Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 5, 1953
NUMBER 26, PAGE 5-6a

In The Apostles' Teaching

Jesse M. Kelley, Port Arthur, Texas

It is said of the Jerusalem church that "they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) This brief explanation of the conduct of the Jerusalem church holds the secret to their marvelous success in the work of the Lord, and becomes a pattern for all churches and for all time.

The Jerusalem church started under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit through the apostles; being made the pattern because it was the first to be organized in the Christian age. Its organization, its worship, its work, and all its service was set up under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the apostles of the Lord, and constitutes an example and pattern for all other churches then and now; and will remain a pattern until God shall call home all the faithful and lowers the curtain of time upon a tired and sinful world. No church today that does not follow the pattern of the Jerusalem church in organization, government, discipline, unity, worship, work, and faithful service in every department can claim to be either a New Testament church or pleasing to God. We have in the New Testament all the principles which guided this first church; and to be a New Testament church and pleasing to God, we must now conform to the pattern given therein. There is no work or service that a church may desire to do now but that an example may be found in the Jerusalem church, if that which is desired is right and scriptural and according to the will of God.

In the beginning God made one man and one woman and they were perfect. Adam and Eve, through the exercise of their own will, departed from the original mission which God had for them, and became corrupt. So it is with the church. In the beginning God made one church, which was as near perfect as could be made out of imperfect human beings. From the standpoint of the teaching and instruction given it was perfect, for the apostles taught as directed by the Holy Spirit. But as with Adam and Eve, churches departed from the original pattern, and now in order to be "apostolic" in origin, doctrine, work, and worship all churches must go back to the original pattern. This can be done only by taking up the Jerusalem church as described in the New Testament and following the word of God in organization, work, and worship. No church that neglects or refuses to conform to the New Testament pattern can claim the blessings of God and fill the mission which God has set before a congregation.

Whatever imperfection the Jerusalem church may have had was remedied by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. Sin and imperfection was not permitted to remain as in the case of Corinth, Ephesus, and others, but was corrected and set in order at the time it was known so that other churches that were to follow may have a clear and definite picture as to what the church of the Lord was in the mind of God. Take the instance of the murmuring and discord over the apparent neglect of the Grecian widows. This was corrected then and set in order. Such discord was not allowed to continue long enough for those in disagreement to work it out themselves, as was later the case at Corinth. Or, take the case of Ananias and Sapphira. They were removed from among the saints at the time of their sin. They were not allowed to remain as was later Simon the Sorcerer whose sin was just as grievous as that of lying. Why? Because God meant for the Jerusalem church to be an example for all time and for all churches, and would not allow imperfections to remain to obscure the vision of coming generations as to what a New Testament church truly is. Nor do we have any evidence of division existing there in any form, as was later the case at Corinth. The church adhered strictly to "the apostles' teaching" in every department of the work and worship of God.

Take, for instance, the unity of the Jerusalem church. On the day of Pentecost three thousand were added; a little later five thousand more were added by the Lord. Jerusalem had many thousands of believers, and the New Testament states that a "multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul." It states that they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers." What was the secret of their unity? 'They "continued stedfastly" in the teaching of the apostles. It was an impossibility for division to arise among these thousands of believers so long as each individual continued "in the apostles' teaching." The apostles' teaching begets and maintains unity, and so long as a church respects their teaching and the authority by which it was given no division will arise, nor can any exist. Wherever division exists, one or more members are not following the teaching of the apostles. This emphasizes the fact that the teaching of the Holy Spirit required unity in the church. This is the reason the Jerusalem church grew so rapidly. They had no missionary board or super organization speeding up the work of the Lord, but they did have that indispensable unity without which no church can grow or do the work of the Lord. This church was a model in unity, and every congregation that is patterned after this church will be united.

Paul admonished the church at Ephesus to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The Jerusalem church did this to the fullest extent. No church can fill its mission today without being united. There is no place in God's plan for a position of "right" or "left" or "the middle of the road." There were no "middle of the road" members in the Jerusalem church. They all took their stand upon the apostles' teaching and stood by the convictions which such teaching had implanted in their hearts.

Such phraseology as being "to the right of center," and "to the left of center," and "the middle of the road," is borrowed from politicians and the political world and should have no place in determining the position of one in the church of God. There is only one place to stand and that is on "the apostles' teaching," and when one says that he is occupying one of the afore mentioned positions he is saying in effect that he isn't standing on the apostles' teaching. All this talk about "the middle of the road," is a dodge and a miserable attempt at unity upon compromise which is impossible to attain with the blessings of God. One either stands on the teaching of the apostles or he doesn't. A compromise on differences in the body of Christ is no more Christian unity than a federation of denominations is Christian unity.

Or take the work of the Jerusalem church. Here we not only have the example of what the work of the church is, but how that work is to be done. Look at the benevolent side of its work. Growing out of the unity of "one heart and one soul" came the greatest example of benevolence the world has ever seen. The difficulties confronting the new institution, and the danger of persecution, made caring for the unfortunate of the church a grave matter. But they met the situation with liberal contributions to a common fund to be distributed as any had need. Those who possessed property sold it and laid the price "at the apostles' feet," in order to supply the needs of the needy. The needs of the widows and poor saints were supplied by the church at Jerusalem as those needs arose. Here we have the example of not only what the duty of the church is with reference to its poor, but how that duty is to be performed. They had no "homes" of any sort that had been established for the purpose of caring for the unfortunate, nor did they set about to establish one. But the congregation itself took care of the need and God received the glory for it.

And why is not man content to abide by and be governed by this divine example of the Jerusalem church? Can we think of a better way, or can we build an institution that can better do this work which the "apostles' teaching' 'says the church can and should do? Will the exponents of the "lean-to's" which have been built up around the church the past few years say that the Jerusalem church could have done a better, or as good a job caring for its needy if they had established a widow's home, an orphan home, or an old folks home, with specialized attendants to superintend them? If they are necessary today to do the work of the Lord why were they not necessary then?

Despite the clear-cut example that we here have there are those who are not content with this simple plan, but will look to the ways and examples of a denominational world for a way to do the work of the Lord. And when once a "way" and a "plan" is espoused its exponents will embrace and preach it even to the dividing of the body of Christ, and will ridicule and belittle those who dare raise a voice against their unscriptural practices.

Then what is to be done about the difference and disunity between brethren in the body of Christ? Shall we for the sake of harmony and peace look the other way when we are confronted with something that may disrupt unity as some of our "more tolerant" brethren have suggested? Not if we are true servants of God, we won't! The apostles shrank not from the teaching and practice of the Holy Spirit. They were not restrained by the Jews nor by the rebuffs of even their own brethren. They took their stand upon the instructions given through the Holy Spirit and they stood by a "thus saith the Lord."

The pioneers in the restoration of New Testament Christianity in the last century took their stand upon "the apostles' teaching" and gave us the church uncorrupted and the truth unperverted. They could have compromised upon the issues of the day which finally drove a wedge in the church of the Lord, but they loved the Lord more than themselves and his church and his way more than the ways of men.

Those today, who for the sake of harmony and goodwill, remain quiet when the purity of the church of the Lord is endangered by the ways and innovations of men, will not stand with those pioneers of yesterday who had courage enough to stand "in the apostles' teaching."