ISSUE: 2020, Volume 17, Issue 2
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The New Testament is clear that believers were baptized and then sought fellowship with other believers in assemblies of Christians, Acts 2. 42. However, the scriptures also teach that once added to the local church, fellowship was not a passive experience. Rather, each believer was to be active in the work of the local church.
As we will see in later articles, the local assembly has two main objectives:
Each member of the assembly has a responsibility to be active in these two areas of assembly life.
God has given each Christian a different spiritual gift or gifts, and so not every activity is open to all. For example, unless a man is a gifted teacher, he ought not to be teaching the saints. Having said this, the New Testament writers continually emphasized individual responsibility.
In Hebrews chapter 10 verses 24 and 25 we read:
‘And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 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’.
The writer of this Epistle is encouraging believers to keep serving God in difficult days. The verse makes clear that believers are expected to attend the assembly gatherings. Not just the Breaking of Bread, not just the gospel meeting, but the prayer meeting before the gospel is preached, and the mid-week meeting and so on. Again, note Acts chapter 2 verse 42, where emphasis is given to the fact that the saints ‘continued steadfastly’ in the prayers. Do you only miss the assembly gatherings in extreme circumstances? Can you be relied upon to encourage others by your faithful attendance? Or are you often missing with the weakest of excuses? If we love God, we ought to be obedient to his commands.
There is, of course, the possibility that we are good meeting attenders, but not really in active fellowship with the rest of the assembly. To be in active fellowship must involve sharing responsibility. That could be practical – we will discuss financial giving in our next article – but we ought to share, as the Lord enables, in the financial commitments of the assembly, whether that is to cover heating costs, the cost of literature or gifts to the Lord’s servants. However, it is also essential to be involved in the spiritual activities of the local church. Are we making spiritual contributions? Are we adding to the worship, audibly for males, inaudibly for females, at the Breaking of Bread and other gatherings? Are you fully behind the work of evangelism in the assembly? That could be children’s work, other regular meetings or special gospel meetings? Are you praying for the activities and inviting unsaved friends to come?
When we read 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we find that the assembly is a local expression of the church which is Christ’s body. The apostle pictures each member of the local church as if they were a body part. There are two points we should notice. First, he observes that some body parts, such as the face, are visible, and their usefulness is obvious. There are other body parts, for example internal organs, which, of course, are not seen and get no exposure. However, as you know, you might look good, but you will not get far without a heart or a brain! Paul uses that picture to teach us that even if we do not have a very public role or, perhaps, we feel invisible, our role in the assembly is vital and must be fulfilled. Second, Paul teaches that we should not be jealous of the part someone else has to play; each body part is vital and so is every member of the assembly. Elders and godly older saints can give us guidance about the role God has for us in the assembly. However, as we have previously seen, God will speak to us primarily through the reading of His word.
Practical issues to consider
These are important questions to think about and answer in the presence of God.