Church History & The MAZE IV

20171202_173614 I’ve decided before giving you more quotes from experts and also early church fathers, that perhaps the best way for us to get a real feel about the importance of this, is to simply attempt writing what an early day Christian would have experienced in their Passover/Easter meal, and hopefully, how it might have affected them. An effect, I might add, we’re not getting today. So…here we go!

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“A Lord’s Supper Story”

As Eli walked home from his carpenter’s job, he couldn’t help but be a little excited. This was a special day, the beginning of Passover! This was the first year he and his little family would be celebrating it in the Christian way! He had even left work a little early, on this Friday, so he could get ready. The service would start promptly at sundown, and once inside the door of their House Church, no one was to leave until midnight! Because according to the teachings of Moses, they were to always remember this night, and when their children would ask questions about what they were doing, they were to explain everything to them, about the slavery of Egypt, and the night the Death Angel flew over!

This was the 13th day of Nisan, and a Jewish day always started at sundown, not midnight, or sunrise. For with God, as revealed in the creation story of Genesis, God’s days always go from the time of least light to greater and greater growing light. The path of the just shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day, Eli quoted to himself as he walked.

So at sundown today it would become the 14th day of Nisan, and Nisan being the first month of the Jewish calendar, because God established it so in that time with Moses. God had actually made the month of Nisan their first month of the year, evidently to impress how important all this was.

Eli began running through his mind what had been happening with his forefathers in the days proceeding the 14th. He did not know exactly how many days the battle with Pharaoh and all the ten plagues had taken, but surely at least those first fourteen days had been filled with curse upon curse, and challenges of magicians, some curses even affecting the Jewish camps, before God began to show a difference. With this in mind, he understood that every new year, for the Jew, was a reminder of God’s battle with Pharaoh, and the great deliverance from slavery. This was how each new year started for them.

What must that have been like? All you have known is slavery to Egypt your whole life, and now this Moses shows up and begins a fight with Pharaoh. He says it is God. Yes, it would be nice to be free, but what if we all just end up dead? And so far, things have only gotten worse for us! “Hhmmm,” Eli ponders, “what must they have been feeling?” But finally Moses seems to think an end is drawing near, and everyone is to sacrifice a lamb for their family, put the blood on their doorpost, and seal themselves in the house, even while they are dressed and ready to leave on a moments notice! “Wow,” he thinks again, “What must that have been like?”

Eli knows when he gets home his wife will already have their food mostly ready to go. Their House Church did the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis, and it was known as the “Welcoming Table”. But this particular Welcoming Table only came once a year, the actual day of Passover, and the House Bishop, Daniel, would be sure to make it extra special. Tonight, they would not be leaving church until midnight. And then would begin the seven days of unleavened bread.

As Daniel entered the door of his small home, his two children ran to his arms all excited. “Daddy daddy! Mommy says we have church tonight? Will we get to see Bishop Daniel?” his daughter of ten asked. He had two children, one daughter, Emily, ten years old; and a son, Mark, eight years old.

“Yes children, we will all get to see Bishop Daniel tonight, and your other friends will be there too. This is a very special night. You will hear a great and exciting story! But run along and play now, because daddy needs to get ready.

“Okay, daddy!” and away they went. Mommy stepped closer and they shared a hug. “Everything is almost done. We have enough to share with a few. I’m especially thinking about the Abbot family. Lets be sure to check on them first, okay?”

“Sounds good. I should be ready in just a few.”

Daniel was true to his words and before they knew it they were approaching the door of the House Church, and much to their surprise, someone had painted red on the doorposts! “Daddy look at that!” Emily shouted and pointed. She was always the first to react, while Mark was more contemplative before reacting. “What is that? It’s just smeared on there, daddy! It don’t even look right. Did someone hurt Bishop Daniel’s house?”

Eli and his wife, Sarah, paused at the door and gave each other a look. “You want to answer this one, dear?” Sarah said.

