The Elementary Principles of the World: Conventional Worship Praxes

A New & Living Way

A Collection of Essays

Investigating New Covenant Worship in Spirit & Truth

 

 The Elementary Principles of the World

Conventional Worship Praxes

 

© 2018

W.D. Furioso

Edited by Frances Furioso

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A New & Living Way

List of Essays 

  • “Now you are the Body of Christ”
  • Elemental Principles of Worship
  • Another Look at Worship
  • Jewish Roots in Christianity
  • Led by the Spirit
  • Elementary Principles of the World ~ Sacralization of the Spiritual
  • Elementary Principles of the World ~ Sacralization of the Secular
  • Elementary Principles of the World ~ Conventional Worship Praxes
  • Christ, the New Testament Pattern
  • The Holy Spirit & The New Covenant
  • Bodily Functions in Spirit
  • Bodily Functions in Truth

 Elementary Principles of the World

Conventional Worship Praxes

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 Introduction                                                                                            4

Why We Do What We Do                                                                        7

Conventional Worship Praxes in Light of the New Testament 12

Descriptive or Prescriptive ?                                                             18

Sacramental Sunday                                                                             29

Sacramentalism & the New Testament Scriptures                      39

What’s the Harm?                                                                                  48

 

Introduction

The main goal of these essays is to investigate New Covenant Worship in Spirit and Truth. The secondary goal is to uncover “the elementary principles of the world” in worship practices.

In previous essays, I have discussed in considerable detail examples of “the elementary principles of the world”as they were manifested in the worship practices of the first century church. And I have made mention of the fact that, by morphing from Jewish to Christian in fashion, these religious, but worldly[1], practices have continued throughout all of the history of the Church into the present. I have intentionally moved slowly, attempting to build a case – “line upon line, precept upon precept”, as it were, with care to support the argument with scriptural and historical facts.

The study of Church history affords lessons to be learned, and any knowledge and wisdom gleaned from history can benefit the contemporary church. I am of the opinion that most of the worship practices of the contemporary professing church are fashioned and built according to “the elementary principles of the world”. The contemporary worship practices I am referring to are separated, set apart, specified places and times and activities which we have mistakenly called “worship”:

  • Separating, setting apart & specifying PLACES for “worship”
  • Separating, setting apart & specifying TIMES for “worship”
  • Separating, setting apart & specifying PLACES & TIMES for
    • “gathering together on the first day of the week”
    • “a Body ministry meeting”
    • “the collection”
    • “the Lord’s Supper”[2]

Please understand that I am not saying that there is anything wrong with any of these activities, but rather our proclivity to their being separated, set apart, specified, organized and programmed. For in so doing, we are operating according to “the elementary principles of the world”, ignoring the Holy Spirit; and therefore, are living under the shadow of the Old Covenant and failing to manifest the New Covenant which Jesus has already established with His death, burial and resurrection.

This is nothing less than idolatryin that we insist on putting humanly created things in the place that belongs only to God, and putting humanly organized things in the place of the life organism of the Holy Spirit. This contradicts the Word of God and grieves the Spirit of God. It is antichrist in that it, in practice, denies Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of the New Covenant. The insidious thing is we ask God to accept and bless these practices which actually arise from our fallen human nature and have been instigated by “world forces of darkness”[3].

If clearly understood, the implications of moving beyond separated, set apart, specified places and times and organized, programmed activities will be extremely radical– that is, a laying of the axe at the root[4]of these worship practices. What I am indicating can be very easily misunderstood and therefore off-handedly rejected. So, I would like to make an appeal to the reader to find within himself or herself the desire to study the New Testament scriptures objectively for what they actually do and do not say, being willing to let go of certain assumptions and cherished conventions.

 

Why Do We Do What We Do?

 

For a period of approximately 40 years, my professional occupation was attending church services. In various ways, I shared in the responsibility for planning all of those church services. And in most of those services, which took place in primarily independent non-denominational churches, I delivered the message, the music and the ministry of praying for peoples’ needs. With an average of three per week, that’s about 6240 church services. Added to this are six month-long overseas mission trips to factor in a minimum of twenty meetings per trip. That’s another 120 church meetings. And there was also a season of six years in which I held three part-time positions in mainline denominational churches where one of my duties was to commit to print (viz. the “church bulletin”) the “Order of Service” for “Sunday morning worship services”, weddings, funerals, and other “special” services. That adds more than another 300 church services. So, let’s say I’m referring to approximately 6666 church services in total. In any case, one can appreciate that, considering that level of involvement, with regards to the activities of the conventional church meeting, I would ask the question: “Why do we do what we do?” I remember one particular meeting in Brazil. Before being called up to teach, I sat observing the activities of the church service. As I observed, I compared what I was seeing to what I have seen reading the gospels about the ministry of Jesus. I thought to myself: “What in the world does any of this have to do with Jesus Christ?”

For many years, the recurring question would come up in my heart and mind: “What are we supposed to be doing when we gather together?”In considering an answer to that question, I honestly had no use for contemporary answers. To many of my friends who said: “There is no New Testament pattern in the scriptures”, my response was: “You obviously need to study the scriptures more.” To the idea that each generation just needs to contextualize their worship services to the contemporary and indigenous culture”, my response was: “We don’t need to ‘re-image’ the church, we just need to restoreit to the New Testament pattern.” I obviously believed there was a New Testament pattern. I still do, but in a different sense, which I will explain later in this essay.

Also, I was only marginally interested in studying the “orders of worship” and liturgies of the historical churches. As many others, I believed, and still do, that the worship practices of the professing church throughout history right up into contemporary times have strayed from the “New Testament pattern”. Only recently have I come to see those “orders of worship” and liturgies as Old Covenant shadows. And only recently have I concluded that the professing church has never yetnot even in the first century– practiced New Covenant worship in Spirit and truth.

But, admittedly, I did believe there was a “New Testament pattern” to be recovered – which is simply to say, I believed the New Testament scriptures DO instruct us on worship in Spirit and Truth in fulfillment of what Jesus spoke of in John 4. I still believe this.

