New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Monday, February 18 2002 Vol 02 : 042
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 11:40:10 -0800
From: Dan Snyder
Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Dear TC,

I guess I need your help here, brother. I can see where Paul considered himself
a spiritual father to the saints in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:15). That's fitting since
he brought the gospel to them. He surely bore much responsibility for them
before the Lord.

I'm just not clear what you mean by "the elder" (singular).

>From Acts and his other epistles it seems Paul recognized the elders
(plural) as bearing responsibility in the churches. He seems to have realized
that ultimately the practical matters of the churches rest in the hands of the
elders. The apostles and workers could offer help - but they had no practical
way to control the churches. I believe this is the God-ordained way (a wise
provision to avoid the building up of a man-made hierarchy).

Just so you're clear, I'm not suggesting the churches are democracies.
According to what the New Testament shows us the Lord's arrangement is for the
spiritually more mature ones (and this is a relative matter) to bear
responsibility for the younger ones - just like a family.

Unless I'm mistaken the focus of this thread was on the allowabilty (or
advisability) of having the authority in the churches rest with a single
individual. I don't think the issue is authority - rather how the Lord
delegates that authority.

I noticed too that in referring to the saints you are visiting you mention
"the" elder. I hope you'll forgive my butting in - but for that brother's own
protection that may not be so healthy.

If you view him that way he may begin to view himself that way.

How good if you could encourage him find at least one other "board" to make him
complete. (Remember how the boards in the tabernacle are 1 1/2 cubits wide - an
incomplete number. You have to put 2 boards together to get a nice whole
number. Quite a picture.)

Coming back to the principle that God's work in this age is a corporate matter
(the real tabernacle - the Body of Christ) it doesn't make sense that He would
carry it out in a way that violates the basic characteristic of what He is
building.

Entrusting the care for a local church to a single individual just doesn't
match the corporate nature of the Lord's Body.

Thanks for working through this with me.

Your fellow learner,

Dan


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Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 11:29:53 +0700
From: Link Hudson
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Hi TC,

I've been planning on responding to your post earlier about American philosophy
and it's expression in house church.

I forget where you are located, somewhere up in the northeast? I encountered
some people from a house church in Mass. on the 'net a few years ago, and my
impression of their philosophy about leadership was that it was a bit too
hyper-egalitarian, imo. I went to a house church in the south one time that
was really Fundamentalist in apprach. I don't know if there is one house
church philosophy on everything.

I think you raised some valid points. I tend to be skeptical of an
interpretation of scripture that seems 'too American' as well. But, on the
other hand, even though the Bible teaches that Christians are a part of God's
kingdom, there does seem to be some degree of egalitarianism in the scriptures.
Take this quote from Christ from Matthew 23: "For One is yoru master, even
Christ, and all ye are brethren."

Jesus is up on a higher plane. He is the Master. All of the rest of us are
down here on the same level. We are brethren. Even the 12 apostles are our
brethren, and not our masters. Paul and Timothy preached "Jesus Christ and
ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake."

I do blieve that some house church people go to extremes with egalitarianism,
though. I do believe that Christians should defer to elders and others in
ministry. But on the other hand, I don't see a heirarchical top-down approach
as scriptural. I believe there was leadership by leaders, but the saints were
also involved in decision-making. Let me share some scriptural examples to
illustrate what I am saying.

In the early days of the church, the apostles were responsible for making sure
food got distributed among the widows in the church. The apostles probably
found it difficult to do this and spend the necessary time in prayer and
praching the word. Eventually, a dispute arose because the Graecized widows
felt neglected. So what did the apostles do? They asked the CHURCH to choose
Seven men to handle that business. The apostles didn't say, as far as we know
from scripture "But we reserve the righ to veto men that we don't like."

After the church had put forth the Seven, the apostles laid their hands on
them.

I hear the way the Greek Orthodox church selects a priest is they let the
congregation pick a man among them who best represents Christ in the
congregation, and then have him ordained as a priest. It owuld be interesting
to know how old this custom is. Greek Orthodox priests (and not bishops) can
be married, btw.