Eli handed the basket of food to his wife, then knelt down on one knee and gathered his children close. “This is part of the story you are going to hear tonight,” he began explaining. “So make sure you pay very close attention, okay? And after Bishop Daniel tells the story, we will talk more of this.”

The children became even more excited once they knew this was part of “The Story” they would hear tonight.

“Why don’t you and the kids head on in,” Eli suggested, “I want to take a moment to breathe the air. Its been a busy day.”

Sarah understood, gathered the children and headed in as Eli opened the door, but then closing it behind them, he stepped back out into what was left of the sunlight. The sun was just beginning to set. It was likely that other families were still trying to get here before the sun went down. He looked back at the red on the door, representing the blood of the lamb that had been slain, because Moses had said…that God said…when I see the blood, I will Passover you.

It was hard to take his eyes off that blood. I bet if any Egyptians saw the Jewish homes with blood smeared on the doors, they probably thought what in the world? Such a gross people! What kind of gods do they serve? Although some had begun to respect this God of Moses, because of the curses. Eli knew that many Romans did not understand their God today, any more than the Egyptians did then. God’s people have always been misunderstood by the world. Even to the point of being persecuted, and those doing the persecuting believing they were doing the work of God!

He was still outside the door. If he stayed out there his family would not have been safe that night, nor any of his livestock. His first born son, and also of livestock, would die as the Death Angel passed over. He needed to walk through that door if he and his family would be saved. And it had to be one of these doors. A door with the blood on it. The Egyptians who did not believe, would have doors with no blood, and their house would be no safer than if they were outside in the elements. But because this door was marked with the blood of a spotless lamb, as long as they were in this house, and did not come out until summoned, they would be safe.

Eli turned and looked at the sinking sun again. Darkness was on the way. The Death Angel waiting his appointed time. There would be great wailing of the lost tonight. His children would learn this story and what it all means, but first there would be intimate fellowship, around a meal, just like the Lord had with his family that night. And those who had more would share with those who had less. And by the food they bring, it would be known who had more, and who had need. A special offering would be taken at end of service, and those having plenty would have a chance to give; and to be given to those with less.

Eli saw two families on there way to the door. With a big smile he greeted them, and as they entered, so did he. Once entering this door, he was not to come back out until the summoning.

Bishop Daniel was carefully greeting everyone, and also explaining that Elder Joe was stationed at a window watching the sun, and as soon as it dropped, the official service would begin, which meant the Lord’s Supper begins!

The food was not placed on one big table, like a pitch in, but each family kept their own, and it was up to them to share. The children especially loved taking things around and sharing with others. It was not merely to those who lacked, but it was also a sharing of special things. If someone had a special recipe, or an excellent wine, the family could share with whomever they desired. This also meant a family could be selfish, but with as much teaching as Bishop Daniel did concerning the “love of God”, and the Lord’s cross, this was rarely an issue. God’s people loved the chance to share, even if they ended up a little shorted compared to someone else. But the Fellowship worked hard at making sure everyone had plenty.

“It’s getting close!” Elder Joe shouted from the window. “Is everyone here?”

“I believe so!” Shepherd Daniel shouted back. “Everyone is in the safety of God’s House!”

“Darkness is coming!” Elder Joe shouted.

“Let it come!” Bishop Daniel answered back. “We are the people of God. We are the people of His light! We are safe in his family, in his light, and in his blood! And everyone says?”

“Amen!” People shouted. And children looked to their parents with questions on their little faces.

Little Mark tugged at his daddy’s sleeve and asked, “Are we to be afraid of the dark, daddy?”

“No my son. Jesus has saved us from the monsters of the darkness. See how we are safe in this House? And because of ‘The Story’ you will hear tonight, you will never need to be afraid of the darkness, no matter where you go, if you have Jesus in your heart.”

Little Mark thought for a moment, and then said, “I like that, daddy. I will keep Jesus very close in my heart, so I never need to be afraid of monsters.”

“Amen, my son. Amen!” And with that, Eli scooped up both his children and gave them a hug.