So, in answer to the question, “Why do we do what we do?”, my response was: “Because it is in the New Testament scriptures.”And to give more detail in answer to that question I found it useful to cite that the apostolic church “gathered together”[5]on “the first day of the week” to “break bread” and take a “collection”[6]. And that they also did the activities highlighted in Acts 2:41-47:

41 “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachingand to (the apostles’) fellowship, to thebreaking of breadand to prayers. 43  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising Godand having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

From this passage I would distill the following list of worship practices – I even decided it would be clever to call it a list of “Bodily Functions” of the Body of Christ as it might be more pleasing to “Organic” and “House” church enthusiasts:

  • Apostolic teaching
  • Apostolic fellowship[7]
  • Breaking of Bread[8]
  • Prayers[9](i.e. in homes and in the temple at specified times of the day)
  • Praise

I would also point out that there is yet another list of activities highlighted in 1 Corinthians 14:26 which could be referred to as “Body Ministry”: “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” These “Bodily Functions” were distinguished from “apostolic teaching and fellowship”, indicating that there would be different types of church meetings, which could be “labeled” firstly, an “Equipping Ministry” meeting (“5-fold Ministry)[10], and secondly, a “Body Ministry” meeting (the whole church) which might also be combined with the “Breaking of Bread”, “Prayer” and “Praise” activities. Then, I would devote myself to seeking a truly New Covenant understanding of each of these practices, and teach them accordingly.

ConventionalWorship Praxes

in Light of the New Testament

But recently, I have asked myself another question – actually, the Holy Spirit asked me this question: “What is it that you think you see in the New Testament scriptures?”In other words, does your perception of what you are reading contain any filters, preconceptions, presuppositions or assumptions?

An example of a “filter”:

The list I made from Acts 2:41-47 leaves out certain other activities which were part of the life[11]of the first century church, at least at that given time– namely, “were together and had all things in common”, “sold their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need”, were “day by day continuing with one mind in the temple”, and “were taking their meals together”. Why aren’t these activities also part of our worship practices? Are they part of the New Covenant? Do they belong in the Old Covenant? These activities are in the New Testament scriptures – how are we to interpret them? Is it incongruous to interpret them differently than the other activities? If so, why so? Various biblical scholars have various theological or doctrinal reasons for their various interpretations.

It seems to me that, if we are going to make a list of New Covenant worship practices based on a particular passage, we should not pick and choose certain activities in the passage. We should include all the activities in the passage. If we pick and choose, we are forced to base our choices and omissions on some theological theory like “cessationism”,[12]which is scripturally indefensible. So, what do I think? I think all the activities in that passage are on “equal ground”, so to speak. I think allthe activities in that passage can beexamples of New Covenant worship practices, if led by the Spirit in the lifeof the Christians. But I also think that noneof those activities are examples of New Covenant worship if humanlyseparated, set apart, specified, organized, and programmedonlyinto meetings in which Christians gather.

An example of reading the New Testament scriptures with preconceptions, presuppositions or assumptions:

“The Collection”

Acts 20:7 tells us this “breaking of bread” on the first day of the week was being practiced specifically by Christians in Troas which Paul visited on his 3rdmissionary journey, probably about 54 A.D. (a year before Paul wrote his first Letter to the Corinthians and 2 years before he wrote his Letter to the Galatians) Were Christians in other places also gathering together on the first day of the week to break bread? Possibly.

Please note that Luke does not say that the Christians in Troas also “took a collection” on the first day of the week. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul is writing to the Corinthians about “the collection for the saints”. He specifically told them to “put aside and save[13], as he may prosper”. (We will look more closely at this phrase shortly.) He told them to do this “on the first day of the week”. Please note he did not mention whether or not the Corinthians gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread. Paul did say that he had previously also given the same direction about “the collection” to “the churches in Galatia”. What had he directed to churches in Galatia to do? “Put aside and save[14], as he may prosper.” Did he tell the churches in Galatia to do it on “the first day of the week”? Seems plausible; but we really don’t know. When was it that he had told “the churches in Galatia” to do this? On his first missionary journey between 47 and 48 A.D. This was 8 or 9 years before he had written the Letter to the Galatians warning against “the elementary principles of the world”.[15]Paul encouraged the churches in Corinth and Galatia to help the church in Jerusalem materially because of the famine they were experiencing at the time. Paul was addressing this special and particular need. He was NOT establishing a “weekly collection” in the churches, as we know it today.

Paul made clear that he didn’t want to take a “collection” when he came. Please note he DID NOT tell the Corinthians to “take a collection” on the first day of the week. He told them to “put aside and save[16], as he may prosper”. This is what two major Greek scholars have to say about this phrase:

M.R. Vincent: “Lay by him in store (παῤἑαυτῷτιθέτω θησαυρίζων) Lit., put by himself treasuring.Put by at home.”[17]

A.T. Robertson: “Lay by him in store (par’ heautōi tithetōthēsaurizōn).By himself, in his home. Treasuring it (cf. Matthew 6:19 for thēsaurizō). Have the habit of doing it, tithetō (present imperative).”[18]

Paul was NOT establishing a weekly collection at a weekly church service.

Another example of reading the New Testament scriptures with preconceptions, presuppositions or assumptions:

 

1 Corinthians 14:26 “Body Ministry”

 

Concerning the “Body Ministry” pictured in 1 Corinthians 14:26: How long did the Corinthians practice such activities in that way? Paul didn’t mention these activities or this particular type of meeting in his second letter to the Corinthians. We can, and many do, make an assumption that this was an established worship practice, but we actually do not know how long the Corinthians continued in the worship practices pictured in that verse. It is certainly a valid understanding that in this passage Paul is not commanding or even suggesting that they should dothese activities – he simply wrote that when they came together they were doing these activities. Did the churches in Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica also practice these activities and have this particular type of meetings? We don’t know – Paul doesn’t mention that in his epistles to these churches. We “Organic” and “House” church people would like to think that all of the Christian churches during the apostolic period conducted these activities and meetings. But this idea emerges from a preconception or presupposition. Making such an assertion can only be based on an assumption. Of more significance, making such an assertion is in accordance with “the elementary principles of the world”. How so? To hold the perspective that all the Christian churches gathered at separated, set apart, special times and placesand practiced “Body Ministry” according to the letter of 1 Corinthians 14:26, and that Paul had somehow established this as a worship practice in all the first century churches, and that it is the “New Testament pattern” for us to follow today, all reveals a proclivity for “technique” – a predilection for human systematizing, ordering and programming activitiesfor the church, in place of the life flow of the Holy Spirit and the Headship of Christ.

So, what do I think of 1 Corinthians 14:26? I think the “Body Ministry” pictured in that passage can bean example of New Covenant worship, if led by the Spirit in the lifeof the Christians. But I also think that such a meeting is not an example of New Covenant worship ifhumanlyseparated, set apart, specified, organized, and programmedonlyinto meetings in which Christians gather.

 

Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Both are “the Letter”.

 Neither is the whole story.

Both fall short of the glory.

