Norman E. Fultz
Many members of the church have not yet realized the benefits of assembling regularly with other saints, not even the benefit illustrated in this little story as told by a preacher of years past: "Several little girls were in my study seeking counsel to aid them in becoming Christians. One of them, a dear child, not much more than eleven years old, said, 'I have not been to two or three of the meetings lately.' Desiring to test her, I answered, 'It does not make us Christians to attend meetings, Lizzie.' 'I know that,' she replied at once, 'but it keeps it in my mind.'"
The question posed in our topic should not have to be answered for a Christian unless he is newborn and unfounded in New Testament teaching. The trouble is there are too many who are unfounded, even if not newborn. The question indicates a desire to get by with the least one can do an absence of real love for spiritual things and a wrong attitude. The Christian who does not see the need for being faithful in assembling with the saints is hardly "constrained (controlled, NASB) by the love of Christ" or motivated by His grace; nor has he cast "down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" so long as anything else takes precedence over duty to God in his life (2 Cor. 5:14; 8:9; 10:5). While a more noble motivation than mere "have to" ought to characterize our assembling, it is still the conviction of this writer that the word of God teaches the essentiality of assembling.
That God commands it, one does not have to be an astute Bible student to learn. Some
may consider Hebrews 10:25 as well-worn and over-worked, but until brethren learn to obey it, it must still be dealt with. The New American Standard Bible rendering of the passage is clear in meaning: "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another Phillips translates it as follows: "And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another's faith. 7 ." In commenting on the verse, Vincent says, "not forsaking assembling, but exhorting in assembly."
The practice of saints assembling together is co-equal in time with the beginning of the church. While the record of the disciples at Troas (Acts 20:7) and the conclusion to be drawn from Paul's letter to the Corinthians (I Cot. 11:18-23; 14:23-26; 16:1-2) show the Lord's day as a very special assembly day for God's people, we cannot overlook the example of the first converts who met daily in the temple (Acts 2:46). No wonder they became so well equipped for the work of service (Eph. 4:12-NASB) that when they were scattered, they "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4).
Assembling with the saints is necessary to one's spiritual well-being, not only because failing to do so breaks certain commands, but because one who does not love the Lord enough to assemble surely does not yield sufficiently to His will that he can be said to be "eating the flesh and drinking the blood" of the Lord (John 6:53-58), without which one has not life in himself. In this, Jesus does not refer to the memorial supper, but to one's yielding fully to His will, just as Jesus himself said, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 7. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4: 32, 34). To make His will our will, to let Him control us is to eat His flesh and drink His blood. His will for Christians includes their assembling together.
Of the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher in the church, Paul said they were "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-NASB). We ask - where did the saints derive the benefits from those gifts? The answer: in assembling themselves together.
Forsaking the assembling of the saints for Bible study or in such services as gospel meetings, one not only violates Hebrews 10: 25 but shows himself to be NOT ready unto every good work (Tit. 3:1); and forsaking 7 the Lord's day services one disobeys the command to break bread (Lk. 22:19; I Cor. 11: 23-26) and to lay by in store according to his prosperity (I Cor. 16:1-2)
Truly, assembling is a duty. But even more, it is a privilege; and to neglect it is to starve the soul and bring about spiritual stagnation.
In his Bible Handbook, as he discusses how to get people to assemble, Mr. Henry Halley impresses the need to put it on a "worship basis." Perhaps to a great extent we have emphasized the duty without emphasizing the DUTY OF WORSHIP. None can question that the early church assembled worshipfully (Acts 4:24-31: I Cur 13), and the yearning to worship God together with those of like precious faith ought to be to us an incentive.
One means of "drawing near to God" and of assisting us to "hold fast the confession of our hope" Heb. 10:22-23) is realized in assembling ourselves together. Though the Christian must always be aware of Deity's presence (Jer 23:23-24), still there is the Lord's promise that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mat. 18: 20). Perhaps to more deeply impress this fact would contribute to greater reverence. Sometimes our assemblies have more the air of an auction sale than of the worship of Him who is the very source of life and the Creator of all things.
Seldom is there displayed a sense of dependence and need of one another, a deep-seated interest in our fellow Christians that leads to trying to really encourage each one the other. But that this is one of the objects of assembling is seen in the admonition, "let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Heb. 10: 24-NASB). None of us is such a spiritual Gibraltar that he does not need the encouragement of others in his struggle.
Certainly not least among the objects of assembling is the "equipping of the saints for the work of service" (Eph. 4:12). This passage presents one of the strongest arguments in support of attendance for study, real study and application of God's word. A verse that has meant much to me for several years (Acts 9:31) says, "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being EDIFIED" In Cor. 14, emphasis is given to the "edifying of the church." There is a dire need for each church to take a good look and see whether in its program of teaching saints are really being equipped for the work of service.
Now as the preacher told Lizzie, attending meetings won't make one a Christian. But if one is a Christian he will attend the meetings of the saints.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 34, pp. 8-10
July 9, 1970