What everyone should know about the Old Apostolic Church





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By DB Dick

On grounds of the spiritist character of this movement, its denial of Christ and the Bible owing to the status, power and worship the apostles, the contact it claims to make with the dead, and its view of Scripture, it is clear that the Old Apostle Church is not a Christian church.

By DB Dick

When one hears the word “Apostolic”, one should clearly distinguish between the Apostolic Faith Mission which is a charismatic Christian church and the Old and New Apostolic churches which are not Christian churches at all. The Old and New Apostolic churches believe in the continuance of the Apostolate. To learn more about this group, one has to look at their catechism. However, this catechism is very brief and deals mainly with the essence of the Apostolate. The preface explains that the reason why the reader’s questions cannot all be answered with reference to the catechism is that “the doctrine of The Old Apostolic Church of Africa is too vast to be set out in writing.” In other words, for the most part, the theology of this group is not to be found in writing, but in oral transmissions, the hymn book of the church and in the various practices of congregations and church members. This makes it very difficult to do research on this group.


The founder of The Old Apostolic Church was the Scottish preacher, Edward Irving (born 1792). He earnestly preached that the end of the world was nigh and that the Church had sinned grievously by not instituting all the posts referred to in Ephesians 4:11 particularly the Apostolate. He pleaded for the immediate introduction of this post so that the Apostle designate could seal the believers for salvation. In 1835 the first twelve apostles were set aside and consecrated. The movement spread to Europe and was particularly successful in Germany. In 1865 the movement split on the issue whether more than 12 nominations for apostles may be submitted. The group that broke away called themselves The New Apostolic Church.

The New Apostolic Church was established in South Africa by Evangelist Klibbe who arrived in the Cape in 1892. When he was called to attend a meeting in Germany, it was decided that Schlaphoff would take charge of the church in his absence. Klibbe’s ship was wrecked and Schlaphoff assumed that he had drowned. However, Klibbe had boarded another boat thus he was still alive. When he returned to South Africa, Schlaphoff refused to surrender his apostolate. A court case followed (1926) which lead to a schism in the church. The judge ruled that Klibbe’s group should henceforth be known as The Old Apostolic Church. In other words, The Old Apostolic Church is the name of the breakaway group and The New Apostolic Church was the mother church. Except for secondary differences, the two churches are very similar but they are very hostile towards each other.


There are seven positions in the church, in the following order of seniority: apostle, evangelist, warden, prophet, elder, priest, deputy deacon. The position of minister was abolished. A number of positions, such as deputy deacon and elder, are non-biblical positions. In the local congregations, it is the elder who assists the priest with the appointment of the officials. None of the officials undergo theological training, nor do they receive any remuneration from the church as the church believes that the gospel should be preached free of charge. (Cf. 1 Cor 9:14.) With the exception of the apostle, who is very well cared for financially and enjoys many additional benefits, all the church officials are employees in the public or private sector.

The church rejects the titles pastor and minister as unbiblical. The structure of the church is very authoritarian.

In order of importance, each official dominates the one below him. People who have experienced a lot of rejection, e.g. orphans, find that they are readily accepted in this hierarchy: the status and position of power attached to church offices give them a feeling of self-worth and a place in society.


1. The authority of the Bible is subordinate to the authority of the Apostle. The apostle’s word carries more weight than the Bible. The Bible is regarded as a compilation of lifeless letters which lead to death. Only the apostle’s word can give life. Often an apostle points to the Bible and exclaims, “This is not the Word of God! The Word of God is the Word that comes from the mouth of the apostle.” The apostle speaks with divine authority. The Bible is simply a compilation of divine promises, commandments and deeds. It is considered a handy reference but the church does not believe that it can take the place of the apostle’s words.  Question 37 of the catechism asks, “Can we receive salvation and everlasting life through (Catechism Question 11b). Question 35 asks, “Who has been sent to preach the Gospel?”  Answer: “The apostles, as clearly shown in 1 Thess 2:13…”

