13. New Apostolic Christians and their life of faith
Prayer is an opportunity given by God for human beings to enter into contact with Him. In prayer the believer experiences: God is present, God hears, and God answers. Thus the believing human being bows before God’s majesty and love in humbleness. The Holy Spirit provides inspiration for proper prayer.
Praying is at times described as the “breathing of the soul”. This image serves to illustrate the necessity of prayer for the believer.
Faith without prayer is not a living faith. A prayer without faith is not a real prayer.
There are many references to the worship of God in the Old Testament. The hymn of Moses serves as a good example: “For I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32: 3-4).
The most important endeavour of the Psalms is to give thanks to God in prayer, and to bring Him praise and glory. The Old Testament also contains many references to prayers that implore the help and support of God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave important instructions concerning prayer (cf. Matthew 6: 5-8). We are not to make an outward show of prayer nor are we to use a lot of words. We may address God as “Father”. Prayers should come from the heart.
In view of His return Jesus admonished: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21: 36).
The gospels attest that Jesus often withdrew to pray. The gospel of Luke relates that Jesus made a special point of praying before decisive events, namely:
- before the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (cf. Luke 3: 21, 22),
- before He chose the twelve Apostles (cf. Luke 6: 12),
- before the Father transfigured Him in the presence of witnesses from here and the beyond (cf. Luke 9: 28-36),
- before His sufferings began (cf. Luke 22: 41-46),
- before He died on the cross (cf. Luke 23: 46).
It is of note that Jesus already gave
thanks before His prayer had been
granted (cf. John 11: 41-42).
The “intercessory prayer” is recorded in John 17. This is the great prayer that Jesus prayed prior to His passion. Here He prayed for the Apostles and for the future congregation, and thus also for us: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one...” (John 17: 20, 21).
The early Christians practised communal prayer: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1: 14).
Accounts of intensive prayers are also recorded in association with significant events, for example the choosing of Matthias as an Apostle or the ordination of the first seven Deacons.
The Apostles were also accompanied by the prayers of the congregation in situations of danger (cf. Acts 12: 1-12).
“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6: 4
Prayer is not bound to any outward form, nevertheless, the intensity of the prayer can be promoted by closing one’s eyes, folding one’s hands, or kneeling. The supplicant thereby withdraws from the busy activity of daily life to pause and bow before God in humbleness. New Apostolic Christians begin and end their day with a prayer. They also pray before meals. They may also turn to God repeatedly in the course of the day in order to feel His nearness and seek His help.
In the family circle, parents pray with their children and thereby teach them to develop their own prayer life.
The content of a prayer is defined by adoration and worship, thanks, petitions, and intercessions.
The knowledge of the majesty of God prompts human beings to worship and adore Him: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95: 6).
When praying, we give thanks for everything that has been given to us by the goodness of God: word, grace, and sacrament, as well the earthly gifts of sustenance, clothing, and accommodation.
We bring all our concerns to God in our petitions. These have to do with preservation in faith, angel protection, or help in daily life. The most significant petition is with regard to the imminent return of Christ and our longing to be accepted in grace at that moment.
Intercessions are an expression of love for our neighbour. They are not limited to our own family or congregation, but can rather include all those who need God’s help, be it on earth or in the beyond.
Prayer strengthens faith and trust in God, and provides the assurance of security in God. After praying, the supplicant is sure that all his concerns now lie in the hand of God: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37: 5).
In general, the term “willingness to offer and sacrifice” refers to a person’s inner desire to use his gifts and talents for the benefit of others and even put his own interests aside for this purpose.
In common language, “sacrifices” are gifts that are offered to God. They can also be understood as human deeds performed in service to others. Monetary gifts that are donated for religious purposes are likewise “sacrifices” in the religious sense.
We understand our “sacrifices” to be the gifts and talents, time, and energy that are put to work in the service of God and His work.
Even the endeavour to refrain from doing something for the benefit of God’s work is a sacrifice.
Believers also feel the need to express their gratitude and love for God in concrete gifts (sacrifices), be it in the form of money or natural goods. According to Malachi 3: 10, we are to bring the “tithe” of our increase into the house of the Lord. The “tithe” can serve as a guide to the members in their offerings.
Sacrifice was of great significance in the old covenant. Through their sacrifices, the people sought to express gratitude, turn away the punishment of God, or bring about reconciliation.
Sacrifices were brought in many different forms. The Mosaic Law specifically prescribed all the details of the sacrificial service (cf. Leviticus 1-7).
The sacrificial service of the Old Testament, which was to reconcile human beings with God, lost its significance through the sacrifice of Christ (cf. Hebrews 8-10). In the sense of the New Testament, sacrifice implies leading a life in accordance with the gospel. So it is that Apostle Paul called upon the Christians to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (Romans 12: 1).
