This week, as I was preparing my sermon, I found myself reading the Didache. What is the Didache? Pronounced “Did-Ah-Kay,” the Didache is a church manual that appeared in the early years of the church. Didache means “teaching” in ancient Greek. It seems to have originated in the later part of the first century in Syria. It consists of 16 short chapters that teach on a number of topics. Early church leaders who were disciples of the first disciples of Jesus probably wrote it.
For example, regarding baptism, the Didache states: “Now about baptism: this is how to baptize. Give public instruction on all these points, and then baptize in running water, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If you do not have running water, baptize in some other. If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
I love this! It is explaining the details how a church should conduct a baptism service…and it is very similar to how we do it today!
One thing that caught my eye was how serious baptism was viewed two thousand years ago. Look what the Didache says: “Before the baptism …the one who baptizes and the one being baptized must fast, and any others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.”
In other words, the church 2000 years ago took baptism seriously. You see, both the person being baptized and the person performing the baptism were to fast and prepare themselves by abstaining from food. In fact, it appears that others who are witnesses to baptism are also encouraged to fast.
In reading this first century church manual, you sense how serious early Christians took their Christian faith. There were no church buildings back then, so people met in homes, outside, or in caves for their worship services. They often met before dawn so slaves could be part of a service before they headed to the fields to work. Back then, communion and baptism were considered holy activities and Christians were charged with maintaining respect and reverence as they participated in them.
We can learn something from this ancient church manual. Perhaps you and I should make sure we take our faith as seriously as the early Christians.