VOLUME 2 ISSUE 4 APRIL 1998
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE:The "Friends of the Nazarene" are a Bible research group for better Scriptural understanding dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid the Fathers Children to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One" and not three. The Bible is our credo and we wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren.
Inside this Issue:
1. Celebrating the Memorial of Christs Death
3. Introduction to The NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS
4. Introduction to The NAZARENE COMMUNITY
5. Perfecting the Christian Character: Sympathy
6. Faith Perspectives
7. Who are the "Little Flock" and "Faithful Steward"?
CELEBRATING The "MEMORIAL" OF CHRISTS DEATH
OUR LORDS COMMANDMENT TO OBSERVE HIS DEATH. Though our Lord as an obedient Jew celebrated numerous "holy conventions" he gave only one command to his disciples regarding the observance of his death. While celebrating the Passover by eating unleavened bread and drinking red wine, the Nazarene turned to his apostles and told them: "Keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19 NWT) Some decades later Paul was to write: "For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." (1 Corinthians 11:26 NWT) This simple celebration of partaking of bread and wine has been called "The Lords Supper," or, "the Eucharist," or, "Memorial," or, "Holy Communion." But, what was the reason and background to this newly introduced emblematic supper?
MESSIAHS DEATH AS A SIN OFFERING FORETOLD.
The Prophets foretold a Jew would be killed by slow death involving his heart, hands and feet. This Jew is surrounded by violent oppressors, and some of them will cast lots on his clothing. Many scholars, including physicians, state that the inspired hymn of Psalm 22 describes a man dying on an executioners stake or tree. Psalm 22:1, 6-10, 14-18 reads in part: "My God, my God why have you forsaken me? ... In you our ancestors put their trust. ... I am a worm, not a man, scorn of mankind, contempt of the people: all who see me jeer at me, they sneer and wag their heads, he trusted to Yahweh, let Yahweh set him free! Let Him deliver him, as he took such delight in Him. ... It was you who drew me from the womb and soothed me on my mothers breast. On you I was cast from my birth, from the womb I have belonged to you. Trouble is upon me, and no one to help me! Many bulls are encircling me. Lions ravening and roaring open their jaws at me. My strength is trickling away, my bones are all disjointed, my heart has turned to wax, melting inside me. My mouth is dry as earthenware, my tongue sticks to my jaw. you lay me down in the dust of death. A pack of dogs surrounds me, a gang of villains is closing in on me as if to hack off my hands and my feet. [Note: LXX: "they pierced my hands and my feet"] I can count every one of my bones, while they look on and gloat, they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." (New Jerusalem Bible)
This messianic Psalm was attributed to King David of Israel and was composed a thousand years before the torturous death of Jesus the Nazarene. The Gospel of Matthew records the Christ calling out at his death, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) The Beloved Apostle reports how the soldiers handled the garments of the Nazarene: "Now when the soldiers had impaled Jesus, they took his outer garments and made four parts, for each soldier a part, and the inner garment. But the inner garment was without a seam, being woven from the top throughout its length. Therefore they said to one another: Let us not tear it, but let us determine by lots over it whose it will be. This was that the scripture might be fulfilled: They apportioned my outer garments among themselves, and upon my apparel they cast lots. And so the soldiers really did these things." (John 19:23, 24 NWT)
A SIN OFFERING. Not only the manner of Messiahs death was foretold but the reason was made very clear. Seven hundred years before the death of Jesus, Isaiah foretold. This prophetically portrays a Jewish man rejected by his own people and records the foretold events from their standpoint: "Like a sapling (Messiah) grew up before Him (Yahweh), like a root in arid ground. he had no form or charm to attract us (Jews), no beauty to win our hearts; he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we (Jews) averted our gaze, despised, for whom we (Jews) had no regard. Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, [Note: "he was being pierced for" (NWT)] ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises. ... Ill-treated and afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter-house. ... Forcibly, after sentence, he was taken . . . cut off from the land of the living, at his having been struck for his peoples (Jews) rebellion? he was given a grave with the wicked, and his tomb is with the rich. ... (Yahweh) gives his life as a sin offering. ... After the ordeal he has endured, he will see the light and be content. (Yahweh speaks): By his knowledge, the upright one, My servant will justify many by taking their guilt on himself. Hence I shall give him a portion with the many . . . for having exposed himself to death and for being counted as one of the rebellious, whereas he was bearing the sin of many and interceding for the rebellious." (Isaiah 53:1-12 NJB)
Phillip the missionary read and applied this prophecy to Jesus. (Acts 8:32, 33) Peter himself was to quote from these words and apply them to the Christ. (1 Pe 2:24) Peter also applies the sixteenth Psalm to the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 2:24-34; Psalm 16:8-10) So, hundreds of years beforehand the prophets foretold the death of the Messiah as a Sin Offering, or Sin-bearer, to bring a "righteous standing to many."
