Building Blocks of the Church (6)
Association and Fellowship In The Church
Kenneth D. Sits
I don't believe there has ever been a time in America when so many people have been turned off by the thought of being a member of a church. Although many "preachers" have been clearly proven false and even prosecuted for fraud, televangelism continues to be one of the most popular forms of building some kind of religious following. Millions have rejected "the church on their hometown corner" by enjoying their favorite speakers in their homes at their own convenience. America has become the land of "drive thru, fast food" religion. Through modern technology, one can now stay in his own little space and avoid all those crowds. There is no more need to dress up to hear a sermon or enjoy someone singing a hymn. One doesn't even have to stop working or playing at home to listen in. And, let us not forget, there is no collection plate passed around one's kitchen table. Americans now have all the benefits of "fast food religion" without any of the sacrifice. In many people's mind, heaven can now be obtained by a flick of the switch when the mood for inspiration hits them.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, who spoke by the inspiration of God, told Timothy to, "Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Friend, the preaching of sound doctrine is hard to find today and nearly impossible to find on TV. Sound doctrine causes evangelists to suffer affliction in this present age. Sound doctrine denies the modern concept of "drive thru, fast food" religion. Sound doctrine requires sacrifice. Sound doctrine requires preaching about the church of Christ and congregational worship.
Where is the cry from the preachers in our land for people to assemble together as Christians did in the first century? The writer of the book of Hebrews told Christians 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, and so much the more as you see the day approaching" (10:24-25). Members of the church of Christ assembled together on the first day of the week in the first century (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Today, if man is to be in the same church, the same spiritual body purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), he needs to follow this example and assemble together on the first day of the week as an active member of a church of Christ. Hebrews 2:12 tells us, "I will declare your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to you." Congregational worship, as prescribed by God in the New Testament, is essential if we desire to be in fellowship with God.
The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in the city of Corinth concerning the spiritual value they derived from their association as a church. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul said, "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." Just as Jesus and the Father are one we should be one in Christ. The church of Christ at Corinth knew they were to meet together, be together, share together and worship together for they were one body. Paul also reminded them in verse 24 that, "God composed the body" (the church). They were not at liberty to change the composition of the body, nor were they allowed to separate themselves from the body of Christ. To do either of these would break fellowship with God. God is in control of the body, the church. To have fellowship with God, one must do his or her part in a faithful congregation of Christians (Eph. 4:11-16). John tells us "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
Fellowship with God relies upon our obedience to the pattern given by the apostles of our Lord in the New Testament. In Acts 2, the apostles preached the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time. In verse 36, Peter told the Jews that the one they crucified is the Christ who is now reigning at the right hand of God. They then pleaded with Peter saying, "What shall we do?" Peter told them, "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Their reaction to this command was, "then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:41-42). These people did not receive Jesus into their hearts by man's modern method called a "sinner's prayer" and they were not spoon-fed religion into the privacy of their home. They obeyed the commands of Jesus and clung to each other, heeding every word given to them from the apostles teaching.
New Testament Christians respected the will of God and met together as a church (1 Cor. 14:23). These Christians would have clearly rejected the popular notion of today's "fast food religion of isolation" through some television ministry. Their strength came through their association together. Almost every letter in the New Testament was written to congregations around the civilized world. These letters were instructive for doctrine and edification of that congregation. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul told the church of Christ in Corinth to "let all things be done for edification." In verse 40 he said, "Let all things be done decently and in order." In this text, Paul was teaching them about their individual responsibilities while gathered as a church. Being a member of a church of Christ in a community has been clearly exemplified through the apostle Paul. In Acts 9:26, Paul did his best to join the church in Jerusalem. Upon the basis of his reputation, verse 28 says he was "one of them going in and going out." Are you one with a congregation of saints meeting in your community?
There are many spiritual blessings one misses by notbeing in fellowship with a congregation of the Lord's people. In Acts 2:42-47, those Christians enjoyed worshiping God together. In verse 42, they proclaimed Jesus' death, burial and resurrection together in the Lord's supper, they sang and prayed to God, they gave of their means and heard preaching from God's word. As a result, they had all things in common and helped each other with their daily needs. They enjoyed eating meals together and found strength from each other as they worshiped Jesus. Upon growing in the faith of Christ together, they "had favor with God and men." In Acts 9:31, Paul reported, "then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
How fortunate we are to know God's wisdom which tells us to be members of a church of Christ. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, God instructs us not to be lazy, but to work and to sacrifice for the glory of God. In verse 14, Paul said, ". . . and if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed." God has designed his church to exercise church discipline so that all of its members will live pure and Godly lives. Maybe this is the real reason why most religious people today will not congregate and why most televangelists will not demand its necessity. Too many have the attitude of, "give me my religion the way I want it or I'll find it somewhere else." See, it really is a "drive thru, fast food religion" mentality. The church of Christ is not "fast food" religion. The real, true church of Christ can still be found today with members who love and respect the words of Jesus found in the Holy Scriptures. Christ's church will do its own work, while always responding to Christ's commands with reverence, saying and doing all things with a "thus saith the Lord." Investigate the church Of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 24, p. 6-7