I can still remember my earliest experiences meeting with God’s people. My family attended a smaller church. It had orange carpet and pews. The ceiling was adorned with massive dark wooden beams and elegant, yet somewhat grim, stained-glass chandeliers. I recall gazing upward as a youngster, trying to discern the images in the sides of those massive light fixtures. I don’t remember ever not liking church, but I wasn’t too enthused about it until later. I was in my post-adolescent years when I became serious about my relationship with Christ. My spiritual commitment led to a new understanding of the church. For the first time in my life, I understood the purpose of the gathering of God’s people. God’s Word is not silent on this issue. The Lord wants us to regularly meet with other believers, and He desires for certain things to happen when we do. Let’s look at four of them.
The assembly of Christians should cherish the public proclamation of God’s Word. In ancient Israel, Scriptural preaching was important (Nehemiah 8:1-12). When Jesus visited the place of worship, He preached (Luke 4:16-30). Paul did too (Acts 20:7 and 27), and he encouraged his preacher apprentices to do likewise. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, he said, “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus...proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.” Each Sunday, time should be set aside for the reading, explanation, and application of Bible truth. Such activity renews the minds of God’s people (Romans 12:1-2).
Secondly, God’s people ought to devote time to singing songs to God. Paul described the first century worship scene, saying, “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). By directing our hearts to God through song, we receive a freshened perspective concerning God and life. We also give God the praise He deserves.
The gathering of God’s people is an opportunity for encouragement. All week, people face the pressures and difficulties of life in a fallen world. When they meet with other believers, it is an opportunity to receive encouragement and inspiration from likeminded people (Hebrews 10:25).
In the Bible, a number of metaphors are used of the church. At times, it is likened unto a body (1 Corinthians 12:12), on other occasions it is compared to a building (Ephesians 2:21). The latter depiction is legitimate, since the meeting of the church is designed for the building up of God’s people. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul said, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” Through the teaching that takes place at the place of worship, God’s people should be trained to live the Christian life in the context of a fallen world.