PASSOVER. This whole idea of a sacrifice as a sin-offering was dramatically portrayed in the deliverance of the he from Egypt. Exodus chapter 12 records the historical events when Yahweh delivered His people from slavery. The splashing of the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the door posts was to point forward to a greater Passover Lamb. (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; Re 5:6)
Peter alludes to this "lamb" of the Passover when he writes: "For you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood as of a blameless and spotless lamb, Christ." (1 Pe 1:19 NJB) Paul does the same: "For our Passover as been sacrificed, that is, Christ; let us keep the feast, then with none of the old yeast and no leavening of evil and wickedness, but only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 NJB)
Beginning around the year 1513 BCE the Jews were to celebrate annually this deliverance by keeping the Passover as commanded by Yahweh: "On the tenth day of this month they are to take for themselves each one a sheep for the ancestral house, a sheep to a house. ... And it must continue under safeguard by you until the fourteenth day of this month [Nisan 14], and the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel must slaughter it between the two evenings.[from sunset to dark] ... And they must eat the flesh on this night. They should eat it roasted with fire and with unfermented cakes along with bitter greens. ... And you must keep the festival of unfermented cakes [Passover], because on this very day I must bring your armies out from the land of Egypt. And you must keep this day throughout your generations as a statute to time indefinite. ... And it must occur that when you come into the land that Jehovah will give you, just as he has stated, then you must keep this service. And it must occur that when your sons say to you, 'What does this service mean to you?' then you must say, 'It is the sacrifice of the Passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians, but he delivered our houses.'" (Exodus 12:3, 6, 8, 17, 25-27 NWT) So, for over 1,500 years the Jews kept this memorial Passover until the arrival of the Messiah. As an obedient Jew Jesus the Nazarene kept this feast and the night of his arrest he said to his disciples: "I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:14, 15 NWT) So, this was about the 1,546th observance of the Passover as God had commanded Moses. How fitting an occasion for the Nazarene to introduce another emblematic meal to take the place of the Passover.
KEEP DOING THIS AS A MEMORIAL OF ME. Three Gospels record the institution of the Lords Supper. Combining all three accounts they read: "As they continued eating, Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: Take, eat. This means my body which is given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me. Also, he took the cup -- in the same way after they had the evening meal -- having given thanks (eucharistesas), he gave it to them, saying: Drink out of it, all of you; for this cup means the new covenant, my blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20)
Showing this command to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ was still an ongoing celebration decades later, Paul wrote: "For I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was going to be handed over took a loaf and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me. he did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NWT)
In First Corinthians chapter eleven Paul deals with certain divisive matters within the congregation. Possibly the Corinthians decided to make the Lords Supper something a little more elaborate with considerable drinking, for Paul says, "When you come together to eat (the Lords Supper), wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home." (1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 NWT) So, it is difficult to see this simple celebration as something like an agape feast. (Jude 12 = agapais) But, when and how often should the Lords Supper be celebrated?
"AS OFTEN AS YOU DO IT." Paul himself gives no details on the question of when and how often to keep the Memorial or Eucharist. It is likely the tradition was so well fixed by custom that he did not need to discuss these matters. Today various churches celebrate "communion" daily, weekly on Sundays, or once a month, as on the first Sunday of each month. Others keep the Memorial annually on Nisan 14. The date is determined generally by the full moon on or near the Jewish Passover.
Given the setting of the original emblematic meal instituted by Jesus as well as the Jewish custom to celebrate religious festivals yearly, it would seem the Christian "Passover" might well have been annually also. There is nothing in the Christian Bible to indicate this but there is a strong early tradition which indicates the first Christians annually kept Nisan 14 as the proper evening for the Lords Supper.
The Third Century Christian historian Eusebeias records a division which developed regarding Easter: "It was at that stage (189 AD) that a controversy of great significance took place, because all the Asian dioceses thought in accordance with ancient tradition they ought to observe the fourteenth day of the lunar month (Nisan 14,the day of the Passover full moon) as the beginning of the Paschal festival -- the day on which the Jews had been commanded to sacrifice the lamb: on that day, no matter which day of the week it might be. ... All of these kept the fourteenth day of the month as the beginning of the Paschal festival, in accordance with the Gospel. ... Anicetus could not persuade Polycarp not to keep the day (Nisan 14), since he had always kept it with John (the apostle) of our Lord and the other apostles with whom he had been familiar. ... We may point out to you they keep the feat on the same day (Nisan 14) as we do, for se send letters to them and they to us, to ensure that we keep the holy in harmony and at the same time." (The HISTORY OF The CHURCH, Eusebius, pp -229-234)
M'Clintock and Strong agree: "The churches of Asia Minor celebrated the death of the Lord on the day corresponding to the 14th of the month Nisan, on which day, according to the opinion of the whole ancient Church, the crucifixion took place." Historian J. L. von Mosheim wrote: "The Christians of Asia Minor were accustomed to celebrate this sacred feast, commemorative of the institution of the Lord's supper, and the death of Jesus Christ, at the same time when the Jews ate their Paschal lamb, namely on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month [Nisan]. . . . They considered the example of Christ possessing the force of law." Therefore, the evidence seems to strongly favor an anniversary on Nisan 14. This date is calculated by the full moon nearest the Spring equinox, March 21 and generally agrees with the Jewish Passover.
"UNTIL he ARRIVES." However "often" the Lords Supper was to be kept, the commemorative meal should continue on the part of Nazarene Saints "until Christ arrives" in his foretold Parousia. If Christ had returned already, then the Supper should cease. Since the King has not returned, Christians ought to continue to observe the death of Jesus by keeping the Lords Supper.
SECOND CENTURY DESCRIPTION:
Chapter LXV.-Administration of the Sacraments
"But, we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine, and he talking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son, 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 thanksgiving, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language -- so be it. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
Chapter LXVI.-Of the Eucharist.
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, and both flesh and blood for our salvation. ... For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, said, This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone."
