And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine … (Acts 2:42)
Apostolic doctrine, therefore, is not the new and novel teachings of someone who calls himself/herself an apostle. Apostolic doctrine is the message of Jesus, His redemptive work, and His call to selfless discipleship that is found in the 27 books of the New Testament.
The “apostles’ doctrine” of Acts 2:42 is a reference to the original eyewitness accounts of Jesus by the 12 apostles. This “doctrine” consisted of their first-hand reports of His life, teachings, death, and resurrection. This was, at first, an oral message spread by the Twelve and those that heard them. It was later written down in what we know as the four gospels. Paul’s writings were later added to this original testimony and, with the addition of James, Jude, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter , 1, 2, & 3 John , and Revelation there came into existence what we know as the New Testament canon.
Canon, of course, refers to a measure or rule. As such, the twenty-seven books of the New Testament became the standard or rule against which all other teachings and revelations must be measured. Why? Because the New Testament canon contains the original, apostolic testimony and teaching. Hans Kung, the well-known Roman Catholic theologian and reformer, says,
The preaching of the apostles, as it has come down to us in the writings of the New Testament, is the original, fundamental testimony of Jesus Christ, valid for all time; being unique, it cannot be replaced or made void by any later testimony. Later generations of the Church are dependent on the words, witness and ministry of the first “apostolic” generation. The apostles are and remain the original witnesses, their testimony is the original testimony and their mission the original mission.
The Significance of the Twelve & Paul
Although there are other apostles in the New Testament, it is obvious that the Twelve chosen by Jesus are a select company and occupy a unique place in God’s purposes for the Church. This is borne out by the fact that throughout Scripture they are referred to as “the Twelve”, a set number neither to be added to nor subtracted from (See, for example, Matt. 10:2; 26:14; Mark 9:35; Luke 18:31; Acts 6:2; 1Cor. 15:5). Their uniqueness is clarified by the fact that Jesus tells them that, in the age to come, they will sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28).
Category: Church History