Let me give another example. When the church in Jerusalem heard about the new
believers in Antioch, it pleased, not only the apostles, but also the church to
send Barnabas.

In Acts 15, certain leading figures, elders and apostles, met to discuss the
issue of what to do with the Gentiles. But if we look at the letter sent from
the Jerusalem church, not only the apostles and elders, but also the brethren
seemed to discern what the Spirit was saying. This is a key to church decision
making. Not only should it seem good to us, but also to the Holy Ghost.

Something I notice about the apostles in Acts is that they seem to have been
the type to turn over responsibility to others. Early on, people laid their
wealth at the apostles feet for distribution. Later, we see that there were
elders in Jerusalem who received offerings brought for the poor saints. I
suspect the apostles had turned over a lot of the financial responsibilities to
deacons and elders so that they could minister the word and pray. I really
don't think they micromanaged everything or dominated the church.

The apostles didn't seem to consider themselves above questioning either. When
they of the circumcision questioned Peter about going to the Gentile's house,
he didn't say, "How dare you question an apostle!" instead, he gave an account
of his revelations and actions and persuaded them.

Frank V. has written a book entitled _Who Is Your Covering?_ which presents
a house church view on authority. One point that Viola makes is that Paul
_persuaded_ people to do what is right. He didn't just tell them, 'obey me
becuase I am an apostle.' robert Banks _Paul's Idea of Community_ makes some
good points in this regard. Paul wanted to persuade people to obey from the
heart. Paul was firm about things when he had a command from the Lord.
Sometimes, he offerred his own opinion, but he offerred it as his own opinion.

One point Frank V. makes is about consensus. In Acts 15, the leaders
arrived at a consensus, where the entire group agreed. Democracy is different.
Democracy is the majority lording it over the minority. Consensus is when the
whole church arrives at one conclusion. Paul exhorted believers to be of one
heart and one mind, so I believe this is a valid principle. (Though in the
case of one brother who had been in sin, Paul said that the punishment acted
out by the _majority_ was sufficient, so I don't know if 100% consensus will
always take place. I suppose it's possible those who did disfellowship the man
had agreed to do so in a consensus but failed ot carry it out.) Viola refers
to the Quakers in regard to consensus in decision making. I

There are some areas where I think a lot of house church folks tend to be too
far in egalitarianism. If we look at the book of Acts and the epistles,
apostles appointed elders. Paul and Barnabas _appointed_ elders. Other
epistles show that Titus and Timothy were also to appoint elders. It doesn't
say they took a congregational vote. On the other hand, I do think the
choosing of the Seven contains some good principles as well. Especially
considering the brotherly nature of the church, and the fact that regular
believers could speak in meetings, I would imagine that the rest of the church
might be 'in on' who got appointed to be an elder. Paul may have valued
prophetic input, wisdom, and counsel from other saints in these congregations.

In regard to 'church court' Jesus said to bring the man who would not repent
after being cconfronted by the one he sinned against, and then again by two or
three witnesses before the church. If he will not hear THE CHURCH, he should
be to you as a heathen and a publican.

Notice the man is suposed to hear the church, not just 'the bishop' or 'the
bishops.' On the other hand, in I Corinthians 5, Paul made a judgement about a
fornicator in the midst of the Corinthians. But the Corinthian church was to
actually turn him over to Satan when they came together (with Paul there in
spirit.)

The question that comes to mind for me is, were the Corinthians able to make a
judgement to deliver someone over to Satan by themselves, or did they need
Paul, with apostolic authority, to make this judgement. I think they could
have handled it by themselves, but erred by not doing so. I also suspect that
there were no appointed elders in Corinth at this time. I can't prove this.
The fact that none are mentioned in this or in other epistles could signify:

1. That there were no elders in these churches yet. OR 2. That the role of
the elder, in contrast to the church as a whole, is not as important as we make
it out to be in the modern church.

