“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).”
The New Testament passages which address the activities of believers in the assembly of a local congregation reveal that there is a two-fold purpose of our gatherings: 1) to edify one another and 2) to magnify God
Consider Paul’s instructions concerning singing collectively in Ephesians 5:19.
- “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,”
- “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
We sing to the Lord and to one another. The two objectives are also paired in Paul’s instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1Corinthians 11.
- “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body…wait for one another.” (v27-34)
- “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (v23-26)
Paul’s warning to the one who “eats and drinks in an unworthy manner” by not “discerning the Lord’s body” comprehends our thoughtful consideration of both the physical body of Christ which was pierced for our transgressions and the spiritual body of Christ—the church—for whom he bled and died and among whom we are gathered.
Mutual edification as a primary objective of our assemblies is easily ascertained from Hebrews 10:25, in which the church is encouraged to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”
Consideration of one another is seen in Paul’s guidance regarding the disposition with which we should approach arranging and ordering our assemblies: “Let all things be done for edification (1Corinthians 14:26).” What we are doing in our assemblies should be done with a view to building up the local church in spiritual strength, love and unity.
Neither magnifying God nor edifying one another is paramount to the other. Neither is a by-product or a side-effect of the assembly. They are both the product, they are both the effect! One will not happen without the other. If God’s majesty is not the focal point of our assemblies, the brethren will not be built up. If the body is not spiritually nourished and strengthened in our assemblies, Christ is not truly honored.
This dual purpose of assembling together—to magnify God and to edify one another—means we simultaneously worship God and serve one another in the assemblies.
As we encounter God in our assemblies, we expect to receive a deeper knowledge of God’s will, complete joy, and enduring pleasure (Psalm 16:11). We expect satisfaction for that for which we hunger and thirst (Psalm 42:1-2). However, if we come to the assembly only to receive, we are going to be disappointed. We may even become embittered against those who are leading the worship because they aren’t giving us what we expect to get out of the worship service.
The truth is, we will only receive from the worship service in the same measure with which we give to our worship and our service. Jesus taught this principle in Luke 6:38. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.” We assemble to give “the sacrifice of praise” to God (Hebrews 13:5). We assemble to give encouragement to “one another in order to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).” Give comes first, then comes get.
There are so many reasons to be joyful concerning our assemblies. God has blessed us with talented men who help guide us to the Throne in worship and praise. Any day we get to sing, read, and study about our Lord is a good day; and the blessing of doing so with other faithful saints enhances that experience. What a shame if we allow a personal preference to separate us from the joy of worship. And let’s admit it: much of what we like and dislike about our assemblies falls within the realm of human tradition and personal preference, not commandments of God. Acknowledging that will shape the attitude with which we address our diverse tastes.
In matters of preference, attitude is of prime importance. We have liberty in many details about how we arrange our assemblies because God has not revealed to us His preference regarding those details. But even in those matters which are left to our preference, God has revealed to us the attitude with which He expects us to exercise our liberties. Whenever God speaks about my preference, He always tells me to give it up for the sake of others and in imitation of Christ: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5).” Preference is for giving, not getting.
If a prayer or scripture or sermon is not speaking to you, God may be working on the heart of another right now; He will get to you soon. This isn’t your song? Be patient, God has not forsaken you. Your song is next.
Only when we bring hearts which are prepared to give sacrificially to God and to one another will we consistently achieve assemblies which are authentic, passionate and encouraging.
By Boyd King