GATHERING TO EAT The LORDS SUPPER. Paul knew Jesus had instituted the emblematic meal after sundown on the Jewish Passover, Nisan 14. Therefore, Paul calls it deipnon or "supper," that is, a meal held in the evening, even as Jesus had done. (1 Corinthians 11:20 KJV, NEB) Paul stresses the simplicity of the affair in his description and warning to the Corinthians. It is not a physical "meal" but a spiritual one in which the "partaker" communes or shares with fellow Saints and with God. Paul had written earlier: "The blessing-cup which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf." he calls this "the Cup of the Lord" and the "Lords table." (1 Corinthians 10:16-22 NJB)
Today, indeed, "there are many of us." This "us" is now divided into schisms and heresies even as it was in Corinth. In the introduction of his letter, Paul had stated the problem which existed then as well as today: "But, brothers, I am encouraging you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to speak the same thing and not have schisms among you but make adjustments in the same mind and in the very same opinion. ... The Christ has been divided." (1 Corinthians 1:10, 13) In the same context of the Lords Supper Paul mentions this problem of sectarianism and the reason for it: "When you do gather in meeting it is not for the better but for the worse. First, when you do gather for meeting I hear schisms [divisions, cliques, factions] exist among you. ... For it is binding there must be heresies [sects, differing groups, divisions] so those approved among you may be manifest." (1 Corinthians 11:17-19)
Pauls statement that sects or schisms (heresies) must exist to manifest the approved echoes the Nazarene parable of the Wheat and the Tares. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) According to Jesus his own "kingdom" was to become divided by wheat and weeds. These "sons of the Kingdom" and "sons of the Devil" are to "grow together" (syn-auxanenethai) until the angelic harvest upon the Parousia or Return of the Master. Thus, throughout the centuries, the millenniums, within the "kingdom of the Son" the Lords Super has been observed even as the Jews observed the Passover. However, this Holy Eucharist has been celebrated in ways which reflect this disunity. How can Nazarene Saints at this time "partake" (1 Corinthians 10:21 KJV, RSV) in a manner which the Lord would approve?
PARTAKING WORTHILY. Paul includes such an exhortation in the context of his discussion on the proper way to observe the Lords Supper. There is a worthy and unworthy way to partake. To partake worthily Paul exhorts a certain disposition and attitude: "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty regarding the Body and the Blood of the Lord. But, let each person examine self and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the person eating and drinking without discerning the Body eats and drinks self-judgment." (1 Corinthians 11:27, 28 RSV) It seems clear that this self examination has to do with a proper regard for what the emblems symbolize: the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. So, we come back to faith as the main criteria of a worthy celebration.
Regarding the attitude of the forerunners of modern Baptists, the Anabaptists, one historian wrote concerning their attitude toward the Lords Supper: "To them it was the most solemn act in which a Christian can participate, involving the renewal of the believer's covenant to devote his life unreservedly to Christ's service." (R. J. Smithson)
No doubt such a celebration in commemoration of our Lords death may include hymns (Matthew 26:30) and prayers of blessing along with the partaking of unleavened bread and red wine. The night of Jesus last Passover he spoke at length with his disciples. (John chs 13-17) There could be nothing wrong with a taLuke which dealt with the meaning of the Lords Supper as well as subjects like those chosen by the Nazarene: humble service, love, separation from the world, and unity. On the other hand, if one is alone then one may wish to read Psalms 22 and 116-118 (the subject of the Passover hymns) or Isaiah 53 and John 13-17. Prayerful meditations which arouse deep faith in the Sin-offering of Christ will enhance the spiritual atmosphere of this sacred moment.
Contemplating on what the Sin-offering of the Christ has done and will do for you should provide an intense spiritual evening. By the grace of the Father through His Son your sins have been forgiven. (Romans 5:1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 16-19; Ephesians 4:32; Colosians 2:13; 3:13) The burden of guilt has been lifted and your conscience cleansed. (Acts 2:38; he 9:11, 12, 14, 15, 24, 26, 28; 10:1-3, 14, 19-22) As a result of your repentance, conversion and faith you stand before the Throne of Grace in that same state Adam enjoyed before the Fall --- in that same condition as the Son rose from the baptismal waters. A transcendental "peace" settled on you as you came to have "no consciousness of sins anymore." your hearts were "sprinkled from a wicked conscience and (your) bodies bathed with clean water."
With this cleansed and perfected state a breathtaking hope has settled down on your regenerated heart and mind. As Paul writes: "you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit so that you may know what is the hope which His call to you inspires." (Ephesians 1:18 PME, WEY; compare also Romans 8:24, 25; Colosians 1:5, 27; 4:4; 1 Pe 1:3, 4, 13) This "one hope" (Ephesians 4:4) of a heavenly inheritance contains within itself the over-powering and awesome prospect of seeing our God as well as His Son. (1 John 3:2, 3; Re 22:4) During the Lords Supper meditate on this glorious hope and discern within the loaf and the cup the power of His grace and the depth of Christs love.
The Jews generally celebrated the Passover as family groups. So, whether to celebrate alone, with a small group, or among a larger Christian association it is a personal decision. But let each one "discern the Body" in these emblems by faith. Let each saint prayerfully examine or scrutinize his own Christian character, the depth of his faith, and the godly works which come from such faith. The God of our Lord Jesus bless your genuine hearts and the loving spirit you show during this holy season. Amen.
Next Issue: MAY: When does the New Jerusalem descend? xCult web sites examined. What is a "Cult"? A Humble Spirit. Our First Year!
List of Publications: (Available in hard copy or by email) NAZARENE PRINCIPLES -- a basic primer on the teachings of the Nazarene (100 pages); NAZARENE MOUNTAIN TEACHINGS -- a new rendering of the Sermon on the Mount with footnote commentaries (50 pages); NAZARENE APOCALYPSE (hard copy edition only) -- a new rendering of the Book of Revelation with running commentary and 1,075 footnotes (350 pages); NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS -- a list with brief commentary on the "commandments" of Jesus Christ (50 pages); NAZARENE COMMUNITY -- manual on church harmony and perfecting the Christian character (65 pages).