Paul and Barnabas were in the practice of leaving churches alone without elders
at first, and returning to appoint elders (perhaps becuase no novice was to be
a bishop.)

I get the impression that the Corinthians COULD HAVE dealt with the fornicator,
but were negligent not to have done so.

At the end of I Corinthians 5, Paul asks if we are not to judge those that are
within. In chapter 6, Paul goes on to chastize the Corinthians, asking if
there is not even one wise man among them who is able to judge between his
brothers. The specific context here is one brother having a problem with
another, and not the issue of fornication. But if brethren 'sue' each other in
court, then in a lot of cases, one of the brethren would be in sin. Paul
clearly thinks the Corinthian Christians could handle such cases, and reminds
them that they will judge angels. Paul was from a Jewish background. The Jews
had their own court system and handled most matters within their own community,
rather than before the Romans. Paul apparently felt that the Christians should
settle matters among themselves as well.

>From what I know of Jewish culture, synagogue elders may have served as
>judges. I _think_ I read something about this in Edersheim. I know that they
>did have judges, and I think that elders could serve in that role. At least
>by Augustine's day, Ambrose was busy judging one case after another.

I don't believe that _only_ elders can serve as judges, but they may make the
natural first choice. If the Corinthians had appointed elders, why wouldn't he
have mentioned them when he asked if there were not a wise man among them who
could judge between his brothers? In regard to the authority of church elders,
I think of this in terms of the old Testament where it says to rise in the
presence of your elders. In the OT, we see that the wisdom of the old is to be
valued. Israelites were to honor those who were older than them.

'Elder' can be translated as 'older man.' I believe that Paul and Barnabas
appointed 'eolder men' in the churches. In the first century Jewish community,
a judge had to be a householder. In the church, an overseer had to rule his
house well. In the Jewish community, a judge had to be a father so that he
would know mercy. In the church, a bishop had to be the husband of one wife
and his children had to be believing/faithful. (I think the jewish judges may
have had to be the husband of one wife as well.) There were other
characteristics in common as well.

I believe that the elders of the church were older men who were in charge of
houses and ruling them well. I believe that Paul and Barnabas appointed such
men to be elders of the church. They were probably similar to synagogue elders
in a lot of ways.

It was natural in these first century cultures, to honor men who were older.
Christians were to hear their advice and be persuaded by them. Many of these
elders may have been leaders of Christian households, which, as Dave poijnted
out, might have been overflowing with dozens of children, grandchildren, other
relatives, and slaves. An elder may have had responsibility ethically and
under the law for a pretty large portion of the church already. He was already
acting in a fatherly role over his own household.

After he had proved faithful doing this,if he fit the other criteria, (wasn't
given to much wine, greedy, was asp to teach, etc.) and were willing, perhaps
he could become an overseer in the church, and take responsibility for a larger
spiritual family. Here we see Jesus' principle of being faithful with little
and being given much.

As Christians we should submit to:

A. One another, B. Those who labor among us C. elders and apostles

Elders and apostles labor among us. But there may be others who labor among us
who are neither elders of the church nor apostles. There may be evangelists,
prophets, teachers, and other people who devote themselves to the work. We can
submit to teachers by submitting to the pure Gospel they teach. We can submit
to others in the work by offering them assistance in whatever ways they need to
carry on the work of the kingdom. This wasn't posted to me directly, but I'd
like to comment:

>>and I hope that you would answer a couple of questions
>to help me clarify why I hear this fear of authority not wielded by the
>individual a lot?

One reason for this is because so many churches are built on the one-man local
pastor model. Whether this is a viable option or not, we don't see a real
example of it in the Bible. The Bible shows us 'elders' plural. And the
requirements for being an elder are different from what is often perceived as
the requirements to be a pastor.

