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How Should the Church WORSHIP?

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The Christian church today has many and various forms of worship – particularly here in America. In general most churches meet regularly on Sunday mornings for a sermon and singing and prayer. Often this includes Junior Church and/or Sunday School for children as well. But how did the first century church worship and what was their mode of operation?

The Beginning of the Assembly

It is very clear from the Scripture when the Church [= Assembly[1]] began. Before His death and resurrection Jesus had predicted “I will build my Assembly”[2] and He had spoken of the fact that His Spirit, in the future, would indwell all believers.[3] This was fulfilled historically on the Day of Pentecost[4] when the Holy Spirit descended to create the spiritual body of Christ.[5] From then on all believers formed “the Body of Christ”[6] - which is the Assembly.[7] What were the activities of this new Assembly? Fortunately we are not left to guess or hypothesize - for the book of Acts and the entire New Testament bear ample testimony.


Of course, this meal and observance were initiated on the night in which Jesus was betrayed.[8] On that occasion [the Passover] Jesus gave the bread to His disciples to remember His body which was to be given for them. He also, after supper, gave the cup as a memorial of His blood which was to be shed for all mankind. The Assembly – in obedience to its Lord –immediately began observing this ordinance which they referred to as “the Breaking of Bread”.[9] [It is also known as “the Lord’s Supper”[10] and “the Lord’s Table”[11].] It is evident from the New Testament that accompanying the elements [the bread and the cup] was a meal [supper] that everyone shared.[12] In fact, whenever the Assembly came together, the meeting began with the meal![13] After the meal, undoubtedly, were many other activities [such as teaching, prayer, singing etc][14] In the early church, the Lord’s Supper was held at night – since Sunday was not a holiday at that time and, of course, slaves could come only at night.[15] Thus the CENTER of their worship was the Lord’s Supper – which was bounded by the Bread and the Cup. There is no Biblical evidence of any other regular meeting of the New Testament Assembly. The observance of The Lord’s Supper was the HEART of their worship.

What About Us?

It is interesting that over the span of the centuries this tradition – handed down by Jesus and the Apostles to the Assembly[16] - has all but been extinguished. Very few churches today observe this God-given Supper which was so important and central to the first century church.[17]  Though many churches indeed have a “Communion service”, it is usually abbreviated and held quite infrequently.[18] And the meal is almost never a part of the service. But, nonetheless, it is possible to correctly follow the pattern of the Lord’s Supper and miss the worship which is sought by our Lord. Consider Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman:

 “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” [19]

Notice that He said that the Father is seeking worshippers. This is primarily what the Lord’s Supper is about: the worship of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s own personal treasure[20] - given to the Assembly as the focus of our corporate and collective worship. This Supper is not for us, but for Him.[21] Believer, when you come to the Lord’s Table, are you mainly concerned with what you will get or are you prepared to give Him worship? Will God get from you - as we meet for this Supper - the worship He is seeking from His followers?


[1] The Greek word ἐκκλησία ekklesia is usually translated “church” but has the basic meaning “assembly”. It quickly became a technical term to describe all those who believe in Jesus for salvation [that is, “the body of Christ”].

[2] Matthew 16:18.

[3] See John 14:16-17 and Acts 1:5, 8.

[4] Referred to in Acts chapter 2.

[5] See John 7:39, 1 Cor. 12:13. Acts 11:15.

[6] Ephesians 1:22-23.

[7] Cf. Acts 2:47.

[8] Cf. Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20.

[9] Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; Acts 20:7-12.

[10] 1 Cor. 11:20. The word “δεῖπνονdeipnon = the main meal of the day is often translated supper.

[11] 1 Cor. 10:21.

[12] 1 Cor. 10:16-17 [cf. also vs. 20-22], Acts 2:42. This was a family gathering of the family of God. In eating this Supper believers demonstrate and experience the unity they have in sharing the gift of eternal life which is based on Jesus’ death.

[13] 1 Cor. 11:33. Note that the Lord’s Supper is the first thing mentioned by Paul in this section concerning the assembling [coming together] of the Corinthian Assembly [vs. 17]. 1 Cor. 11:17-34 concerns the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

[14] Cf. 1 Cor. 14:26. But 1 Corinthians 11-14 describes most of the activities engaged in by the early assemblies. See also Acts 2:42, 46, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16.

[15] Note, for example, Acts 20:7.

[16] Cf. 1 Cor. 11:2, 23.

[17] This is very similar to the nation of Israel who repeatedly failed to follow God’s directive to worship only in Jerusalem [Cf. Deut. 12:5, 11, 18 etc.; 1 Kings 15:14, 22:43, 2 Kings 12:1 etc]. They failed to make the house of God the center of the worship of God.

[18] Some once a year, some once a month, some once a week - but usually as a very small part of the service.

[19] John 4:21-24.

[20] That is, it belongs to Him. It is the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Day. Also note Isa. 33:6.

[21] Cf. 1 Cor. 11:20-21.

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