The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four)

2 03 2011
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 2 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four)

Rev. Bob Liichow

Jesus taught us that the true God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) and as we have been studying over the last several months He has always revealed to His people the manner in which He is to be properly addressed. The purpose behind these articles is to explore the historic orthodox Christian liturgical format of worship and thus enable each of us to determine whether or not our own congregations are truly worshipping God in a manner that is acceptable to Him.

As we have already seen that it is quite possible to worship God and our worship be rejected by Him, regardless of how good our intentions were. Consider the following sad case: two men came to worship God, one brought the best of his garden, faultless produce. The other brother brought the firstling of his flock. God rejected the first act of worship and accepted the other (Genesis 4). No doubt Cain meant well, but when it comes to serving God good intentions are not enough. If good intentions and desire were enough to qualify one to approach God then why the following command from God?

And Aaron and his sons shalt thou appoint that they may attend to their priest’s office; and the stranger that cometh near shall be put to death. (Numbers 3:10) (1)

The “stranger” was anyone whom God had not ordained to serve in His temple. What about those whom He did call but failed to serve “according to the pattern” revealed by God?

And the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, took each of them his cener, and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and presented strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there went out fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah (Leviticus 10:1-2) (2)

In this case two “non-strangers” offered strange fire, i.e. a sacrifice not required by God nor desired by Him. The end result? Instant death. These were Aaron’s sons, Moses brother, his second in command! Seems pretty harsh to some, yet it says to me that our God is holy and He will have a people to worship Him aright. I could wag long about Samson who went to sleep, woke up shorn and did not know that God had left him (Judges 16:20). It is evident from the whole of scripture that God takes worship very seriously.

Most certainly we live under a better covenant which is based upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6) and we are free in Christ by the Spirit from bondage of the law (Romans 8:2). Yet being “free” from the Law does not make us a lawless people. Being in Christ does not mean that we now can approach The Ancient of Days in any form or fashion. This is especially true fro when we gather together to worship our Lord.

The early church understood the seriousness of approaching God properly, they were mostly Jews by natural birth and thus were raised within the worship structures of both the synagogue and temple.

The historic liturgy of the Church is a combination of both Judaic and Hellenistic influences. Obviously, the Jewish influences are the earliest and comprise much of the “heart” of our services today. From the Jews we obtained.

The Eucharist the Sacraments

Prayer in Common The Liturgical sermon

Most of the service of the Word — that two lectionary readings and the Psalmody between them concluding with the sermon comes to us from Jewish practice. The structure of the ancient Eucharistic prayer come from Israel and is preserved today (albeit fragmented) in the Preface and the canon. Also from Israel comes the great intercessory prayer which was once common in liturgical services and it was modeled on the 18 Intercessions recited at the beginning of synagogue services. The seven day week comes to us via Israel, as do the major Feasts of the Church such as Pentecost and Easter. Even the concept of our “Church” year comes to us via the Jews.

The times of liturgical prayer stem from the root of Abraham’s seed also. Not only was the secular year divided by major Feast Days commemorating the salvicfic acts of our God, but the day was divided into prayer offices. [It is funny to me when I dialog with Muslims how they always bring up their 5 times of prayer a day…little do they realize that Mohammed took the idea from the Church first!]. The following is how the day was historically divided by seasons of prayer (these may differ slightly depending upon whom is cited):

Vespers (at the end of the day)

Compline (upon retiring)

Vigils (sometimes during the night)

Matins (Lauds) (at sunrise)

Prime (during the first hour of daylight)

Terce (at the third hour)

Sext (at the sixth hour)

None (at the ninth hour)

Vespers (at the end of the day)

