Here’s another question I’ve been pondering. Maybe you can start a thread on this some day. We have passage after passage about not changing “worship” or adding to/taking from God’s word, etc. But in studies I’ve done over the past few months, I’ve noticed how much the worship and celebrations within Judaism changed through the centuries. Hannukah is a religious celebration (of a sort) and Christ took part (it appears He did. We have no record of Him rebuking those who celebrated it.). Also, the Passover feast changed significantly from its origins, adding the drinking of wine (nowhere mentioned in the OT), the reading of certain psalms, etc., and we see Christ celebrating the Passover on multiple occasions. In both of these examples, we see Christ later using them as teaching moments, first to teach “I am the light” (Hannukah) and second the institution of the Lord’s Supper during Passover. My question is, from these examples, does this signify acceptance on God’s part that we are not obligated to keep 100% what is specified for worship? We can change it, without penalty?
We do see a worship evolution in the Bible. Along with the things Travis mentioned, I think we can point to the synagogue as a major “innovation.” (The fact that the King James uses the word “synagogues” in Psalm 74 does not mean that the Old Testament “sanctioned” synagogue assemblies) There were also numerous Jewish traditions which are reflected in the New Testament.
Considering what we talked about yesterday, it’s helpful to me to see that the church didn’t try to start from zero. They continued with what was being practiced in their day and adapted it as necessary. For a long time (possibly until A.D. 70) the Jerusalem church functioned primarily as a Jewish church. Acts 21:20 tells us that the Jewish converts remained “zealous for the Law.” To some degree, worship continued to be related to the temple. We have in mind that all of that was immediately left behind, yet we see Paul participating with Jewish Christians in temple worship in Acts 21, to the point of planning to make an offering!
The early church took the synagogue format of weekly meetings and adapted it to their own needs. Early Christian writings show that Christians saw Sunday assemblies as a replacement for the Sabbath meetings of the synagogue. In Ignatius letter to the Magnesians, he wrote:
We have seen how former adherents of the ancient customs have since attained to a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord’s Day instead (the day when life first dawned for us, thanks to Him and His death.)
That’s what I see in the Restoration Movement. When early leaders of the movement sought to return to biblical practices, they took what was being practiced in their day and analyzed it in the light of Scripture. They didn’t start from zero. They built off of the practices in vogue in the 19th century in the churches they had been a part of: weekly assemblies centered around preaching, Sunday contributions, singing of modern hymns, etc. (Jay Guin had a wonderful post about this a couple of years ago; my searches of his site have proved fruitless, so if anyone can spot the post I’m talking about, please mention it in the comments section)
I do an exercise with my anthropology students, talking about the reactions a 1st-century Christian might have if he were somehow transported to one of our churches today. Personally, I think he’d be shocked to find out it was a Christian church! So much of worship and the trappings around worship have changed through the years.
As Travis asks, is that a bad thing?