As for fear over one man in authority, maybe some of the people you are dealing
with have been burnt by controlling pastors. Or else they have witnessed how
the church, which is supposed to assemble and allow the saints to minister
their gifts, gets controlled by one man's 'vision.' This one man may be
allowed to minister his gifts, but severely limits how others can minister
theirs. So perhaps in reaction to this, some people go too far to the other
extreme of hyper-egalitarianism.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some wings of the house church movement
decades ago were influenced by the shepherding movement. Some of these
churches had plural elders, which could be more terrifying in that type of
situation. Just imagine a group of people, not just one person, taking control
of the minute details of people's lives. When you consider that this could
take place in home gatherings, which are smaller, the 'abuse per person' ratio
could be a lot higher than in a larger church setting. I know a preacher who
was in a shepherding movement setting years ago, and he said it was a very
terrifying experience. He moved and got out of it without going against his
'covering.' Some of the English house churches in the 80's had some
shepherding movement tendancies, I've heard, as well.

>-- they have resembled more of a commune/encounter group rather than a church,

Do they sit around and talk about their feelings?

I went to one cell group where they just sat around and chatted. I like
fellowship, but coffee house chat is not my idea of 'church.'

>and for the life of me I
>haven't been able to find any of the four gifts/people that are supposed to be
>the center of a church according to Paul in Ephesians.

Here I think you might be reading some of your own American theology into the
Bible- particularly with your later comments about these people having
authority. Where does Paul say that these people are supposed to be at 'the
center of a church?' Paul has at least three gift lists. Some of these
ministries are repeated in them (at the beginning of the list in higher rank.)
This gift list happens to have 5 gifts in four types of individuals. I
Corinthians 12 has a much longer list. But somehow, Petnecostals and
Charismatics since the Latter Rain Movement have focused on these five gifts,
and tried to expand the concept of 'clergy' to include all five gifts.
>There may not have been a "clergy class" but there were still four people --
>five if you include the Elder/bishop -- that specifically had authority
>according to Paul in Ephesians. Everyone was definitely not their own
>shepherd/teacher, apostle, prophet, and evangelist. You have to live in modern
>America to hit this idea.

Let me ask you a question. Where does Paul say that these five classes have
'authority?' Some churches seem to want to set up a church staff with a ruling
board composed of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Apostles have 'authority' in the churches they plant in particular. Elders are
commanded to pastor, and must be apt to teach, and elders have authority to
rule or 'stand before' in the house of God. But where does the Bible say that
prophets and evangelists have 'authority' over a flock? A prophets words have
authority if they are from the Lord. But as far as the propeht himself goes,
can he come tell you to mop his kitchen, based on the fact that he is a
prophet? If the evangelist preaches the true Gospel, then his message has
authority, but where is an evangelist given authority to rule in the house of
God?

My understanding of 'evangelist' is that it is an organic gift, rather than a
ministry one gets ordained into by the laying on of hands. If I knew what an
evangelist was from just growing up in church, I would think his main duty was
traveling from church to church and preaching a salvation message to a room
fullll of believers and a few uneblievers they invitd in for the special
crusade meetings. But from looking at Philip, I think a Biblical evangelist
should be involved in proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers. Men like this can
often contribute a lot of great teaching and exhortation in their local
churches as well. I suspect there are a lot of people gifted as evangelists
who go out and share the Gospel on steet corners but never quit their day jobs,
get clergy cards, take a clergy tax exemption, or get recognized as
'evangelists' by their local churches.

On prophets, I was irritated to see in one of Kenneth Hagin's books (I think
I've read two, including a booklet) that said that prophets were generally
'full-time ministers.' Actually, I learned a lot from Hagin's book. But I
didn't agree with this statement.

A lot of people feel called to be prophets, but because of the model fo church
they are familiar with, they expect God to put them on a church staff somewhere
in the future. I get the impression from reading I Corinthians 14 that
prophets ere just regular members of the congregation, gifted with prophetic
ministries. I certainly don't think it was a ministry ordained by the laying
on of hands, or how would Paul have said, "If any man consider himself to be a
prophet or spiritual..." the prophets had been clearly ordained in a ceremony?
>My question is -- if these people are not submitted to, can they equip the
>others to be mature and to reflect the full stature of Jesus?

