How vital is the assembly to New Testament Christianity? Some have false expectations
concerning the assembly that come from erroneous ideas concerning its purpose.
Perhaps our assemblies will never be as meaningful as they should be until we
better understand the purpose for having them in the first place.
1. The Assembly Is For Worship. “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Heb. 2:12). The assembly is for worship. Not just ritual or ceremony. Not just for observing “the acts of worship;” but for praise, adoration and devotion to God. Perhaps enough of our assembly time is not spent in praising God for His majesty and mercy.
2. The Assembly Is For Teaching. It was a place where complete epistles were read and discussed by Christian teachers (Col. 4:16). Much of this teaching is described as putting “into remembrance” things known before (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:14; 2 Peter 1:12; Jude 5). This is a vital function of our assemblies today.
3. The Assembly Is For Edification. This is the building up of Christians. The assembly is “to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). Christians need encouragement. They need to know that others understand and care. This need can be beautifully supplied in the assembly, as well as in private deeds of kindness. Some, however, have mistakenly assumed that this is the only purpose of the assembly; and this leads to disappointment if they are not “ministered unto” in every service.
4. The Assembly Is For Correction. Discipline is to be administered “when ye are gathered together” (1 Cor. 5:4). Reproving and rebuking has a place in the assembly (2 Tim. 4:2). Those who sin are to be rebuked “before all” (1 Tim. 5:20). So being taken to the “woodshed” is a purpose to be served by the assembly.
5. The Assembly Is For Evangelism. “To the intent that now ...might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10). The assembly, therefore, is a place for declaring the Gospel as “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). It is a place to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Regretfully, some through the years have tried to play down this purpose of the assembly by saying, “the assembly is for Christians” or “we are to meet to edify and to go out to evangelize.” This, however, is an erroneous concept for the following reasons:
A. It is a denominational concept, by which they have excluded children from their assemblies by saying that the assembly is “not for them.” This has led to Junior Church and other departures.
B. This would not even have permitted the Pentecost sermon of Acts 2 or Paul’s great sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17 to be repeated in an assembly of the church.
C. The Bible specifically speaks of unbelievers in the assembly in 1 Corinthians 14:23.
D. The mission of the church is to fulfill the mission Christ had when He was on the earth; and that is specifically given as “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
E. The NUMBER ONE business of the New Testament church is evangelism. Is it conceivable that the church cannot take care of its number one business when it meets?
F. This idea also promotes selfishness. It creates within us a desire to be served rather than to serve. This is not the spirit of Christ (Matt. 10:28).
Thus every assembly does not have the same purpose. We need assemblies for praise, for prayer and for encouragement. We need those designed for teaching and instruction and outreach. Some services may include all of these purposes in one assembly. But perhaps our greatest need is to realize that God is the one to be pleased, others are the ones to be served and that what we derive from any assembly depends so much on our having the right purpose for being there in the first place.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
By Jack Gray
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