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Reform Magazine | June 17, 2018

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Chapter & verse: Acts 2:42 

Chapter & verse: Acts 2:42 

Susan Durber asks: what is an apostolic church?

I keep coming across that verse from Acts 2, and the passage that follows, about the early Church. My own congregation, with our local Methodist church, has been reading Holy Habits by Andrew Roberts, which is inspired by Acts 2. In March, I shared in worship at a Pentecostal, apostolic church in Tanzania. ‘Apostolic’ because the people base their life and mission on those verses from Acts 2. In April, I joined the congregation at Buckfast Abbey in Devon and we read a portion of that chapter. It is a vivid expression of our unity that so many churches are feeling called to study this portion of Scripture, to revive and deepen discipleship and the reality of being ‘apostolic’, in the sense of ‘in line with’ or ‘in succession to’ those first apostles.

When it came to my turn to lead a study on this passage, specifically on how followers ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’, it struck me that Holy Habits and its associated materials assume, without apparent question, that this means devoting ourselves to study of the Bible. I’ve spent years of my life studying the Bible (I have a doctorate!) and I am almost instinctively prone to assume that that’s where we start. But for once, I found myself questioning this. ‘Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’ is actually something different from ‘studying the Bible’.

The earliest Christians did not have the Bible as we have it. They had what we now call the Old Testament. The New Testament was only then being written, and its authors did not know they were writing the Bible. One could say that the New Testament has its roots in the testimony of those very apostles, that the Bible in that sense comes from the Church (rather than the other way around)…

Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church, in Somerset

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2018 edition of  Reform

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