Monday, November 26, 2012

The Development of The Church Service

A man named Justin Martyr - born about 100 AD, after exploring the various philosophies of life as presented by the Greek culture of the time, became convinced that the writings of the ancient prophets and the Apostles were more reliable than those of the Greeks. 
After becoming a Christian, he spent the remainder of his life spreading the philosophy of life in Christ. 

We have two works of Justin - 1st. and 2nd. Apology of Justin.  He was martyred around age 65 for his stance as as Christian which was against the law at that time.

In his first apology he gave a description of the gathering of Christians (ie:  order of service)

Here is a Breakdown of the early Christian church service: 
#1.  They gathered - A) at home (first church building was around 240 AD.
                                B) on the "Lord's Day" - (contrast 1st. day - a Jewish term/ Sunday - pagan terminology - day of the Sun.   "Lord's Day" = day of Resurrection, day of separation - Gen. 1:3-5 - light from darkness

#2.  They read scripture - "memoirs of the apostles.../writings - of the prophets" - because
A) was the Inspired Word
B)  the Rule Book
C)  few owned by individuals

#3.  They heard a sermon - ie: application of the text which was personal and practical,  2 Tim. 3:16-17

#4.  They prayed  (corporately/ led prayer)
3 phrases used:  "send up, "stand up" - showing freedom/boldness as a result of understanding what Jesus Christ did in their lives, "sing out" assent - "Amen" - (I agree, so be it)

#5. They celebrated the Lord's Supper - bread and wine and water - signifying the body and blood of Christ.  (water used to dilute wine from normal strength for the Lord's Supper)
Note:  the Un-baptized were asked to leave.  They saw the Lord's Supper as a testimony of receiving Christ as Savior and unbelievers had no part in that.  Were outside the family.

#6.  They received the offering - freewill/for benevolence/in keeping with the prophets and Apostles - 1 Cor. 16:1-2

Not mention here, but
#7.  They sang praises - psalms, chants, songs = praise plus!!! - Adoration spilling over.

So, on one hand, today's worship service is not much different.
But, on the other hand, it needn't be!!

IF - your view of church is guided by scripture (memoirs, writings), THEN your worship will look something like this.

Obviously = variations - singing/instruments, mode of baptism, serving the Lord's Supper, church property, building, government, etc.
BUT the basic format remains.  IE:

#1.  Gather (though not mandated, it is assumed) - it was the thing to do.
Gather to:
#2.  Worship - declare His worth - corporately, publicly - through praise, thanksgiving, singing, Lord's Supper, etc.
#3.  Petition - ie. prayers of request - Heb. 4:16
#4.  Listen - the content of Scripture
#5.  Learn - the Application of Scripture   Eph. 4:1
#6.  Give - (Give back, share)
#7.  Scatter - (go) - on one hand the gathering is very important, but, time-wise, it equals a very small percentage of the Christian life. - We are to be Christians in the outside world and spread the Word.

So, when you gather at a typical church worship service, you are participating in an ancient tradition based on eternal truths.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday in America.  AND, rightfully so because we have A LOT to be thankful for.

So, although this is not new information, it IS a reminder that....
            we ought to  A)  Be thankful and B) Give thanks!


#1.  Monetary Blessings - regarding A) money   B) Annual income  and C) Compared worldwide
Some statistics:
After taxes, bring home income for a family of four - poverty level is $22,350.00
That puts you in the top 11% in the world.  Your income is higher than 89% of the world's population.

If your bring home income is $25,000.00, you're in the top 10%
                                             $30,000.00 ------------------7%
                                             $35,000.00 ----------------    5%
                                             $40,000.00 ----------------    3%
The top 1% - $47,500.00

#2.  National Blessings  (blessings because you live in the USA)
     A)  Prosperity - USA accounts for 25% of the world's wealth
     B)  Resources - we're blessed with abundance which assures future prosperity - water, farmland, timberland, minerals, etc.
     C)  Freedoms - free to campaign, complain, criticize
     D)  Stability - Post-election - no riots.  no military coup.
     E)  Security - when was the last time the US was invaded?  neighbors to the north or south launched a missile over the border on one or more of our cities?  people had to move to refugee camps?

Deut. 8:10

#3.  Opportunity Blessings - because in America we HAVE opportunity to pursue money, career, business, education, relocation, etc.  Question?  Why do so many with to immigrate??  - Because this IS the "Land of Opportunity".

#4.  Community Blessings - On one hand, we live in the low income section of a low income state.  Therefore, most people are here by choice with a lot of good people AND blessed with beauty!!

