In A Christian Assembly - For What Purpose?
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
Once the reason has been firmly established in our minds as to why we are found in local assembly fellowship, we must ascertain what we can contribute to the general growth of the work of God. Whilst the privileges of fellowship are ours to enjoy, our personal responsibility must have an important place in our thinking. Every one in fellowship matters; each has a part to play. The passages in the New Testament which teach us church matters emphasise this in an unmistakable way. Notice, for example, the vital part played in the growth of the body by every several part, Eph. 4. 16. If this fact is overlooked the growth of the body is impaired. It is possible that our whole aim is “to get”, rather than considering that which we can give. Yet to acquire any sense of inward blessing we must develop a sense of personal responsibility towards God’s work.
In the light of this, therefore, personal loyalty must be paramount. This is sadly lacking in many quarters today. If we are convinced that we are in the place where the Lord would have us to be, then the full weight of our support should be felt there at all times. We are members not only in name but in deed and in truth. Difficult times will test our loyalty. Paul expresses the spirit of true loyalty when he exhorts “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”, Phil. 1. 27; cf. the oft-recurring idea of the steadfast continuance of the believers in Acts.
It is most necessary for each Christian, however young, to seek to make some personal contribution to the strengthening of the local assembly testimony. In the building of the tabernacle of old, all had their own particular contribution to make. Small though it may have seemed it was noted by God. It was the willing hearts, stirred with desire to yield something of value to God, that prompted the willing hands, ready to contribute to the great building which was for His dwelling. So it is today. Not one Christian is, in the Lord’s reckoning, of no use to Him. He values more highly than we can imagine every expression of devotion.
The heat of zeal is a most heartening feature of early Christian experience, and is not to be despised. Sad so often, that it is early lost. The aged apostle Paul exhorts the younger Timothy to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee”, 2 Tim. 1. 6. It is for all who are young, at the earliest possible moment, to seek under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to yield some useful, constructive help to the furtherance of the work of God. All powers are needed.
We can think of three ways, in which the youngest believers can begin to contribute to the well-being of the testimony:
1. As Worshippers in our Devotion
Our first giving must be Godward. In early Christian experience we can add to the measure of worship expressed by the assembly. This is an important matter, not to be treated lightly. This does not begin by just taking part in the “Worship Meeting”. It is always good to hear the warm, first expressions of public worship from young brethren. It makes a welcome change at times, but if this were all worship consisted in, where would the young sisters come in? We must say that worship in its corporate expression is the outpouring of devoted lives in love to Christ. There is no substitute for this. Eloquence of expression in word will not take its place. The surrender of the whole life in the spirit of Romans 12. 1-2 constitutes true worship. We may be young, but we can be yielded and our contribution in worship in this way will be felt.
2. As Workers in Our Duty
Next we think of our contribution as workers. Duty must spring from devotion, otherwise it becomes drudgery and not a delight. But having said this, there is every demand possible made upon all our powers to labour for God in the local church sphere. It is often difficult for young Christians today, with the strenuous demands that secular study makes upon time and energy, to give much definite help to the work of God. Yet, as an initial step in experience, the will of God must be sought as to the place we can fulfil in His service. Unless the will to work is developed the way to work will not be realised. A humble, prayerful waiting upon God can bring the gifts that are given us, under His guidance, into full development and their right place for the furtherance of His work. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in His distribution of these gifts. It should be our desire that they shall be exercised for the profit of all in the assembly fellowship. Are we ready as young believers, earnestly to seek and find ways whereby we can strengthen and extend His kingdom in our locality? If we do not work for Him it will result in our own present and eternal loss.
3. As Warriors in our Defence
Finally in the great Christian warfare, we can stand as warriors in the defence of God’s interests and truth. Early in Christian experience, we shall need to know not only how to work but also how to war. We are to be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ”. God expects us to stand fast against all enemy assaults. God depends upon all, both young and old, to hold fast the form of sound words. There is provided for us the invincible qualities of the complete armour of God, Eph. 6. 10-18, and with constant practice we can become skilled in Christian warfare. Let us remember that the activity of the unseen powers of spiritual wickedness demands constant vigilance in Christian living. This factor, whether in individual life or in collective assembly testimony, is of vital importance. Today, strife and weakness within and evil influences from without threaten the assembly testimony perhaps as never before. As young Christians with the future before us, we need to “Be strong and of good courage”, to do valiantly for our wonderful Lord, and to go on to victory.