Video: Resurrection of Hope

When Jesus died, it was an event of cataclysmic proportion. The rocks splits, the earth shook, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom, and the graves of many saints gave back their dead. “Creation, the cosmos, mourned the death of its creator.”

On that day many believers lost hope – On that day, many people went into hiding, living in fear. But God, on the third day, brought Jesus back to life. On the third day, Hope was resurrected, and the course of human history was fundamentally altered.

The resurrection of Christ is all about hope. It reminds us, even when things are grim there is no need to despair, because we have hope that things will get better.

The resurrection of Christ is all about hope. Knowing that Christ rose from the dead, we have peace to weather the storm, because the same God who rose Jesus from the dead has the power to say “Peace, be still”

The resurrection of Christ is all about hope. We know the apostles were mourning and crying on Friday night but they rejoiced on Sunday morning. Therefore, we can say with confidence that “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The stone rolled away – up from the grave He arose – He arose, a victor from the dark domain. Every song about the resurrection of Christ ought to fill our hearts with joy and nothing but hope. That’s why we celebrate it every Sunday when we take the Lords Supper – to remind us all that there is hope in our future

The resurrection of Christ is all about hope. We know that death could not keep Jesus in the grave; therefore, we can rest assured that death will not be the end of the story. Our hope is firm, because of what we know about the God that we serve.

The resurrection of Christ is all about hope, and hope gives us the willpower to persevere through the darkest valleys of life, especially the one that we are currently going through. Lord, we thank you for the resurrection of hope, because hope will always triumph in the face of trouble.

Resurrection Sunday ONLINE

Every week, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This week, we’ll meet again online and spend some time worshipping together.

Join us for Singing, Prayer, Communion, and a Lesson from Donny Pierre.  Invite friends and family to join us for this celebration.

Just go to the church website, www.waterburychurch.org and we’ll get started at 10:30am.  Or, you can go to our YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/c/waterburychurchofchrist

Once again, if you have some prayer requests, please send them by email to bulletin@waterburychurch.org or you can text them with your name to 203-936-7269.

Adult Classes Online This Week (April 8 & 9, 2020)

Posted on March 31, 2020 by Jim Sanzone

After success last week, we are planning on running online classes for the Men and Women again this week.

The classes were interactive, and we had people asking questions, and talking during the classes.  Hope to see more of the church at the classes this week.

We will split up the classes on Wednesday evening for the men, and Thursday evening for the women.  We can’t do them on the same night as it would be too difficult for the men and women to be in separate online classes at the same time in their homes, and we only have one account to host the classes.

It’s a good idea to join a few minutes early to get connected and make sure that everything is working.  

You can also try to test this at any time by going to zoom.us/test and download Zoom to your computer before the class.

If you need help joining, you can call or text to 203.936.7269 when trying to start the class and Tori and Jim Sanzone will try to help you.


Men’s Class – Muscle and a Shovel

Wednesday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


Women’s Class – Submission

Thursday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


For the Kids

There are some terrific videos available on RightNow Media for the young ones to watch while we’re all stuck at home.  If you don’t have a login for that, shoot an email to bulletin@waterburychurch.org


Small Group Meetings

If there are any other small groups within the church who want to use Zoom to hold a meeting, it’s pretty easy to do and we have folks who can help you set it up and run it.  Email bulletin@waterburychurch.org if you are interested.

Adult Classes Online This Week (April 1 & 2, 2020)

After success last week, we are planning on running online classes for the Men and Women again this week.

The classes were interactive, and we had people asking questions, and talking during the classes.  Hope to see more of the church at the classes this week.

We will split up the classes on Wednesday evening for the men, and Thursday evening for the women.  We can’t do them on the same night as it would be too difficult for the men and women to be in separate online classes at the same time in their homes, and we only have one account to host the classes.

It’s a good idea to join a few minutes early to get connected and make sure that everything is working.  

You can also try to test this at any time by going to zoom.us/test and download Zoom to your computer before the class.

If you need help joining, you can call or text to 203.936.7269 when trying to start the class and Tori and Jim Sanzone will try to help you.