2. The apostle controls the entrance to heaven. The apostle has the power to seal souls for eternal salvation (in other words to regenerate), or to lock someone out of heaven. “This is a very authoritative act of which even the Pope of Rome may be envious,” said Dr Jac Muller. The similarity between the Old Apostles and the Roman Catholic Church is obvious. Salvation is possible only through the apostle; for those who believe in Christ through the apostles (Catechism Question 36 & 49). To the apostles only has been given knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven (Catechism Question 5 & 50, e & f). People can only come to faith through the words spoken by an apostle: without the apostles no-one can become a believer. The church interprets Mt 10:40 to mean that no-one can see the Father or Christ if they do not accept the apostle, for, “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.” The apostles are the only people with whom God speaks directly (Catechism Question 25), who understand the Scriptures (Catechism Question 38), who know God (Catechism Question 24), who speak the wisdom of God (Catechism Question 50c), are able to forgive sins (Catechism Question 47), and who are going to judge the earth (Catechism Question 41).

3. The apostles are Christ’s substitutes on earth. Just like the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the apostles are “God’s substitutes for Jesus Christ in the flesh on earth”. They are the foundation on which Christ built his church, therefore all other churches are false churches. The position of the apostle in fact replaces the mediatorship of Jesus Christ. There can be no remission of sins through an invisible Christ. The church claims that when Jesus ascended to heaven, He actually ascended into the apostles in whom he is now visible. Thus it is claimed that no reconciliation with God is possible but by grace and through the position of the apostle. The apostles are charged with the following tasks: they seal believers with the Holy Spirit and incorporate them into the body of Christ. This sealing is on a par with rebirth, without which no-one will gain entry into heaven. They also forgive sins, baptise with water and Spirit, and select the office bearers. However, the church does not use the term “rebirth” at all, nor do the apostles preach about it: they refer to it.

4. The apostles are the only people who may curse. People who leave the Apostle Church are in danger of being cursed. There is proof that this often happens. There is the case of ‘Betty’ who resigned from the church. After being cursed by the apostle, she apparently went insane and consequently died. Some members claim that the fear of being cursed is the main reason why people seldom leave the church.


Christian churches differ in opinion on the question of whether the office of apostle should still be upheld or not. Some charismatic churches do recognise this position.

However, the important thing is not whether there should be such an office or not but what authority may be attached to such an office. What is disturbing is that the apostle is allowed to take Jesus’ place. In 2 Cor 12:12 we read: “The things that prove that I am an apostle were done with all patience among you; there were signs and wonders and miracles.” When Peter’s shadow fell on people, they were healed. Paul threw his cloak over someone, and he was healed. The lives of the apostles as portrayed in the Bible were
characterized by power and holiness. What signs and wonders and holy lives can the modern apostles lay claim to? In Gal 1:1 Paul writes that his “call to be an apostle did not come from man or by means of man, but from Jesus Christ and God the Father…” In Mt
24:5 &24 Jesus warns that in the latter days people will come forward in His name and claim to be the Messiah and so fool many people.

The foundation of the Church of Christ is not the apostle but Jesus Christ himself. One of Paul’s last letters was the letter to Timothy. In this letter he speaks only of the requirements for the appointment of elders and deacons.


Generally, the husband as head of the household is considered to be the “house priest” and the saviour of his family (Catechism Question 53). As far as the office of priest is concerned, parents and children are subject to the totalitarian authority of the priest. With regard to children, the priest has more authority over them than their parents and he is highly respected. In the case of Sonet, she felt that children did not really need parents as she had to obtain permission for everything she wanted to do from the priest, whether it was for the matric farewell, a camping expedition, or any other activity. Her parents could not go on holiday or make a business deal without approval from the priest. When they were ill, they believed that the medicine would not be effective if it was not blessed by the priest. When members of this church speak of obedience, they do not only imply obedience to the Word of God but also to the offices within the church. Whatever the office bearers say is considered to be the Word of God. If the priest denies a request, it is accepted that this denial comes from God himself.

On the first Sunday of every month, communion is served. Then the priest extends his hand over the congregation and says, “Whatever sins you have committed, knowingly or unknowingly, you are forgiven”.

This action is based on John 20:23: “If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven…”Although it is taught that only the apostle may forgive sins, it is generally accepted that the priest represents the apostle just as the apostle represents Christ.


