People who meet together on Sundays (inclusive of Sunday School studies, as well as other corporate worship during the weekdays) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as confessing members of a local fellowship (assembly, church, union) representative as a part of the body of Christ universal, commit to a type of relational state which, first, professes that union with our Lord and God, entirely through His work, that is spiritual: That is, they maintain that they are literally, in spirit, joined with God as the people He gave to His Son, who showed (explained, demonstrated, expounded) the Father to them, which leads to the second expression of that union:
As God’s people, they must further, by confession and corporate involvement both in their private lives as singular members of that greater organism, as well as in corporate expression with one another – both on those days set by the gospel and church agreement and those days which are not so set – admit such fellowship was brought about solely by the monergistic regenerative work of the Spirit of God, and continues to be not only possible, but divinely, practically worked out in their lives, by the effectual working of the same Holy Spirit indwelling their reborn spirits in constant union (fellowship in the light as He is in the light).
This sounds great on paper, and indeed it is paper on which we have the foundation upon which we stand – God’s Holy Scriptures – but the corpus upon which we base our union with one another and our God is far more than informational writing; it is the physical representation of both the spiritual and temporal means of life everlasting, and the practice of that life now, along with the hope which we eagerly await.
Why, then, do we negate the Scripture by assigning more importance to our “personal” lives, as if these great and precious promises do not affect how we maintain the unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith during those times we are not gathered together in and as these local bodies?
I submit to you that we all, to various degrees, do not surrender those parts of our lives which we consider “private;” that instead, we selfishly consider our own petty troubles and pursuits as more real than that Word of God to by which we confess and profess our allegiance to the God of the Bible who saved us while we were yet His enemies.
Consider: We go about our lives without making the effort of staying in touch with one another outside of the corporate meetings. We feel that we have obeyed the command to not forsake the assembling together by attendance at such corporate meetings of worship, yet what we really do is make a legal requirement out of that command instead of understanding it in the great body of writing contained within the Scriptures on the very exact functions of the members of that body which are shown us in Scripture, for we do not, in spirit, remember one another during the times in between these meetings, except, perhaps, by the prayers we bring to our God regarding other members of His body (if indeed we are true to that command).
Again, I submit to the reader, even with intercessory prayers on behalf of the other members of the local body with which they are in covenant relationship with God and one another, that these prayers are no more than be warmed, be fed, go in peace, if we do not follow through in the spirit of such prayers in maintaining that unity which is always to reflect the perfect, infinitely good and holy union which is our God – the triune God of Scripture.
Any true reading of what the body of Christ is, and how it is to function, cannot say the “Amen” to such neglect of that spiritual fellowship which is declared in Scripture regarding the body of Christ. When there is no concern or contact on a regular basis between members of a local body, to a greater rather than a lesser extent, we simply give the lie to our understanding of the Scriptures on these great truths.
Now, many will say that they have problems they must deal with during the weekdays where corporate worship does not take place; they have jobs, relationships in their own families and among their friends (which brings up an entirely different set of commands that are directly relevant to what we are writing about: who, then, are to be the closest of friends among a local body of Christians?) which they must make up and maintain, and we are not saying that such is not the case. What we are saying is that these are pursued with a worldly mindset, in a worldly manner, which in no way reflects that unity of one another being of the same mind, spirit and communion, and this, to the neglect of the maintenance of the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace and love which most greatly reflects that unity that perfectly has, and does, exist within the triune God of Scripture whom we profess and confess that we do, indeed, follow (please take note: this following is not simply a game of tag, as it deals with eternal life now).
Personal emotions and thoughts swarm in the minds of those who profess and confess Christ as their all-in-all, crowding out of all thoughts of fellowship during the weekdays during which corporate worship meetings do not take place, and so take the place of looking to things above, not below, and holding our treasure to be among that which rust, moths and thiefs corrode, eat and steal (even though such unity of worship in spirit and truth is always to be taking place, according to the Scriptures and confessions we say we follow); to this extent, we deny the spirit of that meeting together that we think we are in obedience to, for in essence, by such thoughts, emotions and the actions they engender, we are saying to the other members of the body not only that we have no need of you, but also that we do not rejoice when you rejoice; we do not care for your honor, nor do we suffer your hardships with you. Thus, the reality of the cares and riches and pleasures of life, also called the desires of the flesh, the eyes, and pride in possessions, are of greater importance to us than that maintenance of the union which is so strongly commanded us in Scripture. These things surely show where our hearts are, and so where our greatest treasure is stored, and tragically so, too often, for with very many local portions of the body of Christ, our hearts are on things below, not above, for that is where the things we treasure most remain.
When our temporal reality does not get displaced by the reality of the things of faith, we make our confessions vain, our prayers empty, and fail to show that unity of the body of Christ which is always to reflect the perfect unity of the God we hold we are in union with.
These musings are not stated to negate that we do, indeed, have troubles and cares and a necessary pursuit of those things that are needful to maintain both individual and family lives; they are to state that there are two ways of going about these things, and one necessarily excludes the other. When we make the things that are perishing more important than those things we are to look at in the reality of that eternal life and union with our God, and one another, which is so plainly and repeatedly taught us in Scripture, we do, in fact, declare that these things which are passing away are of greater significance to us than those things which are eternal, and all this is to the detriment of not only our own spiritual life, but the life of that local body within which we are members one of another. We also declare that we will not trust God for the supply of those things that pertain to the maintenance of our mundane needs, for in failing to put the body of which we are a part first, we deny He does so in our relentless pursuit of these things.
The chief concern of each member of the body who is both an heir with Christ and joined inextricably to not only our Head, but one another, is, of course, Christ as the final and full expression of our triune God; many do this to the exclusion of the fellowship of His body, as if they were Christian islands, with no concern but for themselves and Christ, and in doing so, they deny even that concern they express about their own walk with the Lord, for in disobeying His commands concerning His body, they effectively deny that of which they seek to profess and live according too.
To end this on the most simple of notes, our Lord did not only say we are to love Him as He loved us (to His apostles, and us by extension – and notice, He speaks to the church, not individuals), but that this is the manner in which the world will know that the Father sent Him and how the world will know we are His.
An even simpler note is that when we give even a glass of water (signifying the meeting of all needs as joint members of His body local and universal), we are doing so to Him.
The truth of this article should be very plain and pointed, not to mention convicting, to many who confess Christ as their Lord. Scriptures are hinted at – strongly – all through the article, but not cited, for they should be known by those reading this.
Let us see who rejoices and/or grieves when another of that local body they are in is joyous or grieving. Faith that does not result in works of grace-given faith to one another is no faith at all, and prayers that are not followed by actions are of that dead faith.
May God have mercy on us.
SDG – Bill