Men’s Class – Muscle and a Shovel

Wednesday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


Women’s Class – Submission

Thursday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


For the Kids

There are some terrific videos available on RightNow Media for the young ones to watch while we’re all stuck at home.  If you don’t have a login for that, shoot an email to bulletin@waterburychurch.org


Small Group Meetings

If there are any other small groups within the church who want to use Zoom to hold a meeting, it’s pretty easy to do and we have folks who can help you set it up and run it.  Email bulletin@waterburychurch.org if you are interested.



New Brother Joe Medford

Welcome to our new brother in Christ!

Joe Medford, husband of Esther Medford, was baptized today and joined the Lord’s family.  Joe has been studying with Alan Brinton and realized today after the lesson that he needed to be baptized in order to be saved.

I’m sure that we’ll all give Joe a big hug and get to know him better once we can all come together again soon.  In the meantime, please pray for our new brother as he begins his new walk in Christ.

Sunday Worship: March 29, 2020

Due to the ongoing virus quarantine, we’ll be doing our worship service online again this week.  Join us at 10:30 for singing, prayer, communion, teaching, and giving together.

To join in on our worship service, just go to the church homepage at www.waterburychurch.org.  Our service will be broadcast right there on the home page.

Prayer Requests:If you have any prayer requests, you can send them in live to email at bulletin@waterburychurch.org or text them to 203.936.7269.

Check in on each other:Please, take a few minutes today to reach out to your church family and make sure that we’re all OK.  Everyone can use a call, don’t wait for your phone to ring, go ahead and take the initiative to reach out to some one.

Adult Classes Online This Week (March 25, 2020)

After success last week, we are planning on running online classes for the Men and Women this week. This will get us back to the classes that we’ve been having for the last several weeks on Wednesday evenings.

The classes were interactive, and we had people asking questions, and talking during the classes.  Hope to see more of the church at the classes this week.

We will split up the classes on Wednesday evening for the men, and Thursday evening for the women.  We can’t do them on the same night as it would be too difficult for the men and women to be in separate online classes at the same time in their homes, and we only have one account to host the classes.

It’s a good idea to join a few minutes early to get connected and make sure that everything is working.  

You can also try to test this at any time by going to zoom.us/test and download Zoom to your computer before the class.

If you need help joining, you can call or text to 203.936.7269 when trying to start the class and Tori and Jim Sanzone will try to help you.


Men’s Class – Muscle and a Shovel

Wednesday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


Women’s Class – Submission

Thursday at 7pm
To join by computer, smartphone, or tablet…
https://zoom.us/j/9747899358

To join by phone only…
Dial +1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID when prompted:
Meeting ID: 974 789 9358#
Don’t worry if it asks you for a Participant ID…you can skip that.


For the Kids

There are some terrific videos available on RightNow Media for the young ones to watch while we’re all stuck at home.  If you don’t have a login for that, shoot an email to bulletin@waterburychurch.org


Small Group Meetings

If there are any other small groups within the church who want to use Zoom to hold a meeting, it’s pretty easy to do and we have folks who can help you set it up and run it.  Email bulletin@waterburychurch.org if you are interested.

Development of the Papacy

The purpose of this work is to show how the Papacy was a gradual development from the New Testament form of church organization. Today, it is commonplace to see the Pontiff traveling throughout the world, and in most countries a Papal visit is a national event. However, the Papacy as we know it today has evolved over centuries and centuries and bears no resemblance to anything we read about in Scripture.

       The Catholic Church maintains that the Papal office can be found in the words of Jesus spoken to the apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18. They view the Pope in Rome, as a successor to Peter and is the supreme head of the church. Moreover, they teach that Keys to the Kingdom were given directly and personally to Peter alone.

Cardinal Gibbons asserts the primacy of Peter and his successors as follows: ‘Our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in government of His Holy Church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the Popes, or Bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter.’ [1]

       Earle Cairns adds this historical insight:

The Petrine theory, based on such scriptures as Matthew 16:16-18; Luke 22:31-32, and John 21:15-17, was generally accepted by 590. According to this theory, Peter had been given “ecclesiastical primogeniture” over his fellow apostles, and his superior position had been passed on from him to his successors, the bishops of Rome, by apostolic succession. As early as about 250, Stephen I had appealed to these Scriptures. [2]

       However, in Scripture Peter does not refer to himself as a Pope but as an elder, in I Peter 5:1-4.

