This is the best picture I could get of this diagram. I’ll try to explain it some as we do a quick review of some major points before we dig into the Lord’s Supper itself. Starting at far left center, this diagram shows 2 House Churches, the one at Smyrna under Bishop Polycarp who trained under Apostle John. 2nd church, the House Church at Rome which they trace back to Apostle Peter. We see these 2 churches begin flowing forward in time, and they are in unity, “one church” as far as theology goes. At this time there is no High Pope or Holy See in Rome. Each House Church has their own Bishop, and that Bishop’s flock answers to, and follows him, as he follows Christ, the Word of God.
The word “catholic” itself was a word that meant “all-inclusive” or “universal”. It was not the name of the church! It simply meant anyone could get saved. It did not matter if you were slave or free, male or female, Gentile or Jew, any color, any language, salvation was for one and all. They were originally called “The Way”, and then “Christians”. But calling the church “The Catholic Church” comes way later. And then the “Orthodox” split away at 1054 A.D., so you could say the one title didn’t last long.
Now during this time persecutions pop up here and there, some worse than others, but as far as church unity, things seem to flow pretty good until the 6th Bishop of Rome. He puts out a few new rules and seems to be trying to flex some muscle. He seems to refer to himself as Holy See, and we quoted his writing on this in the previous article if you like to see it. But the churches desire unity almost above all else, and the Bishop of Smyrna, still being Polycarp, who had a very long life, goes along with things until a change to Passover/Easter/Lord’s Supper is spoken of by Rome. That seems to be a bridge too far for Polycarp!
It first appears with Bishop Telespuorus (125-136 A.D.). At this point Bishop Polycarp begins his defense of how they were taught by the Apostles to do it this way, and they would not be changing. Churches developing in the area of Smyrna agree with Polycarp, and they become the Asia Minor Churches. So the battle has begun, starting around 125-136 A.D.. Obviously, Rome is not the Holy See, the say all to end all to Polycarp, or the other Asia Minor Churches.
Bishop Polycarp is martyred around 155 A.D., and all this time the Bishops of Rome have still wanted all the churches to change to their way. However, for the sake of unity, they allow it. Until, Bishop Victor I. He puts his foot down in a big way! He wants to force the issue! He cuts communication with the Asia Minor Churches! This is somewhere in 189-199 A.D., and there is still no title of Pope, and he still can’t pull it off. And note, we are still in House Churches.
But early 3rd century, (205 A.D.?), for some odd reason, “ALL” the Bishops can be referred to as Pope! Not just Rome Bishops, but all Bishops. I don’t know the details on this, but now the title is coming into use.
It appears that House Churches under their own personal Bishop, with no Holy See they recognize, is the rule until at least 250 A.D., and probably even later. But past that point, things begin to change. At end of 3rd century, somehow, the title Pope now “only” applies to the Bishop at Rome. And somewhere as time goes along, they decide to “back date” that title of Pope to all the earlier Bishops of Rome, even unto Peter! How convenient for them. Did they ask the Apostle Peter if he wanted such a title?
Next big event is Roman Emperor Constantine gives favor to the Christian Church. The influence of this pagan Emperor causes huge change in the church. No “pagan” should be allowed such influence in God’s House! The Bishop of Rome gains even more power and is now able to force his way. House Churches become a thing of the past. Easter is all about Sunday. The Lord’s Supper has become something far from the simple home table, to all kinds of ritual, ceremony, and pomp. And as they say, the rest is history, folks. Now here we are today. And how much of the way your church does the Lord’s Supper has been affected by these Catholic decisions? You say none? You might be very surprised.
When I left my last modern day church, I became very curious about the early church, and I began to wonder why my many Pastors had never taught much on them? Were they afraid to? Did they think it might cause more problems than good? Were they afraid of questions concerning changes that have been made? Are they trying to hide something? Or are they just ignorant, like I was? All good questions. You choose the one you like best. But now, if you will forgive me for once again going way beyond 1000 words, I’ll try to at least open up this issue concerning the Lord’s Supper.
Apparently, various forms of fasting had been developed leading up to the Easter or Passover event. Polycarp had been specifically instructed by the Apostles to end the fasting on the same day the Jews did, in order to have the Passover meal, just as Christ did in that upper room. And for some reason, he had been taught this was very important. Do not change!
Evidently, Rome did not know that reason, or disagreed on the point, because obviously the Jews do not celebrate any resurrection of Christ, but we do. So Rome decided the fasting needed to continue till Sunday. The resurrection/ Easter, was to always be celebrated on Sunday. This was the important day and important event. Hhmmm. Wow. Yes…how can you have a Passover meal if you’re still fasting?
Is this really an important point? Well, I have become convinced it is, and for many reasons. Some of these reasons I would even blame for the lack of sacrifice in our modern churches today. Consider this scripture>
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” (I Cor. 11:26)
Okay, why is this so important? This only “begins” to open the importance of the Lord’s Supper. It touches on everything from the fact we left the Table Setting in the Home, and our form of the Supper misses the opportunity for “family”, and an opportunity for “giving to the poor”, and it puts the emphasis on His resurrection more than His “death”! It brings us together to the empty tomb, more than His Cross! And the fact the modern church has become so materialistic and worldly, we do not even know what it means to embrace a cross the way our brothers and sisters in hostile lands do. IT IS THAT CROSS WE NEED TO SEE IF WE EVER HOPE TO ACHIEVE THE RESURRECTION IN OUR OWN LIFE! THE RESURRECTION HAS NO BENEFIT TO ME IF I FAIL TO EMBRACE MY OWN CROSS! IF YOU PRAY ABOUT THIS, I BELIEVE YOU WILL BEGIN TO SEE IT IS NOT A SMALL THING, AND HOW IMPORTANT IT REALLY IS. (And this is only the beginning of opening this up. The Lord’s Supper in the early church was special in many many many ways. Details that will need to wait for the next article.)
As we have said, taking the emphasis off a Home Table and into a stone Temple, and removing the emphasis of the Cross to the resurrection and colored eggs. The Cross is a picture of God’s love for us, and a picture of our love for Him, but we have shifted from Cross (Rom. 12:1-2) to empty grave, and from Table to Temple. Unless we are willing to have an open mind and truly ponder these things, we do not realize how big the effect has been on us. Jesus himself said, do this in remembrance of my “death”. It’s not meant to be a party, until after his death has been truly remembered. The early church knew how to do that. Then it becomes a celebration at the resurrection.
(Special note: I’m still exploring this, but some things I have read seem to indicate the early church fathers did not consider a person truly born-again until the day of resurrection. If that is the case, then truly, like Paul did not want to end up a “castaway”, we should not count our chickens before they are hatched! In other words, embrace the Cross for all it means, for we do not yet know if we will be faithful until the end! Just more food for thought.)
So…I have one last diagram for you. Maybe it will help you to see things even more clear. But logically speaking, I see the point Rome was trying to make. For us, the Passover is different than for the Jews, in that we have a grave and a resurrection. However, in the Spirit, many things have to be more spiritually discerned than logically. When viewed from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, many times these things do make logical sense, but only when viewed from there. So here is the diagram, and more coming soon.