Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 24 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 2 today, and our focus is on what the early church looked like. Thank you for joining us for Bible 2021! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in… Thanks for listening! Our focus this year is on DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go to church in its earliest days – in the first 200 years after the time of Jesus? How different it must have been! Fascinatingly, we actually have some pretty detailed descriptions of very early church services, including this amazing one by an early Christian named Justin Martyr, who lived from about 100-165 AD: (it begins with a description of baptism)
When we have thus washed a man who has accepted the teaching and has made his profession of faith, we bring him to those who are called brethren, where they are assembled, to offer prayers in common for ourselves, for the person thus illuminated, and for all others everywhere, with might and main; that we, who have learnt the truth, may be granted to prove, through our deeds also, good citizens and keepers of the commandments, that we may obtain eternal salvation.
At the end of prayers we embrace each other with a kiss. Then bread is brought to the president of the brethen, and a cup of water and wine: this he takes, and offers praise and glory to the Father of all, through the name of his Son and of the Holy Spirit; … When the president has given thanks and all the people have assented, those whom we call ‘deacons’ give a portion of the bread over which thanksgiving has been offered, and of the wine and water, to each of those who are present; and they carry them away to those who are absent.
The wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. 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 those who are well-to-do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who helps 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.
Henry Bettenson, ed., The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius, trans. Henry Bettenson (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), 61–62.
This description gives us a great picture of how church gatherings would have been around 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus – and there’s so much to comment on, but our ten minutes limits us a bit. I find it fairly fascinating that Justin Martyr refers to the leader of the assembly not as a pastor, but as ‘president!’ His description of the togetherness of this church group, and how the wealthy help the needy seems to be almost directly lifted from the description of the church in Acts 2, and Acts 4 – which is awesome. Speaking of Acts 2 – let’s read it, and pay particular attention at the end for the description of the daily gatherings of the earliest church members.
This gives us a great picture into the life of the early church! They gathered daily – possibly even twice a day, as it would seem that there was a daily meeting in the temple and a daily meeting in homes eating and fellowshipping together. They took great care of the needy and shared with everybody. They were devoted to the teaching of the apostles and there were many miracles done. The church was growing and seems soaked in joy…it all just seems so vibrant, and church today can be just as vibrant. We may not have the apostles or the freshness of the early church, but the Spirit and the gifts are ours, as Luther says, and it is the Holy Spirit that was the source of life and vibrancy for the early church.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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