 

So, if reading the New Testament scriptures with filters, preconceptions, presuppositions and assumptions is insufficient, then what is needed? In asking this question, we are simply asking to know what we, as contemporary Christians, need to do as the first century Christians did in the New Testament, and what we do not need to doeven though the first century Christians did. This is, indeed, a reasonable question. Theologically, this question is put forward as: “In the New Testament scriptures,[19]what is ‘prescriptive’(we need to do it) and what is merely ‘descriptive’(we don’t have to do it[20])?” The answer to that question is not as simple as: “If it’s in the New Testament, you need to do it – that’s the ‘New Testament pattern’.”

 

Some believe that everything we read in the New Testament scriptures is what the Holy Spirit told the apostolic church to do. The assumption here is that the  apostolic church did everything the Holy Spirit told them to do. The reality is: What we read in the New Testament scriptures is simply what the apostolic church did. It remains to be discerned “Whythey did what they did?” In each instance, were they responding to a Holy Spirit commandor cultural custom?

A survey and study of the New Testament will reveal that some passages contradict other passages with regards to what the first century Christians were doing and what the apostles were writing.For example, some of what Paul wrote in his epistles contradicts what Christians – Jewish and Gentile – are found doing in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, as I’ve pointed out in past essays, some of what we see Paul doing in Acts is contradicted by what he wrote in his epistles.[21]This obviously indicates that Christians were sometimes doing something other than what the Holy Spirit wanted. Consequently, we usually can find passages in the epistles where an apostle is writing to rectify those situations. Again, “prescriptive”is “what we need to do”, and “descriptive”is “what they did, but we don’t necessarily have to do it”.

When theologians interpret the New Testament scriptures through this “prescriptive – descriptive” lens, they must employ some doctrinal rules by which decisions can be made to determine “which is which”. I find it amazing how the resulting categorizations vary! But, here are some rules which make sense to me. They are ultimately imperfect and insufficient – the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is pre-requisite. Also, as I will discuss shortly, these rules “fall short of the glory” of Christ, who IS the New Testament Pattern.[22]

  • Firstly, we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to give us the understanding of the scriptures He Himself inspired.[23]For this to happen, we must have a teachable spirit characterized by humility, and a desire for the “the mind of Christ” which chooses objectivity over our filters, our preconceptions, our presuppositions and our assumptions.
  • Our approach to the scriptures has two goals: The interpretation[24]of their meaning and their applicationfor our lives. What we are primarily concerned with in this essay is the question of application– what in the New Testament scriptures is “normative” for the church age? Even within the classic Evangelical-Pentecostal perspective, there can be agreement on interpretation yet variance on application. Again, this essay is dealing essentially with
  • The gospelswere written with the intention of being historical records – that is, records which are descriptiveof the life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. However, these records also contain the teachings of Christ, which, of course, would be considered prescriptive. But it must be remembered that Jesus’audience was the Jewish people; and he spoke to them as people under the Old Covenant.[25]But He spoke to them as having “more authority” than the Old Testament Law[26], as One who was “raising the bar”, as it were, by introducing new inward requirements that bear on previously established commandments when He says: “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you ….”
  • The Acts of the Apostlesrecords a mixture of what pertained to the Jews under the Old Covenant and what pertained to the Gentiles included in the New Covenant. During the first century, there was, in fact, a time of transition, where aspects of both covenants were practiced.[27]
  • The Epistles, which were obviously written after the New Covenant was established, are “normative” for Christians throughout the church age.
  • The original intention of the writer is key for accurate interpretation and application of scripture.
  • Jesus’ Intention: Considering whether or not something Jesus said in the gospels is “normative”or “prescriptive”for Christians in the church age would require discerning Jesus’ intentionin the given passage, as to whether or not it “belongs” to the New Covenant. Of course, if we see that what Jesus said is also clearly “prescribed” by an apostolic writer in an epistle, then that also indicates it to be “normative”or “prescriptive”for Christians throughout the church age. The apostle Paul specifies that we Christians are not under the Old Covenant Law, but “under the law of Christ”[28], which is the teaching of Christ found in the gospels, where Jesus is revealed as the Living Word, the teleios[29]of the scriptures, the goal of the law and fulfillment of the law.[30]
  • Luke’s Intention: I am of the opinion that Luke made it clear in the opening lines of his gospel and The Acts of the Apostles that it was his intention to record history – not to prescribe doctrine.[31]So I think Acts should be taken as primarily “descriptive”rather than “prescriptive”.In stating this perspective, I am NOT implying that the supernatural displays of the Holy Spirit in The Acts of the Apostles are not “normative” for the church age. In my mind that is a separate issue from the “descriptive” / “prescriptive” paradigm. I am not a “cessationist” – I don’t believe anything about God has “ceased” – including His supernatural power. Being eternal, the Holy Spirit cannot be limited to Old Covenant and New Covenant theologies. It is His nature to be supernatural – He always was and always will be supernatural. And this supernatural power was displayed ON and THROUGH human beings in the Old Testament and IN and THROUGH human beings in the New Covenant. The “descriptive” / “prescriptive” paradigm falls short of the glory – which is Christ.  
  • The Apostles’ Intention: Lastly, we must correctly discern the intention of the apostles in their epistles in order to accurately interpret whether or not particular things they wrote were intended by the Holy Spirit to be “normative”or “prescribed” for Christians throughout the church age. Once again, I must add: I am NOT implying that any of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the epistles are merely “descriptive” of the first century church but later “ceased”. It is impossible to defend the “cessationist” theory with sound exegesis. The gifts of the Spirit are a separate issue from the “descriptive” / “prescriptive” paradigm. The Holy Spirit – “the Eternal Spirit”[32]– was poured out on the Day of Pentecost and the resurrected Christ “gave gifts to men” – to each “a measure of Christ’s gift”.[33]This is not only an aspect of the New Covenant, this is an aspect of “the riches of His grace and glory”[34]. The “descriptive” / “prescriptive” paradigm falls short of the glory – which is Christ. Yet, I must add: the glory of Christ is also not limited to the gifts of the Spirit and far exceeds supernatural power displays.

The ”Letter” Falls Short of the Glory of Christ

The following passage, 2 Corinthians 3:4-18, clearly contrasts the Old and the New Covenants. In this essay, I’d like to say a few things here about the phrase “of the Letter”. This will be in contrast to the phrase “of the Spirit”, which I plan to discuss in more detail in another essay – “The Holy Spirit & the New Covenant”.

