“Two Express Purposes of Christian Gatherings”Categories: assembly, church, edification, worship
Some “attend services” in order to be entertained by heart-tugging music and finely-tuned presentations. Some “go to church” for the social aspect of seeing friends and catching up on the latest news. Some “go to worship” to fill that important checkmark for the week.
Since God created the assembly for a special purpose, what does God want us to accomplish when we gather with the saints? I find two major objectives specifically given in God’s word.
Our churches are a continuation of the assemblies of God’s people throughout the Old Testament.
The Jews met together weekly and yearly for holy convocations:
- They remembered God’s work of creation every Sabbath, as God had rested from His work on the seventh day (Lev. 23.1-3).
- They remembered how God delivered them from Egypt in the Passover feast (Lev. 23.4-8).
- They offered the Lord of the firstfruits of their harvest in the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23.9-14).
- They sacrificed to the Lord of their year’s bounty at harvest time during the Fest of Weeks (Lev. 23.15-22).
- They praised God with trumpets and food offering in the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23.23-25).
- They afflicted themselves on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23.26-32).
- They presented food offerings for seven days and then observed an extra-special Sabbath on the eighth day during the Feast of Booths (Lev. 23.33-36).
Our assemblies today mirror those Jewish assemblies; we meet to remember God and worship Him as our great deliverer and savior, rock and redeemer.
We have little to go on, as far as specifics for how New Testament Christian assemblies looked, but we have some data. For instance, we know they...
…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. …And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2.42-47)
Some aspects of their gatherings were devoted to one another, and other aspects were specifically directed to the worship and praise of God. All, in fact, was to the praise of God, even the sharing with one another in fellowship and eating, whether it was the Lord’s Supper or their daily meals.
Paul encouraged the Corinthian brethren to earnestly desire the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongue speaking. “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14.12). That whole chapter 14 is focused on building up the brethren—edification—which is accomplished through sharing God’s word in the assembly, when the whole church had come together. Paul wrote, “Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers” (1 Cor. 14.22). What can you infer by his encouragement to desire the gift of prophecy? The assembly’s main purpose is not for unbelievers but for believers! We still hope an unbeliever in our assembly will hear God’s word shared among us in such a powerful way that “he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor. 14.24-25). Paul hopes our assemblies will drive even the unbeliever to worship God.
God’s purpose for our assemblies, though, is for the good of the Christians. In Ephesians 4.11-16, to the church God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood…” God wants spiritually mature children to be serving, and our assemblies are for teaching us to grow up in Christ.
Brethren, when we come together, let us come together to worship God and to edify one another! This is why God created our assemblies. They are not entertainment sessions, but times of joint praise and thanksgiving offered to God. We pray with, sing to, and edify one another with God’s holy word. Paul told Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13). Our aim is to build up one another in Christ, strengthen the feeble, clarify our spiritual direction, praise our God with one voice, repent of our sins, confess our faith in Jesus our Lord.
As we submit to God’s plan for our gatherings, we will see less of ourselves and more of God. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed redeemer!