Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lone Ranger Rides Again (Laodicea - Canon 40)

Bishops called to a synod must not be guilty of contempt, but must attend, and either teach, or be taught, for the reformation of the Church and of others.  And if such an one shall be guilty of contempt, he will condemn himself, unless he be detained by ill health.

At times the duty of an overseer extended past the local church.  Synods and councils served at least two purposes: tap the combined wisdom of many counselors (Prov 11:14; 24:5-6) and arrive at a consensus of how to address influences—doctrinal or practical; internal or external—damaging the church at-large.  In a smaller scale, it was convened to give attestation to an ordination or other ruling affecting a local region or church.  Absence at a synod was clear testimony that the overseer was above or outside the influence of the church catholic.

Just as no man is an island, no church is either.  By extension this means that the decision of a church leader intent on going his own direction will affect those both inside and outside the local church.  This means that if your pastor proposes his pet ministry project saying little more than "Hi-yo, Silver!  Away!" then be wary.

Fellowship with Godlessness (Laodicea - Canon 39)

It is not lawful to feast together with the heathen, and to be partakers of their godlessness.

As a follow-up of canons on Jewish feasts, the synod members addressed the pagan feasts as well.  Just as surely as there was to be no fellowship in Jewish feasts, so should there be none in pagan.  While the former would have had a moral and ethical atmosphere the latter certainly would not; and neither would reflect what the Father Almighty desired concerning his Son.

Does this mean we cannot fellowship with the unrighteous?  Certainly not, for we are not called to isolationism (1 Cor 5:9-10).  Believers are not to enter into the debauchery, gluttony, and general godlessness that would be rampant at the pagan feasts.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fellowship Has Limitations (Laodicea - Canons 37 & 38)

It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them.

It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety.

I bring these two canons together in one post because of their opposition to Jewish foods used in their festivals.  Accepting food from someone was a sign of fellowship.  The synod attendees reasoned that since the Jewish leaders had the Lord Jesus wrongfully executed (John 19:6, 15; cf. Acts 2:36), no food gift was acceptable as it would show receptivity to those who rejected and killed the Messiah.

Getting Advice from a Fortune Cookie—or Worse (Laodicea - Canon 36)

They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematicians1, or astrologers; nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for their own souls.  And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church.

Scripture tells us that there should be no person of any rank who practices things such as these (Deut 18:10-12; Ezek 13:9).  The use of these measures indicates either an uncertainty or an unwillingness to rely on the Lord in all things.  In either case, he is deemed unreliable, so an attempt is made to divine things from the natural or evil spiritual worlds.

1 Mathematicians in this context were those who used numerology or calculations of natural, observable phenomena to discern the times or future.

A friend passed along that the Actuarial Sciences use "calculations of natural, observable phenomena to discern the times or future."  I am a bit embarrassed.  My intent was to show how people cannot use math to engage the mystical or spiritual realm: not to debase the science of predicting future risk based on past statistical trends.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interstate Churches

And no, I do not mean churches situated along the interstate.

Christianity Today is reporting on plans for Mars Hill church in Seattle to open a satellite group in Portland to get real-time feeds of the home church meetings with Mark Driscoll's preaching.  'Scuse me?  Are they serious?  I am having difficulty fathoming how many ways this is just plain wrong.  And this is not the first group to have done it.

I enjoyed the curt response from Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.  These megachurches are completely missing the concept of the local church, the body of Christ, and the nature of community.

Laodicean Idol (Laodicea - Canon 35)

Christians must not forsake the Church of God, and go away and invoke angels and gather assemblies, which things are forbidden.  If, therefore, any one shall be found engaged in this covert idolatry, let him be anathema; for he has forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and has gone over to idolatry.

Angel worship (Col 2:18) as well as other known pagan gods were prominent in the apostolic era.  Any attempt to follow after beings whether in heaven or earth besides the Lord God was expressly forbidden (Exod 20:4; Deut 5:8).  How much more so the person who has the testimony of the word of God incarnate and those whom he taught.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Having the Correct Example (Laodicea - Canon 34)

No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God.  Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema.

Scripture tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of those who died in the faith and in whose faith we can consider as we go onto maturity in Christ (Heb 12:1-3).  To look at heretics and schismatics who are not true witnesses of Christ, we are denying the faith of those who gave their lives for the truth of God's promises.

Problematic Prayer Partners (Laodicea - Canon 33)

No one shall join in prayers with heretics or schismatics.

As in in Canon 32 the intent is avoid fellowship with the heretic, so do not pray with the same—an act of close fellowship.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Refuse an Enemy's Empty Praise (Laodicea - Canon 32)

It is unlawful to receive the eulogies of heretics, for they are rather ἀλογίαι [i.e., follies], than eulogies.

A eulogy is literally a blessing.  Good words are pronounced over someone as a sign of respect whether real or feigned.  Commonly, the word itself is most often used in the context of a funeral as a way of honoring the dead, and because of that we generally use the synonymous word praise for other suitable occasions.  In either case the praise of a heretic was not to be accepted.  The false teacher is akin to what David wrote about in Psalm 12:2-4 when he said:

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
     with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
     the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
     our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

In the end, the flatterer is wanting to destroy.  Such is the work of the heretic who would prefer to promote his own understanding of scripture and spirituality rather than the truth.  To accept his praise is to accept his folly.

Averting the Match Made South of Heaven (Laodicea - Canon 31)

It is not lawful to make marriages with all [sorts of] heretics, nor to give our sons and daughters to them; but rather to take of them, if they promise to become Christians.

I have seen more than one marriage fail where one spouse is a believer going into the union and the other is not.  The overriding perception of the Christian is that he or she eventual will be able to lead the partner to Christ.  Even if the marriage does not break up, there is no spiritual harmony in the home and what little godly influence is there will wane over time.  The synod apparently took up Paul as he, through the Holy Spirit, warned against the unequal union (2 Cor 6:14-15) and codified the intent through this canon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whose Prayer Was Effective?

After Isaac was born and weaned, tensions mounted in Abraham's family.  Ishmael is reported as laughing (i.e., mocking), though we do not know if this was directed at Sarah being an elderly mother, the knowledge that what he had as a son of Abraham was certainly lost in the new half-brother, or both.  Whichever the case, the action prompted Sarah to tell Abraham that Hagar and her son were no longer welcome and to send them away (Gen 21:9-10).  Though this displeased Abraham, God comforted him with the promise that Ishmael would be blessed.  Abraham prepared food and water for the journey and sent them out early probably to ensure a good distance before the heat of day set upon them.

We are unaware how long Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba, but it exhausted their water rations.  Ishmael was the first to succumb to exhaustion.1 Hagar leaves him in what little shade she can find under a shrub and walked off
about as far off from him as an arrow can be shot, or is usually shot out of a bow; according to the Jews this was about half a mile, for they say two bowshots make a mile.2
Hagar here sat down, lifted up her voice, and wept (Gen 21:16) awaiting the inevitable that never came.  This displayed a remarkable lack of faith.  The promised care and blessing for her and Ishmael should have been enough to carry them had she only sought God's direction.  On a natural level we can understand the distress in which she found herself.  The wilderness was a harsh place, and being without a visible resource, there was no means of survival.  But the next verse tells us something remarkable: Ishmael had also cried out, and it was to his voice God responded.  How much faith did the boy have in the God of his father?  Evidently, it was sufficient.  The faith of Abraham had been instilled in his son enough to know that God could deliver on his promise, and because of that, the angel of God came to comfort Hagar so she could nourish Ishmael.

Lessons to be learned
God is faithful to his promise – All that he has said, he will do.  Ishmael had received the promise of a multitudinous family.  Dying in the desert was not going to happen.

God is faithful to answer – To whom the Lord chooses, he gives his ear.  And he will give the answer that is needed.  Ishmael's answer was delivered to Hagar that both may be helped.

1 This is somewhat surprising as he was a strapping lad approximately 17 years old.  Ishmael was 14 years older than Isaac; then by adding in the weaning period of two to three years, we arrive at this age.
2John Gill, Exposition of the Entire Bible, accessed at

How Long Were Biblical Manuscripts in Use?

I speculated that if the Gospel of Matthew were published and circulated in 75 CE and if it and some of the first copies of it were in use as long as the manuscripts in the collections and libraries studied by Houston were in use, then some of these manuscripts could still have been in circulation, being read, studied, and copied, as late as the end of the second century and perhaps even on into the third century.  This means that New Testament autographs and first copies could still have been available when our oldest extant papyri manuscripts (e.g., P45, P46, P66) were produced.  If still in circulation and being read and copied, the autographs and first copies would have continued to give shape to the text.  In a sense, then, the gap between autograph and extant manuscript is bridged.
Pastoral Musings has a post linking to an interesting piece by Craig A. Evans on the possible longevity and use of the New Testament autographs.  The argument bolsters a defense against the attacks of those like Bart Ehrman who purport alterations and sloppy copying.  In addition there are real implications for the King-James-Only adherents who insist that only their textual family is correct.

The Issue of Public Bathing (Laodicea - Canon 30)

None of the priesthood, nor clerics nor ascetics, nor any Christian or layman, shall wash in a bath with women; for this is the greatest reproach among the heathen.

An immediate reaction in modern vernacular should be: No duh!  The historical situation was a bit more complicated because private baths were the exception rather than the norm.  In order to maintain a good name for Christ, those dedicated to the work of the gospel were to take extra care to not bathe when women were present at the public bath.  This removed the clergyman from an occasion of sin though the mixed-gender use was culturally acceptable.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free From the Law? We Have a Law for That (Laodicea - Canon 29)

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians.  But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

When I first read this, my first thoughts came up with this paraphrase:
In order to keep people from living by the Law, we are going to enact a law by which to live.
I understand the desire of the synod to remove vestiges of Law practice and live in the freedom Christ brings.  The NT church had difficulty from the beginning with well-meaning Jewish believers trying to bring in the old practices (Acts 15:1,5) while Jewish antagonists did their best to impede (Acts 14:19) and subvert (Titus 1:10-11) the work of the gospel, however this was not the way to bring about the change.

The gospel liberates by freeing us from sin and the just condemnation evidenced by the Law, so that we might walk in newness of life.  Those who believe and confess Christ have no need for man-made precepts to demonstrate what has been effected from divine action by grace through faith.  Yet, as with this synod, denominations make rules that have an appearance of godliness and holiness but in reality are used as metrics to determine spiritual growth.  This is addressing the fruit.  To properly deal with an issue, ensure the believer is properly rooted, fertilized, and pruned by sound teaching with an eye always on Christ.

Book Giveaway

Bob Hayton at Fundamentally Reformed is giving away two copies of the book The Essence of Christian Doctrine by Martin Murphy.  It is a study of the importance of the Apostle's Creed.  Entries are accepted until Wednesday, June 29 at 9:00 P.M. CDT.

Laodicea - Canon 28

It is not permitted to hold love feasts, as they are called, in the Lord’s Houses, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches in the house of God.

As mentioned for Canon 27, something had gone awry in the Love Feast, so that measures had to be taken to move it out of the church building.  Couches were used during meals, but in an effort to remove all possible unseemly furnishings, they were removed to allow the building and congregants a spiritual and dignified look.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Righteous of Sodom

I am reading through Genesis as part of my morning routine and over the past two days have again reviewed the occasion when Abraham was visited by the Lord and two angels, concluding with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  As the angels leave Abraham appeals to God's mercy to spare Sodom if 50 righteous might be found to which the he responds favorably. Finding a sympathetic ear, Abraham begins negotiating the number downward.  The level to which Abraham negotiates is telling. Beginning at fifty, he requests a reduction of five, then five again.  The Lord patiently and mercifully listens and agrees to these.  Abraham continues now with a reduction of ten, then another ten.  At this point there is a turn in Abraham's request.  While those heretofore were seeking mercy on behalf of the just, he fears that the continued pressing while raise ire, yet he continues until the count is ten.  At that point Abraham ceases.

Why would Abraham go to the trouble of making such requests?  He would have known the level of sin and degradation rampant in the valley region.  One even wonders if he was repulsed at the idea of having to fight for the cities in order to rescue his nephew, Lot (Gen 14:8-16).  Lot was in many ways a respected part of the city as evidenced by his place at the city gate when the angels arrive (Gen 19:1).  Abraham's request to spare Sodom had no altruistic origin but an impassioned desire to save Lot once again.  At no time in the conversation of impending judgment did the Lord mention his plan to save Lot leading Abraham to believe everyone in the city was doomed including his nephew and family.

Consider how low Abraham dared seek to go.  Why stop at ten?  By this point Abraham probably was doing some quick mental addition to not only safeguard Lot but any other righteous.
Let's see, there's Lot, his wife, the two girls and their fiancés…  That's six.  Surely there will a few others in the city.
Looking back at the scene we can deduce from the negotiation that there were indeed fewer than ten.  The sentence of judgment had already been passed with the inevitable execution to be carried out.  We can forgive Abraham if he did not pick up on that with his emotional entanglement.  Or maybe he did realizing the populace was truly irredeemable.  Scripture does not say.  The remarkable yet tragic aspect of this is that there were fewer than Abraham hoped.  Not only were there not ten, but members of Lot's family did not qualify.  First, there were the future sons-in-law who thought Lot was jesting when he warned them (Gen 19:14).  After that Lot's wife looked back at the destruction being wreaked after reaching Zoar (Gen 19:24-26).  That action evidenced where her desire was.  Lastly, both daughters impregnated themselves by their drunken father for fear they should be bereft of children (Gen 19:31-32).  How many in Sodom were righteous?—only one.  And even in Lot's case we are not fully convinced except for the NT testimony (2 Pet 2:7-9).

This bit of history has lessons concerning the consequence of choices made.  Much earlier, the livestock of Abraham and Lot had been blessed by the Lord so that they needed to separate the families to have enough pasture.  Abraham gave Lot the choice of where to go, and he moved his tent toward Sodom (Gen 13:12) outside the land of promise.  Lot could have shared the land with Abraham though the latter would receive it in full much later through his offspring.  There was plenty of room for both families to live in harmony had Lot chosen that way.  Herein is the danger.  When we willingly operate outside the place of blessing, there is imminent and certain danger for not only us personally but also to those closest to us.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 27

Neither they of the priesthood, nor clergymen, nor laymen, who are invited to a love feast, may take away their portions, for this is to cast reproach on the ecclesiastical order.

The love feast was a meal eaten with the Lord's Supper—common in the NT era but coming into disfavor in the fourth and fifth centuries.  At this time there was a concern that if someone from the church carried part of the meal away after the meeting, someone outside the church might think that person was engaged in some other improper action and therefore bring reproach on the local body via an act that might be considered sinful.

While care should be taken to maintain a good name within a community, some conduct needs little or no explanation.  In the above case, without knowing what precipitated the strictness, we cannot deduce whether there was one or more cases of mistaken intent or that someone had indeed made off with food for strictly selfish reasons. If the former, some explanation to the populace may have been sufficient.  The point is for churches to take care not to levy harsh rules or sanctions in a misguided endeavor to curb behavior that may be misconstrued.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 26

They who have not been promoted [to that office] by the bishop, ought not to adjure, either in churches or in private houses.

Adjuring might be better known today as catechizing or discipling.  It is the education needed to grow in faith.  This canon desired to ensure that those receiving instruction were being taught correctly.  Several times in the NT era, believers and unbelievers would teach those things that were contrary to sound doctrine (Acts 15:1-5; Titus 1:9-11).  This canon sought to provide a safeguard for the congregants.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 25

A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup.

The distribution of elements started with the overseer who passed them to the deacons to pass out. Sub-deacons were not to be involved with this process.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 24

No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists, door-keepers, or any of the class of the Ascetics, ought to enter a tavern.

As has been previously noted (and now enumerated in this canon) is the recognition of those who perform certain functions within the meeting of the church.  An individual was not allowed to cross to a higher-level function without formal recognition of that move: the uppermost functions and offices require additional outside recognition via a synod.  These positions were a serious and holy business reflecting the desire for all things to be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40) and by the power which God supplies (1 Pet 4:11-12).

That desire for holiness drove the church to cleanse itself by removing itself from those places where great sin was known to occur.  We need to be careful because English translations of early church writings use words common to society but not necessarily with the same meaning or understanding.  For instance, Tertullian railed against Christians attending the theater.  Roman theaters were not the "black tie" affairs we know today but far more debauched in atmosphere.  In the same way, the taverns mentioned in the canon are not English pubs where whole families could go for food and fellowship.  A much closer picture would be an Old West saloon with wanton drunkenness, gambling, and women of ill repute.  With this background we can understand that the intent of the canon is not asceticism or legalism but maintaining the testimony of the individual and local church.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 23

The readers and singers have no right to wear an orarium, and to read or sing thus [habited].

Carrying on the distinctions of duties within the church meeting, those designated as readers of scripture or singers are not to be allowed to wear the stole of clergy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Enjoyable Correspondence with a Scholar

I had been reading some of John of Damascus in volume 14 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2 when I saw a comparison made to Theodoret in the prologue.  Not finding the work I sent an e-mailed to a blogger in England whom I follow, Roger Pearse, since his field of study deals with ancient Christian texts.  Apparently, this good man was interested enough in the topic to post some of the dialogue.  In the end I was the one who located where to find the text in the original language, but those skills are nonexistent.  Had a French copy been available, I could possibly muddle through it adequately enough.

If you have interest in early Christian texts, I recommend Roger's blog.  He has a pleasant style.  Also there is his website The Tertullian Project which I happened upon while researching for a final paper in apologetics.  This is a treasure trove of material concerning Tertullian and his works.

Roger Pearse found a complete translated copy of the work in a PhD dissertation: An Analysis of the Heresiological Method of Theodoret of Cyrus in the "Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium" by Glenn M. Cope and available through UMI Dissertation Express.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 22

The subdeacon has no right to wear an orarium [i.e., stole], nor to leave the doors.

During the service, the subdeacon was not to have a garb which would infer he was in a higher position.  The overseer was in charge with the subdeacons assisting.  The position at the doors was to assist the catechumens and penitents as they leave and then closing the doors behind them to sequester the faithful for communion.

Laodicea - Canon 21

The subdeacons have no right to a place in the Diaconicum, nor to touch the Lord’s vessels.

The vessels used were not to be touched by the subdeacons during the service as an attestation to the defined duties of the fourth century.

A Matter of Both Judgment and Morality

I was reading the opinion and editorial section of the Sunday paper and noted the piece written by Leonard Pitts, Jr of the Miami Herald.  He addressed the really poor judgment of those in national public office to become embroiled in sex scandals.  Individuals who swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States became involved in conduct unbecoming of someone trusted to work in the best interest of those they represent.  Instead the men in the article each placed his own interests first.  And then when confronted they dodged, played down, or outright lied about the issue and worked to put the matter behind as quickly as possible.  Mr. Pitts' article makes the point that such bad judgment undermines the public's confidence in the individual's ability to serve properly.  Bravo!  He is quite correct.  And let's face facts: public figures do not have private lives.  What occurs in private will become known eventually.  What were they thinking?

Where Mr. Pitts came short is in addressing the morals—i.e., not at all.  The Miami Herald headline was the author's take: "A Matter of Judgment, not Morality."  Excuse me?  not a matter of morality?  Of course it is.  The Founding Fathers understood that our system of government would not stand if not represented by those with high morals and regard for Christian principles.  Morals are a direct indicator of what can be expected in overall conduct.  If a congressman is self-seeking and unfaithful, that one will do the same to constituents.  He or she will not care about anything but the held office with the accompanying power, prestige, and influence.  Not that I expect moral perfection as that is not possible.  If someone does something wrong, confess it and move on.  The point of the article and my observations deal with a sustained disregard for oaths.  If a person disregards the sanctity of a marriage vow, all other promises or intentions are suspect.

Is there a way for someone like Anthony Weiner to reverse course?  Of course, but the way is painful, because it requires admitting what you are at the core and that you need help.  Rep. Weiner says he is seeking therapy.  Others have done the same.  Will it help?  There will probably be some outward change for an undetermined period of time, but only the symptoms will be addressed.  The issue is sin.  The men mentioned in the article know they were wrong, and only finding someone who can deal with the sin problem will effect any lasting change.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ who atoned for sin and paid the price of redemption.  He did this for me, and I know he did this for these men who disgraced themselves.  The question becomes: will they believe and receive it?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Give No Ground

If a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions so that peace may at last be established in the Church, yet if he refuses to budge on even a single point of doctrine—to human reason this looks like excessive stubbornness, even like downright evil intent. This is why such theologians are rarely loved or praised during their lifetime.  On the contrary, they are scolded as disturbers of the peace or even as destroyers of the kingdom of God.  They are regarded as men worthy of contempt.  But at the end of the day it becomes clear that the very determined, unfailing tenacity of these theologians as they cling to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church.  On the contrary, it is this very attitude that—amid the great dissension—builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace.  Therefore, woe to the Church if it has no men of this stripe—men who would stand watch on the ramparts of Zion, sounding the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, men who would rally to the banner of Jesus Christ, ready for a holy war!
C. F. W. Walther1

These words from Walther struck me in light of the propensity of church leaders to:
    ● acquiesce when confronted with wrong teaching
    ● soften the clear testimony of scripture
    ● resolve issues through expedient and pragmatic means
    ● allow improper church practice
There are multiple reasons given to allow these, but they generally boil down to relevancy or tolerance.  An attempt is made to establish a reputation for a church or individual pursuing unity without contention.  Differences in doctrine or practice are relegated to the status of opinion as part of a "big tent" mentality making for easy dismissal while pursuing a common good.

While the admonition of brethren being together in harmony is quite scriptural, an "openness" policy that I have described creates a false unity based not on the Word of God but on emotional stability within a social construct.  Fellowship that should be centered around and built upon Christ is artificially constructed with worldly plans and materials rather than eternal truths.  Lack of strife and willingness to "get along" become the standards of spiritual maturity instead of Christ-likeness.

What Walther posits is a call to stand fast in what is true and right.  He uses the example from Ezekiel 33:1-20 of the watchman diligently looking for what might assail from outside.  The apostle Paul issued the same type of warning for those wolves within the flock (Acts 20:28-31).  The Lord has promised tribulation against and among his people from the enemy seeking to destroy what Christ promises to build.  The call for his church is to be singular in their mission.  Again looking at Paul's address to the Ephesian elders, what does he say was his mission and message?
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Acts 20:20-21)
This message is the message of relevancy for us today.  We must fight the good fight of faith laying hold of those weapons that "are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" with the end to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor 10:3-6).

What is the application for the local church not currently dealing with false doctrine or false sheep?  Be faithful to what you have been taught.  Do not succumb to group dynamics such as peer pressure.  If you are faced with a matter for consideration which already has a majority for approval, do not concede.  Make an argument via scripture and sound reason.  It may be that the dissenting voice is the correct one.  And if you as the dissenter is wrong, the scripture and sound reason used by others will carry the day.  In the end, the basis for moving forward is not the whim of man but the wisdom of the sound teaching manifesting itself through the body.

1 C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible, (trans. Christian C. Tiews; St Louis: Concordia, 2010), 32-33.

Laodicea - Canon 20

It is not right for a deacon to sit in the presence of a presbyter, unless he be bidden by the presbyter to sit down.  Likewise the deacons shall have worship of the subdeacons and all the clergy.

There was a proper hierarchy in the fourth-century church and onward that was evidenced by specific matters of protocol.  This carried from overseer to elder, then deacon, sub-deacon, and whomever else was in an ordained position.  The reason for this was to teach humility and curb the pursuit of such a position.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 19

After the sermons of the Bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be made first by itself; and after the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are under penance; and, after these have passed under the hand [of the Bishop] and departed, there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful, the first to be said entirely in silence, the second and third aloud, and then the [kiss of] peace is to be given.  And, after the presbyters have given the [kiss of] peace to the Bishop, then the laity are to give it [to one another], and so the Holy Oblation is to be completed.  And it is lawful to the priesthood alone to go to the Altar and communicate.

This canon addressed what was to happen after the overseer finished his teaching and before the Lord's Supper.  Certain of the group were to depart, since they were not considered to be in full fellowship.  First after a prayer were catechumens, those who were being instructed in the faith but not yet baptized, followed another prayer and the penitent among them.  At this point there would only be the faithful remaining.

Three times of prayer were occurred followed by the kiss of peace to be given one to another.  Today, those who wish to practice a "passing of the peace" do so by a handshake and exchanging a formal greeting—this gesture having the same effect as a kiss in the ancient time and region.  Those wishing to be even less formal simply ask those in the pew to shake hands with someone close by.  The more formal churches tend to make fellowship artificial while the latter cheapens it.  Neither demonstrates κοινωνία in its biblical sense.

Lastly, the overseer (and only he) would approach the bread and wine to complete the Lord's Supper with the congregants.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 18

The same service of prayers is to be said always both at nones and at vespers.

Nones were held at the ninth hour of the day (i.e., 3 P.M.), while vespers were late afternoon or evening.  Church feasts ended with prayer with the actual ending time changing based on the feast observed.  Whichever ending time was observed that service would be the same as the other service.  No difference would be made based on the hour of the day.

There may be a lesson learned from this practice.  Many local churches will have two or more Sunday morning meetings that are different stylistically.  The general intent is to draw a certain demographic to a meeting that is palpable to their subculture.  The services of the historic church were not so ordered.  The differences in the meetings held that day dealt with foci of the faith, all being presented with the same style of worship.  The modern version is to present the same focus of faith as another meeting with changes geared to an emotional response.  Emotional response of the meeting experience is placed above the spiritual need of the group or individual as the prime motivation for an order of service.  As a result, any truth that is projected will be taken as a personal truth applicable to the need of the day instead of the reality that there is a universal truth that applies equally to all people for all times.  Churches need to move away from packaging to niche markets and direct their efforts to presenting the whole word of God, first as law to expose sin, then in the gospel to provide hope all the while demonstrating the sufficiency of Christ and his work on the cross.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 17

The Psalms are not to be joined together in the congregations, but a lesson shall intervene after every psalm.

Psalm-singing was broken up by lessons in order to prevent weariness in the congregants.  Lest the reader think this is similar to how church meetings work today moving from one thing to the next to hold interest of a soundbite culture, the ancient songs were not your typical two-minute Praise and Worship ditties but more akin to chants of whole psalms.  This was fully orbed theology sung in its fullness.

Laodicea - Canon 16

The Gospels are to be read on the Sabbath [i.e. Saturday], with the other Scriptures.

This canon dealt with what Scripture was to be read when believers congregated on Saturday.  A reading from the Gospels was to be included in the regular meeting on that day.