4 “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letterbut of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the gloryof his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with gloryFor if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it11 For if that which fades away waswith glory, much more that which remains is inglory. 12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and arenot like Moses, who used to put a veilover his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veillies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spiritof the Lord is, there isliberty18 But we all, withunveiledface, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same imagefrom glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

To begin with, we must specify what Paul means by “the glory”. A few verses after this passage, Paul uses the phrases, “the glory of Christ who is the image of God”and “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ”.[35]Clearly, “the glory of the Lord” – the “out-shining” of God – is Jesus Christ.The manifestation of this gloryis the purpose of the New Covenant, and therefore why Christ must be the Pattern of the New Testament.

Paul used the phrase, “From glory to glory”. Indicating that both covenants had “glory”, he refers to going “from glory”(of the Old Covenant) ”to glory”(of the New Covenant)”. But, “indeed what had glory (the Old Covenant), in this case has no glory because of the glory (the New Covenant) that surpasses it. The revelation of Christ and the transformation into His image by the working of the Holy Spirit surpasses “the Letter of the Law”, making the glory of the Old Covenant pale and dead in comparison to the New Covenant.

To insist on operating according to “the Letter of the Law”, in effect, puts a veil over the glory of Christ. With the revelation of Christ, God has taken away the veil, but to insist on “the Letter of the Law” throws the veil over the glory of Christ.

The “Pattern” to be manifested in the New Covenant is “the glory of the Lord”, which is the image of Christ. The practice of “the elementary principles of the world” places a “veil” over the revelation of Christ, who is the New Testament Pattern.

Moses maintaining a veil over his face, is a picture of our self-effort to keep the glory of God. Self-effort was the vehicle in the Old Covenant. But in the New Covenant, the agent of transformation (into that glory) is not through our self-effort in keeping of “the letter” given by Moses in the Old Covenant, but through the Spirit given by Jesus in the New Covenant – that is, by beholding (through revelation) the image of Christ revealed by the Spirit and surrendering to the Spirit to be transformed into His image. The “Pattern” to be manifested in the New Covenant is “the glory of the Lord”, which is the image of Christ. The practice of “the elementary principles of the world” places a “veil” over the revelation of Christ, who is the New Testament Pattern.

The ”Descriptive”/”Prescriptive Paradigm is still nothing more than “the Letter”.

In this essay, I have been attempting to give a few examples of accurately and inaccurately discerning the intentions of the New Testament writers – that is, what was actually “normative”or “prescriptive”and what was not. But, I have to admit that the “descriptive” / “prescriptive” paradigm is not satisfying to me, as I see the whole idea of prescriptions of certain activities as being at the very core of “the elementary principles of the world”. Again, it is not the activities themselves which are problematic, it is the prescribing of those activities which I perceive as “of the Letter” and therefore violates the essence of the New Covenant by promoting a ministry “of the letter” rather than “of the Spirit” – “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. I am more of the persuasion to say that whatever is descriptive of Christ is prescriptive. But those are thoughts and words for future essays. For now, let’s continue on with addressing two other activities which are conventionally considered “normative” for the church age – “Gathering together on the first day of the week”, which some understand to be “a worship service”, and “breaking of bread”, which some understand to be “the Lord’s Supper”.

Sacramental Sunday

Gathering together on the first day of the week

In the New Testament, there are only two mentions of “the first day of the week” in reference to what took place during the first century beginning with the Day of Pentecost – namely,Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.[36]Many Christians assume these two references describe– and also prescribe– “worship services” because “breaking of bread” and “the collection” are mentioned. In fact, these two scripture references seem to be the font from which springs the idea of the “Sunday morning worship service”, which itself also contains other worship practices. But is that idea accurate? Or is it just another example of a preconception, or presupposition or assumption?

Acts 20:7

Acts 20:7 tells us that Christians were indeed “gathered together on the first day of the week”. These were Christians in Troas. Please note that Luke does not say that the Christians in Troas also “took a collection” on the first day of the week. But, were all Christians in other places also “gathering together on the first day of the week”? We cannot say that based on the New Testament scriptures.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2

1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul told the Corinthians to “put aside and save[37], as he may prosper” “on the first day of the week”. Please note he did not mention whether or not the Corinthians “gatheredtogether on the first day of the week”. And Paul said that he had previously also given the same direction – to “put aside and save[38], as he may prosper” – to “the churches in Galatia”. Did he tell the churches in Galatia to do that on “the first day of the week”? We cannot say that based on the New Testament scriptures. In any case, as we discussed earlier, most likely what was being “put aside” was being put aside at home, not at a public gathering.[39]When was it that he had told “the churches in Galatia” to do this? On his first missionary journey between 47 and 48 A.D. This was 8 or 9 years before he had written the Letter to the Galatians warning against “the elementary principles of the world”.[40]My argument in this essay is that making such prescriptions are in accordance with “the elementary principles of the world”.

Hebrews 10:25

There is no scripture in the New Testament which indicates that Christians must “go to church”, so to speak. But, many Christians point to Hebrews 10:25 in connection with “gathering together on the first day of the week” for a “Sunday worship service”. The verse speaks of “gathering together”; but what is the nature of the “gathering together”? Let’s look at the context of the verse, the writer’s intention, and compare scripture with scripture for the meaning and application.

The verse says: “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some”. Nowhere in this verse, nor in the whole of the context, is “the first day of the week” mentioned. Neither is “worship” mentioned.

What is the writer’s intentionin Hebrews 10? The Letter to the Hebrews was written in 68 or 69 A.D., just prior to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. In response to the Jewish Revolt in 66 A.D., there was fierce persecution and intense suffering for the Hebrews under Nero.[41]Many were tempted to turn away from Christ and go back to Judaism just to escape the persecution and suffering. In verses 32 through 34, the writer reminds the Hebrews of how, “in the formers days, when, after being enlightened”, (they) enduredgreat conflict of sufferings”. He said they enduredso well “knowing (they) had a better possession and a lasting one”. Then in verses 35 and 36 he says: “ Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” In verse 37, the writer points to the goal: “He who is coming will come….” That is the writer’s intention– to strongly exhort the Hebrews not to fall away from Christ and go back to Judaism in order to escape persecution and suffering, but rather to ENDURE UNTIL THEY ARE GATHERED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST AT HIS COMING.

Let’s look at the immediate context – verses 23 through 25:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hopewithout wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one anotherto love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own gathering together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the daydrawing near.”

