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 feasts–such 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 surpassed–and replaced–the 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 sin–whether 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 service–namely word and sacrament–have 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 God as their "Father", this alludes to the reality that God has created them, that He is their Lord, and that He provides for them. God is the source and sustainer of that which He has created. In love and trust, and without fear, human beings can address Him as "Father".

The words "in heaven" emphasise that God is exalted above all earthly existence. He–God, the Father–is greater and higher than everything, and yet, in His omnipresence, He is close to us human beings (Psalm 139; Acts 17: 27).

12.1.7.2.2 "Hallowed be Your name" Back to top

The triune God is holy. Believers speak of Him with deep reverence. By giving all honour to God, by praising and extolling Him, and by endeavouring to conduct themselves in accordance with His will, they contribute to the hallowing of His name. The Lord's Prayer reminds us of the Second Commandment (see 5.3.3), and enables us together to hallow the name of God through words, while bowing down in humbleness and the fear of God before the greatness of the Eternal One.

In the new covenant, God reveals His name in His Son, Jesus Christ. This name must be kept holy. It is the name "by which we must be saved" (Acts 4: 10, 12; cf. Philippians 2: 9-11).

12.1.7.2.3 "Your kingdom come" Back to top

The kingdom of God has already dawned in Christ and is present in His church. "Your kingdom come" means that the Lord is to become more and more perceptible in the congregation.

Beyond that, these words allude to the revelation of the future kingdom of God, which will begin with the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 6-7). In this respect, the plea that the kingdom of God may come refers first and foremost to the return of Christ to take home His bride. However, this plea reaches even further into the future: after the marriage of the Lamb in heaven, the Son of God will establish His kingdom of peace on earth, in which the gospel will be preached to all human beings. The kingdom of God will appear in perfect glory and endure forever once God has created a new heaven and a new earth after the Last Judgement.

12.1.7.2.4 "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" Back to top

God is omnipotent. His will stands above everything. In heaven, the domain where God rules, His will reigns supreme.

God wishes to deliver fallen mankind from the consequences of sin and grant them salvation (1 Timothy 2: 4). To make this possible, He sent His Son. Jesus Christ came and sacrificed Himself, wherein the will of the Father was revealed (Hebrews 10: 9-10).

The wish that God may also govern everything on earth in accordance with His will comes to expression in the plea: "Your will be done." Due to their sinfulness and the power of Satan–which, although broken, is still active–human beings cannot live up to this standard. However, this plea of the believers also implies the desire that, already today in their earthly lives, they may succeed in acting in accordance with God's will.

This plea of the Lord's Prayer furthermore brings to expression that God may soon complete His work of redemption.

12.1.7.2.5 "Give us this day our daily bread" Back to top

In the broadest sense, this plea is directed at the preservation of the creation. These words also express the petition that the Lord may provide food, clothing, lodging, and everything else human beings need for earthly life.

The figurative meaning of the plea is for the word of God as "food" for our immortal souls (Jeremiah 15: 16).

A further meaning behind this plea refers to the bread of life–that is Holy Communion–in accordance with the words of Jesus: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6: 48-51). God ensures that this bread is always prepared anew for us.

12.1.7.2.6 "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" Back to top

All human beings burden themselves with guilt as a consequence of their sins. With the plea: "And forgive us our debts", the faithful confess that they are sinners before God and ask Him for grace. Here it becomes clear that the Lord's Prayer also incorporates the aspect of repentance. Believers receive the grace of forgiveness of sins, and have all their guilt erased, on the basis of Christ's sacrifice, because "in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1: 7).

The Son of God bound the fulfilment of this plea to the condition that we first forgive those who have wronged us or are in debt to us. The importance Jesus attached to this condition for obtaining forgiveness is also clear from the fact that He repeated and affirmed it following the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6: 14-15). The parable of the wicked servant also clearly shows the obligation to forgive those who are indebted to us (Matthew 18: 21-35).

12.1.7.2.7 "And do not lead us into temptation" Back to top

With the plea not to be led into temptation, believers beseech God to help them resist sin with all their strength. Furthermore, they ask that the trials of faith may not be too severe and that they may be protected from many of the temptations of Satan. However, God will permit temptations in the form of trials in order to give believers a chance to prove themselves in faith. An example of this is the harsh trial of Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22: 1-18).

God watches over our faithfulness to Him so that it does not break: "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10: 13).

Apostle James wrote as follows concerning the temptation to sin: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1: 13-15). This reinforces the certainty that our heavenly Father–who through the Holy Spirit moves us to every good work and provides us with the strength to overcome our imperfections through the body and blood of Jesus–never tempts us to sin, but tests us to prove our faith.

12.1.7.2.8 "But deliver us from the evil one" Back to top

The plea "But deliver us from the evil one" expresses the wish that God may deliver us from tribulations that lead to sin. Furthermore, the evil from which we ask God to deliver us consists of everything that emanates from Satan. Ultimately this is a plea for final liberation from the evil one himself.

Through His sacrifice, Christ made redemption possible. In the Son of God we have "redemption ..., the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1: 14). Redemption is an ongoing process, which ultimately leads to perfect liberty from all of Satan's claims. Only then will our redemption be complete.

12.1.7.2.9 "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" Back to top

These pleas are followed by an expression of praise to God (doxology) [1], wherein the Most High is given the honour and glory He is due. He, the Lord of His kingdom, assists the believers with His power, so that they may share His glory in all eternity. This will be fulfilled for the bridal congregation at the return of Christ: "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Colossians 3: 4).

[1] The doxology does not appear in all translations of the Bible.

12.1.7.2.10 "Amen" Back to top

The word "Amen", which stems from Hebrew, translates as: "So be it!" It concludes the Lord's Prayer, and once more reinforces every plea and statement that has been brought to God in this prayer.

