Assembling Together

Lords of Darkness

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Chapter:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Isa. 1:13 π Amos 5:21 π Amos 5:23-24 π Mt. 13:30 π Mt. 18:20 π Lk. 10:1 π Lk. 10:5-7 π Acts 5:42 π Rom. 12:5 π 1 Cor. 12:24-25 π 1 Cor. 12:27 π Eph. 4:14-16; 2nd π Eph. 4:16 π Eph. 5:23 π Col. 1:18 π 1 Tim. 2:5 π Heb. 10:19 π Heb. 10:21 π Heb. 10:22 π Heb. 10:23 π Heb. 10:24; 2nd π Heb. 10:24-25 π Heb. 10:24-29 π Heb. 10:25; 2nd π Heb. 10:27 π Heb. 10:29 π 2 Pet. 2:9 π 1 Jn. 1:7; 2nd 3rd π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15

It has been rightly said that our relationship with Christ has two elements - vertical and horizontal. The vertical element is our relationship with God and, as we have seen, the ruler of displacing Christ has erected mighty schemes to deceive us into bringing into our life with God some substitute for Christ. But there is also a horizontal element to our life in Christ, our relationships with one another, and the ruler of displacing Christ is eager to insert his deceptions here as well.

John wrote,

...if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another... ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top )

As we have already been seeing (and our study is far from complete) most people claiming to follow Christ are steeped in the deceptions of the lords of darkness. If our life with God is devoid of truth - or, at the least, severely compromised with webs of deceptions we have believed to be true - what can be said for our relationships with one another? If our relations with God are not founded on truth as we suppose, what hope is there for our human interactions? Yet we have the audacity to call our gatherings “fellowship”!

The average “Christian” gathering is so far off the mark that many have tried to make “church” attendance under the tutelage of the clergy mandatory - at times persecuting, ostracizing, oppressing or even executing those who would not comply with that sect’s “Sabbath laws.” ?Forsake not the assembly...? ( Heb. 10:25; top ), they say. Let’s look at that passage more carefully so that we may be freed once and for all time from that lie of the rulers of darkness.

When we examine this passage in Hebrews, we must first notice that this instruction to assemble is given in two contexts: First, we may boldly enter the Holiest (a reference to the innermost part of God’s dwelling place) because Jesus? blood has purified us. ( Heb. 10:19 ) That is (to use John’s vernacular), because Jesus has removed the barrier between sinful man and holy God, we may abide in Him. Second, we have

...a High Priest over the house of God... ( Heb. 10:21; top )

We don?t need a priest (clergy) ruling over the house of God and we certainly don’t need a substitute god because the role of priest over the people of God has been completely filled by Christ. There is neither need nor place for any other - neither man nor spiritual being - in that capacity. (see also 1 Tim. 2:5; top )

With these two understandings in place, the writer gives three instructions, the third of which is the one about assembly.

1) Let us draw near to God. ( Heb. 10:22 )

2) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope in Him who is faithful. ( Heb. 10:23 )

3) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day [of the Lord’s return and His judgment] approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses? law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? ( Heb. 10:24-29; top )

It is indeed amazing how much different this passage sounds when one reads it in its proper context! Let us analyze it further by turning it into a formula that shows the direction of thought of the author. It would read something like this:

Because of [A,B], let us [1,2,3], not [-3] but [3a] or else [C]. [C1] = 10; [C2] = 1010. [C2] = [X,Y,Z]

Now, let’s put that back into English.

[A] we may boldly enter into the fullness of God and

[B] Christ is our High Priest,
let us:
[1] draw near to God,

[2] hold fast our faith, and

[3] stir one another to love and good works;
[-3] forsaking our assembling together
[3a] exhorting one another
Or else:
[C] expect judgment from God that devours His enemies.
[C1] The judgment for rejecting Moses’ law was death.

[C2] The judgment for:
[X] trampling Christ underfoot,

[Y] devaluing the blood of Christ, and

[Z] insulting the Spirit of grace
is exponentially worse.