“Our gathering together” has something to do with “our hope”. The apostle Paul wrote to Titus: “… looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”[42] “Our hope”is the appearing (coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ. What the writer to the Hebrews wrote is remarkably similar to what the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christand our gathering together to Himthat you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed….”[43]Our hopeis the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him. The apostles are saying: “Between now and then, ‘do not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed’, ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering’, ‘stimulate one another to love and good deeds,encourage one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.’” THAT is what the“gathering together”is all about. The writer to the Hebrews doesn’t want to see them also stop gathering – as some of those who had fallen away – because of Nero’s persecution. He doesn’t want to see them go backwards to Judaism, because of Nero’s persecution of Christians. He doesn’t want to see them forsake Christ before His coming, and thus lose their hope and their reward. No, he wants them to “gather together” in order to stimulate and encourage one another to hold fast the confession of our hope until the day of Christ’s coming and our gathering together with Him, because that is our promised hope and reward.

I’ll let the reader choose the better paraphrase:

“We are to continue ‘gathering together’ encouraging ourselves and others with our promised hope and reward until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.”

Or –

“We are to ‘gather together’ because the scripture commands us to sing songs, say prayers, hear a sermon, and give money on Sunday mornings”.[44]

So, what do the New Testament scriptures tell us about Christians “gathering together on the first day of the week”? Arguing solely from the scriptures, we cannot make a case that it was “normative” or “prescribed” even in the first century. Therefore, we cannot make the assumption that the apostle Paul intended “gathering together on the first day of the week” to be “normative” or “prescriptive” for the church age. For various reasons, this is a minority opinion. But are those reasons valid? I don’t think they can be supported by scripture.

Historical Documents

The Didache

Some point to early historical writings to support the idea of “gathering together on the first day of the week”. In the Didache(“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”), which was written between 80 and 90 A.D., the first line of the 14thchapter has been (mistakenly) translated: “On the Lord’s day, gather yourselves together and break bread ….”Citing this translation, some argue that Christians were “gathering together on the first day of the week”to “worship”during the first century, and somehow by extension, conclude that it is “normative”and “prescriptive”for the whole of the church age. Firstly, this is not inspired scripture, it is historical writing. Secondly, the word “day”(Greek: hemera) does not appear in the Greek text of this sentence in the Didache. The sentence would be more accurately translated: “According to the command of the Lord,[45]gather together and break bread….”The only scripture in the New Testament which contains the phrase, “On the Lord’s Day”or “On the day which belongs to the Lord”[46]is Revelation 1:10; and it too is a reference to the Sabbath (seventh day). Thirdly, “the first day of the week”is not even mentioned in the 14thchapter of the Didache. Now, it is true that later in history, Sunday came to be designated as the Lord’s Day. But in the first century, the Sabbath (the seventh day) was designated as “the day which belongs to the Lord”or “the Lord’s Day”. Jesus, Himself, confirms this in the gospels, when He declares, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[47]Frank W. Hardy has written an excellent article on this subject. This is his conclusion on the matter: “Today, ‘Lord’s day’ means Sunday to a large majority of Christians. As early as the late second century it meant Sunday. From this does it follow that it ‘Lord’s day’ meant Sunday in the early second century and beyond that in the late first century? Such a conclusion goes beyond the evidence. The gospels are part of the documentary evidence bearing on this question. They must be allowed to have their input. When they do, it is clear that the ‘Lord’s day’in the earliest Christian decades was not the first day of the week, but the seventh (see Rev 1:10; Matt 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). If this is the case, the change occurred later. When? …Appeals to early Christian practice fall short if they do not include the church’s earliest practice. But to answer the question, the change occurred for the most part during the late second century. In this Alexandria and Rome led the way.”[48]

The First Apology

We can read in Justin Martyr’s First Apology,written around 156 A.D.,[49]that Christians were gathering together on Sundayfor a meeting conducted much like a conventional contemporary “worship service”.[50]But, there is no historical evidence or biblical evidence that Christians “gathered on the first day of the week” during the first century. Of course, when the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the gathering place was then limited to the synagogues and houses. The consensus of biblical scholarship is that after the apostolic period, Jewish Christians continued to “worship” on the Sabbath (7thday) in synagogues; and Gentile Christians “worshipped” on both the Sabbath (7thday) and “the first day of the week” in houses. In the 2ndcentury more and more dissent gradually arose among Gentile Christians about keeping Jewish customs, including the Sabbath (7thday).[51]The Edit of Constantine in 321 A.D. mandated Sunday as a legal “day of rest” – not “worship” per se. Never-the-less, this served to further solidify the separation of the two days of “worship” – Saturday and Sunday – as well as, the two religions – Judaism and Christianity.

Sacramentalism & the New Testament Scriptures

The Lord’s Supper & Breaking of Bread

Thus far in this essay, I’ve addressed

  • “gathering together on the first day of the week”
  • “a Body ministry meeting”
  • “the collection”
  • “breaking bread”

According to the conventional perspective (“the elementary principles of the world”), “gathering together on the first day of the week” gives rise to the idea of “a Sunday morning worship service” consisting of various religious activities including “the collection” and “the Lord’s Supper”.[52]It is specifically the ritual (or activity) of breaking breadin a public gathering which introduces the idea of “the Lord’s Supper”. “Sacramentalism” is based upon the conventional idea that Jesus instituted the “sacraments”of “Baptism” and “the Lord’s Supper”, and commanded the Church to practice these ‘sacraments” until His return. In Christendom, I think a commonly accepted definition of a “sacrament” is: A religious ceremony or ritual regarded as a physical and outward act or sign representing spiritual and inward reality.[53]Now, the various groups in Christendom do differ on as to whether that physical and outward sign represents an act of the Christian– that is, an act expressing an aspect of his faith, or an act of God– that is, a work of divine grace. Without going into very lengthy discussions of things which do not pertain to the focus of this essay, I will offer this example of the different views regarding “the Lord’s Supper” – very simply: Some practice “the Lord’s Supper” primarily as an act of faith– that is, in “remembering” and in “declaring His death”. And others practice “the Lord’s Supper” primarily as a means of receiving grace from God– that is, “by eating and drinking of the life of Christ”.