The New Testament does not give any justification for the continuance of the office of priest. In the Old Testament, the priests wore certain garments as prescribed by God.

Their tasks were clearly defined, such as service in the temple, offering, medical services (Deut 24:8) and administering justice. In Heb 7 Paul points out that the office of priest in the Old Testament pointed towards and was fulfilled in the priestly task Jesus took upon himself. According to Heb 7:24, “his (Jesus’) work lives on forever, and hid work
as priest does not pass on to someone else.

Pastor Muller, who used to be a member of The Old Apostle Church, asks whether there is any justification for upholding the office of priest in our day and points out that the present apostles are not the descendants of Aaron, Melchizedek or the Levites. They do not dress like the priests of old. Jesus did not appoint priests either!

In Mt 22:29 Jesus exclaims, “How wrong you are! It is because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.” Jesus taught his disciples and gave instructions that all believers should be taught. In 2 Tim 2:2

Paul writes: “Take my words that you heard me preach…, and give them into the keeping of men you can trust, men who will be able to teach others also”. The Old Apostle Church does not believe in training its office bearers. The incredible darkness in which this cultus finds itself is a direct result of this lack of training and knowledge of the Bible.

Gal 1:8 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel that is different from the one we preached to you, may he be condemned to hell!”


The Old Apostle Church believes in three sacraments, namely baptism, communion and holy sealing. All three sacraments may be served on behalf and for the redemption of deceased persons.

Baptism takes place by means of sprinkling. The dead are also baptised on the grounds of 1 Cor 15:29. What these people do not realise, is that this verse refers to the heretics who proclaimed that if someone died without having been baptised, someone else could receive the sacrament on their behalf. During the service of sealing, one of the office bearers (prophet, caretaker or evangelist) is baptised and sealed on behalf of the deceased.

Communion is served once a month and every three months a children’s service is held during which all the children, even the babies, receive communion.

Holy Sealing
Once a year a sealing service is held. Sealing has to do with the acceptance of members into the congregation, receiving the Holy Spirit and is likened to being born again. According to Pastor Muller, this sealing is the biggest heresy of the apostles. During the ceremony, a white cloth is put over the parents’ head. Then a cross is drawn in oil on the child’s forehead and he/she receives communion. The officiator then says, “God the father seals you.” At the same time the person who is being sealed receives the Holy Spirit from the hand of the apostle. “Those that have not the seal of God in their foreheads are doomed to the bottomless pit and all the plagues that are coupled with it. (Refer Rev 9:1-4.)”(Catechism Question 58)


In terms of the catechism of the Old Apostle Church, sealing is equal to being born again and baptism with the Holy Spirit. It can take place at any age, provided both parents are members of the apostle church. One can only receive the Spirit if an apostle lays hands on you. Members of the congregation often stand in a row and then the apostle simply says, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This action is based on Acts 8:16.

There are only two references in the Bible to people who received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. In Acts 10:44, the Spirit came upon the people while Paul was still speaking, so one could say that people received the Spirit when they heard the Word. According to Luke 11:13, one can receive the Spirit if one asks for it.


The Old Apostle Church has an exclusive concept of  the church and, in general, the Old Apostles are hostile towards other ministers and their churches.

They believe that only the members of the Old Apostle Church will go to heaven (Catechism Question 2 & 3)ads their church has been built on the foundation of the apostles. Sermons (they prefer to speak of “teachings”) are delivered by the deputy deacon, the priest or the elder. Sermons are not formally prepared and members of the congregation do not take their Bibles to church. If they do, they are reprimanded because this implies that they do not accept the “word” of the officiator. For the same reason, the Bible is not read at home either.

Some people claim, “Once an apostle, always an apostle”. Leaving the church is he church, all ills that may befall the family afterwards are attributed to this step. For example, when Sonet’s little brother died, she was blamed for leaving the church and was told that henceforth more things will go wrong.


Church members are instructed to write down any dreams they have immediately and to give the paper to the priest. In Sonet’s case, she dreamed that she was getting married (she is a married woman). According to the priest, this dream meant that she did not have peace for her soul and that she would not meet God.