ELDERS-BISHOPS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

       Joseph Henry Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon says that the term for elders among Christians referred to:

Those who presided over the assemblies (or churches): Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4; 21:18; I Timothy 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; II John 1; III John 1; I Peter 5:1, 5. That they did not differ at all from the (episkopoi) bishops or overseers (as acknowledged by Jerome on Titus 1:5)…is evident from the fact that the two words are used indiscriminately, Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7. [3]

       Furthermore, the New Testament knows nothing of one human being to rule God’s church here on earth. Jesus chose 12 apostles – not just one. When each congregation was set in order in the New Testament times there were elders (bishops) selected for each congregation. (Acts 14:23) Paul addressed the bishops at Philippi – not just one bishop. (Philippians 1:1)

ELDERS-BISHOPS IN THE SECOND AND THIRD CENTURY

Didache:

Elect therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, men who are meek, not lovers of money, true and tested. For they minister to you the service of the prophets and teachers. Do not look down on them, for they are your honored men along with the prophets and teachers. [4]

The terms bishop and elder appear to have been used interchangeably in early post-apostolic Christianity, even as they appear in the New Testament.

Polycarp:

Likewise the deacons are to be unblameable before his righteousness as servants of God and Christ and not men. They are not slanders, double tongued, not lovers of money, but self controlled in all things…Wherefore it is necessary that… you be subject to the elders and deacons as to God and Christ….And the elders are to be compassionate, showing mercy to all, turning back those who have strayed.[5]

       Elders are plural and Polycarp says nothing about a separate bishop.

The growth of the office of the monarchical bishop did not develop until the end of the second century.

       For example Ignatius said this in his letter to the Symyrneans:

Avoid the divisions, as the beginning of evil. Follow, all of you the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father; and follow the presbytery as the apostles. Moreover, reverence the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no man do aught pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that Eucharist be considered valid which is under the bishop or him to whom he commits it. Wheresoever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize, or to hold a love feast. But whatsoever he approves, that also is well pleasing to God….[6]

       Ignatius makes a distinction between the bishop and the presbyters. The Ignatian pattern of one bishop and a plurality of elders and deacons spread through out the churches by the end of the second century.

LATER HIERARCHICAL DEVELOPMENTS

The bishop in the early church was considered one of many bishops who were equal to one another in rank, power, and function. Between 313 and 450 the Roman bishop came to be acknowledged as the first among equals. But, beginning with Leo I’s accession to the Episcopal throne in 440, the Roman bishop began to claim his supremacy over other bishops….The Bishop was also considered the guarantor of orthodox doctrine. [7]

       Later Boniface III was recognized as the first Universal Bishop of Rome in the year A.D. 606.

       The zenith of Papal power was exercised between 1054 and 1305. During this time some of the Popes even had authority over government rulers.  For example, Philip of France married Ingeborg of Denmark. However, when his bride came to France, he claimed she had been bewitched. He forced the French bishops to annul the marriage, and then later took a woman by the name of Agnes home as his wife. Pope Innocent III ordered Philip to put away Agnes and restore Ingeborg to be his lawful wife. When Philip refused to do so Innocent placed France under an interdict in 1200. This decision closed all churches, forbade the celebration of mass, the priests were not allowed to preach except out in open places. The uproar all over France forced Philip to submit to the Pope. 

BIBLICAL REBUTTAL TO THE PAPACY

Psalm 118:22

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

Isaiah 8:14

14 and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble

Isaiah 9:6

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, [a] Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 22:22

22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

Isaiah 28:16

16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;  the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

       In Old Testament prophecy, the Stone, the Foundation, the Government, and the Keys refer to Christ and not to Peter. Furthermore, the New Testament “foundational prophecies” apply directly to Christ. (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; I Corinthians 3: 10, 11; I Peter 2:4-10)

Moreover, in Matthew 16 the context is asking about the identity of Jesus and not the identity of Peter. (Matthew 16:13-20). When Jesus spoke of His church being built upon the rock, what was he referring to? If the building is to last it must be built upon something solid. There is only one person who provides such a foundation – Jesus the Christ the Son of the living God.