I think you make a valid point here. Paul exhorted the saints to submit to
those who labored. We are to listen to those who teach us the word of God and
exhort us to follow Christ.

>All the ancient world was culturally was a series of hierarchies, from the
>family (patriarchy) to government (Ogliarchy). The Jews, as a theocracy, was
>one huge God instituted hierarchy. I think we are looking at ancient history
>and conforming it thru the lenses of Locke and Hume --

On the other hand, we need to realize that there were some elements of
'egalitarianism' among Jewish men. Regular men in the synagogue could read the
Torah and comment on it. Regular Jewish men could be preachers and be invited
to different synagogues. One didn't have to be a rabbi. From what I
understand, regular Jewish men who were householders could be judges or elders
in the synagogue.

TC to Dan:

>Why are you scared of the word "bishop?"

When I think of the word 'bishop' sometimes I think of a religious king with a
big funny hat. In the movies, the bishop is the guy who plots to take over
France through nasty politics and his plot gets foiled by the three muskateers.
Or maybe that's the cardinal.

>>The guy that is qualified to be the Elder
>absolutely refuses to find out who is their evangelist and teacher, and all
>they seem to do is meet to pray and hope that events happen serendipitously,
>mystically ordered by God's Spirit. I need some insight!

If they are sitting around talking about their past experiences, not digging
into the word and encouraging one another, that would be frustrating.

But if the gifts of the Spirit are flowing in the meeting, why bother labelling
people? I suspect Philip came to be known as 'the evangelist' because people
heard what he had done down in Samaria and other places and the people realized
that the Lord had made him an evangelist. Maybe someone called him that
prophetically. But he wasn't called 'the evangelist' in scripture until he had
already done the work of one.

Link Hudson ~ ~ ~ ntcp info page: http://world-missions.org/planting ~ ~ ~

Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 01:18:32 EST
From: TheologusCrucis

Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Dan,

Hello again and greetings.

In response to my last post you wrote:

>>I guess I need your help here, brother. I can see where Paul considered
himself a spiritual father to the saints in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:15). That's
fitting since he brought the gospel to them. He surely bore much responsibility
for them before the Lord.

I'm just not clear what you mean by "the elder" (singular).>From Acts and his
other epistles it seems Paul recognized the elders (plural) as bearing
responsibility in the churches. He seems to have realized that ultimately the
practical matters of the churches rest in the hands of the elders. The apostles
and workers could offer help - but they had no practical way to control the
churches. I believe this is the God-ordained way (a wise provision to avoid the
building up of a man-made hierarchy).>Just so you're clear, I'm not suggesting
the churches are democracies. According to what the New Testament shows us the
Lord's arrangement is for the spiritually more mature ones (and this is a
relative matter) to bear responsibility for the younger ones - just like a
family.>Unless I'm mistaken the focus of this thread was on the allowabilty (or
advisability) of having the authority in the churches rest with a single
individual. I don't think the issue is authority - rather how the Lord
delegates that authority.>I noticed too that in referring to the saints you are
visiting you mention "the" elder. I hope you'll forgive my butting in - but for
that brother's own protection that may not be so healthy.If you view him that
way he may begin to view himself that way.

How good if you could encourage him find at least one other "board" to make him
complete. (Remember how the boards in the tabernacle are 1 1/2 cubits wide - an
incomplete number. You have to put 2 boards together to get a nice whole
number. Quite a picture.)>Coming back to the principle that God's work in this
age is a corporate matter (the real tabernacle - the Body of Christ) it doesn't
make sense that He would carry it out in a way that violates the basic
characteristic of what He is building.>Entrusting the care for a local church
to a single individual just doesn't match the corporate nature of the Lord's
Body.Dan,

Hello again and greetings.

In response to my last post you wrote:

>>I guess I need your help here, brother. I can see where Paul con
sidered himself a spiritual father to the saints in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:15).
That' s fitting since he brought the gospel to them. He surely bore much
responsibility for them before the Lord.

I'm just not clear what you mean by "the elder" (singular).

