6.4.2.2 The church of Jesus Christ after the death of the early Apostles

The situation changed with the death of the first Apostles. The ministry which Jesus had entrusted with the administration of the sacraments, forgiveness of sins, and the proclamation of the gospel was no longer occupied. It was thus no longer possible to dispense the gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Communion remained intact as a meal of remembrance, profession, fellowship, and thanksgiving (see 8.2.8 et seq.). The forgiveness of sins pronounced in authority was no longer possible, however, it is conceivable that–even in this time–God showed His grace of forgiveness to those who believed.

Believers who professed Christ continued to receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism with water and were thereby incorporated into the body of Christ.

In the proclamation of the word, the expectation of the imminent return of Christ gradually receded into the background. Nevertheless, belief in the life and activity of the Son of God, and in His death and resurrection, was kept alive. Believing people continued to pass along the gospel and the Christian system of values. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, fundamental statements of Christian doctrine were formulated in the creeds of the early church. Throughout the centuries, missionaries then carried the testimony of Jesus Christ into the world. Finally, in the nineteenth century, the gift of prophecy was awakened in a number of people and called those men who, according to the will of God, had been chosen as Apostles.

So it was that, even during the time after the death of the early Apostles, the Holy Spirit was active, albeit not in His original fullness.

See also