6 The church of Jesus Christ

388 At what point did the church of Jesus Christ appear?


The church of Jesus Christ first appeared on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Apostle Peter preached, and some 3,000 people came to believe. They allowed themselves to be baptised and, together with the Apostles, comprised the first Christian church. This took place in Jerusalem.

389 What distinguished the early Christians?


The early Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2: 42). This is of decisive significance for the church of Jesus Christ.

390 Where can we learn about the most important developments of the early congregations?


We gain insight into the development of the early congregations from the New Testament, namely in the book of Acts and in the letters of the Apostles.

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391 How did the church of Jesus Christ develop?


After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers, the church of Jesus Christ continued to develop: Apostles and other ministers began to work within it. The gospel was preached and the sacraments were dispensed.

Congregations came into being all throughout the Roman Empire. Christianity began to spread among both Jews and Gentiles.

At the time of the early Christians, the Roman Empire was the power that ruled the world. It encompassed the entire Mediterranean region as far as the Middle East. The Roman Empire, with its good transportation networks and uniform common language of Greek (and later Latin), was of great advantage for the spread of the gospel.

392 Where did the Apostles spread the gospel?


In fulfilment of the Great Commission given them by Jesus Christ—namely to teach and baptise all nations—the Apostles worked in different regions. Apostles Peter and James primarily proclaimed the gospel among the Jews, while Apostles Paul and Barnabas travelled to the Gentile nations of the Mediterranean region. The gospel spread as far as Asia and Africa. Congregations came into being in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Libya, Macedonia, Syria, and Cyprus.


The great commission: see Questions 159→434→486→

393 How did their missionary activity proceed?


The Apostles took many troubles, hardships, and sufferings upon themselves in the service of Christ. Apostle Paul describes his experiences in 2 Corinthians 11: 25-28: “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

Many of the believers fled from Jerusalem on account of the persecutions they suffered there (cf. Acts 8: 1; 11: 19). Even in their new surroundings they acquainted people with the Christian faith and proclaimed the word of the Lord, like Philip, for example, in the capital city of Samaria.

The term ‘mission’ derives from the Latin and means “task” or “mandate”. This term is used in reference to the effort of winning non-Christians over to the Christian faith, the gospel.

394 What is recorded about the end of the early Apostles?


There are only a few vague references to this in Holy Scripture. From extra-biblical texts we learn that many Apostles died a martyr’s death. Apostle John was likely the one who lived and was active the longest of all the Apostles. After the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem (in the year AD 70) he stayed in Asia Minor and worked predominantly in the congregation of Ephesus.

The term ‘martyr’ is derived from the Greek word martys, which means “witness”. Individuals who suffer or even endure a violent death for the sake of their faith are described as “martyrs”. An example of this is Deacon Stephen, who was stoned to death for professing Jesus Christ. The events surrounding his stoning are related in Acts 7.

395 What happened after the death of the early Apostles?


After the death of the early Apostles, the ministry to which Jesus had entrusted the dispensation of the sacraments, the forgiveness of sins, and the proclamation of the gospel was no longer occupied. As a result, it was no longer possible to dispense the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was also impossible for any other ministerial gifts to come forth out of the Apostle ministry. The gospel continued to spread nevertheless. Believing people continued to bring the gospel and the Christian system of values farther and farther afield.

396 How did the members of the early Christian congregations fare?


The members of the early Christian congregations were persecuted as atheists in the Gentile nations because they did not worship the gods in which the people there believed. The Christians were also blamed for crop failures, earthquakes, and floods—which was in turn an excuse to persecute them. The Roman Emperors tried to eliminate Christianity. The first persecution of the Christians was initiated in the year AD 64 under the Roman Emperor Nero.

397 Did the church of Jesus Christ continue to grow?


Yes, even after the death of the early Apostles and despite the Christian persecutions, the church grew. People who believed in Jesus Christ and professed Him as their Lord received the sacrament of Holy Baptism with water, and so they were incorporated into the body of Christ. In this way the church of Jesus Christ spread throughout the whole world.


Body of Christ: see Questions 374→ and 375→

398 How did the Christian doctrine develop?


The expectation of the imminent return of Christ eventually faded into the background in the sermons. Belief in the life and activity of the Son of God, in His death and resurrection, was nevertheless kept alive.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the early church creeds were enshrined in writing. At church gatherings known as “councils”, the doctrines of the Trinity of God and of the dual nature of Jesus Christ were formulated and proclaimed binding for Christian faith.


Trinity of God: see Questions 61→ et seq. Early church creeds: see Questions 33→ et seq. Council: see explanation of Question 33→

399 When did the church of Christ receive Apostles again?


After the Apostles of the early apostolic period had died, there were no more bearers of the Apostle ministry. The Apostle ministry itself continued to exist unchanged, however. In the year 1832, God occupied this ministry once again.

400 How did the renewed occupation of the Apostle ministry come about?


Believers of various confessions in England, Scotland, and Germany prayed and hoped that the Holy Spirit would once again become active in the same great power as at the time of the early Apostles. This was associated with the expectation that God would once again send Apostles.

