The church Jesus built contains all persons who have answered the call to come out of the world to be saved 2.Cor.16-17; Acts 2:47. The NT uses several terms to describe the relationship the saved members sustain to the Lord in His church. One designation by which the church is known is that of a family relationship, “the household of God” 1.Tim.3:15; Eph.2:19.
When people become Christians, they become members of the household of God. Having been cleansed of sin through the blood of Christ, the saved are adopted into the family of God Rom.8:15-17; Gal.4:3-7; In this family or household God is our Father, Jesus the elder brother by virtue of His fleshly life, and all the saved, adopted into the family becomebrothers and sisters in God’s family Heb.2:10-13. They then choose to join themselves to a local group of like-minded Christians so they can function and work together. They find a group of people, such as the church here at Etna, who assemble regularly in order to sing, pray, teach, give and take the Lord’s Supper together. Why is this so important?
Being a part of a church family identifies you as a genuine believer. When you join the family, you are looking for spiritual guidance to help you grow as a Christian. As a member of the group there should be no question as to who you are and what you believe. Other members know this, and so does the world 2.Cor.3:2-3. Being a member bears witness to the world that you are a part of the fellowship of saved believers.
Being a member of a church family moves you out of isolation. You are no longer trying to be a Christian alone. One who is a non-member, or a “floating member’ leaves oneself isolated and detached from the many “one another” duties enjoined upon Christians. There are about 40 positive passages using “one another” and 8 or more negative “one another” passages in the NT that apply to responsibilities to each other.
The church family helps you grow closer to God as a Christian. One never reaches his/her spiritual potential by remaining a passive spectator. In the family you have opportunity to participate and develop your God given abilities Eph.4:16; 1.Cor.7:7.
The church family can keep you from losing faith and backsliding. No person is immune from the temptation to give in or give up the endurance race that leads to ultimate victory over the world 1.Jn.5:4. The members of the church family exhort one another continually Heb.3:13; 10:24-25. The family is there to care for and watch out for one another.
The church family also provides a refuge from the world. It gives spiritual protection. The difference between one who just attends services, and one who really belongs in the family is commitment. Some people may visit my physical family and even share in our hospitality, but they are not as committed to my family as I am. One needs the body of fellowship of other true believers who share the same precious faith/salvation. That is what being a part of a family means. You need them and they need you.
Since its existence as a local church family, the members of the church at Etna, being a part of God’s family, have faithfully assembled each first day of the week to sing, pray, teach give, take the Lord’s Supper just as the disciples did in the first century Acts 2:42, 20:7; 1.Cor.11:18-33; 16:1-3. But this coming together each week at Etna was suddenly disrupted a few weeks ago. This interruption was not preplanned or desired. It certainly was not because the saints here felt it no longer necessary to come together as a family. It was caused by the introduction, unexpectedly, into our society by the highly contagious nature of the COvid-19 virus aka Coronavirus.
Wisdom and common sense caused us as a group to decide for a season not to “come together” collectively. This is not a permanent arrangement, and hopefully will soon be rectified. Even during the time when we were not “coming together” hopefully each of us continued to worship God daily by singing, praying, teaching/studying the word of God and willing to share our goods with others if the need arose. But it was impossible to partake of the Lord’s Supper together. The Lord’s Supper is something designed to be partaken of with fellow saints when they have “come together” collectively. Others may feel differently but this is my personal conviction. have prayed that soon the virus will be abated and brought under control, so we at Etna can once more resume our regular assembling together on the first day of the week, partaking together the Lord’s Supper
During the pandemic crisis of the last few weeks some congregations have chosen to continue meeting while maintaining “social distancing” and no touching In the building Other congregations, like us at Etna, chose not to meet during this time, feeling it wise not to endanger members with pre-existing medical conditions. Some congregations implemented “livestreaming” of services where members could watch the service on Facebook, and having assembled the emblems ahead of time for the Lord’s Supper, partake of the Lord’s Supper at home, when the congregation streaming the service did so. Since every congregation is self-governing, each congregation makes its own choice of what they feel is best for their congregation. It is difficult to know which way is right. I have no right to judge others, but I feel that we at Etna made the right choice for our church family here. But, as the threat of the pandemic abates, we are now getting back to meeting as we did before this virus made its appearance. Thank be to God for bringing us through.
By Tommy Thornhill
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