Two points here, I guess. One is that if Paul considered himself their s
piritual "father," then he really did believe in a hierarchal authority stru
cture. Families in the first century, whether Jewish or not, were Patriarcha l,
and the father "ruled" the kinship group much like a king sovereignly rul ed a
country. Most of Corinthians is Paul saying "don't make me come there, you will
regret it if I do."

Two, I take Paul's role there as primarily apostolic, but after reading the
letter again in responding to your post, it struck me how much his words and
actions lined up with his own qualifications for elder in his epistle t o
Titus. I meant that Paul seemed to be "an elder" much like Timothy seemed to be
considered THE elder of Ephesus.

>>From Acts and his other epistles it seems Paul recognized the el
ders (plural) as bearing responsibility in the churches. He seems to have
realized that ultimately the practical matters of the churches rest in t he
hands of the elders. The apostles and workers could offer help - but the y had
no practical way to control the churches. I believe this is the God-ordained
way (a wise provision to avoid the building up of a man-mad e hierarchy).

I don't think Paul was offering his help, or just some wise council that he
hoped the Corinthians would agree with. It sounded more like he was thre
atening to come and knock a few heads together if they didn't reject the "an
gels of light" who claimed authority from James in Jerusalem and get the foc us
back to the Gospel of grace. It sounds like, in Acts as well as in the Ep
istles, as if Paul had the situation in each church pretty much under contro l
and in hand. IMHO, anyway :)

You wrote:

>>Just so you're clear, I'm not suggesting the churches are democr
acies. According to what the New Testament shows us the Lord's arrangement is f
or the spiritually more mature ones (and this is a relative matter) to bear
responsibility for the younger ones - just like a family.

Again, the family in Scriptures was a Patriarchy. And the father was abs olute
in this, this was a hierarchy of kinship from the father to the oldest son,
etc.,... I believe the Scriptural pattern is that the Church has been given
individuals, the prophet, evangelist, the apostle, and the shepherd/te acher,
to bear the dual responsibility of equipping and maturing other belie vers.

>>Unless I'm mistaken the focus of this thread was on the allowabi
lty (or advisability) of having the authority in the churches rest with a
single individual. I don't think the issue is authority - rather how the Lord
delegates that authority.

I guess I'm saying that Christ as He ascended gave to these gifts the au
thority to serve and lead the church. It isn't a one person show -- with an
elder or elders should be prophets and shepherds/teachers and evangelists. W
hich hopefully answers your following concerns:

>>I noticed too that in referring to the saints you are visiting y
ou mention "the" elder. I hope you'll forgive my butting in - but for that
brother' s own protection that may not be so healthy.If you view him that way
he may begin to view himself that way.

How good if you could encourage him find at least one other "board" to m ake
him complete. (Remember how the boards in the tabernacle are 1 1/2 cubit s wide
- an incomplete number. You have to put 2 boards together to get a nice whole
number. Quite a picture.)

You also wrote:

>>Coming back to the principle that God's work in this age is a co
rporate matter (the real tabernacle - the Body of Christ) it doesn't make sense
that He would carry it out in a way that violates the basic characteristic of
what He is building.

I agree that He is building His temple, and we are all His living stones . Yet
it would do well to remember that to be a corporate body doesn't mean that
everyone has an equal voice or role -- just like the members of a human body.
If my heart or head is stopped, I'm dead. If I lose an arm and a leg, it is a
grievous loss, but I'm still alive.

You concluded by writing:

>>Entrusting the care for a local church to a single individual ju
st doesn't match the corporate nature of the Lord's Body.

Yet I believe the Elder to be the first among equals of the roles of apo stle,
prophet, evangelist, and shepherd/teacher. Not every Shepherd/teacher is an
elder, but every elder is a shepherd/teacher. And I agree with you! Th e elder
doesn't do everything alone, nor do the other gifts -- they equip th e Body for
the work of the ministry! Everyone has a spiritual gift, whether the gift of
administration, healing, tongues, encouragement, and prophecy, e tc., E2 80 A6!
The elder and the others are to equip and encourage the saint s to the work as
well, and everyone is a co-laborer!

