There’s a story that UPCI Superintendent David Bernard has used to illustrate the importance of measuring up what you believe. A man was cutting twenty pieces of lumber so he took a 7′ piece and measured it up to a second piece and made the cut. From that point, he took the second and used that length to cut the third, and the third to cut the fourth – all the way to the twentieth. By the time he made it to his twentieth piece, the length of the piece of wood was completely wrong. He realized his mistake – he should have gone back to the first piece of wood and measured everything by that.
It’s the same thing with doctrine. Maybe what was taught in the second century was pretty close to what was taught in the first century. And maybe the third century was close to the one before it. But the only way to guarantee the truth of our beliefs is to go back to the first church and compare that with the twenty-first-century church. That’s exactly what “Apostolic” is.
Being Apostolic is simply striving for the covenant that the first church had with Christ. An Apostolic says,”If I can find something closer to what the first church believed, I want it – even if it conflicts with my worldview.” We respect traditions; we respect cultures, and yet we still recognize that the Word of God is divine. The Word of God gives us clarity on what the first church believed and how we should follow. It’s incredible that history gives clarity and reaffirms what the Word of God says.
Let’s take administrating baptism for example. Some people say that there’s a conflict between what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 and what Peter said in Acts 2:38. In that vein of thought, they say, “If you have to choose between Jesus and Peter, shouldn’t you choose Jesus?” Being Apostolic means you believe there is no conflict in the Word of God in the first place; yet, it also means that you have to dig into finding the actions that the first church took rather than what might seem logical. James Hastings wrote in 1909 in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics like this:
The (baptism) formula used was ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ or some synonymous phrase: there is no evidence for the use of the triune name.”
Including the books of Acts, there are numerous additional historical references that affirm how the disciples baptized. It turns out, there is NO conflict between Christ’s and Peter’s words. But the actions of the first church were exact obedience to what Christ commanded.
There are hundreds of other life decisions as well. There is technology coming that has never been accessible to mankind and this generation is going to have to determine Christian ethics. If you’re an Apostolic, you’ll ask the question, “Does this conflict with the covenant the first church had?” If you’re an Apostolic, you’ll go back to the first piece of lumber and compare it with that.
Ryan O’Neil is Pastor of Apostolic St. Louis Church and is a Bible Quizzing fanatic. He is married to Rachael, the love of his life, with two little boys: Oliver and Jude.