Thursday, April 21, 2016
In Acts 2:47 Luke describes what the church was doing from its first day. They were “praising God.” What does that mean? What images surface from those two words? Did you see one of the apostles go to the front, call the assembly to order and make a few announcements? Was that followed by Andrew leading two songs and James offering a prayer? Was there another song before the Lord’s supper and then the collection was taken? Perhaps there was another song and then the number given for the invitation song to follow Peter’s sermon? Did you see him end with a five step invitation? Perhaps you see the assembly ending with a song, while others may see it finishing with a closing prayer? Yet, verse 42 does not follow that “order of worship.” In fact, Luke never mentions singing and omits our word “worship” to describe the actions in and following verse 42.
The first century church was Jewish. What did “praise” mean to folks who had been following the Old Testament all their lives? What did it mean just prior to Peter standing up and delivering his sermon? The word “praise” is found 248 times with Yahweh in the Old Testament. Psalm 22:22 states, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” About three thousand “gladly received” Peter’s message. Was that gladness considered “praise”? If so, how was it expressed? Between their receiving his words and responding in baptism, how was that “praise” demonstrated? Since we brought baptisms into the Sunday morning assembly, did we allow this “praise” to accompany it? If so, what is it? If not, why?
What is “praise”? The most utilized Greek word for “worship” is proskeneo. Jesus used it in John 4:23-24. What is misunderstood is that the word “worship” is never employed by inspired writers to specifically describe what we call “the five acts of worship.” That expression is a modern rather than a first century one. The only time worship is connected to the church’s assembly, or to the activity in it, is once in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. Even there Paul is not describing the members in “worship,” but what an unbeliever does when convicted by what is being taught. What the New Testament describes as “worship” is strangely different from how uninspired individuals depict it! Have you ever wondered what connection “praise” had with that unbeliever’s worship? Was Paul’s illustration a shock to the congregation as actions unrelated to worship?
What is “praise”? If worship includes “praise,” wasn’t the unbeliever praising God? Although the lame man in Acts 3:8 was not “in the church assembly,” wasn’t he praising God for his healing? “Leaping” and “walking” is tied to “praise.” Also, the “and” in that passage ties those two actions together with “praise” as much as the “and” in Mark 16:16 ties faith to baptism! Were Peter or John distraught by the demonstration of his praise? Although we may not praise God as he did, isn’t it because we fail to fill his shoes? If, during the assembly, the preacher miraculously healed us of stage 4 cancer, how would we “praise” God?
What is “praise”? When Jesus instituted his Supper, wasn’t dialogue a part of the Passover meal where communion was introduced? Did Jesus look upon this dialogue with disdain and call for total silence? If, during our invitation song, an unbeliever did as the man in Paul’s illustration, would we describe it as “worship”? Paul did! Have you ever wondered what “praise” meant to the members of the first century church and how they expressed it?
What is “praise”? Do you remember when several men, during prayer, would step out from the pew and bow down on one knee? Would we be shocked if that happened today? Would we call it “praise”? Can you remember when there was an “Amen” corner where several men would sit and “Amen” the preacher’s sermon? Why did it disappear? Did it end because some did not think it was “praise”? In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul speaks about men praying everywhere lifting up holy hands. Does “everywhere” not include the twenty-first century? If most of the men did that Sunday, would we object, saying their actions were not how we have always “praised” God, therefore it must be sinful? Have you ever wondered what “praise” meant to those men in 1 Timothy 2:8 or those who knelt to pray or say “Amen”?
Luke said the church in Jerusalem continued “daily . . . praising God.” What is that “praise” and how was it demonstrated?