Thursday, December 21, 2017

Justin Martyr was born in 100 A.D.  His father’s name was Priscus, which is Latin or Roman.  He grew up as a pagan, but was dissatisfied with the void left by his teachers’ instruction.  He was converted by a Syrian Christian.  Although most of his writings are lost, two apologies and a dialogue survive.  The two apologies were written to his sons and the Roman Senate.  He was beheaded as a martyr of Jesus in 165 A.D. in Rome.

In his first apology he describes the typical service of the early second century church.  First, he implies that all removed their sandals before worshiping!  Second, they began with prayers (not prayer), after which they greeted one another with a “holy kiss” (Romans 16:16).

He stated,

“There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.”  When he is finished, the participants say “Amen.”  Then, deacons pass the bread and wine to each individual present.  The deacons then carry the two elements to those who are absent from the assembly.”

Justin does not inform us if they did that immediately after servicing those in the assembly, or after the brethren had been dismissed.

During the partaking of the Lord’s supper, Justin states that the participants reminded one another about why they are partaking and what it means to them.  Silence was not a part of their activities!  When this activity was finished, members had an opportunity to give.  However, Justin describes this part differently than we practice it today.

“And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost.   they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.”

This action mirrors Luke’s description in Acts, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45).  This was part of “the worship,” taking place in the assembly.  Notice, it is “they who are well to do, and willing” that give.  Also notice that the contribution is given into the care of him who presides, and he sees to its distribution.  Also notice what the distribution is limited to.

Justin continues with,

“The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”

This would also mirror Acts 2:42.

Justin tells us this meeting took place on “the day of the Sun.”  He speaks of the first day of the week from its pagan roots.  As Justin ends this description of a normal Sunday assembly, he states that Jesus, “having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.”

Justin describes a Sunday gathering of disciples taking place about thirty to forty years after the death of the last apostle.  It is an uninspired description complimenting the inspired one given by Luke in Acts 20:7-11 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.  It mentions several details left out by Luke and Paul.  Justin doesn’t give us the time of day when his description took place.  Luke’s account is an evening to midnight to daylight one.  Luke nor Paul tell us how the elements were distributed nor by who.  Justin does.  Luke nor Paul mention deacons taking the communion to those who are shut-ins, or others who could not attend.  Justin does.  Luke and Paul omit prayers.  Justin does not.  None describe an “opening prayer” to “begin worship,” nor a “closing prayer” to end it.  Justin and Paul mention wine, Luke refers only to bread.  Paul refers to the cup, but not its content.  Neither Paul nor Luke mention the collection.  Justin does.  A collection is mentioned with Peter presiding in Acts 5:1-11, but some discount this as “a worship service” or being on Sunday.  Justin believed their Sunday assembly was carried out just as the apostles and disciples had taught!  We usually agree with that thought, but disagree that Justin’s description is right because it is not completely in harmony with ours.

Because Justin was not inspired, some discount what he said that doesn’t agree with their practice.  The matching tidbits are readily accepted.  Most never entertain the thought that if what matches was handed down as acceptable from the apostles and prophets, why not the part that today’s disciples refuse to accept?  Neither Luke nor Paul give us the full details, only partials!  Today’s crowd usually fills in the blanks with each group’s practiced traditions.

It is interesting to see how, in such a short time, New Testament practices were altered or added to.  Although there is nothing wrong with deacons serving the bread and fruit of the vine, that is a man induced program, not a divinely commanded one.  Many of our practices today are manmade expedients wrapped carefully with time and comfort, leaving the impression that they are the best and only way to do worship “in spirit and in truth”!