“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 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. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
When we think about attending a worship service on Sunday what ideas come to mind? Do we think about the teacher we want to hear, the songs we want to listen to, or is it the people we have things in common with? If we are watching online, are we satisfied with just sitting under teaching that satisfies what we want to hear?
What is the purpose of the assembly of believers? Why was it important for the body to assemble and not just get the latest sermon we like off the internet? The year of 2020 Covid drove the body to seek alternative ways of trying to stay connected, and many may have attended church for the first time virtually. But is that a healthy way of gathering or is there dangers in continuing to be secret attenders? Zoom helped many stay in touch, but it always seemed like something was missing.
To answer any of these questions, we must first look at how we define church. Is it a building, or a denomination, or is it built around a pastor? The actual word that is translated in most of our English translations as church is the Greek word “ekklesia”.
In the Theological dictionary of the New Testament, it first mentions variations of how ecclesia is defined both locally and denominationally, but I really like what it says on page 398…
In the case of the church it is God (or the Lord) who assembles his people, so that the church is the ekklēsía of God consisting of all those who belong to him (cf. hólē in 5:11; 15:22). Applied to believers, the term is essentially a qualitative one, the assembly of those whom God himself gathers.
An assembly of those who God gathers. This is what we are seeing in the opening chapters of the book of Acts, believers who were together locally and congregationally. They met in their homes, at the local synagogue or house, and while it was still standing, they attended the temple together so that they could have teaching, and worship God as the whole body.
In the letter he writes to the Ephesians, Paul reminds them that as gentiles they were separated from God and were far off, but the blood of Christ had reconciled them and the Jewish believers back to God. So that…
“…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22, ESV)
Joined together, built together, but what is the purpose of those called by God to be gathered? Again, we can look to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to give us some insight. Paul in chapter 4 is exhorting the Ephesian assembly to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. To be unified in Spirit, and to use the gifts that God gives by grace to serve the body and build it up. So, at verse 11 he says…
“And he 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, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16, ESV)
Everyone who is a follower of Christ and has the Spirit dwelling in them are tools in the hands of the potter. Each with gifts that can build the body of Christ, so when we are working properly, the body grows in maturity and love so that ultimately it can carry out the will and desires of the Lord in the world.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
In the next several blogs I am going to take a look at the assemblies of revelation and reflect on the exhortations and warnings that the Lord gives to the assemblies through His servant John.
Just an interesting side Note – I was curious of how the church has handled pandemics in the past and found this article, be curious of what people think about how the church has handled the current pandemic?
I also came across this “For King and Country” version of the song By our love that captures the essence of the body of Christ in action…