If we look at the penalty alone -

...a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries... ( Heb. 10:27; top ) -

we must conclude that this is indeed a serious offense. If we were to apply the ?church’s? spin - that the weekly lecture given by the clergy is ?the assembly? and ?not being in church? is ?forsaking the assembly? - then we could reasonably conclude that those exiting the ?church? building should be the ones to expect to be hit by lightning or, at least, a speeding truck! After all, every time they leave the ?church? or miss a sermon, they’re ?forsaking the assembly.? (This is often exactly how this passage is explained by ?church? leaders!) But, as we examine the passage in its context, since there are three exhortations, we must conclude that the penalty applies to those who fail to obey all three exhortations, not just one of the three. Under the ?church? spin, the penalty - fiery judgment - does not match up to the crime and the ?church? application breeds only fear and guilt.

So what does it mean to assemble? While there is not a point for point comparison, it can nonetheless be stated that points [X], [Y] and [Z] correspond to points -[1], -[2] and -[3]. That is, one who does not [1] draw near, does not [2] hold fast and does not [3] stir up is one who [X] tramples, [Y] devalues and [Z] insults. Using the same kind of comparison of the text to itself, it is thus true that [3] stirring up and [3a] exhorting one’s brothers and sisters in Christ is the same activity as assembling together. Now we have a much more clear definition, from the Scripture itself, just what assembly means.

So with this correct view of assembly, let us now picture ourselves in a usual “church” “service.” Unless one is the “pastor” or someone who enjoys his favor, is there any chance we might truly assemble in that “church” “service”? That is, could we actively stir up and exhort the other people in the audience? (And that’s assuming we actually know somebody in that crowd well enough to consider what might stir them into godly, loving action! – Heb. 10:24; top ) No! We would quickly be the recipients of the zealous attentions of the “bouncer ministry”! One simply cannot assemble (that is consider, stir up and exhort) within a modern “church” “service” - it is forbidden to do so in the average “church” gathering today.

However we might view this passage, one clear result stands out: The writer is not speaking in any way of attending a “church” “service” dominated by a Nicolaitan clergy and characterized by a silent, passive audience. Such notions would be an abomination to the writer of Hebrews.

Do any other New Testament passages touch on this issue? Yes. Paul gives a clear picture of genuine assembly when he writes,

...that we...may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. ( Eph. 4:14-16; top )

What does Paul say causes growth of the body? When Christ Himself sits up in heaven with His spiritual Krazy Glue and joins body parts together like some divine Dr. Frankenstein? No. The body grows and is built up together, Paul says, when the “pastor” supplies and the “church” staff does its share? Again, no. In fact, when the “pastor” and staff attempt to do this, they step into a place that actually prevents the body of Christ from being built up - and the rulers of darkness love that this is so! When every joint takes what it has received of the Spirit of grace and supplies it to the adjoining joint and when every part does its share - then and only then will the body of Christ be assembled together and grow.

Now, if we take this passage and compare it back to the passage in Hebrews about assembling, the one who fails to stir up his brothers to love and good works ( Heb. 10:24 ) and who will not exhort them ( Heb. 10:25 ) - the joint that fails to pass on what he has received from Christ, the part that refuses to do its share ( Eph. 4:16 ) - that one has trampled the Son of God (especially His body) underfoot, he has treated Christ’s blood (which paid for us all) as a cheap, common thing (his brothers and sisters certainly aren’t worth his time and effort) and he has insulted the Spirit of grace (by failing to function in the power that brings forth the life of Christ from within – Heb. 10:29 ) Such a one is worthy of judgment and this is the only interpretation that makes sense: Forsaking the assembling of ourselves together means that we are refusing or neglecting to be the body part that God made us to be. (also see 1 Cor. 12:24-25; top ) This is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to, not a “church” “service.”

The sadly ironic part is that the one who routinely attends a “church” “service” dominated by the Nicolaitan clergy, who relies on the “pastor” to “feed the sheep,” is the one who routinely forsakes the assembling of ourselves together because he fails to be the body part Christ would have him be. Instead, he is in “church” every time the doors are open! He relies on the “pastor” to “feed” him and all the others around him and he does not do his share. The ruler of displacing Christ has done his deceptive work all too well in this category.