SUMMARY Back to top

With the Lord's Prayer Jesus gave an example of how one is to pray to God. (12.1.7)

It is the only prayer that the congregation prays together in the divine service in accordance with a fixed wording, as taken from Matthew 6: 9-13. It is prayed in connection with the forgiveness of sins and the celebration of Holy Communion. (12.1.7.1)

The invocation of God is followed by petitions. The prayer concludes with the praise of God. (12.1.7.2)

The believers hallow God's name by giving Him all the glory and by endeavouring to live in accordance with His will. (12.1.7.2.2)

The plea "Your kingdom come" asks the Lord to be more and more perceptibly present in the congregation. Beyond that it refers to the appearing of the future kingdom of God, which will begin with the marriage in heaven. (12.1.7.2.3)

The words "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" bring to expression the plea that God may guide all things in accordance with His will, even on earth. The believers thereby plead that they may succeed in acting in accordance with God's will. (12.1.7.2.4)

"Give us this day our daily bread." These words are a petition for everything a human being needs. In a broad sense, this plea is also a plea for the preservation of the creation. (12.1.7.2.5)

"Forgive us our debts ..." Thereby the believers confess before God that they are sinners, and ask for grace. "... as we forgive our debtors": in order to receive forgiveness it is important for believers to forgive those who have wronged them. (12.1.7.2.6)

The plea not to be led into temptation attests to the believers' desire for God's help in resisting sin and that He may ensure that trials of faith do not become too difficult. (12.1.7.2.7)

The words: "Deliver us from the evil one" express the believers' wish for God to liberate them from distresses that lead to sin–and in the end grant them ultimate liberation from the evil one. (12.1.7.2.8)

Honour is brought to the Most High in the praise of God. (12.1.7.2.9)

At the end of the prayer, every plea and statement is reinforced with the word "Amen", which means "So be it!" (12.1.7.2.10)

12.1.8 Forgiveness of sins in the divine service Back to top

The fact that forgiveness of sins is possible is solely thanks to the grace of God. His love for sinful mankind is demonstrated in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and in His death on the cross. This perfect, eternally valid sacrifice is the foundation for the forgiveness of sins.

The forgiveness of sins (absolution) is not a sacrament but rather the prerequisite for receiving the sacraments worthily. It is pronounced following the Lord's Prayer, which is prayed collectively by the congregation, with the words:

"In the commission of my sender, the Apostle, I proclaim unto you the glad tidings: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, your sins are forgiven. The peace of the Risen One abide with you. Amen."

The congregation confirms its believing acceptance of this forgiveness by saying "Amen".

12.1.8.1 God–the One who forgives Back to top

It is the triune God who erases our sins. Human beings are incapable of doing this by their own power (Matthew 16: 26; Luke 5: 21-24; Romans 4: 8).

Even though the eternally valid sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the foundation for the forgiveness of sins, God in His omnipotence has always been able to forgive sins. Hence Jesus Christ had the authority to forgive sins even before having brought His sinless life as a sacrifice (Mark 2: 5, 10).

12.1.8.2 God's patience–the sacrificial service in the Old Testament Back to top

God commanded the Old Testament's sacrificial service (Leviticus 19: 22). Through the sacrifices offered by the priests, the people sought after God's grace. Nevertheless, these offerings could not erase any sins. They merely had a postponing effect until the sacrificial death of Jesus. Up until then, the sinful human beings of the old covenant were covered by God's patience (Romans 3: 25-26). Prophets proclaimed that a forgiveness of sins would one day come that would do more than merely cover sins, but rather erase them completely (Isaiah 1: 18).

12.1.8.3 The sacrifice of Christ–foundation for the forgiveness of sins Back to top

The perfect sacrifice of Christ replaced the sacrificial service of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ led a life without sin. Through His sacrifice, the willing surrender of His life (John 10: 17-18), He broke the power of Satan and conquered the Devil and all his works, namely sin and death (2 Corinthians 5: 21). Since then the forgiveness of sins–in the sense of erasing–has become possible (Hebrews 10: 18), as has redemption from sin and death (Romans 3: 24).

12.1.8.4 Prerequisites for obtaining forgiveness of sins Back to top

In order to obtain forgiveness of sins and be snatched from spiritual death, the first prerequisite is the sinner's belief in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer (John 8: 24). In addition to the belief that forgiveness of sins is pronounced upon human beings through the Apostles of Jesus Christ (John 20: 23), the following are also required:

  • intensive self-examination in order to become aware of one's own transgressions,

  • the recognition that one has sinned and is in need of grace,

  • the heartfelt longing to be reconciled with God,

  • confession of one's sins before God in the Lord's Prayer, with the plea: "Forgive us our debts",

  • repentance and remorse with the earnest resolution to overcome one's mistakes and weaknesses,

  • the will to reconcile with one's debtors,

  • grasping the absolution in faith.

12.1.8.5 Repentance and remorse Back to top

Repentance results from recognition of one's own shortcomings or misconduct. It incorporates remorse–the feeling of suffering caused by wrongs committed in deed or omission–and the earnest endeavour to change one's attitude and improve. Just how concrete one's repentance must be as a prerequisite for forgiveness may depend on the awareness that one is a sinner and on remorse for sins committed. In addition, there is a significant difference between conscious and unconscious sin.

Also in view of the remorse associated with repentance, it is not the person, but rather God alone, who determines the required measure. If remorse is genuine and deeply felt, and if the willingness to repent expresses itself in the willingness to change one's attitude and conduct, the believer may genuinely hope in God's grace.

In the case of especially weighty incidents, in which one cannot find any inner peace despite believing acceptance of the absolution, the alternative of confession is available (see 12.4.4).

Sincere remorse and willingness to reconcile with one's neighbour belong together. As far as possible, the damage that has been done must also be reversed (Numbers 5: 6-7; Luke 19: 8).

12.1.8.6 Sin that is not forgiven Back to top

There is a sin that is not forgiven: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Concerning this the Son of God said: "But He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" (Mark 3: 29). Those who consciously and intentionally depict the Holy Spirit as a devilish or misleading force for hostile and base motives are guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

12.1.8.7 Proclamation and authority Back to top

Forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed. Jesus pronounced forgiveness of sins upon individuals (Luke 7: 48 et al).

Forgiveness of sins occurs through the absolution, which is proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ by authorised ministers. It is generally proclaimed in the divine service to the entire congregation. However, it only has its effect on those who grasp it in faith and fulfil the corresponding prerequisites.

The authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus is contained in the ministry of reconciliation, namely the Apostle ministry (John 20: 23). The priestly ministries proclaim the absolution by the commission of the Apostle and in the name of Jesus. This has the same effect as if the Apostle had done it in person.

12.1.8.8 Effects of the forgiveness of sins Back to top

The absolution proclaimed in authority and in the name of Jesus, when grasped in faith, erases sin (1 John 2: 12) and cancels out the debt that exists toward God (Matthew 6: 12). However, the material, moral, and legal consequences and responsibilities arising from sinful conduct remain unaffected by the forgiveness of sins.

Believers whose sins have been forgiven are also given peace out of Jesus Christ with the words: "The peace of the Risen One abide with you!" When this peace enters, all fear of the consequences of sin with respect to God will retreat.

