TL-12 - Continuing in the Apostles' Doctrine
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“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of
bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Welcome to our study of continuing in the apostles’
doctrine. As we examine this subject, let us first realize that we are not talking about fol-
lowing something that the apostles themselves created. When we follow the apostles’ doc-
trine, we are not following some sort of “apostles’ creed (or what is known as “the did-
ache”—the teaching of the twelve”). The apostles’ doctrine is representative of New Tes-
tament Christianity. It is what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write down, and is what we
have recorded in the Bible for us today. It is what the early Christians followed. If we want
to be now what they were then, we must go back to the doctrine taught by the apostles of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You will notice from Acts 2:42 that the early Christians “continued steadfastly in the apos-
tles’ doctrine.” This means that they stood firmly on, and were planted solidly in, that line
of teaching. Continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine was not something that those
Christians did occasionally or that they did by chance. Rather, they were grounded and stood
firmly upon the truth of the apostles’ doctrine. The word “doctrine” is simply another word
for teaching. The apostles’ “doctrine” was set forth by Christ, the Lord and Savior. Those
early Christians also continued in fellowship. Part of what made the first-century church
strong was the Christians’ closeness. The greatest fellowship we have, of course, is with
God through His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:7-10). But we also have fellowship one with an-
other as we live according to the teaching of Jesus. When we continue fellowshipping with
one another, we do not have as many opportunities to fellowship with the world (Eph. 5:
However, not only did the early Christians continue in fellowship, but they also continued
in “breaking of bread.” That is to say, they partook of the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis
on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). This act was a central item of worship for the
church. Thus, the New Testament points out that Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper
every first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7). You will notice that they also con-
tinued in prayer. Prayer was an important part of the apostles’ lives. In Acts 4 and 5 when
they were told not to speak in the name of Jesus any more, they bowed down and prayed
with boldness. The place was shaken, and God granted them the courage and wisdom to
continue doing His will.
Please understand that the apostles’ doctrine was not of their own origin. When Peter wrote,
he did not sit down and ask himself, “What am I going to write today?” When Paul wrote,
he did not make up the things he wrote. When John or others wrote, they did not create
the text themselves. The Bible tells us that the apostles’ doctrine did not come from them on
their own, but rather was the message of the Holy Spirit. Notice the words of 2 Peter 1:19-
“So we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that
shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for proph-
ecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by
the Holy Spirit.”
The apostles did not originate or make up the things they wrote, which were not of their
own interpretation. They did not receive the message, and then sit down and say to them-
selves, “Hmmm. Let me sit down and think for a minute about what this means.” They wrote
what they were given—and what they were given came from the Holy Spirit, which guided
them to write what they wrote. In John 16 we see that Jesus had been telling His disciples
that He was about to die, be buried, and be raised from the dead, after which He would
return to the Father. But Jesus promised the apostles that they would not be left alone. In
John 16:13 Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all
truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.” So
when the apostles wrote, they were guided into “all truth” by the Holy Spirit of God. And
what they wrote was God’s message.
When we talk about continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, we must realize that we must never
worship or deify the apostles. In Acts 10:26 someone tried that. Cornelius, a Gentile, had
Peter (a great Jewish leader) come to his house. He felt compelled to fall down and wor-
ship Peter. But Peter said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” The apostles were men just
like men today. Were they inspired by God to write what they wrote? Absolutely! But they
did not seek to be deified or worshiped. We learn from Revelation 19:10 that even angels
refused to be worshiped. When John the apostle fell down before an angel, that angel said,
“Stand up. Worship God!” God is Who we are to worship. The problem with worshiping oth-
ers is that sometimes we get confused as to what is or what is not approved by God, or
who is or who is not a spokesman for God. We should not worship anyone except God
because the only place we can put our trust is in God and His Word, not in the thinking
of men. Watch what happens when we trust in the ideas of others. Proverbs 16:25 says,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” How many peo-
ple have glorified or exalted others, and even have held their words up to be “the gospel,”
only to find out that those people weren’t correct. They said something about the Lord or
His kingdom that did not come to pass. How many people have we heard say, “The Lord
is coming back on May 21st?” or “The Lord is coming back on October 21st?,” but that did
not happen? We know, then, that such individuals are not spokesmen for God. Thus, we
should never place the emphasis on mere human beings. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O Lord, I
know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
The apostles’ doctrine was not of their own origin. We should not worship them because
the message they received was from God. They did not make it up. They did not sit down
and say, “Let me think about what I can write today.” Instead, they were inspired by God to
write what they wrote.
