WHAT PURPOSE FOR OUR ASSEMBLIES?

Two years ago a brother wrote concerning me, “My friend at this year’s TULSA WORKSHOP felt that the purpose for church assemblies is to praise God. I see in apostolic writings that our LIFE must be lived to praise and please our God and in service for Him. But I fail to see in APOSTOLIC writings or in their example that the church was ever called to meet together in order to do their worshipping together. They were encouraged to live every day as praise to God. Isn’t that what the Word teaches?”

I replied to him: Here you have a half truth. Jesus specified two things we must do in respect to God, not just one. “You shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve. (letreuo)” ((Mat. 4:10) The first word means to prostrate one’s self before God and the second word means to do service to God, though it also is often translated “worship.” Somehow some brethren have gotten the idea that there is only one kind of worship, “letreuo,” the serving kind. Thus they see Romans 12:2, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service,” (letreuo) as indicating that all of life is a worship and no other is required.

The word says many times that we are to live our lives in a way that glorifies God in all that we do, even in serving other people. But that is only one part of honoring Him as God. The word also says many times that we must worship Him in the sense of “proskuneo,” prostrating ourselves before Him. You say you have not found a passage portraying worship toward God in an assembly. How about Heb. 2:12, “In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to you.” You say the early Christians sang to each other, not to God.  I invite you to look again at Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. The first passage says, “Speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in you heart to the Lord.” Making melody to whom? The second passage says, “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Grace in your hearts to whom? I would say that your conclusion that our assemblies are totally horizontal and not vertical, is contradictory to what God said about it.

Some seem to think that to justify exercizing liberty in some matter such as instrumental music in the assembly it is necessary to say that the assemblies are not directed toward God. That is not so. There is no command from God either way on the choice of music. But surely you know that the assemblies are a command. The word says, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is,” (Heb. 10:25) and then shows how serious it is by adding, “For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for sins, but an anticipation of judgment and of fiery indgnation, which shall devour the adversary.” I cannot harmonize this with your idea that our assemblies are purely horizontal, not vertical, and are optional.

You say, “ They ate together, we can assume, each Lord’s Day, and during the meal they broke bread and drank wine together in honor of Jesus and in His memory. Some sang to the others. Some prophesied to the others. And God was praised and pleased by their assembling.” When you say this you reduce the assemblies to nothing more than a series of pot luck dinners. That is getting close to blasphemy.

Jesus said He would build His church. (ekklesia, assembly) Paul said there was one of these in the house of Priscilla and Aquilla. (1 Cor. 16:19) At this time the church could not own property for they were an illegal entity. So they often assembled in homes. And what did they do there? When Peter was released from prison by an angel he went to the home of Mary, “where many were gathered together praying.” (Acts 12:12)

The scripture says Jesus was given to be “the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1:22-23) As the head of that church what does He direct? In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he said, “The things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” (14:37) In that letter he gave many instructions about their assemblies. One of these was about the Lord’s supper. He said, “When you come together in one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” (1 Cor. 11:20) But it should have been for he said at Verse 22, “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? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” It appears they were mixing the sacred reason for assembling, the Lord’s supper, with a common intake of food.  On that basis I would say that you really need to rethink your concept that the reason for assembling was to eat. Paul said that should be done at home.  He went ahead and said, “Whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (Vs. 27) He added that such a one eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (Vs. 29)

Thus the issue you bring up is an urgent one. The Bible says that “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,” that Paul preached to them and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7) When you arbitrarily rule that this was a common meal, one of their regular pot luck dinners, you fly in the face of the grammar of the passage and set aside the one activity of which Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.”  I hope you will reconsider.  (See my article on this web site on why I say this was the Lord’s supper.)

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