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Welcome Back! We’re continuing our overview look at the Didache. Last week we talked about the first 6 Chapters of the Didache which are an early church catechism. This week we are going to look at the second part, which is directions on how to do church stuff like fasting, prayer and the Eucharist. Next week well get into the later chapters that deal with itinerant prophets and pastors. This makes up chapters 7 – 16. While this may sound like a lot, the Didache is only 20 pages total, but each thought is laid out in the translation as a chapter which isn’t found in the original text but makes it easier to find subjects or heading like the translations of the bible.
Again, I’m not going to go line by line, but there is a lot of good stuff in here. I just want to hit some highlights of each section and try to relay how we can use the Didache today.
Let’s Get To It!
Chapter 7 is on Baptism
After the person had been taught everything in the first six chapters, they are ready to be baptized. That is another point we fall short on today. We either rush people to get baptized out of fear of eternal damnation, or teach them the history of our church and basic beliefs. The teaching in the Didache was a requirement. The early church wanted to make sure people understood what they expected of them before they were baptized. I don’t even qualify to be baptized by their standards.
They weren’t interested in numbers. They were interested in the truth of the gospel and making sure the community would last. If Jimmy got baptized, he stood a good chance of being killed, or at least ostracized by his family and friends.
I also love this section on baptism because it starts out with a strict, ”Baptize in cold running water,” then goes to you can use lukewarm water and if you don’t have running water pour it over their head. Finally, just use what you have because how you baptize isn’t as important as why. Make sure they know the gospel and then baptize them.
Chapter 8 fasting and prayer
While fasting is prescribed still by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, most protestant churches don’t have set guidelines for fasting and some church bodies reject it completely. The writer of the Didache presumes people in the church fasted and gives the guideline of fasting on Wednesday and Friday instead of Tuesday and Thursday like the Pharisees. The author gives no other restrictions and I assume this is because anyone who read the document would know how to fast because they did it regularly.
What he does do is give some direction on praying. He says we should pray the Lord’s prayer three times each day. This could be the first establishment of what the church calls today, praying the daily cycle, or the hours, or the watches. All of which are a set time throughout the day. Some churches have set prayers for the daily cycle, and the Lord’s Prayer is included in these set prayers.
Chapters 9 and 10 The Eucharist
The Eucharist is only for those baptized into the church. Orthodox and Catholic churches still follow this practice and maybe some protestants, but today just about anyone can show up to most protestant churches and receive communion. As a former protestant we did this, I think for two reasons. First, communion is not looked at as the Real Body and Blood of Christ. It is a symbol of what Christ did for us, and it is done in remembrance of his death on the cross. This remembrance view opens up to the second reason, which is inclusion. Today most people in America believe they are Christians and when they go to church, they take communion if it is offered. We didn’t want to turn people away because there may be an opportunity for evangelism if they weren’t actually members of the church. Again, these are my two thoughts on this. There may be many others so leave me a note in the comments or go to the Spiritual Teamwork website and leave them there.
Orthodox and Catholic churches practice closed communion for two general and opposite reasons from protestants. They believe that the Eucharist is the Real Body and Blood of Christ, and for that reason only those Baptised into the Body of Christ are allowed to partake. Which is what the author of the Didache is saying? Second, following Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 11:27-30.
‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. ‘
The first time I visited an Orthodox church, a guy told me how silly he thought closed communion was. Well, it’s not from the Orthodox point of view. According to Paul’s teaching, if you are not right with Christ and take the Eucharist, it can kill you. This is the Body and Blood of Christ and is due our utmost honor and respect.
This goes back to the time the Didache was written. The Christian community didn’t want people coming and going. They wanted you to be sold out because this could literally cost you your life. They taught converts how to live a Christian life before they let them get baptized and they didn’t want just anyone taking the Eucharist. This was a secret society in every sense of the word because they Loved Christ so much they didn’t want anyone defaming His name.
That’s all for this week. We’ll pick up next time and talk about this community of believers and how to determine who is a real prophet or apostle and who is not. Thanks for listening, See you next week.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30