Early Christian Meetings

Justin Martyr lived from 110-165 a.d. and wrote in the “sub-apostolic” age. His writings give a glimpse into how Christianity functioned in its earliest days.

In his First Apology, he provides a description of Christian worship. They met in homes, having no church buildings.

Before being considered a Christian, a candidate was baptized “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” (First Apology, Chapter LXI-Christian Baptism.)

Meetings began with a prayer and “saluting one another with a kiss.” Then sacrament is prepared and administered using bread a “cup of wine mixed with water” which is blessed by “giving praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.” (Id., Chapter LXV-Administration of the Sacraments.)

The early Christians recognized there was an obligation for “the wealthy among us [to] help the needy.” Therefore, after reading scripture and “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets” donations are collected. “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want.” (Id., Chapter LXVII-Weekly Worship of the Christians.) The reference to the “president” is to the one who conducted the meeting that week.

These simple observances were resilient enough to preserve Christianity after the death of the apostles and before any great hierarchical magisterium arose. It was the power of baptism, the sacrament, scripture study and financial aid among believers that gave Christianity its power. But it was diffused, and therefore incapable of destruction. When Justin Martyr was slain, the scattered Christians continued unaffected. It was just like when Peter and Paul were slain, and before them, James was killed. The power of Christianity reckoned from the vitality of its original roots. These roots were in Christ, His message, and teachings, which were employed to relieve one another by the alms shared from rich to poor.

When a centralized hierarchy took control over Christianity, the money that was used for the poor, the widows and orphans, was diverted to building churches, cathedrals, basilicas and palaces. Ultimately, the wealth generated by the generosity of Christian believers became the tool used by the hierarchy to buy up armies, kings, lands and treasures which were used to rule and reign as a cruel master over a subjugated population made miserable by the abuse heaped on them from Rome.

Even after the Protestant Reformation, Christianity continued to be ruled by hierarchies. Cathedrals and church buildings consumed and consume resources which are to be used to help the poor. Christ built no building, although He accepted the temple in Jerusalem as His Father’s house. Peter built no church building. Nor Paul, nor James, nor John. Christianity in the hands of the Lord and His apostles needed no brick and mortar for its foundation. It was built on the hearts of believers, brought together by the charity and assistance shared between them.

Today Christianity is not benefitted, but weakened, by hierarchies, cathedrals, edifices and basilicas housing opulence, wealth and art. Although the prophecies foretell of a temple to God in Zion, and another in Jerusalem, there are no other structures foretold to be built by Christians or latter-day Israel. How much stronger would Christianity be today if wealth were reserved for the poor, and hierarchies were stripped of their wealth?

2 Nephi 32: 3

2 Nephi 32: 3:

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 

Nephi makes these three things equal:

1.  The power of the Holy Ghost to give words, which
2.  Are the same as what angels would speak, which in turn
3.  Are the same as the words of Christ.

Holy Ghost/words of angels/words of Christ.  They are all the same as “the words of Christ” which will “tell you all things what ye should do.”

If you will “feast upon the words of Christ” then you will know “all things what ye should do.”

How do you unlock this power that potentially exists inside you? What tools have been given to us to receive access to this great inner record of truth?

Why are we given ordinances? If we will follow them and receive them, what do ordinances allow the Lord to open up for us?

You know if you are doing as you should. You cannot lie to yourself. You cannot deceive yourself about whether you will follow God with full purpose of heart, acting no deception, repenting of your sins, and with real intent.  (2 Nephi 31: 13.) If you do these things there is a law irrevocably decreed which permits you to receive what is offered. (D&C 130: 20-21.) You actually know if you have offered the correct sacrifice. (Lecture 6, in Lectures on Faith discussed here.) Just as you know when you are unworthy before Him (Mormon 9: 4-5), you also know when your confidence before God grows naturally inside you and you follow the path to return to the light (D&C 121: 45-46.) It is extraordinary and even miraculous, but it is also absolutely natural.

The conditions were set before the foundation of the world and all you must do to obtain these blessings is to follow the path. You KNOW if you are in the right way. You cannot lie to God, and as we have seen in the discussion of the preceding verses, God is within you.

Do you keep the commandments? Why? Are you doing so with real intent, following the “doctrine of Christ” or just to be “seen of men?” (Matt. 6: 1, 5.) When you do these things in secret, your Father (and you) know it and then come the rewards of having your heart right with God. (Matt. 6: 4, 6.)

At the end of the long search into all the universe to find God, you will discover the search leads you back to what was inside you all along. You came from Him, and He is with you. But to find Him you must return. The scriptures and teachings of Christ are filled with this journey and the battleground has always been within you. You need to remember.  The Holy Ghost, the third member of the godhead, dwells inside you, provided you will receive it.

The laws irrevocably decreed are the very principles which permeate life itself. You are not separate from this “doctrine of Christ” but a living embodiment of it. If you live it, you will prove it. You are here to be proven.  (Abraham 3: 25.) What have you determined to prove with your life?

Nephi spoke in plainness to us. He could not find simpler language to describe this process. I have tried to be plain using other scriptures and language. But the great lesson can be reduced to this: Do what you have been taught. When you do it, the light will increase within you. That light is truth. It is intelligence, or light and truth, or the power of God. (D&C 93: 36.) All you must do to activate that light, gain that intelligence, and behold the glory of God is to keep His commandments. (D&C 93: 28.) If you want to receive a “fullness” then the immediate door through which you pass is to keep the commandments. (D&C 93: 20.) 

Most importantly, you must “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ.” (2 Ne. 31: 13.) You alone will know if you have done this. Or rather, you and the Lord will know. When you are satisfied that there is no hypocrisy and no deception between you and God, that you have come to Him with real intent and repenting of your sins, witnessing through the ordinances (baptism and sacrament) that you will take upon you the name of Christ, then you qualify. If you do not, then you are not qualified.

I am completely satisfied that the people who gain such access, receive the blessings, or obtain a hope in Christ are ordinary people. They are not distinguished by their great intellect or powerful positions. They are typified only by the singleness of their heart and true devotion. There is not a whit of difference between what they believe and how they live. They do not excuse themselves from doing what they know to be right, even if it is painful, uncomfortable, or something they would never do on their own. They invariably do what the “words of Christ” bid them to do. No matter the price, they will follow Him; not a leader. Indeed, almost all of His servants are at odds with leadership. You know how completely He was at odds if you have read Come, Let Us Adore Him. To follow Him is to have that same contention between you and the larger religious community of any age or dispensation. Stop trying to please men and start following Christ.

I do not know what more can be said than Nephi has been saying. Let’s press on.