DONATIONS: many have asked how they can assist in deferring the printing and mailing costs. At present the only way to do this is by sending cash, money order, or a check payable to "Mark Miller."
WITNESSING TOOL: feel free to make copies of this newsletter as gifts to relatives and friends as part of your personal witnessing.
INTRODUCTION TO "The NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS"
[This is the opening portion of the new publication.]
INTRODUCTION. Jesus Christ the Nazarene spoke with love to his private disciples on that Passover night: "If you love me, you will observe my commandments. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." (John 14:15; 15:14. All citations are from the New World Translation unless otherwise noted.) Surely, they understood the need to be familiar with what their Lord had taught during the past three years. They remember their Lord had on many occasions told them, "Do not" do this, or, "Stop" doing that. They also knew he had stated many "commandments" in a positive tone by saying "do this" or "become that." Thus they knew they could prepare a list of the Nazarene Commandments in both their positive and negative forms. They knew also there were certain fundamental principles or basic facts which were not precisely "commandments" but statements of truth which carried the idea of a "commandment."
Showing the need to put into action what Jesus taught is the conclusion to the Mountain Teachings (or, Plain Teachings): "Why, then, do you call me 'Lord! Lord!' but do not do the things I say? Everyone that comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug and went down deep and laid a foundation upon the rock-mass. Consequently, when a flood arose, the river dashed against that house, but was not strong enough to shake it, because of its being well built. On the other hand, he who hears and does not do, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without a foundation. Against it the river dashed, and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house became great." (Luke 6:46-49 NWT) Those who would claim Jesus is their Lord are charged to actually live what the Nazarene taught.
The Nazarene expresses this need to keep his commandments in numerous places. Compare some of these. "Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!" (Luke 11:28) "When you have done all the things assigned to you, say, 'We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.'" (Luke 17:10)
Some Christians make much of the details of their formalism or religiosity but ignore the weightier matters, as Jesus puts it to those in his day: "But woe to you Pharisees, because you give the tenth of the mint and the rue and of every [other] vegetable, but you pass by the justice and the love of God! These things you were under obligation to do, but those other things not to omit." (Luke 11:42) So, some Christian "forms" have thousands of policies, procedures, or rules but may, like the Pharisees, omit justice and love as part of their worship. (James 1:27; 1 John 3:16-18)
When a disciple of the Nazarene publicly confesses "Jesus Christ is Lord" he acknowledges his need to be obedient to his King. (Romans 10:9, 10) The Nazarene teaches obedience must accompany conviction: "For (the) God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ... And, this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the Light and do not come to the Light so their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. ... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure Gods wrath." (John 3:16, 19-21 , 36 RSV) Jesus makes it clear that obedience is necessary. he did this not only in teaching but by example. (Phillipians 2:5-9)
Paul makes the same comment in the Letter to the he: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (he 5:8, 9 RSV) Salvation is dependent on obedience to the Lord.
The Nazarene warns that on the Judgment Day for his own Household some will claim to have performed grand religious works. However, note the response of the King: "Not everyone saying to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?' And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matthew 7:21-23) The same is illustrated in the parable of the sheep and goats. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Commandments which apply to certain individuals are not necessarily meant as a rule for all persons. The Nazarene commands his personal apostles to sell everything and give it to charity. (Luke 12:33) This may not necessarily be a rule for others. In one case he speaks directly to one individual, but the principle may be one to think about. "Next he proceeded to say also to the man that invited him: "When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones." (Luke 14:12-14) This is seen also in the Nazarenes specific instructions to his apostles -- and then the Seventy -- on how to carry out their ministry. Much of what he says may not apply to modern disciples, though one could apply certain principles by extension.
How many "commandments" are included in the teachings of the Nazarene? How many of these are positive? How many are negative? What categories do they cover? The following work, NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS, is a compilation of the teachings of Jesus which involve the Christian character in the form of principles, as well as negative and positive commandments. We have prepared these by drawing from the four Gospels and putting them under several headings with a brief commentary. Not all verses are cited but these may be found by cross-referencing. There are also longer parables which may be part of the teachings involved below. [For details on Matthew 5-7 see the work NAZARENE MOUNTAIN TEACHINGS.]
INTRODUCTION TO "NAZARENE COMMUNITY"
[This is the opening portion to the new publication "Nazarene Community."]
This is not a manual of rules or orders save in those places where "the Lords commandment" or the inspired writers directives are clear and specific. The "manual of discipline" is prepared for those who wish to commit to the association of Christians called the Nazarene Saints or Nazarene Community of Christian Saints and who now identify themselves as such.