SUMMARY Back to top

The foundation for the forgiveness of sins is the perfect, eternally valid sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (12.1.8)

The forgiveness of sins is not a sacrament, but rather the prerequisite for the worthy receiving of the sacraments. (12.1.8)

It is the triune God who washes away sins. Human beings are not capable of this. (12.1.8.1)

The sacrificial service of the Old Testament was unable to erase sins, but it had a postponing effect until the sacrificial death of Christ. Ever since the sacrifice of Christ, forgiveness of sins–in the sense of the complete erasing of sin and redemption from death–has become possible. (12.1.8.2; 12.1.8.3)

The prerequisite for receiving forgiveness of sins is belief in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. Recognition and confession of one's sins, as well as repentance, remorse, and the willingness to reconcile are also required. (12.1.8.4)

The recognition of one's own sinfulness is the prerequisite for repentance. This includes remorse and the endeavour to improve and change one's attitude. If their remorse and willingness to repent are genuine, believers may hope in God's grace. (12.1.8.5)

The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven. (12.1.8.6)

The forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed. This occurs through the absolution in the name of Jesus Christ and has its effects on all those who grasp it in faith. The authority to proclaim the absolution lies in the ministry of reconciliation, namely the Apostle ministry. (12.1.8.7)

The sins of those who grasp the absolution in faith are erased, and their guilt before God is annulled. The peace of Jesus Christ is assured them. (12.1.8.8)

12.1.9 Dispensation of the sacraments in the divine service Back to top

The dispensation of the sacraments is a central event in the divine service. The imparting of the sacraments allows believers to partake in the salvation and redemption made possible by Jesus Christ's incarnation, sacrificial death, and resurrection (see 8). They are holy acts performed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The sacramental acts of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Communion are performed by Apostles or priestly ministers in the commission of the Apostles, while Holy Sealing is dispensed solely by Apostles.

Holy Communion is celebrated in every divine service conducted by an Apostle or a priestly minister. On special occasions (such as weddings, funerals) verbal divine services are conducted without the celebration of Holy Communion.

The receiving of the consecrated wafer is preceded by the forgiveness of sins. This occurs in order to enable human beings to worthily partake in God's act of salvation effected by Jesus Christ, which becomes accessible through the sacrament.

At Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing, the participants in the divine service are witnesses to the sacramental acts of salvation and the vow of faithfulness made before God and the congregation by those receiving the sacrament.

All three sacraments are also accessible to children. Whenever possible, they participate in the celebration of Holy Communion in the divine service together with the congregation.

On Sundays and Christian holy days, the Chief Apostle and the District Apostles or Apostles commissioned by them also dispense this sacrament to the departed after the celebration of Holy Communion with the congregation. On such occasions, two ministers receive the body and blood of Christ on behalf of the departed. Three times a year, special divine services are held in which the Chief Apostle, the District Apostles, or the Apostles commissioned by them dispense all three sacraments to the departed. These sacraments are likewise administered to two ministers on behalf of the departed.

12.1.10 The closing benediction Back to top

At the end of the divine service, the blessing of the triune God is dispensed upon all those present. Together with the Trinitarian opening formula, the "closing benediction" comprises the framework which encompasses the divine service event and indicates that everything emanates from, and revolves around, the triune God. This blessing is pronounced over the congregation with the words recorded in 2 Corinthians 13: 13:

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!"

12.1.11 Acts of blessing in the sequence of the divine service Back to top

As a rule, the acts of blessing–with the exception of the prenatal blessing–take place within the divine service. Confirmation is directly linked to the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing. It is performed directly before the celebration of Holy Communion. All other acts of blessing take place after the celebration of Holy Communion.

The act of adopting guests–who have received a properly administered baptism with water in another church–into the congregation is to be understood as an act of blessing. In it, the individuals being adopted profess the New Apostolic faith, and they are granted admittance to regular participation in Holy Communion. The adoption is performed prior to the celebration of Holy Communion and in the name of the triune God.

In a broader sense, the dedication of a church building or other meeting place for the congregation is also to be counted as an act of blessing. It takes place before the actual sermon portion of the first divine service.

12.1.12 Ordinations, appointments, reinstatements, retirements Back to top

Ordination is the investiture of a spiritual ministry. It is, without exception, performed by an Apostle.

In terms of liturgy, an ordination follows the dispensation of the sacraments and takes place after the celebration of Holy Communion. After an address from the Apostle, those to be ordained are asked whether they accept the ministry and are prepared to exercise it in loyalty to God and the doctrine of Jesus, and in accordance with the New Apostolic Creed, in love for the believers, and in obedience to the Apostles of Jesus. They vow this before God, who calls them into His service, and before the congregation, with a "yes". Kneeling, they then receive the ministry through the laying on of hands and prayer of the Apostle.

The appointment to rectorship over a congregation or district–which is, as a rule, also performed by an Apostle–likewise occurs under the assurance of divine blessing. It is not to be equated with an ordination.

If a minister moves outside of the working area to which his ministerial commission applies, a reinstatement is needed in order for him to continue exercising his ministry in the new area. This reinstatement can be issued by the Apostle or by a minister commissioned by him.

As a rule, the active exercise of a ministry ends at retirement. This is generally performed by an Apostle in the divine service. The Apostle thanks the minister for all that has been accomplished in the spirit of the love of Christ, and relieves him of his active ministerial exercise.

SUMMARY Back to top

The sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Communion are dispensed by Apostles or priestly ministers in the commission of the Apostles. Holy Sealing is dispensed exclusively by Apostles. All three sacraments are also accessible to children. (12.1.9)

Holy Communion is generally celebrated in every divine service. On certain occasions (such as funerals) divine services are also conducted without the celebration of Holy Communion. (12.1.9)

At the end of the divine service, the blessing of the triune God is dispensed upon all present with the words taken from 2 Corinthians 13: 13. (12.1.10)

Ordinations, appointments, and retirements in the divine service occur following the dispensation of the sacraments. (12.1.12)

12.1.13 Divine services for the departed Back to top

Divine services for the departed take place three times a year, on the first Sunday of March, July, and November respectively. With this in mind, New Apostolic Christians also pray that souls who have died in an unredeemed state may find salvation in Christ.

God's will to redeem encompasses all human beings. Jesus Christ is Lord over both the dead and the living (Romans 14: 9).

Already in the congregation of Corinth, the living were baptised on behalf of the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 29).

This practice is continued in divine services for the departed conducted by the Chief Apostle and the District Apostles: in them, two ministers receive Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion on behalf of the dead. The sacraments are performed in the same manner as usual. In the other congregations, the departed are commemorated in a special prayer after the celebration of Holy Communion.

Divine services for the departed have an important place in the New Apostolic calendar. On the preceding Sunday, the congregations prepare themselves for this in a special divine service. Compassion and sympathy are to move their hearts to intercede for those who have died in an unredeemed state.