If we want to continue in the original doctrine of Christ (inspired by God and given through
the apostles), how do we do that two-thousand years removed from those events? Thanks
be to God that we have His Word. To continue in the doctrine of the apostles and of Christ,
we must study what our Lord and His apostles taught. It is impossible for us to continue in
Christ’s doctrine or the apostles’ doctrine if we do not study. Isn’t that what Paul told Tim-
othy not long after Christianity had begun? In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul told Timothy, “Study to
show yourself approved unto a God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, right-
ly dividing the word of truth.” How would Timothy be able to make it as a young evangelist?
How could be rest assured that he stood “approved before God”? He was told to study.
We need the mindset of the Bereans in the Book of Acts. In Acts 17:11 we see how to
continue in the apostles’ doctrine. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalo-
nica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily
to find out whether these things were so.” We need to have a heart that studies because
“the heart of the righteous studies how to answer” (Prov. 15:28). God does not get upset
when someone questions things and then opens the Bible to find answers. We simply must
go to the Bible for the right answers. We are to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). Isaiah
34:16 tells us, “Search in the book of the Lord and find....” That is what we need to do. Let’s
get our questions, and then go to the correct source (God’s Word) for the answers.
However, not only must we study what the Lord and His apostles taught, but we also must
say only what the Lord and those apostles said. If we are going to speak “as the oracles
of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), and if we are going to be Christians just like people were in the
first century, we must say what Christ and the apostles said. There are two great questions
asked in the Bible. The first is found in Jeremiah 37:17. An evil king asked, “Is there any
word from the Lord?” What does God have to say on the subject? Has the Bible given us
the answers? We know that it has because it contains “all things that pertain to life and
godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). The second question is found in Romans 5:4 where Paul asked,
“What does the Scripture say?” We must follow the Scriptures if we want to continue in
the apostles’ doctrine. It does not matter what our “pastor” might say. It does not matter what
a “pope” says or what some other religious leader says or what the number-one best sell-
ing book on religion from the New York Times says. None of those things matters. In re-
ality, it doesn’t even matter what I think or what you think. We must ask, “What does the
Scripture say?” We need to ask, “What would Jesus have us to do?” (see Jn. 2:5). The Bi-
ble tells us that we are not to go beyond that which is written (1 Cor. 4:6). We are told in
Revelation 22:18-19 that we are not to add to or take away from God’s Word. “Blessed are
those who do His commandments” (Rev. 22:14). To continue in the apostles’ doctrine, we
must study the Bible and say what the apostles said.
Why is it essential for us to maintain the apostles’ doctrine as a central part of Christiani-
ty? We must continue in the apostles’ doctrine because that is what God has told us to
do. It all comes down to the question, “Are we going to obey God and do what He says, or
are we going to follow men?” Notice the words of 1 Kings 22:14, which gives us the ex-
ample of Micaiah, who said, “As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will
speak.” Here’s the background to this statement. Some kings wanted to go to war, and
they wanted God to bless their efforts. They had their own “prophets,” who all, with one ac-
cord, said, “Go up because you will be victorious!” The kings knew that those prophets
were on their payrolls, so they asked, “Is there not still a man of God whom we can ask?”
Another king said, “Yes, there is one, but you will not like what he says.” The first king then
said, “Get him anyway, and let’s hear what God has to say.” When they went to get Mi-
caiah, they told him, “Everyone else has said, ‘Kings, you go up and prosper!’ We want you
do say the same thing. We want you to say the same thing. But Micaiah said, “As the
Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” We also need the mindset of
the mother of Jesus. In John 2 Jesus was about to perform His first public miracle. He was
at a wedding at Cana, and they ran out of grape juice. So, the mother of Jesus asked Him
to provide more. Jesus initially told her, “My hour has not yet come.” But He then decided
to honor her request, and signified to her that He would do as she has asked. In John
2:5 she turned to the servant and said, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” That is what it
means to follow in the apostles’ doctrine. If God tells us to do it, then we do it!
Furthermore, we must continue in the apostles’ doctrine because that is the only way we
can know we are saved. If we do what someone else has said that they “feel” is right, can
we be sure that we are doing what is right? No. But if we do what the Bible says (because
it was authored by God), can we be sure that we are saved? Let’s see what God Himself
has said. Why was the Bible written? Notice I John 5:13—“These things I have written to
you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eter-
nal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” The Scrip-
tures were given to us so that we can be saved, and so that we can know that we are
saved. The good news is that the Bible, Christianity, and salvation are not “best guesses.”
