Catechism

12 Divine service, acts of blessing, and pastoral care

12.1 Divine service Back to top

Divine service is the activity of God upon human beings and a work of human beings for God.

12.1.1 General remarks concerning divine service Back to top

In the divine service the congregation gathers to hear God's word and receive blessing through the sacrament. Human beings worship God in reverence and humbleness.

Thus divine service is an encounter between God and man. In the worshipful serving of the believers and in the perceptible presence of the triune God, the congregation experiences that God serves them in love.

12.1.2 Divine service in the Old Testament Back to top

The divine service of the Old Testament is based upon encounters between God and mankind. The various forms of divine service developed over a long period of time. Again and again, God revealed Himself and granted His help to man.

In the Garden of Eden, God addressed His word to the first human beings. After the fall into sin, He did not leave them unprotected. Rather He comforted them and gave them hope for future salvation.

Genesis 8 tells of the first altar built by man in order to serve God, worship Him, bring thanks to Him, and bring sacrifices to Him. Noah erected an altar and brought God an offering of thanks. The Lord responded with the promise that He would henceforth protect the creation.

Jacob consecrated the place where God had spoken to him and called it Bethel, which means "house of God" (Genesis 28: 19).

In the law, God gave Moses instructions for building an altar: "In every place where I record my name I will come to you, and I will bless you" (Exodus 20: 24 et seq.). He also gave a reminder that He had hallowed the seventh day, and commanded: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20: 8).

During the Israelites' journey through the desert, God chose men from among them to serve Him as priests and perform the sacrificial service. They were given the commission to convey God's blessing to the people by way of a specific formulation (Numbers 6: 22-27). This blessing states: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Aaronic blessing).

In the time of King David it says that singers and musicians were also active in praising God with psalms in the divine services (1 Chronicles 25: 6).

King Solomon had the temple built in Jerusalem. It was there that divine services were conducted, which consisted mainly of the daily slaughtering of sacrificial animals by the priests. This sacrificial service was from then on practised exclusively in the temple of Jerusalem. The temple was also the place where the Israelite feastssuch as the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23)–were celebrated.

After the destruction of the temple, the sacrificial service could no longer be performed, according to the understanding of the Israelites. During the period of captivity in Babylon, the believers gathered in specially built houses known as synagogues in order to pray and read and interpret Holy Scripture. This is one of the sources of the later Christian form of divine service.

SUMMARY Back to top

Divine service is the activity of God upon human beings and a work of human beings for God. (12.1)

The divine service of the Old Testament is based upon encounters between God and mankind. The various forms of divine service developed over a long period of time. (12.1.2)

After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem there was no more sacrificial service. In the time of the Babylonian exile, the believers would gather in synagogues in order to pray and read and interpret Holy Scripture. This is one of the sources of the later Christian form of divine service. (12.1.2)

12.1.3 Divine service in the New Testament Back to top

The incarnation of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of a completely new dimension of God's service to mankind. The Son of God came to earth as both true Man and true God. He was born into the Jewish nation, He went to the temple, participated in the divine service of the synagogue, and helped define it. Beyond that He acted as a teacher who preached with divine authority (Matthew 7: 29). Beyond that, He caused people to be baptised, and later instituted Holy Communion. Thus Jesus' words and deeds already contained that which would later come to define Christian divine service: word and sacrament.

Jesus' actions, which are thus the standard for divine service, find their crowning achievement in His death on the cross: He brought the perfect sacrifice, which far surpassedand replacedthe sacrificial service of the old covenant (see 3.4). In every celebration of Holy Communion, Christ's sacrifice is recalled.

Even before His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ promised His Apostles that He would send them the Holy Spirit to assure the continued teaching activity of Christ and preserve His gospel: "... and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14: 24-26).

The Holy Spirit inspired the Pentecost sermon of Peter. The word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit "cut to the heart" of three thousand listeners, and caused them to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, whereupon they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In a certain sense, Pentecost is the first divine service of the church of Christ. Four fundamental elements of New Testament divine service are attested among the members of the early Christian congregation in Jerusalem: "And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2: 42).

12.1.4 Further development of Christian divine service Back to top

Over the course of the centuries, Christian divine service has been celebrated in various forms. Whereas the emphasis was originally on the liturgy, divine service emphasising the sermon developed later on through the Reformation and within Protestantism. Divine service in the Catholic Apostolic Church was also characterised by a highly defined liturgy. The sequence of today's New Apostolic divine service adheres more to the traditions of reformed divine services.

12.1.5 Divine service as an encounter with God Back to top

The four elements of divine service present in the early church are still today among the definitive characteristics present when the congregation experiences the mystery of an encounter between God and man at the altar, which is always new.

The Trinitarian opening formula–"In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"–is an invocation of God and the reassurance of His presence. This is how we begin every encounter with the triune God in divine service. Likewise, every divine service is concluded with the Trinitarian benediction. This makes it clear to those attending the divine service that God is present.

