When The New Testament Church Started
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
And he goeth up unto a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself Mark 3:13-15
This is where I think the New Testament church was started. Jesus was in the mountain and called to Himself those He wanted. This was the first called-out assembly by our Lord. There, He ordained the twelve to go out and spread the Gospel.
The church had to be founded sometime before Matthew 18 because it talks about the church. It also had to have been started before Acts 2 because the Bible says that they were adding to the church those that were being saved. You cannot add to something unless that something already exists.
Three things have distinguished the New Testament church down through the centuries since this time that Jesus called out these people.
1. Believer's baptism.
Very few churches, other than Baptists, believe in salvation by grace, security of the believer, and baptizing only believers. Believer's baptism has been the issue that Baptists have fought for more than anything else through the years.
2. The independent congregation.
No denominational boss has any scriptural right to tell a local New Testament church what to do, or to interfere with its business. It is difficult to even find a denomination that believes correctly on all of the important issues. All denominations interfere from the outside. They ordain preachers, and that is not the job of a denomination. The local church is supposed to ordain preachers. These denominations will also try to take away the credentials of those who do not follow their guidelines. That is control.
3. The doctrine of the local, visible church, not the doctrine of the universal church.
These are the things our forefathers fought for the most. They are also the things that I am fighting for across America. Somehow we must get back to placing the importance on these issues.
There are also other things that are important characteristics of a local New Testament church. Let me go into some detail on these.
1. It must be founded by Christ.
Methodist churches were founded by John Wesley. Presbyterian churches were founded by John Calvin. Lutheran churches were founded by Martin Luther. Baptists are the only ones who can trace their origin all the way back to the time Christ first gathered together that called-out group on the hill.
2. There must be two ordinances.
The Lord's Supper is a church ordinance and is supposed to be observed by a church. The ordinance of the Lord's Supper was started as a church ordinance. It always has been and it always will be an ordinance of the local church. It is a memorial supper when we gather and remember the blood and broken body of our Lord.
Baptism by immersion is the other ordinance. Nobody is a fundamentalist who sprinkles babies or adults.
3. You must have only two church offices.
There is nothing in the Bible about a Flower Committee. There is nothing in the Bible about a Music Committee. There is nothing in the Bible about a Board of Trustees. There are only two offices. One is pastor, or it is sometimes referred to as bishop or elder. The other office is that of deacons.
4. There is to be no outside control.
No church can be a New Testament church unless it takes care of its own business with no interfering from the outside. A church cannot be a New Testament church who assigns the pastors. Any church that allows any outside control whether that control be good or bad is negating its right to be called a New Testament church.
5. It must have the proper order of membership.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:41
They baptized these converts the same day they were saved. Many churches criticize those of us who believe this way; yet it is a distinct characteristic of a New Testament church. They got baptized the same day, joined the church the same day, and began taking the Lord Supper. This is the order for church membership: Salvation -Baptism - Church Membership - Lord's Supper. Any deviation from that order forfeits the right to be called a New Testament church.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Acts 8:36-38
Philip said that all the Ethiopian eunuch had to do to get baptized was to believe. He did not have to appear before a committee. He simply had to believe and he was able to be baptized on the spot. To be a New Testament church, you must baptize converts immediately.
6. The Bible is the final authority.
No church is a New Testament church that does not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.
7. Soul winning is essential.
You cannot have a New Testament church and not be a soul-winning church.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20
A golden candlestick is another word for a church.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works: Revelation 2:5a
The first works Jesus told the New Testament church to do was to go soul winning. Jesus was telling this church that if they did not get back to soul winning, He was going to remove their right to be called a church. That is the church's first and foremost responsibility. The church is not a social club. It is a soul-winning station. The New Testament church was hated by Jerusalem and was persecuted because they were soul winning. There is no such thing as a church that is not a soul-winning church. You may call it a church, but it is not a church. Jesus does not recognize any church as a church unless it is a soul-winning church.
8. Salvation is by grace through faith only.
9. Biblical separation.
No organization that is not Biblically separated is a church. Our founding fathers were separated people. They were a persecuted, hated, and fanatical people. There are three areas in which we are to separate ourselves.
In the Old Testament, they could not plant two seeds together in the same mound; they could not plow with an ox and a donkey in the same yoke; and they could not have two different materials in the same garment. These things symbolize several areas of separation.
1. The Bible.
The seed is the Word of God. We are not to yoke up with any denomination, church, meeting, fellowship, or endeavor that is wrong on the Bible. We are not to yoke up with people who do not believe the Bible is verbally inspired.
A robe is the symbol of salvation. We are not to yoke up with people who are wrong on salvation. We are not to yoke up in any kind of meeting with people who are wrong on salvation.
3. The preacher.
An ox is a symbol of a true preacher. The false preacher is symbolized by a donkey. We are so afraid of not being accepted. New Testament Christianity never has been accepted. A big battle in fundamentalism in the next few years is mainly going to be the compromiser attacking the separatist. When one starts that battle, he moves outside the circumference of fundamentalism.
There are some wonderful Christian people who belong to churches that are not New Testament churches, but this issue is a big one. We must teach our people the importance of belonging to a true New Testament church.
Acts 20:28 says, Take heed therefore unto yourselves.., to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Jesus loved the New Testament church enough to purchase it with His own blood, so we ought to love it enough to belong to one that is a true New Testament church. God has formed the New Testament church as His unit of operation. It is His company; His squad; His platoon; His unit of battle; His unit of action; His base of fellowship. God organized it and wants His people to come out from among the false churches or any church that unites with the false churches.
I thank God that I belong to a New Testament church, the kind that has fought to exist through the years, and the kind that Jesus founded.
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