What did Paul teach us about the manner in which we are to assemble?
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 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.
Notice, assembling according to the Spirit’s order and direction requires us to ‘consider one another’: this is the foundation upon which assembling takes place. Assembling according to any other pattern is prohibited–for we are to remain faithfully espoused to the simplicity of Christ:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
–2 Corinthians 11:2-3
This is why we read that the people continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42)–for apostolic life modeled the relational nature of Holy Spirit inspired living.
It is why Paul reminds Timothy that his doctrine was expressed not only by word, but also his manner of living: “Thou hast fully known my doctrine and manner of life” (2 Timothy 3:10). If we depart from the apostolic pattern, we misrepresent the nature of Christ’s atoning work by our manner of living, raising up a false image of God in the earth.
An example of this is the modern, American church system, which defines ‘church’ as a place and activity [rather than as a body of believers], reducing corporate worship to a pilgrimage and ritual, rather than a sharing of our real [daily] lives together: church isn’t a place; it’s a lifestyle of relating to one another according to the commandments of God.
What else can we learn from Hebrews 10:24-25? Consider the following:
We must consider that we are all of “one Lord, faith, and baptism,” (Ephesians 4:5); therefore, we have no right to reject what the Lord has accepted. We cannot reject other believers on the basis of personality, social standing, ethnicity, or any other external condition or motivation–for they are accepted by God on the basis of His will, wisdom, and atoning work.
We gather to stir up the gift of God in us, affirming one another’s giftings and lending our strength to one another as we learn to walk in our callings (2 Timothy 1:6).
We gather freely, which implies that our inspiration for coming together is solely on the basis of our spiritual love–first, for God–and also, for one another.
We gather to encourage one another to follow Christ’s example, so that we, as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus, may develop spiritual endurance [patience], taking up our cross, and finishing the race set before us (Luke 21:19; 2 Timothy 2:1-4; Hebrews 12:1).
Finally, we see that, as the day of the Lord’s return approaches, our need for assembling [and God’s grace] increases: “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:11).
The ministry of reconciliation is founded upon fellowship with God, includes fellowship with one another, and extends to the preaching of the gospel to the lost. Fellowship IS the ministry.