Just as the heavenly hosts praise God in heaven (Isaiah 6: 3; Revelation 4: 8-11), so too the congregation glorifies and praises the triune God, His grace, and His mercy.

The divine service is intended to strengthen hope in the imminent return of Christ and to prepare the believers for the appearing of the Lord. For this reason, divine service is sacred to them. Thoughtless neglect in attending divine service jeopardises the steadfast continuation in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers, as practised by the early Christians.

Those who frequently abstain from attending the divine services without compelling reasons run the risk of losing their longing for the sacrament and the word effected by the Spirit. Beyond that, the powers of Holy Communion do not flow into their souls, their sins are not forgiven, and they lose out on fellowship with God and all related blessings.

Those who refuse to give God the worship due Him by rejecting or even despising the divine service and the grace it offers, charge themselves with sinwhether or not they actually attend the divine service.

12.1.5.1 The Apostles' doctrine Back to top

Already Jesus, who is described as the "Apostle ... of our confession" in Hebrews 3: 1, said: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me" (John 7: 16). As the One sent by His Father, He in turn sent the Apostles and gave them the commission to "[teach] them to observe all things that I have commanded you ..." (Matthew 28: 20).

As Jesus Christ's servants, the Apostles are called and ordained to preach the gospel and to promote obedience of faith (Romans 1: 1, 5). The ministers commissioned by them likewise proclaim Jesus Christ's doctrine to the congregations.

The word of the sermon effected by the Holy Spirit serves to strengthen faith and promote understanding. It imparts comfort, admonishes listeners to act in accordance with the standards of the gospel, and keeps the expectation of Christ's imminent return alive. In this way, believers experience the fulfilment of Jesus' promise: "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak in His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16: 13-14). Thus the sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit also distinguishes itself by glorifying Christ as the Saviour and Redeemer.

12.1.5.2 Breaking of bread Back to top

In the celebration of Holy Communion (see 8.2), the congregation experiences the central event of the divine service. Following the forgiveness of sins, the believers come to the altar and receive the body and blood of Jesus in the form of a consecrated wafer of bread and wine. In so doing, the faithful experience Holy Communion as both an expression of thanks and a celebration of remembrance of Christ's sacrifice (Luke 22: 19). It is a meal of fellowship and profession which includes the departed, both those who have died in Christ and those who have been granted access to the altar through God's grace. It also strengthens the hope in the coming of the Son of God (1 Corinthians 11: 26).

The worthy partaking of Holy Communion preserves the life implanted in the soul through the rebirth. Furthermore, it gives the soul the certainty of remaining in Jesus and maintaining the closest fellowship of life with Him (John 6: 51-58). The powers thereby received help believers overcome that which could be an impediment to the salvation of the soul and allows them to develop into the nature of Jesus. In this way, fellowship of life with Jesus Christ can be strengthened in every divine service.

12.1.5.3 Fellowship Back to top

In divine service, believers can experience, again and again, the fulfilment of Jesus Christ's promise: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18: 20). Divine service is thus fellowship with Jesus Christ. He is in the midst of the congregation in His word, and truly present in His body and blood. Beyond that, divine service is the fellowship of the believers gathered in the worship and praise of God. When, in addition to Holy Communion, the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water or Holy Sealing are dispensed in the divine service, the members of the congregation surround those receiving the sacrament as witnesses. In addition, each individual can apply these words of blessing to himself. Those who have already been baptised and sealed are thereby encouraged to recall anew the moment when they received the sacraments. This makes it clear that all reborn souls stand united in full sacramental fellowship.

12.1.5.4 Prayer Back to top

Divine service is inseparably associated with prayer. Already before the divine service, the faithful seek the nearness of God through personal prayer. During the prayers in the divine service, the congregation unites in prayer with the words spoken by the officiant. These express adoration, thanksgiving, intercessions, and pleas. Special significance is attached to the Lord's Prayer, which the congregation prays together. It is prayed in accordance with the wording recorded in Matthew 6: 9-13, and precedes the celebration of Holy Communion. After the believers have partaken of the body and blood of Jesus, they thank Christ in a silent prayer for His sacrifice and the grace they have received. At the end of the divine service, the officiant speaks a prayer.