We do not have to wonder whether or not we are saved. If we do what the Bible says, the
good news is that we can know that we are right—beyond a shadow of a doubt! In John
8:32 Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” We can know
if we worshiping God “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24). We do not have to be ignorant be-
cause we can understand the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17). We can let the peace of God
rule our lives because we can know that we are right with the Savior (Phil. 4:6-8). So why
is so essential to follow in the apostles’ doctrine? It is essential because God told us to
do so. And it is the only way we can be sure that we are saved. When we stand before God
on the Day of Judgment, we will not want to be “about 95% right.” Rather, we want to know
that we are right with God. If we follow the Bible, we can know that we are right with God.
If we say to ourselves, “I understand the importance of the apostles’ doctrine, and that I
must obey it,” then what would we teach if we were to continue in the apostles’ doctrine?
We might teach some things about which people do not often hear. First and foremost we
could teach about the distinct and unique identity of the Lord’s church. We would teach
clearly that God did not create all the various religious groups that exist today. God is not
their Founder, and they were not started by Him. How do we know that? In Matthew 16:
13-18 asked His disciples a question: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” His
apostles then said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one
of the prophets.” He then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are
the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then said,
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this
rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Did Jesus say, “I will build My churches”? No. He said, “I will build My church.” There is
one rock (the deity of Christ), and there is one church (which Jesus established). There
are not many religious groups that Christ founded. Such was never God’s idea. Notice 1
Corinthians 3:11, which says that Jesus must be the Foundation and the Founder: “No
other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The foun-
der of the church was not John Calvin, or John Knox, or John Smyth, or Martin Luther, or
a pope. Who is the Founder of the church? Jesus Christ is! How many churches did Jesus
establish? Ephesians 1:22-23 says that God made Christ Head of the church, which is
His body. “Church” and “body” are used as synonyms. Notice then, that Ephesians 4:4
says that there is “one body.” If the church is the body, and if there is only one body, then
how many churches are there? Just one! In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read, “By one Spirit
we were all baptized into one body.” In 1 Corinthians 12:20 we are told, “There are many
members, yet one body.” Did you know that denominationalist is against God’s will? Paul
said, “I plead with you that you all speak the same things, and that there be no divisions
among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same
judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). What is God’s plan? “Let there be no divisions!” We must realize
that there is only one church, which is set forth in the apostles’ doctrine.
Another doctrine that we should teach today because it is part of the apostles’ doctrine is
the authority of the Scriptures. If we want to teach what they taught then, we need to re-
alize that the Bible is the only authority we can ever have. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has “all authority.” If we
are going to follow the teaching of the apostles, we must realize that they taught that as
well. Notice Colossians 3:17—“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the
Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” What does it mean to “do some-
thing in the name of someone”? Acts 4:7 tells us that it means “by that person’s authority.”
If we are to do all “in the name of” (“by the authority of”) Jesus, then we cannot do any-
thing without His approval. In 1 Corinthians 4:6 the apostle Paul said that he and Apollos
had transferred certain things to themselves in a figurative manner so that “in us you might
learn not to go beyond what is written.” What boundary has been set for us? We are not
to “go beyond what is written.” How much religious confusion would cease to exist, and
how much denominational doctrine would fall dead on its heels, if we simply realized that
we must not “go beyond what is written”? “Do not add to His word, lest He rebuke you and
you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:6).
Another thing that we could teach if we taught the apostles’ doctrine is that instrumental
music in worship is not approved by God. Remember that we are to follow the New Tes-
tament. We today are under Christ’s New Law. That being the case, what does the New
Testament have to say about music in worship to God? Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the
word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” You
can look at Ephesians 5:19, James 5:13, Hebrews 2, Matthew 26:30, or from Matthew to
the end of the Book of Revelation, and you will not find one example of anyone using me-
chanical instruments in worship of God. Why? It is not what God commanded or approved.
It is not part of the apostles’ doctrine. Someone might say, “Well, I hear what you’re saying,
and I know that the New Testament doesn’t say anything about using instrumental music
in worship of God, but is it really going to matter? God won’t mind, will He?” Remember
Leviticus 10:1-2 where Nadab and Abihu offered “profane fire which the Lord had not com-
manded.” As a result, fire rained down on them from Heaven and killed them. Ask them
if God minds if we make a change in the order of worship to Him. Their voices speak out
to us today, do they not?