Benedict of Nursia laid out in his Rule these hours for prayer. (3) This system of prayer was followed by the Church for hundreds of years, some religious orders still keep these hours daily. It is obviously not practical for everyone to attempt to put into play these prayer hours, but all of us could embrace Matins (Lauds) when we rise and Vespers or Compline at the end of our day. From Judaism came the use of the Laudate psalms, invitatory formula such as sursum corda {life up your hears}, oremus {let us pray}, gratias agamus {let us give thanks} is also of Jewish origin. This much is certain we all are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It should be evident that worship was never a spontaneous “event” or necessarily even an emotional experience (I however personally find worship highly emotional). The year, the months (seasons), the weeks and even daily life was all geared towards the worship of God. I cannot stress this fact strongly enough. We live in a have–it-your-own-way culture, especially when it comes to spirituality. Many congregations across denominational lines have removed the cross from their walls (never mind crucifixes), taken Bibles out of the pews, ministers that no longer wear any type of vestments (a Ralph Loren© Polo Shirt does not count either). Their services are specifically crafted to meet the needs of the seeker. (4) What is the goal of these worship services? Having sat in meetings dedicated to church growth, I can answer on their behalf “what is our goal? To be sure that everyone has an enjoyable worship experience.” In order to achieve this goal then one has to dumb down the Gospel message and be very selective in what is proclaimed from the moveable lectern (altars are passé as well). Our charismatic brethren are even looser in their worship format — they pride themselves on not having one! In fact, I’ve been in many meetings where the ‘Spirit’ moved and no Bible was preached — and these were deemed GREAT services by all (except Jesus, who was no doubt weeping in intercession for us)! Charismatic believers seem to think that “change” equals growth and development. (5) Change is proof that God is indeed moving among His people. Since the time of Zwingli then the Wesley’s (John and Charles) and later that arch-heretic Charles Fox (“fox” how apt) Finney; it seems like the cry has been and still is “out with the old” and “in with the new innovations.” Did not Jesus Himself say that old wineskins (whatever people before you came to Christ) could not hold this new wine of today’s revelation? (see Mark 2:22)…Please re-read the passage and then tell me if that is what Jesus was saying.

Historically, Martin Luther cried out against the destruction of crucifixes, religious artwork, vestments, statuary and icons. (6) The more radical reformers sought to destroy everything that was attached to Roman Catholicism. They not only destroyed the physical reminders of Rome, but also did away with the liturgy as well! In their ignorance they failed to realize that the liturgical practices preceded the formation of the Roman Catholic Church by hundreds of years. Style of worship has a direct correlation to doctrinal belief. Change for the sake of change or to attempt to entice the lost or worse yet, steal sheep from another flock is the work of sinful people who have strayed from God’s revealed will for proper worship.

Brothers and sisters, humanistic innovation is not God’s way of worship. It never has been and regardless of whatever is popular now I can assure you that anything that deviates from His pattern will never be accepted by Him. Nuf said about that!

Perhaps one of the most striking and unique things about liturgical Christianity, and especially in this age of rapid change and even change for its own sake, is its permanence and changelessness. This is especially true for the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day. This was also true of the Western Roman Church until the past century when the reforms of Vatican II significantly altered the liturgical form of the Roman mass. It has been said that one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Orthodox Church is “its determination to remain loyal to the past its sense of living continuity with the church of ancient times.” (7)

What Was Early Christian Worship Like?

Depends on what one defines as early. We have little written evidence regarding the manner in which the Apostles led their actual worship services, apart from the information found in the Book of Acts and some of the Epistles. We’ve already covered in the previous articles how the first believers continued in the Temple until the dispersion around 70 A.D. We know that the initial roots of the Church were Jewish in all their flavor because that is all the Apostles had experienced at the time. It was really not until the apostle Paul began to purposefully reach out to the Gentiles and churches were established in the major Gentile cities that a new Hellenistic flavor was added to the Hebraic worship format. We know that initially the people gathered in homes to worship and for a short while did not experience much persecution. That changed as the church began to grow and converts began to multiply. Persecution arose frist from within Judaism (as the Stephen or later on the Apostle Paul when you see them in heaven) and then later on from pagans (see Acts 19:23-41) appealing to secular authorities and then fairly quickly this turns to persecution from Rome.

It was at this point, due to the intense public persecution of the Church by Roman authorities that the believers went under ground. By 70 A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews and many Christians scattered, so there was no more temple worship and furthermore, Christians were no longer welcome in the synagogues being seen now as a separate religion distinct from the Jews (at least in the eyes of the Roman government). The dispersion of believers into the Roman Empire led to the bulk of conversions occurring within the ranks of non-Jewish people giving the “face” of the Church a distinct Greco-Roman profile.

The earliest non-canonical writings we have give us some insight into the worship practices. One of the earliest accepted documents is called “The Didache, The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” (8) Many scholars’ date this short document to being written sometime early in the first century. “Didache” comes from the Greek word for doctrine or didactic and it is a sort of manual on general Christian life. Many sign-gift seekers like to cite the Didache because it deals with prophets. What they fail to realize is how damning the documents teachings are relating to today’s so-called restored prophets. Regarding prophets it says:

But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him. (9)

It is important to keep in mind that at the time of this writing, approximately ten years after the death of the Apostle John (give or take a year or so), there still was no formalized canon of Scripture codified as we now possess. There still were a few men who filled the roles of prophets or apostles (i.e. men sent possibly via the Apostle John himself, or someone sent by a recognized Bishop). What I find interesting to read is how, apart from our Scriptures, the Church is warned in one of its earliest remaining documents about the danger of false teachers, false propjets and false apostles!

