Faithful saints gathered in a scriptural fellowship should want to exercise holiness, follow the Scripture, maintain the testimony and the honor of the Lord, and seek the good of the saints. They will do this in love to the Lord, rather than a commandment by God; however, God gives us His mind in approval for it. This is suggesting, that as faithful saints are of the "holy" and "royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2 ), they will want to serve; and also considering what is rightly held and taught in the scriptural assembly locally, and with the universal testimony of Bible-only gatherings. Further information is available on these subjects from the writer, but these few thoughts are shared here to put all in remembrance, though we know of them (2 Pet. 1:12). - R. L. DeWitt - Christian Counsel Collection
SHOWING HOLINESS AND GODLINESS
The "born again" believers have a holy standing by the grace of God (essential purity before God) because of the redemptive work of Christ in us (see John 1; John 3; John 14), and we are then called to walk in holiness as “...becometh saints” (the sanctified ones). HOLINESS has been defined as "a nature which delights in purity and abhors and repels evil" (J. N. Darby), which should be the mind of every true "child of God". GODLINESS is a god-like behavior toward all mankind. It is a fulltime work to overcome our flesh, though saints cannot become perfect in this world (Matt.7:3-5; Rom. 13:14 and 1 Jn. 1:9-10). Saints have a perfect STANDING in Christ, though we can easily fail in our spiritual STATE. We should see EVIL is that which is contrary to God and harmful, morally wrong, a bad intention, or some actions that could in extreme give rise to WICKEDNESS ---vile; distructive; satanic (see Eccl. 8:11-13). If evil is perceived in the local assembly one ought to speak to the responsible over-seers about it.
FOLLOWING THE WORD
Most true believers value the thought of following the Word of God, but some follow it loosely and some follow it rigidly in a narrow and bad way. Believers ought to follow it Godly and truthfully ---"rightly dividing the Word of Truth" as God enjoins us. It is important that the saints in the fellowship receive "all the counsel of God" and discuss their thoughts together, and share from their readings with others, and gain some understanding from the collective readings; and they are not subject to a hierarchy of leaders who decide what is true, and who do all the preaching and teaching. Esteemed Elders within the gathering who are gifted by God will GUIDE and HELP in the studies. Mis-applying the Scripture and following traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and various innovations, will dishonor God and can lead one astray or cause much confusion (though we ought to also forbear with any honest errors by other saints).
MAINTAINING THE TESTIMONY
If one appreciates the truth and ground of scriptural gathering, and is in happy fellowship in God's worldwide testimony of Bible-only for His Church, then one ought to work to maintain His testimony universally and in the local assembly. There is no such thing as "the church (or assembly) of your choice", as some Christians say. We need to express the "one body of Christ" worldwide in "unity of the faith", and with "no schism (division) in the body" as God tells us. INDEPENDENCY is a divisive spirit and sectarian (noting the Epistles).
The government of God within the local assembly is the responsibility of ALL THE GATHERED SAINTS there, who are a "holy" and "royal priesthood" (1 Pet.2; 1 Cor.5; etc.); and this needs to be in accord with other gatherings of like mind; and does not speak of so-called MAJORITY RULE. Certainly evil must be judged, worldliness should be avoided, and the Bible testimony must be maintained. Every believer ought to be exercised about this and share their thoughts in a proper way. The local elders will oversee it and give counsel in the matter, and see that "....all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor.14:40); and other Godly assemblies in the fellowship will appreciate that. Discord and rebellion is an offense to God. The sisters are silent in the assembly meetings (1Tim. 2:8-12), but they may speak privately about questions to the elders as they feel exercised, and also encourage individual saints and serve in many ways as "helps" to the testimony.
Since we do not have Apostles today the local government of God needs to ultimately be maintained by his elder saints (as shown in the Epistles) and the leading of the Holy Spirit . They are balanced by other saints and older and more experienced elders elsewhere, that all may together honor the Lord. A religious idea may sound good, but God will show His servants if it is approved. We ought to bow to that. There is a time and place for everything that is good and approved, and God will do His work in His own way (Isa.55:8).
