Jesus said that He would build His church. The Savior’s promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost following His resurrection and ascension. This church is described by scripture as indestructible. If it still exists in the world, how can I be part of it? How can it be identified and delineated amid the many denominations and sects that have arisen since Jesus built His church? In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we begin a 2-part study of The Church That Jesus Built.
The second Sunday in May is, most importantly, the Lord’s Day when Christians meet together to honor Christ and remember His death by eating the Lord’s Supper. We do that every week. But on this one Lord’s Day every year, we as a nation take time to honor and celebrate mothers. We should be thankful for mothers and their irreplaceable role in our lives each day we live, but we usually take this day to thank them and show our appreciation in special ways. The current pandemic may prevent us from celebrating with our families in the usual ways, but it shouldn’t stop us from honoring our mothers.
The Bible places an even greater and more important kind of emphasis on mothers than our modern world does. As we’ll see in our study today, the Bible depicts the work and influence of a mother as much more than feeding, cleaning, and taking care of children physically, kissing bumps and bruises and so forth. The word of God sets her forth as one of the greatest influences in her children’s lives, and also consequently, in the world. Many accuse the Bible of demeaning women, of giving them a lesser and even humiliating role in the church and in society. But anyone who says that has not looked very carefully at the lives and experiences of some of the great women whose lives are chronicled in the word of God.
The fact is, though ancient cultures may have demeaned and looked down upon women, God has not. Rather, He has exalted women to a crucial place of honor and influence in the structure and fabric of our homes, our churches, and our world. It is a shame that so many don’t recognize the God-given role of the woman in that light but instead mock and despise it.
I want us to go back to the story of a woman who lived a long time ago in Israel in very, very dark times. She took her role as a wife and mother so seriously, and as a result, she changed the course of God’s people and of the world. She is one of the greatest mothers of all time. Let’s see what made her such a wonderful mother. If you haven’t already guessed, her name is Hannah. Her story is recorded in 1 Samuel 1.
1 Samuel 1:19-20 “Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”
This is such a wonderful story out of which comes one of the most wonderful men in the Old Testament and history of the Jewish people. If you’re a parent today, I hope you’ll make the same promises that Hannah made to God. I assure you it will bring a great blessing if you do.
No name in the Bible is being identified as being a wonderful mother than Hannah. Her story, like so many others of the Bible, shows just what the faith of an ordinary person can lead to. Hannah was not a famous woman because of her business ventures, her education credentials, nor because of some act that the world would see as heroic. She was an ordinary woman who faced great challenges in her life, but who had a deep and reverent love for God and for the house of God. She wanted to make a difference for her people, but how she went about it was not the way most people would. She lived in dark and difficult times. These were the days of the judges. In that period of time, God’s people were a mess—involved in idolatry, immorality, and worldliness of every sort, and were without any real spiritual leadership. They were looking to solve their problems as a nation by imitating the world and the other nations about them. They were crying out to God to give them a king like all the other nations had.
While they were looking to human government to save them, Hannah was instead looking to the cradle. Well before her time, she seemed to understand the saying, The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. That was her approach. She knew in her heart that if God would hear her prayer and give her a child that she could raise that child to serve the Lord and be the leader her people so desperately needed. She eventually became the mother of the great prophet Samuel. What a joy it must’ve been to be the mother of one of the most impactful and effectual prophets in the history of the nation of Israel.
But don’t get the idea that all of this came easily—that Hannah had a baby, raised him, and things just worked out that way. No, not at all. Hannah faced tremendous challenges. For one thing, the times in which she lived, which really aren’t that different from our own troubled times. In the days of the judges, the Bible says that every man did that which was right in his own eyes, meaning that every man was a law unto himself. So, it was anarchy, rebellion, and unimaginable spiritual confusion. Just read the book of Judges and you’ll get a very eye-opening picture of what those days were like. In many ways, you’ll see a reflection of our own confused and crazy times.
So, Hannah desired to bring a child into a world like that—when even the very people of God seemed to be so corrupt, wicked, and astray. If you think it’s impossible to raise moral, godly, Christ-centered children in the midst of our wicked world today, you need to look back at the story of Hannah because she did it. If we’re the kind of parents that Hannah was, we can raise Samuels even today. This world could certainly use some Samuels right now.
The other challenge was that though Hannah wanted a baby, she couldn’t have one. Hannah was barren. Back in that day, God permitted polygamy. He did not endorse or desire it, but He permitted it for a period of time. Elkanah happened to have two wives, one of which was Hannah. The other wife was able to have children, but Hannah was not. This other wife was sort of a mean woman. She mocked Hannah and put her down because she couldn’t have children. When they would go to the tabernacle on their yearly pilgrimage, she would mock and deride Hannah for her barrenness. That’s painful enough for women today who desire to have children but cannot, but especially back in that dispensation when God’s people were a physical nation and there was great emphasis placed upon lineage and genealogy. It was a distressing and humiliating thing to a woman to not be able to bear children.
When Elkanah’s other wife came along making fun and impugning Hannah, it was nearly more than she could bear. So, she took her burden to the Lord. The Bible paints a heart-wrenching scene. She went out near the door of the tabernacle in Shiloh and began to pray about it. She was so intense in her prayer that those who could see her thought she was drunk. Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk because her mouth was moving but he couldn’t hear the words she was intently praying to God. But she hadn’t been drinking. As Eli sat at the doorpost watching her, she was quietly pouring out her heart to God and begging Him to give her a child. Not just a child, a son. Not just a son, a son she could dedicate to the service of the Lord. Those were not empty words. She meant them from the depths of her heart and God heard and answered her prayer because of what was in her heart. Listen to her as she is sobbing and in agony of spirit is pouring out her womanly heart.
1 Samuel 1:10-11 “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
We’ll get to all of that in a moment but the first thing I want you to see is Hannah’s desire. She desperately wants a child. Hannah had an instinctive desire to be a mother. That is a natural thing that God placed within a woman’s heart. It is nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. It’s perhaps the greatest and most influential role and work in all the world.
Psalm 127:3 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
Children are a gift from God that He grants in His grace to a woman. It’s not just the woman. In the very next psalm, the psalmist poetically says this:
Psalm 128:3-4 “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.”
Did you get that? Children are one of the ways that God blesses His faithful people. Children are not a burden; they are a blessing. They are to be desired, not dreaded. The attitude of God’s people long ago is a far cry from the idea that many have about children today. There is something desperately wrong when babies and little children today are looked at and treated as anything less than a blessing from God. Whether they are aborted from their mother’s wombs, abused, neglected, and mistreated when they’re born into this world, unwanted…the fact is that children are endowments and sacred trusts from God, given to us to raise up for God, as we will see in the story of Hannah.
Please note that having and raising godly children has always been one of God’s first and most primary means of preserving His truth and passing it down from one generation to the next. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that Satan is waging such a war against the home today, trying to destroy the fabric and structure of it as the Bible sets it forth. It all begins in the home. If Christians today fail to raise up children to serve the Lord, we are failing in our mission no matter what else we may try to do.
Notice not only Hannah’s desire to have a child, but her devotion. She had a sacred purpose for wanting to be a mother. She didn’t want to be a mother just so she could experience the joys of motherhood although there is nothing wrong with that. One of life’s great joys is to be a parent and experience all those great things. I’m sure that Hannah enjoyed the time that she had to raise her little boy once God gave him to her, but that’s not what this is about. This was not a selfish prayer. She made a vow.
1 Samuel 1:11 “Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
That last phrase refers to the Nazarite vow that people took back under that dispensation. The Nazarites were a group of people who were set apart for God in an unusual and extraordinary way. They reflected this in that they never cut their hair. Paul said much later that nature teaches us that if a man has long hair, it is a shame to him, but a woman’s long hair is a glory to her (I Corinthians 11:14-15). So, God’s usual rule is that it’s the other way around. It’s a glory when a woman lets her hair grow, but a shame if a man does. But in this one case of the Nazarite vow, God made an exception. These men were clearly identified as Nazarites by the fact that they did not cut their hair. What Hannah is saying is that she wanted a holy child. She wanted to raise a servant of God. She is saying, If You will give me this child by your grace, I will turn right around and give this child back to you in service. And THAT she did. It is such a remarkable and powerful story.