I would like to suggest that the very nature of a “sacrament”, being a physical and outward sign, puts it into the theological category of an Old Covenant type or shadow which symbolically represents Christ or an aspect of the work of Christ.[54]And as we have previously discussed, to continue in the practice of customs (types and shadows) in the Old Covenant which has been made “obsolete” by the establishment of the New Covenant[55], is to be operating under “the elementary principles of the world”, as the apostle Paul indicated.[56]

While the majority – not all, but the majority – of Christians believe that Christ “instituted” the “sacrament” of “the Lord’s Supper”,[57]in this essay, I would like to challenge that idea. I do this “with fear and trembling”[58], but also “trembling at His word”[59], so to speak. I would like to very briefly demonstrate from scripture that the conventional idea of “sacraments” may not be based in the New Testament scriptures.[60]

“Do this in remembrance of Me”

This is a key phrase connected with what has come to be called “the Lord’s Supper”. Jesus said it in Luke 22:19-22. (It doesn’t appear in the other gospel accounts.)  And Paul quoted it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. I’m inclined to believe that Paul understood what Jesus meant when He said this, because he “received it from the Lord”. So, both Jesus and Paul meant the same thing by this phrase. Let’s see what they meant:

Luke 22

19 “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

Who said this? Jesus. Jesus was a Jew who was sent to the Jews.[61]Who did He say it to? His disciples, all of whom were Jews. Jesus is not speaking to Gentile Christians, as there were no Gentile Christians until after His Resurrection and Ascension.

What is the context? Jesus and His disciples are celebrating the Passover. This was not a common fellowship meal which the Jews referred to as “breaking bread”.[62]According to Leviticus 23, Jews were required to celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover meal each year.[63]Jesus did not say how often this was to be done, as all Jews knew it was to be done yearly. So, the context is the celebration of the Jewish Passover meal.

Now let’s go on to the passage which Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Although known as an “apostle to the Gentiles”, Paul was a devout Jew.[64]He never gave up reaching out to the Jews with the gospel of Christ.[65]And, he practiced all the Jewish customs for approximately 23 years after his conversion to Christ.[66]As a Jewish Christian, he taught that “Christ had been sacrificed as our Passover”, but also advocated the celebration of the Passover feast.[67]

It is important to note that the Corinthians he is writing this epistle to are all Jews.[68]He is writing to them about the shameful way they were celebrating the Passover. And, at this point he refers to the Passover meal as “the Lord’s Supper”.

1 Corinthians 11:17, 20-22

17 “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.”

Please note that this is the first – and only – time the term, “the Lord’s Supper” is used in the New Testament scriptures. It is a term which only Paul used, and he is used it with reference to the Passover meal – not breaking of bread. Why can  I say that he is not referring to a common fellowship meal called “breaking bread”? Because of a number of reasons:

1) Paul clearly identified the occasion with the Passover meal which Jesus had celebrated with His disciples.[69]

2) In verse 20, Paul said they were gathering together for the purpose of celebrating “the Lord’s Supper”, yet, the way they were conducting it contradicted, denied, and went against the term.

3) In verse 22, when Paul exclaims, “What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?”, does it not imply that this was a special occasion (the Passover) and not just a regular fellowship meal (“breaking bread”)? In verse 34, he writes, “If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.” In other words: “If you are really that hungry, eat a meal at home, and then come and celebrate the Passover in a worthy manner.”

4) Don’t the warnings of harsh judgments in verses 27, 29-30 seem to be more commensurate to a consequence of conducting oneself in a manner unworthy of a special religious feast, rather than a common everyday fellowship meal?

1 Corinthians 11

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”

1 Corinthians 11:20-30 was written to Jewish Christians who were still celebrating the Jewish Passover in the first century. The notion that Christ instituted this as a “sacrament” to be practiced by Christians throughout the church age is a notion which is not based in the New Testament scriptures.

But, so it was that Christians from the second century and onward “gathered together on the first day of the week” for a “worship service”. This was contrary to scripture – namely, exhortations in the apostle Paul’s epistles, such as: Galatians 4:1-10, particularly v. 10: “You observe days and months and seasons and years.”, and Colossians 2:8, 16-23, particularly v. 16: “Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.”

The practice of “Communion” or “the Eucharist”[70], consisting of just a wafer of wheat and a sip of wine, cannot be equated with this Passover meal. And the “agape meal”, consisting of a meal and fellowship, which may or may not also incorporate “Communion”[71], also cannot be equated with this Passover. We are certainly free to “remember” and “declare” Jesus’ death and resurrection at any meal – anytime we “break bread” – anytime we have a meal and fellowship with other Christians “at table”[72]; but to “prescribe” or establish as “normative” these customs as a “sacrament” which must be practiced throughout the church age is another thing. Another thing which I would suggest is spiritually “harmful“. “Spiritually harmful”? How can I assert this?

What’s the Harm?

In his book, “Custom and Command”[73], Stan Firth’s stated purpose was this: “All I am trying to do in this book is to encourage dear friends in the unstructured churches that they are well within God’s framework in the way they are moving; and to re-assure dear friends in the ‘structured’ churches that those of us who have ‘gone unstructured’ have not gone off the rails, as they may have feared.” He also stated: “If you are a regular Sunday worshipper and an enthusiastic member of a local ‘structured’ fellowship, there is no reason why you should discontinue your custom, unless, of course, God were to bring a contrary conviction to you.”[74]While my main purpose has been to investigate the New Testament scriptures for answers to difficult questions I have had to ask myself, and to provide sound scriptural and theological reasons for myself and others for moving beyond humanly structured church life in search of an expression of New Covenant worship in Spirit and truth, I would say my purpose does go a bit beyond saying, “There is no harm done, if you want to continue in your conventional customs.”

A summary of the argument I have presented in this essay is this: The prescriptionthat Christians throughout the church age must  “gather together”, take a “collection”, and “break bread” “on the first day of the week” are primary examples of “the elementary principles of the world”[75]. If one is able to accept that statement, then one must also acknowledge that, by definition, “the elementary principles of the world” are tools of the “powers and principalities”[76], and are therefore adversarial to the will and purpose of God for His Church’s witness to His Kingdom.

Again, I want to be clear, it is not the activities themselves which are problematic, it is the prescribing of those activities as being “normative”, separated, set apart, specified, organized and programmed which violates the essence of the New Covenant by

  • ignoring the Holy Spirit
  • promoting a ministry “of the letter” rather than “of the Spirit”
  • and thus keeps Christians living under the shadow of the Old Covenant rather than the New Covenant which Jesus established with His death, burial and resurrection.

This is nothing less than idolatryin that we insist on putting humanly created things in the place that belongs only to God, and putting humanly organized things in the place of the life organism of the Holy Spirit. This contradicts the Word of God and grieves the Spirit of God. It is antichrist in that, in practice, it denies Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of the New Covenant. The most insidious thing is – we ask God to accept and bless these practices which actually arise from our fallen human nature and have been instigated by “world forces of darkness”[77].

New Testament Sacramentalism: Prescribing

special gatherings, in special places, at special times …

The idea of focusing on the presence and movement of God’s Spirit being relegated mainly to the “sanctuary” (holy place) and places which have been separated and set apart from everyday day life as designated places of “worship” is based squarely in the Old Covenant.