One might have personal preferences, but God's government in His assemblies is for His own purposes. Our part is to be in conformity to His order and will. The expectation by God is that the local assembly should handle and resolve matters "decently and in order", and not divide and scatter the saints (1 Cor. 12; Eph.4; etc.).
In a business or care meeting, all the redeemed brothers who value God's Word should be encouraged to attend, and certain matters or problems ought to then be shared with the whole assembly, so all can be "of one mind" and "one accord" (Phil.2:1-4). Decisions should not be made hastily. There is no perfection among brethren, and we should not try to dictate conscience, and Christian love ought to prevail. More has been said about assembly government elsewhere.
HONORING THE LORD
Worship in the gathering, beside individual devotions, should be in accord with the Word at the Lord's table, by the gathered saints taking of the emblems at the Lord's supper. Other meetings are held as given for the work (Acts 2:42).
It is important to attend all meetings, if possible, for the good of the testimony, as well as our own soul. Beside the remembrance meetings (ref. "breaking of bread"), readings and study together, and prayer meetings; and one should not forget children meetings and gospel meetings which are held as an important work. The support of the saints is needed for all meetings. It is an encouragement to others, though one may feel it doesn't directly apply to self.
1. On the first day of the week (the resurrection day) the redeemed saints should gather together to remember the Lord Jesus in His suffering, sacrifice and victory for us as He requested (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). This is when the Lord's table is spread in collective worship to "show the Lord's death" (1 Cor.11:23-29), give thanks, sing praises, and meditate on His love. The supper is a holy and quiet time of devotion by the "born again" saints, and not a time for preaching or other activity.
2. A time might also be set for Scripture reading before or after the remembrance meeting to study together, and the children might also be taken aside during this time for special classes.
3. Other reading meetings might be held later in the day, and a time set for preaching the gospel in a public way, where the unsaved are invited to come and hear words of life.
4. It is also right to have a special prayer meeting time during the week to gather for collective prayer for the testimony, help, and intercession for all saints---especially those in need.
5. At times it is nice to have a special fellowship day for the saints to gather for sound ministry, by those with an exercise to share Godly thoughts and encourage the saints; or have special meeting times during the week when esteemed fulltime servants visit to help, teach, and be an encouragement.
It is honoring to the Lord to be humble and not presume to know all things. Believers have a responsibility individually for their manner, and a responsibility collectively for God's testimony. If the flesh is allowed to act it will mar the holiness, unity, and also stumble many. We must not press our will, but work together with the assembly. One has said: we should not only ask what the assembly will do for us, but what we can do for the good of God's testimony as shown to us.
SEEKING THE GOOD OF THE SAINTS
If all the saints seek the good of all they will truly be blessed in their own soul. Self-interests and a independent spirit is heresy. It should be our joy to encourage and build up others in the faith, that we may all honor our Lord and go on well together in the local and universal testimony.
Without order and care in the local assembly, we will have disunity on one hand with every idea of men being introduced, and on the other hand saints discouraged and becoming prey to the enemy. The assembly will then be paralyzed and fail as a non-sectarian work of God. This does not suggest a hierarchy, but godly oversight as God provides by gifts, and not appointed men by men. One should see and value the scriptural order.
Certainly the scriptural ground of gathering is the first consideration for God's assembly, but our concern here is mostly the responsibility within, and does not speak particularly of the foundation and gathering order. With a Godly and humble spirit the saints can encourage others and go on well as a happy fellowship in truth.
Any ministry of the Word of God by men is always limited, and at best it cannot cover all aspects of the subject ministered; so, one might allow that and consider the subject as presented, and make comparisons with related subjects and sources. One can also visit the site: biblecounsel.net and ask questions there, and write Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL.
-RLD: CA30; 2003; add. 02/19