This interpretation was give after she had left the church against the wishes of her parents. In many dreams members claim to have received messages from people who have died.
Black people who belong to this church all remain involved in dealings with the spirits of their forefathers.

If one of them dreams that one of his forefathers is hungry, the dream is made known to the community and the priest instructs the congregation to visit people in their homes and to tell them that they should become converted for then the deceased would also be converted and so be released from satan’s hold. In other words,  the lot of the deceased who  died without becoming converted depends on the ‘conversion’ of the living.

The interpretation of dreams lies in the field of fortune telling and clairvoyance as it often deals with things that are going to happen to someone.


Anyone may prophesy in the church on a Sunday. In most cases, these prophesies are general utterances and admonishments.


The Old Apostles believe that until children can distinguish between their right and left hands, they are without sin and therefore the devil cannot touch them.


If a member of the church wishes to go on a journey, or to open a business, he/she has to go to the priest for guidance and permission. The answer that the priest gives is accepted as the word of God. In other words, God speaks through the officials of the church. For this reason the members do not pray. What they need, they ask of the priest. As in the Roman Catholic church, prayer is opened and closed in the name of the Trinity. When the officiator starts praying, he lifts his hands and says, “In the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, Amen” upon which the congregation answers ‘amen”. Then he goes on to praying about general matters.

Some members believe that when you have spoken to someone about his faith, you have in fact prayed. Prayer is also used as a kind of black magic against enemies. Some prayers are incomprehensible. For example, when praying for Sonet, the priest prayed that the wrong in her life would go into the church hall where he bound it and placed a fire round Sonet. In the case of Jonathan’s aunt who had an evil spirit in her, the priest also placed a fire round her house.


Works play a very important role. Every evening congregations have a different activity which must be attended. On Mondays it may be witnessing or power cells; on Tuesdays, choir practice; on Wednesdays, a prayer meeting; on Thursdays, power cells; on Fridays, choir practice; and on Saturdays, youth evenings. If you do not spend at least one tenth of your time on the activities of the church, you lose your chance of redemption.

If you carry out your tasks well, you deserve an office. Nothing is made of conversion, the fruits of the Spirit or of sanctification. In other words, one does not have to break with sin – even though, strangely enough, sins such as sexual promiscuity, dancing and swearing are considered to be wrong. Mrs X, who grew up in the church, says that in all the years s
he never heard a single sermon on conversion. Mostly sermons are concerned with moralisation on a certain passage of Scripture in which good things are often said.


The Bible is explained ‘spiritually’ so that is easier to understand. This is justified by saying that as God is spirit, we should worship Him in spirit and in truth. The stories of the Old Testament are not accepted as historical truths but as parables with spiritual lessons. They claim that the New Testament should also be interpreted spiritually, for example: – Acts 1:9 – Jesus ascends to heaven. According to the Old Apostles this should not be taken literally, but understood on a spiritual level as astronauts who have travelled though space have not found any trace of a heaven. Thus this Scripture should be  interpreted to mean that Jesus ascended to mankind’s heart and mind (Catechism Questions 1 & 4).

Werner asks difficult questions in this regard, amongst others: “Does this mean that the birds of the sky fly around in your head, or that the stars are actually in your brain?” The Old Apostles believe that heaven is not a real place but rather a state of peace, rest and bliss (Catechism Question 17).

However, Scripture states, “… he was taken up to heaven as they watched him; and a cloud hid him from their sight.” Muller points out that the disciples were not looking into their own heads but up to heaven .(See Rev 1:7.)

The Old Apostles do not believe that there a place such as hell either. They claim that hell is a situation in which people wander in the dark while being continuously accused by their consciences. For example, when alcoholics die, they can no longer drink but their spirits roam the bars desperate for a drink which they cannot have. These believers do not realise that hell implies the full presence of God’s wrath.

