One Sunday of every month, and after the sermon, two ministers from my church, stand in front of a decorative wooden table, and instruct the congregation to receive the elements, in remembrance of Christ’s death upon the cross. But what to call this ceremony remains a subject of some debate.
At the first Pentecost, following the Resurrection, that signaled the birth of the church, we read that:
- “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”(Acts 2:32 ESV)
Many Christians still speak of “the breaking of (the) bread” to express what goes on at that table, though by association, it also includes the partaking of wine, or grape juice, as is done in my church.1 A long standing debate in the church at large, over what this means, invites rigorous discussion among believers. Does the bread and wine/juice merely symbolize the presence of Christ, as a memorial, or do they somehow point to a real, even physical(??), presence of the Lord Jesus, at that very moment?
We have explored some of the details of this controversy some time ago on Veracity. But for the moment, I have a simpler question: What do we call the whole thing, with the bread and the wine or juice, to begin with?
One of most original terms was the Greek “eucharist,” meaning “thanksgiving.” The terminology of “eucharist” goes back to the late 1st century, or early 2nd century worship manual of the early church, the Didache, to reference this most sacred meal. The term has biblical precedence behind it:
- For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.”(1 Corinthians 11:23-24 ESV)
Nevertheless, a number of terms have arisen since then to describe the sacred meal, not just “eucharist.” So, what is the best terminology? Eucharist? The Divine Liturgy? The Blessed Sacrament? The Mass? What else? Continue reading
Does the Bible teach that Christians should be communists, or socialists?
One of the hallmarks of the Radical Reformation, in the 16th century, was a desire to return back to following the pattern of the early church, who held “all things in common,” as taught in the Book of Acts. But what does it mean to hold “all things in common,” and does that apply to the church today? Is “communism” taught in the Bible? A look back to the 16th century controversy might give us some perspective in answering these questions.
Most Protestant Christians today trace their heritage back to what is called the magisterial Reformation of the 16th century. Early Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, and Martin Luther of Germany, sought to work with the governing authorities, the magistrate, to implement the reforms of their associated movements. Both Zwingli and Luther believed that the medieval church had drifted away from its Scriptural moorings, over the years, and so they wanted to get people back to the Bible. But they wanted to do so in an orderly manner, which required the government’s assistance, as the contemporary values of religious freedom, or what some call “the separation of church and state,” did not exist back then.
However, in Ulrich Zwingli’s Switzerland, some people wanted to go further than where Zwingli was prepared to go. The controversy was partly based on two passages in the Book of Acts, when the message of the Gospel began to spread rapidly after Christ’s Resurrection, in the 1st century A.D.:
- 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:44-46 ESV).
- 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37 ESV).
The key phrase here is that they “had everything in common.” Some of Zwingli’s followers in Switzerland took this quite literally, believing that all true followers of Christ should renounce all private property, and simply share together in a “community of goods.” That sounds sort of like a Christian version of “socialism” today… or even, “communism.” Continue reading
Over the past many months, folks kept asking me, “Why has John Paine been so quiet on the Veracity blog?”
Well, wonder no more.
John has been in stealth mode for weeks (and weeks!) working on the idea of a Veracity “Vlog” to complement the written stuff on the Veracity web page. For those new to Veracity, John Paine started Veracity about five years ago, and he finagled me to join him several months later. John and I are both engineers (John builds all sorts of things, I just play with computers), so we are admittedly geeky…. and proud of it!
John posted the first “Vlog” yesterday, and I must say, it is pretty snazzy. There is even a YouTube channel to go along with it. Is John really recording his lines while riding up the Metro DC escalator? You tell me!
That is why I affectionately call him “Mr. V.,” our blogger-in-chief. Check out the video and you will see what I mean.
Be sure to subscribe to Veracity, from the links on the right hand side of the web page (the links may show up at the bottom, on your phone), to keep up with John’s new v-logging!