APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE – A LIGHT FOR OUR PATHS
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Intro: The early church increased in power and in numbers by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Through His ministry, they had four daily commitments: God’s holy Word, loving fellowship with one another, the two ordinances of baptism and communion, and particular prayers. The rest of this teaching series will focus on each of those four commitments over the next four messages. Today we examine the “apostles’ doctrine.”
WHO WERE THE APOSTLES?
Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (Alphaeus), Simon (Zealot), Judas (James), Matthias…
The eleven plus Matthias…those who had regularly been in the presence of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
Acts 1:21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
Acts 1:22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Which ones wrote Scripture?
Matthew, John, Peter
John’s baptism was c.30 A.D. The events of Acts 1 took place in 33 A.D. Also, recall that Acts was written c.63 A.D – 30 yrs later.
Therefore, the “apostles’ doctrine” could not have been Matthew’s Gospel or John’s Gospel or Peter’s letters.
Yet, their writings demonstrate clearly that they knew the OT well and were able to teach the church from those Scriptures.
Matthew c.55 A.D. – quoted OT no less than 67 times in 15 different books (including all 5 Torah)
John c.80 A.D. – quoted no less than 15 times in 9 different books (law, prophets, writings)
Peter c.63 A.D. – quoted Leviticus, Psalms, Isaiah in 1st letter (law, prophets, writings)
WHAT WAS THEIR DOCTRINE?
Their doctrine was God’s truth they knew, lived, and taught. Where did they get this teaching?
John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 16:13 However, 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; and He will tell you things to come.
(1) Everything Jesus said to them
(2) Everything the Father said to Jesus
(3) All truth from heaven
Acts 1:1-2 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up…
John 21:25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE COMMITED TO THE APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE?
Continually learning God’s truth…
We have the completed canon of Scripture. Which means we have everything we need to know the Apostles’ doctrine.
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
2 Peter 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Adopting a biblical worldview…
illus: Vishal Mangalwadi and his wife Ruth were Christian leaders/missionaries in their native country of India. Many years ago, they left their urban city to minister to the poor in the countryside. When they arrived, Ruth decided to personally visit every family in the village. Every day she would visit a few families to find out how they could serve them. On one visit, Ruth met a 10 year-old girl named Lalta from a low-caste family. She asked the girl, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” “Four…or maybe three,” Lalta replied. Ruth was curious. “Is it three or four?” “Well, three. The fourth is almost dead.” Ruth asked, “May I see him?”
The child was a girl named Sheela. In the middle of a windowless, dingy room, and 18-month-old living skeleton was lying on a bare string cot, puss oozing from sores covering her body and head, with flies swarming over her because she could not raise her hand to chase them away. Her thighs were only as thick as an adult’s thumb. Sheela was so weak that she could not even cry. She only sighed.
Tears welled up in Ruth’s eyes. “What’s wrong with her?” she asked the mother.
“Oh, she doesn’t eat anything,” the mother said with a smirk. “She throws up whatever we give her.”
“Why don’t you take her to the hospital?”
“How can we afford to see a doctor?” was the startling reply.
Ruth was astonished by the extent of their poverty. “Really!? I will pay for her treatment.”
“But where is the time to go to the hospital?” protested the mother.
“What do you mean? Your daughter is dying, and you don’t have time to take her to the hospital?”
Said the mother, “I have three other children and a husband to look after. Besides I can’t find my way around in the hospital.”
“Ask you husband to come with you,” Ruth suggested. “He has no time. He must look after the cattle and the field.”
“Tell him I will pay for him to hire someone to look after his field for one day. I will also accompany. Many hospital staff members are our friends.” The mother found a convenient way to stop being bothered. “I will speak to my husband,” she said.
Ruth was delighted. “I will send my husband this evening to talk to your husband. In the morning I will take you to the hospital.”
When Vishal, Ruth’s husband, visited the family that evening, they came out of the house to speak with him. Some neighbors also came out to see what was happening. The couple had decided that they were not willing to go to the hospital.
“Why?” asked Vishal. “We don’t have the money.” “But my wife told you that we will pay.” They countered, “We don’t want to get into debt.”
“We will put it in writing in front of these witnesses!” Vishal exclaimed pointing to the neighbors. “We will never ask for the money to be repaid to us. It is a gift.”
“We don’t have the time,” they said.
“But my wife told you that we will pay for you to hire a laborer for the day to watch your cattle and field.”
“Why are you bothering us?” They were becoming agitated. “She is our daughter.”
Vishal could not accept that they wanted their daughter to die. What kind of parents would be so cruel? But he could not interpret their position any other way. So, he decided to use the pressure of public opinion on them.
“Why are you killing this girl?” Vishal asked bluntly, raising his voice.
“We are not killing her! But what can we do if she will not eat, but only vomit everything we give her?”
“If you can’t do anything for her, then why not let the doctors do something?”
“Because we cannot afford it.” They had dug their heels in.
“Look,” said Vishal, running out of patience. “If you don’t take this girl to the hospital tomorrow, I will go to the police to report that you are starving her. How can you be so cruel? Why don’t you pick up a knife and stab her quickly? Why make her suffer in this way for so long?”
Then Vishal turned to the nosy neighbors. “Why don’t you say something? Do you not care for this helpless girl?”
