Monday, January 7, 2013

Worship - Early church location of assembly

Worship for the Believer

Liturgical worship, sacrifice, is in the Temple of Holy Spirit, our Bodies.

John 4:19–24 (KJV 1900)

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe :me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Worshipful sacrifice for the Christian is in the new prescribed temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies; but was there a physical place of Jewish worship to replace the Tabernacle and Temple which impacted the early church.

 As a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the first temple was completely destroyed.  The destruction of the only place to liturgically worship left a vacuum for appropriate and complete Jewish worship of God.  What did the Jews do after the destruction of their temple when they were taken into exile in 586 BC?  What did those who were left behind in Jerusalem do to appropriately worship God without the sacrifices of the Temple? 

With the prescription of the Temple all other places of sacrifices were replaced.  The obvious conclusion is that worship through sacrifice in the prescribed temple of God was lost to the nation until a new temple could be erected on the original site of the old temple.  However, the lowly and abundant synagogues offered a welcome replacement for corporate practices which would keep the Jewish traditions of prayer, scripture reading, and ceremonial practices alive until the rebuilding of the temple.

The synagogues did not require a building although they were well known in most cities as buildings.  In the case of Paul’s encounter with Lydia, the place of Jewish worship was by the river in an open meeting.  It was there that Paul preached and Lydia was converted.  It is possible that Lydia’s home was the place for the early church in Philippi.

Acts 16:11–13 (KJV 1900)

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

It was from this example of the synagogue that the early church benefited.  The early church’s pattern, by circumstance, also had very local buildings, usually homes, where the traditions of Christianity could be formed.  The first mention of such a place was in Acts 1:13.

Acts 1:11–14 (KJV 1900)

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

It was in this upper room that the early church formed and began its ministry.  It was from here that the great inauguration of the church took place on the Day of Pentecost.  These small places of worship in homes or small buildings across the cities of the Roman world provided for the gathering of the churches.   A general Biblical acknowledgement of such home churches can be found in Colossians 4:15; Phlm 2; Rom 16:3-4.  Although there are more this is sufficient to demonstrate the pattern of the meeting place of the early church.

This is important to the worship of believer’s today.  It is significant that we remember that our place of meeting is not in a Temple of stone, which limits possible worship because of liturgical considerations.  Our worship is in the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies.  That is where sacrifice should occur.  The place of gathering to demonstrate the inside-sacrifice is the assembly place of the church.  It is there that prayer, Bible reading, and other results of our temple worship are perpetuated.

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