There are two words for "Altar" in the Greek New Testament. One is "Thusiasterion" and means "a place of sacrifice". Most of the times this is the word used and often it is used in reference to the Altars of the Temple used for animal sacrifices and the golden altar used for the burning of incense in the holy place. Sometimes the Greek word is "Bomos" and means "a raised place". In Acts 17:23 Paul said, "For as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found and altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." (Acts 17:23). From the best we can determine this was a small marble altar with that inscription on it. So the word "Altar" is sometimes used of a monument. The Century church of Christ has no altar in the building for the following reasons: 1.The altar as a place of sacrifice is not needed because we do not offer animal sacrifices. In the Patriarchal Age and in the Mosaic age they had altars and offered animal sacrifices for temporary atonement for their sins. We are not under either of these dispensations but are part of the Christian Age where Christ is our sacrifice. He died on the cross to atone our sins. In reference to the dispensation in which we live hear what the Hebrew writer has to say: "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second, by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering often times the same sacrifices which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:9-13). This does away for the need of an altar in the Christian age. We can come to Jesus for the cleansing power and do not need an altar to offer any sacrifices. Christ is our atonement. 2.Jesus made it clear that our worship is to be a spiritual worship in the Christian age. We do not need monuments to remind us of God. In John 4:23 we read, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." (John 4:23). To worship in spirit is to attune our spirits to the Father who is Spirit. To worship in truth is to include only those items which the Lord has commanded to be done. There are five divine items of worship which are singing, praying, partaking of the Lord's Supper, studying the Bible (Apostles doctrine), and giving. Singing and praying are to be done with the spirit and with the understanding (I Cor. 14:15). The Lord's Supper requires a table to put the items on but not an altar. Partaking of the "Lord's table" is used of the supper in I Corinthians 10:21. In Verse 16 of that same chapter he spoke of it as "Communion" of the body and blood of Christ. The word "communion" is the Greek word rendered "fellowship" in many places in the New Testament denoting that in partaking of the supper we are fellowshipping with Christ in memory of his body being given and his blood being shed for our sins. All of this has to with our minds and actions toward God and Christ. We do not need a physical altar to partake of the Lord's Supper but we do need to "discern" the Lord's body, thus partaking thereof worthily (I Cor. 11:29). It is a matter of our spirits directing this worship to God who is a Spirit. Giving is to be done on the first day of the week but all we need to collect the money is a place to put it or a collection basket. Each individual determines their own giving as they have purposed in their hearts (2 Cor. 9:7). We need readers, exhorters, teachers and preachers to engage in the item of Bible study. Since the worship is a spiritual worship we do not have to have a special building nor special altars in order to carry it out. We are not saying it is wrong to build church buildings but special altars in them are not needed. 3.Hebrews 13:10 states "We have an altar" which refers to Jesus Christ as our offering and to New Testament worship - but not to a physical altar in our church buildings. Modern altars arose out of the doctrine that men should pray through but we need to obey the gospel to be saved. (Mk. 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38). We need to worship in the proper spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
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