Those who came to the Church in the name of a prophet or apostle were to remain no more than three days and ask for no money! If they stayed longer or asked for money it was proof they were false SINisters. Due to the fact of a smattering of genuine charismatic gifts still in operation, the early church was cautious not to totally dismiss the possibility that God had indeed sent the individual to them —but they surely were fruit inspectors (Matt. 7:16).

Liturgically speaking what we glean from the Didache primarily concerns the Eucharistic meal. First, only those rightly baptized, i.e. according to the standard Trinitarian formula were to be allowed to receive communion. The agape meal was held each Lord’s day — every Sunday was a “communion Sunday” not every fourth Sunday, not once a month or annually but every time they gathered. Frankly, I know of no other congregations apart from liturgical ones that still practice regular weekly communion.

But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let on one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.” (10)

So without laboring the point it seems that this nascent Christian church began with a confession of sin, offering up of thanksgiving, celebration of the Eucharist along with teaching. (11) Few evangelical congregations today have any confession of sin in their services. People gather, the band starts to play and the people immediately begin singing! This speaks volumes of the leadership/.congregation’s attitude towards the reality of sin, the absolute inviolate holy nature of the One they have come to praise. All orthodox liturgical services begin generally with people on their knees with voices united in a corporate confession of sin and then we hear the welcome words of absolution declaring our sins forgiven by Christ and His work alone. For me and my family this is absolutely fabulous and sets the tone for the rest of the service. Once we as a people have confessed our sins, received our pardon (acknowledgment of grace) then and only then are we as a congregation able fully to enter into the presence of God corporately. There is true spiritual unity when you worship amidst a people who kneel before God fresh as new borne babes.

Next time we will continue our consideration of worship and look at Hippolytus and the Apostolic Constitutions. Stay tuned! ¨

Copyright © Rev. Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Darby, J.N. (1996). The Holy Scriptures: A new translation from the original languages (Nu 3:10). Oak Harbor, Logos Research Systems.

2. Darby, J.N. (1996) The Holy Scriptures: A new translation from the original languages (Le 10:1-2). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

3. The following is a good web site to get a glimpse into the prayer hours http://www.yale.edu/adhoc/research_resources/liturgy/hours.html

4. I have always struggled with the concept of seekers. The Bible plainly teaches in both Testaments that there is NONE that seeks after God–no not one (see Romans 3:11). People are searching but not for the God of the Bible, He is the One who does the seeking and He always finds the ones He seeks!

5. All our former charismatic readers will relate to the FACT that almost every charismatic congregation attempts to achieve their understanding of “early church” structure — you know “we are a Book of Acts church!” declaration. Yet none of these fellowships are liturgical at all in any historical/orthodox sense!  What the claim to be (early church) they are not —in fact, early Christians would not recognize most of what happens in 90% of churches today.

6. Luther believed these things were made by the hands of pious men for holy reasons. Historic Lutheran churches are filled with inspirational artwork, but we do not pray to them!

7. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litChLit.jsp.

8. Obtained from http://ministries.tliquest.net/theology/apocryphas/nt/didache.htm. At this web site you can read the entire document, which is only a couple of pages in length.

9. Obtained from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html. Underlining added for emphasis.

10 ibid. Underlining and italics added for emphasis.

11. The teaching aspect is easily seen in the other portions of the Didache.





The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three)

20 12 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – December 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 12 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three)

Rev. Bob Liichow

Truth matters to God. One revelation of His immutable nature is that of veracity or truth. Our God does not simply possess the truth, He is fount of truth, and truth is part of who God is. The following are just a few examples from both the Old and New Testaments demonstrating that God is truth:

