Thursday, January 13, 2011


Christians pride themselves on being people of the Book. By this we mean that we love the Bible and we strive to follow what’s written in the Word of God as closely as possible.

However, in practice we quite often fall very short of that mark. Strangely, one of the areas where we stray from the clearly written instructions of the New Testament is the practice of gathering as a Church.

Hear me out.

If we read the letters of Paul, Peter and James we'll see what they considered to be essential for the life and growth of the Church. Therefore, there's no reason for us to do anything other than exactly what the Apostles say when it comes to gathering together. In fact, the very word for "church" in the New Testament is "ekklesia" which means "sent ones" or "a gathering together".

In other words, it should go without saying that if Paul were to enter one of our Church buildings today he should expect to see us participating in the ways that he and the other Apostles commanded.

Let's look at what the Apostles considered normative ekklesia:

“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:26

According to this verse, Paul considers the following things to be essential to the health of every Church:

Coming together (“When you come together”)
Open participation (“Everyone”)
People-led worship (“Everyone has a hymn”)
People-led teaching (“Everyone has...a word of instruction”)
People exercising their spiritual gifts freely(“Everyone has...a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation”)

How do we know that Paul considers these activities to be important and essential? Because he tells us: “ALL of these MUST BE DONE for the STRENGTHENING of the Church.”

If we ask Paul's opinion about church growth, he would tell us that it's vital that every believe participate in the leading of worship, the teaching of God's Word, and the sharing of the gifts of the spirit. Do we care what Paul's opinion is on this subject? Is it up to us to just decide for ourselves to dismiss Paul's instruction as mere suggestion and go with what we prefer?

Notice also that Paul's concern is for the Church to be "strengthened". His priority is for the believers to grow deeper, not larger in number. It's quality, not quantity that he is concerned with here.

But this isn't the only place where we find the Apostle's instruction regarding the activities of the Church.

According to the New Testament:

We should confess our sins to one another and pray for one another when we gather together: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

We should instruct one another when we gather together: “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Romans 15:14

We should teach and admonish (gently correct and encourage) one another and sing together: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16

We should comfort and build up one another: “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We should urgently warn one another to follow Christ: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

“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.” Hebrews 10:25

We should encourage good works in one another: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" Hebrews 10:24

We should use our spiritual gifts to bless others: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:10

Notice all the "one another's" here? The ongoing ministry of the members to one another was one of the fundamental elements of church in the New Testament.

There are 58 "one another's" in the New Testament. Twenty one of these verses (the vast majority) command us to love one another. Four of them command us to encourage one another. Three of them command us to serve one another and two of them remind us to forgive one another. The rest speak of instructing one another, being patient and kind to one another, submitting to one another, singing to one another, or putting the needs of others above our own.

Taken all together, these "one another's" remind us that we are responsible for one another spiritually. Helping our brothers and sisters move towards greater Christ-likeness is dependent upon our active participation as contributing members of the Body of Christ.

This means we cannot do it alone. We need one another. And that also means that you are an important part of this process. You are necessary. You matter. We cannot grow as the Lord Jesus intends us to grow without your willing obedience to God's command to love, serve, and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ.

My prayer has been that the Lord would help me to invest more of myself in the community of believers I find myself in today. Honestly, I've been holding back a little too much lately, and I know that I can only get out of the experience what I pour into it.

We are given as a gift to the Body and the Body is God's gift to us. Let us practice these "one another's" with all that is within us and trust Jesus to build His Church, just as He promised He would.

"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." (1 Corinthians 12:18)

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one another." (Ephesians 4:25)


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