When we tie the concept of assembling being the building up of the body of Christ ( Heb. 10:24-25 ; Eph. 4:14-16; top ) to John’s statement that

...if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another... ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top ),

we find a seamless connection here as well. As we walk in the light, we will receive from the Spirit of Christ and we will, because the other is also in tune to receive from Christ, be able to pass along what has been supplied to us. We will do our part and the others around us will receive what we give and pass it along to others in turn. We will also receive from these others in the same way. This is fellowship - a unity with the Person and purpose and actions of the Spirit of Christ by every member of Christ’s body present at that time and in that place. Anything else is just “church” - a lie practiced in Christ’s name.

Merely herding bodies into and out of the lecture hall (?sanctuary? in most ?churches?) does not constitute fellowship in Christ. At best, it constitutes a mixed multitude, the kind Jesus most often had to get away from so that He could pass on the deeper things of God to His closest disciples and friends.

The LORD spoke through Isaiah:

Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. ( Isa. 1:13; top - emphasis added)

Through the prophet Amos, the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, said:

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies... Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. ( Amos 5:21 , 23-24 - emphasis added;top)

Has God changed? Does He now tolerate iniquity in the sacred assembly of His people? Is it now appropriate and acceptable to God to be unrighteous and hypocritical in one’s “private” life but outwardly “sacred” and “holy” when gathering for “church” with other “Christians” for “Sunday worship”? No! A thousand times, NO!!! So why do we continue to gather large crowds of wicked, semi-wicked, somewhat holy and holy people together in the name of Christ? Because in such arenas, the demonic can do much more of their work even while Christ does His work to keep the true wheat from being completely corrupted by the tares and the demonic. In short, we do the work of the demonic by building large halls to comfortably seat the mixed multitude so we can entertain and amuse them on their way to hell!

Jesus did not say, “Where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst.” He did say,

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. ( Mt. 18:20 - emphasis added; top)

This is the gathering of Christ’s ekklesia - two or three believers and Jesus! It is a concept of the world that more is better. Not so with Christ. Gather more than two or three people and someone becomes a spectator. It is significant that the earliest apostles, probably in twos, went to every house - and probably stayed there a few days - to serve the word of God to every household. ( Acts 5:42 ; Lk. 10:1 , 5-7; top ) Following Christ is most decidedly not a spectator sport though the rulers of darkness would love to have us believe that it is.

Some decades ago, the shepherding movement began because some people recognized that a true pastor was a lot more than a distant Bible lecturer displaying an aura of infallibility from behind a pulpit on a platform that visibly proclaimed his spiritual superiority over the crowd. Unfortunately, these people were not completely free of the ruler of displacing Christ’s influences and the “personal pastor” system quickly became as abominable as the “church pastor” system. The “church pastor” ruled over many; the “personal pastor” ruled over only a relative few. But there was still a second head over people of Christ; someone had arrogantly and/or ignorantly stepped yet again into the place reserved for Christ alone. Only Christ is the head of His body. Receive no substitutes!

While the shepherding movement (the ?personal pastor?) did produce (in some fortunate few) deeper relations between men truly seeking God than did the “church’s” clergy/laity fixed-gulf dilemma, it still falls short of the basis on which our fellowship is attained. Again,

...if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another... ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top - emphasis added)

Since we are Christ’s body ( Rom. 12:5 ; 1 Cor. 12:27 ) and Christ is the head of the body ( Eph. 5:23 ; Col. 1:18 ), we may turn to modern medical science’s discoveries as to how God created the human body to provide us an insight into the role and function of the Holy Spirit. He is the nervous system that is the command pathway between the brain and all the body parts. As such, the Holy Spirit not only links us to the Head but He also links us to one another. The over/under relationship of the “pastor” (whether “church” or “personal”) is a disease or appendage that attaches itself to and interrupts the flow of the Spirit between brothers who truly hold equal standing before God. God still hates the deeds and practices of the Nicolaitans ( Rev. 2:6 , 15 ) though He has tolerated them for the sake of His true wheat. ( Mt. 13:30 ) God’s forebearance and tolerance should not be mistaken for approval or license - His judgment upon those who lord over His flock will surely come and soon. (see 2 Pet. 2:9; top )

Displacing Christ π Tolerance or Unity
Lords of Darkness

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