PART 2: NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY (CHURCH)
The birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus were a game changer for followers of God/Jesus. The new covenant, fulfillment of the Law and the new standards modeled by Jesus were a new paradigm that would be impossible for some to follow and difficult for many. The rest of the people had no intention of following Him, no matter what.
For now, I am going to focus on what I have learned concerning the way the new followers of Christ were to worship the Lord. I have found it to be totally different than the old way. The law had been fulfilled! There was no need for any more animal sacrifices! Everyone could approach God directly and individually. We could see the fulfillment of prophecies in that Jesus covered our sins, offered salvation and gave us the Holy Spirit (our Helper).
Worshipping was to be very different than in Old Testament (OT) times. I think that may be why it was so hard for many to understand and change their habits. But change was necessary.
The writings of Justin Martyr give us a glimpse of Christian worship as it came to be developed by the middle of the 2nd century: (Origins of Christian Worship, http://www.biblelessons.com/origins.html )
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president* verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
* president: an officer of high rank in the Jewish state, exercising the functions, not simply of an analyst, but as chancellor or president of the Privy Council. (From Bible study tools)
Searching the New Testament
It seems that Jesus did not give us specific instructions on when and where we were to worship, but He did give us direction on exactly what He wanted us to do in worship through various Scriptures. From what I read, the assembly* of Christ-followers after the day of Pentecost was to worship and praise God along with fellowship with other believers (among other things). With that said, I am going to pass on what I learned in Scripture about worshipping our Lord as stated in the New Testament.
*The word assembly is the correct translation from the Greek word ekklesia, which means: the assembly of the called out ones. There are also Hebrew words in the OT that mean the assembly as well. The Hebrew words edah and kahal both mean assembly or congregation in the OT.
As we study, we are expected to grow. God’s Word tells us in Ephesians 4:14, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” Also, being grounded in Scripture helps us fight the enemy.
And we learn that Jesus also wants His house to be in order. 1 Cor. 14:40 tells us “But let all things be done in decently and in order.” And in 1 Cor. 14:33 “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (Regarding the Corinthian church’s controversy over the misuse of tongues at the gatherings, but this Scripture is not just limited to the misuse of tongues.) As far as church leadership goes, He gave us instructions concerning Deacons, Elders and Pastors in Titus, Timothy, Acts, and 1 Peter.
As Christians, they were free to meet together at any time of the day, any day of the week, and any season of the year. They were not limited to meeting on just one day, since no day had been specifically set aside by God for Christian fellowship and worship. (Note: the Sabbath was a day of rest.)
Basically, church was for believers to attend a gathering which involved singing and speaking praises to God, reading and studying the Word, and fellowshipping by sharing a meal and taking communion as one body. Also, it was a time for gathering things for the needy in the community and to serve the widows and orphans. And Jesus talked about believers (the Christian Church = the assembly) being a ‘light on a hill’ for all to see the reflection of His love emitting from its people.
Information on the early assembly or gathering of Christians also implies that believers were to be sent out beyond their meeting place to share the Gospel. They shared Christ out in the streets, temples, marketplaces and wherever they found the lost. Then, when the people responded to the message and became believers, they were brought into the meeting place. However, if a nonbeliever (uninformed person) was in their midst (in the meeting place) they were welcome. Actually the gathering was for believers. The message and actions in the assembly were directed to the believers.
The book of Acts tells the story of the beginning of the church and tells us its history. The first few chapters of Acts tell about how the church was born, the struggles it faced, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. With Peter as the main character involved and the focus of the new church centered on the Jewish people, the church started out with its own believers, the Jews. They would have already known the Old Testament writings, the prophets and prophecies, and the predictions of the coming of the Messiah.
In essence, the church started out with people that already believed in God and His Word, however, their belief had its limits.
The church grew (Acts 2:47, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”) not by bringing people into the assembly but by going out into the world and spreading the gospel. The outreach of the church was responsible for the growth.
So far, I have not found any reference for believers to go out and to specifically bring in non-believers to their gathering or re-framing the reading of the Word in a manner that would help or benefit the non-believer (teaching milk, so to speak). The worship gathering was for bringing glory to God, and studying His Word in its entirety, even the difficult parts. And I have not found any verses in Scripture that succinctly defines the set purpose of the church. However, Acts 2:42 gives us clues by stating; “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” And Acts chapter 2:41-47, “The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost” gives us insight.
Jesus tells His followers to go into the world (not to bring in) and teach His Word to all who will listen. The following Scriptures give us instructions to: go therefore, follow Me (do as Jesus did), go out to proclaim, and go to the next town as some ways to spread His message as taught in the following verses: Mark 16:15, Luke 14:23, Matthew 28:19-20, Titus 2:3, Romans 10:14-15, Acts 1:8, Mark 1:17, Mark 3:14, Luke 10:1-3, Matthew 24:14, John 14:12, Acts 14:21, Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 4:17-22, Mark 1:38.
The first time the word church was mentioned in Scripture was in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He was not talking about abuilding but an assembly. At this time the church had not been established yet.
For the Jews, the Synagogue was a multipurpose building. According to Reforming Judaism.org (https://reformjudaism.org/what-purpose-synagogue) it was a place of “study, prayer, ritual observance, community building, tzedakah, concern for the welfare of all Jews and all humanity–these constitute the pillars of a thriving, inspirational synagogue. The Hebrew term for synagogue is beit k’neset. It means “house of assembly” and thus approximates the Greek word ‘synagoge’ which also means “assembly.” For centuries, the synagogue functioned primarily as the ancient world’s idea of a “JCC,” a place for Jews to assemble. These institutions dotted the Jewish landscape even while the Second Temple-shrine of our ancient worship-stood. The synagogue of antiquity might have struck us as surprisingly “secular” in orientation. Originally, people may not have come to the synagogue primarily to pray or study. They conducted local business in the synagogue, promoting the general welfare of the Jewish community. Accelerated by the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, synagogues evolved to absorb many of the ritual and religious observances of an emergent Rabbinic Judaism. Over time the beit k’neset also became a beit t’filah, a “house of worship,” and often a beit midrash, a “house of study,” too.”
In conclusion, I think this is how they started the church! A church built to the Master’s plan will begin with the right raw material—a saved congregation. Acts 2:41 identifies the church as being made up of “those who had received [Peter’s] word,” and “were continually devoting themselves” (Acts 2:42) and Acts 2:47 “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The church at Jerusalem was filled with true Christians — those who continually adhered to apostolic teaching. May we be found doing the same!
For more details of the purpose of the church according to scripture read below….
The purpose of the church is to:
Worship God (Luke 4:8; John 4:23; Rev. 4:10),
Study His Word (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Cor. 4:6)
Pray (Acts 2:42)
Love one another (John 13:35; 1 John 3:11)
Help each other (Gal. 6:2)
Partake in the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19-20)
Learn how to live as godly people (Titus 2:11-12)
To be equipped to evangelize the world (Eph. 4:12; Matt. 28:18-20)
To guard the proper teachings of the church (2 Tim. 2:1-2)
To discipline believers (Matt. 18:15-17)
To become more like Christ (Eph. 4:15-16)
To be subject to pastoral leadership (Hebrews 13:17)
To be unified in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
To instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
To be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
To encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
To be a place of fellowship, where Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another and God (Romans 12:10)
To be God’s hands, mouth, and feet in this world—the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)