The Beginning

The day the New Covenant message was first proclaimed

Acts chapter 2 is undoubtedly one of the great mountain peaks of Scripture. What occurs in Acts 2 would have never been possible if everything had depended on human ability alone.

Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words . . .” (v. 22). The words he then speaks were not his own. They are Christ’s words, imparted by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 16:12-13; 17:8, 18, 20).

As F. F. Bruce has written, “The apostolic teaching was authoritative because it was the teaching of the Lord communicated through the apostles. In due course this apostolic teaching took written shape in the New Testament scriptures” (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 79).

The day true grace was offered

Convicted by Peter’s words, the people cry out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Imagine if Peter had replied, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do. God will never forgive you for killing His Son. There’s no hope for you. You are eternally doomed!”

Instead Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vv. 37-38).

Now that’s good news! So it is possible to be reconciled to God.

The day the church was born

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (v. 41).

The next verse tells us, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The apostles’ teaching (which was really the Lord’s teaching through the apostles) served as their common standard. The first church all believed and practiced the same thing. There was but one church—denominations had not yet come into being.

Here then is basis for true unity today, a unity based on divinely revealed truth, rather than on human traditions.

Years later, Peter referred to this remarkable day as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15).

If we believe what they believed, and if we do what they did, then we will be what they were—disciples of Jesus Christ, members of His one body.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Check It Out!

Time and again the spell-check on my computer has alerted me to a misspelled word.

Imagine, though, a computer for religious writers and for preachers preparing their sermons, equipped with a doctrine-check and a heresy-detector. If the writer commits a theological error, the computer beeps a warning.

Sounds unbelievable? You’re right. There’s no such thing—as far as I know.

But what if there were? Can you imagine trying to program a doctrine-check applicable to everyone? Would there have to be a different program for each denomination? And since many churches have liberal and conservative factions, would there have to be a doctrine-check designed for each?

Is there a standard?

Who has the authority to say what is true doctrinally and what is false? Is there a right and wrong? Or is it all relative? Does each of us have the freedom to decide what to believe? Is there no standard?

Paul writes, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Also Paul warns, “. . . there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:7-8).

If there is no doctrinal standard, then what Paul says here makes absolutely no sense.

How do we determine the truth?

Even Paul was subject to a doctrine-check. When he preached at the Berean synagogue, the Jews there “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Note the measuring stick the Bereans used to determine if what Paul taught was the truth.

Whenever we hear sermons from the pulpit or on TV or radio, and whenever we read articles such as this one, let’s do a doctrine-check, as the Bereans did: “to see whether these things were so.”

If what is taught matches up with God’s word, let’s believe it.

But if it doesn’t . . . .

check and X-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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I Was Going by the Wrong Standard

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“I wish they’d just leave it alone.” Have you ever heard anyone say this regarding Daylight Savings Time? It certainly can be a hassle, but do we really have any choice, unless we want to be out of sync with all those who do change their clocks twice a year?

“Spring forward, fall back”

Saturday night I dutifully set our clocks back one hour for the end of Daylight Savings.

But the trouble was, I did it a week too early. I was going by my pocket calendar that said it was time to change the clocks, so I did.

The trouble was, I was using a 2006 calendar to prevent having to buy a new one for the current year. Since both 2006 and 2017 began on a Sunday, I figured it would do just fine.

The trouble was, the date to fall back had been changed since then to the first Sunday of November. I had forgotten that.

As a result, I missed Bible class. A week early and an hour late.

So what lesson can we draw from my slip-up? Simply this, I was going by the wrong standard and didn’t realize it.

More wrong standards

Do people ever go by the wrong standard in religion? All the time.

Such erroneous standards include:

  1. Old Testament laws which are no longer in force, now that we are under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Hebrews 8:6-13)
  2. Additional writings purported to be divinely inspired and accepted as equally authoritative with the Bible (Proverbs 30:6)
  3. Religious traditions which are of human, not divine, origin (Matthew 15:1-9)
  4. Pronouncements by religious leaders who claim to speak directly for God (Jeremiah 23:25-32)
  5. One’s own subjective feelings (Proverbs 3:5; 14:12; 28:26; Jeremiah 10:23; 17:9).

And that’s not all! With so many different standards, is it any wonder that division prevails?

But God’s word unites all who hold to the Scriptures as their only standard, neither adding to nor taking from.

This is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Next spring I’ll be more careful.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Of Doctrine and Landing Places

A Christian invited his neighbor to visit the congregation where he and his family worship. The man explained that his wife was raised in a particular denomination, but he said, “I’m ‘non-denom.’ I believe in God, but beyond that I don’t want to get involved in all those rules and details. I believe in God, and we’ll just leave it at that. We’re going to visit several churches, and wherever we like it, we’re going to land.”

Suppose this fellow accepts the invitation. He and his family visit and are impressed with the warm welcome, the children’s classes, and the preacher’s message. Let’s say that after a few more visits he and his wife decide this is where they will “land.” What then?

What they would learn

Someone will likely sit down with them, with an open Bible. If what follows is really a Bible study, it shouldn’t be long until it gets into some “details”—such as:

>The Bible is our only authority in religion.

>Jesus is the Son of God and our only way to God.

>Repentance is a requirement for salvation.

>Baptism is the moment at which we are forgiven.

>The church must conform to the New Testament pattern.The church Jesus purchased with His blood was established long before denominations.

How they would respond

If the teacher of this study is really “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and if this couple are convicted by the Scriptures, they would then be willing to become true disciples of Jesus Christ─Christians only.

On the other hand, they may quickly decide this is not the place for them—too many “details”—and then resume their search for a landing place.

Do they genuinely want the truth (Acts 17:10-12)? Or are they simply religious consumers in search of what they want (2 Timothy 4:1-4)?

How this scenario turned out, I don’t know, but we can be sure of this: Regarding the doctrine we are to believe and practice, as revealed in Scripture, “God is in the details” and therefore discounting these details as dispensable or optional is not an option.

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