Jesus the Nazarene taught he had come to build his own Congregation (ecclesia) or Church: "On this Rock I will build my Church." (Matthew 16:18) This church or congregation was to be composed of a multitude of "disciples" -- adherents or followers of the Nazarene -- from multi-racial and multi-national backgrounds. (Matthew 28:19). In this same context Jesus describes these disciples. Those who make such a commitment have embarked on the Nazarenes own orders: "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually." (Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34 NWT) In the Apocalypse the Celestial Christs own angel describes the Nazarene Saints present at the Arrival of the King: "They follow the Lamb no matter where he goes." (Re 14:4 NWT) Peter, who heard his Masters words about discipleship, wrote: "You were called to a life of suffering because Christ suffered for us, leaving us a model to follow in his footsteps." (1 Peter 2:21 NR)
Such disciples or adherents of the Nazarene have already thought carefully on Jesus words at John 14:15 and 15:14: "If you love me, you will observe my commandments. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." They have made a study of these "commandments" as well as the "doctrine" (or, teachings) of Jesus. (John 7:16 KJV; he 6:1, 2) The doctrines of Christ and many of his commandments are considered in the book NAZARENE PRINCIPLES. Before embarking on the path of "following the Lamb no matter where he goes" --- and initiating this by water immersion as a public confession that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9, 10) --- the Nazarene disciple realizes several aspects to the course now to be followed:
1. Nazarene disciples keep the commandments of the Lord.
(See the work NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS)
2. Nazarene disciples hold the same beliefs and convictions of their Lord.
(See the work NAZARENE PRINCIPLES)
3. Nazarene disciples realize the importance of making this Gospel known to others through personal witnessing. This is shown by, a) Jesus own example; b) the example of the early Christians; and, c) directives from the Lord to preach the Gospel News.
Did Jesus the Nazarene "organize" his own disciples to accomplish the purpose of his first appearing? It would be hard to argue he did not. he first conformed to John the Baptists own work. During this period of about six months the Nazarene gathered his own apostles. he taught them. he set an example of preaching and teaching. he gave them specific directions for their work at that time. he gave them directives which would guide them throughout their lives and the lives of those who would follow. he promised a Spiritual Helper who would help them in compiling what became the New Testament. Shortly after his ascension to heaven, he selected a particular individual who became his greatest missionary, Paul of Tarsus.
However, already in Jerusalem the apostolic body of the Nazarenes closest disciples began to get organized. They continued their preaching and teaching in public, in private homes, and in the Jewish Temple area. They immediately replaced the fallen Judas with Mathias as an apostolic overseer. They solved an immediate problem with food distribution by the formation of what later became "deacons" or "ministers of service." Later, by the hand f Paul, the Apostolic Body sent out "decrees" (Grk = dogmata) to be observed by the various house churches. (Acts 16:4, 5) What can we learn in the first few chapters of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles about the lifestyle and Christian association of the Nazarene "saints"? (Acts 9:13, 32, 41 KJV)
What will one find by reading these six chapters of Acts? Several matters come right off the page. Though women are mentioned, males have the leadership and teaching roles. There is a united effort to "fill Jerusalem with this teaching." There is a communistic association with everyone ceasing private ownership and a complete sharing among all. This factor raises two evident problems: a) prejudice concerning Jewish widows divided only by language; and, b) greed on the part of one couple who lie about the extent of their gift. The former was quickly corrected and the later demonstrates this communal sharing was on a voluntary basis.
Two thousand years later it may be difficult at first for a western reader, or any reader of the Book of Acts, to remember we see the Jewish capitol filled with one million visitors "from every nation on earth" -- all Jews, and mostly men. The current news is the burning subject of the rabbi from Nazareth, who as rumor has it, was raised from the dead. On hand were scores if not hundreds of witnesses to the miracles of this Nazarene healer. The citys inhabitants and visitors must have been divided on this subject. But, the whole matter demonstrates the first bloom of Christianity was within a Jewish garden. All the first Christians were Jews themselves. They did their preaching and teaching within the Temple as their focal point where the hundreds of thousands were gathering daily.
There is something missing from this record: any description of church meetings. Some may argue the upper room on the Day of Pentecost was a congregational meeting with over a hundred present, including women. However, a careful reading of chapters one and two might just as well suggest this event involved only the Apostles. (Acts 1:21, 26-2:1,7, 37) Which ever view is adopted this is a unique meeting which indicates no arrangement or system. Indeed, in the entire Book of Acts no such description of a congregation meeting exists. We see the apostles, the disciples, and later Paul, working among and meeting within the Jewish synagogue. (The word "synagogue" occurs 16 times in Acts.)
Generally the Jewish synagogue was for education and encouragement, with a structure built around a "presiding officer," "presiding officers," "elders." (Mark 5:22, 35-38; Acts 4:5, 8, 23; 5:21; 13:15 = synagogue rulers; 18:8, 17) The reading of the Scriptures was a key feature. (Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15) When the disciple James mentions Christian meetings he uses the Greek word synagogue. (James 2:2) There is an example of Jesus reading and commenting on the Scriptures in the little synagogue of Nazareth. Later Paul is seen offering encouragement in a Jewish synagogue. (Acts 13:14-16)
With this Jewish background in mind, Paul gives the only outline for a Christian meeting in a letter to the congregation in the cosmopolitan port city of Corinth. This congregation of Nazarene disciples or Saints was struggling with "schisms" and "heresies" to such an extent that Paul early writes, "The Christ exists divided." (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 NWT) The purpose of this Pauline epistle is to try and solve this problem of disunity. Though he deals with several contributing factors, it is in chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen that he addresses those matters which were causing difficulties within the context of their congregational meetings.
If these three chapters could be summarized in just a few words it may be: a) unity despite a variety of gifts; b) love is the unifying bond; and, c) order in meetings. In chapter twelve Paul lists three functions of the Spirit: 1) spiritual gifts; 2) ministries, or services; 3) operations. Paul gives examples of this variety of "operations" in a list. The first deals with nine examples: 1) speech of wisdom; 2) speech of knowledge; 3) faith; 4) healing; 5) dynamic works; 6) prophesy; 7) spiritual discernment; 8) tongues; 9) interpretation of tongues.