God is true (John 3:33): he who sent me is true (John 7:28); let God be true though every man a liar (Rom. 3:4); he who sent me is true (John 8:26); O Lord, God of truth (Ps. 31:5); the God of truth (Isa. 65: 16); he who is true (Rev. 3:7); do not your eyes look for truth? (Jer. 5:3); I will be their God in truth and righteousness (Zech. 8:8); the Spirit of truth (John14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13); the Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:7); the only true God (John 17:3); Christ came to maintain the truth of God in fulfilling the promises (Rom. 15:8); to serve a living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9); his anointing is true and is no lie (1 John 2:27); grace, mercy and peace from God, in truth and love (2 John 3); the faithful and true witness (Rev. 3:14); O Lord, holy and true (Rev. 6:10); just and true are your ways (Rev. 16:7); his judgments are true and righteous (Rev.19:2); I am the truth (John 14:6); truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21); the Word, full of grace and truth (John 1:14); grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17); we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ (1John 5:20); I am the true vine (John 15:1); the authentic light that enlightens every man (John 1:9); the rider is called Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11). (1)

Having read the above passages our Lord’s statement perhaps takes on more importance of gravitas (to use a little political lingo):

You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:22-24

What an indictment! Jesus declares that these people are worshipping a Being that they did not really know. Undoubtedly these folks thought they were doing a fine job and really being of service to God, when in reality nothing was being accomplished apart from enthusiastic ignorance (and I am sure a “good time” was had by all in those services).

Our Master says quite emphatically about “truth” when He says that hour is coming when “true” worshipers (2) as opposed to the hypocrites and spiritual vagabonds will worship in spirit and truth. What is also interesting in what Jesus says is that the Father is SEEKING such a people, those who will worship Him in a manner that pleases Him (and isn’t that our point after all?). The Greek word for “seek” implies an aggressive purposeful search on the part of the seeker, which excites me because I know when the LORD seeks something or someone, He always finds it.

By the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry Jewish religious life had solidified into two major facets. The Jews had both temple and synagogue worship. The temple was the place God ordained to meet with His people, where they were to offer various sacrificial offerings, etc. All the people of the nation were commanded to come to the temple at specific times depending on the events in the Jewish liturgical calendar. The synagogues on the other hand were local places found within the villages and towns. The temple, its worship services, ministers, vestments, etc. were ordained by God, the synagogues were never established by God but were the Israelites response to the man-made legalism which developed. In Jesus’ lifetime worship had denigrated from God’s pattern into a humanistic system of works to such a degree that there was a synagogue in Harrods’s temple. Even though the presence of a synagogue was not in God’s original temple planning, it was the place where many of the people came to hear the Word of God proclaimed by various rabbis of that day:

Readers of the New Testament know what precious opportunities it offered for making known the Gospel. Its services were, indeed, singularly elastic. For the main object of the synagogue was the teaching of the people. The very idea of its institution, before and at the time of Ezra, explains and conveys this, and it is confirmed by the testimony of Josephus (Ag. Apion, ii, 157-172). But perhaps the ordinary reader of the New Testament may have failed to notice, how prominently this element in the synagogue is brought out in the gospel history. Yet the word “teaching” is used so frequently in connection with our Lord’s appearance in the synagogue, that its lesson is obvious (see Matt 4:23; Mk 1:21, 6:2; Lk 4:15, 6:6, 13:10; Jhn 6:59, 18:20). The “teaching” part of the service consisted mainly in reading a section from the law, with which the reading of a portion from the prophets, and a sermon, or address, were conjoined. Of course, the liturgical element could in such services never have been quite wanting, and it soon acquired considerable importance. It consisted of prayer and the pronouncing of the Aaronic blessing (Num 6:24-26) by priests—that is, of course, not by Rabbis, who were merely teachers of course, not Rabbis, who were merely teachers or doctors, but by lineal descendants of the house of Aaron.

There was no service of “praise” in the synagogues. (3)

Whether the synagogue was located in the temple precincts itself or in a small village the same worship format or liturgy was followed. The Jews were a “confessional” people in that they publically confessed their creedal beliefs and tried to live by them. The most famous prayer which Israel prays to this day is the “Shema”

Public worship * commenced on ordinary occasions with the so-called “Shema,” which was preceded in the morning and evening by two “benedictions,” and succeeded in the morning by one, and in the evening by two, benedictions; the second being, strictly speaking, an evening prayer. The “Shema” was a kind of “belief,” or “creed,” composed of these three passages of Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. It obtained its name from the initial word “shema”: Hear, O Israel,” in Deuteronomy 6:4. From the Mishnah (Ber. 1:3) we learn, that this part of the service existed already before the time of our Lord: and we are told (Ber. Iii. 3) that all males were bound to repeat this belief twice every day; children and slaves, as well as women, being exempted from the obligation. There can be no reasonable doubt on the subject, as the Mishnah expressly mentions the three Scriptural sections of the “Shema,” the number of benedictions before and after it, and even the initial words of the closing benediction (Ber. Ii. 2, I. 4; Tamid, v. 1). We have, therefore, here certain prayers which our Lord Himself had not only heard, but in which He must have shared—to what extent will appear in the sequel. These prayers still exist in the synagogue, although with later additions, which, happily, it is not difficult to eliminate. Before transcribing them, it may be quoted as a mark of the value attached to them, that it was lawful to say this and the other daily prayers–to which we shall hereafter refer—and the “grace at meat,” not only in Hebrew, but in any other language, in order to secure a general understanding of the service (Sotah, vii. 1). At the same time, expressions are used which lead us to suppose that, while the liturgical formulae connected with the “Shema” were fixed, there were local variations, in the way of lengthening or shortening (Ber. i. 4) (4)

