In the following I provide notes to show the importance of a commitment to the gatherings and activities in the church: 1) the duty of being present: Lord’s Day worship and the prayer meeting. 2) the duty of offering ourselves for the good of others: the principal of the working church.
I approach these duties by asking two questions: “why?” and “how?”
- The duty of being present on the Lord’s Day.
1) Because God commands it in His Word: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The fact that the Bible commands something to all believers under the New Covenant is enough to settle the matter.
2) Because we love our brethren. Believers are known by their love: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8). If you don’t love the brethren, then the Bible tells you that you are not a Christian.
How could you say that you love your wife if you don’t want to be around her? In the same way, believers who love each other want to gather together. Believers don’t avoid each other’s presence. It is important to be physically present in the worship, not through internet etc.
3) Because it’s crucial for our sanctification: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17). The primary instrument that God uses to sanctify us is the faithful and regular expository preaching of the Word of God. Our private Bible reading is important but there is a reason why God has established pastors in the churches and given them this command: “Preach the Word!”. Through preaching God feeds the flock and this happens on the Lord’s Day.
4) Because of the danger of apostasy: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27). These verses follow immediately after the exhortation to not forsake the assembling. Some people had already begun to forsake the assembling and in the apostle’s mind, this clearly is a danger signal that could indicate real apostasy.
Why do we neglect the assembling? Because we are lazy or don’t want to be around certain people? Because the cost would be too high if someone would see us or simply because we have “better things to do?” Certainly, these are huge warning signals that indicate that our hearts are not in good condition.
1) By loving God and the brethren: “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:47). If we are forgiven and justified by God, we are willing to worship Him in the way He wants us to. His will is that we gather together with other forgiven sinners to sing to Him, to hear the Word and to partake of the bread and wine. If we love God, this shouldn’t be a burden, but a joy. If we love God, we will love our brethren.
2) By being active in the duties all believers share on that day: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another; in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16). God seeks true worshippers, not just outward conformity. Prepare your hearts to listen carefully about what is preached and to sing with understanding and conviction.
”The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.” – 1689 LBCF ch. 22.5. See also ch. 22.8.
- The duty of being present in the prayer meeting.
1) Because it was the practice of the early church: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (Acts 1:14). In distinction to the Lord’s Day worship, prayer meetings were for the members, and its focus was on prayer and supplication (see Acts 4:24, 12:5; Matthew 18:19-20).
The prayer meeting is vital and without it, I doubt that God’s people would be called “the house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7).
2) Because prayer is vital for soul winning. Where people are converted there people have prayed. God has promised to answer our prayers and therefore we should be willing to trust this promise and pray according to His will, together.
3) Because this way we grow in prayer. Praying is not easy. Our flesh hates it. By gathering together we hold each other accountable by showing that we have not given up on this duty.
1) By praying: “Continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Robert Murray M’chane said that what a man is on his knees, that he is and nothing more. As I said, prayer is hard and it’s helpful to go to the prayer meeting, but it’s not enough. Private prayer matters. Learn to pray at home and in time you will see that you can’t live without it. When you enjoy communion with God at home, you will enjoy it with others.
2) By believing the promises concerning it. Matthew 18 is a great place to start. If we truly believe that God hears us and has promised us fruit, we will pray.
3) By believing that God delights in our corporate prayer: “And when he and taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders dell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.” (Revelation 5:8). Prayers of the saints are described as odors, pleasing to God. Do we want to please God? Then let us pray.
- The duty of offering ourselves for the good of others: the principal of the working church.
By this we mean, that individual believer is a part of a body and has a certain function in it. God has given to each believer certain gifts and a place to serve the local church. The ways in which we serve differs, but there is a place of service for everyone in the church. It is our duty to willingly serve the church in its activities or needs.
1) Because God tells us that this is inevitable: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5). If you are a believer, you are part of a body. If you are part of a body, you have a function and a purpose in it (see Ephesians 4:16).
2) Because our labor in the Lord is not in vain: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Many times we look at the world and the things that are going around us and we ask: “Does my service even matter? What’s the point in all this?” What a comfort it is to know that God himself assures us through His Word, that our labor is not in vain.
However foolish or little our hospitality, giving, evangelism, cleaning, visiting etc. might seem, to God it matters, and he who is faithful in small thing will one day be faithful in bigger things.
1) By being available to the church. Express your willingness to serve to the elders and together think where you could be a benefit to others. Elders should guide you with wisdom.
2) By being available to God. Pray that God would give you situations where you could serve others. When there is an opportunity to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), bear. When you can weep with those who weep, weep. When you can rejoice with someone, rejoice etc. (Romans 12:15-18).
3) By believing that God uses young as well as old: “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:14b). There is a certain privilege of being converted at a young age: you have more years to serve Christ. Don’t waste your youth by being lazy in the vineyard. Be faithful while young and God will bless your labor. Give no reason for people to despise your youth, but be an example in all things.
 The Bible speaks of certain individuals who had crept in to spy the freedom believers have in Christ. This can’t refer to the Lord’s Day worship which was public and open to all (see for example 1 Cor. 14). It is most likely that this refers to people who had become members and were involved in private prayer meetings.