#5.  Health Blessings - not all but most live a long, relatively healthy life.
Compare to other parts of the world:
A.  Life Expectancy - in the USA - 78 1/2 years
       Compare                Djibouti -55 years
                                    Ethiopia - 53 years
                                    Somalia - 48 years
                              Afghanistan - 44 years
                                    Zambia - 42 years
                           Mozambique - 39 years

B.  Infant Mortality - deaths per 1,000 live births within 1 year.
                  USA = 7
            Ukraine = 14
             Mexico = 22
                Brazil = 28
                  Iraq = 36
         Botswana = 54
                India = 61
                 Haiti = 70
            Ethiopia = 87
            Djibouti = 91
          Somalia = 113
    Afghanistan = 144

A.  Those people given our health benefits - would live longer!
B.  Those babies given our health benefits would not die!

#6.  Relational Blessings - most people hesitate to end a poor relationship!!  Because, even  a poor one
= great blessings. 

These blessings are more than we deserve.  We have these because God is good and has blessed us.

And, now add...
#7.  Spiritual Blessings - (the greatest of blessings)
If you are a Christian, you have forgiveness, reconciliation, eternal life, eternal security, a heavenly Father, divine Presence, glorious expectations, etc.

So, today we are taking the Lord's Supper because  1)  these blessings are ours through the Person and work of Jesus Christ
                                                                                2)  These elements represent His sacrifice for us.

Many places the word "Eucharist" is used for the elements of the Lord's Supper.  The word Eucharist means "to give thanks".

Eph. 1:3   John 1:16   Psalm 35:18

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rise of the Church

After the Resurrection,
1)  Recognition of Jesus ans Messiah
2)  the Spreading of the Word
3)  the development of the New Testament
4)  the Rise of THE CHURCH.  Acts 2:41 - Pentecost (50 days after the resurrection) - note:  added to their number - already a church started

The word "church" was seldom used in the Gospels - only found 3 times in our English Translations.  Matt. 16/18  (however, the concept is there)

But, after Acts 5, the word "church" was used prominently and then throughout church history

The Greek word for church - secular word meaning a called out assembly, a group summoned to gather.
So, it was natural for believers to adopt this word/term.

Because, they believed themselves - 1) called, summoned (by the Holy Spirit)
                                                       2) called out - of lifestyle, belief system, world view
                                                       3) called unto (into) - a Christian life, a life with Christ & His teachings.
                                                       4)  called to gather (assemble, congregate)
AND, they believed that, ultimately and finally, they would be gathered!!  (assembled together) - Matt. 25:31-34

So, they became "the church" - (called out ones) - whether gathered or scattered
And, as they scattered, they:  a) spread the News and b) established new churches

Until today there are roughly 338,000 congregations in the US.  Median size is 75.
And, there are roughly 38,000 different denominations in the world - 217 in the US.

The numbers of people who claim to attend church at least once a week -
Nigeria - 89% of all adults
Ireland - 84%  of all adults
USA -   44% (self-proclaimed)  When actual church attendance is polled, in the US that drops to about 20%.

The Importance of the Church (Scriptural view)
1.  founded by Christ - Matt. 16:18 - His church, His people
2.  Paid for by Christ - Acts 20:28 - true church made up of redeemed people that Christ died for
3.  Identified with Christ  - Acts 9:4 - the church cannot be separated from Christ
4.  An Extension of Christ - Eph. 1:22-23, 4:11-12
Quote from Bill Hybols - "only hope for the world is the New Testament Church".

The Work of the Church (a historical view)
The church has always been -
1.  The primary means of spreading the Gospel - primary mode of Evangelism
2.  The primary means of developing believers - taught, grown, discipled
3.  The primary place of prayer and worship - of course we are to pray on our own, but there is real power in corporate prayer
4.  The primary platform for mission work
5.  The primary pipeline for mission support - money comes out of churches

So, where Christianity grows, the church grows, and where the church grows, Christianity grows, until they are synonymous.  Christianity = the church

#1.  The church is not perfect.  Why?  Because it's made of people - and people are seriously flawed.  Will it be?  Rev. 19:6-9 - will be perfect at the end and will find perfection on the other side.
#2.  The benefits of the church far, far outweigh her faults.

Therefore, it follows that:
#3.  It is foolish to abandon (or anyway ignore) the church.  From the viewpoint of common sense and Scripture.

#4.  The New Testament makes no recognition of Lone Christianity. - it simply does not exist.
Salvation?  - Individually applied.  Sanctification? - personally pursued
BUT - the pursuit of the faith apart from the community of believers is totally foreign to the New Testament!!!

Conclusion: - On one hand, the church needs you (if called to a particular body)
                       On the other hand, you need the church!!!  - Example:  can the body survive without a hand? - answer - yes.  But, can the hand survive without the body?  No way!

Frequent objection!! - I don't need the church to be Christian!!   Yes, and you can go on a garlic diet - you may stay alive but you won't be healthy or pleasant to be around!!!