In fact, the doctrine that Christ had built his church upon Peter was prominently announced for the first time in the council of Chalcedon (451) with the famous words: ‘The twice blessed and all honored Peter who is the rock and basis of the Catholic Church and the foundation of the orthodox faith.’ But even in then these words were not used to urge a claim to any pre-eminence by the bishop of Rome. They were spoken to give force to the condemnation of Dioscoros who was the most unpopular man in the Episcopal assembly at Chalcedon. Before this time, most of the fathers referred the expression ‘upon this rock’ to Peter’s faith and confession: ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.’ [8]

Finally Augustine, probably the greatest mind of the Catholic Church, writing in the fifth century, did not hold the position of present day Romanists as to Peter’s having primacy over others, and not at all as to transmitting to others any special authority. In fact, in his sermon on Matthew 16:18 he affirms that the church was not built on Peter but on Christ: ‘Simon he was called before: but his name of Peter was given him by the Lord and that in figure to signify the Church. For because Christ is the Rock (Petra), Peter (Petros) is the Christian people. For the Rock (Petra) is the principle word. Therefore Peter (Petros) is from Petra, not Petra from Petros; as Christ is not called from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. ‘Thou art therefore,’ said he, ‘Peter, and upon this Rock, which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou has recognized, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church. Upon me I will build thee, not me upon thee.’[9] 

       This should help our Catholic friends to see that Matthew 16:18 was not always interpreted as Peter being viewed as the rock foundation of the church, even among their own scholars.

       Furthermore, the qualifications of apostolic succession are clearly set forth in Acts 1:21, 22.

21Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

       The conditions are:

1)     Witness of Jesus’ baptism.

2)     Witness to all Jesus teachings, miracles and demonstrations of his divinity

3)     Witness of the ascension

4)     Witness of Jesus’ resurrection

       No one could possibly qualify for these terms today. The apostolic ministry was unique in that it formed the foundation for the church not only in the first generation, but for all future generations (Ephesians 2:20). Once that foundation was laid there was no need for that office to continue in succeeding generations. Now local churches are overseen by a plurality of bishops within each local church.

Ephesians 4:11, 12

11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

       We have a complete list of ministers and servants as found in the early church; however, there isn’t a cardinal or a pope mentioned in the list.

Colossians 1:15-23

Christ as the head of the Church certainly precludes any other person of a lesser nature to occupy that place.

CONCLUSION

       The doctrine of the Papacy is a departure from what the scriptures teach. The apostles never believed that the church was built like a pyramid with Peter at the top. Instead they portrayed the church as a flock of sheep overseen by Christ as the Chief Shepherd.

       The leaders of the church are not to be masters or rulers but only stewards of the flock committed under their care. (Matthew 20:26, 27) The truth of the matter is the supremacy of the popes can in no way be derived from the humble apostle like Peter (Acts 10:26) but the result of tradition that had developed over many years. If we will read the Bible without prejudice we will find that Christ and not a Pope in Rome is the Chief Shepherd and Universal Head of the church here on earth.

[1] Aniceto M. Sparagna, Personal Evangelism Among Catholics (Joplin: College Press, 1955) 56.

[2] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity through the Ages (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 151.

[3] Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976) 536.

[4] Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1981) 167.

[5] Ferguson, 168.

[6] J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (Southhampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1957) 48.

[7] Cairns, 150.

[8] Sparagna, 67.

[9] Sparagna, 68.

The Kingdom of God

The concept of the Kingdom is a very important biblical topic. The idea is first introduced in the Old Testament and then continues in the New Testament.

 THE TERM DEFINED 

            The New Testament word is Basileia which is defined by W. E. Vine as:

Primarily an abstract noun denoting sovereignty, royal power dominion… then by metononmy, a concrete noun denoting the territory or people over whom a king rules.[1]

      Nat Cooper makes this point in the use of the word in the bible.