Even the wording of certain prayers was established prior to the time of Jesus. Temple and synagogues prayers were for the most part “scripted” and not uttered ex-cathedra (originating from the heart). For example the confession of the “Shema” involved passages before and after the text in Deut. 6:4-9. Without getting bogged down in minutiae of the prayers I hope you can see that even in the synagogue worship was not disorganized nor was it “Spirit-led.” (5)   The rabbis prayed aloud, opening and closing the services with biblical prayers that the people responded to with an “amen.” Whereas the synagogue liturgy was not as formalized as the temple worship it nonetheless existed and was well known and accepted by all the Jewish people.

The disciples of Jesus grew up in a liturgical format of worship and knew nothing else, because what they had was revealed to them by God (albeit marred by a few generations of sin). So it comes as no surprise that we see Jesus and His disciples continually in either the synagogues (see Mark 3:11; 6:2) or the Temple (see Mark 13:1; John 8:1).

After our Lord was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven what do we see? We find the disciples worshipping God in the temple by attending one of the Jewish liturgical hours for prayer, “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Acts 3:1) The Apostle Paul’s practice was to visit the local synagogue first, for example; “And it came to pass in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1)

The Christians, who were seen initially by the Romans as merely a sect of the Jews and as such were left alone. (6) The early Church worshipped in the temple and also met together in their homes to hear the Apostles:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and shared all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with al the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:42-27 (7)

The early Christian Church came into being as a liturgical

Naturally, worship has now taken on an entirely new meaning for these fledgling Christians (at this point the word had not even been coined) whereas before they had been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, now He has come and His flock await His return. The liturgy did not change, but the true underlying meaning behind the liturgy was now fully understood and thus it became more meaningful in the lives of the disciples.

Church because Jews worshipped liturgically. The New Testament records numerous instances of liturgical worship, which range from pure Jewish practices (such as Peter and John going to the Temple because it was the hour of prayer) to Christian liturgical worship (which confirms that the early Christians met and worshipped following Jewish liturgical practices, and added to them the rite of the Eucharist). (9)

The early disciples saw all the feasts and sacrifices fulfilled in Christ and could now fully celebrate these events in His light. Christ now is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) and He Himself established the liturgy for the Divine Service during the last supper (see Matt. 14) which now became the focus of worship.

Historically there is not a large amount of documentation we can refer to regarding the earliest Church practices due to persecution and much of the Church was underground until Constantine the Great. From what we do have recorded in the Book and a few other places the following statement is surely accurate:

Some elements of Jewish spirituality were undoubtedly part of the early Christian worship, such as the use of readings from Hebrew Scriptures and even the use of Hebrew words such as amen and alleluia. New Testament accounts in Luke 4:16-30 and Acts 13:15-16 indicate early Christians were familiar with Sabbath synagogue gatherings involving proclamation of Scripture and preaching. The Christian word service may also be connected with Jewish use of hymn singing and religious discourse associated with meals…Because of the sporadic persecutions, the Church was forced to gather in private homes for liturgical celebrations. Some of the churches in the city of Rome today still bear the names of the owners of the homes where the first Christians met, such as Clement. We also know that the language of worship used in Rome was Greek, since it was the common language used throughout the Roman empire at that time. Like churches in other parts of the world, the Roman Church used the Jewish Calendar to determine the date of the feast of Easter and the following 50-day period of celebration leading up to Pentecost. One point of distinction of the Roman Church is that it always began the Easter celebrations on the Sunday closest to 14 Nisan, unlike some other churches who celebrated Easter on this date, no matter what day of the week it occurred. (10)

Next time we will consider how the early Church worshipped and how that applies to our life of worship today. ¨ 

Copyright © 2010 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Logos international software, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 2010.