SUMMARY Back to top

Three times each year there are divine services for the departed. (12.1.13)

New Apostolic Christians pray that unredeemed departed souls may find salvation in Christ. (12.1.13)

12.1.14 Music in the divine service Back to top

The purpose of music in the divine service is to praise and honour God (Psalm 150). In the divine service, the role of music is always to serve, and it can serve multiple functions: it can deeply move the soul, prepare the congregation for the proclamation of the word, and underscore the word of God. Singing–be it by the congregation or the choir–and instrumental music expresses and imparts courage, strength, and confidence. In times of sadness and hardship, music can provide comfort. Not least of all, music fosters a sense of fellowship among listeners and musicians alike.

In order to reach out to all participants in the divine service, the Church's musical literature encompasses a multitude of categories, styles, and levels of difficulty. The Church, in its worldwide activity, endeavours to preserve and maintain the musical traditions of the various cultures both in the divine service and other Church events.

Music and silent worship before the divine service help those in attendance collect their thoughts and prepare the way for the proclamation of the word. At the beginning of the divine service, the congregation sings a hymn. Thereby all participants are actively included in the divine service experience. Before the celebration of Holy Communion, the congregation can attest to their feelings of repentance in an appropriate hymn. The singing of the hymn during the celebration of Holy Communion affords an opportunity to express feelings of love and gratitude towards Jesus Christ in response to receiving the sacrament.

Following the closing benediction, the divine service is concluded with the "threefold Amen" sung by the congregation. As a rule, a hymn is then sung either by the congregation or the choir or a musical piece is performed.

In this manner, the experience of the divine service can be deepened: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3: 16).

SUMMARY Back to top

Music in the divine service has the function of praising and glorifying God. It also has a serving function. (12.1.14)

12.2 Acts of blessing Back to top

In the New Apostolic Church, special blessings are dispensed for the following events in the lives of the believers: confirmation, engagement, weddings, and wedding anniversaries. These acts of blessing are, as a rule, performed during the divine service. The prenatal blessing is dispensed outside of the divine service.

During the dispensation of the blessing, God turns to sincerely longing souls and thereby brings to expression His favour upon them. Through Apostles and priestly ministers, God assures the believers of His help, grace, and compassion. An Old Testament model of such a blessing is the Aaronic blessing, which God commissioned the priests to dispense (Numbers 6: 24-26).

12.2.1 Prenatal blessing Back to top

Pregnancy and the birth of a child are experienced as a special phase of life by the parents. During this period of time they receive appropriate pastoral care.

Together the parents are responsible for this new life right from the start.

The prenatal blessing is dispensed as the first visible act of God upon a human being. The act of blessing is performed upon the mother at her request. Thereby God strengthens the mother in promoting and cultivating the prenatal development of her child in terms of its faith. The blessing also benefits the unborn soul and thereby imparts to the mother the certainty that both she and her child are secure in the hand of God.

For as long as the child develops within the body of the mother, it is connected to her in all things. It not only absorbs that which the mother supplies to her body, but the soul of the child is also influenced by that which the mother feels and experiences. Thus the mother can do a great deal to contribute to the beneficial prenatal development of her child by consciously involving the growing child in her life of faith.

The prenatal blessing is not associated with the promise of a problem-free pregnancy or the birth of a healthy child.

12.2.2 Confirmation Back to top

Confirmation (Latin confirmatio = "reinforcement", "affirmation") is that act of blessing in which young New Apostolic Christians take upon themselves the obligations which their parents undertook on their behalf at their baptism and sealing. From then on, these Christians, who have reached the age of spiritual majority, bear full responsibility before God for everything they do or neglect to do. They commit themselves to faithfulness to God and publicly profess the New Apostolic faith.

12.2.2.1 Age of confirmation and prerequisites Back to top

The age of confirmation varies. It depends on the religious maturity and/or the stage in life at which adolescents are generally able to assess the consequences of their actions on their own and assume responsibility for their life of faith.

Adolescents are brought up in the faith in their parental home, in divine service, and through religious education in the Church. Besides serving to prepare for confirmation, Confirmation Instruction–as the last phase of Church instruction–serves primarily to ensure that the confirmands

  • know the essential principles of our doctrine, in particular the ten Articles of Faith,

  • increasingly appreciate the value of faith,

  • earnestly endeavour to conduct their lives in accordance with the gospel, and

  • align their lives with the goal of faith, the return of Christ.

Attending the divine services and Confirmation Instruction is a prerequisite for being confirmed.

12.2.2.2 Confirmation vow and confirmation blessing Back to top

Confirmation is celebrated in the context of a divine service. First, the confirmands answer the question as to whether they intend to remain faithful to God with their "yes". Afterward they recite their confirmation vow together. This vow dates back to the text of an old baptismal liturgy from the third century. It is given before God and the congregation, and states the following:

"I renounce Satan and all his work and ways, and surrender myself to You, O triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in belief, obedience, and the earnest resolution to remain faithful to You until my end. Amen."

This brings to expression the principle that the confirmands will endeavour to avoid all evil and ungodly things, and diligently follow the path of the gospel. They profess belief in the triune God and announce their intention to conduct their lives in faith and obedience toward God.

After the prayer of the officiant, the young Christians receive the confirmation blessing, which is dispensed upon them through laying on of hands. This blessing strengthens the confirmands in their endeavour to keep their vow to profess Jesus Christ in word and deed.

12.2.3 Weddings, wedding anniversaries, and engagements Back to top

Marriage is the lifelong union of two people of opposite genders, as desired by God. It is based on an act of free will through which a man and a woman accept each other in their physical and spiritual personality. The Church's blessing is of great significance for the couple's future life together. The church wedding must be preceded by a civil or traditional marriage ceremony.

The public promise of fidelity expresses that, from now on, both partners wish to pursue and shape their path of life together. In the wedding ceremony, the marriage is placed under God's blessing.

12.2.3.1 The wedding blessing Back to top

The church wedding generally takes place in the context of a divine service. In the address before the wedding blessing, the couple is given instructions for a blessed matrimony. The officiant asks whether they intend to stand by each other in faithfulness under all circumstances and pursue their path of life together in love, under God's blessing. Both promise this, before God and the congregation, by saying yes. In order to keep this vow, they receive the blessing of the triune God.

Love for God and one another is an important prerequisite for keeping the blessing in their marriage undiminished, as well as for finding the strength to lead their life together in harmony and mastering difficult situations with God's help. Another important task for New Apostolic married couples is to support one another in reaching the goal of faith.

12.2.3.2 Blessing at wedding anniversaries Back to top

At the request of a married couple, a blessing is dispensed for the following wedding anniversaries:

  • silver wedding anniversary (25 years)

  • ruby wedding anniversary (40 years)

  • golden wedding anniversary (50 years)

  • diamond wedding anniversary (60 years)

  • iron wedding anniversary (65 years)

  • platinum wedding anniversary (70 years)

  • diamond anniversary blessing (75 years)

Again God's blessing is placed upon the marriage, and the married couple is commended to God's continuing care and guidance.

