12.1.3 Divine service in the New Testament

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).