What is the New Apostolic Church, and what do they believe?
Question: "What is the New Apostolic Church, and what do they believe?"
Answer: The New Apostolic Church (NAC) is a religious group that perverts Christian doctrine, teaches the existence of modern-day apostles and prophets, and promotes a works-based salvation.
Like Mormonism, the New Apostolic Church was founded in the 19th century with the claim that all other Christian denominations were in error. Also like the Mormons, the New Apostolic Church claims to base its doctrines on Scripture, but twists it to suit their own heresies. They actually have some very good teaching on church history, the trinity, and other mainstream Christian doctrines—mixing truth and error is a Satanic tactic that makes error harder to spot (see Matthew 4:5–6).
The New Apostolic Church imbues their “apostles” with cult-like authority, teaching that no one has access to God’s forgiveness, sacraments, or salvation except through them. The New Apostolic Church began as an offshoot of the Catholic Apostolic Church, founded in England the 1830s as the result of a prophecy that “restored” apostolic succession, making their founders the first apostles called by God since the death of the apostle John. This is an astonishing claim considering they also believe that the grace of God does not operate apart from God’s apostles. According to the Eighth Article of Faith in the New Apostolic Church catechism, “those baptised with water must, through an Apostle, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to attain the childhood in God.” So, apparently, God neglected to bring anyone into His kingdom for eighteen centuries until the New Apostolic Church came along. The New Apostolic Church claims some ten million members in 60,000 locations worldwide, mostly in Europe, with perhaps 250 congregations in the U.S.
Other errors of the New Apostolic Church include these teachings: 1) water baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins; 2) baptism is only the first of several steps toward becoming a “child of God”; 3) legitimate Christian baptism can only be administered by an apostle (i.e., a New Apostolic Church apostle, since they do not recognize apostles of other denominations); 4) the gift of the Holy Spirit is received only through a New Apostolic Church apostle, and only after water baptism; 5) it is through New Apostolic Church apostles that God forgives sins; and 6) prayers and sacramental rites for the dead are effectual for the salvation of the dead.
These teachings make the New Apostolic Church a works-based cult. They require works that clearly involve a lifetime of obedience to the teachings and leadership of the New Apostolic Church to reach the highest spiritual levels. Here also from The Eighth Article of Faith:
“‘Childhood in God’ is that condition of a human being before God which is characterised by receiving all the sacraments and aligning one’s life by the return of Christ, in accordance with the proper proclamation of the gospel. The future effect of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is to attain the status of firstling. However, the sealed believer has not yet acquired the status of firstling, but through the baptism of the Spirit, he has received the prerequisite for attaining it. If the believer strives for the day of Christ, he can belong to the bridal congregation, or the 'community of the saints'. Sealed believers have been assigned the task of following Christ continually and allowing themselves to be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ through word and sacrament.”
As with many Christian-based heretical groups, the New Apostolic Church requires a multi-step hierarchy of deeds, all of which must be done properly under the continual guidance and authority of the cult, in the vague hope of eventually, maybe, reaching the highest level—in this case, the “community of saints.” Also we notice their use of obscure terms such as firstling not found in Scripture.
Contrast the requirement of sacraments with the clear gospel promises: “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
One of the false doctrines of the New Apostolic Church is baptismal regeneration. Regarding baptism, the New Apostolic Church teaches, “Holy Baptism with water is the first step to a renewal of a human being in the Holy Spirit, and that the person baptised is adopted into the fellowship of those who believe in Jesus Christ and profess Him as their Lord.” Also, “Original sin is washed away through Holy Baptism with water and that the baptised is now incorporated into the church of Christ. He thereby becomes a Christian” (New Apostolic Church Catechism, Sixth Article of Faith).
In contrast, water baptism in the Bible always comes after saving faith in Christ. Baptism for believers is a public, symbolic expression of their acceptance by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23–25). For example, the evangelist Philip explained the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, who believed and was then baptized (Acts 8:34–38). The apostle Peter was called by God to go to the house of a Gentile and preach the gospel to that household. While Peter was preaching, they believed and received the Holy Spirit. So Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:44–47). The order in Scripture could not be clearer: become a Christian by faith first, be baptized second.
Members of the New Apostolic Church need to be freed from a false gospel taught by false prophets. Freedom is found in the simple message of saving grace contained in the true gospel of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 1:6–9).
Recommended Resource: A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement by Geivett & Pivec
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Questions about Cults and Religions
What is the New Apostolic Church, and what do they believe?