The New Testament Church - What is it? - Part 3

So far in our study of the New Testament Church we have learned that the church is a called out assembly. In other words, God calls out whom He wills, and joins them together in the body of Christ. The body is not a universal church or the invisible church, but rather many local bodies joining themselves together for several purposes that we will look at later in this study. We have also learned that there are no lone ranger Christians. It is God's plan for Christians to function in the body of the called out assembly that Christ, the Head chooses.

We have also seen that Jesus said He will build His church. That took place on the Day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit united believers to each other as well as to Christ as their Head. Thus, the church has become a living organism. No man is an island,and the whole movement of the body is to be controlled by its Head.

Thirdly we have seen that salvation by grace through faith is necessary to be part of a church. This severely limits the number of true churches in the world. I recall going to a funeral once where the deceased was a child of God. She knew the Lord and had witnessed in her life of her assurance in Christ. The "pastor" made the remark that this woman knew she was bound for Heaven, and continued to talk of her great faith. His closing remark was "I hope I have that much faith someday."

Here was supposed man of God who did not even possess the knowledge of salvation. If I sound harsh, I cannot apologize for this man was not a pastor and he did not lead a church. He may have led a group of people, but he did not participate in a New Testament Church. Salvation God's way is the only way, and is required to be part of a New Testament Church.

Acts 2:41 tells us, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Before these were added unto the church, two things had to take place. First of all they needed to be saved; that is, they received the word. secondly, they were baptized according to the Scriptural formula.

Baptism

Baptsim is not part of salvation, but it is the first command received by a believer after salvation. John 14:15 gives us the instruction - "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Peter gives us the command in Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

I have seen a certain denomination misuse this verse, and interpret it to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation. If that is the case, then verse 38 contradicts many other Bible verses dealing with the topic of salvation. Repentance is what is necessary for salvation. A change of heart must be made. God sees the heart of an individual, but remember man looks on the outward appearance. Baptism is nothing more that a mark of identification. It can not and does not wash away sin.

What Did Peter Mean?

So what is Peter saying? Let me go back to the story of Elijah running from God in I Kings 19. In verse 10 Elijah says this to the Lord, " And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Now carefully - very carefully read verse 14. " And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." In these two verses Elijah is saying the exact same thing - except for one word. Did you find it?

Did you notice verse 10, ". . . for the children of Israel . . ., " and verse 14 " . . . because the children of Israel. . . ." The word for can mean the word because. Now, go back to Acts 2:38. Peter says ". . . for the remission of sins, . . " or because of the remission of sins. Because I have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins by faith and repentance, I am to be baptized.

New Testament Immersion

So how does that take place within a New Testament Church? By immersion. Sprinkling is not the New Testament way. Pouring is not the New Testament way. The only mode of baptism that lines up with New Testament Scripture is immersion.

Let me give you a verse. We read of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water . . . . " This should be a no-brainer. If Jesus went up out of the water, it was necessary for Him to go down into the water. He was immersed as He identified Himself with His nation. He did not need salvation as He was the supplier of salvation, but He did fulfill all righteousness by His identification. We too, are to take part in the righteous act of baptism as an identification with Jesus, Likewise, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38 also went down into the water and back up. We could look at other examples, but this is a hub on the New Testament Church. For further information about baptism I point you to my hub Born of Water at .the link below.

The Actions of the New Testament Church

Something else happened in Acts 2:41. This group of called-out, baptized saints united themselves under the authority of Christ. Acts 2:42 gives us the rest of the story - " And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

This verse gives us at least four things the New Testament Church is to be involved in. First - the apostles' doctrine. Contrary to some beliefs, there was preaching and teaching in the early church. The living, infant, organism called the church grew as it was grounded in the Scriptures. And they continued stedfastly in them.

They participated in fellowship. May I mention that true fellowship is always centered on Jesus Christ. They were not talking about the new amusement park in town or fellowshipping around the TV watching the Super Bowl. They were focused on Jesus, the love of their life.They participated in the breaking of bread, the Lord's Table ( Acts 20:7, 11; 1Corinthians 10:16-17, 21; 11:20-26).

Perhaps one of the most remarkable elements of the New Testament Church were their prayer meetings. Acts 12:4-16 tells the wonderful story of the praying church rescuing Peter from prison. Read it and think about the power of God that was manifested. Is God any less able to do these things today? It was the prayer meetings of the New Testament Churches that shook prisons. Surely we can expect the same today. God does not always fit the box we put Him in.