Finally, in the year 1832, a believing man in London by the name of John Bate Cardale was called to the Apostle ministry by the Holy Spirit, and designated as an Apostle by Henry Drummond. At Christmas 1832 John Bate Cardale performed his first ministerial act, an ordination, as an Apostle.


Confession: see explanation of Question 36→

401 What did this mean for the church of Christ?


With the renewed calling of Apostles there were once again bearers of the Apostle ministry in the church of Christ. The ministry which has the authority to dispense all sacraments, keeps alive the certainty of the imminent return of Christ, and prepares the bridal congregation for this event, was once again occupied, as it was in the founding phase of the church of Christ: the gift of the Holy Spirit was once again dispensed. Beyond that, forgiveness of sins was once again proclaimed by Apostles. Likewise ordinations were performed again.

402 What are the tasks of the Apostles in the church of Christ?


Jesus Christ rules His church. To this end He makes use of the Apostles. The Apostle ministry is the original ministry of the church. It is the only ministry given by Jesus Himself. The most important tasks of the Apostles include the proclamation of the gospel throughout the world, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, the dispensation of the sacraments for the living and the dead, and the ordination of ministers. So it is that the bridal congregation is gathered and prepared for the return of Christ through the activity of the Apostles.


Apostolate: see Questions 413→424→ et seq., 433→ et seq., 453→ et seq.

403 Where are the Apostles active at present?


The Apostles are presently active in the New Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, the Apostle ministry has not only been given for the New Apostolic Church, but rather for the whole church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle ministry has the commission to work its way into all parts of the church.

The Apostles have been sent to all nations. They fulfil this commission by establishing congregations around the world and leading believers to Jesus Christ.

404 Who dispenses the sacraments in the church of Jesus Christ?


The dispensation of all the sacraments— Holy Baptism with water, Holy Communion, and Holy Sealing—has been entrusted to the Apostle ministry. The Apostles also dispense the sacraments for the departed.

Holy Sealing is only dispensed by Apostles.

In the New Apostolic Church, Holy Communion and Holy Baptism with water are also dispensed by priestly ministers by commission of the Apostles.


Holy Baptism with water has been entrusted to the church as a whole: wherever baptisms are performed with water in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, believing human beings are incorporated into the church of Christ.


Sacraments: see Question 472→ Holy Sealing: see Question 440→

405 What happens to the church at the return of Christ?


At the return of Christ, one part of the church—namely the bridal congregation (firstlings)—will be caught up to God. It will experience the “marriage” in heaven with Jesus Christ (cf. Revelation 19: 6-7).

The other part of the church will remain on the earth and will have to prove itself in the tribulations to which the Christians remaining on the earth will be exposed (cf. Revelation 12).


Bridal congregation, marriage in heaven: see Questions 214→251→402→562→ et seq.

“‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  Revelation 19: 6, 7

“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. [...] And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  Revelation 12: 13, 17

406 Do all baptised individuals belong to the church of Jesus Christ?


All people who believe in Jesus Christ and profess the Son of God as their Lord are part of the church of Christ. They are baptised in the name of the triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

But by far not all the baptised believe and profess. Accordingly, not all who are baptised belong to the church of Christ.

407 Why are there different Christian denominations?


The multiplicity of Christian communities (denominations) has come about owing to varying interpretations of the gospel, as well as cultural, social, and historical differences.


Denomination: see explanation of Question 365→

Anything formed by human beings can, in the broadest sense, be described as ‘culture’. People and nations have differing cultural features owing to their way of life, their history, their experiences, their religious and political origins, their customs, their worldviews and convictions, etc.

The word ‘social’ derives from the Latin word socius and means “together”, “united”, or “allied”. We use it when we want to express that an individual is interconnected with his neighbour and the community, and cares about others.

408 Where can the church of Jesus Christ be experienced?


The church of Christ can be experienced wherever oneness, holiness, universality, and apostolicity—albeit to varying degrees—are present.

The church of Christ is most clearly revealed where the Apostle ministry, the dispensation of the sacraments to the living and the dead, as well as the proper proclamation of the word are present. It is there that the Lord’s work of redemption is manifest, in which the bride of Christ is being prepared for the marriage in heaven.


Identifying features of the church (unity, holiness, universality, apostolicity): see Question 381→ et seq.

The Lord’s work of redemption: see Questions 386→ and 387→

409 What can be said of the future of the church of Jesus Christ?


At the return of Christ, one part of the church—the bridal congregation—will be caught up to God. Another part of the church will remain on earth and must prove itself in antichristian tribulations. In the kingdom of peace the church will be revealed when the royal priesthood proclaims the gospel to all human beings who have ever lived. In the new creation, worship and praise will be brought to God forever.


Kingdom of peace: see Questions 575→ et seq. Royal priesthood: see Question 574→577→ New creation: see Question 581→

410 What do the individual Christian denominations have in common?


Binding elements in the individual Christian denominations include baptism in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the profession of Jesus Christ, and belief in the triune God.

Through the baptised who live their faith and profess Christ as their Lord, the church can be experienced as a fellowship of faith, hope, and love.