After an illustration of the variety among different body members, Paul creates another list of how The God has arranged matters in the Church, or the "one Body." (Ephesians 4:4) His list is different than the former and seems to contain more leadership roles: 1) apostles (representatives sent from one congregation to another); 2) prophets (speakers before an audience); 3) teachers (instructors or writers); 4) dynamic works (miracles); 5) healings (curing); 6) helpful services (material assistance); 7) management (administration and leadership); 8) tongues (foreign languages).
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul provides a similar list of functions within the "one body" (Ephesians 4:4-16): 1) Apostles; 2) Prophets; 3) Evangelists; 4) Shepherds; 5) Teachers.
Finally, in 1 Corinthians chapter fourteen, Paul deals with what could be called congregational matters within the local church. he seems to emphasize that whatever occurs in the local meeting ought to be for the "upbuilding" of all. So, the purpose of the ecclesia is two-fold: education and encouragement. This was the same purpose of the synagogue. In this context the superior gift is "prophesy" which consoles and encourages. The word "prophet" or "prophesy" comes directly from the Greek and means "to speak in front of others." It is true it has a more limited meaning of foretelling a precise event, but the general meaning is that of speaking forth the purpose of The God. (Acts 11:27, 28; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32)
Twice Paul asks the rhetorical question: "What is to be done, then?" (14:15, 26) In this first instance Paul down-plays the gift of tongues, which is, according to him, meant for unbelievers who speak another language. (Acts 2:8) So, here, Paul states the speaker in a foreign tongue should be quiet if there is no interpreter.
In the answer to the second question (14:26) Paul gives a form or outline for a Christian meeting. he lists: 1) hymn; 2) teaching; 3) revelation; 4) tongue; 5) interpreter.
Paul does not mention prayer though that can be assumed from 14:13, 14, 17. Nor does he mention a collection during the meeting. Nor does he mention the segregation of men and women though this was the norm in the synagogue as it is among some Jewish sects to this day, including the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
In the meeting list above one important matter should be discussed. In the thirteen chapter Paul stated that "tongues" would cease. Therefore, # 4 and # 5 above would not occur in congregations after a certain period in the history of Christianity. The Third Century church historian recorded these gifts had passed away by the Second Century and condemns those satanically-possessed prophets who continue it.
If we accept this view the Christian meeting may be characterized by three elements: prayer, hymns, and teaching. In one form or another this is essentially the standard program in most churches in modern days. Both the Jewish and Christian "synagogues" or "gatherings" featured primarily reading and commentary. It may feature a "talk" or "word of encouragement" as seen in Acts 13:15. Males from the age of 12 could participate in this weekly reading and commentary on the Sabbath. (Luke 2:12, 46, 47; Luke 4:16, 21)
Paul concludes his answer to the question "What should be done?" with a most controversial "custom" he credits as "the Lords commandment" --- women are to remain silent in the congregation meeting just as they were in the Jewish synagogue. (14:33-35; compare 11:3, 7-10) Elsewhere Paul strictly states: "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man." (1 Timothy 2:11-15) Though many object to this there is not a case in the Christian Scriptures of a woman speaking in a church meeting; nor, a case of a woman exercising authority in a leadership role.
Here is a good time to mention meeting places. There is no case in the Christian Bible of either building or purchasing a meeting place. Christians met in homes and there are congregations describing as being in a house. Clearly, the groups were very small. (Romans 16:5; Colosians 4:15; Phillipians 2)
With this background we now raise some questions. How does a body of diverse people work and live together in harmony despite differences in cultural background, social history, and varying degrees of Christian growth? We begin with a lone disciple. (This concludes the introduction.)
PERFECTING The CHRISTIAN CHARACTER
[A portion from the new publication NAZARENE COMMUNITY.]
CHARACTERISTIC #15 -- A SYMPATHETIC HEART. Verses 15 and 16a read in the King James Version: "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another." Some of these phrases are rendered by others: NEB: with the joyful be joyful; PME: share the happiness of those who are happy; LB: when others are happy, be happy with them; GDSP: live in harmony with one another; MON: have full sympathy with one another; NEB: have equal regard for one another.
Sympathy (together + feeling) and empathy (in + feeling) ought to characterize the Nazarene Saint. This is the ability to put yourself in anothers place. Or, as someone once put it, "waLuke a mile in anothers sandals." Pauls counsel echoes Ecclesiastes 3:4, for there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to wail and a time to skip about." The Living Bible paraphrases Proverbs 25:20: "Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in his wounds."
Pauls phrase "be minded the same way toward others as to yourself" (NW) is a paraphrase of the Golden Rule, "Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them." (Luke 6:31NW) Paul makes similar statements in other words to the Corinthian and Phillipian congregations: "Let no man, then, set his own advantage as his objective, but rather the good of his neighbor. ... None of you should think only of his own affairs, but each should learn to see things from other peoples point of view." 1 Corinthians 10:24; Phillipians 2:4 PME) Peter writes in a similar vein: "You should al be united, sympathetic, full of brotherly love, kind-hearted, humble-minded." (1 Peter 3:8 TCNT) Thus, the Transformed Mind gives thought to others with a self-less motive and with the interests of others in mind. This truly is the way to joint-harmony.
NAZARENE SAINTS ASK: Do I try to understand how others feel before I express my opinions? Can I learn to sympathize with all kinds of people who may have been raised differently than me. Does empathy characterize my personality? Do people know me to be such an understanding person?
The "LITTLE FLOCK" AND "The FAITHFUL STEWARD" ---
WHO ARE THEY?
