ESV - 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
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In my humble opinion and response to this question, We should know first and identify who were these Apostles and secondarily who gave them their doctrine to share with other believers. The Word declares the Apostles/Disciples were those who followed Jesus during His three year ministry. Who were the twelve (12) disciples / apostles of Jesus Christ?" Answer: The word “disciple” refers to a learner or follower. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent out.” While Jesus was on earth, His twelve followers were called disciples. The twelve disciples followed Jesus Christ, learned from Him, and were trained by Him. These 12 chosen by Jesus can be found in Matthew 10:2-4. They were then referred to as the twelve apostles. However, even when Jesus was still on earth, the terms “disciples” and “apostles” were used somewhat interchangeably. The word "doctrine" derives from the Latin term for teaching and refers to the content that was taught in the New Testament. The proper teaching of Scripture was called "The Apostles Doctrine", meaning that which the apostles taught. The Apostles' Doctrine is true not because an apostle taught it, but because it was "consistent" with the scriptures. The Bereans examined the teachings of Paul in light of the Scriptures before accepting it (Acts 17:10-12). Jesus the Son of the living God our teacher their Rabbi instructed and shared His kingdom 3 year ministry with the 12 selected apostles. One of the first religious exercises of the New Testament church after Pentecost was persevering in the Apostles' Doctrine. Doctrinal purity was essential to a New Testament church. The local churches placed themselves under God's authority by accepting the discipline of the Word of God. The proclamation of the Scripture became a popular discipline developing correct beliefs and life-style. When Christians need to be confronted and rebuked for sin or false belief, either individually or corporately, discipline of truth will correct the error and bring the church back to its biblical role. When an assembly of people in the Body of Christ remove itself from the "authority" of Scripture that assembly ceases to be a New Testament church. Illustration: Although the Church at Sardis had quite a reputation in its community, Jesus viewed it as having already died (Rev. 3:1). Application: All Christian believers should carefully evaluate the beliefs and practices of a church by the standards of God's Word. Then they should associate with and support the one that meets the New Testament standards. Matthew 18:17, Acts 2:42 and cf. Matthew 28:19.
The apostle's doctrine or teaching mentioned in Acts 2:42 is not clearly amplified anywhere else in Scripture. However, it is safe to assume that this creed may have been a collection of teachings that were compiled from the spiritual doctrines set out by the apostles to guide the New Testament church community. These were possibly principles derived from public teachings and writings of the apostles that were respected and used by the believers to guide their public worship to distinguish the church from the faith and practices of Judaism from which most of the Jewish believers were converted. They could also have consisted of basic statements of faith for the emerging church community or a set of regulations defining the conduct of believers. Could it possibly be that part of the teachings of say 1 Peter and 1,2, & 3 John may have been critical inputs to the apostles creed? We may never know precisely what was contained in the creed but it must have a beneficial collection of teachings for the church then since they did not have the benefit of the New Testament canon that is available to us today.
The "apostles' doctrine" is simply the foundational content for the believer's spiritual growth and maturity and was the Scripture, God's revealed truth, which the apostles received and taught faithfully (from the footnotes in the MacArthur Study Bible). In other words, their doctrine is what you read in the NT since they wrote it with the guidance of the HS. Fellowship refers to the responsibility of all believers to share and hold each other accountable for obedience. Breaking of bread, of course, refers to communion, which is mandatory for all Christians. Prayers refers to individual and corporate prayer. It's a fairly straightforward verse. Nothing tough about its interpretation.
There are four parts to this verse: The Apostles teaching, the fellowshipping, the breaking of bread, and prayers. The “FOUR” parts seem to make a passing reference to Christ (The Cornerstone). “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” Ephesians 2:20 These attributes of the first church serve as an example and pattern for churches in the future to follow. The author states that the followers of the Apostles were “devoted” to them. He is telling us that the followers were convinced of the Apostles authority and of the soundness of their teaching. They were committed to following them. They were also committed to fellowshipping. They got to know one another, minister to one another, and share with one another. The term “breaking of bread” speaks to the spiritual element that the church assigns to eating which is a normal human activity. We can sit down and enjoy God’s blessing in thanksgiving and peace as brothers. The Apostles were also following the example of Christ who broke bread, gave thanks, and shared it with the masses. “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” Mark 6:41 & verse 8:6. I also see this as pointing to the attributes of God “El Shaddai” the God who is more than enough and, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our Provider. We are called to pray all throughout scripture. Christ prayed often throughout scripture. Prayer is a unique form of communication for Christians, between themselves and God. Christ taught us “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13. We also see that prayer is so important that even the Apostles couldn’t perform a miracle in a difficult case without prayer: Mark 9:29. In conclusion, we see that the four characteristics of the first church: teaching, fellowshipping, breaking bread, and prayer were cornerstones of Christ’s ministry on Earth, The Chief Cornerstone Himself. Matthew 21:42
Following a standard practice of understanding what is written, we need to look at what came right before the statement is made. We cannot just "assume" because then we simply have man's opinion rather than letting the scripture itself speak to us. Just prior to the statement, "They continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine," the only teaching revealed is the sermon Peter delivered. A careful combing of that sermon reveals what is being referred to. An assumption that letters, all written later, are included with this statement is part of the problem of using the word to make it say what you think, rather than thinking what scripture reveals. Read Peter's sermon, note the specifics he shares, and understand that this was the doctrine being taught, along with the previous things Jesus taught His disciples during his 3 years with them. Happy hunting in God's word for His truth (not mans opinion!).
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, "As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'.” - Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7, 26. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says, "For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." So, according to God's Word - the "apostle's doctrine" is Holiness. That perfect character of a Christian that can ONLY be achieved by being in Christ - for He only is holy (John 15:4).
Good question, Richard Evans! I think it just means their teaching. The apostles' teaching formed the basis of the instruction given to the first Christians. The apostles' teaching is brought out in these passages: Acts 2:42; Titus 1:9 See also Matthew 28:19-20, etc.
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