until this present day, the emphasis has shifted to the apostolic and the office of the apostle as God is moving us toward establishing the foundation and structure of the restored Church. He is establishing the structure and unity out of which the Church will accomplish her end time purpose.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (New International Version)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord”s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The Church is changing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that Christians, pastors and Church leaders place themselves under authority for the purpose of oversight and accountability.
God is establishing ministerial fellowships and networks all over the world to serve as foundations of over-sight and accountability for those in five-fold ministry.
As Church leaders and five-fold ministers, we must submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to prepare us for what He is doing and march forward with willingness of heart into the new era before Christ comes for His bride.
There is so much more!
As we seek the truth in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit delights to show us more.
The apostle Paul said:
Ephesians 3:8-9 (New International Version)
Although I am less than the least of all God”s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
May the Lord help us to enter more fully into these twin treasures: what we have in the cross of Christ and what we have in the Church of Christ.
The Challenge of Change