Advent 1 Midweek: Sermon Series, the Four Pillars of the Christian Community
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
November 30, 2011
Central Passage
Acts 2:42
Pillar 1: Apostolic Doctrine
Advent Midweek 1
November 30, 2011
+ On Apostolic Doctrine +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles written by St. Luke, we read that the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”  These four things: apostolic doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers, are the four pillars of the Christian community, the Church.  Since Pentecost the believers have devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.   Over the next four weeks, we will be looking at each one of these as they guide and define what it means to belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

So what is meant by the “Apostolic Doctrine”?  Doctrine means teaching.  Perhaps you’ve heard the word “dogma” too.  Dogma is not doctrine.  A dogma is a practice based on belief.  Closed Communion, for example, is dogma, not doctrine.  Dogma can change and fluctuate; like the dogma of the frequency of the Lord’s Supper.  Weekly communion, or quarterly, is dogma, not doctrine.  But participating in the body and blood of Christ is doctrine, it’s the teaching that informs and guides dogma.

The Apostolic Doctrine, then, is the teaching of the apostles.  Plain and simple.  What the apostles taught is the Apostolic Doctrine.  So what do the apostles teach?  What is their doctrine?  It can be found in the Bible, of course, but it is summed up and covered quite succinctly in the Apostles’ Creed.

In the Creed we learn and confess that God the Father created us and gives us all things.  We learn and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Mary, our Savior and Redeemer by His blood, and that He is our Lord. And we learn that the Holy Spirit is the Great Comforter, guiding us to Christ and keeping us with Him, forgiving our sins and so forth, as the apostles teach, which is why the Nicene Creed confesses that we believe in the apostolic Church; the Church founded on the apostles’ teaching.

But the apostles’ teaching is not like the teachings of medical professors or law professors, or even like seminary professors.  The apostles don’t teach by filling our head with facts or having us complete problems and puzzles.  They teach by forgiving us.  Christ is our true Teacher, our only Rabbi, and He teaches us through the Apostolic Office, the office of forgiveness.

We can learn all the facts recorded in the Bible; the who’s who of biblical times and places.  we can learn times and dates and sequence of events.  We can even learn the order of the books and other such things.  But that is not being taught by Christ.  That is being taught as a medical student or law student is taught.  But being taught by Christ, by His apostles, is to be forgiven; to receive holy absolution and cling to that forgiveness as life itself, for so it is.

Because that is the chief doctrine: forgiveness of sins.  One might be so bold as to say that all apostolic doctrine, all the teaching of the Bible flow from and take us back to the forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ.  By being forgiven we learn how to live before God and man.  We learn how to love and to give. We learn what to say and what not to say. We even learn how to judge.  The apostles were sent in the same way and for the same reason Jesus was sent by the Father, to breathe out the Spirit of life and so forgive sins.

If you want to know if a prophet is true or false, don’t bother with biblical facts – though certainly the pastors and teachers should know these – just ask for forgiveness for Christ’s sake, through His blood and by His authority.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +