Mt. 5:13 π Mt. 13:30 π Mt. 13:33 π Mt. 13:38 π Mt. 24:10 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 14:23 π Jn. 14:24 π Jn. 17:20-23 π Acts 2:1 π Acts 5:42; 2nd π Acts 10:15 π Acts 10:23 π Acts 15:22 π Acts 15:28 π Acts 17:30 π 2 Cor. 5:15 π 2 Cor. 11:3 π Gal 2:9 π Gal. 2:12 π Gal. 5:20 π Eph. 1:22; 2nd π Eph. 4:6 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π Jas. 1:4 π 1 Pet. 2:9 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15
When we turn to the question of how to assemble in conformity with the New Testament pattern, the first consideration is: who? That is, who should be there? We find the Greek word (mistranslated into the English "church") is "ekklesia." These are "the called out ones" - those called out of this world's darkness to attend to Christ's kingdom of light in a particular locality. This means that the people of a town or area were called to a gathering to attend to the needs and affairs of their town or area. At the risk of derailing this article from the purpose in its title, let us examine succinctly what went wrong because as we seek to separate away the leaven of centuries, even millennia, we will most easily find that is right by comparing it to what is wrong. We are far more familiar with the wrong than the right, that is certain!
Clergy. By 180
A.D., every city had a bishop ruling over the followers of Christ in that city. This bishop was a representative, a symbol of the Head Christ Jesus - but Jesus did not come, die and resurrect to create a religious hierarchy of representatives and symbols. He came to be Head of all things to His people ( Eph. 1:22 ), to create a priesthood of all believers. ( 1 Pet. 2:9 , etc.) The Nicolaitan clergy (with their "offices" of "delegated" authority - Rev. 2:6 , 15 ) would simply be the hiding places for many of the tares sown among the wheat ( Mt. 13:38 ) who would ultimately bring forth the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith. ( Mt. 24:10 , 2 Ths. 2:3; top )
Sects. The institutionalized "church," the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith, is now divided into innumerable sects based on everything from extreme error to the "pastor's" personal charisma to the denomination's "theological" traditions of men to various and peculiar practices known only to themselves. The New Testament calls this "dissensions" and "heresies" ( Gal. 5:20; top ) and these sins will keep the people involved from inheriting the kingdom of God.
The "gospel" of the "church." The underlying "gospel" preached at a "church" is this: "Come hear our guy preach and see how we act and think and, if you like it, you can come and go as you wish and do as little or as much as you like." Jesus and the New Testament, however, preach the gospel of the kingdom of God wherein He commands all men everywhere to repent (turn from, forsake) all sin and selfishness ( Acts 17:30 ) and no longer live for themselves but obediently for Him who died for them and rose again. ( 2 Cor. 5:15; top )
How is it that the simple pattern of ekklesia has eluded the people of Christ for so many centuries? Because the above sins will not work in that simple pattern ( 2 Cor. 11:3 ) and the people (whether through ignorance, negligence or rebellion is immaterial to this discussion) would not and, at any rate, did not forsake the sin. The tares and the wheat were not yet mature and harvest season was still some time away. ( Mt. 13:30; top )
What is the pattern of assembly found in the New Testament? It is found primarily in three words: headship, unanimity and local. The Headship of every matter that touches the ekklesia is the sole province of Christ. ( Eph. 1:22 ) He will express the wishes of the of the "one God and Father of all" ( Eph. 4:6 ) through oneness (unanimity, one accord - Acts 2:1 , etc.) And He will have His people permeate the world as salt permeates meat to preserve it. ( Mt. 5:13 ) A small unit will reach into the smallest of crevices - that is, they will meet in every home ( Acts 5:42; top ) so that the goodness and love that is the Holy Spirit comes into each and every neighborhood. Men still trapped in their carnality (meatiness) will seek to build up their own muscles over ever-larger areas and numbers of people and they therefore can only attain shallow, superficial results. The spiritual (salty) seek to build ever smaller physical areas and numbers of people and therefore attain to deeper, longer lasting (even into following generations) results.
In our day when the whole of the kingdom has been leavened with religious hypocrisy and error ( Mt. 13:33; top ), it is not enough to become the house "church" sect. It is one step out of the apostate institutional "church" but it is still some steps short of becoming the local ekklesia under the Headship of Christ. Some home groups have left the "church" but continue to gather to have their ears scratched by a local Nicolaitan. Others have left the "church" but practice democracy (majority rule) rather than unanimity. Still others drive for many miles to find those who are of enough like-mindedness so as to allow entry into the perceived "presence of God." All these have become the house "church" sect because their desire for like-minded "unity" is the Head of their fellowship and not Christ.
The New Testament pattern of assembly is not first and foremost about meeting in every house ( Acts 5:42; top ) but about meeting in every home under the Headship of Christ and not under the headship of the calendar or some manmade agenda. If a home gathering is drawn from far-flung parts of a city, it is not yet as it should be. That does not necessarily mean that it should just be disbanded. Rather, such a group should meet in each person's home (bringing the peaceful, gentle and loving Spirit of God into that locale and disrupting the evil spiritual forces at work there) until each home becomes its own meeting point for that locale. As this rotation is followed (again, the Lord unanimously leading even in this), other believers (known to have been drawn into Christ's kingdom but caught up in the "church" snares of men or demons) from that locale should be prayed for and invited to join in the fellowship.
Whenever a decision is to be made, the crux is not "What do you think or believe?" but rather "Is this what you are hearing from the Lord or not?" Christ's sheep hear His voice. ( Jn. 10:27 ) Those who love Him obey Him ( Jn. 14:23 ) - those who don't love Him won't. ( Jn. 14:24; top ) When every decision requires unanimity, those who are not truly His sheep, those who don't truly love Him or those who don't truly desire only His will (but in reality love or prefer some aspect of themselves) will quickly become evident. Appropriate steps - either to draw them into (vastly preferred) or remove them from (as a very last resort) true spiritual unity - can then be taken.
Those who doubt an ekklesia will ever move at all under the principle of unanimity are making three mistakes. 1) They are underestimating the power of Christ to convict and direct His people. (There may be no more perfect examples of Christ leading His people in spite of their personal biases, prejudices and opinions than Peter - Acts 10:15 , 23 - and James. - Gal 2:9 , 12 , Acts 15:28 ) 2) They are failing to see the example set forth by the first ekklesia. ( Acts 15:22 , etc.) And 3) they fail to see the need for patience that produces a perfect work (endurance - Jas. 1:4; top ) If the "wheels of justice" need to "grind slowly," how much more so the actions of a group of people whose actions will produce eternal results that have eternal consequences!
There is a New Testament pattern but the pattern always remains subject to the Head. As each individual seeks to submit to the Head who always works according to and toward this pattern, we will see the unity and oneness which verifies that Christ came from God. ( Jn. 17:20-23; top ) So long as we allow any of the subtle sins of the "church" or the flesh to guide us, we will only be yet another version of the apostate "church" - or worse, we will always remain alone.
Let he who has ears hear.
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