Vol. 11 No. 5 May 2009
Ernest S. Underwood
From the creation of man, God has commanded and expected worship. In the 11th chapter of the Book of Hebrews we learn that “by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (v. 4). Since the kind of faith that pleases God comes by hearing His Word, we know that God had told these two boys what He wanted as proper worship. In John 4:24 Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” In this passage several things are worthy or attention. God is the object of our worship; man is expected to worship Him; it is imperative that man worship correctly (“must worship”); there must be the proper attitude in worship (“in spirit”); and worship must be according to truth. The one who worships must remember that he is trying to please God, the object of his worship, rather than please himself. Therefore, if we desire to worship God correctly, we must turn to His Word to learn what pleases Him.
Let me illustrate. Suppose someone wanted to invite me, the author, to eat a meal with him. Suppose my host or hostess really liked liver and prepared such for me. Frankly, I would just have to disappoint my host or hostess and ask for a cheese or bologna sandwich, simply because I just will not eat liver. I don’t like it, and I never have liked it! Regardless of how sincere the one who invited me may be, that one simply did not please me. Now a question: How do we know what pleases God? In Isaiah 55 He stated that His ways are above our ways, as the heavens are above the earth. We also learn that in the Old Testament period that He required many different ways for man to offer worship. In the New Testament, however, He has given man a way to worship Him that man can do, regardless in what part of the world he may find himself. The worship He directs man to give is simple, and must be from the heart, and by faith. What does God tell us in His Word about worship that pleases Him?
First, we are told that Christians met upon the first day of the week (Sunday) to offer worship to God. (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Under the Old Testament system, man was commanded to observe the Sabbath Day, but that law was taken out of the way by Jesus and was nailed to His cross. (cf. Colossians 2 14-17). On the first day of the week, they were to teach, preach, and study the Word of God. They had no manuals, creed books or catechisms, nor did they need them. They had the Word of God, whether in the inspired preachers of the day, or the inspired Word that had been committed to writing. Their’s was not a worship of relics, beads, statues, icons or any such thing. On that day, they also approached the Father in prayer. It was centuries after the establishment of the church that we find men offering prayers to “saints” or to Mary. Nor, did the early Christians attempt to pray to God through some earthly priesthood. Notice Acts 2:41-42: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” To whom, and through whom were they praying? They could not have been praying through Mary for she was still among them, according to Acts 1:14, which, by the way, is the last time she is mentioned in the Scriptures. Since 1 Timothy 2:5 tell us that there is only one Mediator between God and man, this eliminates trying to reach God through anyone else, regardless of how popular the doctrine may be.
Ernest S. Underwood
In our last article we noticed that the first century Christians met upon the first day of the week (Sunday) to worship God. We also noticed how they prayed and how they studied the Word of God (or had preaching). In this article, we will continue by noticing that these same Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper on each first day of the week.
In Matthew 26:26-28 we read: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” It is here that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26.). When Jesus gave the bread and the fruit of the vine, it was bread and fruit of the vine. It did not, as some claim, change into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus. Jesus gave this symbolic feast as a memorial of His suffering and death, asking that His disciples remember this as they ate. From the New Testament, as well as from church historians, we learn that the early church observed this memorial every first day of the week. It was never a “sacrament” to be used at weddings, funerals, etc.
Those in the early church also gave of their means in the proportion of their earnings. In the Old Testament, tithing was commanded, but we find no such command to those living under the new covenant—the New Testament. Paul wrote: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). He also wrote: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Never does the Word of God authorize such things as bake sales, garage sales, bingo games, etc. as a means of raising money. Nor was begging to be a means. All of the whining and begging for money one sees on the promoters of the “electronic church” has no backing from the Scriptures. It is quite apparent that this sort of stuff is done to make a few rich. In the Lord’s church, each individual Christian was to give as he had prospered. The monies collected are to be used in three different ways: Preaching the Gospel, edification of the members and in legitimate acts of benevolence. When one is too lazy to work, when they can work, they are not to be supported. Again, we refer to the apostle Paul, when he wrote: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
As you “examine yourself” (2 Corinthians 13:5) do you find that this is the kind of worship that you offer? Is this what the church you attend and support teaches?