Summary: Part 8, the final part of this series, explores Christian worship as it existed in the first century and what it portended for Christians in later generations.
This 13-part series of classes has been many years in the making. About 25 years ago I began in earnest to examine the features, character and characteristics of the church as it existed in its earliest years. As I sometimes do, I kept my notes all along the way, and this series of classes is to a large extent the product of those years of on-and-off studying the subject. Several things in my experience contributed to my interest in making this 25-year study which I will mention along the way, and those go much further back.
There may be some difficulty in using the individual parts of this series separately, although viewers are free to do so if it serves their purposes. But to those whose interest is in knowing what the church was like in its earliest years, I recommend starting with Part 1 - Introduction to the Church of the New Testament and proceeding through the parts consecutively.
I have prepared some slides that I used in presenting the series in a classroom setting before adapting it to use as sermons. I have left my cues to advance slides or activate animations in the notes as posted on Sermon Central. If anyone is interested in having the PowerPoint files with the slides, I will be happy to send them. Send me an Email at firstname.lastname@example.org and specify what part(s) you are requesting. Be sure that the word “slide” appears in the subject line. It may take me several days to respond, but I will respond to all requests.
THE CHURCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
OUTLINE OF THE STUDY
II. The Origin of the Church
III. What is the church?
IV. The First Christians
V. Authority in the First Century Church
VI. Problems in the New Testament Church
VII. How the Church Functioned
A. Introduction to Functions
B. Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers
C. False Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers & Various Gifts and Functions
D. More Gifts and Functions
E. Evangelists, Preachers, and Ministers, Servants and Deacons
F. Pastors, Elders, Bishops, etc.
VIII. How the Church Worshiped
WORSHIP IN THE FIRST CENTURY
The day of Pentecost must have led directly to the emergence of questions about worship. The first converts to Christianity were Jews. They knew how to worship according to the Law of Moses. Little did they realize that worship—sacrifices, washings and purification, festivals, the articles of the temple--under the Law of Moses were precursors of the worship of Christ. Even while they had not come to know Christ, their worship foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation. It is highly improbable that they knew right away that Christian worship would in time entirely displace the familiar system that their worship merely prefigured.
The first Christians must have wondered, “Will our worship as Christians be different? Will new things be incorporated into our familiar pattern of Sabbaths, festivals and sacrifices?” Many questions must have percolated immediately.
We will examine the effects of this massive change in the first century, and what it portended for worshipers in later generations, by asking the questions presented by five pronouns and adverbs: What? Who? When? Where? and How?
*Advance to pronoun and adverb slide
What? Who? When? Where? How?
WHAT is worship?
To worship means to “bow down before and give honor to a higher being.”
Vines Expository Dictionary defines worship this way: "to make obeisance, do reverence to."
Worship of God, then, is laying ourselves prostrate before God, in subjection and reverence, as an expression of adoration. When I was a child many years ago, men used to kneel beside the pews to pray. I believe those men were worshiping God in their physical bodies. Although we worship when we assemble insofar as we revere God, we do not assemble so that we can worship, as though worshiping is enabled by assembling. We may worship God individually and personally, whether alone or assembled with other worshipers.
WHO is worthy to be worshiped?
It’s an easy question to answer. God alone is worthy. No one here today will dispute that.
Why are we so certain and agreed on that?
God has made it plain that he is extremely displeased when his people worship someone or something other than himself, to the point that he destroyed a nation for it. The first of the ten commandments is:
You shall have no other Gods before me. Exodus 20:3
The second of the ten commandments:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God Exo 20:4-5
Tempted by Satan, Jesus responded this way: