Faith Once Delivered to the Saints

Jud 1:3  Having made all haste to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Murdock -Aramaic Translation

Jud 1:3  My beloved, while I take all pains to write to you of our common life, it is needful for me to write to you, exhorting you to maintain a conflict for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.

Etheridge – Aramaic Translation

Jud 1:3  My beloved, while giving all diligence to write to you concerning our common salvation, it is needful for me to write to you, exhorting you (in particular) to do battle [D'aguno tebadun.] for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.

Martin Luther said the following

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace.”

We are to fight and contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints.  This is the faith that has been handed down since the creation of the world, through Abraham (Gen 18:19), Isaac, Jacob and Israel through the written Torah given through Moses.  This faith was passed down through the prophets and fully manifested when Yahshua/Jesus came upon the earth.  Yahshua/Jesus is the Author & Finisher of our faith.

Returning to the faith once delivered to the saints is a part of the Elijah message that is proclaimed before the return of the Messiah.  Returning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.  Returning to the old paths wherein is the good way spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah. See the Elijah Message study.

We are not to look to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, we are not to look to Moses, David, or Elijah, we are not to look to first century Judaism to earnestly contend for the faith…we are to look to Messiah Yahshua/Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.

Heb 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author {ἀρχηγός ‘archēgos”} and finisher {τελειωτής ‘teleiōtēs’} of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The root of which we are to seek is not ‘Hebrew,’ it is Him.

Col 2:6  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him,
Col 2:7  being rooted and being built up in Him, and being confirmed in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Col 2:8  Watch that there not be one robbing you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ.

Eph 3:17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Eph 3:20  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Eph 3:21  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Originally, this study was focused upon looking at how believers in Messiah worshiped in the 1st century.  I have come to believe that knowledge of the way in which believers worshiped in the 1st century is not as important as knowledge of how to walk in the Word (2 Peter 1:2; 3:18) by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:2-4).  Messiah did not come to make mankind into 1st century Jews.  He came to redeem mankind (2 Corinthians 5:19) and remake them into His image (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:1-3).  Yahshua/Jesus is THE image of God  (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Colossians 1:15-16) who is love (1 John 4:8).

Much edification can be gained by studying believers of the 1st century (Job 8:8; 12:12; Deuteronomy 32:7; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11), but one cannot come to the fullness of God’s will by following man’s understanding of His will at that time.  Paul, who had great understanding of religion during the 1st century, did not even claim to have attained the full knowledge of Messiah/the Word (Philippians 3:8-14).  Peter admonishes us to continue to grow in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).  Scripture declares that God has given various gifts and services to the body of Messiah that we might grow unto perfection (Ephesians 4:11-13).  If 1st century believers had attained unto God’s perfect will, there would be no need to grow.   James also said that we all stumble in many things (James 3:2).  This is not the language of one who believes that perfection had been attained.

It is not walking as 1st century Jews which is God’s will for us.  It is walking in His love by His Spirit (1 John 4:12-17).

With that being said, following is some history on how believers worshiped in the 1st Century for the edification of the reader.

1st Century Worship

The Hebrew qehal is translated variously in the Greek Septuagint as sunagoge and ekklesia. These Greek terms are subsequently translated in English Bible versions as synagogue, church, assembly, congregation, etc. The perceived distinction between the terms synagogue and church is due only to centuries of polarization of Jews and Christians.

G4864 συναγωγή sunagōgē is always translated in the KJV as synagogue except 2 places.  James 2:2; Acts 13:43

Jas 2:1  My brothers, do not with partiality have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
Jas 2:2  For if a gold-fingered man in splendid clothing comes into your synagogue
(KJV assembly), and a poor one in shabby clothing also comes in;
Jas 2:3  and you look on the one wearing the splendid clothing, and say to him, You sit here comfortably; and to the poor one you say, You stand there, or, Sit here under my footstool;
Jas 2:4  did you not also make a difference among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

The early believers met at synagogues
Luk 4:16  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
Act 13:13  Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.
Act 13:14  But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
Act 13:42  And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Act 13:43  And the synagogue being broken up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who speaking to them persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Act 17:1  Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
Act 17:2  And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
Act 18:4  And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Act 18:7  And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
Act 18:8  And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

After the unbelieving Jews began to persecute the believers in Messiah and kick them out of their synagogues, believers began to meet in houses.

Mat 18:20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Phm 1:2  And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
Rom 16:3  Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
Rom 16:4  Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
Rom 16:5  Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
1Co 16:19  The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
Col 4:15  Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

Meeting in “church buildings” did not come until about the time of Constantine.

Church buildings were first constructed under Constantine around AD 327.  The earliest church buildings were patterned after the Roman basilicas, which were modeled after Greek temples.

The Sacred Space
Christians borrowed this idea from the pagans in the second and third centuries.  The burial places of the martyrs were regarded as “sacred.”  In the fourth century, church buildings were erected on these burial places, thus creating “sacred” buildings.

The building/place where believers meet, whether it has a roof or is outdoors is not as important as how we use that time together.  The early believers continued to worship together as did the believers in the synagogues.  It was the same structure where YHWH was the main focus through prayer and study of His Word.

Torah and Prophets read each week at the synagogue.
Act 15:21  For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

Act 13:15  And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

Fausset Dictionary
Synagogues in the strict and later sense are not mentioned until after the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. The want of the temple in the Babylonian captivity familiarized the exiles with the idea of spiritual worship independent of locality. The elders often met and sat before the prophet, Ezekiel to hear Jehovah’s word (Eze_8:1; Eze_11:15-16; Eze_14:1; Eze_20:1); in Eze_33:31 the people also sit before him to hear. Periodic meetings for hearing the law and the prophets read were customary thenceforth on the return (Ezr_8:15; Neh_8:2; Neh_9:1; Zec_7:5; Act_15:21). When the Jews could not afford to build a synagogue they built “an oratory” (proseuchee) by a running stream or the seashore (Act_16:13). The synagogue was the means of rekindling the Jewish devotion and patriotism which shone so brightly in the Maccabean struggle with Antiochus.

The synagogue required no priest to minister; this and the reading of the Old Testament prepared the way for the gospel. Sometimes a wealthy Jew or a proselyte built the synagogue (Luk_7:5). The kibleh or “direction” was toward Jerusalem. The structure, though essentially different from the temple (for it had neither altar nor sacrifice), resembled in some degree that of the temple: the ark at the far end contained the law in both; the lid was called the kopereth or “mercy-seat”; a veil hung before it. Here were “the chief seats” sought by the Pharisees and the rich (Mat_23:6; Jam_2:2-3). In the middle was a raised platform on which several could be together, with a pulpit in the middle for the reader to stand in when reading and to sit when teaching. A low partition separated men on one side from women on the other. Besides the ark for “the law” (torah) there was a chest for the haphtaroth or “roll of the prophets”. In the synagogue a college of elders was presided over by the chief or ruler of the synagogue (Luk_7:3; Luk_8:41; Luk_8:49).

The elders were called parnasiym, “pastors,” “shepherds” (Eph_4:11; 1Pe_5:1), ruling over the flock (1Ti_5:17; Heb_13:7); they with the ruler managed the affairs of the synagogue and had the power of excommunication. The officiating minister was delegate (sheliach, answering to the term apostle, “sent”) of the congregation, the forerunner of “the angel (messenger sent) of the church” (Rev_1:20; Rev_2:1). The qualifications required were similar to those of a bishop or presbyter; he must be of full age, father of a family, apt to teach (1Ti_3:1-7; Tit_1:6-9). The chazzan or “minister” (Luk_4:16-20, where Christ by rising indicated that as a member of the synagogue at Nazareth. He desired to undertake the office of maptir or “reader of the lesson from the prophets”, and was at once permitted owing to His fame) answered to our deacon or subdeacon; besides getting the building ready for service he acted as schoolmaster during the week.
There were also the ten batlaniym or “men of leisure”, permanently making up a congregation (ten being the minimum (minyan “quoram”) to constitute a congregation), that no single worshipper might be disappointed; also acting as alms collectors. Three were archisunagogai, “chiefs of the synagogue”; then also the “angel” or “bishop” who prayed publicly and caused the law to be read and sometimes preached; and three deacons for alms; the interpreter of the old Hebrew Testament, who paraphrased it; also the theological schoolmaster and his interpreter (Lightfoot, Horae. 4:70). The government of the church evidently came from the synagogue not from the Aaronic priesthood. So also did the worship; with the addition of the new doctrines, the gifts of the Spirit, and the supper of the Lord; fixed liturgical forms, creeds, as the shema, “Hear O Israel,” etc.
(Deu_6:4), and “prayers”, the kadish, shemoneh ‘esreh, berachoth; (compare brief creeds, 1Ti_3:16; 2Ti_1:13, the “Lord’s prayer” (Luke 11), the “order” (1Co_14:40);) the teaching out of the law, which was read in a cycle, once through in three years.

The prophets were similarly read as second lessons; the exposition (derash) or “word of exhortation” followed (Act_13:15; Act_15:21). The psalms were selected to suit “the special times”; “the times of prayer” (shacharit, minchah, ‘arabit) were the “third”, “sixth”, and “ninth” hours (Act_3:1; Act_10:3; Act_10:9); so in Old Testament, Psa_55:17; Dan_6:10. Clemens Alex. (Strom.) and Tertullian (Orat. 25) state the same in the church of the Second century. Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday were the devotional days of the synagogue as of the church. The custom of ending the Saturday Sabbath with a feast formed the connecting link between the seventh day Jewish sabbath and the first day, Christian Lord’s day and Lord’s supper (1Co_11:20; Rev_1:10).**{This will be addressed in a future study.  Did the Christians really believe the Torah was done away with?}**

Preparatory ablutions (Heb_10:22; Joh_13:1-15; Tertullian, Orat. 11), standing in prayer, not kneeling (Luk_18:11; Tertullian 23), the arms stretched out (Tertullian 13), the face toward the E. (Clemens Alex., Strom.), the Amen in responses (1Co_14:16), the leaping as if they would rise toward heaven in the Alexandrian church (Clemens Alex., Strom. 7:40) as the Jews at the tersanctus of Isaiah 6 (Vitringa 1100, Buxtorf 10), are all reproductions of synagogue customs. However the Hebrew in prayer wears the talith (“prayer shawl”) drawn over his ears to the shoulders (a custom probably later than apostolic times), whereas the Christian man is bareheaded (1Co_11:4) {Did this really end in Apostolic times?}. The synagogue officers had judicial power to scourge, anathematize, and excommunicate (Mat_10:17; Mar_13:9; Luk_12:11; Luk_21:12; Joh_12:42; Joh_9:22): so the church (1Co_6:1-8; 1Co_16:22; Gal_1:8-9; 1Co_5:5; 1Ti_1:20; Mat_18:15-18); also to seize and send for trial before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem (Act_9:2; Act_22:5).

The establishment of synagogues wherever the Jews were found in sufficient numbers helped greatly to keep alive Israel’s hope of the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel in other lands. The worship of the Christian Church was afterwards modeled after that of the synagogue.
Christ and his disciples frequently taught in the synagogues
(Mat_13:54; Mar_6:2; Joh_18:20; Act_13:5, Act_13:15, Act_13:44; Act_14:1; Act_17:2-4, Act_17:10, Act_17:17; Act_18:4, Act_18:26; Act_19:8).

ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
Synagogue, Greek συναγωγή, sunagōgḗ, “gathering” (Act_13:43), “gathering-place” (Luk_7:5), was the name applied to the Jewish place of worship in later Judaism in and outside of Palestine Proseuchḗ, “a place of prayer” (Act_16:13), was probably more of the nature of an enclosure, marking off the sacred spot from the profane foot, than of a roofed building like a synagogue. Sabbateíon in Ant., XV, i, 2, most probably also meant synagogue. In the Mishna we find for synagogue bēth ha-keneṣeth, in the Targums and Talmud bē-khenīshtā’, or simply kenīshtā’. The oldest Christian meetings and meeting-places were modeled on the pattern of the synagogues, and, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic the word kenīshtā’ is used for the Christian church (compare Zahn, Tatian’s Diatessaron, 335).

2. Origin:
That the synagogue was, in the time of our Lord, one of the most important religious institutions of the Jews is clear from the fact that it was thought to have been instituted by Moses (Apion, ii, 17; Philo, De Vita Moses, iii. 27; compare Targum Jer to Exo_18:20).

Targum Jonathan
Now hearken to me and I will advise thee; and may the Word of the Lord be thy helper! When thou art with the people who seek instruction from before the Lord, thou shouldst take their affair before the Lord, and give them counsel about the statutes and laws, make them understand the prayer they are to offer in the house of congregation, the manner of visiting the sick, of burying the dead, of being fruitful In doing good, and in the work and process of justice, and how to conduct themselves among the wicked. But thou shouldst elect from all the people men of ability who fear the Lord, upright men who hate to receive the mammon of dishonesty, and superappoint them to be heads of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

3. Spread of Synagogues:
In Palestine the synagogues were scattered all over the country, all the larger towns having one or more (e.g. Nazareth, Mat_13:54; Capernaum, Mat_12:9). In Jerusalem, in spite of the fact that the Temple was there, there were many synagogues, and all parts of the Diaspora were represented by particular synagogues (Act_6:9). Also in heathen lands, wherever there was a certain number of Jews, they had their own synagogue: e.g. Damascus (Act_9:2), Salamis (Act_13:5), Antioch of Pisidia (Act_13:14), Thessalonica (Act_17:1), Corinth (Act_18:4), Alexandria (Philo, Leg Ad Cai, xx), Rome (ibid., xxiii). The papyrus finds of recent years contain many references to Jewish synagogues in Egypt, from the time of Euergetes (247-221 BC) onward. According to Philo (Quod omnis probus liber sit, xii, et al.) the Essenes had their own synagogues, and, from ‛Ābhōth 3 10, it seems that “the people of the land,” i.e. the masses, especially in the country, who were far removed from the influence of the scribes, and were even opposed to their narrow interpretation of the Law had their own synagogues.

(2) The Structure.
Of the style of the architecture we have no positive records. From the description in the Talmud of the synagogue at Alexandria (Tōṣ Ṣukkāh, edition Zunz, 198 20; Ṣukkāh 51b one imagrees the synagogues to have been modeled on the pattern of the temple or of the temple court.

5. The Officials:
(1) The Elders.
These officials (Luk_7:3) formed the local tribunal, and in purely Jewish localities acted as a Committee of Management of the affairs of the synagogue (compare Berākhōth 4 7; Nedhārim 5 5; Meghillāh 3 1). To them belonged, most probably, among other things, the power to excommunicate (compare Ezr_10:8; Luk_6:22; Joh_9:22; Joh_12:42; Joh_16:2; ‛Ēdhuyōth 5 6; Ta‛ănīth 3 8; Middōth 2 2).

(2) The Ruler.
Greek archisunágōgos (Mar_5:35; Luk_8:41, Luk_8:49; Luk_13:14; Act_18:8, Act_18:17), Hebrew rō’sh ha-keneseth (Ṣōtāh 7 7, 8). In some synagogues there were several rulers (Mar_5:22; Act_13:15). They were most probably chosen from among the elders. It was the ruler’s business to control the synagogue services, as for instance to decide who was to be called upon to read from the Law and the Prophets (Yōmā’ 7 1) and to preach (Act_13:15; compare Luk_13:14); he had to look after the discussions, and generally to keep order.

(3) The Servant (or Servants).
Greek hupērétēs; Talmud ḥazzān (Luk_4:20; Yōmā 7 1; Ṣōtāh 7 7, 8). He had to see to the lighting of the synagogue and to keep the building clean. He it was who wielded the scourge when punishment had to be meted out to anyone in the synagogue (Mat_10:17; Mat_23:34; Mar_13:9; Act_22:19; compare Maḳḳōth 16). From Shabbāth 1 3 it seems that the ḥazzān was also an elementary teacher. See EDUCATION.

(4) Delegate of the Congregation.
Hebrew shelīaḥ cibbūr (Rō’sh ha-shānāh 4 9; Berākhōth 5 5). This office was not permanent, but one was chosen at each meeting by the ruler to fill it, and he conducted the prayers. According to Meghillāh 4 5, he who was asked to read the Scriptures was also expected to read the prayers. He had to be a man of good character.

(5) The Interpreter.
Hebrew methōrgemān. It was his duty to translate into Aramaic the passages of the Law and the Prophets which were read in Hebrew (Meghillāh 3 3; compare 1Co_14:28). This also was probably not a permanent office, but was filled at each meeting by one chosen by the ruler.

(6) The Almoners.
(Demā’ī 3 1; Ḳiddūshīn 4 5). Alms for the poor were collected in the synagogue (compare Mat_6:2). According to Pē’āh 8 7, the collecting was to be done by at least two persons, and the distributing by at least three.

6. The Service:
(1) Recitation of the “Shema’”.
At least ten persons bad to be present for regular worship (Meghillāh 4 3; Ṣanhedhrīn 1 6). There were special services on Saturdays and feast days. In order to keep the synagogue services uniform with those of the temple, both were held at the same hours. The order of service was as follows: the recitation of the shema‛, i.e. a confession of God’s unity, consisting of the passages Deu_6:4-9; Deu_11:13-21;. Num_15:37-41 (Berākhōth 2 2; Tāmīdh 5 1). Before and after the recitation of these passages “blessings” were said in connection with the passages (Berākhōth 1 4). This formed a very important part of the liturgy. It was believed to have been ordered by Moses (compare Ant., IV, viii, 13).

(2) Prayers.
The most important prayers were the Shemōneh ‛esrēh, “Eighteen Eulogies,” a cycle of eighteen prayers, also called “The Prayer” (Berākhōth 4 3; Ta‛ănīth 2 2). Like the shema‛ they are very old.
The following is the first of the eighteen: “Blessed art Thou, the Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: the great, the mighty and the terrible God, the most high God Who showest mercy and kindness, Who createst all things, Who rememberest the pious deeds of the patriarchs, and wilt in love bring a redeemer to their children’s children for Thy Name’s sake; O King, Helper, Saviour and Shield! Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Shield of Abraham.”

The prayers of the delegate were met with a response of Amen from the congregation.

History of the Prayer. (from Jewish Encyclopedia)

The Talmud names Simeon ha-Paḳoli as the editor of the collection in the academy of R. Gamaliel II. at Jabneh. (Ber. 28b). But this can not mean that the benedictions were unknown before that date; for in other passages the “Shemoneh ‘Esreh” is traced to the “first wise men” ( ; Sifre, Deut. 343), and again to “120 elders and among these a number of prophets” (Meg. 17b). This latter opinion harmonizes with the usual assumption that the “men of the Great Synagogue” arranged and instituted the prayer services (Ber.33a). In order to remove the discrepancies between the latter and the former assignment of editorship, the Talmud takes refuge in the explanation that the prayers had fallen into disuse, and that Gamaliel reinstituted them (Meg. 18a).

Edited by Gamaliel II.

The historical kernel in these conflicting reports seems to be the indubitable fact that the benedictions date from the earliest days of the Pharisaic Synagogue. They were at first spontaneous outgrowths of the efforts to establish the Pharisaic Synagogue in opposition to, or at least in correspondence with, the Sadducean Temple service. This is apparent from the haggadic endeavor to connect the stated times of prayer with the sacrificial routine of the Temple, the morning and the afternoon “Tefillah” recalling the constant offerings (Ber. 26b; Gen. R. lxviii.), while for the evening “Tefillah” recourse was had to artificial comparison with the sacrificial portions consumed on the altar during the night. In certain other homilies the fixation of the day’s periods for the three “Tefillot” is represented as being in harmony with the daily course of the sun (Gen. R. lxviii.; R. Samuel bar Naḥman, in Yer. Ber. iv.). Again, the Patriarchs are credited with having devised this tripartite scheme (Ber. 26b; Abraham = morning; Isaac = afternoon; Jacob = evening). Dan. vi. 11 is the proof that this system of praying three times a day was recognized in the Maccabean era. Gradually both the hours for the “Tefillah” and the formulas thereof acquiredgreater regularity, though much uncertainty as to content, sequence, and phraseology continued to prevail. R. Gamaliel II. undertook finally both to fix definitely the public service and to regulate private devotion. He directed Simeon ha-Paḳoli to edit the benedictions—probably in the order they had already acquired—and made it a duty, incumbent on every one, to recite the prayer three times daily. Under Gamaliel, also, another paragraph, directed against the traitors in the household of Israel, was added, thus making the number eighteen (Ber. iv. 3; see Grätz, “Gesch.” 3d ed., iv. 30 et seq.).
Haggadic Explanation of Sequence.

(3) Reading of the Law and the Prophets.
After prayers the pārāshāh, i.e. the pericope from the Law for that Sabbath, was read, and the interpreter translated verse by verse into Aramaic (Meghillāh 3 3). The whole Pentateuch was divided into 154 pericopes, so that in the course of 3 years it was read through in order. After the reading of the Law came the Haphṭārāh, the pericope from the
Prophets for that Sabbath, which the interpreter did not necessarily translate verse by verse, but in paragraphs of 3 verses (Meghillāh, loc. cit.).

(4) The Sermon.
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets followed the sermon, which was originally a caustical exposition of the Law, but which in process of time assumed a more devotional character. Anyone in the congregation might be asked by the ruler to preach, or might ask the ruler for permission to preach.
The following example of an old (lst century AD) rabbinic sermon, based on the words, “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation” (Isa_61:10, a verse in the chapter from which Jesus took His text when addressing the synagogue of Nazareth), will serve as an illustration of contemporary Jewish preaching:
“Seven garments the Holy One – blessed be He! – has put on, and will put on from the time the world was created until the hour when He will punish the wicked Edom (i.e. Roman empire). When He created the world, He clothed Himself in honor and majesty, as it is said (Psa_104:1): ‘Thou art clothed in honor and majesty.’ Whenever He forgave the sins of Israel, He clothed Himself in white, for we read (Dan_7:9): ‘His raiment was white as snow.’ When He punishes the peoples of the world, He puts on the garments of vengeance, as it is said (Isa_59:17): ‘He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.’ The sixth garment He will put on when the Messiah comes; then He will clothe Himself in a garment of righteousness, for it is said (same place) : ‘He put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head.’ The seventh garment He will put on when He punishes Edom; then He will clothe Himself in ‘ādhōm, i.e. ‘red,’ for it is said (Isa_63:2): ‘Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel?’ But the garment which He will put upon the Messiah, this will shine afar, from one end of the earth to the other, for it is said (Isa_61:10): ‘As a bridegroom decketh himself with a garland.’ And the Israelites will partake of His light, and will say:
‘Blessed is the hour when the Messiah shall come!
Blessed the womb out of which He shall come!
Blessed His contemporaries who are eye-witnesses!
Blessed the eye that is honored with a sight of Him!
For the opening of His lips is blessing and peace;
His speech is a moving of the spirits;
The thoughts of His heart are confidence and cheerful-ness;
The speech of His tongue is pardon and forgiveness;
His prayer is the sweet incense of offerings;
His petitions are holiness and purity.
O how blessed is Israel, for whom such has been prepared!
For it is said (Psa_31:19): “How great is Thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee” ‘ ”
(Peṣiḳtā’, edition Buber).

(5) The Benediction.
After the sermon the benediction was pronounced (by a priest), and the congregation answered Amen (Berākhōth 5 4; Ṣōtāh 7 2, 3).

L. Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden, 2nd edition; Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, III, 129-37, 183-226; Hausrath, Neutestamentliche Zeitgesch., 2d edition, 73-80; HJP, II, 357-86; GJV4, II; 497-544; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 5th edition, I, 431-50; Oesterly and Box, “The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue,” Church and Synagogue, IX, number 2, April, 1907, p. 46; W. Bacher, article “Synagogue” in HDB; Strack, article “Synagogen,” in RE, 3rd edition, XIX.

The Offices of the Synagogue / Church

compilation from

The government of God’s people (Israel) is to be a theocracy, with Messiah Yeshua as king. Under this, the government of the Synagogue is a representative democracy, with the congregants choosing officers from their midst. A minimum of ten “men of leisure” (men who were independently wealthy enough to be able to spend their time serving the congregation without financial remuneration) was required to qualify a town for a synagogue.

1. Messenger of the Congregation (Hebrew: Sheliach Tzibbur) or Angel of the Church (LXX and NT Greek: Angeloi tas Ekklesias)
Take messages (as from the Temple) to the congregation.(See Revelation 2:1,8,12,18, 3:1,7,14)
Choose 7 men each Sabbath to read Torah portions.
Watch over readers’ shoulders and correct any mistakes, hence called an Overseer. (See Acts 20:28)
Mastery of Hebrew language and Torah cantillation (trup), hence called a Cantor (Hazzan).
Mastery of Hebrew blessings (required for readings), hence called Master of Prayer (Baal Tefilah).
Other qualifications found in Shulhan Arukh and 1 Timothy 3:1-10.


Joh 13:16  Truly, truly, I say to you, A slave is not greater than his lord, nor a messenger greater than the one sending him.
Php 2:25  But I thought it needful to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker, and my fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister of my need,
2Co 8:23  If any asks about Titus, he is my partner and a fellow worker for you; or about our brothers, they are messengers of the assemblies, the glory of Christ.

1Pe 2:25  For you were “as sheep going astray,” but now you turned back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Isa. 53:4-6
1Ti 3:1  Faithful is the Word: If anyone reaches out to overseership, he desires a good work.
1Ti 3:2  Then it behooves the overseer to be blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, well-ordered, hospitable, apt at teaching;
1Ti 3:3  not a drunkard, not a contentious one, not money-loving, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not avaricious;
1Ti 3:4  ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all respect.

Tit 1:5  For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things lacking and appoint elders in every city, as I ordered you:
Tit 1:6  If anyone is blameless, husband of one wife, having faithful children, not in accusation of loose behavior, or disobedient,
Tit 1:7  (for the overseer must be blameless as a steward of God), not self-pleasing, not prone to anger, not given to wine, not a quarreler, not greedy of ill gain;
Tit 1:8  but hospitable, a lover of good, discreet, just, holy, temperate,
Tit 1:9  clinging to the faithful Word according to the teaching, that he may be able both to encourage by sound doctrine and to convict the ones contradicting.

Php 1:1  Paul, and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers:

Act 20:28  Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased through His own blood.
Act 20:29  For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
Act 20:30  and out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things, in order to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Act 20:31  Because of this watch, remembering that I did not cease admonishing each one with tears night and day for three years.

Let none say,’ says Dr. Mosheim, alluding to the first and second centuries, ‘confound the bishops of this primitive and golden period of the church, with those of whom we read in the following ages. For though they were both designated by the same name, yet they differed extremely in many respects. A bishop, during the first and second centuries, was a person who had the care of the Christian assembly, which, at that time, was, generally speaking, small enough to be contained in a private house. In this assembly, he acted, not so much with the authority of a master, as with the zeal and diligence of a, faithful servant.” Jones’ Church History, p. 131.

Elders/church leaders are not the head or authority of the body of Messiah (Matthew 20:25-28; 23:8-12; Mark 10:42-45).  Elders/church leaders are servants who oversee groups of believers (Acts 20:28; Luke 22:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), laboring in the Word (1 Timothy 5:17) to feed the flock but are not the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-6).  We are all brethren under the Chief Shepherd.  Elders are to be overseers, not lords.

1Pe 5:1  The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
1Pe 5:2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
1Pe 5:4  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
1Pe 5:5  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
1Pe 5:6  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

2. Interpreter
Translate Hebrew readings (“the language of angels”)into the languages of the listeners (“the languages of men” of the 70 nations). (See I Cor 13:1)
3-4-5. Judges / Rulers (bench of 3)
Adjudicate moral and legal matters by Torah (See I Cor 5:12-6:5, Mark 5:22) and make halachic rulings (determination of proper way to observe Torah commands).
Matters too hard were taken to Sanhedrin at the Temple. (Deut 17:8)
Israel’s religious leadership was also civil government. (King anointed by Prophet (I Sam 16:13))
Church will rule (judge) the world (millennium). (I Cor 6:2)
This life is a rehearsal!
6-7-8. Pastors / Deacons (3 minimum)
Collect alms from the townfolk.
Determine real needs, and distribute to the poor.
1Pe 4:10  each one as he received a gift, ministering it to yourselves as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1Ti 3:10  And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
1Ti 3:10 And let them fyrst be proved and then let them minister yf they be founde fautlesse.

1Ti 3:13  For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

1Ti 3:13 For they that minister well get them selves good degre and greate libertie in the fayth which is in Christ Iesu.

9-10. Schoolmaster and Assistant Schoolmaster (See Gal 3:24-25 )
Train boys for responsibility to Torah observance (bar-mitzvah).


You will not find the term laity in the bible, however the concept is there.  It is referring to the thing that YHWH hates.

Rev 2:15  So you also have those holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Rev 2:6  But you have this, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

The word Nicolatian means conquerors of the people.  This is not what the Father intended for His people.  We are all to be brothers, serving one another.  Setting up a clergy, laity system is from the adversary, used to keep believers in chains to the doctrines of men which many times turn believers away from the Truth of the Scriptures.  YHWH warns us to come out of Babylon.  The clergy, laity system is Babylonian to the core!

G3531 Νικολαΐ́της Nikolaitēs  nik-ol-ah-ee’-tace
From G3532; a Nicolaite, that is, adherent of Nicolaus: – Nicolaitane.
G3532 Νικόλαος Nikolaos nik-ol’-ah-os
From G3534 and ;G2992 victorious over the people; Nicolaus, a heretic: – Nicolaus.
G3534 νῖκος nikos nee’-kos
From G3529; a conquest (concretely), that is, (by implication) triumph: – victory.
G2992 λαός laos lah-os’
Apparently a primary word; a people (in general; thus differing from G1218, which denotes one’s own populace): – people

3Jn 1:9  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us (Apostles) not.
Ο φιλοπρωτευων “who loveth the presidency,” or chief place, doubtless in the church, of which Diotrephes was most probably an officer; and being one, magnified himself in his office: he loved such pre-eminence, and behaved haughtily in it.

The concept of clergy and laity is not biblical, even the Apostles did not consider themselves as rulers over other believers.
2Co 1:24  Not that we rule over your faith, but we are fellow-workers of your joy. For by faith you stand.

The clergy, laity system comes directly from the Mystery religions and was passed down through the Roman Catholic Church

Rev 17:15  And he says to me, The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.

Two Babylons – Alexander Hislop
“From the Pope downwards, all can be shown to be now radically Babylonian. The College of Cardinals, with the Pope at its head, is just the counterpart of the Pagan College of Pontiffs, with its “Pontifex Maximus,” or “Sovereign Pontiff,” which had existed in Rome from the earliest times, and which is known to have been framed on the model of the grand original Council of Pontiffs at Babylon. The Pope now pretends to supremacy in the Church as the successor of Peter, to whom it is alleged that our Lord exclusively committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

The pagan priests were those who explained the mysteries to the common people (laity).  They were the only ones who held these keys and therefore were the mediators between God and man.

Catholic Catechism 1992
882  …For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office of Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church as full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.
883  The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head. As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church”
884   The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council.

897   The term ‘laity’ is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church.
899   …but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.

1992 Catholic Catechism
Pg 231 The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church
874   In order to shepherd the Pople of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God…may attain salvation.
875   …No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel…The ministry in which Christ’s emissaries do and give by God’s grace what they cannot do and give by their own powers, is called a “sacrament” by the Church’s tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special sacrament.

The Father of Protestantism Martin Luther had the same problem w/ power.
Only the State could license ministers
If any man presumed to teach or preach without being licensed by the state…” They must neither be tolerated nor listened to, even tough they seek to teach the pure gospel, yes, even if they are angelic and simon pure Gabriels’ from heaven….Therefore let everyone ponder this, that if he wants to teach or preach let him exhibit the call or commission that drives him to it or else let him keep his mouth shut. If he refuses this then let the magistrates consign the scamp into the hand of his proper master-whose name is Muster Hans “hangman.”
The Reformers and Their StepChildren: Leonard Verdiun, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI 1964 p, 184-185

The Messiah did not set up a pyramidal power structure over mankind.
Mat 23:8  But do not you be called Rabbi, for One is your Leader, the Christ, and you are all brothers.
Mat 23:9  And call no one your father on earth, for One is your Father, the One in Heaven.
Mat 23:10  Nor be called leaders, for One is your Leader, the Christ.
Mat 23:11  But the greater of you shall be your servant.
Mat 23:12  And whoever will exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever will humble himself shall be exalted.

Paul spoke of everyone having a voice when believers came together.  It was not one man speaking and everyone else sitting on their pews keeping their mouths shut.  The body of Messiah has many different parts and therefore many different voices.  The Holy Spirits works through each of us.  Therefore, each of us needs the opportunity to speak and share as the Spirit leads.  We will not come to that place where we are a mature bride without spot or wrinkle until we leave the Babylonian/Catholic system of clergy laity and allow the Holy Spirit to work through each of us to build each other up and to prepare us for the Bridegroom’s return.

1Co 14:26  Then what is it, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, he has a teaching, he has a language, he has a revelation, he has an interpretation. Let all things be for building up.

The following is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s book “Pagan Christianity”.  I highly recommend this book as he shows through history that most of what we see in churches today derives, not from Scripture, but from the Mystery Religions.  This should be a reality check for us when we hear the words of Scripture that state “Come out of Her my People”.

The Pastor by Frank Viola
Richard Hanson makes this point plain when he says, “For us the words bishops, presbyters, and deacons are stored with the associations of nearly two thousand years. For the people who first used them the titles of these offices can have meant little more than inspectors, older men and helpers . . . it was when unsuitable theological significance began to be attached to them that the distortion of the concept of Christian ministry began.”[8]Richard Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined (Guildford and London: Lutterworth Press, 1979), pp. 34-35.

The Birth of One-Bishop-Rule
Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership. In this regard, the first-century churches were an oddity indeed. They were religious groups without priest, temple, or sacrifice.[20] The Christians themselves led the church under Christ’s direct Headship.
Among the flock were the elders (shepherds or overseers). These men all stood on an equal footing. There was no hierarchy among them.[21]Also present were extra-local workers who planted churches. These were called “sent-ones” or apostles. But they did not take up residency in the churches for which they cared. Nor did they control them.[22] The vocabulary of NT leadership allows no pyramidal structures. It is rather a language of horizontal relationships that includes exemplary action.[23]
This was all true until Ignatius of Antioch (35-107) stepped on the stage. Ignatius was the first figure in church history to take the initial step down the slippery slope toward a single leader in the church. We can trace the origin of the modern Pastor and church hierarchy to him.
Ignatius elevated one of the elders above all the others. The elevated elder was now called “the bishop.” All the responsibilities that belonged to the college of elders were exercised by the bishop.[24]
In A.D. 107, Ignatius wrote a series of letters when on his way to be martyred in Rome. Six out of seven of these letters strike the same chord. They are filled with an exaggerated exaltation of the authority and importance of the bishop’s office.[25]
According to Ignatius, the bishop has ultimate power and should be obeyed absolutely. Consider the following excerpts from his letters: “All of you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father . . . No one is to do any church business without the bishop . . . Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be . . . You yourselves must never act independently of your bishop and clergy. You should look on your bishop as a type of the Father . . . Whatever he approves, that is pleasing to God . . . ”[26]
For Ignatius, the bishop stood in the place of God while the presbyters stood in the place of the twelve apostles.[27] It fell to the bishop alone to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, conduct baptisms, give counsel, discipline church members, approve marriages, and preach sermons.[28]
The elders sat with the bishop at the Lord’s Supper. But it was the bishop who presided over it. He took charge of leading public prayers and ministry.[29] Only in the most extreme cases could a so-called “layman” take the Lord’s Supper without the bishop present.[30] For the bishop, said Ignatius, must “preside” over the elements and distribute them.
To Ignatius’ mind, the bishop was the remedy for dispelling false doctrine and establishing church unity.[31] Ignatius believed that if the church would survive the onslaught of heresy, it had to develop a rigid power structure patterned after the centralized political structure of Rome.[32] Single-bishop-rule would rescue the church from heresy and internal strife.[33]
Historically this is known as the “monoepiscopate” or “the monarchical episcopacy.” It is the type of organization where the bishop is distinguished from the elders (the presbytery) and ranks above them.
Constantine and the Glorification of the Clergy
From A.D. 313-325, Christianity was no longer a struggling religion trying to survive the Roman government. It was basking in the sun of imperialism, loaded with money and status.[95] To be a Christian under Constantine’s reign was no longer a handicap. It was an advantage. It was fashionable to become a part of the Emperor’s religion. And to be among the clergy was to receive the greatest of advantages.[96]
Constantine exalted the clergy. In A.D. 313, he gave the Christian clergy exemption from paying taxes—something that pagan priests had traditionally enjoyed.[97] He also made them exempt from mandatory public office and other civic duties.[98] They were freed from being tried by secular courts and from serving in the army.[99] (Bishops could be tried only by a bishop’s court, not by ordinary law courts.)[100]
In all these things the clergy was given special class status. Constantine was the first to use the words “clerical” and “clerics” to depict a higher social class.[101] He also felt that the Christian clergy deserved the same privileges as governmental officials. So bishops sat in judgment like secular judges.[102]
Clergymen received the same honors as the highest officials of the Roman Empire and even the Emperor himself.[103] The brute fact is that Constantine gave the bishops of Rome more power than he gave Roman governors![104] He also ordered that the clergy receive fixed annual allowances (ministerial pay)!
The net result of this was alarming: The clergy had the prestige of church office-bearers, the privileges of a favored class, and the power of a wealthy elite.[105] They had become an isolated class with a separate civil status and way of life. (This included clergy celibacy.)[106]
They even dressed and groomed differently from the common people.[107] Bishops and priests shaved their heads. This practice, known as the tonsure, comes from the old Roman ceremony of adoption. All those who had shaved heads were known as “clerks” or “clergy.”[108] They also began wearing the clothes of Roman officials.[109]
It should come as no surprise that so many people in Constantine’s day experienced a sudden “call to the ministry.”[110] To their minds, being a church officer had become more of a career than a calling.[111]
A False Dichotomy
Under Constantine, Christianity was both recognized and honored by the State. This blurred the line between the church and the world. The Christian faith was no longer a minority religion. Instead, it was protected by Emperors. As a consequence, church membership grew rapidly. Truck loads of new converts were made who were barely converted. They brought into the church a wide variety of pagan ideas. In the words of Will Durant, “While Christianity converted the world; the world converted Christianity, and displayed the natural paganism of mankind.”[112]
As we have already seen, the practices of the mystery religions began to be employed into the church’s worship.[113] And the pagan notion of the dichotomy between the sacred and profane found its way into the Christian mindset.[114] It can be rightfully said that the clergy/laity class distinction grew out of this very dichotomy. The Christian life was now being divided into two parts: Secular and spiritual—sacred and profane.
But by the fourth century, this false idea was universally embraced by Christians. And it led to the profoundly mistaken idea that there are sacred professions (a call to the “ministry”) and ordinary professions (a call to a worldly vocation).[115] Historian Philip Schaff rightly describes these factors as creating “the secularization of the church” where the “pure stream of Christianity” had become polluted.[116] Take note that this mistaken dichotomy still lives in the minds of most believers today. But the concept is pagan, not Christian. It ruptures the NT reality that everyday life is sanctified by God.[117]

Clement of Rome (died in 100) was the first Christian writer to make a distinction in status between Christian leaders and non-leaders. He is the first to use the word “laity” in contrast to ministers.[118] Clement argued that the Old Testament order of priests should find fulfillment in the Christian church.[119]
Tertullian is the first writer to use the word “clergy” to refer to a separate class of Christians.[120] Both Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria (150-215) popularized the word “clergy” in their writings.[121]
By the third century, the clergy/laity gap widened to the point of no return.[122] Clergymen were the trained leaders of the church—the guardians of orthodoxy—the rulers and teachers of the people. They possessed gifts and graces not available to lesser mortals.
The laity were the second-class, untrained Christians. The great theologian Karl Barth rightly said, “The term ‘laity’ is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from the Christian conversation.”[123]
The terms “clergy” and “laity” do not appear in the NT.[124] Neither does the concept that there are those who do ministry (clergy) and those to whom ministry is done (laity). Thus what we have in Tertullian and the two Clements is a clear break from the first-century Christian mindset where all believers shared the same status.
The distinction between clergy and laity—pulpiteer and pew-sitter—belongs to the other side of the cross. With the New Covenant in Christ, clergy and laity are abolished. There is only the people of God.
Along with these mindset changes came a new vocabulary. Christians began to adopt the vocabulary of the pagan cults. The title pontifex (pontiff, a pagan title) became a common term for Christian clergy in the fourth century. So did “Master of Ceremonies,” and “Grand Master of the Lodge.”[125] All of this reinforced the mystique of the clergy as the custodians of the mysteries of God.[126]
By the fifth century, the thought of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from the Christian horizon. Access to God was now controlled by the clergy caste. Clerical celibacy began to be enforced. Infrequent communion became a regular habit of the so-called laity. The church building was now veiled with incense and smoke. Clergy prayers were said in secret. And the small but profoundly significant screen that separated clergy from laity was introduced.
In a word, by the end of the fourth century on into the fifth, the clergy had become a sacerdotal caste—a spiritually elite group of “holy men.”[127] This leads us to the thorny subject of ordination.
The Fallacy of Ordination
In the fourth century, theology and ministry were the domain of the priests. Work and war were the domain of the laity.[128] What was the rite of passage into the sacred realm of the priest? Ordination.[129]
Before we examine the historical roots of ordination, let us look at how leadership was recognized in the early church. The apostolic workers (church planters) of the first century would revisit a church after a period of time. In some of those churches, the workers would publicly acknowledge elders. In every case, the elders were already “in place” before they were publicly endorsed.[130]
Elders naturally emerged in a church through the process of time. They were not appointed to an external office.[131] Instead, they were recognized by virtue of their seniority and contribution to the church. According to the NT, recognition of certain gifted members is something that is instinctive and organic.[132] There is an internal principle within every believer of recognizing the various ministries in the church.
Strikingly, there are only three passages in the NT that tell us that elders were publicly recognized. Elders were acknowledged in the churches in Galatia. Paul told Timothy to acknowledge elders in Ephesus. He also told Titus to recognize them in the churches in Crete.
The words “ordain” (KJV) in these passages do not mean to place into office.[133] They rather carry the idea of endorsing, affirming, and showing forth what has already been happening.[134] They also carry the thought of blessing.[135] Public recognition of elders and other ministries was typically accompanied by the laying on of hands by apostolic workers. (In the case of workers being sent out, this was done by the church or the elders.)[136]
In the first century, the laying on of hands merely meant the endorsement or affirmation of a function, not the installment into an office or the giving of special status. Regrettably, it came to mean the latter in the late second and early third centuries.[137]
During the third century, “ordination” took on an entirely different meaning. It was a formalized Christian rite.[138] By the fourth century, the ceremony of ordination was embellished by symbolic garments and solemn ritual.[139] Ordination produced an ecclesiastical caste that usurped the believing priesthood.
From where do you suppose the Christians got their pattern of ordination? They patterned their ordination ceremony after the Roman custom of appointing men to civil office.[140] The entire process down to the very words came straight from the Roman civic world![141]
By the fourth century, the terms used for appointment to Roman office and for Christian ordination became synonymous.[142] When Constantine made Christianity the religion of choice, church leadership structures were now buttressed by political sanction. The forms of the Old Testament priesthood were combined with Greek hierarchy.[143] Sadly, the church was secure in this new form—just as it is today.
Augustine (293-373) lowered the bar more by teaching that ordination confers a “definite irremovable imprint” on the priest that empowers him to fulfill his priestly functions![144] For Augustine, ordination was a permanent possession that could not be revoked.[145]
Christian ordination, then, came to be understood as that which constitutes the essential difference between clergy and laity. By it, the clergy was empowered to administer the sacraments. It was believed that the priest, who performs the Divine service, should be the most perfect and holy of all Christians.[146]
Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) and Chrysostom (347-407) raised the standard so high for priests that danger loomed for them if they failed to live up to the holiness of their service.[147] According to Chrysostom, the priest is like an angel. He is not made of the same frail stuff as the rest of men![148]
How was the priest to live in such a state of pure holiness? How was he to be worthy to serve in “the choir of angels”? The answer was ordination. By ordination, the stream of Divine graces flowed into the priest, making him a fit vessel for God’s use. This idea, also known as “sacerdotal endowment,” first appears in Gregory of Nyssa (330-395).
Gregory argued that ordination makes the priest, “invisibly but actually a different, better man,” raising him high above the laity.[149] “The same power of the word,” says Gregory, “makes the priest venerable and honorable, separated . . . While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries . . .”[150]
Listen to the words of one fourth century document: “The bishop, he is the minister of the Word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in several parts of your Divine worship . . . He is your ruler and governor . . . He is next after God your earthly god, who has a right to be honored by you.”[151]
Through ordination, the priest (or bishop) was granted special Divine powers to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Ordination also made him a completely separate and holy class of man![152] Priests came to be identified as the “vicars of God on the earth.” They became part of a special order of men. An order set apart from the so-called “lay members” of the church.
To show this difference, both the priest’s life-style and dress were different from that of laymen.[153] Regrettably, this concept of ordination has never left the Christian faith. It is alive and well in modern Christianity. In fact, if you are wondering why and how the modern Pastor got to be so exalted as the “holy man of God,” these are his roots.
Eduard Schweizer, in his classic work Church Order in the New Testament, argues that Paul knew nothing about an ordination that confers ministerial or clerical powers to a Christian.[154] First-century shepherds (elders, overseers) did not receive anything that resembles modern ordination. They were not set above the rest of the flock. They were those who served among them.[155]
First-century elders were merely endorsed publicly by outside workers as being those who cared for the church. Such acknowledgment was simply the recognition of a function. It did not confer special powers. Nor was it a permanent possession as Augustine believed.
The modern practice of ordination creates a special caste of Christian. Whether it be the priest in Catholicism or the Pastor in Protestantism, the result is the same: The most important ministry is closeted among a few “special” believers.
Such an idea is as damaging as it is nonscriptural. The NT nowhere limits preaching, baptizing, or distributing the Lord’s Supper to the “ordained.”[156] Eminent scholar James D.G. Dunn put it best when he said that the clergy-laity tradition has done more to undermine NT authority than most heresies![157]
Since church office could only be held through the rite of ordination, the power to ordain became the crucial issue in holding religious authority. The Biblical context was lost. And proof-texting methods were used to justify the clergy/laity hierarchy.[158] The ordinary believer, generally uneducated and ignorant, was at the mercy of a professional clergy![159]

[8] Richard Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined (Guildford and London: Lutterworth Press, 1979), pp. 34-35
[20] James D.G. Dunn, New Testament Theology in Dialogue (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), pp. 123, 127-129.
[21] In the writings of the early church fathers, the words “shepherd,” “overseers,” and “elder” are always used interchangeably, as is the case in the NT. F.F. Bruce states, “That the language of the New Testament does not allow us to press a distinction between the Greek word translated “bishop” (episkopos) and that translated “elder” (presbyteros) need not be argued at length. Paul could address the assembled elders of the church of Ephesus as those whom the Holy Spirit had made bishops. Later, in the Pastoral Epistles (those to Timothy and Titus), the two terms still appear to be used interchangeably” (The Spreading Flame, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958, p. 65). In fact, bishops, elders, and shepherds (always in the plural) continue to be regarded as identical in the writings of 1 Clement, the Didache, and Hermas. They were seen as identical up until the beginning of the second century. See also James Mackinnon, Calvin and the Reformation (New York: Russell and Russell, 1962), pp. 80-81; Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries (Abilene: A.C.U. Press, Third Edition, 1999), pp. 169-173.
[22] See Chapter 5 of Who is Your Covering? for details.
[23] 1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3.
[24] Early Christians Speak, p. 173.
[25] The Spreading Flame, pp. 66-67.
[26] These quotes appear in Ignatius’ letters to the churches in Asia Minor. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (New York: Dorset Press, 1968), pp. 75-123.
[27] Edwin Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Churches (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895), p. 185. p. 106; Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, p. 88. Hatch’s book shows that the gradual evolution of the organization of the church and various elements of that organization were borrowed from Greco-Roman society.
[28] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary, 6 Volumes (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1964), Vol. 1, pp. 58, 171.
[29] R. Alastair Campbell, The Elders: Seniority Within Earliest Christianity (Clark T & T, 1994) p. 229.
[30] The Organization of the Early Christian Churches, p. 124.
[31] Ibid., p. 100.
[32] Kenneth Strand, “The Rise of the Monarchical Episcopate,” in Three Essays on Church History (Ann Arbor: Braun-Brumfield, 1967); Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 175.
[33] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 69; Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, pp. 63-72.
[95] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 62.
[96] At this time, the term “clergy” broadened to include all officials in the church (The Ministry in Historical Perspectives, p. 29). See also Norman Towar Boggs, The Christian Saga (New York: Macmillan Company, 1931), pp. 206-207.
[97] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 62; Caesar and Christ, pp. 656-657, 668.
[98] Monsignor Louis Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church: From Its Foundation to the End of the Fifth Century (London: John Murray, 1912), p. 50; Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New Your: Simon & Schuster, 1976), p. 77; Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1987), p. 667.
[99] Such exemptions had been granted to such professions as physicians and professors. Dave Andrews, Christian Anarchy (Lion Publications, 1999), p. 26.
[100] Father Michael Collins and Matthew A. Price, The Story of Christianity (DK Publishing, 1999), p.74.
[101] A History of Christianity, p. 77. A century later, Julian the Apostate was using these same terms (clerical, clerics) in a negative sense.
[102] Pagans and Christians, p. 667.
[103] Josef A. Jungmann, S.J., The Early Liturgy: To the Time of Gregory the Great (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1959), pp. 130-131.
[104] Caesar and Christ, pp. 618-619.
[105] The Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 153-155.
[106] Ibid., p. 163. In the first three centuries of Christianity, priests were not required to be celibate. In the West, the Spanish Council of Elivra held in A.D. 306 was the first to require clergy to be celibate. This was reasserted by Pope Siricius in A.D. 386. Any priest who married or continued to live with his wife was defrocked. In the East, priests and deacons could marry before ordination, but not after. Bishops had to be celibate. Gregory the Great did a great deal to promote clerical celibacy, which many were not following. Clerical celibacy only widened the gulf between clergy and the so-called “ordinary” people of God (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Third Edition, p. 310; History of the Christian Church, Volume 1, pp. 441-446; The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 (Gonzalez), p. 246; The Age of Faith, p. 45).
[107] The bishop’s dress was that of the ancient robe of a Roman magistrate. Clergy were not to let their hair grow long like the pagan philosophers (The Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 164-165).
[108] The Story of Christianity, p. 74.
[109] Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity (Brandon: Present Testimony Ministry, 2003), Chapter 5.
[110] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 62
[111] The Ministry in Historical Perspectives, p. 29.
[112] Caesar and Christ, p. 657.
[113] See Pagan Christianity, Chapter 1.
[114] Frank C. Senn, Christian Worship and Its Cultural Setting (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), pp. 40-41.
[115] Everything ought to be done for God’s glory, for He has sanctified the mundane (1 Cor. 10:31). The false dichotomy between the sacred and profane has been forever abolished in Christ. Such thinking belongs to both paganism and ancient Judaism. For the Christian, “Nothing is unclean in itself,” and “What God has cleansed do not make common” (Acts 10:15; Rom. 14:14). For an indepth discussion on the fallacy of the sacred/profane disjunction, see J.G. Davies, The Secular Use of Church Buildings (New York: The Seabury Press, 1968), pp. 222-237.
[116] The History of Christianity: Volume 3, pp. 125-126.
[117] New Testament Theology in Dialogue, p. 127.
[118] 1 Clement 40:5. See also Early Christians Speak, p. 168; R. Paul Stevens, The Abolition of the Laity (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1999), p. 5.
[119]Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 38.
[120] On Monogamy, 12.
[121] The Abolition of the Laity, p. 28.
[122] To Preach or Not to Preach?, p. 25.
[123] The Abolition of the Laity, p. 24.
[124] The term “laity” is derived from the Greek word laos which means the people of God (see 1 Pet. 2:9-10). The term “clergy” is derived from the Greek word kleros which means a lot, a share, or an inheritance. The NT never uses the word kleros for leaders. It rather uses it for the whole people of God. For it is God’s people that are God’s inheritance (see Col. 1:12; Eph. 1:11; Gal. 3:29; 1 Pet. 5:3). In this connection, it is ironic that Peter in 1 Peter 5:3 exhorts the elders of the church to not lord over the kleros (“clergy”)! Again, kleros and laos both refer to the whole of God’s flock.
[125] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 64. Terms like coryphaeus (Master of Ceremonies) and hierophant (Grand Master of the Lodge) were freely borrowed from pagan cults and used for the Christian clergy. Tertullian was the first to use the term “supreme pontiff” (bishop of bishops) to refer to the bishop of Rome in his work On Chastity written at about A.D. 218. Tertullian, however, uses the term sarcastically (The Spreading Flame, p. 322).
[126] Christian Priesthood Examined, p. 64.
[127] Ibid., pp. 65-66; Tradition and Life in the Church, pp. 222-223.
[128] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 40.
[129] Ibid., p. 167.
[130] See Rethinking the Wineskin, Chapter 5; Who is Your Covering, Chapter 2.
[131] According to Bible commentator Alfred Plummer, the Greek words translated “ordain” in the NT do not have special ecclesiastical meanings. None of them implies the rite of ordination or a special ceremony (“The Pastoral Epistles,” in The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, New York: Armstrong, 1903, Vol. 23, pp. 219-221). See also Who is Your Covering? Chapters 1-3.
[132] Acts 16:2; 1 Thess. 1:5; 5:12; 1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Cor. 8:22; Php. 2:22; 1 Tim. 3:10.
[133] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 4. Translators of the KJV have used ordain for 21 different Hebrew and Greek words. 17th-century ecclesiastical misunderstanding influenced this poor word choice.
[134] The Greek word cheirotoneo in Acts 14:23 literally means “to stretch forth the hand” as in voting. Hence, it is likely that the apostles laid hands on those whom the majority of the church deemed were already functioning as overseers among them.
[135] The Elders, pp. 169-170.
[136] Acts 13:2; 1 Tim. 4:14. Paul, an older worker, also laid hands on Timothy, a younger worker (2 Tim. 1:6).
[137] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, pp. 104, 111, 127, 130. Warkentin does a thorough study on the NT meaning of the “laying on of hands” in Chapters 9-11 of her book. Her conclusion: “The laying on of hands has nothing to do with routine installation into office in the church, whether as elder, deacon, pastor, or missionary” (p. 156).
[138] The earliest record of the ordination rite is found in the Apostolic Traditions of Hippolytus (200-220). By the fourth century, references abound to it (Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, pp. 25, 41).
[139] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 104.
[140] The Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 129-133.
[141] Ibid. This same tendency was picked up by Judaism as early as the first century. Jewish scribes who were proficient in the interpretation of the Torah and the oral traditions ordained men for office in the Sanhedrin. These men were viewed as mediators of the will of God to all of Israel. The “ordained” of the Sanhedrin became so powerful that by the early second century the Romans put to death anyone who performed Jewish ordination! (Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, pp. 16, 21-23, 25).
[142] Ibid., p. 35. This is evident from the Apostolic Constitutions (A.D. 350-375).
[143] Ibid., p. 45.
[144] Tradition and Life in the Church, p. 224.
[145] Ministry in Historical Perspectives, p. 75.
[146] Tradition and Life in the Church, p. 227.
[147] Ibid., p. 228.
[148] Ministry in Historical Perspectives, p. 71.
[149] Tradition and Life in the Church, p. 229.
[150] Ministry in Historical Perspectives, p. 75. Ordination was believed to confer upon the recipient a character indelibilis. That is, something sacred had entered into him (Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 42; History of the Christian Church: Volume 3, p. 489).
[151] The Apostolic Constitutions II.4.26.
[152] Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1991), p. 195.
[153] David D. Hall, The Faithful Shepherd (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1972), p. 6.
[154] Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament (Chatham: W. & J. Mackay, 1961), p. 207.
[155] Acts 20:28, NASB; 1 Peter 5:2-3.
[156] New Testament Theology in Dialogue, p. 138ff.
[157] Ibid., pp. 126-129.
[158] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 45.
[159] Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, p. 51; The Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 126-131. Ordination grew into an instrument to consolidate clerical power. Through it, the clergy could lord over God’s people as well as secular authorities. The net effect is that modern ordination sets up artificial barriers between Christians and hinders mutual ministry.

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