And I admit to you that I'm trying to work thru this, trying to see and
experience what God would want me to do. He knows I don't have all the answe
rs, and I hope I'm not coming across as if I do. I'm just wondering why so m
any house church have none of the gifts, people that Paul says Christ gave to
the Body as gifts, operating in them.

Your fellow traveler,

TC


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Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 11:06:45 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Jim Rutz wrote about a conversation he had with a "70-something man who has
long taught Greek," in which that friend answered some of the issues I had
raised on this list concerning worship in NT era churches, where I suggested
that at least some of them were liturgical in style. Here's another objection
Jim (and his friend) raised:

>3. LEITOURGEO, "to minister." In Acts 13:2, the men in Antioch "ministered
>to the Lord and fasted." He confirmed what I suspected, that leitourgeo is a
>VERY GENERAL service activity, not to be identified with a ritual ceremony in
>any way.

Jim, it comes down to the ways the word was used. There were secular usages of
LEITOURGEO (the Greek word from which we derive our English word, LITURGY) in
the Hellenistic world, and there were "sacred" uses. One can go to resources
such as Arndt and Gingrich's GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND
OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,
1979), and get a *broad* semantic range for each word, but then one has to
decide how to narrow down the meaning in each particular NT context. They
don't all fit. When Luke wrote about Paul and the gang in an Antioch church
service (Act 13:2)-- prefaced by a list of Jewish names for their prophets and
teachers (Act 13:1)-- was he being more influenced by "Athenians who supported
public offices at their own cost" (Jim Rutz's Feb. 10 post), or by the LXX
(Greek translation of the OT Scriptures) from which Luke and Paul keep quoting.
An analogous situation would be to see how influential the KJV is on modern
English idiom-- VERY! I gave the statistical information in another post, but
I'll be glad to give it again: the word "leitourgounton" ("they ministered"--
Act 13:2) with its variously inflected forms at the very *least* denotes
offices with *prescribed duties*-- in both governmental and religious contexts.
Therefore we can safely assume that they were not just winging it "free in the
Spirit" in Antioch! It is true this Greek word can be applied to both
religious and secular "ministries," but by far the root word appears in the
Bible within sacramental contexts (16 NT occurences: 4 as aid to private
individuals, once of a government official, twice to the LORD in contexts which
are not necessarily sacramental ... but could be, and 9 in tabernacle/temple
contexts), as you might expect. Then there is the LXX (93 occurences: 6
referring to ministering to the king, once to a prophet, once to an idol
(sacramental)-- the rest to the Lord in the tabernacle/temple). It *almost
always* has sacramental undertones in both testaments, and despite usages in
secular Greek literature ("Athenians," etc.), I think it is best we see it in
this light in Act 13:2. Let the reader decide. If this was the case, and the
Antioch Church followed a set order of service with sacramental undertones as
the statistical evidence suggests, then the question must be asked: where did
such a liturgy come from? It could have descended from heaven. The believers
in Antioch could have made it up as they went along. They could have assigned
Christian meanings to pagan religious rituals. Or they could have
inherited/modified a set order of service from the temple and/or synagogue. In
fact, the Antioch congregation could still have been functioning as a
synagogue, since "the certain prophets and teachers" mentioned in Act 13:1 were
almost certainly all Jews, and "Messianic synagogues were not unheard of in the
1st century diaspora (Jam. 2:2 SUNAGOGEN, church planter. Jam. 1:1). Plus
there were by this time around 65,000 Jews in Antioch-- one seventh of the
city's entire population (Longenecker, R. GALATIANS. Word Biblical Commentary,
1987, p. 68) and large numbers of gentiles in Antioch were attracted at this
time to the *"religious CEREMONIES"* of the Jews (Josephus. THE JEWISH WARS.
7.43-45, emphasis mine). There is no good reason to assume that Christians
there suddenly changed the essential way Jews and God-fearers did corporate
worship together. Liturgically. The continuing Jewish lifestyles and
Temple/synagogue worship of the Judean Christians argues for this as well.