“Now where there is remission of these [sins], there is no longer an offering for sin.”
Hebrews 10: 18
Jesus Christ is the greatest example of willingness to sacrifice. Out of love for mankind, He gave His life as an offering and a sacrifice.
Even though no other sacrifice can be compared to the sacrifice of the Lord, His willingness to sacrifice is nevertheless an example that calls upon us to follow Him.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice...”
Ephesians 5: 1-2
A sacrifice in the Christian sense should not be considered an enforced obligation. Neither should it be made in expectation of a reward. Rather, the willingness to sacrifice should spring forth from faith, gratitude, and love for God.
Willingness to sacrifice is shown directly in congregational life: many members dedicate a considerable portion of their leisure time, energy, and talent to the service of the congregation without remuneration. Many of them are active in the musical programming and instruction of the Church. With few exceptions, the ministers also work in a voluntary capacity.
It is a “spiritual sacrifice” when one subordinates one’s own will to the will of God and allows oneself to be led by that which God desires.
Basically, human beings can only bring sacrifices because God has already blessed them beforehand. These sacrifices are therefore an expression of gratitude for that which they have received.
In the case of any sacrifice, the attitude of heart is the deciding factor. If the sacrifice is made willingly out of thankfulness and love, blessing will be associated with it. This can be experienced in earthly life, for example in the form of natural wellbeing. However, blessing is primarily of a spiritual nature, which includes the imparting of divine salvation out of the merit of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1: 3-7).
“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9: 6-8
Marriage is the lifelong union between a man and woman, as desired by God, and upon which His blessing rests. It also forms the foundation for the family. It is based on a public promise of fidelity that is freely given by both partners. Mutual love and fidelity are indispensable factors in the success of a marriage.
Polygamy (marriage with multiple spouses) is not consistent with Christian doctrine and tradition.
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1: 27-28). – Both man and woman are thus created in the image of God. Different yet equal before him, they both stand under the blessing of God.
Human beings are created to have companionship. In their spouses, both man and woman have a counterpart whom they can support and help. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2: 18).
By entering into marriage, man and woman are amalgamated into a single entity intended to last for their lifetime: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2: 24).
The wedding blessing can have many different effects: it provides strength for enduring love and fidelity, promotes the willingness to serve, help, and understand one another, and it helps partners to forgive each other and reconcile differences. However, the blessing received can only take effect if the couple conducts themselves accordingly.
It is desirable for spouses to have a common agreement in matters of faith, however, the fact that both partners are Christians is no guarantee for a harmonious matrimony.
All questions pertaining to their life together should be discussed and clarified before marriage, particularly in the case where either one of the partners is of a different culture, religion, or confession.
If mutual consent and true love stand in the foreground, sex can be an important bond within a marriage and contribute to the wellbeing of both spouses. Sex in marriage should be defined by mutual respect, sensitivity, and understanding.
Family planning is at the discretion of both partners. Nevertheless, the Church opposes all contraceptive methods and means that function primarily to terminate an already fertilised egg cell. The Church generally accepts artificial insemination, however, it opposes all measures by which life may be destroyed through human choice.
The Ten Commandments provide direction for fulfilling one’s duties in one’s profession and in society.
It is the obligation of the Christian to contribute to the benefit of society. Each individual shares in this responsibility.
Within the scope of its capacity and commission, the New Apostolic Church helps to promote the common good. The New Apostolic Church advocates peace in the world, appeals for reconciliation, and admonishes forgiveness. It opposes all forms of violence.
Yes, New Apostolic Christians are active in public life. The Church does not influence its members concerning their political opinions or activities.
The New Apostolic Church calls upon its members to treat all people— irrespective of social standing, age, language, or any other differences—with respect and tolerance.
The New Apostolic Church attaches importance to open and constructive relations with governments and public authorities. It is politically neutral. Its activities conform to the laws of each respective country, in accordance with Romans 13: 1: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” This presupposes that even the power of the state is in harmony with the divine commandments.
The Church fulfils its legal obligations under the laws and regulations of the respective countries in which it works. In turn, it also expects its position to be respected and acknowledged.
The New Apostolic Church and its members respect the religious practices of other people and refrain from making derogatory remarks concerning those of different faiths, different religions, and different denominations. They endeavour to have a good and peaceable relationship on the basis of mutual respect. The Church rejects all forms of religious fanaticism.
In dialogue with other Christian churches—irrespective of differing doctrinal positions—the commonalities of the Christian faith are emphasised.
The New Apostolic Church is committed to the gospel. Thus it understands its duty to engage in charitable activity that benefits all people irrespective of personal differences. This work is supported by the voluntary commitment of many helpers in the congregations, but also by material assistance.
Within the scope of its abilities, the Church plans, promotes, and supports nonprofit and charitable projects, institutions, and aid campaigns around the world. It also works in collaboration with relief organisations.