[The order of worship was different from the typical Sunday. After an elder made introductory remarks and led a prayer, David focused the assembly and began discussing the simplicity of early Christianity praise.]

In the early years of Christianity, praising God was simple. I doubt that any of us grasp just how simple it was.

  1. For hundreds of years, when Israel worshipped Jehovah God or idolatrous people worshipped one of their gods, praising Jehovah God or praising one of the gods was a complex task.
    1. All praise in what we consider the ancient world had some things in common.
      1. All praise of a deity commonly involved these things:
        1. A designated place
        2. A priesthood
        3. An altar
        4. A sacrifice
      2. The worshippers went to a designated place with their sacrifice to offer praise.
        1. If it was in Israel, Jewish priests took the sacrifices and offered them to Jehovah God.
        2. Or, if it was in other nations, priests serving idols took the sacrifices and offered them to an idol.
    2. But when Christians assembled to praise God, it was simple.
      1. All that was necessary to praise God were human bodies, human minds and hearts, and human voices.
      2. God supplied the sacrifice, and God's sacrifice was effective anywhere on earth.
      3. There was no designated place and no priesthood.
      4. We Christians have a high priest: the book of Hebrews declares he is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:1,2).
      5. We have a sacrifice: Jesus, the lamb of God (Hebrews 9:23-28).
      6. We have an altar, God's eternal altar on which Jesus' atoning blood is ever present.
        Hebrews 10:10-14 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
      7. Because of Jesus Christ, Christians can assemble anywhere on earth and praise God.

    [Opening prayer]

    [Songs of praise]

  2. Jewish Christians praised God through communion from an awareness and a perspective that we, today, have difficulty "connecting" with.
    1. At the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, Israel had observed the Passover feast for hundreds of years.
      1. Exodus 12 records the institution of the first Jewish Passover feast while those Israelites were actually slaves to the ancient Egyptians.
        1. Not long before that first Passover feast, God made this statement to Moses.
          Exodus 10:1,2 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord."
      2. After God gave Moses instructions for the first Passover, He made this statement:
        Exodus 12:14 Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
      3. The Passover feast was a reminder to the Jewish people.
        1. It reminded them that at one time they were slaves.
        2. It reminded them that God did the impossible for them: God ended their slavery when they were powerless to deliver themselves.
          Deuteronomy 6:12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
    2. Jesus was observing the Passover feast, Israel's most important memorial, when he took the first communion with his disciples, our most important memorial.
      1. Near the conclusion of a Passover meal Jesus gave these instructions to his disciples:
        Matthew 26:26-29 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

    [Songs focused on Jesus' death]

  3. You may have noticed that eating and drinking was commonly a part of being in God's presence.
    1. The Passover was called a feast.
      1. That sacred feast focused on three things:
        1. The bitterness of slavery.
        2. Their quick departure.
        3. The joy of God's deliverance.
      2. Eating and drinking was very much a part of this memorial.
    2. It was common for Israel to eat and drink when they were in God's presence.
      1. Their assemblies at the ark of the covenant and the alter were commonly called feasts.
      2. In the acts of eating and drinking, they declared, "We are God's creatures."
        1. "He made us; His acts brought us into existence."
        2. "He provides for us; we are totally dependent on Him."
        3. "We are his chosen people; His promises guide and sustain us."
      3. Through eating and drinking, they declared their joyful awareness that God sustained them with His great gifts.
    3. In the early formation of Israel as a nation, Exodus 24:9-11 makes this statement:
      Exodus 24:9-11 Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.
    4. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, he and his disciples were eating and drinking.
    5. This morning as we remember God's great act of destroying the power of sin through Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, we will eat and drink.

    [Songs focused on Jesus' resurrection]

  4. In the New Testament, people who were not Jews but who were converted to Jesus Christ did not have the memories and history of the Jewish people.
    1. Before Jesus' death and resurrection, they could not be God's chosen people.
      1. Their ancestors did not spent 430 years in slavery in Egypt.
      2. They had not kept the Jewish Passover for hundreds of years.
      3. The feasts they kept in praising idols were not like the feasts that Israel kept as they praised Jehovah God.
    2. Egyptian slavery did not give these people a common experience with Israel, but God's act in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection did.
      1. They were to remember the sacrificial gift of Jesus' body and blood.
      2. And they were to remember what that death meant to all of them as God's community, God's chosen people
      3. Through Christ:
        1. They were created anew by God.
        2. They were delivered from the slavery of evil.
        3. They were made a part of God's chosen people.
      4. As God's new creation in Jesus Christ, they, and we, take communion remembering what God does for us in the death and resurrection of His son.
        Ephesians 4:17-24 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles (godless people) also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    [Song of thanksgiving]



[Song of dedication]

[Dismissal prayer]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 January 2002

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