The early church is getting a lot of press these days, and inquiring minds want to know what Christians really believed before the Council of Nicaea. Perhaps the best way of finding out is to read the testimonies of early Christians themselves.
In his First Apology (155 a.d.), the second-century Christian philosopher and apologist Justin Martyr wrote a fascinating account of Christian worship and beliefs. Originally addressed to the Roman emperor in defense of Christianity, Justin's description gives us a window into what early Christians actually did when they gathered together to baptize, celebrate the Lord's Supper, worship, and build community. Here is an excerpt from this classic book.
How we dedicated ourselves to God when we were made new through Christ I will explain, since it might seem to be unfair if I left this out from my exposition. Those who are persuaded and believe that the things we teach and say are true, and promise that they can live accordingly, are instructed to pray and beseech God with fasting for the remission of their past sins, while we pray and fast along with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for they are then washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savoir Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ said, "Unless you are born again you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
Now it is clear to all that those who have once come into being cannot enter the wombs of those who bore them. But as I quoted before, it was said through the prophet Isaiah how those who have sinned and repent shall escape from their sins. He said this: "Wash yourselves, be ...1