Scheduling specified times like feast days and Sundays and Wednesday evenings for programmed times of “worship” is also a practice based in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant God is present and moving in the hearts and lives of His people every day, all day.

To say there are “special” places and times for the presence and moving of God’s Spirit clearly defies the New Covenant, replacing “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” with “special” religious activities. This human systematizing, ordering and programming of activities for the worship life of the church is one of the main examples of “the elementary principles of the world” which are instigated by “world forces of darkness” that are operating in the professing church. The idea that such services are “sanctified” simply because we are Christians gathering in the name of the Lord in places we have identified with His name is actually at the heart of the deception of these “world forces of darkness”. Am I implying that demonic beings are present in the “worship services” of the professing church? From my experience, I would say sometimes they are, and more often they’re not. Also from my experience, I know that, if He wants to, God is perfectly capable of “preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies”[78]. But, that is not the point I am making about the instigation of these “elementary principles of the world”. The point is: How does God want to be worshiped in the New Covenant? New Covenant worship is not to be influenced by “world forces of darkness”, but through the agency of Jesus Christ.[79]“And coming to Him as to a living stone which … is choice and precious in the sight of God,  you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”[80]

If clearly understood, the implications of moving beyond separated, set apart, specified places and times and organized, programmed activities will be extremely radical– that is, a laying of the axe at the root[81]of these conventional worship praxes.

“The manifold wisdom of God –

made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities”

What’s the harm?If we continue practicing under the shadow of the Old Covenant, a veil remains over our hearts, and minds, and eyes:

“… for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains, it not being revealedthat it is done away with in Christ.”[82]

Jesus established the New Covenant more than 2000 years ago, yet, I believe, it has not yet been sufficiently manifest in and through us. Isn’t this exactly what the powers of darkness would want to hinder through keeping us in bondage to “the elementary principles of the world”. They know the Father and the Son covenanted something glorious by the Eternal Spirit, although the powers themselves do not understand the “the mystery which for the ages has been hidden in God (that) might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[83]

What is that “manifold wisdom”? It is a “… wisdomamong those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but God’s wisdomin a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”[84]

The manifestation of this wisdom exceeds what we can think or imagine, but it can be revealed to us and through us by the Spirit[85],if we will come before the Lord and allow the Spirit to remove the veil.

 “A Change is Gonna Come”

Actually, it has already come – we just need to walk into it. Here is just one insight into walking in the New Covenant:

The writer to the Hebrews is distinguishing between Moses and Christ, between the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Judah, between the priesthood order of Levi and the priesthood order of Melchizedek, between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and he writes of A CHANGE:

12 “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of lawalso…. not on the basis of a law[86]of physical[87]requirement[88], but according to the power of an endless[89]life.”[90]

Allow me to offer a paraphrase based on some insights from W.E. Vine[91]: “When the priesthood is changed, of necessity the law changes also in this way … no longer on the basis of prescribing human prescriptions, but according to the power of the life of the Eternal One” – no longer “of the letter”, but “of the Spirit” – according to “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”.

In the next essay, I will be discussing more of what it means to have Christ as “the Pattern” for New Covenant worship in Spirit and Truth.

[1]i.e. originating in the world system, inspired by “world forces of darkness” (Ephesians 6:12), viz. “the elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:3, 9-10; Colossians 2:8 & 20).

[2]These are all activities which are pictured in the New Testament scriptures and practiced in the professing Church. But, there are some other conventional church activities which I will not be addressing although they are practiced by the professing Church, such as “bible studies”, “prayer meetings”, and “times of fellowship”. I won’t be discussing these per se because they are not found in the New Testament scriptures as being practiced in any separated, set apart, specified, organized and programmed way, and I am primarily limited my discussion to what is in the scriptures. However, I believe that what is said in this essay can be applied to these activities also.

[3]Ephesians 6:12

[4]Our English word, radical, comes from the Latin word, radix, which means root.

[5]Hebrews 10:25

[6]Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2

[7]In his commentary on this verse, John Gill, reminds us that the disciples were also fellowshipping with the apostles. The syntax in the Greek text has both the teaching and the fellowship referring back to the apostles. In fact, The Amplified Bibletranslates it as: “the instruction and fellowship of the apostles”.

[8]I believe Breaking of Bread is mistakenly equated with The Lord’s Supper. I will discuss this later in the essay. But, I do believe Breaking of Bread can be equated with everyday common fellowship meals, which is what seems to be indicated in Acts 2:46 and possibly 2 Peter 2:13 and Jude 1:12.

[9]Most Greek texts and English translations have the plural – “prayers”. These are formal prayers which would take place either in homes or daily in the temple at specified times.

[10]Ephesians 4:11-12

[11]And therefore, part of the worship, since “worship” is a life lived in surrender and service to God.

[12]Or “dispensationalism”. The theory that God intended that certain spiritual gifts and practices were to exist only in the first century and then pass away.  This theory is most often based on a poor exegesis of one verse of scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:10.

 

[13]Literally, “put by himself” (NASB reference).

[14]Literally, “put by himself” (NASB reference).

[15]Admittedly, there are two theories regarding the destination and dating of the Letter to the Galatians: To Southern Galatia in 49 A.D. or to Northern Galatia in 56/57 A.D.

[16]Literally, “put by himself” (NASB reference).

[17]Vincent’s Word Studies

[18]Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures

[19]Another theological question is: “What is the relevance of the Old Testament Law in the life of Christians?” There are various views. Some of the main views are presented in the Zondervan Counterpoints book, “Five Views on Law and Gospel”, previously titled, “The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian”.

[20]In the case of the “descriptive”, often there is nothing wrong in doing it; but sometimes there is – if it intrinsically contradicts the New Covenant. Whereas, with the “prescriptive, the principle is that it is in accord with the essence of the New Covenant.

[21]See essays # 4 – “Jewish Roots in Christianity”and # 5 –“Led by the Spirit”in this series, “A New & Living Way”: Investigating New Covenant Worship in Spirit & Truth”.

[22]This is the subject matter of the next essay.

[23]1 Corinthians 2:10-16

[24]It is not in the scope of this essay to discuss principles of interpretation. There are many good articles available about principles of sound biblical hermeneutics. Here are two: “Principles of Biblical Interpretation” by James Davis –  https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-6-principles-biblical-interpretationand “Hermeneutical Principles” by R.C. Sproul – https://www.monergism.com/hermeneutical-principles

[25]Matthew 15:24; 10:5-6

[26]Matthew 7:28-29

[27]See essays # 4 – “Jewish Roots in Christianity”and # 5 –“Led by the Spirit”in this series, “A New & Living Way”: Investigating New Covenant Worship in Spirit & Truth”.