Entry to the church
#1.   Attend and be part
#2.  Participate

But,  it is important, critical, essential - to come to the Father through the Son - John 14:6

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Birth of the Christian Bible

We have several weeks looking at "Messiah" - (the Christ)
         1)  the expected Messiah
         2) the surprise Messiah - Matt. 1:21  Luke 19:10
        3) the acceptance of this Messiah  (Christianity, the church)

Last week - Spreading the Word that  A.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ
                                     and.....           B.  in Him is found forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation

As the gospel spread and Christianity grew, there developed a written document that has influenced the world more than any other writings .... before or since - ie.  the New Testament

Question:  What Bible did the Apostles use??? the first Christians???  - Answer: They probably didn't.  They had the Old Testament scroll(s) - individual, extremely valuable - there were no books as we know books. and when did the New Testament develop??

Stages of Development:
Began with the Letters of Paul - 1 Cor. 1:1-3  Gal. 1:1-2  (churches - plural)
Also, Peter, James, John, Jude
These were read, circulated, copied for circulation - 1 Thess. 5:27

Then followed the Gospels, Acts - story form (history)
example:  Luke 1:1-4 then the sequel - Acts 1:1-2 (a)

Finally, Revelation (around AD 90 or so) - Rev. 21:5

 Expanded..... 1st. Century (death of Christ to AD 100) - written, copied, circulated

                      2nd. Century - 1) cited as authoritative!
Examples:  "it is written" - Matt. 22:14
                 "as it says in these scriptures" - Eph. 4:26

                                            2) translated into various languages, (therefore more widely distributed)

                     3rd. Century - the various "book" being collected and compiled in One book
(beginning of Codex (book) form ... Christians were the first to use this form widely!!)

                     4th. Century - formal Canonization (these were the books that one divinely inspired) - Council of Carthage - 397 AD - "aside from the canonical Scriptures nothing is tho be read in church under the Name of Divine Scriptures."   If it's call scripture, it must be from the Scriptures.
Then it was even more extensively translated, copied, and circulated .....

The Result???

Today we have 5800 surviving Greek manuscripts (ie: hand-copied scrolls, Codex)
plus.. 10,000 Latin manuscripts - handwritten
plus .. thousands of manuscripts from other languages (Coptic, Syrian, Arabic, Slavonic...)

The point being:  we have well over 20,000 hand copied manuscripts of the New Testament (not all complete) that pre-date the printing press (1439) - Johannes Gutenberg's movable type printing press

Note:  the New Testament remains today - the most printed, translated, circulated, owned, recognized book in history!!

Next Question?  How was it determined which books would be included in the New Testament Canon of 27?  There were a LOT of writings out there.
CANON:  rule, measuring stick, therefore the writings that measure up, make the grade

And... By which we measure!  (Standard)
        A.  Note:  it was a process
        B.  the process partly spurred on by heresy, heretics - Example:  Marcion - AD 140/Rome - put together his own canon because he disagreed with the church.
These situations led to the church leaders making official, formal, in depth examinations - decisions - declarations.

Criteria for a book to be considered scripture:
#1. Apostolic Origin - which means either
         A)  written by an Apostle - Matthew, John, Romans, I & II Peter
or      B)  written under the immediate direction and sanction of an Apostle - Mark (wrote for Peter),  Luke (wrote for Paul), Acts

#2.  Reception by the Primitive Church - very 1st. one - they were there, they knew the Apostles
(note Peter's recognition of Paul's scripture) - 2 Pet. 3:15-16

#3.  Compatibility of Doctrine (or teachings)
especially:  in relation to the un-contested books
(therefore:  there were issues with Hebrews, especially Chapters 6 & 10) BUT the early church recognized
Paul as the author!)

This is how they determined which books were included in the New Testament Canon.

So then ... what was the Early Church's view of New Testament Scripture?   What became the Orthodox view?)
(Greek/Latin ortho = right/correct    doxa= opinion/belief) = Orthodox - proper belief system

#1.  It was inspired - ie;  of divine origin/from God
2 Tim. 3:16 - God breathed out
Heb. 1:1-2

#2.  It was received - Receptus (came from God and they simply received it) vs. formulated/discovered
2 Pet. 1:20-21

#3.  It was Authoritative - Sola Scripture (Scripture alone) - This is God's Word on the subject

#4.  dependable (reliable/trustworthy/without error)

#5.  practical - 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (useful, functional)
#6.  Effective - 1 Thess. 2:13

Application:  3 Questions

1.  What is your view of the New Testament? - it's source, authority, it's reliability? - Belief

2.  What is your knowledge of the New Testament? - to believe it is inspired yet ignore its content ...???  Heb. 2:1  - Knowledge      
The amount of Christian ignorance of Scripture is astounding.

3.  Do you live according to the New Testament?  - Practice - Eph. 4:1