“Lock the door!” Elder Joe shouted. “No one else can come in! The sun has set, and the darkness is upon us!”

“To be continued.”

 

Church History & The MAZE II

20171117_161702 Solving the MAZE.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, I think it’s best to give you an over view of where we’re going. Let me give you some of the BIG PICTURE. So to the best of “my” understanding and research, here we go. Please correct me if you find any serious mistakes.

For the first 10-20 years Christians continued worshipping in Jewish synagogues as they could, and in private homes. Eventually they were no longer allowed in the synagogues and the private homes became their churches. It will remain basically this way until the Roman Emperor Constantine rises, (who had a Christian mother), and he passes a law of religious tolerance, and begins giving great favor to the Christian church, even though he himself lived as a pagan until close to death, whereupon he (hopefully) got saved. He did get baptized.

So the “Home Setting” was very much the “norm” for the first almost 300 years of the church. It was very personable, AND… so was the Lord’s Table. The celebration of the Lord’s Table was very connected to the Jewish Passover. After all, the Jewish Passover is a vivid symbolic picture of everything Christ was going to do, in paying the price for our sins, and setting the slaves to sin, free! (Pictured by the Children of Israel being set free from slavery to Egypt after the death angel took out the first born son of the unbelieving families.) Blood on the doorposts. When the death angel sees the blood, he will PASSOVER you.

Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples in that upper room. He was and is the Passover! He is the fulfillment of that very promise and prophecy. The Passover is the Easter story! The two are completely connected. The early church fathers knew this and evidently the Apostle John instructed his student, Polycarp, who becomes Bishop of House Church Smyrna, to continue in the way the Jews celebrate Passover, as far as when you end the fast, and how you have the meal. (These are very important details that will be shared later.)

Now we have to ask ourself why that would be? I can actually understand why the Bishops of Rome started thinking some changes had to be made. After all, for the Christian, the story of Passover no longer ended with a death angel and a hurried escape from slavery out of Egypt! But now… three days later there is a Resurrection! Seems logical to me.

However, knowing there would have to be a very good reason for Polycarp to risk causing “division” over a matter, that set me to a deep study. And much to my surprise, I found some very rich answers! But first…our OVERVIEW is not finished.

I may need more than 1000 words today. So the word “Church” actually means someone’s “Home” for the first almost 300 years. AND…by the very fact that Polycarp and the Asia Minor House Churches refuse to agree with Rome concerning the Passover, is proof positive there was not a monarchial system established “yet”. This big Easter controversy begins around 140 A.D., towards end of Polycarp’s long life. He lives like 85 or so before martyred.

The House Church in Rome held a position of honor because of recognition and RESPECT of people like Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul, who were both martyred in Rome. A lot of people were taken to Rome to be martyred, including Polycarp. They took this poor eighty-something year old guy on a long trip, (like Paul), just so he could be burned at the stake in Rome. He died bravely, not defending himself, but just like Christ, a lamb to the slaughter. And this is how many died. Bravely declaring their faith in Christ. Knowing that meant certain death. Again, a picture of THE CROSS! (Whether a burning stake, hungry lions, or crucifixion.)

This is why the Bishop of Rome held a certain position of RESPECT, not that they had any actual authority over any of the other House Churches. Each House Church had their own Bishop, whom they probably chose themselves, because they knew the character of the person before they ever elected them. And once that person was elected to that position, then submission to the authority was expected, in order to maintain order, and PEACE, in the House representing the Prince of Peace.

But we will see as Bishops come and go, some Bishops of Rome begin to try using their “advantage” to exercise more power. And the first real indication of this I found with the 6th Bishop from Peter. Again I point out, very odd to see this begin to rear its ugly head with the number 6! This Bishop, (still not Pope!), but this Bishop announces 3 new rules. I’ll give you the one most obvious of what I’m saying. This is Bishop Sixtus of Rome. He was Bishop of House Church Rome from 115 – 125 A.D.. He decreed this>

“Bishops who have been summoned to the Holy See shall, upon their return, not be received by their diocese except on presenting Apostolic letters.”