Vishal fully expected the neighbors to provide moral support for his position. But they looked at him as though he were a fool.
Finally, an elderly neighbor helped resolve the dispute. He said to Sheela’s parents, “Look! This man might go to the police. If the police take Sheela to the hospital, then you will have to pay the bill. Therefore, it is better for you to go with them.”
To the hospital they went, and the doctor put Sheela on I.V. medication and feeding. After a week or so, the medical staff was able to start feeding her via a tube in her nose. After another week, they recommended that the girl be taken to the missionaries’ home to be cared for with the same feeding apparatus until she was healthy enough to eat on her own. Vishal, Ruth, their family and friends of the ministry all took turns feeding the baby and cuddling her. She responded to the physical touch as positively as the medication. Everyone agreed she was a delight.
But it didn’t last long. One morning her mother came grumbling, “The village folk are saying that you are corrupting our daughter. If she eats in your home, our caste will be polluted, and Sheela will become a Christian.”
Ruth tried to assure the mother that she was very welcome to take Sheela home with her. They were pleased with the care they were able to provide and were glad to hand Sheela back to her parents.
Within a few weeks, however, they learned that Sheela was back to her previous condition of starvation.
The whole process had to be repeated. Ruth went to persuade the mother. Then Vishal went to persuaded and threaten the father. Ruth took Sheela and the mother back to the hospital. Sheela was put on an I.V. again. She was again fed through her nose, and then sent to the missionaries’ home. Then her mother came to fight. Ruth assumed the mother had learned her lesson, so she sent Sheela back to her home again. Before they knew it, Sheela was dead.
Sheela’s parents starved her to death because they considered her to be a liability.
They already had one daughter to babysit their sons and to clean and to cook for the family. A second girl was an unnecessary burden. They would have to feed her for ten to twelve years. Then they would need to go into debt to find a dowry to marry her off.
Her in-laws might torture her to extract more money from the family. In those days, the Indian national press reported that in-laws were killing around 300 young brides in the nation’s capital per year, in efforts to extract more dowry from their parents. But a dowry is not the end of the costs. The daughter would return to her parents’ home to deliver her children. Why should they take on this lifelong burden, even if someone was offering free medical care and milk for a few weeks?
We cannot understand Sheela’s parents because our worldview is so different than theirs. They look at children as assets or liabilities, conveniences or burdens. We look at them as human beings with intrinsic worth. We believe that God’s command, “you shall not murder,” gives to every human person a fundamental right to life.
Vishal and Ruth did not expect to gain anything from baby Sheela. They believed that loving God required loving her. They intervened because they believed God’s Word commanded them to “speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
From the perspective of their own culture, Sheela’s parents were not considered wicked people. They were ordinary people – as good or bad as anyone else. They even loved their children as much as anyone else did. If they had an American lawyer, he could have argued that they starved their daughter out of love: it was “mercy” killing – euthanasia – and it was no different than what practically every woman does who aborts her unwanted baby. The parents knew that Sheela’s life as an unwanted girl in their caste system and culture was going to be especially miserable; her future was doomed to dark suffering. Therefore, out of their deep compassion for her they shortened her misery. The lawyer would have gone on to argue that people in a more privileged position have no right to judge Sheela’s parents, who were trapped in a closed circle of unrelenting poverty.
Sheela’s parents believed that she was trapped in the inescapable clutches of poverty as they were. They held to traditional Hindu fatalism. They did not believe they could change history – that they could transcend fate and karma, nature and culture. For them it was too revolutionary to think that as humans they were history shaping, culture creating creatures and that Sheela’s future was not fated to be bleak. Thus, the conflict was not merely over ethical principles; it was a clash of worldviews.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Hindu worldview, it will be difficult to understand how parents could usher in their own child’s death with the implicit consent of the whole village. Their cultural religion/worldview taught that individuality is an illusion, and that salvation means to dissolve a person’s consciousness into a universal consciousness. “Death for a soul is like changing clothes,” they teach. “As a man leaves an old garment and puts on one that is new, the spirit leaves his mortal body, and then puts on one that his new.” They believe in the damnable teaching called reincarnation that trivializes both death and life.
Sheela’s parents had no hope for her because they did not know she had another Father in heaven who was not bound by nature, history, culture, or karma. He could change their future as he did for Joseph in Genesis, who languished in prison for years even though he was not guilty of bad karma.
Worldview differences are matters of life and death. The worldwide fight against poverty is really a fight against fatalism.
Before he killed himself at age 27, the greatest rock singer on the planet in 1994 was Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. He was a nihilist who thought there is nothing out there to give meaning and significance to anything in here.
Both nihilism and fatalism are logical if you begin with the assumption that God does not exist.
As the news of Cobain’s suicide spread, a number of his fans emulated his example. Rolling Stone magazine reported that his tragic death was followed by at least 68 copycat suicides.
“Life is empty” was a concept championed by both Kurt Cobain and Buddhism/Hinduism in their understanding of the soul.
That is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” created in love by God. Even though we are sinful and deserve death and judgment, God bridged an ocean with a cross, and came to our rescue in the person of His Son.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” No one should be starved the death. We know the value of the human being by revelation of God.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.