This is a church without hope. They do not believe that Jesus will really come again. (See Acts 1:11.) They enjoy mocking other believers by asking, “How many centuries has it been that people have expected Jesus to return, and still he has not come?” (Catechism Question 27 a & b). When Old Apostles visit people in their homes as a “cloud of witnesses” (Catechism Questions 29 & 31), this is seen as Jesus’ ‘coming’. They conveniently forget what is written in 2 Pet 3:3-4: “... in the last days some men will
appear whose lives are controlled by their own lusts. They will make fun of you and say, “He promised to come didn’t he? Where is he? Our fathers have already died, but everything is still the same as it was since the creation of the world!” Furthermore it is not clear why they bother to take communion at all as in 1 Cor 11:26 we read, “For until the Lord comes, you proclaim his death whenever you eat this bread and drink from this cup.”

Sin has a different meaning for Old Apostles. Smoking and drinking and other bodily sins are not a problem to them as these are of the flesh. Members are only warned against sins of the spirit, although it is not always clear what is meant by this. However, the Bible teaches that the last judgement will be based on what we have done in the flesh (1 Cor 6:12-20). Although there are members of this church who live pure lives, many are people with big problems.

Because the Old apostles teach that nothing in the Bible should be taken literally and everything should be interpreted on a spiritual level, they reject the story about Noah. They claim that it is impossible for anyone to build an arc which can contain all the animals. Because they cannot explain it logically, they try to give a spiritual interpretation of these events. Spiritual language is seen as the language of God.


The problem with the Old Apostle church is the bonds that it has with the deceased. In this respect, the church is on a par with the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormons, spiritualists and even the church of satan. All these groups believe that the living can make contact with the deceased and vice versa.

Furthermore, they teach that people who died before they could become converted, may be saved after death. This heresy is based on passages from Scripture such as Eph 4:8-10 and 1 Pet 3: 18-20 and 4:6.

Once a year they hold a sealing service during which the apostle of the region visits the congregation. During the service the apostle unlocks the gates of death for the deceased and declares which spirits are present at the service and for whom the gates of heaven will be opened. Communion, holy sealing and baptism is them served to the dead who are present.

Pastor Muller told of his experience at a service in Klerksdorp. First the apostle declared, “With the power invested in me, I unlock the gates of death.” The a prophet stood up and said, Danie Theron and his 40 men are in the service this morning. They seek entry.” Then the apostle stretched out his hand in a gesture which simulated the unlocking of a door and said, ” I have unlocked the gates of heaven for them.” The prophet then claimed that he could see them marching in heaven. Notice how inconsequent these people are: one minute they claim that there is no such place as heaven and the next they claim to see people walking there.

However, the Old Apostles cannot give any references from the Bible to justify their claim that Jesus has given them the keys to heaven. According to Rev 1:18, only Jesus has that key as he says, “I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” Mat 23:13 states that a person may lock someone out of heaven by preaching a wrong gospel or a heresy, but there is no reference to an office bearer of the church being able to do so by making a locking movement in the air and chanting a few magic words!

The apostles claim that they carry the key to world of the dead and on occasion they unlock the doors to heaven to allow the dead to enter. The redeemed dead are given the opportunity to lead the lost dead to the throne of mercy. In the New Apostolic Church the spirits of seeking dead are lead/sent to the service held by the chief apostle on that particular day by the district apostles. Then the chief apostle serves the three sacraments to two office bearers who stand in for the seeking dead. In this way the sins of these dead are forgiven.

Henry tells of a funeral he attended in Kimberley where in his prayer at the grave the priest prayed that the Lord would open the doors to heaven for the deceased woman as she was wandering around there, looking for entry.

A typical experience of a member of the Old Apostolic Church:

“I was brought up in the Old Apostolic Church. I was very fond of my grandfather. One day, when I was
in Std 5, I heard someone call me during a church service. I looked around and saw my grandfather standing in the doorway. When I looked again, he was gone. When I got outside, he was standing there. He looked at me, smiled and then walked away. I started crying and told my mother what had happened. She told the priest that my grandfather had come to say goodbye to me. The next Friday, my grandfather died.”

