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In & Out Of The Assembly

In And Out Of The Assembly
By Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
October  2006


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Worship which is acceptable to God, in this, the Christian age, must be by the divine authority of Jesus Christ.  In John 4:23,24, Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
 
We can derive at least two clear conclusions from this Scripture.  First, the statement plainly implies that there is a true worship and a false worship.  Christ said, “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father,” which leads us to understand that there must also be false worshippers.
 
According to Matthew 15:8, 9, Jesus emphasized that worship which is according to the doctrines and commandments of men, is “vain worship.”  Vain means “without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless.”  He said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  Vain worship is clearly the opposite of true worship.
 
Secondly, according to Jesus in John 4, worship, in order to be true and acceptable worship, must be in spirit and according to the truth.  Furthermore, Paul declared in Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”  From this inspired statement, we understand that the worship Christians conduct must be in the name of, or by the authority of, the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Today, when Christians worship according to the divine pattern set down in the word of God, they worship in Truth–“Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  We cannot worship “in truth” and allow something in our worship which cannot be found in the divine pattern.  These days, there are all kinds of things done in “worship” which are foreign to the New Testament pattern.
 
The word worship means “reverent honor and homage paid to God... Formal ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage...”   When worship was misdirected in the New Testament it was quickly met by correction.  (See Acts 10:25,26; Revelation 19:10).  Worship in the Bible moves back and forth between personal experience and congregational activity.  Personal worship may occur in very private circumstances or may be related to public worship.  During the Mosaic dispensation there were times and seasons for worship–Day of Atonement; Festivals; Sabbath days.
 
In its beginning the church of Christ was totally comprised of Jews, with their heritage of Old Testament commandments, but it soon became mixed with both Jews and Gentiles.  Some Jewish Christians, zealous of keeping the Old Law with its traditions, bound these things on new Gentile converts.  Consequently, there arose an urgent need for the Lord’s Apostles to teach that Sabbath keeping, abstinence from certain foods, the rite of circumcision, etc., were not binding on Christians. 
 
The Jewish Christians had to learn that the many ceremonies of the Old Law which pointed forward to the crucifixion of Christ had been fulfilled in Jesus.  For the Christian, all of the complex activities of the Temple, Levitical  priesthood, animal sacrifices, and sin-cleansing rituals were done away.  “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days,” Paul wrote to Christians in Colosse (2:16).  (See also Galatians 4:10,11; 5:4)
 
In the verses preceding (Colossians 2:13–14) the Scriptures say, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
 
The church itself has now become the temple of God.  And being added to the church by the Lord indicates that a person has been saved (Acts 2:36-47).  In becoming a Christian each person has been given a new spiritual station.  The Lord, “ loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father”  (Revelation 1:6).
 
To impress on the minds of Christians their important spiritual position as God’s holy dwelling place, Paul wrote, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”  (1 Corinthians 6:19), and again, “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21,22).  Peter told Christians, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
 
Yes, those who become Christians not only become children of God, born into His family (Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26,27; 1 Peter 1:23), but they become members of “the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22,23), and are become citizens of the kingdom of God’s dear son (Colossians 1:13), and their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). 
 
A search of the Scriptures will lead us to understand that the members of a church of Christ in a locality came together to conduct public worship each first day of the week.  In doing this, five ordinances of worship were to be accomplished.  In this assembly there was the observing of the Lord’s Supper; they also contributed as they had been prospered; they prayed; they taught and learned from the word of God, and sang “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”  Please read Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10,11,14 & 16:1,2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.
 
As you read the above passages and others, you will see that the Apostles instructed early Christians as to what was to be done and how it was to be carried out.  For example, when they came together in the assembly, the teaching from the word of God was to be done by men only, and that by turn, one by one.
 
The inspired writer gives the reason for this saying, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”  They were to conduct the services in a manner that would edify all worshipers (1 Corinthians 14:5,12,26), and even unbelieving visitors would be convinced and converted (vs. 25). 
 