In scripture the abstract concept of the term kingdom is used the most. It is rule rather than realm. Hence, His Kingdom is His rule or reign. God’s priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6; I Peter 2:5-9) became a manifestation of His sovereignty made visible in His people (Israel in the Old Testament – the church in the New Testament). [2]

THE KINGDOM IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

God is regarded as sitting upon a throne (Psalm 103:19a; Ezekiel 1:26-28) where he is surrounded by the heavenly host who serve Him (I Kings 22:19) and from where he watches over the whole earth (Psalm 33:13f.). In the praise offered to Him by Israel He was regarded as the King of the whole world (I Chronicles 29:11; Psalm103:19b) and of all the kingdoms of men (2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 47:2, 7). He is the eternal King (Psalm 145:13; Daniel 4:3, 4), both from everlasting (Psalm 74:12; 93:2) and to everlasting (Exodus 15:18). His right to be King rests upon the fact that He is the Creator of the heaven and the earth (Psalm 95:3-5). His kingly rule is displayed in His present jurisdiction over the nations of the world (Psalm 22:28; Jeremiah 46:18; 48:15; 51:57) and in His appointment of their rulers (Daniel 2:37; 4:17; 5:21).  [3]

      Furthermore, the Kingdom in Old Testament theology would refer to the Israelites as a nation of people. God ruled more than Israel, but had a special kingdom relationship Israel. For example, in Exodus 19:5-6 we read.

5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you [a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

The concept of the kingdom then is not about territory but ruler ship. Unfortunately many of them did not realize that God wanted to rule the hearts of the people. No doubt this is why Jesus will sternly say to some of the Jews of his day:

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43)

Each man finds something that he personally appropriates. That shows us that you can be under the dominion of God and not a member of the kingdom. Everyone in the universe is under God’s rule, because He is the Sovereign of the universe. Those who are on the earth are, in a sense, in the kingdom. But many on those on earth are not subjects of the King. [4]

      Therefore, the way to be the true people of God is to acknowledge God’s rule. The kingdom of God must be personally appropriated. So in a sense God has always had a kingdom within a kingdom.

      However, there are prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the kingdom being established in the future, like in Daniel 2:30-45.

Daniel was summoned to interpret the vision and he said unto Nebuchadnezzar, “thou art the head of gold.” (2:38) Daniel then said, “And after thee shall arise ANOTHER KINGDOM inferior to thee; and another THIRD KINGDOM of brass, which shall bear rule over the earth.” (2:39)

After these another FOURTH KINGDOM would rise. (2:40) The first kingdom, as Daniel says, was the Babylonian kingdom. History tells us that the second world power after Babylon was the Medo-Persian kingdom. (5:28) Again, history confirms that the third world power after the Medes and Persians was the Grecian kingdom of Alexander the Great. After the Greeks came the great Roman kingdom which subdued all other kingdoms of the world. In verse 44, Daniel says, “And in the days of those kings (the Roman kings) shall the God of heaven set up a KINGDOM which shall never be destroyed, nor shall sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and IT SHALL STAND FOREVER”.[5]

THE KINGDOM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

      It was during the days of the Roman Kings that John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) It was also during the days of the Romans kings that Jesus came preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17; 10:7). “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15)

When Jesus declared ‘The time is fulfilled,’ he was saying that it was time for all God had said and done in Israel’s history to be brought to competition. The universal reign of God was about to be manifested in a new and special way. The hopes expressed in the Old Testament prophets were ready to be realized. [6]

      It is clear that in several references the kingdom refers to the church. Therefore, in one sense the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled when the church was established on the day of Pentecost, because after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 the Bible speaks of the Kingdom as being in existence. (Revelation 1:9; Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 2:12)

The prophets closed with the promises of the Messiah’s coming. The Gospels close with the Messiah promising that the kingdom of God had just about arrived. The book of Acts (chapter 1 excepted) tells the story of a kingdom arrived.[7]