2. 1. LN 70.3 real, not imaginary (Jn 17:3); 2. LN 72.1 true, being in accordance with fact (Jn 19:35); 3, LN 73.2 genuine, sincere, true (Heb 10:22+; 1 Pe 1:22 v.r.), Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek New Testament.

3. Obtained from NavPress Bible Software, Quick Verse 2010, Sketches of Jewish Social Life Electronic Edition STEP files Copyright © 2001, Findex.com All rights reserved.

4. Ibid. Underlining and bold type added for emphasis.

5. In saying this I refer to today’s belief that “Spirit-led” means no planning just the unexpected thus unplanned for visitation of God.

6. Obviously this relationship changed once Christianity developed enough to be seen as it was, a “new” religion, one that captivated the allegiance of its followers from the human emperor to that of Jesus Christ and as such Christianity was seen as a danger to the state and persecuted until the coming of Constantine in approx. 312 A.D.

7. The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009 (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.) (Ac 2:42-47), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. (all Bible unless cited otherwise come from Logos Research Systems.

8. Believers were first called “Christians” in Antioch see Acts 11:26

9. Quote obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEChLit.jsp on 11-30-10

10. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLEarly.jsp 12/05/10 bold type added to honor the Scriptures cited.

I have received a few emails making mention of this latest pathetic attempt to keep a money-making revival machine in gear.

As a cat owner and lover I too urge a return to orthodox, Christian worship…Think of the Kittens!





The Eternality of the Liturgy (Part One)

29 10 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – October 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 10 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (Part One) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

 The Eternality of the Liturgy  (Part One)

 Rev. Bob Liichow

From the inception of the Church one of the directives God’s people have striven to implement (with varying degrees of success) is the following statement by our Lord Jesus:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

We know the context of His words, they were made to the Samaritan woman he encountered at the well. Jesus bluntly told this woman that she and her people worshipped what they did not know and what is more, their worship was meaningless because they are not even God’s redeemed people.

 No doubt this woman was somewhat taken aback at our Master’s words. After all, the Samaritans had been worshipping God on Mount Gerizim since the Nation was taken into Babylonian captivity for a long time, and no doubt with all the sincerity they could muster in doing so. However, their worship was unacceptable to God. God considered them as false worshipers. Jesus was also referring to the Jewish religion as practiced in His day. We know this is true because He says “the time is coming and has now come” meaning that now, with His advent people will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Temple Judaism had the format down pat, but had become alienated from the One they worshipped. The Jews had the form of godly worship, but they were just going through the motions when they worshipped, it was not from their heart.

 These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. “Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Isa. 29:13  

With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31  

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain: their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Matthew 15:7-9  

…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 2 Timothy 3:5

 Obviously it is very possible to have the divinely revealed format of worship, but not have a genuine spiritual connection to the One being worshipped. This occurs both on a corporate/congregational level as well as in our own individual lives at time.

 According to our Lord worship that is acceptable to God must follow two guidelines. One is that worship must be “in spirit” what does that mean? Is Jesus referring to worship following a charismatic expression? After all, our charismatic brethren are always going on about being in the spirit, etc. No, Jesus was not saying that at all. Spirit here is simply the word pneu/ma (pneu/ma) which is defined in the USB Greek dictionary as referring to:

 Spirit (of God); spirit, inner life, self, disposition, state of mind, spirit, spirit being or power, power (often of evil spirits); life (Mt. 27:50); wind (He. 1:7; perhaps Jn 3:8); breath (2 Th 2.8); ghost, apparition (Lk 24:37,39).

 Jesus in this case is referring to the human spirit, the heart of humanity, our state of mind and indeed our disposition when we come to worship. Are we just going through the motions on Sunday? Are we thinking of the upcoming football game, Sunday supper, the job or are we focused on the Ancient of Days and His goodness?

 Secondly, worship must be “in truth.” Friberg’s Greek Lexicon says the following about the Greek word for truth:

 (1) of what has certainty and validity, opp. truth (EP 4:21); (2) of the real state of affairs, esp. as divinely disclosed  truth (RO 1:18);  (3) of the concept of the Gospel message as being absolute truth  (2TH 2:12);  (4) of true to fact statements, opp. truth, fact (LU 4:25); (5) of what is characterized by love of truth, opp. truthfulness, uprightness, fidelity (1C. 5:8, 13:6);  (6) of reality as opp.  To pretense or mere appearance, opp. truth, sincerity (PH 1:18); idiomatically lit. in truth, i.e. really true, indeed (MT 22:16); lit. according to truth, i.e. rightly (RO 2:2); lit. on truth, i.e. really, actually (AC 4:27).

