As the apostles went to witness to the saving work of Christ, they bequeathed to subsequent generations the message that would constitute both saving faith and increasing godliness. Within the body of truth that leads a sinner to saving faith we find that the apostles included these propositions.
- They are to teach and preach in such a way that human sin is defined clearly and the need for salvation is established without equivocation (Acts 2:23, 38; Romans 1:18; 2:12; 3:9).
- They are to define repentance and faith so that the fitting response to the gospel will be understood and they will be drawn to trust in the completed work of Christ (Acts 3:13-20).
- They are to teach the character of God with clarity and establish his sovereignty over all things even in the midst of human sin and presumptuous arrogance (Acts 2:23)
- They are to proclaim the sole sufficiency of Christ in his death burial and resurrection for salvation and the certainty of judgment on the basis of the work of Christ (Acts 2:31-36; 4:10-12; 17:31).
- They were to teach all the elements of the gospel and the eternal purpose of God in glorifying himself through the grace of the gospel (Acts 20:26, 27).
Their “knowledge of the truth” that constitutes godliness would be identified with Jesus’ words, “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” It would include all that Jesus taught them to observe during his earthly ministry.
- Jesus said to baptize believers. He confirmed baptism by submitting to John’s baptism, gave it its powerful meaning in his death, burial, and resurrection.
- Celebrate regularly the memorial of his death. This do in remembrance of me, that is, in the particular purpose of his coming to give his life a ransom for many (Luke 22:17-20; Mark 10:45).
- Expect men to revile and persecute you. The servant is not better than his master. Have courage in these times of error, hostility, and persecution. Rejoice when it is for the sake of Christ (Matthew 5:11; 10:22-28).
- Love one another (John 13:34, 35). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- Go to the Samaritans; go the Gentiles; preach the gospel to the outcast and to those deeply miserable in sin. “But when they [people of Samaria] believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 812). “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38, 39). “Can anyone withhold water from baptizing these people [Gentiles], who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47, 48). “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’” (Acts 16:14, 15).
Included in these commandments would be all that Jesus would teach them to observe through the continued revelatory ministry of the Holy Spirit in the apostles (John 16:12-15).
- Distinguish between the ceremonial and the moral law that people might understand the nature of saving grace and righteousness (Acts 10:44-48; Galatians 5:1-3; Philippians 3:1-3).
- Contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (1 John 4:1-6; Jude 3).
- Cultivate the affections by which the power of indwelling sin will more and more be subdued (Galatians 5:13-16; Romans 8:12-14).
- They were to teach that the inevitable outflow of true faith was holiness of life (Romans 12:1, 2).
- They were to instruct believers that purification from sin and mortification of unlawful lust in this life would prepare them for the righteousness of the heavenly life (2 Peter 3:11-13; 1 John 3:1-6).
- Each believer should be prepared to give a defense in a clear and respectful manner of the reason for your hope of eternal life (1 Peter 3:13-17).
- Love one another. “And now I ask you, dear lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments” (2 John 5, 6).
Jesus’ authoritative command as Lord of heaven and earth is accompanied by the assurance of his presence even to the end of the age. Two observations I will make here: one, in all the challenges that come to those who obey this command, the Lord himself ordains those things for his own glory and his authority surrounds and is infused into them all so that one need never despair of the presence, power, and sovereign operations of the risen savior; two, this promise is not for one age only, and thus the relevance of the command, but will endure to “the end of the age.”
Dr. Tom Nettles is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He joined the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was professor of Church History and chairman of that department. Previously, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a B.A. from Mississippi College and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern. In addition to writing numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles has authored or edited nine books including By His Grace and For His Glory, Baptists and the Bible, and Why I Am a Baptist.
Courses taught: Historical Theology of the Baptists, Historical Theology Overview, Jonathan Edwards & Andrew Fuller.