Apostolic Doctrines and Fellowship
Pr. P. J. Daniel
Believers of the first century gathered together in fellowship to hear the ‘Apostolic doctrine’ (Acts 2: 42). In verse 42 apostolic doctrine and fellowship are stated together. There is no comma in between. We find comma after the word 'fellowship.' So it is clear that apostolic doctrine and fellowship go together.They came together in fellowship to hear the apostolic doctrines.
Many confuse the fundamental doctrines of the Church with the Doctrines of the Bible. These seven fundamental doctrines are the basic criteria of the church and not the doctrines of the whole Bible. Among these seven fundamental doctrines, we find the apostolic doctrines. The apostolic doctrine in fact concern the whole doctrine of the Scripture. Those who obey these seven basic doctrines are obliged to follow the whole doctrines of the Bible.
Definition of Apostolic Doctrine
The apostolic doctrine mentioned here includes all the Scriptures. The first century apostles preached the Word of God. Now the Scripture includes both Old Testament and the New Testament. We cannot avoid either. Somebody said: New Testament was concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17). So it is imperative to hear the teachings of the Apostles.
Importance of Apostolic Doctrine
To realize the importance of the Word of God we should see the symbols of the Word of God mentioned in the Bible.
The Word of God is:-
1. The regenerating seed (1Peter 1:23).
2. The nourishing milk (1 Peter 2:2)
3. Sweetening honey (Psalms 19: 10b)
4. The lamp that shows light in the darkened path (Psalms 119: 105).
5. Sword of the Spirit to fight against the devil (Ephesians 6:17).
6. Refining fire (Jeremiah 23:29)
7. Shattering hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
8. Enriching gold (Psalms 19:10a)
9. Satisfying bread (Matthew 4:4).
10. Restorative medicine (Psalms 107:20).
11. Refreshing dew and rain (Isaiah 55:10).
12. Reflecting mirror (James 1:23).
13. Piercing two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).
14. Penetrating goad (Ecclesiastes 12:11).
15. Fastening nail (Ecclesiastes 12:11).
listening to the Word of God is very important in a Christian's life. As the early Christians came together in fellowship to hear the Word of God; it is important for a Christian today to have such fellowship.
Meaning of Fellowship
Biblical Fellowship has a deeper meaning in the Scripture. It is entirely different from secular fellowship. The secular meaning of fellowship is association of a friendly character: the comradeship or friendly companionship. Some say “fellowship” is “two fellows in the same ship”; this is false, for passengers on the same boat can avoid speaking to or and sharing with each other if they have nothing in common. Christian fellowship is much deeper, sweeter than secular fellowship; Biblical fellowship means spiritual communion, a joint partnership, a joint sharing, and mutual partakers. We have so many things in common. All born of the same Father (John 1:13); bought with the same price (1 Corinthians 6:20); members of the same Body (Colossians1:18); taught by the same Spirit (John 16:13); Walking in the same path (2 Corinthians 5:7); serving the same Master (Matthew 23:8); heirs of the same inheritance (Romans 8:17).
We have fellowship together usually by getting together for church worship. But there is also fellowship in prayer meetings, testimony meetings and even in public Christian meetings. Fellowship is often sweetest where two or three meet informally as Jesus says in Matthew 18:20. The early Christian thrived on fellowship and they considered it absolutely essential. Fellowship is not a passive thing; it is not just attending a meeting; fellowship is when we contribute something to the meeting; it is a ‘give and take’ process.
The purpose of fellowship
When we consider the purpose of this fellowship we find tremendous reasons for it. (Alban Douglas: Courtesy)
1. To strengthen one another; even if we do not need fellowship we owe it to others to give fellowship to them; in the process we too will be blessed.
2. To encourage one another in the hard places of life; many with smiling faces are covering aching hearts and burdened souls; let us make their load a bit easier.
3. To share experiences for the mutual benefit of all; our testimony may prevent someone else from making a similar error and suffering as we have done in our ignorance.
4. To manifest our joys that all may rejoice with us; Psalms 50:15, the fellowship of the thrill of answered prayers; this will surely encourage others to keep praying.
5. To weep with them that weep - Romans 12:15: the fellowship of tears, sorrow and suffering.
6. To enlighten the weaker brother in the mysteries of the Word of God; as you learn, share it and it will be impressed on your mind and you will be ready to learn more.
7. To exhort the backslider to return to the Lord; your offer of fellowship may remind him of happier days and create a longing to return to the Saviour and blessing.
The result of fellowship will be tremendous. It will enable us to walk in obedience to the will of God, (1 John 1:7); we learn to suffer together (Philippians 3:10); we learn to serve together (Colossians 4:7); we learn to comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18); we learn to pray for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:25); we learn to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6:2); we learn to rejoice with the joyful (Romans 12:15); more over we grow and glow for the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
The fundamental doctrines are the basic teachings of the church. These are the initial steps to be followed by a new believer. But do not think that when we obey all these seven doctrines, the holistic Christian living is completed. It is just a beginning. As the people of Israel were delivered from Egypt, crossed the Dead Sea, enjoyed the heavenly manna and water from the cleft of the Rock, guided them in the night by the pillar of fire and in the day by the pillar clouds, we enjoy only these initial blessings. They had to sojourn for forty years through the wilderness to be tested and tried and be made perfect to reach the Promised Land- Canaan. The same way, after these initial blessings we have to be tested and tried to be perfect by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, so that we may reach the land of heavenly Canaan.
Unless we obey these basic principles we cannot enter into the fellowship of the Church. Today, some consider that these seven doctrines are the only criteria to reach heaven. Others think that these basic things are insignificant but only the deep and profound doctrines such as ‘love one another’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ are enough to be practiced to reach heaven. Both of these conceptions are wrong. Unless we are born in the family of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we cannot inherit the heavenly blessing. We can have the remission of our sin only through the initial doctrine of repentance (Acts 3:19; 2:38). Then, step by step we should follow all these basic principles. Ultimately we should be prepared by the Holy Spirit to be the spotless and perfect bride of Jesus Christ.