The Importance of Assembling

People (silhouettes)

Last month I posted an article titled, The Importance of the Assembly. The article was an exhortation for brethren to not forsake the assembly of the local church and showed why the assembly is important.

As we should understand the importance of the assembly, there is something else we must also understand. The assembly should not be the extent of our interaction with our brethren. The Hebrew writer gave this instruction:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

The Hebrew writer mentioned something that was to be done “day after day” – encouraging one another. The reason why this is important is because of the possibility for one to fall away. Could a local congregation assemble everyday? Sure, but there is also nothing wrong with a church meeting just two or three times a week. In fact, a local congregation can fulfill its divine obligations by meeting just once a week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2); but the less often a congregation assembles, the more that the individual Christians of that congregation must go out of their way to be with and encourage their brethren.

When the kingdom was first established, the brethren were “day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46). There were three thousand who were part of the church at the beginning (Acts 2:41). While the temple may have had room for everyone to meet, there was certainly not room in their houses for three thousand people. These brethren did more than just meet as a congregation. They also spent time with different ones from their number outside of the assembly.

When Peter was imprisoned after the execution of James, Luke recorded, “Prayer for him was being made fervently by the church of God” (Acts 12:5). Following his miraculous release, he went to “the house of Mary…where many disciples were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). After telling of what had happened, he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren” (Acts 12:17). Not all the brethren were there. Not even James, a leader in the church (Acts 15:13), was present. We can and should gather together with other brethren at various times, even if the whole number cannot be present.

We ought to have a close relationship with our brethren. The local church is a divinely established organization that practices certain things and is organized in a certain way. However, the members of a local church are more than just fellow-members of an organization. We are brethren who share a common faith, a common hope, and a common desire to please God in all that we do. We should naturally want to associate with one another in addition to our regular assemblies.

This “assembling” (interacting outside of the local church assembly), is the basis for Paul’s instruction about dealing with a brother in sin. There was a problem in the Corinthian church. There was immorality in the group – “immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1). They needed to correct this problem by having this one “removed from [their] midst” (1 Corinthians 5:2).

How was this one to be removed? Were they to prevent him from coming to the assembly of the local church? No, that was not what Paul told them to do. He said, “Actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Paul was not talking about the assembly. He was talking about social interaction that would include eating common meals with someone. Cutting off this type of association was meant to be a wake up call for them – they were no longer in good standing with God, evidenced by the fact that they could not continue to have a close relationship with the children of God. If Christians never interact with one another apart from the assembly of the local church, how can we expect this kind of discipline to have any effect?

Going to the assembly of the church should not excuse us from meeting with our brethren at other times. In the same way, meeting with brethren, even everyday, does not excuse us from the assembly. The assembly of the church is still important for the reasons stated in the previous article. Interacting with our brethren outside of the assembly is important as well and should not be neglected.

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