April 2021

 

To Meet Together

by Tom McLemore

 

        Prior to the pandemic and the implementation of measures the congregation adopted for the protection of the members, the matter of participation in the meetings of the church was worthy of consideration.  Some members were steadfastly present for all the meetings, while others faithfully were present for the Lord’s Day morning worship but were routinely absent from Lord’s Day morning Bible study, Sunday evening worship, or Wednesday evening Bible study.   Some members sporadically had been present for Lord’s Day morning worship.   

        During the pandemic, when the church resumed meeting for Lord’s Day morning worship and later added Lord’s Day morning Bible study, the same variety of participation was manifested.  This variety of participation has always been a matter of concern to the leaders, and to some members, of the church.  Church leaders and a majority of church members have always believed that every member should participate in every meeting of the church.   Now that the church is resuming the full schedule of assemblies, it is an opportune time for all of us to give serious thought to our participation.

        We might begin giving thought to this matter by hearing what the Holy Spirit has communicated in Hebrews 10:23-25.  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 

        Note that there are two primary exhortations in this passage.  First, there is an exhortation to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.  Second, we are exhorted to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.  There are two activities that the passage declares to be the means of making good on these objectives.  First, not neglecting to meet together, and second, encouraging one another.  It is natural to view these as complimentary and simultaneous, and they suggest that we meet together to stir up each other and encourage one another, and we stir up each other and encourage one another when we meet together.  Our meeting together to encourage one another is seen as being essential to our holding fast our confession without wavering and to our stirring up one another to love and good works.  As we honestly consider our individual practice when it comes to meeting together, we must ask ourselves whether we are committed to these objectives.

        An additional question that naturally arises as we read this passage is whether we are committed to the spiritual welfare of others in addition to our own spiritual welfare.  How often is the question of participation in the meetings of the church considered solely from the perspective of one’s own perceived benefit?  Often heard comments range from “I don’t get anything out of the service” to “I don’t need to participate in all the meetings” to “I don’t believe I have to attend all of the services to go to heaven.”  In all such statements, there is a recurring emphasis upon “I.”  Whereas, the key notes of this passage are “one another” and “together.”  One may think, “I don’t need them or what they have to offer.”  Indeed, one may be self-centered and also consider oneself self-sufficient!  Both stances are foreign to the teaching and to the spirit of the New Testament, and they certainly do not emerge from a conscientious reading of Hebrews 10:23-25.

        One might also consider Matthew 18:20.  Our Lord said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  This is a general principle that underlies any activity in which disciples of Jesus come together in his name, whether it be, as a congregation, to urge the sinner to repent (Matthew 18:15-17; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3-5), or to pray together (Matthew 18:19), or to worship.  The general principle applies to any meeting, great or small, and Jesus stated it in order to encourage his disciples to meet together and work together.  Knowing that we have the Lord’s presence and support should be a great comfort.

        Jesus is in our midst as we gather around his table for his supper (Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-22).   Think of Jesus as our host the first day of every week.  He invites us every first day of the week–his day–to celebrate with him what he accomplished for our sake at the cross, to rejoice with him over his resurrection, and to anticipate his return.  Who among those who appreciate what Jesus has done for us and provided for us would deliberately decide to forgo this celebration with Jesus himself as host?  Does one consider how Jesus must feel when one of his disciples says, “Thanks for the invitation, but I have decided there is something else I had rather do”?

        But on the general principle that the Lord stated in Matthew 18:20, he is in the midst of his disciples gathered in his name at times other than when the Lord’s Supper is served.  Hebrews 10:23-25 does not specify that the Lord’s Day is the only meeting under consideration.  It may be that some Christians have never adequately processed this concept that Jesus is in the midst of us whenever we meet together in his name.  Meeting together is also meeting with Jesus.  How must Jesus feel if one says, “Thanks for the invitation, but I do not think I need to meet with Jesus this time”?  Someone might say, “I would like to meet with Jesus, but I do not feel the need or the desire to meet with his disciples.”  Remember that Jesus considers one’s treatment of his brethren as one’s treatment of himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

        As the church resumes the full schedule of meetings, there is a fear that some will not be present for all of the meetings.  Also feared is that some will conclude that they can get along just as well without meeting at all.  We’ve gotten by without it during the pandemic, so we may get by without it after the pandemic has passed.  Neither of these options is acceptable to one who appreciates the teaching of the Scriptures that we have considered.

        Now is a good time for every Christian to commit to heeding the exhortations in Hebrews 10:23-25.  Think of other Christians.  They need you, and you need them.  Think of Jesus.  He invites you and wants you to be with him among his disciples.  We hope and pray that every Christian will decide never to neglect to meet together.

 

 

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