Is the church today supposed to be like the church in the Book of Acts?
If not, when did it change?
Some things very obviously changed from the Old Testament to the New:
1) sacrifice for sin was completed by Jesus’ work on Calvary (Hebrews 10:1-18)
2) eating foods prohibited under the Law of Moses was clearly done away with by the Lord (Acts 10:15; 1 Tim. 4:3-5).
Other examples may exist of changes for the New Testament believers, but the point is that we know of these because they were clearly outlined in scripture: by commandment, by teaching, and by recorded practice of the Apostles and their converts.
Was the change for good?
Few argue that we should still be sacrificing animals for sin or abstaining from eating certain meats. God, through His word, changed the way humanity was to serve Him before the Cross to the way we are to serve Him since the Cross. The Cross is the Great Divide of history. Nothing since has been, or ever will be, the same.
But to compare the practice of the general church world today with that of the New Testament church, whose founding and practices are recorded in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, one would think there had been a second Great Divide.
The early church believers were baptized in the name of Jesus when they believed, as recorded in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10 and Acts 19. But millions base their salvation and that of their family on the idea that somehow, somewhere, the adamant insistence of the Apostles on the Name of Jesus for baptism (see Acts 19:1-8) became obsolete.1
Secondly, the salvation experience of the New Testament church was always accomplished by believers receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Acts 2, 10, 19 clearly specify this and no scripture indicates any converts were saved without it. But the general church world today fights the idea that tongues are the required evidence that the Holy Ghost has come in, and that salvation is incomplete without it2..
My question is this: where and when did that Gospel message — first preached by Peter at the birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost — change? Can you point to the second Great Divide that changed history forever–again? And where in scripture are we prepared for this new method of salvation? Where are we told that we were to scrap the Acts 2:38 message and go with something else?
The Cross was foretold in virtually every book of the Old Testament. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost was prophesied in Joel and Isaiah. With all this preparation for the first Great Divide, where is the preparation for the change many are living under today, with a doctrine that says that is no longer necessary?
And what about a new doctrine? Some people obviously are following a new one because they are unwilling to do the first works they Apostles did. Where are there references in the Bible to the doctrine changing in the future?
You will find the scriptures giving many, many warnings about false teachers, false Christs, and a perverted Gospel3. If you do your research on church history (which is where you have to go to find anything about people baptizing in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, because it didn’t ever occur in the Bible), you will find this change made by a council of men in Nicea, over 300 years after Jesus came.
How safe is your plan?
SO, you can believe that was the plan of God, without any reservation: that this gospel of the kingdom, which Jesus said was to be preached unto all nations and then the end would come, was only in effect for the first 300 years, and then was summarily changed by a council of men? Although no prophecy in Scripture prepares us that there would be a later version of the gospel that was equally valid and more effective than the first, you’re comfortable believing that somehow what happened for the early church was for them only and that this change was the will of God and in his original Divine plan? You’re perfectly OK with staking eternity on that?
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1 Why do many fight against the notion that the Name which is above every name — the Name of Jesus — must be called over converts being baptized? They base an entire doctrine on the one scripture that is meant to explain why the Name of Jesus is the one needed for baptism: Matthew 28:19-20 tells us that by baptizing in the Name of Jesus (as the Apostles did exclusively), we are baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That’s exciting!
2 The scriptures in 1 Corinthians 14 — where Paul is explaining the role of speaking in tongues in a church service to Christians who obviously have spoken in tongues when they received the Holy Ghost – are mistaken by many to override his other statements saying: 1) Tongues are for a sign (14:22), 2) Forbid not to speak with tongues (14:39), and 3) I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all (14:18). Jesus himself said tongues would be one of the signs which would follow them that believe (Mark 16:18) — he didn’t say, they would follow for a while or until a new doctrine came along.
3 Matthew 24:24, 2 Corinthians 11:13, Galatians 1:6-9 are only a few of the many references to false teachers, false apostles, false Christs, and a perverted Gospel.