The coming of Christ as deliverer and Savior was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. After the flood in Noah’s day, people grew corrupt again. In Genesis 12:1-4, God called Abraham and promised that through his seed all nations would be blessed. In the New Testament, Gal. 3:8, the Apostle Paul said, “and the scriptures farseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying, ‘In thee In verse sixteen the same chapter, he stated, shall all nations be blessed’ “. In verse sixteen the same chapter, he stated, “Now to Abraham and his seed was his promise made”. He did not say “and to seeds”, as of many, but as of one and “to thy seed”, which is Christ. In this passage almost four thousand years later, we find the promise to bless the nations fulfilled in Christ. In Eph. 3:5, we read the mystery of Christ was not known unto other generations. In verse 11, he states that it was in the eternal purpose of God that through the church would be made known the manifold wisdom of God. Therefore, the promise to all the faithful patriarchs and prophets of all was to be fulfilled in the church, the body of Christ. Eph. 5: 23-25.
About six months before His death, Christ said, “upon this rock I will build my church” Matthew 16:16-18. In the Old Testament many predictions were made concerning the church or the Kingdom, and that it would never be destroyed. In Isaiah 2:2-4, he states that when the word of Jehovah would go forth from Jerusalem, Jehovah’s house was to be established and all nations would flow into it. In Zach. 1:16, God speaking through the prophets said, “My house shall be built in Jerusalem”. In Mark 9:1, Jesus told his Apostles, “some of you standing here shall not taste of death until you see the kingdom come”. In Luke 24:44-53, we have the record of Jesus Christ meeting with the Apostles after his resurrection from the dead, and we read; “and He said unto them; These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning me”. In verse 47, Jesus states, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”. Again we see Jerusalem as the starting place of the church.
In Acts 1:1-12, we have the record of the scene after Christ had been seen of them forty days after His resurrection. He told the Apostles in verse 4, “Not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”. In verse 8, He said, “But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and Judah and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth”. In verse 12, we read, “Then returned they unto Jerusalem”. The Apostles received the baptismal measure of the Holy Ghost as they were promised. There were people present from every nation, each heard the Apostles speak in his own language so that everyone could understand. The Apostle Peter preached a great sermon on the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 2:37, Luke says, “They were pricked in their hearts and said, what must we do?”. In the next verse the answer is given. “Repent you and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”. In verse 41, it states, “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls”. In verse 47, we read, “they were praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”. This was the first time in all the Bible that the church is spoken of as being in existence. Christ purchased the church with his own blood. Acts 20:28, and He is the head of the church, Col. 1:18. Thus the great Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:16, “The churches of Christ salute you”.
The church set forth in the New Testament rests upon seven cardinal principles:
- the death of Christ
- the resurrection of Christ
- the ascension of Christ
- the sending of the Holy Spirit by Christ
- baptism by His authority
- baptism “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins”
- salvation in the name of Christ.
Apart from these foundation stones, there could be no New Testament church. We ask, then, when and where were these foundation stones laid?
A few months before His death, Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He spoke of some future occasion, but, after the first feast of the Jewish Pentecost following His resurrection, the church was always spoken of as being in existence. Thus, the church had its beginning between the time that Jesus promised to build it and the close of that next Pentecost day.
The second Chapter of Acts reveals for the first time all seven of the aforementioned cardinal facts. Speaking at Jerusalem during the Pentecost celebration and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter publicly revealed that Jesus who had been crucified, slain, and resurrected, was God’s Son, the promised Savior, the Christ.
Those who heard Peter’s words being exceedingly sorry for their deeds and their rejection of Jesus, cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter answered them, saying “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38).
Acting under Jesus’ earlier instructions in Matthew 28:19 and 20, to 11….. teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost . . . “, Peter had, thus, first revealed baptism by Christ’s authority. Remission of sins, or salvation, was proclaimed in Jesus’ name for the very first time on this occasion. A few days later Peter explained, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
All of the foundation stones of the church were firmly planted upon the first Pentecost following the resurrection of our Lord. Afterward, the church was spoken of as being in existence- indeed, Peter spoke of this particular day as being “the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Jesus, himself, spoke of that day as the beginning date for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ (Luke 24:47-49). Thus, the laws governing His church became functional on the very day it was started, and all men from then until now enter it the same way.
Truly, Pentecost marked the beginning of the church set forth in the New Testament. It was also the beginning of the kingdom of Christ in its operational sense, it was when Christ started to reign over his kingdom. It was, in reality, the beginning of the entire Christian system.
We do not, therefore, search back to, or before the death of Christ on the cross to learn the terms of entrance into His Church, or kingdom. Neither do we search back to the law of Moses or forward to Christ’s return for the establishment of His reign upon the earth. He is our king now. All are subject to all of His laws now. When He comes again, it will not be to set up a kingdom, but to raise those that are in their graves, either to “the resurrection of life” or to “the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).
Any church not started in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost day following Christ’s resurrection is not His. Systems not found in the New Testament constitute no part of the Church therein set forth.
All that we know about the church of our Lord, or the principles by which it is governed, we learn from the New Testament, and it alone.