We have before us the Nazarenes encouragement at Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock, because the Father thought well enough of you to give you the Kingdom." Who, or what, is this "little flock"? Some would view it as the whole Church, the entire Body of Christ, or the total number of those finally saved into the heavenly Kingdom. So, we ask, who is this "little flock" according to the context of Luke 12:32?
The context for Luke 12:32 begins with the first verse of this chapter. Verse 1 describes the Nazarene about ready to speak to a crowd of thousands. However, the end of verse 1 makes it clear Jesus first directs his words to "his disciples," most likely the twelve apostles. For verse 4 has Jesus addressing them as "my friends." The Greek language includes numerous cases of the plural YOU as well as inferring the plural in many of the verbs. Is it fair to state that it seems, beginning with verse 1, and noting the many occurrences of the plural, that the Nazarene is speaking precisely to the apostles and not to the whole crowd of thousands?
This particular context continues until the break at verse 13 where Jesus appears interrupted by a certain man in the crowd. First, verse 14 has Jesus addressing this one man. Then, verse 15 has Jesus addressing "them" into verse 16. Who are "them"? It may be the entire audience of thousands for verse 22 has the Nazarene directing the words that follow to "his disciples." Is it fair to state that the immediate context of verse 32 is found to be precisely directed to "his disciples," that is, "his friends" or the apostles? At John 15:15 Jesus makes it clear to "his disciples" that they are his "friends." The Nazarene does not address the crowd of thousands in this manner.
Therefore, the context of verse 32 with its "little flock" is found between verses 22 and 40 before Peter himself asks the question: "Lord, are you saying this parable to us or to all?" Who would we understand the "us" to be? Would it not be the same as "his disciples" or "friends"? And, the "all," who would that be but the crowd of thousands? Later, verse 54 has the Nazarene turning his attention back to "all" or the whole crowd. Can there be any argument that "the little flock" is an affectionate diminutive for the small circle of his friends, much like saying, "my little group"? Upon careful reading does it seem obvious that the "little flock" is limited to that small circle of the Nazarenes apostolic disciples, the Twelve?
LITTLE FLOCK, FEAR NOT, WHAT?
In the exact context of verse 32, Jesus had been teaching his apostles about being overly concerned regarding material necessities and the need to seek the Kingdom first. The subject is fear of insecurity about material things. In this regard, the Nazarene continues, after telling his apostles not to be fearful, "Sell your belongings and give charitable gifts" to the poor." (Verse 33) That would take great courage, indeed.
[NOTE: "Poor" would be inferred by the Nazarenes teachings elsewhere. See Luke 18:18-30. The New Jerusalem Bible has a footnote (d) on verse 33: "That riches are a danger and should be given away in alms is characteristic teaching of Luke 3:11; Luke 6:30; Luke 7:5; Luke 11:41; Luke 12:33, 34; Luke 14:13; Luke 16:9; Luke 18:22; Luke 19:8; Acts 9:36; Acts 10:2, 4, 31.]
Consequently, what other conclusion can one draw but that "the little flock," the apostles, was under direct commandment by the Nazarene to divest themselves of their belongings and to give the value of them to the poor? Whoever this "little flock" be it would have t disown all belongings and then give any cash value to the needy. This is consistent with Jesus teaching elsewhere. It is also exactly what the apostles and early Christian disciples do as recorded in the first six chapters of the Book of Acts. (see Acts 1:12, 13; Acts 2:42-46; Acts 4:34-36; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 6:1-6) Paul himself declares this is the condition of the apostles some years later: "Down to this very hour we [apostles] continue to hunger and also to thirst and to be scantily clothed ... and to be homeless." (1 Corinthians 4:11)
There are modern religious organizations who lay exclusive claim to this designation "little flock." And yet their operating corporations own considerable real estate, high rise buildings, and many millions in possessions. Will Durant in writing about John Wyclif reports: "Now it is clear from Scripture that Christ intended His Apostles, their successors, and their ordained delegates to have no property. An church or priest that owns property is violating the Lords commandment, is therefore in a state of sin, and consequently cannot validly administer the sacraments. The reform most needed in Church and clergy is their complete renunciation of worldly goods. ... Ideally everything should be held by the righteous in common. ... (Wyclif) denounced the friars for preaching poverty and accumulating collective wealth. ... The friars and monks should return to the full observance of their rules, avoiding all property or luxury. ... They should content themselves with food and clothing, and live on freely given alms." (The Story of Civilization, Vol 6, The Reformation, pages 31-35)
The FAITHFUL STEWARD?
The subject of the "little flock" raises a question about what Jesus goes on to describe as a "faithful steward." (Luke 12:42) After addressing the "little flock" of his twelve apostles, the Nazarene continues speaking to these disciples with the counsel to be like "slaves" waiting for the Masters return (or, Parousia). (Luke 12:37) Note this is plural, "slaves," and not singular. Following this comes Peters question about whether this warning is directed to just the disciples or to the whole crowd of thousands.
Consistent with what went before, the Nazarene asks a rhetorical question, not answering Peter directly. Jesus asks, "Who, really, is the faithful steward whom the Master appoints over his household attendants to give them their measure of grain at the appointed time?" (Luke 12:42) First, would we understand this as an injunction to what Peter calls the "all" of the thousands gathered? It does not appear likely. Would it be more appropriate to assume this Nazarene question is directed more toward the "us" of Peters question? If this be the case, then the "faithful steward" would be those "disciples" or apostles, that "little flock" of the Nazarenes "friends," the Twelve.
