Bro. Thomas Weisser, tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
I have traveled extensively throughout the United States and overseas for 35 years teaching and preaching predominately on Apostolic history and doctrine. I have also written eight books, the most notable being After A Way Called Heresy. I continue to travel full time.
There has been some controversy of late over the origin and succession of the Church. What’s your opinion on this topic?
“Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (death) shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). In John, Jesus claimed to be starting a kingdom that was not earthly, but heavenly (John 18:36). In Matthew, He stated unequivocally that death would not prevail against it. He declared that all power in heaven and on earth was His (Mt. 28:18). Jesus’ self-assigned task is to build His Church. If He has all power, what could stop Him from doing what He said He would do?
At the beginning of the Church, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). To assert that this stopped somewhere along the line after the Church began would be denying the power of God to build and preserve. Gamaliel, a leader among the Jews in the first century, cautioned his fellow leaders to leave the early Church alone. He declared that if this new group growing in the area of Jerusalem was of God it would not be stopped.
In your opinion, has the church that began on the Day of Pentecost ever ceased to exist at any time in church history?
The concept that the early church ceased to exist for hundreds of years and then came back to life in the twentieth century is not biblical. This idea has birthed other unscriptural ideas, such as the idea that a new birth experience according to Acts 2:38 was not essential during these hundreds of years with no true Church. This opens the doors to false teaching that denies the necessity especially of Jesus’ name baptism. Baptism constitutes New Testament circumcision (Col. 2:11, 12) and is unto the remission of sins. To deny its necessity at any time since the establishment of the Church is to negate the basic scriptural teaching concerning it.
There is no indication in the New Testament that the requirements for entry into the Church would change over time. On the contrary, we are exhorted by Jude to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The New Testament is prophetic but we don’t see any indication that the future would see a death and rebirth of the Acts 2:38 church.
Where do these types of views come from and ultimately lead to?
There are some interesting views concerning the history of Christianity. The Roman Catholics embrace a church history model they call Apostolic succession. They affirm an unbroken succession of bishops of Rome starting with Peter and continuing to today.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a unique view of Apostolic succession. It claims that Apostolic succession was broken during the great apostasy, or falling away. It was restored in the early 1800s under the leadership of Joseph Smith in the United States.
There are many problems with both these groups. The biggest is that they both claim to promote Apostolic doctrine. When you compare their concepts, for example, of the gospel with biblical Apostolic teaching (Acts 2:38-42), you see a great deviation from the original. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, pronounces a curse on those who teach another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). Paul’s concept of the gospel can be plainly seen in the conversion of the followers of John the Baptist outside Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). The original gospel includes repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name and the reception of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Both the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church do not recognize this basic gospel message even though Acts is replete with examples of it. Both groups place too much authority in changeable human leadership instead of the unchangeable word of God. They both possess histories that are less than exemplary. Because they both deviate from original Apostolic teaching, their claims to be the Church that Jesus Christ is building are false.
How about among Oneness Pentecostals? What are the common views among our brethren on this subject?
Among Oneness Pentecostals, there seems to be two general views concerning this topic. One view follows the model embraced by the LDS Church. It says simply that sometime after the first century the Church fell into apostasy and was not restored until the twentieth century. Are we to assume then that God condemned millions to hell during this time because they had no opportunity to obey the gospel? The conclusion that another way of being saved was propagated during this time of darkness is contrary to scripture. Any other gospel has a curse on it according to Paul. I believe the proper view embraces a succession of believers, but, unlike the Catholic Church, it supports the concept of a faithful succession of Apostolic teaching as opposed to a succession of bishops, most of who deviated from Apostolic doctrine. This view has scriptural support (Mt. 16:18; Jude 3), and should be embraced by all Oneness Pentecostals.
The Lord’s Church mentioned in Matthew 16:18 is built upon Christ and His apostles. “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). This Church grows whenever people respond to the gospel as proclaimed by the apostles (Acts 2:38-42) and is manifested wherever people continue in the Apostolic doctrine.
So what are your final views on this topic?
We need to ask some hard questions concerning the history of the Church. Is it possible that a Church has existed for 2,000 years propagating the same message of the early Church? Definitely! With God all things are possible! Is it difficult to find historical documentation to back this up? Yes, but if we approach it from the premise that the Word of God is true we can be assured that the Church was there. Any indication in historical documentation of its existence would constitute a refreshing affirmation of what is already true.
If anyone has additional questions or wishes to schedule you for services how would they best contact you?
I would be glad to answer any questions. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (913) 240-3822. You can also visit my website at: www.ThomasWeisser.com.