J. S. Bach: “Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825″

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Worship: The Assembly (the Lord’s Supper, Part 2)

prostrationWe have this tendency to treat the assembly in a pagan way. Rather than seeing the Lord’s Supper as a gift and a blessing to be gratefully received from God, we see it as a magic spell. If we get the words right and if we use the exact right ingredients, God will be pleased by our punctilious obedience and compelled to approve our worship as being decent and in order. That is, to please God, each Sunday we must pass a test.

But the deeper we dig into the history and roots of the Eucharist, the more we see that it’s really about God’s initiative to bless us and not a test at all.

Imagine that it’s Christmas morning and your children are waking up, anticipating a tree surrounded by presents. You tell your children to brush their teeth and come downstairs so we can open presents. Your children respond by worrying themselves sick over whether they have properly brushed their teeth for fear that they’ll receive coal and switches rather than Lincoln Logs and Barbies. Continue reading

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J. S. Bach: “Arioso” from Cantata BWV 156

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Worship: The Assembly (the Lord’s Supper, Part 1)

prostrationIn the NT, ekklēsia refers to the people in the church, not the assembly per se.  We are always the church, and so, in a sense, we Christians are always gathered to hear God’s word and to worship.

But very occasionally, the word is used regarding the assembly itself —

(1Co 11:18-19 ESV)  18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

When we are physically together, we “come together as a church.” Something special happens. We re-enact Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Now, this comes together particularly clearly with respect to the Lord’s Supper, because of this important passage — Continue reading

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David Crowder: “Stars”

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Worship: The Assembly (the ekklēsia)

prostrationThe scriptures often speak in term of “types” — antitypes, prototypes, that sort of thing. The idea is that certain NT concepts are often patterned (for want of a better term) on an OT practice or event. There are countless examples.

Of what is the Christian assembly a type?

Well, plainly not the tabernacle or Temple worship. Those have been replaced by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, Jesus himself as Temple, the church as temple with Jesus, and our becoming “living sacrifices” as our spiritual worship (Rom 12:1).

What about the synagogue? Well, the synagogue is not an OT institution. It’s a manmade addition to the OT. A follower of CENI (command, example, necessary inference) hermeneutics would consider the synagogue unauthorized and hence prohibited.

There’s no evidence that the First Century synagogue engaged in congregational singing. They did read and study the OT scriptures, and they did pray to God. And it may be true that cantillating the scriptures — chanting the text — goes back to apostolic times, but if so, it was cantillation by the person reading the text, not the entire congregation.

There was nothing remotely similar to the Lord’s Supper in the synagogue. Continue reading

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Sam Cooke: “A Change Is Gonna Come”

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Worship: Baptism and the Church as Temple

prostrationSo, being a Church of Christ kind of guy, I’ve been thinking about the preceding posts on worship and wondering what the implications of the Creation and the church each being God’s temple would be for baptism. Does seeing things this way shed any light on a difficult doctrine? I think it does.

One of the challenges of the doctrine of baptism has been its lack of OT antecedents. Insofar as the scriptures are concerned, it appears to just pop into existence with John the Baptist. And yet the Jews didn’t seem to consider baptism foreign to their worldview. Why? Continue reading

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The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States

image00121st Century Christian has just published the 2015 edition of The Churches of Christ in the United States. The book is not yet available on Amazon.com. (The most recent version on Amazon is from 2012.) It’s not available in Kindle format.

The website for the book includes a free download of state-by-state statistics. I compared these stats with some stats earlier reported here, resulting in the above chart. Continue reading

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Worship: A Summary

prostrationWe need to pause a bit to summarize.

* God created the heavens and earth as a temple in which to rest.

* Adam and Eve were created to be images of God, displaying his nature in the midst of his temple.

* Adam and Eve were also created to be priests of God in his temple

* Today, the church, as the body of Jesus, is the temple of God.

* Christians are being transformed by God’s Spirit into the image of Jesus, who is the image of God. We Christians are charged to display the nature of Jesus in his temple, the church. We are also created to be priests in the body of Christ — a priesthood of believers.

* At the end of time, the Creation and the Church will be one — one temple, with all of humanity fully transformed into the image of God/Christ. Continue reading

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