By Gary Summers
A November 5 news story, written by Aron Heller of the Associated Press, is titled “Archaeologists Discover Ancient Church.” Of course, the reference is to an ancient building, estimated to have been in existence in the fourth century. The actual ancient church, the one Jesus established, dates back to the first century, and it is still in existence (Mat. 16:18; Acts 20:28). That building consists of living stones.
Yotam Tepper is the lead archaeologist of the dig “on the grounds of a prison near the biblical site of Armageddon, “ in northern Galilee, Those working for 1 ½ years on this project have discovered the floor of a building, and pictures were taken and released by the Israel Antiquities Authority. One picture shows a Mosaic in the floor of two fish, which were symbols of Christianity in the early centuries after its establishment (perhaps based on Jesus telling the disciples that He would make them “fishers of men.”
Far more explicit, however, is one of the inscriptions on the floor of this fairly large church building. Michelle Chabin notes that the writing says the structure was dedicated to “The God Jesus Christ as a memorial.” there were various geometric patterns but no crosses in the floor.
Of what significance might this find be? It shows that those in the early 300s believed that (1) Jesus lived; (2) that He was God in the flesh; and (3) that He was worthy of remembrance. What a coincidence! The Bible teaches the same thing! In fact, the Word says that brethren were “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13). It should not be surprising that the church had not lost sight of this crucial doctrine - the Deity of Christ - since they were persecuted, tortured, and killed rather than deny Him (Mat. 10:32-33). Other doctrines may have weakened, but this central truth of Christianity remained firm.
Technically, there is nothing wrong with dedicating a church building to the One through whom we worship God - the One who is mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5). Probably the motives of these early Christians were pure, but there are two better ways of remembering Him.
The first way to remember Him is the way He showed the disciples on the night He was betrayed. He wanted them to eat the bread, representing His body, and to drink the cup, representing His blood, in remembrance of Him. This we do each Lord’s day, just as our brethren in the first century did. Jesus did not ask to be remembered by church buildings or other monuments made out of brick and stone which could be bombed into oblivion. He did not ask to be remembered by crucifixes or other religious paraphernalia that smacks of idolatry. He chose two items easily accessible and extremely perishable which would remind us of His sacrifice for our sins. Lest we think, because our sins are forgiven, that we now walk according to our own goodness and righteousness (which is still as filthy rags - Isa. 64:6), we have been given a weekly reminder that we always stand in need of - in order to appreciate our Savior.
The second way we can remember Jesus is in the way that we live. Certainly, we must avoid being forgetful hearers (Jam. 1:25) and must let our light shine in the world of lost men and women (Mat. 5;16). Paul told the Corinthians: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2). In our conduct, our actions - even our attitudes, we must reflect to others Godlikeness.
When they look at us and how we behave, they should see a reasonable facsimile of our Heavenly Father. We observe the way in which Jesus dealt with others; these manners and ways of thinking should be incorporated into our lives. We have a Divine memorial to observe. We have Divine commandments to keep. Doing both will bring honor to Jesus.
- Gary Summers; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC. Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org