Acts Shows What the Early Church Believed and Practiced
The book of Acts is a key historical record of what the early Church believed and practiced. Its initial chapters describe the Church's founding and early years; its later chapters describe the travels and actions of the apostle Paul.
The common view among most churches today is that Jesus came to abolish the Old Testament laws and that Paul taught that keeping these laws was no longer necessary for Christians. But what does the book of Acts reveal about what the early Church thought and did? Does it support this view, or does it show us something very different? Was it in conflict with typical Jewish custom and practice of the day as laid down in the Old Testament? Look at the evidence yourself—you be the judge!
Acts 2:1 —The New Testament Church miraculously began when the members were assembled on the Feast of Pentecost (also called the Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits), in accordance with God's commands of Leviticus 23:15-16, 21 and Deuteronomy 16:16.
Acts 2:46 —The early Church met daily "with one accord in the temple."
Acts 5:19-20 —After the apostles were imprisoned, an angel told the apostles to continue teaching at the temple.
Acts 5:21, 25, 42 —The apostles continued teaching in the temple.
Acts 5:32 — Peter taught that God gives His Holy Spirit "to those who obey Him."
Acts 6:7 —"A large number of priests became obedient to the faith" (NIV)—they saw no contradiction between Christianity and their roles as priests.
Acts 7:1-53 —Stephen explained that Jesus Christ and Christianity are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and a natural outgrowth of what the Old Testament scriptures foretold.
Acts 8:26-39 —Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
Acts 9:20 —Immediately after his miraculous conversion, Paul "preached the Christ in the synagogues" in Damascus.
Acts 10:14 —About a decade after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, Peter said, "I have never eaten anything common or unclean"—he obviously was continuing to obey God's laws regarding clean and unclean meats found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. (To understand the true meaning of this passage, and how it is grossly misinterpreted, request or download our free booklet Clean and Unclean Meats: What Does the Bible Really Teach?)
Acts 11:8 — Peter recounted the event, saying, "Nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth."
Acts 13:5 —In Salamis on Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas "preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews."
Acts 13:14-41 —In Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath, explaining from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and Son of God.
Acts 13:42 —At the conclusion of this synagogue service, "the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." If the Sabbath were done away, Paul and Barnabas missed a golden opportunity to explain to these gentiles that they could teach them the very next day—Sunday—or any other day. Instead they met again the next Sabbath!
Acts 13:44 —"On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God" taught by Paul and Barnabas. In all of the many mentions of Paul teaching on the Sabbath, not once is there so much as a hint that they need not be there to observe the Sabbath as commanded, nor any hint that they should instead meet on Sunday.
Acts 14:1 — Paul and Barnabas taught in the synagogue in Iconium.
Acts 15:20-21 —At the conclusion of the Jerusalem conference on the issue of circum-cision, the Church pointed gentile Christians to regulations that would allow them to meet alongside Jews in synagogues, where "Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (NIV). (To learn more, see "The Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15: What Was Decided?".)
Acts 16:13 —In Philippi, Paul met with Jews on the Sabbath beside a river and taught them about Jesus Christ.
Acts 17:1-2 —In Thessalonica, Paul, "as his custom was," went to the synagogue "and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures."
Acts 17:10-11 —In Berea, Paul and Silas "went into the synagogue of the Jews" and taught, after which their hearers "searched the [Old Testament] Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
Acts 17:17 —In Athens, Paul reasoned in the synagogue with Jews and gentiles.
Acts 18:4 —In Corinth, Paul "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks."
Acts 18:19 —In Ephesus, Paul "entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews."
Acts 18:21 — Paul departed Ephesus, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem"—in accordance with God's command in Deuteronomy 16:16.
Acts 19:8 —After returning to Ephesus, Paul "went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months."
Acts 20:6 — Paul and his group "sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread," one of God's festivals commanded in Leviticus 23:6 and Deuteronomy 16:16.
Acts 20:16 — Paul changed his travel plans because "he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost," another of God's festivals.
Acts 21:20 —In Jerusalem, the apostles told Paul that "many thousands of Jews have believed [in Jesus Christ], and all of them are zealous for the law" (NIV). They saw no contradiction between Christianity and the laws they had always followed.
Acts 21:21-26 —To counter false accusations that he taught against the law and to show that he himself was "living in obedience to the law" (NIV), Paul joined with several men to be purified at the temple and to pay their expenses for their rites and offerings.
Acts 24:14 — Paul, in a legal hearing before the Roman governor Felix, stated that he worshiped the God of his fathers and believed "all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets"—the Old Testament.
Acts 25:8 —In a legal hearing before the next Roman governor, Festus, Paul said, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."
Acts 27:9 —Luke noted that sailing in the Mediterranean Sea in late autumn "was now dangerous because the Fast"—a reference to the Day of Atonement, one of God's Holy Days (Leviticus 23:27)—"was already over."
Acts 28:17 —Speaking to the Jews in Rome where he was now a prisoner, Paul told them, "I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers."
The record from the book of Acts couldn't be clearer. Paul and the early Church were not at odds with the laws of the Old Testament!
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