Of course, we know from scripture that the earliest assemblies included prophecy and speaking in tongues. 1 Cor 11 and 14 are quite clear on this point. It’s been traditionally taught (not just just in the Churches of Christ) that the New Testament prophets were given to fill the gap created by the New Testament not being yet complete. Congregations were equipped with prophets who taught doctrine and such until the canon was completed, and then the gift of prophecy was no longer needed. Continue reading
So last night, during the Texas A&M game, I posted a lengthy comment on the interpretation of Eph 5:19, and it wasn’t exactly my best piece of organization — being distracted by the game and all.
So I figure I should rewrite the comment as a post while watching the Oklahoma v. Clemson playoff, as it does not involve an SEC team (although Dabo Swinney played for Alabama and is very popular in these parts).
My studies lead me to believe that the passage is speaking of the symposia that followed a Christian agape (love feast) — a time of discussion and fellowship after the meal. Hence, “don’t get drunk on wine” fits the context well, as does “be filled with the Spirit.”
Structure of Eph 5:18-21
(Eph. 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The ESV is much truer to the Greek than the KJV, which confusingly separates each participle (verb ending in -ing) with a semicolon, which in modern English indicates an independent clause (that is, a sentence with a subject and verb). Continue reading
The Christian assembly is one of the central marks of modern Christianity as a religion. Consider the amount of time and money churches invest in their buildings and the staff required to run building-based operations — all because the assembly is so important in Christian practice.
And in Church of Christ theology, conducting the assembly according to the proper rules — the Five Acts of Worship — is actually considered a salvation issue by many, as though God saved us to obtain worship in the proper pattern. Continue reading
It’s often been argued that the Jewish synagogues had a cappella singing, and the early church copied their practice. This is plainly untrue. The synagogues did adopt congregational singing at some point after the destruction of the Temple, but there is precious little evidence that they routinely sang as a congregation before then, and if they did, that it was a cappella. Moreover, the rationale for a cappella singing after the Temple was destroyed was to avoid attempting to replicate the elements unique to the Temple — animal sacrifice, instruments, and such.
The OT speaks of instrumental music frequently, and it’s almost always positive. Instruments are spoken of as indicators of celebration. The absence of instruments is a sign of mourning. Continue reading
Bobby Valentine posted an extensive comment regarding the Jewishness of the early church, and it’s just too good to languish in the comments.
For those not familiar with Bobby’s work, he routinely posts thoughtful essays on the church and Christianity on Facebook. Many of these are archived under his Notes. And Bobby long blogged at Stoned-Campbell Disciple, and although he no longer posts there, the blog continues to offer excellent reading material.
Not wanting to steal Jay’s thunder here but the Jewishness of the early Way is beyond dispute. Modern folks are often guilty of reading BACK into the text mindsets that did not exist for decades and even centuries. Luke never uses the word “Christianity” and no believer is recorded in the book of Acts of appropriating the word “Christian” to themselves (it only occurs 2x any way), whereas Luke routinely uses readily available traditional Jewish talk to describe the identity of the Way. All with roots in the Bible he used, the Septuagint. Here is a brief overview that I wrote for my Facebook wall … I post a slightly modified version here. Continue reading
Remember: the early church had but one congregation per city, and that congregation typically met in multiple houses under a single eldership.
Many Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, also attended synagogue, because the synagogue would have had a complete set of scrolls of the Tanakh (Old Testament) to allow for scripture study. And the church would have periodically met as a whole church, as opportunities arose — such as by meeting at the synagogue, in a public space, or perhaps just outdoors by a river.
They gathered primarily to pray, to receive instruction, and to eat together — a meal called the love feast or the agapē — which included the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper. Continue reading
Going back to Acts 2, we see that the early church gathered to eat together — to “break bread.” In fact, the NT is filled with references to this common meal, which we overlook because it’s not part of the Western way of doing church — Continue reading
Of course, in addition to prayer, we find a strong emphasis on teaching as a reason to gather. For example,
(Acts 2:42 ESV) 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
(Acts 5:42 ESV) 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
(Acts 13:1 ESV) Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
(Acts 15:35 ESV) 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. Continue reading
The subset of Bible study — theology — relating to the assembly and church organization is called ecclesiology.
Today, the heart of worship (in the popular sense of the word) is the song service. If someone speaks highly of the “worship service,” they likely have the quality of the singing in mind — especially in the Churches of Christ. They will secondarily think about the sermon. After all, the two parts of the assembly for which we hire professionals are the the singing and the sermon. Prayers, the Lord’s Supper, and contribution may be handled by amateurs and done poorly, and we won’t much complain. But if the sermon or the singing is bad, we’re either firing someone or changing congregations. Continue reading