There is a difference between the relationships designated by the terms Kingdom and Church. The kingdom refers to the relationship Christians have with God. It’s the rule or dominion of Christ in one’s heart. The church refers to the relationship Christians have with one another. These are two different terms, yet they refer to the same group of people just as father and husband are two different terms which refer to two different relationships, yet refer to the same man. These terms are not the same, they are inseparable.[8]

      These terms are applied to the same group of people but define different aspects of the body. Kingdom refers to the “governing aspect” of God’s people and church refers to them as a “called out body” of people separate from the world. The church is a monarchy with Christ as King with all authority. (Matthew 28:18; I Timothy 6:15) Only those born again, born of water and the Spirit, can enter the kingdom. (John 3:3-5) This means they must be baptized according to Christ’s will and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

      Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven thirty times. Mark uses kingdom of God sixteen times. Luke uses the phrase kingdom of God thirty two times. By cross referencing parallel accounts in the synoptics, the expressions kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God are synonymous. (Matthew 19:23; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24) By looking at these parallel accounts it is clear that the two expressions are interchangeable. In fact in Matthew 19:23 Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of heaven, and then in verse 24 he uses the phrase kingdom of God.

      Nonetheless, the idea of God wanting to rule the hearts of the people in the Old Testament is also found in the New Testament. It is still appropriate to pray, like Jesus first taught his disciples to pray, for the kingdom or the ruler ship of God to come into this world. (Matthew 6:10) However, by this I am not talking about the “millennial kingdom” but God’s reign in the hearts of men and women.

      Jesus emphasized the internal aspect of His kingdom in Luke 17:20, 21.

When Jesus said (Luke 17:20, 21) that the kingdom doesn’t come with observation – that the kingdom of God is ‘within’ he wasn’t denying external things, he was emphasizing internal things. These people thought of the kingdom only in terms of victory, triumph, over enemies not knowing that the central thrust of God’s rule was to produce victory within.[9]

      In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says that one cannot enter the kingdom unless one has a child-like spirit. In Matthew 18:23 one cannot enter unless he or she has a forgiving spirit. In Matthew 25:31-46 one cannot enter it unless he or she cares for their fellowman. We should desire for God to take full control of our own personal lives. (Matthew 6:33)

THE KINGDOM IN HEAVEN

      Christians have a dual citizenship. Under the flags of worldly governments we are to be citizens living exemplary lives in our communities, but there is a more valuable citizenship which is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20, 21). Those who do the will of the Father will inherit the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 7:21) Christ now reigns in heaven. (Acts 2:30-36) Ultimately he will translate all of his subjects to the heavenly kingdom. (Matthew 25:1-13)

[1] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Mclean: Macdonald Publishing Company) 634.

[2] Nat Cooper, The Life of Christ (Lubbock: Sunset School of Preaching Extension Study Guide, 1983) 18.

[3] I. H. Marshal, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume Three (Grand Rapids: Zondervan publishing House, 1977) 801.

[4] John MacArthur, The Parables of the Kingdom (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985) 105.

[5] Roger Dickson, Millennial Mistake (Shreveport: Lambert Book House, Inc, 1976) 71.

[6] Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996) 23.

[7] Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God (Lubbock: Montex Publishing Company, 1979) 79.

[8] Wayne Kilpatrick, Church History (Florence: Heritage Christian University) 2-1.

[9] McGuiggan, 67.

WORSHIP IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Worship in the New Testament embraced both attitude and form. Jesus spoke of worship in this way in John 4:24:

24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit d in truth.”

Worship must not be robbed of its emotional content or made void of feelings. However, it must also be based upon the truth of God’s word. True worship is not based upon doing things the way we like, or the way that most people like it. We have to look through scripture to find the God affirmed acts or items of praise and devotion to God.

Worship is not a spectator sport in which the worshipers sit in the stands giving their approval or disapproval to those performing in the arena. In true worship, the worshippers are involved in the action. Worship is not a dramatic production in which the ‘clergy’ are the actors and the worshippers are the audience. In true worship, God is the audience, and the worshipers are the actors.[1]

Earle Cairns has this to say about the corporate worship of the early church.

