What are some of the unique blessings of gathering together for worship? What have we missed when it was not available? It is not simply a matter of what we have not received personally. Our responsibility is to give just as much as receive. Primarily we give worship to God and also receive spiritual blessings. The Lord’s people are also meant to strengthen one another as one body, we are not meant to “go it alone”. One coal taken out of the fire cannot preserve its heat like those that are together in the fire. We need each other and there are many mutual duties we owe to one another as we gather for worship more publicly and fellowship more privately.
Much has been written recently about the importance of gathering together physically, there are many aspects to consider. One of these is our mutual duty, giving and receiving from one another. There is a lot more involved in coming together than simply occupying the same location as individuals. We are able to consider one another and edify one another in provoking each other to love and good works as we obey the command to gather (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are required to be helpful and a support to each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Gathering together also strengthens us in a time of difficulty, darkness and discouragement. We read of this in Malachi 3:16-17 and of God’s special approval, reward and promise. As John Brown of Wamphray asks, “would not this encourage Christians to meet together? What will do it, if this will not do it?”
As John Brown also observes gathering together for worship has often brought rich spiritual blessings in the experience of believers. When the Holy Spirit blesses such gatherings in this way they receive “life and quickening grace” and have often “found their souls revived and their hearts enlarged, their eyes enlightened, their drooping spirits encouraged, their feeble knees lifted up, their doubts answered and cleared, and their souls lifted up in the ways of the Lord, and strengthened to turn the battle to the gate and to stand against corruption”.
John Brown goes on to speak of some general comprehensive “one another” duties required of Christians, which will necessarily require their meeting together or show it to be necessary.
- They are commanded frequently to love one another (John 13:34 and 15:12 & 17; Romans 13:8;1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:11 and 4:7 & 12; John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:12). Just as love in other communities necessarily effects frequent assembling together, Christian love draws Christians together for the ends and purposes which love spurs them to do to each to other.
- They must be kindly affectioned one toward another (Romans 12:10) as parents to their children. Is it not an ordinary thing to see parents and children together?
- They must be of one mind and of one mouth (Romans 15:5-6; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:27 and 2:2, 10; 1 Peter 3:8). And how is this possible unless they meet together to communicate their minds to each other and to pray to God for light in any point of difference?
Gathering together therefore helps to nourish union, standing fast in one Spirit, striving together for the faith of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). No doubt we can encourage one another by engaging together in the same worship but these duties also require an individual interest in each other. In the following updated extract John Brown of Wamphray focuses on twelve “one another” duties emphasised in the New Testament need us to come together and interact with each other.
1. Giving and Receiving Encouragement to Love and Good Works
They must consider one another so provoke unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24). And this will necessarily imply their familiarity with other and assembling together frequently to provoke to love and good works.
2. Giving and Receiving Exhortations
They must exhort one another (Hebrews 10:25 and Hebrews 3:13). Can this be done if they cannot confer together and assemble for this purpose?
3. Giving and Receiving Comfort
They must comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11). They must meet together and speak together for this purpose and pray that God would bless the means and press home the words of comfort.
4. Giving and Receiving Edification
They must edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And is it possible for them to do this duty and live as strangers to one another? This duty of edifying one another is a very comprehensive thing. It necessarily implies the saints assembling frequently together so that one may be helpful, strengthening and encouraging to another.
5. Giving and Receiving Instruction
They must admonish one another (Romans 15:13). This means to press or urge a thing on the mind of another and so instruct them aright as children are instructed. This requires that they must often be together for this purpose.
6. Giving and Receiving in Singing Praise
They must teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16) and can this be done unless they assemble together?
7. Giving and Receiving Practically
They must be kind (literally useful or profitable) one to another (Ephesians 4:32) and this requires that they must not be strangers to each other.
8. Giving and Receiving in Serving One Another
They must serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). That is, they should in love spend themselves for one another for their spiritual advantage and does this not require assembling together?
9. Giving and Receiving in Accepting One Another
They must receive one another (Romans 15:7). that is, receive with affection and embrace, one another: And must they then be frightened of the company of one another? And not rather receive other into their intimate fellowship?
10. Giving and Receiving in Submission
They must be subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5). Everyone should be ready to give, and to take reproofs to and from one another as well as to do service to each other as we are called to. This requires that they must not live as strangers to each other.
11. Giving and Receiving in Prayer for Each Other
They must confess their sins to one another and pray for another (James 5:16).
12. Giving and Receiving in Spiritual Gifts
They must minister their gifts to one another (1 Peter 4:10).
To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship? It summarises a brief book that presents updated guidance from John Owen. It helps us answer the question: what are some practical biblical steps we can all take to increase loving fellowship in our congregations?
Rules for Walking in Fellowship gives you 22 guidelines for biblical church life. This book will help you identify and understand key biblical passages about fellowship. Its concise counsel will also motivate you to want to live out these principles. You will learn how to: foster true gospel fellowship; better support your pastor and have better relationships with fellow church members.
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