Heart and History of the Early Church Session 7: Christian Life and Worship www.drewcuster.wordpress.com
The “Average” Early Christian • Most early documents from church leaders and involving conflict between church and government • “What was life like for the average Christian?” • We have very little to tell us about the daily life of Christian but we have a few sources that we can piece together
Social Origins • Wise scholars and theologians were the exception and not the rule • The average Christian in the early church (first 3 centuries) belonged to the lower level of society (poor, low status, uneducated) • Jesus spent his time with the poor, sick, weak, and outcast • Paul describes Corinthian Christians this way: • “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1Cor 1:26-27)
Early Worship • Early Christians gathered on Sunday because it was the day of the week the Lord was resurrected • The atmosphere of early worship was one of thanksgiving and hope grounded in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection • “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47) • “Having earlier confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure, come together each Lord’s day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks. (Didache, late 1st Century)
Early Worship • “We keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven.” (Barnabas, 130 A.D.) • “On the day called Sunday, there is a gathering together in the same place of all those who live in a city or in a rural district…We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the earth, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day.” (Justin Martyr, 150)
Early Worship • Because of work they worshiped at night or early morning before dawn • Constantine made Sunday a legal holiday for many occupations in the 4th century • Jewish Christians would have met on Saturday night after dark • Gentile Christians would have met on Sunday night or early Sunday morning (Roman Calendar) • Exhortations to assemble together (read) • They generally met in homes, oldest church building was built around 250 A.D.
Concern for unity • Growth of the church made it impossible for all Christians in a city or area to meet together • Fragmentum- the bishop sent a piece of bread to be used in each the communion of the other congregations • Some churches had lists of bishops in other cities that they prayed over
What did they do in worship? • New Testament points out many of the early acts of worship • Pliny, Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria • What did they do? • The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist • Read Scripture • Encouraging Discourse • Prayers, thanksgivings • Singing • Encourage one another