12.2.3.3 Engagement blessing Back to top

Engagement represents a serious promise of marriage. If desired, the engagement blessing can be dispensed during a divine service. The engaged couple publicly declares before the congregation their intent to prepare themselves for marriage in a manner pleasing to God. Upon this they receive the blessing of God.

SUMMARY Back to top

Special blessings are dispensed in the Church on distinctive occasions in the lives of the believers–for example, confirmations, engagements, weddings, and wedding anniversaries. (12.2)

The prenatal blessing is dispensed as the first visible act of God upon a human being. The blessing serves to the benefit of both the mother and her child. (12.2.1)

At confirmation, young Christians pledge their faithfulness to God and publicly profess the New Apostolic faith. The confirmation vow is given before God and the congregation. The confirmation blessing is then to accompany and strengthen the confirmands in keeping their vow. (12.2.2; 12.2.2.2)

Couples who wish to be married make a vow before God and the congregation to support one another in mutual faithfulness and pursue their path of life together in love. To this end they receive the wedding blessing. Upon request, the matrimonial bond is blessed anew at specific wedding anniversaries. (12.2.3; 12.2.3.1; 12.2.3.2)

12.2.4 Dedication of church buildings Back to top

A newly constructed church building is dedicated during the first divine service held there. Aside from the act of dedication–in most cases conducted by the District Apostle or the Apostle–the order of the dedication service corresponds to that of other divine services.

The dedication service is based upon a Bible text that is in keeping with the occasion. The introductory words of the officiant express gratitude to God. In most cases, thanks is also expressed to the members for their willingness to make sacrifices, thus enabling the church to be built, as well as to all those who worked on its construction. The congregation's historical development is likewise addressed.

In the dedication prayer, the house of God is dedicated to its sacred purpose in the name of the triune God. Thus the new church is consecrated as a place where the Holy Spirit reveals Himself. Here the word of God will henceforth be proclaimed, and here the sacraments will be dispensed. All activities performed in this house are to serve for the perfection of souls longing for salvation, and to prepare them for the return of Jesus Christ. The church building and all who gather there are commended to God's protection and to the service of His angels.

The dedicated church is now a place for the worship of God and a sanctuary for those who seek salvation. It serves to offer them divine comfort, strength of faith, and peace of the soul in the divine services.

When a church building is no longer to be used for divine services, there is a divine service to deconsecrate the building. In this final divine service, the purpose of the church building as a holy place of divine activity, as imparted in the dedication, is lifted. After its deconsecration, it is once again a regular building, which can be used for another purpose.

SUMMARY Back to top

At the dedication service, the building is assigned its sacred purpose in the name of the triune God and dedicated as a place of the Holy Spirit's revelation. (12.2.4)

When a church building is no longer used for divine services, there is a divine service to deconsecrate the building. (12.2.4)

12.3 The church funeral Back to top

The death of a loved one causes pain and grief for the bereaved. In this situation, they feel the consolation expressed in the loving care of those around them. The funeral service, a divine service with its own specific character, serves to provide comfort and strength for the bereaved. However, the word proclaimed is also directed at the immortal soul of the deceased, which is now commended to the grace of God.

The mourners assembled for the funeral service surround the bereaved to demonstrate their sympathy and impart a feeling of security. Furthermore, last respects are paid to the deceased.

Like all divine services, the funeral service is characterised by the activity of the Holy Spirit. The word awakened by the Spirit conveys divine comfort for both the bereaved and the mourning congregation. This comfort consists primarily of hope in the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead in Christ associated with it, and the future reunion with them (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18). The bereaved also find comfort in the certainty of meeting with the departed again in the beyond.

The life of the deceased is usually eulogised in an appropriate manner during the funeral service.

With solemn words, the soulless body of the deceased is surrendered to the earth (Genesis 3: 19). The soul and spirit are commended to the grace and mercy of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, with the blessed reassurance that He may preserve them until the resurrection to eternal life.

Funeral customs, as well as the significance accorded to the funeral service, may vary from country to country. The question as to whether, and in what manner, a body is interred is of no consequence for the resurrection of the deceased.

SUMMARY Back to top

The church funeral serves to comfort and strengthen the bereaved. Above all, this comfort is rooted in the hope of the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead in Christ. (12.3)

The soulless body of the deceased is interred, but the soul and spirit are commended to the grace of God. (12.3)

Whether and in what manner a body is interred is of no consequence for the resurrection. (12.3)

12.4 Pastoral care Back to top

The accounts of Jesus' conduct allow us to understand the significance of pastoral care. Without regard for the person, He turned to sinners and allowed them to feel His love. He listened, helped, comforted, counselled, admonished, strengthened, prayed, and taught.

Jesus came for all human beings, but not all of them accept Him. His own have been entrusted to Him by the Father. He seeks to protect and preserve all those in His care and does not want to lose any of them (John 17: 12).

Jesus Christ's words and deeds are the perfect model for pastoral care. Every minister is to take example in this from the Son of God.

To this end, Jesus gives us the image of the good shepherd, who knows his own, talks to them, and leads them: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. ... My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10: 11, 27-28).

From this we derive that ministers have the task of "tending" the flock of Christ and of preparing them for the return of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. They do this "willingly" and "eagerly" (1 Peter 5: 2-4).

Beyond that, pastoral care is also the task of the entire congregation. This also relates to practical help in life. Here the words apply: "... for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me" (Matthew 25: 35-36).

The objective of pastoral care in the New Apostolic Church is to support our neighbour on the path that leads to redemption from sin and death, and into the image of Christ. The foundation for this and the ability to do this can be only found in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The earnest endeavour of the believers to grow into the nature of Christ is supported by sensitive pastoral care.

According to Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus gave His Apostles the commission to care for sinners through His merit and allow them to experience reconciliation with God. Apostle Paul stresses this aspect of the apostolic commission to care for souls: "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5: 20).

The Apostles and the ministers commissioned by them have the task of helping the believers to become prepared and worthy for the return of Christ. Until then they will accompany those entrusted to them with pastoral care on their personal path through the most diverse circumstances of life.

SUMMARY Back to top

Jesus' words and deeds serve as examples in pastoral care. (12.4)

The objective of pastoral care is to support the believers and prepare them for the return of Christ. The ministers provide care for the souls entrusted to them in the most diverse situations of life. (12.4)

Pastoral care–which also relates to practical help in life–is a task for the entire congregation. (12.4)

12.4.1 Instruction of children Back to top

Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127: 3) and should be brought up and cared for by the parents to the best of their ability. Parents give all their love to the child.