Some time later in the Gospel account Jesus repeats this question in a different format with the context of the sign of his Parousia or Presence. (Matthew 24:45) The understanding of who "the faithful and discreet slave" really is would be explained more thoroughly in he early use of the same parable. (Luke 12:35-48)
That the apostles are "the faithful steward" is the same conclusion reached by the New Jerusalem Bible in footnote (f) on this subject: "A steward with authority over other servants; Jesus, therefore, is speaking of the apostles (the "us" of Peters question)."
The subject here is the "faithful stewards" feeding of the Masters attendants with "grain" at the appropriate season. Interestingly, just as we behold the apostles selling all and giving to the needy, we find this same group, or "little flock," in charge of the literal food supplies in Acts chapters 2 through 6. So, quite literally, the "little flock" of Jesus apostles obey his instructions to "feed" the Masters other attendants.
Some have interpreted this "feeding" to be of a spiritual kind, and as pleasant as this idea is, there is nothing in the parable which indicates such a spiritual feeding. Also, the actual fulfillment shown in the Acts of the Apostles would demonstrate a quite literal reaction to Jesus instructions.
There is an interesting historical note concerning these "attendants" of Jesus parable. The Greek of Luke 12:42 for the word "body of attendants" is therapeias, or literally "therapists [curing staff]." In the first century the Jewish philosopher Philo of Judea wrote in his work The Contemplative Life an account about a Christian commune of ascetics in Alexandria, North Africa. Eusebeias of the Third Century reports on these observations: "Then (Philo) says that they are called Therapeutae and their womenfoLuke Therapeutrides, and goes on to explain this title. It was conferred either because like doctors they rid the souls of those who come to them from moral sickness and so cure and heal them, or in view of their pure and single service and worship of God. Whether (Philo) invented the designation and applied it to them, fitting a suitable name their mode of life, or whether there were actually called this from the very start, because the title Christian was not yet in general use, need not be discussed now.
"This much is certain. he lays special emphasis on their renunciation of property, saying that when they embark on the philosophic life they hand over their possessions to their relations, then, having renounced all worldly interest, they go outside the walls and make their homes on lonely farms and plantations well aware that association with men of different ideas is unprofitable and harmful. That, apparently, was the practice of the Christians of that time, who with eager and ardent faith disciplined themselves to emulate the prophetic way of life. Similarly, in the canonical Acts of the Apostles it is stated that all the disciples of the apostles sold their possessions and belongings and shared them out among the others in accordance with individual needs, so that no one was in want among them. ... The best men in each region set out as colonists for a highly suitable spot, regarding it as the homeland of the Therapeutae." (For more details see The History of the Church by Eusebeias, pages 89-93)
Since the Nazarenes question is rhetorical, it is also possible that the answer to Jesus question is to be found in any individual Christian who beholds the physical need of a fellow member of the Household of Faith and thus responding in a manner similar to Barnabas in Acts 4:36, 37. Thus, Barnabas, and others like him, would be the answer to the Nazarenes question. Such a person would, in fact, really be "a faithful and wise steward" found feeding his fellows. This would be in complete harmony with that physical caring demonstrated in the parable of the sheep and goats of Matthew 25:31-46.
Any Nazarene Saints interested in being identified as a "sheep" ought to spend long moments meditating on that positive action taken by the true sheep in Jesus parable. Note also, that the "goats" are so for their failure to act, not evil deeds. (James 1:26, 27; 4:17)
It would appear that the "little flock" is limited to those early twelve apostles of the Nazarene. This tiny group of Jesus friends also acted as a composite "faithful and wise steward" over the Masters household staff of "attendants." The whole body of attendants, or Christian saints, is not the "faithful and discreet slave" as a group. In the first century case, this appears limited to that "little flock" of the Nazarenes apostles. No where in the Christian Bible is the word "steward" or "slave" used of the composite Body of Christ as a whole. Paul does apply the word personally to himself as an individual at 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2.
Any later Christian persons who would turn out to be faithful slaves alert to the Masters return would have to demonstrate this by feeding, literally and spiritually, their fellows as the "attendants" of Christ. This spiritual feeding would nourish that "one hope" which belongs to the Gospel. (Ephesians 4:4; Colosians 1:23)
All of this, the literal contextual view of Luke 12:32 with its "little flock" and Luke 12:42 with its "faithful steward" as manifest in the body of the Apostles, would not rule out holding the view that Jesus teaching would also apply to individual Christians. Each Christian Saint would be under change to guard against undue material concerns, exercise loving care for the needy, and remain alert for the Masters return. Throughout the ages millions of Christian disciples of the Nazarene have remained awake and alert to the Masters Return. They as well proved themselves to be "faithful stewards" looking after the material and spiritual needs of their fellow Nazarene Saints.
The most important question is that posed by the Nazarene: "When the Son of Man arrives in is glory will he really find The Faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8) The whole intent of Jesus parables of the "slaves" and "faithful steward" in Luke 12:35-48 is to: a) remain ready and alert for the Masters Parousia; and, b) show loving care for Christian associates. The emphasis here is on those Nazarene Saints alert and alive at the precise moment when the Master returns. These particular "faithful slaves" would turn out to be the same as "we the living" in Pauls description at 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
May it be your happy lot to be among those "slaves" still alert for the Master and giving loving care to Household associates when the Master does indeed return in his foretold Parousia to rapture home to himself the Nazarene Saints.
[An open forum for the free expression of faith. Irasmus: "If we want truth, every man ought to be free to say what he thinks without fear
Nazarene Saints Publishing
Write us at:
c/o Shawn Mark Miller
177 Riverside Ave
Newport Beach, California 92663 USA
Back to the Main Newsletter Page
(C) 1998 All Rights Reserved
Reproductions may be made
as free gifts to friends and relatives.