During the first century, two services were held on the first day of the week. That day was adopted as the day of worship because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). The morning service most likely included the reading of Scripture (Col. 3:16), exhortation…, prayers, and singing (Eph 5:19). The love feast (I Cor. 11:20-22), or agape preceded the Communion during the evening service, By the end of the first century the love feast was generally dropped and the Communion celebrated during the morning service of worship. [2]

It is also interesting to look at what we know about worship during the second and third Centuries.

WHERE CHRISTIANS MET

The early Christians did not think of a church as a place of worship. A church signified a body of believers who were called out of the world and into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They met in homes (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5 Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1-4), the Temple (Acts 5:13), public auditoriums (Acts 19:9), and synagogue as long as they were permitted to do so (Acts 14:1, 3; 17:1; 18:4). Everett Ferguson said:

Not until the age of Constantine do we find specifically constructed buildings. Any space where an assembly was permitted was a possible site for Christian gatherings. [3]

CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLIES

Between A.D. 110 and 113 the Roman Emperor Trajan received a series of letters from Pliny, the governor of Bithynia. Pliny was concerned about what he considered a cult who met secretly within his governmental domain. His letters give some ideas about the types of things Christians practiced in their assembly in the early second century.

….It was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery,

not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and to meet again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food; and even this (they said) they had given up doing after the issue of my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had forbidden the existence of clubs. [4]

Clement of Alexandria (150-220 A.D.)

Always giving thanks in all things to God through righteous hearing and divine reading, true inquiry, holy oblation, blessed prayer, praising, hymning, blessing, singing, such a soul is never separated from God at any time. [5]

THE DAY OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

Ignatius (born about 50 A.D.)

If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since we are disciples in the spirit (Magnesians 9) [6]

The Epistle of Barnabus. This could be the oldest uninspired Christian writing (69-79 A.D.). He was antagonistic towards the Judaizers, and worked to harmonize the Old and New Testaments.

Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which I rested from all things, I will make the beginning of the eight day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore, we (Christians) keep the eight day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared  ascended into heaven. [7]

THE LORD’S SUPPER

The roots of the Lord’s Supper are deeply intertwined in the Passover Meal which God instituted shortly before the Israelites escaped Egyptian bondage. Jesus did share many meals with his disciples but the Passover meal he shared with them the night he was arrested was special. (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:1-21). Jesus gave it an all new meaning. However, our knowledge of exactly how the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the first century is limited.

In the mid second century, sometime between A.D. 140 and 155 Justin Martyr wrote his Apology to the Emperor Antionius Pius. This philosopher, teacher, apologist informed the emperor of this account of the meal:

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen is the Hebrew for ‘so be it’. And when the President has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those of us who are called deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and the wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. [8]

The Didache was a church manual used by the early church that some have dated between (110-120 A.D.)

Concerning the eucharist, give thanks in this way: First concerning the cup, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.’ Concerning the broken bread, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever. As this broken bread scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one loaf, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. Because the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.’ No one is to eat or drink of your eucharist except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord. [9]

SCRIPTURE READING IN WORSHIP

The first Christians were Jews. It should not be surprising that they would bring to their new faith and worship the custom of reading from Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy, (I Timothy 4:13)

13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Later in the second century Justin Martyr wrote,

The memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits (1st Apology67) [10]

CONCLUSION

The location of worship is not what is important. Worship takes place inside us. Our attitudes and emotions must blend with the God ordained items or acts of devotion. The Christians of the second and third centuries continued the external forms of worship that began in the first century by Jesus and his apostles.

We need to continue to worship God in spirit and truth today!

[1] Jimmy Jividen, More Than A Feeling Worship That Pleases God (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1999) 76.

[2] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through The Centuries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 84.

[3] Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1981) 76.

[4] J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1983) 14.

[5] Ferguson, 82.

[6] Ferguson, 67

[7] Ferguson, 67

[8] J.G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985) 104.

[9] Ferguson, 93.

[10] Dan Dozier, Come Let Us Adore Him (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1996) 196.