Already in the Old Testament, the Lord commands parents to instruct their children about His deeds and ordinances. This is part of a conscientious upbringing: "For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments ..." (Psalm 78: 5-7; cf. Deuteronomy 6: 6-7; 11: 18-19).

This directive concerning the religious upbringing of children, established by God, is still an obligation today. In awareness of the responsibilities resulting from this, parents are charged with the task of guiding their children in self-responsible conduct in accordance with the basic values of the gospel. This includes instructing them to love God and their neighbour. They are also required to be examples to them in prayer life and in faithful offering.

It is an important task of the ministers and teachers to support parents in these responsibilities, so that the children can grow up as convinced New Apostolic Christians.

This objective is also supported by children's services, which are conducted in many District Churches. In these special services, the growing children feel the nearness of God and are instructed in faith in a child-appropriate manner.

12.4.1.1 Church instruction Back to top

Church instruction provides guidance for our children and adolescents in leading their lives in awareness of their responsibility before God. The cultivation of fellowship and the feeling of belonging is an important objective.

The teaching material is adapted to suit the children's respective ages and stages of development, while the learning objective is determined by the gospel.

Teachers are trained for this task and supported in their activities.

12.4.1.1.1 Pre-Sunday School Back to top

Wherever possible, Pre-Sunday School is conducted for pre-school age children in the congregations, either before, during, or after Sunday divine service. It has the stated objective of instructing children about God and His activity at their level. In this manner, a trusting relationship with God and Jesus Christ can come into being and grow within the children, and they will feel: "God loves me! I can tell Him anything. I can trust Him."

The prime objective of Pre-Sunday School is not to impart knowledge. Rather, it should impart a feeling of security, and instil joy of faith in the children's hearts.

12.4.1.1.2 Sunday School Back to top

Children attend Sunday School when they begin school or reach school age. This class is also conducted either before, during, or after the Sunday divine service.

The objectives of Sunday School are:

  • to awaken and strengthen joy in fellowship with God's children and in the divine service,

  • to impart understanding of God's activities through Bible stories,

  • to reinforce belief in divine promises,

  • to explain to the children the sequence of the divine service, the meaning of the sacraments and acts of blessing, and the significance of Christian holy days.

The teachers help the children to link the knowledge they acquire with their own experiences: that which the children can comprehend in the context of their own experiences can become a guide for their path of life. However, this result can only be achieved if the parents fulfil their responsibility for the religious upbringing of their children.

Thus both parents and teachers work together in acquainting the children with God and His works.

The children partake of Holy Communion in the congregation on a regular basis. From time to time, however, a priestly minister will celebrate Holy Communion in the circle of the children.

12.4.1.1.3 Religious Instruction Back to top

Religious Instruction builds upon Sunday School. It imparts knowledge about biblical history, the emergence and spread of Christianity in general, and the New Apostolic Church in particular, in an age-appropriate way. It reinforces the children's awareness that they are part of God's work of redemption, thereby promoting a willingness to help along in the completion of the work of God. On the basis of the gospel, the children are to be led into "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4: 13-14).

In Religious Instruction, they will learn from the accounts of human experiences with God: the history of salvation of both old and new time periods is discussed in reference to the life of faith of the children. Contents of faith are deepened, knowledge is promoted, and the interconnections within God's plan of salvation are explained. In this manner enduring values are imparted. Furthermore, Religious Instruction should enable pupils to freely profess their faith.

12.4.1.1.4 Confirmation Instruction Back to top

The content of Confirmation Instruction focuses primarily upon the Creed and the Ten Commandments. Adolescents are thereby prepared for their confirmation day divine service, when they will give their vow of faithfulness to God before the congregation and take upon themselves the full responsibility for their life of faith as Christians who have come of age.

12.4.2 Youth care Back to top

Pastoral care and support for our young brothers and sisters is a special focus in the work of our Church.

12.4.2.1 The situation of young people Back to top

Young people find themselves in a transition from childhood–during which the course of their lives is significantly determined by their parents–to a self-determined adulthood. Most adolescents experience this as a difficult phase of life. They search for their own goals and standards in life, while critically scrutinising the existing values and norms of their environment. Thus young believers, particularly in the industrialised world, also find themselves caught between the standards of the gospel and the various religious and ethical views of what is, in many parts of the world, an increasingly secularised society. Young people are witnessing the marginalisation of the Christian faith and how churches are losing their significance. Increasingly, churches are becoming anonymous institutions and are no longer accepted as a moral authority. Beyond that, young people often find themselves under the pressure of a secular environment. They must also make choices out of a flood of information and a broad spectrum of potential leisure activities.

12.4.2.2 Goal of youth care Back to top

An important goal of youth care in the New Apostolic Church is the cultivation of fellowship among one another. Beyond that, the young people are to be firmly anchored in the values of the Christian faith and are to be inspired by them so that they may serve as the foundation for making decisions in their lives.

Pastoral care for our youth is intended to help them develop into personalities with strength of faith and a sense of responsibility.

12.4.2.3 Offers in youth care Back to top

Our youth receive age-appropriate care and support, however, they do not form a separate group within the congregation. They are encouraged to become involved in the congregation's many activities after confirmation, and to practise, profess, and stand up for their faith in their surroundings.

Youth leaders, who are trained and supported for their work by the Church, assist our young members at the congregational and district levels. They stand by them as personal contacts for confidential conversations in various situations of life as well as for questions of faith.

In many District Churches the offer to the young people also includes an annual youth weekend, as well as divine services for the youth on a district level. Youth meetings provide an opportunity for conversations about questions of faith and life in general, as well as a chance to exchange information and ideas.

Committed young brothers and sisters will find multiple opportunities to engage their gifts and talents both within and outside of the congregation, and thereby fulfil the call to love their neighbour.

SUMMARY Back to top

Parents should teach their children to act in personal responsibility in accordance with the fundamental values of the gospel. It is the task of the ministers and Church teachers to support the parents in this effort. (12.4.1)

In divine services for children the young believers feel the nearness of God and are supported in faith in child-appropriate fashion. (12.4.1)

In the various levels of Church instruction the children are taught to lead their lives in awareness of their responsibility before God (12.4.1.1)

In Pre-Sunday School children who are not yet of school age are introduced to faith in child-appropriate fashion. (12.4.1.1.1)

In Sunday School, children are given insight into God's activity by way of biblical stories. Other points of emphasis in content include: the sequence of the divine services, the significance of the sacraments and acts of blessing, as well as Christian holy days. (12.4.1.1.2)

In Religious Instruction, age-appropriate knowledge is imparted concerning the stories of the Bible and the origin, development, and spread of the church of Christ. The history of salvation is also addressed with reference to the life of faith of the children. (12.4.1.1.3)

Confirmation Instruction prepares adolescents to take over responsibility for their life of faith as Christians who have come of age. (12.4.1.1.4)

Young people receive special pastoral care. The objective is to strengthen them in the values of the Christian faith. They are to develop into personalities who are aware of their responsibility to God, who practise their faith, and who profess it. (12.4.2; 12.4.2.1; 12.4.2.2)

12.4.3 The pastoral care visit Back to top

Every New Apostolic Christian is offered personal pastoral care.

