by Steven Chan
The Bible says in Heb 10:24-25 that we are to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another…” As members of the Body of Christ, God expects us to be present at the assemblies of the church. Jesus said “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”(Matt 18:20). If Jesus makes Himself available to be present at our assemblies, it behooves us to also be gathered together with Him and with our brethren.
Is God pleased with all our assemblies? In his epistle to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul said: “I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.”(1 Cor 11:17). The answer is clear: assemblies of the church must be for the better and not for the worse. What characterizes church assemblies for the better and not for the worse?
1. The assembled body of Christ must be characterized by unity and not by divisions.
The Bible expresses its disapproval for the division in the church at Corinth and Paul had to appeal to them all to “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided?….For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…”(1 Cor 1:10; 11:18).
Unity among brethren is important because Jesus prayed that all those who follow Him may be united in the same manner as Him and His Father, so that the world may believe that Jesus was sent by the Father (John 17:20-21).
There should be no manifestation of disunity in the assemblies of the saints. The inspired apostle Paul wrote to the brethren at Ephesus: I “beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”(Eph 4:1-3).
However, sometimes in spite of our every effort to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, there may be some who insist on continuing to teach “heresies” (I Cor 11:19) or “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Pet 2:1-2) into the assemblies of believers. In such situations, the Bible notes that separation may be inevitable: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”(1 John 2:19-20). “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Cor 11:19). “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”(Rom 16:17).
The assemblies of the saints should manifest a spirit of unity in the bond of peace.
2. The Conduct of the Activities of the Assembly of the Saints should be characterized by love, considerateness and no causing of shame or humiliation to fellow brethren.
In the assembly of the Christians at Corinth, the Bible noted that they had lacked love, respect and consideration for other brethren who were gathered with them such that even in their “fellowship meals”: “For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.”(1 Cor 11:21-22).
Love for brethren is an identifying mark of the disciples of Christ: John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Can all experience the spirit of love among brethren in our assemblies?
3. Mutual Edification should be the target of our activities in the church assembly
1 Cor 14:26: “Let all things be done for edification.” 1 Cor 14:15-16: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?”
It brings into focus the manner with which we sing and pray. Is our singing truly in spirit and in understanding? Are our prayers such that brethren can and will say “Amen”? Do we pray such that brethren can and agree with what we have prayed?
4. All things in the assembly of the saints are to be done in a Decent and Orderly manner.
1 Cor 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Cor 14:33: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Will unbelievers coming into our assemblies say “that you are out of your mind?” (1 Cor 14:23) if things are done in a confusing and disorderly manner?
In Lev 10:3, after the punishment afflicted by God on Nadab & Abihu because they had offered profane fire unto the Lord, Moses said to Aaron: “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people, I must be glorified.’ ”
When we are assembled to worship God we must show proper respect to God as “holy” and His name is to be “glorified” by what we do and how we do them.
It is therefore important that we examine how we carry out our various activities during our assemblies. A lack of proper preparation for what we are to do may show our disrespect and failure to glorify our holy God. Be careful with what we offer to God and how we offer to Him. Would God be pleased with the unprepared worshipper, the unprepared song leader and prayer leader, as well as the ill-prepared teacher or preacher?
5. Finally, our assemblies should have the effect of “Convicting and Convincing men that God is indeed present in our midst”.
In 1 Cor 14:24-25, the desired effect of the assembly on visitors is described as follows: when “an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
The Conduct of the activities of the assembly of the Christians should be such that believers are built up, while unbelievers are convicted by the truth taught, moved by the spirited singing, the reverent prayers, and everything done in a spirit of unity and love as well as with great reverence for our holy God– all of which leads the visitor to be moved to want to worship God and declare that God is truly in our midst! Is God really in our midst in our assemblies? Do we realize and acknowledge His presence?
We need to re-examine what we do during our assemblies as well as how we carry out our various activities, so that God is truly glorified in our assemblies. May we strive to worship God in spirit and in truth, such that believers are edified or built up in their faith and unbelievers are moved to acknowledge the presence of God in our midst, and God is thereby glorified. In this way, our gathering together would be for the better and not for the worse.