SUMMARY Back to top

With Jesus Christ a new dimension of divine ministration upon mankind began to emerge. The defining elements of Christian divine servicenamely word and sacramenthave their source in Jesus' word and deed. (12.1.3)

Four fundamental elements of divine service are attested in the New Testament: the Apostle's doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. (12.1.3)

The Christian divine service was celebrated in various forms over the course of the centuries. The current sequence of the New Apostolic divine service stands in the tradition of reformed divine services. (12.1.4)

The Trinitarian opening formula is an invocation of God and an assurance of His presence. Every encounter with the triune God in divine service is introduced in this manner and concluded with the Trinitarian benediction. (12.1.5)

The divine service is intended to strengthen the hope in the imminent return of Christ and prepare the believers for the appearing of the Lord. (12.1.5)

The Apostles are called to proclaim the gospel. The ministers active in their commission do the same. (12.1.5.1)

In the celebration of Holy Communion the congregation experiences the central event in the divine service. (12.1.5.2)

Divine service is fellowship with Jesus Christ in word and sacrament. Divine service is also the fellowship of the believers who gather in worship and praise of God. (12.1.5.3)

Divine service is inseparably associated with prayer. Adoration, thanks, intercession and pleas are brought to expression here. (12.1.5.4)

12.1.6 Proclamation of the word Back to top

The timely will of God is proclaimed in the divine services. This proclamation of the word is described as the "sermon".

The necessity of God's word for the life of the new creation was expressed by the Lord Jesus in the statement: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4: 4). Apostle Paul pointed out that faith cannot come into being without hearing the word of God (Romans 10: 17). In 1 Peter 1: 24-25, the transitory nature of mankind is contrasted with the eternal nature of God's word: "... the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you."

12.1.6.1 Concerning the term "sermon" Back to top

The term "sermon" can be traced back to the Latin word sermô, which means "discourse" or "talk". The sermon in the divine service is a spiritual address given by a minister, which is inspired and permeated by the power of the Holy Spirit and addressed to the congregation. The sermon is based on a passage taken from the Bible.

12.1.6.2 The proclamation of the word in the New Testament Back to top

While believing people already proclaimed the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit during the time of the Old Testament, a new dimension of God's word became reality with the birth of the Son of God. In Jesus Christ the Word of God came to mankind in perfection.

Jesus taught in the temple in Jerusalem, in synagogues, and in other places. Much of the content of His sermons has been handed down to us in the gospels, which contain the basic principles of Christian doctrine. When He preached, Jesus used parables and interpreted the Old Testament. Furthermore, He made many references to the future. For instance, He foretold His own suffering, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and gave the promise of His return. The outstanding nature of Jesus' preaching is illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the beatitudes and many statements that had never been heard before. The effect of this sermon is shown in the reaction of His audience: "... the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7: 28-29).

Although the Son of God had already assigned the Apostles the task of preaching the word during His activity on earth (Matthew 10: 7), after His resurrection He commissioned them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all (Mark 16: 15).

Apostle Peter preached the first Christian sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2: 14 et seq.). Other sermons of the early Apostles can be found, for example, in Acts 3: 12-26; 17: 22-31. Beyond that, many of the letters of the Apostles, which were read to the believers in the congregations, can also be compared to sermons. Their contents were tailored to the congregations or the prevailing circumstances in each. They urged the members to repent, accept God's grace, and receive the sacraments. Furthermore, they were of an instructional and admonishing character. They testified of God's desire to redeem mankind and grant them eternal life in His glory.

12.1.6.3 The proclamation of the word today Back to top

In the New Apostolic divine service, great significance is attached to the proclamation of God's word. The Apostles and ministers appointed by them are called upon to proclaim God's word in the congregations. For this purpose they have been blessed and equipped through their ordination.

In the first place, God's word consists of that which has been handed down to us in Holy Scripture. Every sermon must be oriented by this, and so the basis of every single sermon is a prescribed passage from the Bible complete with notes on its interpretation, which is made available by the Chief Apostle for the ministers in order to help them prepare for the divine service.

The interpretation of the Bible text in free discourse constitutes the core of the sermon, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The congregation experiences this through the words of the minister conducting the service and through supplementary contributions by assisting ministers. The proclamation of God's word by a number of ministers, each with a different personality and corresponding gifts, aids in illuminating several aspects of the sermon from various perspectives, and serves to deepen understanding for God's will.

12.1.6.3.1 Main content of the proclamation of the word Back to top

At the core of the proclamation of the word is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the glad tidings. It tells of Jesus' life and sacrifice, of His resurrection and return, as well as the completion of the plan of salvation.

However, the glorification of God and the praise of His works throughout the ages also constitute the content of the sermon. Furthermore, the sermon provides orientation for a life in accordance with God's will. This is also supported by accounts of experiences of faith.

Additional elements of the sermon include the praise of God's grace and Jesus Christ's great deed of reconciliation. Furthermore, the sermon appeals to the believers to reconcile. All of this prepares the way for the receiving of the sacraments.

12.1.6.3.2 The objective of the proclamation of the word Back to top

The "preaching of Jesus Christ" calls listeners to obedience of faith (Romans 16: 25, 26). The sermon's primary goal is to awaken and preserve the faith which Jesus expects to find at His return. The Apostolic proclamation of the word is always geared toward preparing the congregation for the coming of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11: 2).