 In simple words Jesus is saying that valid worship must first come from the heart and secondly it must be done according to divinely disclosed truth. In other words, God must be worshipped in the manner in which He has revealed to His people.

 The question to be asked is this; has God given His people a format of worship that is to be followed? If so, what does it consist of? Has it changed from the Old Testament format to an inauguration of something new with the Advent of Christ? Are we “free” as God’s people to be creative and come up with our own worship formats, as is very common today? These are some of the issues we will be considering in future articles on this topic, so stay tuned! ¨

 Copyright © 2010 Robert S. Liichow





Why I love the Liturgy

19 02 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 2 – Why I love the Liturgy – by Rev. Bob Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Why I love the Liturgy

By Vicar Bob Liichow

Every Church is “liturgical” to one degree or another. It is impossible to escape having some set format of worship. Even the charismatic extremists who declare that they worship God in spirit and truth {see John 4:24} end up with some regular worship style.

No matter what denomination you are in there is a set format even in places where they pride themselves on having no “liturgy” they still fall into certain rhythms each Sunday. Offerings are taken at a certain place, so many songs are sung, the sermon is preached here, an altar call is given now, etc.

So the question for us to begin to consider is whose “liturgy” is it we are practicing? Did it come from the direction of God or the creativity of man? One of the things charismatic extremists pride themselves on is striving to practice New Testament Christianity and having a New Testament Church, i.e. having what they consider to be a style of church that is patterned after the Book of Acts. Really what it can be boiled down to is having a format that includes the use of the sign-gifts and accepting the role of restored prophets and apostles giving immediate direction from God the Spirit alone with new revelations and insights from Him. I will readily admit that was part of the history of the early church, but it was not the format of worship expected to be carried on until the return of Jesus for His people.

One thing about God is that He is very specific in all His dealings with mankind. When God interacts with man He does not leave it up to mankind’s fallen abilities to come up with ideas on how God’s will is to be accomplished. A good example of this is seen in God’s dealing with Noah in building the ark,

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood: make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. Genesis 6:13-16

Notice that God did not simply tell Noah to build a “big boat.” He gave him a specific design to follow. God told him what type of wood to use, what type of sealant to caulk the joints with and the exact specifications regarding its size and how many floors it was to have. Noah obeyed God and followed His directions to a “t” and in the end he and his family were saved. There is little dispute over the fact that the ark is a type of the Church; ergo the Church is built and established according to the direction of God. Probably another more familiar example in the Old Testament is found in Exodus 25:

Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make a chest of acacia wood-two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Exodus 25:8-16.

Notice again that God reveals to Moses exactly how His house of worship is to be constructed. God did not leave it up to Moses to be “creative.” God was so exacting in His details that He even gave specific instructions as to the colors used, the size and weights of the implements and the location of each piece of furniture, etc. It is a fascinating study when one looks at every aspect of the Tabernacle and one can easily see it fulfilled in the life of Jesus. The very structure they worshipped around was a picture of Christ.

As with Noah we see that God had a specific design in mind. He did not tell Moses “worship Me anyway you want.” He gave Moses detailed instruction not only on how the tabernacle itself was to be built, but also specific instruction on how He was to be worshipped within the context of the tabernacle. From the tabernacle in the wilderness up to the Herod’s temple in the life of Jesus we find God’s people worshipping Him according to the pattern (let’s call it the liturgy) He Himself established.

In fact, it is only fair to warn my “anti-liturgical” brethren that they are in somewhat of a surprise when they get to heaven. How so? Where do you think Moses got the pattern for the tabernacle?

In heaven there is the true tabernacle or temple. There is an actual place within heaven where God is worshipped by innumerable angels and people from every tribe, tongue and nation {see Rev. 5:9}. When we get to heaven God has a liturgy for divine worship and a divine temple in which every facet of it undoubtedly declares His awesome splendor as did the copy Moses built on earth, corrupted as it was being made of cursed materials. After all if every part of the earthly tabernacle pointed to Christ how much more the original? If God gave Moses specific directions on how He was to be worshipped do you think when you get to heaven that it will be a free-for-all? I think not because God does not change {see Malachi 3:6} and this is the God who directed the apostle Paul to write “let everything be done decently and in order” {see 1 Corinthians 14:40} so our worship of the Ancient of Days shall be done in an orderly, but no doubt exuberant manner.