This care is modelled on the example given by Jesus. For example, He often visited Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. From this a special relationship of trust developed between them: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11: 5). Likewise Jesus' visit to Zacchaeus in Jericho was characterised by His serving and helping love: "And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house'" (Luke 19: 5). This visit resulted in blessing: "And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house'" (Luke 19: 9).

Today we derive the significance and purpose of pastoral care visits from what has been handed down to us about Jesus. All members of the congregation have a Priest who is responsible for their personal pastoral care and also for these visits, during which he is usually supported by a Deacon.

The principal focus in this effort of caring for our brothers and sisters is the endeavour to deepen their love for God and His work, cultivate their life of faith, and enhance their understanding of God's activity. This is primarily done by way of discussions about matters of faith.

Believers receive special care in all circumstances of life in that they are supported by the ministers in their concerns and questions during the pastoral care visit. Thereby the relationship of trust between the minister and the believers is strengthened. The degree to which brothers and sisters accept the advice they are given remains at their discretion. Personal responsibility, which is incumbent upon every New Apostolic Christian, is respected and encouraged. It goes without saying that pastoral care visits are not made to members against their will.

Praying together is an important element in the pastoral care visit. Beyond that, the members benefit from the intercessory support of their minister.

Special care is given to those who are bereaved and grieving. In cases of sickness, which are particularly burdensome, both physically and psychologically, New Apostolic Christians receive special attention through visits either at home or in hospital. The responsible minister visits sick members and shows his sympathy for their condition. He strengthens their faith, provides comfort, and brings their concerns before the Lord in prayer. If possible, he celebrates Holy Communion with them. In the same manner, elderly, sick, and handicapped members who are no longer able to attend divine service are visited regularly.

Believers who cannot be visited, or only visited in limited capacity–for example sailors, soldiers, or inmates–often also receive pastoral care in the form of written correspondence.

Especially in modern society, which is increasingly characterised by loneliness, isolation, and the marginalisation of many people, New Apostolic Christians receive care and support from their ministers in their daily lives.

SUMMARY Back to top

New Apostolic Christians are also offered personal pastoral care through visits. (12.4.3)

An important element in the pastoral care visit is praying together. The personal responsibility of the individual is respected and encouraged. (12.4.3)

Pastoral care is provided especially to those who have come into situations of suffering, grief, or need. (12.4.3)

12.4.4 Confession Back to top

In religious language, "confession" refers to the acknowledgement of sins or the admission of one's guilt in the presence of a clergyman. This is subject to a strict obligation of confidentiality.

No confession is needed for the forgiveness of sins. Nevertheless, if someone is unable to find peace on account of certain especially burdensome events, he has the option of turning directly to the Apostle and confessing to him in person or in writing.

In cases of special urgency in which the Apostle cannot be reached–for example in the case of the dying–any priestly minister can, as an exception, take the confession and proclaim absolution. The Apostle will be informed about this act immediately thereafter.

SUMMARY Back to top

In religious language, confession is an acknowledgement of sins or an admission of guilt in the presence of a clergyman. (12.4.4)

No such confession is necessary for forgiveness of sins. Nevertheless, if an individual is unable to find inner peace, he can turn to the Apostle and confess before him. (12.4.4)

In exceptional cases, any priestly minister can take confession. (12.4.4)

12.4.5 Support in death and grieving Back to top

Physical death, the end of earthly life, produces anxiety. Death causes pain and suffering for the dying as well as for those close to them. Both the dying and their loved ones require support and comfort.

12.4.5.1 Caring for the terminally ill and dying Back to top

Many people suppress the thought of dying and death and therefore avoid any dealings with the terminally ill. This can have various reasons, for example fear of the questions the dying person may ask, or the knowledge of the limited nature of earthly existence.

The death of another person is a reminder of one's own mortality. Often people are overwhelmed when it comes to providing help through love and care to the dying. However, this is exactly what a person near death requires the most. He may be afraid of uncontrollable pain and suffering, an agonising death, the psychological, physical, and perhaps even financial burdens imposed on his relatives, the consequences of the life he has led, uncertainty, and the end of his existence.

Belief in the living God grants a kind of certainty that extends beyond earthly life, namely the assurance of eternal life. This makes it easier to take leave and commend oneself completely to the grace of God.

A New Apostolic Christian who lives his faith does not face death unprepared. On the one hand, he knows that his soul will continue to live. On the other hand, he believes in the resurrection of the dead and in eternal life in everlasting fellowship with the triune God. Grasping grace through Jesus' sacrifice has liberated him from sin. He has been reborn out of water and the spirit. He has the promise of eternal life (Romans 6: 22).

In dying it is a special comfort to know that through grace he has become free from the power of sin, and, with a view to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, has been destined for eternal life with Jesus Christ (Romans 6: 8-11).

Ultimately, however, even believers remain afraid of dying and death. This fear must therefore be taken seriously and not be considered a sign of insufficient faith. It is important to keep alive the hope in eternal life with God and the comfort associated with this. The dying person need not be provided with conclusive answers to questions concerning the meaning of life, suffering, or death. Providing support to a dying person entails, first and foremost, accepting him with all his fears and needs. One should be close to the dying person on his difficult path and also admit one's own fears and weaknesses. By humbly acknowledging the magnitude of the inevitable end of human life, it is possible to achieve a truly supportive connection which the dying person can most certainly feel.

The assurance of a reunion with those who have preceded us into the beyond provides support to the dying person during this phase of taking leave.

Part of this support for the dying is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and the peace of the Risen One, as well as the celebration of Holy Communion. Partaking in the Lord's body and blood grants the dying person fellowship of life with the Son of God. In this manner, the dying person is comforted and strengthened, making it easier for him to proceed on the difficult path awaiting him.

It is also important to provide care for the relatives. They must come to terms with the loss of a loved one and cope with their feelings and thoughts during this phase. It is strengthening for relatives to be given due recognition for all that which they were able to do for the sick and dying person.