>Then in Romans 15:27 it is used to denote the duty of the Greek churches to
>"minister" to the poor saints in Jerusalem "in earthly things" by sending them
>money.

Yes Jim, but notice the context by which Paul frames his "Greek" ministry; the
"Greeks" being the "sanctified" offerings-- in terms of the (liturgical) temple
priesthood:

"I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them
again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the
Gentiles with the PRIESTLY DUTY of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the
GENTILES MIGHT BECOME AN OFFERING acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy
Spirit .... They [the Macedonians] were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe
it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings,
they owe it to the Jews to *share* [Gk. LEITOURGESAI, to give as an offering]
with them their material blessings" (Rom. 15:16-27).

Clearly this whole section of Paul's epistle is framed in the liturgical
language of the temple priesthood and sacrifices.

>In Hebrews 10:11 it is even used to describe the general duties of a priest
>that are NOT connected to ritual sacrifice: "And every priest stands daily,
>ministering AND offering ... sacrifices..."

I don't understand you here, Jim. Surely you know that the priests followed a
liturgy (set order of service) when offering the sacrifices in the temple.
This was quite ritualistic; look at the book of Leviticus for some clues.

>As a noun, LEITOURGOS, it is used in Hebrews 8:2 to label Christ as a minister
>of the sanctuary in the heavens-- and I can't imagine Jesus standing up there
>doing a modern liturgy.

You're sounding a little subjective here. The language of this passage hails
from the priestly rituals in Exodus and Leviticus-- pure liturgy.

>In Hebrews 1:7, it is used to describe angels.

Look how Rev. 15:1-8 depicts ministering angels:

"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven
last plagues-- last, because with them God's wrath is completed. And I saw what
looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those
who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his
name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant
of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God
Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you,
O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will
come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." After
this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the
Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven
plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes
around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven
angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and
ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his
power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven
angels were completed."

The temple/tabernacle in heaven, upon which Israel's tabernacle/temple was
based (Heb. 8:1-5), functions through the ministry of angels ... in a
liturgical fashion. The book of Revelation depicts this. With a sea
(corresponding to the brass laver-- Exo. 30:18ff), priestly garments, ritual
censers-- all the kinds of things upon which the temple services were based
(see also Isa. 6).

>The bottom line is, we can't take a word that has been transmogrified by
>centuries of dead Catholic ritual and read it back into the NT.

You are reacting to Catholicism, not objectively reading the NT in its 1st
century Jewish context. Liturgy was/is good. It came from the synagogue,
which in turn inherited it from the temple. Which inherited it from the
tabernacle. Which inherited it from heaven.

>Now, I'm sure you're right about some synagogue rituals hanging on in the very
>early church for awhile.

You would be correct in your assessment-- but liturgy was practiced by the
church in Antioch, and almost assuredly in other areas during NT times. That is
where the historical church got the basis for its liturgy.

>But as the Hebrew church waned and the gentile church waxed, dead Jewish
>ritual died out.

Here is where you are making a jump. Ritual is not the antithesis of spiritual
vitality. Prophecy, the moving of the Spirit, and liturgical worship found a
ready home in Antioch. Why not elsewhere?

>The presence of the Holy Spirit as the Master of Ceremonies in our meetings is
>so precious and edifying that none of us wants to go back to square one.

See above. So Jim, we see the evidence that the NT uses LEITOURGEO and its
derivatives in mostly sacramental ways, more likely basing Act. 13:2 on the
biblical understanding of the word than on the language of Greek secular
government. Which then means liturgy. We also note that liturgy (a set order
of doing things) does not contradict the moving of the Holy Spirit; both were
easily accomodated in Antioch, so why not now? Tomorrow (God willing) we go on
to Acts 2:42-- "THE prayers".

Michael
Jerusalem


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V2 #42

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