by Steven Chan
5 April 2009
The idea of the church is that of an assembly of believers who have been called out of this world of darkness into the family of God. The apostle Peter wrote thus in 1 Pet. 2:9,10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
The church is the household of God according to I Tim 3:15: “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” The Bible says that having recognized that the church is the household of God, it says that we need to “know how to one ought to behave in the household of God” – in other words how one ought to conduct oneself in the church.
It may sound surprising to some that there is a pattern of conduct that is considered acceptable in the church and that one ought to know how to conduct oneself in an acceptable manner in the church. Looking around us, do we see an acceptable pattern of conduct being displayed by believers in the church, or do we see an “anything goes” kind of conduct?
Let’s consider what the Bible has to say about this pattern of conduct.
At the very beginning of the church as recorded in Acts 2:42 – 44, 46-47 the Bible notes thus: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul …And all who believed were together and had all things in common… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
It was a church that was devoted to the study and adoption of the apostles’ teaching. They knew that the teachings of the apostles were the very word of God (I Thess. 2:13) and that it is the truth of God (John 17:17) that will set men free from sin (John 8:32) and keeps one from sin (Psa. 119:11). They were not studying the teachings of the Pharisees or the Sadducees or the Essenes, Gnostics, Epicureans, Stoics, etc… all the human philosophies of this world which would not draw men closer to God. They searched the Scriptures diligently (Acts 17:11) to ensure that they are taught accurately the word of God.
How is your practice of daily Bible Study? How many feed on God’s word on a daily basis for their spiritual sustenance? Today, how many Christians in the church are really concerned about what is really the truth of God as regards the various issues of life? It is not merely what is true as regards doctrines such as baptism and the church but equally importantly, the application of God’s word to every aspect of our lives! How many really search the Scriptures to see whether their conduct is consistent with “a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10). Is our “manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). Are we concerned with pleasing God or pleasing ourselves? Oftentimes, our conduct often betrays us!!! Such would be conduct unbecoming of one who profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Members of the church devoted themselves to “fellowship”. Jesus taught in Matt. 23:8 that “you are all brothers”. In Luke 22:32, Jesus said to Peter: “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Our faith should enable us to strengthen one another. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom 12:5). Some say that ‘fellowship” is the lifeblood of a growing and healthy church. The Bible says that God places us in His Body, which is the church, so that we can have “fellowship” with one another so that “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:16).
Fellowship is much more than just sharing a good laugh with one another on Sunday morning. It is a close active “thinking-feeling-working” relationship between brethren such that one would “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep – and live harmoniously with one another” (Rom. 12:15, 16) and “that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”. (1 Cor. 12:25, 26). When was the last time we rejoice with someone who is honored? Why?
Brethren, do you make an effort to go out of your way to greet others in the church whenever we are assembled? Do we stick exclusively to our cliques of personal friends and spare no thought for those who do not have their own group of friends in the church? It is sad that sometimes in the assembly of the church there are very lonely people in the midst of a multitude of people! Do we know and do we really care for these? In Romans 16:3-16, the apostle Paul urges each to greet the various individuals mentioned by him and ended with this exhortation: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Hey, brethren, greeting one another is a command of the Scriptures; it is not an optional preference on our part! Of course, today the custom in many communities of greeting one another is not with a kiss but with a hug – a holy hug!; others with a warm handshake. Whatever may be the appropriate gesture, one must greet one another! – not IGNORE one another! Please note that greeting one another takes effort on our part; the default mode is to mind our own business, keep to ourselves and ignore others.
Is it so difficult to greet one another? Some say that they do not know what to say to another because they feel that they have nothing in common to talk about. Isn’t that sad? How about saying, “It is good to see you! How are you today?” – and be truthful about that! Take time to get to know one another. Make the effort to know one another. How about asking how one is doing – at work, in school or in Bible study or in evangelism? If we care enough about others, we will not run out of things to talk about! We all share similar challenges in our lives.
We all have a common work to do. The Bible says we to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Do we not know that we have a common spiritual vocation of preaching the gospel and winning souls to Christ as commanded by our Lord in Matt. 28:18-20? It is amazing that many of us can simply ignore our God-entrusted responsibilities to be helping one another fulfill the greatest work in this world – asserting that we have nothing in common to talk about!
By the way, the word “fellowship” according to M R Vincent Word Studies comes from the Greek word “koinonia” derived from “koinos”, common. It describes “a relationship between individuals which involves a common interest and a mutual, active participation in that interest and in each other. The word answers to the Latin communio, from communis, common. Hence, sometimes rendered communion”. According to AT Robertson’s Word Pictures, “this partnership involves participation in, as the blood of Christ (Phi_2:1) or co-operation in the work of the gospel (Phi_1:5) or contribution for those in need (2Co_8:4; 2Co_9:13)”. As you can see, it goes beyond a mere greeting of one another but I can’t imagine how one can have any greater or deeper fellowship with one another if one does not even begin with greeting or acknowledging one another! The commentator Albert Barnes said that the greeting in Romans 16:3 means “Salute; implying the apostle’s kind remembrance of them, and his wishes for their welfare.” According to the Bible Commentator Matthew Henry, Paul “concludes with the recommendation of them to the love and embraces one of another: Salute one another with a holy kiss. Mutual salutations, as they express love, so they increase and strengthen love, and endear Christians one to another: therefore Paul here encourages the use of them, and only directs that they may be holy – a chaste kiss, in opposition to that which is wanton and lascivious; a sincere kiss, in opposition to that which is treacherous and dissembling, as Judas’s, when he betrayed Christ with a kiss.”
If we find that we have nothing in common to talk with one another then something is not right with us! What has happened to our common care for one another? How do we rejoice with one another when we do not even bother to know one another enough to be able to rejoice with one another or to weep with one another? Do we know the ongoing status or well-being of the church or the efforts being expended in the work of God in the Klang Valley? Do you know that there may be a baptism this Sunday afternoon at Subang Jaya as a result of the sharing of the gospel by brethren in DU, Subang and Klang? Did you know that last Wednesday night, we have started a new outreach effort in Kepong? Did you know that Bro Richard Lee and Bro Rajandran recently went on a mission trip to Bangladesh and that many were baptized there? There are many workers laboring fervently in the kingdom of God both in Malaysia, S’pore and all over the world. Do we make an effort to know, to help and to pray for the workers in the kingdom of God? Do we share what we know as regards the efforts expended in the work of God? Do we really care? Do we know that there are some laboring in God’s kingdom in this part of the world who have not yet secured financial support? Do we know that there are some able brethren who are prepared to work full-time in the Lord’s Cause in the Klang Valley once funding can be put in place? Do we really want to know what is going on in God’s kingdom so that we can be a part in the work of the gospel – that is fellowship in the gospel? What are you doing to expand the borders of the kingdom of God? It is our common work and we do have something in common to talk about! Do we really care about God’s business?
In the account as recorded in Acts 2:42, the early Christians also devoted themselves to the observance of the Lord’s Supper (i.e. the breaking of bread, Acts 20:7; I Cor 10:16; 11:20-29) and to the practice of prayers (remembering the Lord’s teaching in Luke 18:1 that “one ought always to pray and not lose heart”). How’s your practice of daily prayers (as Jesus Himself practiced in Mark 1:35) apart from the giving of thanks for food – and even in the latter instance some do not do so either.
There is a pattern of behavior that becometh that of brethren in the household of God. We ought to know how to conduct ourselves in the church of God – both when we are assembled as well as in the common faith, work and love that we share in Christ. It is not to do as one pleases! It ought to be in accordance with what pleases God! (Matt 26:39).