Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worship - Commonalities in Synagogues and Early Church

Worship for the Believer

What occurred in the synagogues that was incorporated into the Early Church?

The synagogues offered a place for teaching and preaching of God‘s Word.

Jewish elders met together with Ezekiel in exile in Babylon (Ez 8:1; 14:1; 20:1). Yet there is no positive evidence of actual synagogues at this early stage. In Nehemiah 8:1–8 the postexilic community gathered in Jerusalem, and Ezra the scribe brought the law, read it from a wooden pulpit, and gave an interpretation so that the people understood the reading. When Ezra blessed the Lord, the people bowed their heads and worshiped. These were the basic elements of what came to be synagogue worship. The first undisputed evidence of a synagogue comes from Egypt in the third century bc. From the first century bc onward, the evidence of synagogues is abundant. (Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (1229). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

Matthew 4:23 (KJV 1900)

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Luke 4:16–19 (KJV 1900)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Obviously, it was common for Christians to attend the synagogue and participate with the inclusion of their new faith in Christ, the Messiah.  It was not until the expulsion of the believers and persecution by the Jews that this practice began to cease.  However, the common practices remained in the basic DNA of the Jews who dominated the composition of the early believers.

If the early church did follow the pattern of the Jewish synagogue, as indicated in the above verses, there should be examples in the New Testament of Scripture reading, teaching, and preaching.   would indicate that the synagogue regularly held assemblies.

Paul settles this with his admonition to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:13–16 (KJV 1900)

13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Paul clearly admonishes Timothy to give attention and meditation to reading, teaching, and preaching of doctrine in the early church.

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