Those who hold to the doctrines of protestant theology claim that the first church was started on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. However an honest investigation into the Scriptures will prove sufficiently that Jesus started His first church shortly after He began His personal ministry on earth.
1. Jesus said that He would start His church – Mat 16:18, “I will build my church …”
If the church had started on Pentecost with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit was the founder of the church - not Jesus. There is no escape from this conclusion.
2. The Bible says that apostles were added to the church - 1Cor 12:28, “And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,…” This is irrefutably recorded in Lk 6:12-16 (Mk 3:13-19; Mat 10:1-8). (Read also Eph 2:20.)
3. In dealing with the issue of disunity among brethren in His church, Jesus instructed His disciples about the matter of church discipline in Mat 18:17.
“Tell it to the church … “
How could they “tell it” to the church if the church did not exist yet?
4. If the church was started on Pentecost, then the ‘Great Commission’ given in Mat 28:18-20 is no longer a church commission. Furthermore, if the ‘Great Commission’ is to be understood as given by Christ exclusively to only the remaining eleven apostles (Mat 28:16), then the ‘Great Commission’ responsibility had already ceased long ago when the very last of these apostles died. There would therefore be no more necessity today to engage in the Great Commission mandate, and the Lord’s church today is left without any commission. To assume that the Great Commission Jesus gave was to everyone and anyone, whether in His church or outside His church, as long as they are saved from hell, is to cheapen the compelling mandate of Christ to a very universal application. It is extremely obvious that Christ gave the ‘Great Commission’ to ”His church,” institutionally in a corporate capacity and not to His disciples in individual capacity. In issuing the ‘Great Commission’ to His church, Jesus also promised His continued indwelling presence with them until the end of the age. “… and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age)” – Mat 28:20. For this very reason, Christ promised to empower His church for the work of the Great Commission through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. This promise of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, was given as a fulfillment of His promise to His church (John 14:16-18,26; 15:26; 16:7,13; Lk 24:49-53; Acts 1:1-5,8; 2:33).
5. The theory that the first church started at Pentecost destroys the doctrine of the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper as “local church ordinances”.
John the Baptist received divine authority to make and baptize disciples – Malachi 3:1-3; John 1:6; Mat 21:23-27. Not long after His own baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus organized His first church from the materials (baptized disciples) that John prepared (Jn 1:35-51). Jesus Himself never baptized anyone, but to the disciples of His first church, Jesus gave authority to make and baptize other disciples (John 4:1,2).
Firstly, we see that baptism is administered to individuals with a view to organizing them as a corporate group of disciples into an ekklesia (a church) – just as in John the Baptist’s ministry when he prepared (made and baptized) the materials (disciples) for Jesus to organize into the first church. Secondly, by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, baptism is administered by assigned local church leaders, with a view to add new disciples into the membership of an existing, organized local body – Acts 2:41,47; 5:14; 1Cor 12:13,18. [Notice that John the Baptist only has authority to make and baptize disciples, but he had no authority to grant anyone else the authority to make and baptize disciples. Only Jesus had and did grant His church (institutionally) the authority to make and baptize disciples – Mat 28:18,19.]
The Lord’s Supper
Jesus partook the very first Supper with no one else but His church disciples - Mat 26:26-29. If it is claimed that no church had existed at that time, then those ‘disciples’ who partook of the Supper with Jesus were merely individuals outside the church. Such a careless presumption surely results in the loose practice of open communion by many denominational groups today, where the Lord’s Table is open to every individual in attendance at such assembly, regardless of whether they are or are not a member in that local body.
Paul the apostle had received the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from the Lord Jesus (1Cor 11:2,23) and he admonished the erring church at Corinth for not practicing this ordinance in proper decorum (1Cor 11:17-22). The Lord’s supper is definitely an ordinance of the local church whose members are identified with one another and can come together “in the church” (1Cor 11:18), and “into one place” (1Cor 11:20,33,34). Did not Jesus assemble together with His church disciples “in one place,” in the properly prepared guest-chamber of a house owner (Mk 14:12-26), and partook the Supper with them? Does not all the scriptural evidence consistently tell us that the Lord’s first Supper with His disciples was a church ordinance? Anyone with an open heart, will, after thorough investigation of the scriptures agree wholeheartedly that both the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are local church ordinances.
If so, then did not Jesus already have his church organized and established during His ministry on earth and NOT on the day of Pentecost of Acts chapter two?