Christian worship, or cultus, is the public adoration of God in the name of Christ; the celebration of the communion of believers as a congregation with their heavenly Head, for the glory of the Lord, and for the promotion and enjoyment of spiritual life. While it aims primarily at the devotion and edification of the church itself, it has at the same time a missionary character, and attracts the outside world. This was the case on the Day of Pentecost when Christian worship in its distinctive character first appeared.
As our Lord himself in his youth and manhood worshipped in the synagogue and the temple, so did his early disciples as long as they were tolerated. Even Paul preached Christ in the synagogues of Damascus, Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Amphipolis, Beraeea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus. He |reasoned with the Jews every sabbath in the synagogues| which furnished him a pulpit and an audience.
The Jewish Christians, at least in Palestine, conformed as closely as possible to the venerable forms of the cultus of their fathers, which in truth were divinely ordained, and were an expressive type of the Christian worship. So far as we know, they scrupulously observed the Sabbath, the annual Jewish feasts, the hours of daily prayer, and the whole Mosaic ritual, and celebrated, in addition to these, the Christian Sunday, the death and the resurrection of the Lord, and the holy Supper. But this union was gradually weakened by the stubborn opposition of the Jews, and was at last entirely broken by the destruction of the temple, except among the Ebionites and Nazarenes.
In the Gentile-Christian congregations founded by Paul, the worship took from the beginning a more independent form. The essential elements of the Old Testament service were transferred, indeed, but divested of their national legal character, and transformed by the spirit of the gospel. Thus the Jewish Sabbath passed into the Christian Sunday; the typical Passover and Pentecost became feasts of the death and resurrection of Christ, and of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; the bloody sacrifices gave place to the thankful remembrance and appropriation of the one, all-sufficient, and eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and to the personal offering of prayer, intercession, and entire self-consecration to the service of the Redeemer; on the ruins of the temple made without hands arose the never ceasing worship of the omnipresent God in spirit and in truth. So early as the close of the apostolic period this more free and spiritual cultus of Christianity had no doubt become well nigh universal; yet many Jewish elements, especially in the Eastern church, remain to this day.