We also must teach the essentiality of baptism if we are going to teach the apostles’ doc-
trine. What would we teach now if we taught what they taught in the first century? We
would clearly proclaim, just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did, that baptism is es-
sential to salvation. The religious world today says that baptism is “an outward sign of an
inward grace,” which means that a person was saved before baptism, but can show the
world that fact by being baptized. But that is not what the world says about baptism. We
never find such language in the New Testament. So what do we find? Jesus said, “He who
believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”
(Mk. 16:16). Jesus said that both belief and baptism are essential to a person’s being
saved. Is that something we find in the apostles’ doctrine? Absolutely! In Acts 2, on the
Day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God
has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (vs. 36). Verse 37 says
that the Jews to whom Peter spoke then cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter did not say, “Come to the altar and say the sinner’s prayer.” We do not find that in
the Bible. Peter said instead, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (vs. 38). Is there another example of that kind of
teaching in the New Testament? Look at Acts 22:16, where the Bible says concerning Saul
(the future apostle Paul), “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away
your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” I often hear people say, quoting Acts 2:21 or
Romans 10, “The Bible says, ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ All we
have to do is say, ‘Lord Jesus, I now recognize You as my Savior, and I ask you to come
into my heart.’ ” But we do not find that in the Bible. Yes, we find that we are to “call on the
name of the Lord.” But we need to ask, “How does a person ‘call on the name of the Lord’?”
Saul was told, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of
the Lord.” If we want to “call on the name of the Lord” in a biblical fashion, then we must do
what God says, which includes being baptized for the remission of sins. Someone might
say, “That all sounds fine, but are you saying that the Bible is telling us that we cannot be
saved without being baptized?” That is the exact language of 1 Peter 3:21, which says
that “baptism does also now save us.” If God explicitly says that “baptism saves us,” how
dare we say anything else? Someone might ask, “You mean to say that I cannot get to
Heaven without being baptized?” Jesus said, “Unless a man is born of water and the Spir-
it, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). A person cannot be a part of the kingdom
(which is going to Heaven—1 Corinthians 15:24) unless he has been baptized for the re-
mission of sins.
So I want to ask you today if you are striving to continue in the apostles’ doctrine. Have
you made it your aim in life to study the Bible so you can make sure that what you are
doing is agreement with the Word of God? Have you looked at your own salvation and
examined it to see if it is in accordance with the teaching of the New Testament? Are you
worshiping God according to the apostles’ doctrine? If not, I want to encourage you today
to do so. Life is too short, and eternity is too long. Do not hesitate to get your life right
with the apostles’ doctrine. If you have never obeyed the Gospel, we want you to know that
we love you and that God loves you. So we encourage you to do that. May each of us be
encouraged every day to follow the apostles’ doctrine, which leads to Heaven itself.
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STUDY QUESTIONS FOR “CONTINUING IN THE APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE”
1. What does Acts 2:42 indicate that first-century Christians did?
2. Using the information found in the first paragraph of this transcript, define the “apos-
3. Name three other activities in which, according to Acts 2:42, first-century Christians
4. According to 2 Peter 1:19-21, what was the ultimate source of the apostles’ doctrine?
5. In John 16:13, what promise did Jesus make the apostles as He spoke of the time in
the future when He would return to Heaven?
6. What does Acts 10:26 tell us about whether or not it is correct for humans to worship
7. What does Revelation 19:10 tell us about whether or not it is correct for humans to
worship heavenly beings such as angels?
8. What important principle is found in Proverbs 16:25 and Jeremiah 10:23?
9. According to what Paul told the young evangelist Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, what is
one thing Christians can do to ensure that they “continue in the apostles’ doctrine”?
10. Whose good example is found in Acts 17:11 regarding the importance of searching
the Scriptures in order to be sure that we are doing what God wants us to do?
11. What important principle is found in Proverbs 15:28?
12. What important principle is found in1 Kings 22:14?
13. What important question is found in Jeremiah 37:17?
14. What important question is found in Romans 5:4?
15. What valuable piece of advice (even for us today) is found in John 2:5?
16. According to Revelation 22:18-19, what are two things that we must never do?
17. What does Ephesians 5:17 admonish us to do?
18. According to 1 John 5:13, can we know, according to the information found in the
Scriptures, whether or not we are saved?
19. According to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18, how many churches did He establish?
20. According to Acts 22:16, how does a person “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved?