In preparing for this article I was going to use the description of the local congregation as a family. When I checked in “Cruden’s Complete Concordance of the Old and New Testament” the word family was used only once in Ephesians 3:15 (ASV). The word here refers to all his children, Christians in heaven and on earth. Therefore I will refer to the local congregation when they meet as a group of God’s people coming together.
Let us look in the New Testament and examine the term “coming together.” These terms, coming together, gathered together, all together, all members are used 14 or more times in the New Testament referring to the meeting together of Christians. Some of these examples were of the saints coming together on the 1st day of the week. Other times are the local church coming together for instruction, exhortation, discipline, teaching and praising God.
Let us look at the examples of the local Christians coming together for the purposes listed above. In Acts 15:30 the apostles, the elders and the whole church at Jerusalem sent Paul and Barnabas back to the church at Antioch. When Paul and company arrived what was the first recorded thing they did? They gathered the multitude (the congregation, RSV) together and delivered the letter from the Church at Jerusalem.
In Acts14:27 (ASV), Paul and company returned from their first evangelistic journey to Antioch from whence they begun. What was their first order of business? They gathered the local group of saints together and rehearsed all things God had done with them.
In 2 Corinthians 2:6ff, Paul wrote that many or the majority (RSV) responded in love to the discipline problem that existed in 1 Corinthians 5. The congregation was made aware of the problem and it was addressed with love and involvement of the members of that local work.
These are New Testament examples of the children of God coming together when the local Church leaders provide the opportunity. They got to know each other better and became aware of strengths and weakness of the local members. Because they did this, they had better chances to be aware and face problems that arose within the local group. Potential conflicts are better faced with the knowledge and involvement of every member in the local work.
Can the local congregation mimic the church in Acts 12:5? Herod had just killed James the brother of John with the sword and sought to kill Peter also. In verse 2 and 4 Peter was arrested and put in prison. What did the local body of believers do? They gathered together and prayer was made earnestly for Peter. The answer to the prayers of those coming together for the purpose of praying for Peter is recorded through Acts 12:17.
May we raise this question for consideration? Can we as members of a local congregation achieve the same closeness and communication with the members now as our early brethren did coming together as they had opportunity in the early church.
Does attending only on the first day of the week and not the other gathering together of the saints achieve the same closeness and involvement of the congregation as shown in Acts chapter 12? Don’t we think the examples of our coming together will, as the local congregations did then, produce the desired results among us today?
Let us then as a congregation of God’s people take full advantage of the examples of our early brethren in the New Testament by coming together when the leaders of the church arrange times to “feed the flock” of God (Acts 20:28, ASV) with spiritual food and also gather together at other times as well.