April 3, 2011 – “How Christians Worship”  -- led by John Weicher


Justin Martyr, First Apology, Ch. 61; 65-68



Dottie offered a summary judgment about Justin, quoting from The Rise of Christianity by W.H.C. Frend (1984), p. 237:

"Compared with him [Diognetus], Justin Martyr was verbose, inconsistent, and not always convincing.  A Platonist before he became a Christian, he never grasped the essential incompatibilities between Platonism and Christianity.  There is no evidence that he was influenced by any of the writers of the New Testament.”


To which the class said, “Amen.”  (Although he does know quite a bit of the New Testament, particularly Matthew but more than Matthew.)


But at the end of the First Apology, Justin switches from doctrine to practice.  What do Christians do when they assemble and worship?  First, they baptize (Ch. 61), cleansing the convert of his sins.  Then they bring him “to the place where the brethren are assembled” (Ch. 65), and they pray for the one who is baptized, and for themselves, and “for all others in every place.”  Then they have communion, in both kinds.



There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives 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. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.


Then the deacons bring it to everyone; and the bread and wine, blessed by their prayer, is the body and blood of Christ (Ch. 66).  The deacons take the bread and wine to those who are unable to attend.  “And this food among us is called the Eucharist.”


When they meet on Sunday morning (Ch. 67), “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits” (how long is that?); then the president “verbally instructs” the assembly; they pray; they have communion; they take up a collection and give succor to the poor.


This service should sound very familiar.  Our services add only one more activity: singing hymns.  But we know from Pliny’s letter to Trajan about 50 years earlier, that Christians sang hymns as part of their devotions.  It is refreshing to think that our services today can be linked to the services of our religious forebears some 1950 years earlier. 


According to Justin, Christians engage in two activities – Baptism and the Eucharist – which we now know as Sacraments.  He makes no mention of the other five Catholic sacraments.  Almost 1500 years later, Martin Luther considered that there were only these two sacraments, because only they have Biblical authority.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Lutherans venerate Justin Martyr, even though he by no means believed in predestination.