We must not make the mistake of confusing public worship with things we might do in private.  Christians can pray and fast as it suits them.  They should pray when they have difficulty and sing to rejoice as their situation demands (James 5:13). These activities are individually conducted according to one’s own personal needs and choices.
 
There was once a brother who visited the Siskiyou Street congregation in L.A. who held that women could not teach the word of God at all, under any circumstances. He reasoned that since Paul wrote “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak,” (1 Corinthians 14:34), and we are still the Lord’s church wherever we are, women are never allowed to teach the Bible.
 
Of course, the brother had to ignore several Scriptures which clearly imply that it was not only permitted but proper for a woman to teach God’s will.  Outside of the public assembly the wife of Aquila helped teach a preacher.  In Acts 18:24-26 we read of a Jewish preacher from Egypt named Apollos who was said to be eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures, but he knew only the baptism of John which was no longer valid.  This Christian couple, husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla, heard him preach, took note of his error, and “took him unto them and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
 
Be sure that you note the fact that they were careful to teach him privately.  There was no public reprimand.  This ought to be a lesson to all who love the Lord and His worship, who love the souls of saints and who make a sincere effort to keep all things taught properly.  Women as well as men should quietly and privately make corrections to keep down disturbances, and still maintain the Truth.  Of course, women should not usurp the position of men, but a careful God-fearing knowledgeable woman can help many of us understand the will of God more clearly.
 
The prohibition of women teaching was in the public.  The inspired Apostle writes to Timothy for him to instruct brethren in a number of areas including the conduct of teaching in their assembly.  He says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:11,12).  The restriction by God was not because the man is usually smarter than the woman, nor is the woman less eloquent than the man.  The remainder of the chapter gives God’s reasons for placing the responsibility of teaching the assembly on the man and not the woman.  It had nothing to do with ability or intelligence. 
 
In Acts 8 we read of the preacher, Philip, being sent by divine dispatch to Gaza to assist in the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch.  After his preaching about Jesus to the Ethiopian resulted in his being baptized, Philip was “caught away” and was after that said to travel from city to city up the sea coast until he reached Caesarea. We don’t read more about Philip until we find in Acts 21, some twenty-seven years later, that he is still in Caesarea.  In this passage Paul and his company, on their journey to Jerusalem, come to that city and abide with Philip.
 
The writer tells us that this evangelist now had four daughters who prophesied. Consistent with Paul’s inspired instruction that women are restricted to teach only in private, Philip’s daughters must not have prophesied in the worship assemblies. There is no evidence that Paul stopped the prophesying by Philip’s daughters, therefore, it was evidently being done according to the will of God.
 
We think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit was correct in having the apostle Peter (Acts 2:17-19) quote the prophet Joel and apply his words to the miraculous events at the establishment of the Lord’s church and its early days.  He said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.”
 
We are sure that everything said by Philip’s daughters was a word of prophecy.  No doubt, they were normal sisters with normal needs, but when it came time to teach someone the word of God they, each one, had this miraculous gift.  This is part of the New Testament teaching and we must accept this subject in consistency with other inspired teaching.  We don’t have prophetesses today, but women have a responsibility to teach God’s will when opportunity presents itself.  The command to not “usurp authority over the man” must be obeyed whether in the assembly or out. Evidently, Priscilla could conduct herself as a Christian woman and still teach the preacher who was in error.
 
Make no mistake, the Lord’s church, in its infancy, was endued with miraculous events and gifts.  Not all had the same gift, but both men and women possessed them.  Of course, there were restrictions and direction given concerning them. Much of it had to do with that done in the assembly and that done outside.  If the brother was correct who took the position that the restrictions and directions given concerning teaching, praying, singing, etc., was binding both in and out of the assembly, we find a great inconsistency in the Divine record.  But there was a distinction made and we must recognize this distinction today.
 
If that brother were correct, then why were the wives of the prophets commanded to discuss scriptural questions at home (1 Corinthians 14:35).  In this Paul shows a great line of distinction between being in the assembly and being out, saying “for it is a shame for women to speak in the church,” meaning the church assembly.

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