Belief in the imminent return of the Lord has an effect on the believer's conduct in daily life. According to Galatians 5: 22-23, the activity of the Holy Spirit is to produce the "fruits" of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The proclaimed word imparts comfort and confidence, promotes knowledge, and strengthens trust in God.

Through the word of God, listeners are presented, as it were, with a mirror in which they can recognise themselves and become aware of what is necessary in order to grow into the nature of Christ (James 1: 22-24). This also entails accepting in faith the reconciliation with God effected by Christ, and summoning up the willingness to reconcile with all people as a result.

12.1.6.3.3 Levels within the proclamation of the word Back to top

The word of God is perfect, pure, and infallible, and yet it is proclaimed by imperfect human beings. For this reason the sermon can contain imperfect elements. Nevertheless, God, who hears the fervent pleas of both the preacher and the listener, lays His power into the inadequate human words of the sermon. There are therefore two levels. One is the human level: a human being speaks, and other human beings listen. On this level, both linguistic errors and errors of content on the part of the speaker, as well as misunderstandings on the part of the listeners, cannot be ruled out. The other level is the divine: the Holy Spirit speaks through the commissioned servant of God to the souls of the listeners and strengthens or awakens faith within them. Thus, the imperfection of the words and sentences expressed does not prevent God from filling them with power.

But the listeners must also fulfil certain prerequisites in order that they do not perceive the sermon as the mere utterances of a human being. The basic requirement for this is faith. This means that, in believing trust, the listeners must open themselves to the word of the sermon, accept it, and be prepared to apply it in their lives. Then the word of the sermon will also inspire remorse in the listener. The sins he has committed are thus recognised, and regret, repentance, and the longing for grace are awakened.

Prior to the sermon, the listeners should pray for the Lord to provide strength and peace through the word. The Lord will hear and grant the fervent prayers of a congregation that longs for His word.

The sermon is followed by the celebration of Holy Communion, for which God's word has prepared the way.

SUMMARY Back to top

God's will is proclaimed in the divine services. This proclamation of the word is known as the "sermon". (12.1.6)

Jesus taught in the temple in Jerusalem, in synagogues, and in other places. An example of Jesus' proclamation of the word is the Sermon on the Mount. (12.1.6.2)

The first Christian sermon was delivered by Apostle Peter on Pentecost. (12.1.6.2)

The proclamation of the word is accorded great significance in the New Apostolic divine service. It is based on a Bible text. Its interpretation in free discourse constitutes the core of the sermon. It is awakened by the Holy Spirit. (12.1.6.3)

The central element of the proclamation of the word is the gospel, which speaks of Jesus' life and sacrifice, as well as His resurrection and return. Beyond that it offers orientation for a life in accordance with God's will. (12.1.6.3.1)

Apostolic proclamation of the word always testifies of the endeavour to prepare the congregation for the return of Jesus Christ. (12.1.6.3.2)

The proclaimed word strengthens faith and trust in God, imparts comfort and confidence, and promotes knowledge. (12.1.6.3.2)

God's word is perfect, pure, and infallible. Nevertheless it is proclaimed and heard by imperfect human beings. This does not prevent God from filling the sermon with His power. (12.1.6.3.3)

12.1.7 The Lord's Prayer Back to top

The Lord's Prayer is a valuable legacy which Jesus gave to those who believe in Him. With it the Son of God gave an example of how we are to pray to the Father in heaven.

This prayer of the Son of God has been handed down in one version containing five pleas (Luke 11: 2-4) and in a more detailed version containing seven pleas (Matthew 6: 9-13).

12.1.7.1 The Lord's Prayer in divine service Back to top

In the liturgy of the divine service, the text from the gospel of Matthew in the New King James Version of the Bible is used:

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

The Lord's Prayer occupies a firm place in our liturgy. This is the only prayer that the believers bring to God together in accordance with a fixed wording.

It is also a prayer of repentance, spoken before the forgiveness of sins, in which the faithful confess before God that they have sinned.

12.1.7.2 The seven pleas Back to top

The invocation of God is followed by three pleas that refer to Him: Your name, Your kingdom, and Your will. This is followed by four pleas which, at the same time, can also be intercessions: our daily bread, our debts, lead us, deliver us. The prayer concludes by praising the majesty of God.

12.1.7.2.1 "Our Father in heaven" Back to top

The form of address "Our Father" identifies this prayer as a communal prayer in which those praying profess to be children of God. In this fellowship, Jesus Christ is the "firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8: 29). Whenever He prayed, He addressed God as Father (Luke 22: 42; 23: 46; John 11: 41; 17: 1).

The relationship between Jesus and His heavenly Father is unique. Since Christ taught human beings to pray to God as the "Father in heaven" He incorporated them into His relationship with the Father.

When human beings address