One of the keys to understanding when the New Testament church began is in discerning the very basics of what the church is. The church, in its purest form, is an assembly of two or more born-again, Holy Spirit indwelt believers who are in a covenant relationship with God through the mediation of Christ as our High Priest under His headship. That’s it. There are no other Scriptural prerequisites placed upon the church. Therefore, we must search the Scriptures to discover where these elements converged; nothing added and nothing removed. An honest study of the Word will reveal that the only place and time this could have occurred was when the Holy Spirit began His indwelling of believers on the day of Pentecost. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about when the church began? Is it passages of Scripture or church doctrine? What you’ve read in the Word, or what you’ve heard a pastor preach? The answer to these questions will reveal what your beliefs are based upon; the Word of God or the words of man. The beginning and essence of the church is founded in five primary doctrines upon which all other church-related doctrines rest. First, the Age of Grace, Church Age, or Dispensation of Grace, as it is called, is founded upon a blood covenant; the covenant of the blood and body of Jesus Christ. According to Hebrews 10:1-22 and 11:32-40, we have salvation, sanctification, remission of sins, and access to the true holiest of holies by the shed blood of Christ. This is accomplished by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is synonymous with our having received the very righteousness of Christ. Also, according to Hebrews 7-10, Christ did not become the mediator of the New Covenant until the Covenant was sealed by His death. The termination of the Law Covenant was signified by the splitting of the temple veil. For the Testament in Christ to begin, the old Testament must first end. Christ died under the law Covenant of the Law. This is not man’s wisdom or religious dogma; it is clear Bible doctrine that is explained in great detail. I am amazed at pastors and long-time believers who completely overlook unambiguous Bible doctrine in lieu of denominational teachings. Second, the resurrection of Christ as our ever living High Priest demonstrated God’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Under the law, any high priest who entered the holy of holies unworthily or with an unworthy sacrifice was struck dead. This is the reason why Paul said, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Paul knew the law and understood the resurrection’s role in the fulfillment of the law. Jesus did not become our High Priest until after He fulfilled the role of the ever-living High Priest. This included remaining alive after offering the sacrifice of His own blood to God. How could Jesus’ followers be priests before God with access to the very throne of God before Christ became their High Priest? The answer is simple. They couldn’t. Therefore, eternal salvation and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by the accepted sacrifice came at a time after He rose from the dead. The church would have been an unregenerate assembly up to that point. Third, Christ’s ascension into the Holiest of Holies to present the blood sacrifice to God was the final fulfillment of the law under the old Covenant. The sin offerings under the old Covenant were pictures and types of Christ. The sins of the people were temporarily covered for one year after the offering was accepted by God in the earthly holy of holies; the physical representation of the true Holy of Holies at God’s throne. Therefore, the sins of all the followers of Yahweh and Jesus Christ in all ages were not eternally covered until the true sacrifice of Christ’s blood was offered directly to God in heaven. God could not have been any clearer when he inspired these words, “Without shedding of blood is no remission (of sins).” “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” “When he had by himself purged our sins, (He) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Our sins were covered by the shed blood of Christ when it was offered to God at His throne. This truth is not implied, inferred, nor hidden in the original languages of Scripture. God has stated it clearly. Fourth, Jesus is the Head of the church. Scripture states that God the Father set Him as the Head of the church after His ascension. There is no life in the body without the head. To place the beginning of the New Testament Church at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry requires that Jesus be the elder of the first local church. Scripture never identifies Him as anything less than the Head and Saviour of the Body. This doctrine is rooted in assumption; not in clearly stated Biblical doctrine. Elders are elected to position by a vote of men. This is the consistent Scriptural example. No man voted Christ into any position within the church. Putting Him in the position of a pastor or earthly elder places Him under the authority of the congregation. There is not a single verse of Scripture which supports this doctrine. Passages which are used to prove this belief are followed with explanations of how the passage implies or infers something that is not directly stated within the text. This is the same hermeneutic that Catholic and Protestant churches use to support infant baptism, Mary worship, baptismal regeneration, theistic evolution, and other false doctrines. How can we say that their use of this interpretational method is invalid, and then turn around and use the very same methods to prove our own church doctrines? The text says what God meant it to say; without implication or inference. Passages should only be clarified by Scriptural comparison; not by human reasoning. It could even be argued that any doctrine which defines Christ as an elder in a local church is heresy. Fifth, there could be no church without the baptism or indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the promise and seal of an individual’s salvation. The indwelling indicates a new relationship with God that is distinctly different from what was known under the Covenant of the law. God had symbolically dwelt in the tabernacle and in the Temple, but He now dwells literally in the soul of every believer by the indwelling of His Spirit. The only references to church membership clearly show it to be an act of God by baptism in the Holy Spirit. He is the seal of the New Covenant; the promise of the Father. During Jesus’ ministry, the baptism of believers by Christ into the Holy Spirit was always referred to in the future tense. Just before His ascension, Christ himself told the apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Sprirt. He stated “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” The promise of the Spirit could not be fulfilled until the sacrifice was made to God. Why is it so difficult to accept this doctrine? It is not due to a lack of clarity on God’s part. Where is the ambiguity that lends to a different interpretation? It is not there. Believers were not eternally indwelt by the Spirit until after Christ’s ascension. How could believers be indwelt by the Spirit before the sacrifice was made? In writing to the Hebrews, Paul was referring to old Testament believers when he wrote, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive the promise, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” There was no indwelling of, nor baptism in, the Holy Spirit under the law, and the Holy Spirit was sent as the Administrator of the New Covenant after Christ fulfilled every single requirement of the law in relation to the sin offering. I have heard objections to this teaching, but not with contradictory passages. Besides, Scripture does not contradict itself unless we are reading the meaning into the text. These fundamental truths should be Theology Basics 101 in our churches and seminaries, but they are not. In fact, they are watered down or skimmed over in order to retain the fidelity of traditional church and denominational doctrine. The belief that the New Testament church began at any point before Christ’s ascension is based solely upon church tradition and denominational teachings. Human reasoning and presupposition are used more often than Scriptural comparison when describing the beginning of the New Testament church. An honest study of God’s Word will quickly reveal that Christ’s assembly consists of born-again, Holy Spirit indwelt believers who are in a covenant relationship with God through the mediation of Christ as our High Priest under His headship, and that these qualifications could not have been fulfilled by any person until after Christ’s ascension. Once you remove all of the presupposition, implication, church tradition, and human reasoning, the truth will be all that remains.