So this came somewhere in 115 – 125 A.D.. And as far as I can tell, it was honored, BUT…when the Easter controversy begins arising around 140 A.D., Polycarp, possibly the only Bishop left at that time who could still claim direct training from the Apostles, declares he does not agree and will not change! He declares the Apostles specifically taught him to do it this way. WOW!

So… at that time…Rome and the Asia Minor House Churches agree to disagree and basically do it the way they each want. However, this controversy continues to boil, and the waters will grow hotter and hotter. It is interesting to me, that it is the Lord’s Supper, of all things, that becomes the most vivid “KEY” and answer to all this.

Now leaving our Rome Bishop for a moment; for some reason, which I have yet to find explanation for, but very early 3rd century (205 AD?), letters floating around and terminology being used begins to call any church Bishop a Pope! This title which by the end of the century somehow becomes the title of just the Bishop of Rome, first comes onto the scene in early 3rd century as applicable to ALL the Bishops! Now this really disturbs me, because simple minded as I am, I have read explanations that just because Jesus very specifically said to call no man father, but your heavenly Father, certain experts say that doesn’t necessarily mean he was forbidding the use of the word “Father” as a title in the Church. He was merely coming against pride and self-exaltation.

Well…as I said…I’m pretty simple minded…and as a simple minded person…maybe I can’t see so deep…but when Jesus said something so plainly…it worries me to in any way seem to go against that…even to take a chance of such a thing…but already we begin to see as early as aprox. 205 A.D….at least some Churches are daring to do such things. You can decide for yourself if you think the use of the term “Father” is an issue or not. And they do spell it with a capitol “F”! (Hhmmm.) Maybe I’ve said enough on this. May the Holy Spirit guide you on what you think pertaining to this, but I know what I’m thinking.

Next BIG PICTURE item, Bishops of Rome continue reaching for more power and by end of 3rd century, somehow they are the only one with the title Pope, (pope is a Greek word meaning “Papa”, if I remember that right. Again, calling a man, Father), and now the Roman Emperor Constantine is coming on the scene, and because he gives such favor and benefits to Christians, everyone starts wanting to be a Christian, (at least on paper), so they can get the benefits! Congregations are growing like crazy. Constantine begins giving the Home Churches very nice buildings to move into. The Lord’s Table changes from a very plain wood table in a home, to a cold stone altar in a very large cold stone building! And as far as I can see, church was never the same again!

The Bishop of Rome continues pressing his power to change Easter, and eventually forces his way. One of the worse points happened with Bishop Victor I. There had been other debates with other Bishops of Rome, but until Victor I, they always ended in compromise in favor of UNITY. But during 189-199 A.D., the reign of this Bishop, and with church still in Homes, this Bishop tried to really put his foot down! And when the Asia Minor churches still refused, (Polycarp long gone), Victor I actually cut off communications with them!

Fortunately, a man by name of Polycrates of Ephesus manages to write a letter bringing some grace back to things, and some unity is restored. But Rome will continue pushing this until they get their way, never mind that the Apostles themselves, had said OTHERWISE!

My conclusion has been that the Church managed to hold onto a pretty pure form, at least some of them, like Asia Minor, until around 250 A.D., but when the pagan Emperor Constantine begins to be allowed to have great influence in the church, this pagan influence seals the deal. We’ve never been the same since. We have very well-meaning and sincere Pastors doing the best they can with what we know. We also have Pastors who are no better than the ones who linked arms with a pagan emperor and allowed a pagan to influence the House of God!

Now…the impact on the changes made to the Lord’s Supper and Easter, are much deeper than simply when the fast should end. As a sincere Christian, you are being hurt by this change without even knowing it. The whole Church has been. The Apostle John and Polycarp and others back then, knew this. It will take a whole article in itself to reveal how insidious this move actually was, and is! This has been an overview, and next article we work on the nitty-gritty. I hope this has given you enough to think about for now.

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