[28]1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2.

[29]Greek, teleios, Strong’s # 5046: that which is perfect, complete, consummate

[30]Romans 110:4; Matthew 5:17.

[31]Luke 1:1-4 & Acts 1:1-2

[32]Hebrews 9:14

[33]Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11

[34]Ephesians 1:7, 3:8 & 16

[35]2 Corinthians 4:4 & 6; Cf. Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3

[36]Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2 & 9, Luke 24:1 and John 20:1 & 19 mention “the first day of the week”, but all have to do with the resurrection of Christ, which is not at issue here. And these passages do not mention anything about “gathering together for worship”. John 20:19 clearly says the reason the disciples had been staying together in the upper room was “for fear of the Jews”, not “for worship” per se.

[37]Literally, “put by himself” (NASB reference).

[38]Literally, “put by himself” (NASB reference).

[39]See pp. 14-16.

[40]Admittedly, there are two theories regarding the destination and dating of the Letter to the Galatians: To Southern Galatia in 49 A.D. or to Northern Galatia in 56/57 A.D.

[41]Cf. https://www.bible-history.com/nero/NEROThe_Jewish_Revolt.htm

 

[42]Titus 2:13

[43]2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

[44]An excellent article for further study of Hebrews 10:25: “What are We Not to Forsake?” by Peter Ditzel   https://www.wordofhisgrace.org/hebrews1025.pdf

 

[45]Greek: kata kuriaken de kuriou, meaning “according to the command of the Lord”.

[46]This is a different set of words: Greek: te kuriake hemera, meaning “on the Lord’s day”.

[47]Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5

[48]“The Lord’s Day in the Didache”(2010), Frank W. Hardy.

[49] Justin Martyr’s “First Apology”may be dated internally from the statement in chapter 6 that “Christ was born one hundred and fifty years ago under Cyrenius.” Since Cyrenius (the Greek form of the full name in Latin , Publius Sulpicius Quirinus) entered office in the year 6 A.D. according to first century Jewish historian, Josephus. So, the apology may be dated 156 A.D.

[50]Cf. “The Early Christians: A Sourcebook on the Witness of the Early Church”, by Eberhard Arnold, pp. 222-225 & 388-390.

[51]Cf. “The Lord’s Day in the Didache” (2010), Frank W. Hardy.

[52]Some groups have “the Lord’s Supper” weekly on a Sunday, and some have it monthly on a Sunday, always included in the “Sunday morning worship service”. (Many have “the Lord’s Supper” at special times in the “liturgical year”, as well.)

[53]As defined by the 16th-century Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, the sacraments are said to be “visible signs of invisible grace”; similarly the Catechism of the 1662 version states that a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.”

[54]Colossians 2:17

[55]Hebrews 8:13

[56]Galatians 4:1-10; Colossians 2:8-23.

[57]The Salvation Army and The Society of Religious Friends (Quakers), as well as some non-denominational groups, do not practice “the Lord’s Supper” (nor “Baptism”).

[58]Philippians 2:12

[59]Isaiah 66:2

[60]The two “sacraments” commonly practiced in all of Christendom are “Baptism” and “the Lord’s Supper”. In this essay, I will discuss only “the Lord’s Supper”, as my theme is the worship praxes of the contemporary professing church. “The Lord’s Supper”, or “Communion”, or “the Eucharist” is conventionally practiced in Sunday morning worship services regularly either weekly or monthly. “Baptism” is conventionally only done once in a person’s life and is not seen as an activity to be repeated weekly or monthly in Sunday morning worship services. However, for excellent presentations of a “non-sacramental” view of Baptism, I would highly recommend: “The Papal and Hierarchical System Compared with the Religion of the New Testament”by Joseph John Gurney and “The Sacraments and the Bible”by Phil Layton.

[61]Matthew 15:24; Cf. Matthew 10:5-6.

[62]See my eBooklet, “Breaking Bread”, a complimentary copy of which can be obtained by emailing: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[63]Matthew 26:1-2, 17-20, 26-29

[64]2 Corinthians 11:22; Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:4; Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5

[65]Acts 21:13

[66]Cf. Acts 21:21-24. Paul advocated and practiced the Jewish customs from 33 to 56 A.D. And then advocated against practicing the Old Testament customs, having come to identify them as “the elementary principles of the world”. See the 4thand 5thessays in this series, “Jewish Roots in Christianity” and “Led by the Spirit”.

[67]1 Corinthians 5:7-8. He wrote 1 Corinthians in 55 A.D. Just a year later, he wrote 2 Corinthians and Galatians. In these epistles, it is plain that he had come to see that keeping the letter of the Old Covenant law was bondage to “the elementary principles of the world”.

[68]1 Corinthians 10:1-2

[69]1 Corinthians 11:23-25 and Luke 22:19-20.

[70]This also may be referred to as “the Lord’s Supper” or “the Lord’s Table”, and is observed by almost all Protestant denominations and “non-denominational” churches either weekly or monthly.

[71]This is observed by most “Organic” or “House” churches weekly.

[72]Again, I recommend by eBooklet “Breaking Bread”. AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[73]Some of what I have done in this essay is similar to Firth’s approach in his book, “Custom & Command”, with “Descriptive” equating with “Custom”, and “Prescriptive” equating with “Command”.

[74]P. 22

[75]Galatians 4:1-10; Colossians 2:8-23.

[76]2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 6:12

[77]Ephesians 6:12

[78]Psalm 23:5

[79]Hebrews 13:15. “Through Jesus … “ Greek: dia, Strong’s # 1223,  “A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through.”

[80]1 Peter 2:4-5

[81]Our English word, radical, comes from the Latin word, radix, which means root.

[82]2 Corinthians 3:14 Alternate reading, NASB.

[83]Ephesians 3:9-11

[84]1 Corinthians 2:6-9

[85]Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21

[86]The word translated “law” is (Greek) nomos, Strong’s # 3551, indicates “prescriptive usage”.

[87]The word translated “physical” is (Greek) sarkeekos, Strong’s # 4561, indicates also “temporal”.

[88]The word translated “requirement” is (Greek) entole, Strong’s # 1785, indicates an “authoritative prescription”.

[89]The word translated “endless” is (Greek) akatalutos, Strong’s # 179, indicates an “indestructaible, permanent”.

[90]Hebrews 7:12 & 16, Context: vv. 11-17.

[91]Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

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