What did early churches do when they gathered? The New Testament provides almost no direct description of the elements of their meetings. Why?
The Old Testament gives all the details of the tabernacle and its furnishings, the priests and their garments, the liturgies to be performed and the offerings acceptable to God. Why is the NT missing all these details? What’s different?
This podcast covers the only explicit list of things the early church did when it met:
1 Corinthians 14:26 (my translation, compare NIV)
What are we saying, family? When you gather, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let everything be focused on construction.
Continue reading “How church works (podcast)”
Why were the Corinthians “doing more harm than good” when they met?
Why do churches meet? If we’re not clear what we’re meeting for, we may do more harm than good:
1 Corinthians 11:17-21 (NIV)
17 Your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you …
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
The heart of what’s wrong here is competition instead of community.
This isn’t unique to the church. From the Parents and Citizen’s committee of the local school to the political parties that want to run the country, competing groups are always after the best outcome for their faction. It’s how the politics of power works.
But the church embodies the culture of a different kingdom. We’re doing more harm than good if our gatherings reinforce existing culture instead of the king whose authority comes from the cross.
Continue reading “The Lord’s Supper challenges culture (1 Corinthians 11:17–34)”
A new covenant? How did Jesus’ bloodshed establish a new covenant? Who are the parties? Why a new covenant? Could a previous covenant shed light on this one?
In the Ancient Near East, a national covenant defined who was in power. That’s what the Sinai covenant achieved: a people rescued from slavery became the first nation on earth to live under God’s reign, and the covenant that was celebrated with a meal (Exodus 24:7-11).
How did the new covenant establish God’s reign in Christ? What is it we’re proclaiming in this meal?
Continue reading “The new covenant meal (podcast) (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)”
Communion is a new-covenant feast. How does the body and blood of the Christ create a covenant between heaven and earth?
If your church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, you’ll be familiar with this:
1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (NIV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
We hear this so often we may not see how counter-cultural it is. When we celebrate our Lord, we’re proclaiming the king who gave his life to re-establish the covenant relationship between heaven and earth.
Those verses begin and end by proclaiming Jesus as kyrios — Lord. A kyrios in Greek culture was a master or a ruler. The head of a business was the kyrios: the master, the lord of the business. The head of the Empire was a kyrios: Caesar expected you to call him your lord.
But if you saw a convicted criminal hanging on a cross beside the road, you would not normally call him kyrios. The crowd would be more likely to call him Loser than Lord.
In what sense is Jesus our kyrios, the Lord?
Continue reading “The covenant meal (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)”