In The Apostolic Age
Edward T. Hiscox, in his book Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, said on p. 22, under the heading of “Church Membership”:
It is most likely that in the Apostolic Age when there was but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, “baptism was the door into the church.” Now, it is different.
I want you to notice this part of his statement: “When no differing denominations existed…” This admission of “no differing denominations” is exactly what was true “in the days of the apostles”! We read that Jesus built only one church - his church. Not churches (Matthew 16.18). The gospel even affirms that there is only one gospel: “I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1.6-7). Mr. Hiscox’s confession that there was only one church in the Apostolic Age is indeed the truth!
How, then, did the “differing denominations” come into existence? The gospel is very clear in explaining how they began. One thing is obvious: They began after the apostles! They began as a result of men who preached a different gospel from what the apostles preached. That is why denominational doctrines (plural) differ not only from the apostles’ doctrine (singular) but from one another.
The early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine because that was the only doctrine that was preached for a few years (Acts 2.42). It can be, and must still be, preached today.
In order for a church to be “of Christ,” the same “form of doctrine” (Romans 6.17) that the apostles preached in the book of Acts must be preached about how a sinner is to “call upon the name of the Lord.” The gospel teaches that in baptism, a sinner puts on Christ (Galatians 3.27) and that baptism is in order to receive remission of sins (Acts 2.38; 3.19). Baptism was the door into Christ’s church. That is what the apostles taught. The apostles’ doctrine was one and the same as the gospel. It is not different now.
The apostles’ doctrine regarding marriage as being between a man and a woman must be preached today (Ephesians 5.31-33). The same is true of divorce and remarriage (Romans 7.3; 1 Corinthians 7.11)., of acceptable worship (Philippians 3.3), of church government being by a plurality of pastors rather than one-man pastor over multiple churches (Titus 1.5; 1 Peter 5.1), and of the exercise of and submission to authority (1 Corinthians 11.3; 14.34; 1 Timothy 2.12; Titus 2.5). It is not different now.
Jesus prayed in John 17.20-21 for all of his disciples to be united, not divided. This is also true of unity in teaching. If the same doctrine is preached and obeyed, that division will end and unity will abound. Preachers have a responsibility to teach what the apostles of the Lord preached - on every subject.
Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus: “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1.3). “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: From such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6.3-5). “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1.10-11). “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1.13).
Remember, differing churches exist because of differing doctrines. In the Apostolic Age, there was but one doctrine (Acts 2.42; 1 Corinthians 11.23a; 14.37).