The above story is a common phenomena in the Old Apostolic Church. What does the Bible say about such experiences? If a person can see or hear a deceased person, or can communicate with spirits in any way, such a person has a serious demonic problem. The Bible refers to such people as mediums or witches. Anyone who has been truly made free in Christ, does not have the ability to see spirits.1 Samuel 28 is very often misunderstood. It relates how King Saul paid a visit to a witch. This transgression later led to his death (1 Chron 10:13-14). Saul begs the witch to call up Samuel’s spirit. From the Scripture it is clear that Saul did not speak to Saul at all but to evil spirits which posed as Samuel. The witch claims to see Samuel, but Saul does not.  The witch says that she sees an old man with a cloak wrapped around him (vs 13). But in heaven there is no such thing as age and illness! The human body is buried and turns to dust.  The witch states that Samuel comes out of the earth (vs 13). The Bible does not teach that the spirit of man returns to the earth. It returns to God. So Jesus ascended to heaven. Jesus assured the robber the cross next to him that he would be with him in Paradise that same day. If Samuel were to have appeared, it would have been from heaven. The notion that the dead are housed in the underworld below the earth is a heathen one.  When the Spirit speaks, it speaks like an unbeliever, which Samuel was not (vs 15). Surely one cannot be bothered in heaven!

– Furthermore, it is clear from these passages that God had decided that He was not going to answer Saul – not by mouth of the prophets, or in a dream, or through the Urim. Why would He then answer him through a witch?

– All other Biblical evidence proves that it is impossible for the dead to communicate with the living!

In the parable, the rich man request to have someone sent to earth to warn his brothers is refused (Luke 16:19-31). A curse rests on those who make contact with the dead (Deut 18:11; Isaiah 8:9; 19-22; Lev 19:31;20:6,27; Jer 27:9). What really happened was that Saul made contact with evil spirits which posed as Samuel (cf 2 Cor 11:14). The devil also used his ‘greater’ knowledge to tell Saul what was going to happen the next day.

Making contact with the dead (they were demons) is viewed as such a great sin that God kills Saul for it (1 Chron 10:13-14). However, this same sin is committed every Sunday in
the Old Apostolic Church. The practice of sangomas,  satanists,  heathen witchdoctors, gypsies and fortune tellers, namely making contact with the dead, is also carried out in a so-called “Christian church” every Sunday. Through dreams messages from the dead are conveyed to the living.

Like the black people who are involved in worshipping their ancestors, the members of the Old Apostolic Church also claim that they dream about deceased members of their families regularly.

This contact with the dead turns the church into a cultus, an occult and anti-christian group.


1. On grounds of the spiritist character of this movement, its denial of Christ and the Bible owing to the status, power and worship the apostles, the contact it claims to make with the dead, and its view of Scripture, it is clear that the Old Apostle Church is not a Christian church. It is a cultus as its members no longer stand upon the basis of the Word of God (the Bible) but on the word of the apostles.

2. Owing to the so-called “spiritual” commentary of the Bible, the true Word of God loses it real, literal, practical message and power. It is reduced to a book which has less value than the words of the apostles. Spiritualising the contents of the Bible results in isolating and removing the Word of God from our daily lives. It is no wonder, then, that members of this group do not distinguish themselves as students of the Bible. Because they are not encouraged to read the Bible themselves, their lives are obviously not characterised by purity and holiness.

3. Owing to the relation of the sacraments in the Apostle Church and the dead, the baptism served in this church is unacceptable. People who have been baptised in the Old Apostle Church have to renounce their baptism and be baptised again when the become converted and wish to join another Christian church.

4. People with an Old Apostle background/history or have had much contact with members of this church, should go for counselling and release. They need to renounce their baptism and sealing before a counsellor can pray for them.

5. Old Apostles who become converted should seek another spiritual home as their old church is one in which the Spirit of God does not reign and which has no idea of what conversion and rebirth really is. The Old Apostles are a group of people who proclaim a confusing, ambiguous theology.


[1]  Catechism of the Old Apostolic Church of Africa  
[2]  Interviews with several ex members of the Old Apostolic Church
[3]  Flemming, H C J, Sektedwalinge in ons land
[4]  Muller, Jac Die Apostelkerk
[5]  Muller, P.  Getuienis op kasset van voormalige Ou Apostels
[6]  Werner, F W.  Die dwaling van die Apostelsekte