12.4.5.2 Support for the bereaved Back to top

Grieving must be allowed, and the bereaved must also be offered support by the minister. It is important to visit the bereaved, to express one's sympathy for them, and to pray with them. It is frequently difficult to reach the heart of a mourner at all. Ultimately, this will not succeed without the endeavour to empathise with the bereaved.

Providing comfort for relatives through pastoral care may require weeks and months, and might in some cases even continue for years after the death of a beloved family member.

Often there is a fear of saying the wrong words to the bereaved and thereby reopen wounds. It is important to impart a feeling of genuine sympathy. Despite possible reservations, persons close to the bereaved–relatives, brethren in faith, friends, and ministers–should reach out to the bereaved. "Fail not to be with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn" (Ecclesiasticus 7:34).

12.4.5.3 Coping with grief Back to top

Support for the bereaved and coping with grief belong together. Support for the bereaved serves to encourage the bereaved to speak about their loss and express their feelings. It should be possible for the bereaved to speak with the minister openly about their sadness, fear, anger, feelings of resentment toward God, and feelings of guilt. At such moments in particular, it is the minister's task to remind the bereaved of the positive and cheering experiences they enjoyed with the departed.

In fellowship with other mourners, the bereaved feel understood and accepted in their grief.

Making the bereaved aware that Jesus Christ also suffered and died is helpful in coping with grief. The resurrection of the dead is also based on the resurrection of Jesus. He shares in Christ's victory over death: "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14: 7-9).

SUMMARY Back to top

The dying and their loved ones need support and comfort. (12.4.5)

Faith imparts the certainty of eternal life and eases the process of dying and taking leave. (12.4.5.1)

A dying person's fear of death must be taken seriously and not interpreted as a sign of lacking faith. (12.4.5.1)

A special element of pastoral care for the dying is the celebration of Holy Communion with their minister. (12.4.5.1)

Grieving must be allowed. Grieving individuals are offered pastoral care. This may well extend over several years. The important thing is to visit those who are grieving and impart to them the feeling of genuine sympathy. (12.4.5.2)

Pastoral care for the grieving serves to encourage them to talk about their loss and give expression to their feelings. In coping with grief it is helpful to be reminded that Jesus Christ also suffered and died. (12.4.5.3)

12.5 Church holy days Back to top

Church holy days refer to particular events in God's plan of salvation. These events are commemorated with reverence and gratitude.

The New Apostolic Church celebrates the following holy days, the importance of which is emphasised by a special divine service. Regional differences are taken into account.

12.5.1 Christmas Back to top

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and thus refers to one of the central events in the history of salvation: Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born by the virgin Mary. Through the appearance of Christ on earth, God abased Himself by taking on flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1: 14). The manifold promises in the Old Testament in reference to the expected Messiah were thereby fulfilled. Our commemoration of this miracle of the first coming of the Son of God, which cannot be grasped by the intellect, also reinforces our belief in His imminent return.

12.5.2 Palm Sunday Back to top

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Passion Week. This festive day reminds us of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on the occasion of the Jewish feast of Passover: in fulfilment of a prophecy by Zechariah, the Lord entered the city riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9: 9). He was triumphantly received by the people, who professed that Jesus was the Messiah and Saviour by shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Matthew 21: 9).

12.5.3 Good Friday Back to top

On Good Friday, we commemorate the crucifixion and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Since His sacrifice, suffering, and death are of central importance to the history of salvation, several languages also refer to this day as "Holy Friday". Through His sacrificial death, the Son of God broke Satan's power and overcame death (Hebrews 2: 14). Being without sin, He took mankind's sin upon Himself and, through His blood, obtained the merit by which all sin and guilt can be paid. There is no clearer proof of God's love for mankind than Jesus' sacrifice (1 John 4: 9-10). The events of Good Friday marked a turning point in God's plan of salvation: the old covenant was concluded and the new covenant began. When the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two at Christ's death, it became clear that God had now granted mankind salvation and fellowship with Himself.

12.5.4 Easter Back to top

This feast is a commemoration of the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ took place on the first day of the week, on Sunday. Therefore the early Christians celebrated Holy Communion in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection on the first day of every week. Later on, a specific Sunday–in the Western Church the first Sunday following the first full moon in spring–was chosen to mark the annual celebration of the feast of Easter.

Jesus' resurrection took place without any human witnesses. It is a miracle and a mystery. Holy Scripture, however, gives account of many who saw the Risen One. Immediately after His resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene and other women, to the Apostles Peter and John, as well as to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. On the evening of the day He resurrected, Jesus came and stood in the midst of His Apostles. Furthermore, Apostle Paul spoke of over five hundred brethren who had seen the Risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed in the teaching of the Apostles right from the start as the core element of the gospel. It is the foundation of hope for life eternal. Jesus Christ made it possible to undo both death and mankind's separation from God. Belief in the resurrection of "Christ the firstfruits" from the dead is the basis for our belief in the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living upon His return.

12.5.5 Ascension Day Back to top

Jesus Christ referred to His return to the Father in various ways (John 3: 13; 16: 28; 20: 17). On the fortieth day after Easter, He, together with His Apostles, went to the mount called Olivet and gave them instructions for their mission. Then "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." From two angels the Apostles received the promise: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1: 3-11). This promise is also reflected in the New Apostolic Creed: "I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as sure as he ascended to heaven."

12.5.6 Pentecost Back to top

On Pentecost we commemorate the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out. We also speak of Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit was revealed and as the "birthday of the church of Christ". The sending of the Holy Spirit–fifty days after Jesus' resurrection–had been promised by the Son of God to His Apostles in His farewell discourses. A large number of believing men and women had contact with the Apostles in Jerusalem. The miracle of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is recorded in Acts 2: 1 et seq. The Apostles and the believers gathered with them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter, the rock appointed by Jesus Christ, preached a powerful sermon which centred on the crucified and risen Christ, who had ascended into heaven. Thereupon some 3,000 people were added to the church. Thus Pentecost is also a model for sermons inspired by the Spirit and for the growth of the church through the activity of the Apostles. Moreover, Pentecost is a feast of joy over the Holy Spirit's presence and activity in the church.

12.5.7 Thanksgiving Day Back to top

Thanksgiving Day commemorates the creatorship of God. On one Sunday of the year–Thanksgiving Sunday–a divine service is held in which gratitude is expressed for God's faithfulness to His creation. On this occasion, believers are called to bring a special offering of thanks.

12.5.8 Structure of divine services on religious holy days Back to top

The liturgy of the divine services on the above-mentioned religious holidays corresponds to that of regular divine services that include the celebration of Holy Communion. Beyond that, it may include Bible readings that deal with the respective event in salvation history. The proclamation of the word makes reference to the events of salvation history described in Scripture and to their significance for the present and for the salvation of mankind.