I wanted to bite my tongue, but that is not working for me. When it comes to prayer meetings please keep them prayer meetings. Too many "churches" crowd their prayer time with singing and Bible study. Is one hour a week really too much to give God in prayer. Try shaking some foundations and claiming the precious promises of God and see what happens. Your mid-week service just might be transformed.

There is no Plan B

The Great Commission of the Church

Lastly the church was given a three fold commission. We find that in Matthew 28:19, 20. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

We have already talked about two of them. In verse 19 we see that we are to spread the Gospel and baptize converts. In verse 20 we find an added command. The church is to make disciples and teach the truths of God's Word to the new, baptized convert. They in turn are to go out and do the same.

The focus is always on Jesus as the Head. The body always follows the direction the head turns. So is the destiny of the New Testament Church.

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Comments 12 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Wow now you have got me having to do some studying. Of course I always knew the bible said to be baptized of water and I have and in a river but I was sure God would look over the water immersion if someone sick in bed (dying) were saved. Yesterday evening I read someone here that made a powerful point of God saying you must be baptized of water to get to heaven although still my heart is telling me He is not that strict she has given the verses and it makes me really sad too knowing many only get to know God on their deathbed. So now I am going to have to go back and read these other verses again, but I don't mind and my heart tells me you are right and always has but I just have to know what the word says. I guess that is how we get all the different denominations and I look at them all but the Word is the final word with me.

My thoughts are and maybe you are saying that, to be baptized by water baptizes us in the Spirit, and if we allow, that Holy Spirit lives within us and takes us in the direction for Christ we should go. If a person is dying then he does need the new Spirit of course but not of power for doing the Lords work since this person is going home. Just tell me what you think and I will stop guessing, lol.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Jackie,

You are quick. I just posted this. I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're saying or what the other hub said. From a Scriptural point of view, baptism does not and can not save anybody. It is an identifying mark that we belong to Jesus. Salvation is only in the person of Jesus Christ - not of works. Baptism would be a work. So certainly people that don't have the opportunity to be baptized, but are saved through faith and repentance will still be in Heaven.

The thief on the cross was never baptized, but yet Jesus said he would be in Paradise that very same day. Baptism is similar to a wedding band. If I have my band on people can see that I'm married. If I take it off, it makes me no less married. Baptism is that outward sign that man can see, but God looks on the heart. It is a symbol and witness of following a new way of life and identifying publicly who we belong to.

I added a link to another hub in this one on water baptism just below the New Testament Immersion section. Maybe that would help.

Hope so. If not let me know!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Oh yes, you have given me enough just here with the thief on the cross. Thank you sir!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Great hub, and I am glad you pointed out one does not have to be baptized to be saved! A lot of churches are confused on that, although I have been immersed too. I love this series you have going on here, much needed and important one no doubt! That is sad about the preacher who believes he is a preacher, and there are a lot of those around too, who believe they are saved too! Very sad indeed! I cannot understand how they can come to be a preacher without knowing the Word of God?

Up and more and sharing.

God bless you,

Faith Reaper


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Your welcome, Jackie!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

You have carved out a niche that should be quite popular, and you speak with authority and understanding. Well done Sir!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks Bill - always glad to have you stop by!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Faith,

I don't know how I missed your comment. Anyway glad you were able to stop by. It is sad about the preacher, but unfortunately, he probably represents the majority. You can only give what you have. Thanks for making the trip!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Lifegate, we have had the same teacher on this topic. You give clarity to many misunderstandings about the church, baptism, faith etc. Thank you for patiently promoting the truth.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi MsDa,

Glad to have you stop by. Scripture was never meant to be debated or picked and chosen. It is what it is. I wish others would realize what you do - the simple truth of the Word of God. thanks for the visit and commenting.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 2 years ago from Southern Minnesota

Excellent clarification on Baptism and wholeheartedly agree that ..."Repentance is what is necessary for salvation" That part of the gospel message seems to get left out in the modern invitation.

I also agree with your understanding of immersion. It is to give witness and symbol that we are totally giving ourselves to God and His ways. It is a rightful response to dieing to an old life and rising to a new one. To sprinkle is revelatory of the attitude of the times in not giving Him our all and reduces it to a religious traditional act rather than imaging what has really happens in the heart in giving our all to Him.

Blessed by the read Bill. Good stuff!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks Tammy,

You know, faith without repentance isn't faith at all. Faith is knowing what God expects and acting on it. Not that we're saved by works, but true faith will bring forth works, a changed life. And yes, sprinkling doesn't cut it. Thanks for the visit. I always look forward to hearing from you!

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