Liturgical worship goes back to the Jews and was carried over into the Church by saved Jews. The Jews had a specific format in their temple worship, in the local Synagogues and even at home during the sedar meals or Passover celebration. The order of liturgy used in the Synagogue was this: 1) a reading from the Torah; 2) a psalm; 3) a reading from the Prophets; 4) a reading from Psalms; 5) a reading from the historical writings; 6) a psalm; 7) interpretation of the Word by the Rabbi; 8) the Shema or O.T. creed; 9) the Sanctus and 10) a closing prayer. Conservative Synagogues follow this pattern of worship to this day.

The early Jewish Christians continued to go to the Temple at the hours of prayer {see Acts 3:1} and continued to practice the Jewish liturgy but in light of what Christ had done for them by His sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. Acts 2:46 reminds us they were in one accord daily in the temple. In Acts 5:20 we read that the angel commanded them to go speak in the temple “all the words of this life.” Please keep in mind that Jesus never rebuked the Jews regarding temple worship, He himself went to the temple and into synagogues to worship and teach {see Matthew 13:54}. Oh yes He drove out the money-changers on two occasions but they were in the outer courts and were not part of orthodox Jewish worship.

The early believers in Christ continued to the tradition of their Jewish forefathers, worshiping as they had in both the Temple and the Synagogue. To this worship practice they added the distinctly Christian components which were in fact, transformed Jewish worship practices. These included Baptism,

The early believers in Christ continued in the traditions of their Jewish forefathers, worshiping as they had in both the Temple and the Synagogue. To this worship practice they added the distinctly Christian components which were in fact, transformed Jewish worship practices. These included Baptism, the Eucharist, the Agape meal, and others. Baptism was also present in Jewish religious practice as a personal repentance for sin. Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, was transformed in both meaning and content by our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism became not only a repentance for one’s sins, but being baptized in the name of the Trinity now also assured forgiveness and incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church. Baptism was the once and for all initiatory rite whereby one received the Holy Spirit and came into the Church. (1)

Over time as the Church to include both Jews and Gentiles the liturgy was shaped and re-shaped to focus solely on Christ Jesus while incorporating aspects from the ancient Jewish format,. Historically the Orthodox Church has always been liturgical and still is. Liturgical worship is the original worship format of the earliest Christians who met in homes and which became more formalized as the Church grew and became accepted.

For the first three hundred years of its existence, the Christian Church was illegal and frequently persecuted. Therefore, very ancient liturgical documents before the fourth century are quite limited because the early Church was not “producing” liturgies but focusing on celebrating the Eucharist and surviving persecution. (2)

In the East

Some of the earliest writings concerning liturgical worship can be found in the following texts: The earliest rises in the Eastern Church include the Jerusalem liturgy of St. James, the Alexandrian liturgy of St. Mark, the East Syrian liturgy, the West Syrian liturgy of Antioch, the Armenian liturgy, and the Coptic liturgy and scholars agree all of these agree more than disagree with one another. All of these liturgies were written in the very late 300’s and early 400’s A.D. Liturgical formats began to be written down and codified once the Church was no longer an “illegal” cult and could practice its worship openly, but also as a means to stop heresies and false practices. Two of the earliest liturgies that are still in use today in the Eastern Churches are those of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil.

In the West

The early Church had two main centers of influence, Constantinople (east) and Rome (west). Both centers had formed liturgies reflected their cultures while adhering to some of the ancient Jewish format. We can gain some insight into early western liturgical practice in the following

Who stands in front of the assembly)—presumably the bishop or his designate — preaches a homily. After the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward the president improvises a prayer of thanksgiving or Eucharistic in which all assembled participate with their acclamation of Amen. From the texts of all the later Eucharistic prayers that come down to us, we may assume that this presidential prayer was not freely invented, but followed standard structure and form similar to the Jewish hodayah prayer of praise and thanksgiving. (3)

Around 251 A.D. Latin replaced Greek in the liturgy and a more direct Roman language was used as opposed to the more flowery Greek in the eastern liturgies. The Roman Presbyter Hippolytus gives some detailed accounts of these early Roman liturgical practices.

So we see that from the days of the house church in Jerusalem to those more organized in the Grecian communities up to those communities in Italy and Spain that worship has always followed a liturgical format.

Copyright ©  2009 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litECLitWEC.jsp on 02-09-09

2. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEOLitEarly.jsp#Heresies on 02-09-09

3. Ibid. Underlining and bolding added for emphasis

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