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When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is 1 Corinthians 11:26 which reads: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from John Calvin. He said: “The Lord has given us a table at which to feast, not an altar on which a victim is to be offered; He has not consecrated priests to make sacrifice, but servants to distribute the sacred feast.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Christian Life” (Part 4) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
Christian Worship (Part 2)
Two of the earliest witnesses we have regarding Christian worship come from Governor Pliny the Younger of Bythinia and from Justin Martyr – both already mentioned in the context of the persecutions of the second century. What Justin says about worship is rather brief:
“The day that is commonly called Sunday all those (believers) who live in the cities or the fields gather, and in their meetings as much as time allows is read from the memoirs of the apostles or from the writings of the prophets. Then, once the reader is through, the one presiding offers a verbal exhortation, urging us to follow these beautiful examples. Immediately after this, we all stand as one and raise our prayers, after which – as I have already said – bread, wine, and water are offered, and the president, as he is able, also sends to God his prayers and thanksgiving, and all the people respond, “Amen.” Now follows the distribution and partaking of the nourishment that has been consecrated by thanksgiving, and they are sent by means of the deacons to those who are not present. Those who can and will, freely give what seems best to them, and the offering is given to the president. With this he helps orphans and widows, those who are in need because of illness or any other reason, those who are in prison, sojourners, and, in short, the president provides for any who are in need. We hold this general gathering on Sunday, because it is the first day, in which God, transforming darkness and matter, created the world, and also the day in which Jesus Christ, our Savior, rose from the dead.”
From these and other sources we know that at least since the second century there were two main parts in a communion service. First there were readings of scripture and commentaries on them, with prayers and hymn singing. Since at that time it was almost impossible for an individual Christians to possess a copy of scripture, this first part of the service was often the only way in which believers came to know the Bible, and therefore this part of the service was rather extensive – sometimes lasting for hours. Then, after dismissing those who were not baptized with a prayer and blessing, came the second part of the service, communion proper, which opened with the kiss of peace. After the kiss, the bread and wine were brought forth and presented to the one presiding, who then offered a prayer over the elements. In this prayer, often lengthy, the saving acts of God were usually recounted, and the power of the Holy Spirit was invoked over the bread and the wine. Then the bread was broken and shared, the communion cup was passed, and the meeting ended with a benediction. This service was also the occasion for the sharing with those in need, for whom an offering was collected. Elsewhere, Justin says that “whatever we have we make common, and this we share with those who are in need.”
Next time, we will continue looking at Christian Worship in Christian Life.
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Who this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in twenty-three foreign countries. He is the author of thirty-four books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts, The Prayer Motivator Devotional and the Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report and the Second Coming Watch Update. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for twenty-five years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.