What Did the Early Church Believe and Practice?

Shouldn't you look into your Bible to see if your beliefs and practices square with what Jesus Christ and the apostles practiced and taught?

The book of Acts is an eyewitness account of the early Church from Christ's death until about A.D. 60. Chapter 2 records the beginning of the Church, when God sent His Spirit to 120 followers of Jesus Christ.

Many Bible readers are familiar with the miraculous events of that day—of the place they were assembled filling with the sound of a mighty wind and what appeared to be tongues of fire alighting on those gathered there. Another miracle occurred as those people, now filled with God's Spirit, began to speak in the languages of people from many lands so that all could understand their words.

Often overlooked in this account is the day on which these events occurred, the Day of Pentecost (Acts:2:1), one of the festivals God commanded for His people many centuries before (Leviticus 23). In revealing these festivals, God said that "these are My feasts . . . the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations" (verses 2, 4). God proclaimed that these festivals were to be "a statute forever throughout your generations" (verses 14, 21, 31, 41).

The Gospels show that Jesus Christ observed the same festivals (Matthew:26:17-19; John:7:10-14, 37-38). Both the book of Acts and Paul's letters show the apostles keeping these festivals during the decades after Christ's crucifixion (Acts:2:1-4; 18:21; 20:6, 16; 27:9).

Most churches teach that the festivals were "nailed to the cross," that they were somehow annulled by Christ's death. Yet the unmistakable record of the Bible is that the early Church continued to observe them, but with greater grasp of their spiritual significance.

Speaking of one of these God-given feasts, the apostle Paul urged the church in Corinth—a mixed group of gentile and Jewish believers—to "keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians:5:8). Paul was clearly referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Leviticus:23:6; Deuteronomy:16:16).

Paul explained the significance of the Passover (1 Corinthians:5:7; Leviticus:23:5) and gave instructions on how to properly observe this ceremony (1 Corinthians:11:23-28).

The many references in the Gospels, Acts and Paul's epistles prompt an obvious question: Since Jesus, the apostles and the early Church kept these days, why don't churches teach and observe them today? After all, Paul directly tied the feasts to Jesus, His purpose and His sacrifice for mankind (1 Corinthians:5:7). (To learn more about these festivals, send for or download our free booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . )

The Gospels and the book of Acts are equally clear that Christ, the disciples and the early Church kept the weekly Sabbath—from Friday evening to Saturday evening, the seventh day of the week—as their day of rest and worship (Mark:6:2; Luke:4:16, 31-32; 13:10; Acts:13:14-44; 18:4). Jesus even called Himself "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark:2:28).

It was Jesus' custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath to worship (Luke:4:16). Contrary to the teaching of those who say that Paul abandoned the Sabbath, it was his custom, too, to go to the synagogue every Sabbath (Acts:17:1-3), using the opportunity to teach others about Jesus Christ.

The weekly Sabbath is another of God's festivals, like those mentioned earlier. It is, in fact, the first of His feasts listed (Leviticus:23:1-4). It is included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus:20:8-11; Deuteronomy:5:12-15).

As with God's other feasts, the Sabbath is ignored by the overwhelming majority of churches. Rather than keeping the Sabbath as God commanded, most churches meet on the first day of the week—Sunday—a day nowhere commanded in the Bible as a day of worship. Why? If we are to observe any day as a weekly day of rest and worship, shouldn't it be the same day Jesus Christ and the apostles kept? (Be sure to request or download our free booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest to learn more.)

We also find other differences in teaching and practice. Many churches teach that obedience to God's law is unnecessary, that Christ kept it for us or it was "nailed to the cross" with Christ. This is directly contrary to Jesus' own words (Matthew:4:4; 5:17-19) and the teaching and practice of the apostles (Acts:24:14; 25:8; Romans:7:12, 22; 1 Corinthians:7:19; 2 Timothy:3:15-17).

Following Christ's example, the apostles powerfully preached about Jesus Christ's return to establish the coming Kingdom of God (Luke:4:43; 8:1; 21:27, 31; Acts:1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31). But Paul warned that, even in his day, some were already preaching "a different gospel" (2 Corinthians:11:4; Galatians:1:6).

We see much confusion in churches about what the gospel is. Most view it as a message about Christ's life story and His death to "save" us without really understanding why He came and why He had to die and without proclaiming the message of God's Kingdom that Christ Himself taught (Mark:1:14-15).

Similarly, Jesus and the apostles did not teach that the righteous ascend to heaven at death (John:3:13; Acts:2:29, 34), and they understood that man does not possess an immortal soul (Ezekiel:18:4, 20; Matthew:10:28) that would spend eternity in either heaven or hell. (For the truth on these matters, download or request our free booklets The Gospel of the Kingdom and Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? )

Furthermore, nowhere do we find popular religious holidays such as Christmas approved in the Bible. The only time Easter is mentioned in the Bible (Acts:12:4, King James Version), it is a blatant mistranslation of the Greek word for Passover . Lent and its practices are nowhere found (see our free booklet Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? ).

These are some of the major differences between the Christianity of the time of Christ and the apostles and that commonly practiced today. Shouldn't you look into your Bible to see if your beliefs and practices square with what Jesus Christ and the apostles practiced and taught? As noted, we have many resources that can help in your study of God's Word. 

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In these pages we examine the fruits Jesus and His apostles said would identify His Church. We look at the contrasting fruits that identify those who are influenced by a different spirit and preach a different gospel. We will learn, not from human tradition or opinion but directly from God's Word, how we can distinguish "the church of the living God" (1 Timothy:3:15) from those who follow "false prophets" in sheep's clothing.

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In these pages we examine the fruits Jesus and His apostles said would identify His Church. We look at the contrasting fruits that identify those who are influenced by a different spirit and preach a different gospel. We will learn, not from human tradition or opinion but directly from God's Word, how we can distinguish "the church of the living God" (1 Timothy:3:15) from those who follow "false prophets" in sheep's clothing.

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