I am interested in the theme of Christian liturgy. From what I know, the Orthodox and Evangelical churches consider that the Decalogue has been surpassed by the New Testament (even though the New Testament reinforced the Decalogue). I want to know about the liturgical method of the Old Testament, is it still valid today? How does the liturgy of the Old Testament differ from what we have today?
Holy Liturgy is the central focus of the services in the Orthodox Church. Here is a definition given by an Orthodox priest, Stephan Fotache:
The name comes from the Greek “leitourghia” and means job function, an activity serving the public interest (from the words “leitos” – people and “ergon” – work). In the West, liturgy means the general congregational meeting of the Church. In Orthodoxy, liturgy is the act of reenacting the sacrifice and the power of the Savior Christ on Calvary through the Holy Spirit. In Catholicism this is known as “Missa”.
The Decalogue does not deal with the subject of liturgy, but instead, It deals with the 10 commandments given to Israel by God on Mt. Sinai. Neither the Orthodox Church nor Evangelical Christians consider the Decalogue obsolete.
In view of the style of worship of the people of Israel, worship which was instituted by God in the Old Testament, all of the aspects of this worship were a shadow of the good things to come in Jesus Christ, the One who brought salvation to this world. The form of worship described in the Old Testament is no longer valid because Jesus Christ has already come to this earth, was sacrificed for our sins, and through faith in Him, each person has the ability to enter into the presence of God. Look at what is written in the epistle to the Hebrews:
1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins ? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR 6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. 7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’ ” 8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law ), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins ; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD : I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says, 17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:1-22)
I did not really understand what you meant with your last question about the difference between those who worship according to the Old Testament and those who worship in the Evangelical and Orthodox churches. I assume what you meant by wrote you wrote with the phrase, “they have liturgy and have sermons”. That is not exactly true. Sermons are also part of Orthodox liturgy. Also, Orthodox liturgy has 3 parts to it and in the second part is called “liturgy for catechumens”. This means that they preach and explain passages from the Bible. In the Evangelical churches, preaching and explaining the Scriptures is emphasized more.
Translation by: Erik Brewer