Ask a Pastor is a segment, where local Church Pastors, from different denominations, answer your questions about Christianity, theology, and denominational doctrines.
Our first series of questions comes from a conversation I had with my adult Son.
Hey Dr. Dennis, what did the pre-Nicene Fathers teach about the communion and baptism? Did they teach that they were necessary to salvation or accompanied salvation? Did they teach the necessity of Apostolic succession, and that it is the only way to have a true Church? Are the differences between their praxia and ours indicative of our apostasy? Thanks in advance, I realize you are very busy, so I appreciate your answers. I hope they will help some of the people following my page.
Bob, I have nothing in front of me at present. But here is what we have found: COMMUNION & BAPTISM. Communion was always real alcoholic wine and was seen fairly much as protestants see it today. Very much a symbol. Baptism was a picture of the reality. The reality being required, the symbol was considered very important. APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION was unknown to them. In fact, some assemblies without leaders were actually told to put for men and choose who is to lead them. They state emphatically and clearly that each Church Assembly is autonomous and none rules over another. Jerusalem is the MOTHER Church and Rome is almost unheard of. Alexander Egypt was the Christian learning center of the world. That regular communion, prayer, teaching and Church Discipline were THE descriptions of the weekly Church Service. In practice and apostasy in the Early Church, their teachings varied on practice of some details. Some Pastors in being zealous for purity of the teens in particular, became a bit legalistic. TODAY The sin in the modern Church is from the Pastors down. Scripture is to be taught weekly and nothing else. Church Discipline was practiced regularly by the Early Church and almost not at all by the modern Church. They saw a distinction between Justification and Salvation; no doubt because the Greek clarifies this. They were using every book in the New Testament from the beginning (not chosen hundreds of years later). Virgin Birth was a huge doctrine. Dispensationalism was a huge doctrine! Israel would be restored, Rome would break into 10 parts as Daniel said, the Antichrist would arise and while the Jews fled would persecute the Christians, who were obviously going to be here in the tribulation (Sorry to those who don’t like this, its their view in the early centuries). Then Christ would return. They did not believe that Jesus would or could return at any moment. Church leaders were to be men only. Preparing for ministry men would have to start serving at the bottom: start with burying the martyrs, become a Reader (Scriptures were read to those who gathered daily), and in time begin to teach new converts the essentials. There is much more, but this should be enough to chew on. A final note. Those who wish to state that the early church did not practice the above are ignorant of the Early Church. Reading a book ON the early church is not the same as reading them. Reading 1 or 2 of the Fathers is also not the same as reading all of the Church Fathers. The Fathers are the earliest witness of the things discussed above and are not necessarily right and/or wrong because of that. They are however, the first witnesses!