God takes vows seriously. And Hannah took her vow seriously. She meant what she prayed and she followed through. For one thing, she named this little child Samuel. Names had meaning in Bible times. Today, we might name a child because we like the sound of the name. We might name a child after mom, dad, memaw, papaw, or great uncle so-and-so. But that wasn’t the way it was in Bible times. Names had definitions and meanings. Samuel means asked of the Lord. Every time Hannah called that little boy’s name, she was reminded that she had asked God of him and of the promise she had made to give him over to God’s service.
What is your desire for your children, if you have children or desire to have children? What is the most important thing in all this world for your children to be, to do, or to know? You can pretty well answer that question by what you pray for concerning your children. Do you pray for health? For comfort and success in life? Nothing wrong with that. We want healthy children and we want our children to have good lives. But listen, if you or I bring a child into this world and don’t teach them to know, love, and serve the Lord before anything else, we have failed as parents in the eyes of God. It doesn’t matter how much money they make, how successful they become, how far they can throw a ball, or whatever things they may accomplish. If they don’t know Jesus Christ and His salvation, if they’re not part of His kingdom, it’s all a waste. Hannah understood that. She dedicated that little boy to God even before he was conceived. Is that your attitude toward your children? Is that reflected in the priorities of your home?
I wish I had time to go through and read all of the story; it’s such a beautiful and tender story. You can read it in I Samuel 1-3. But let me finish by pointing out not only Hannah’s desire, not only her devotion, but also her dedication. Hannah followed through. In her case, it took a great step of faith to do so. You see, Hannah did something remarkable as soon as Samuel was weaned. In Bible times, that was a good bit later than today, and Samuel would’ve likely no longer been a baby, but a wide-eyed, impressionable, teachable little boy.
1 Samuel 1:24-28 “Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there.”
As the story goes, if you can imagine this, she left him there in the keeping of the high priest to train him up in the service of God. She would come back to visit year by year and she would make a little cloak to bring to him when he was still a boy. What a wonderful, beautiful story the Bible tells about this woman and her relationship to this child that God graciously gave her. Her taking the child to Eli at the tabernacle and leaving him there was a very special circumstance. God doesn’t ask you to drop your child off with the preacher to raise him. That’s not the point. What I want to emphasize is that God DOES expect you to take your child to Shiloh.
Shiloh was several miles north of Jerusalem and it is where the tabernacle resided. This was before the temple was built. The people of God were required to make their pilgrimage there to sacrifice from year to year. Today, we don’t have a tabernacle or temple as they did, but we DO have the church. OUR Shiloh is the church, the Christian life, the worship of God, spiritual activity within our lives. Just as that was the center of Elkanah and Hannah’s home, it needs to be the center of our homes if we’re to be parents like they were. If you want to raise children like Samuel, you need to have a home like Hannah’s. A home like Hannah’s is a home that revolves around the service and worship of God. Godly children who grow up to love and serve the Lord come from homes where that is taught, exemplified, and prioritized.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That word train doesn’t just mean teach. It doesn’t just mean to set aside an hour of the day to sit your child down and lecture them on do this and don’t do that and tell them a bunch of Bible stories. While there is a time and place to be teaching our children the truths of scripture, there is much more involved in the phrase train up a child. It doesn’t merely mean to tell them. It means to lead them. You point them in the direction they need to go. You train them like you would train a climbing rose to follow a trellis in a particular way. You prune it, place it, and point it in the direction you want it to grow. It’s the same with our children. You train them to be Christians—not merely by what you say to them, but by living the Christian life before them. By teaching them by example to love the church and to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Is that going on in your home? You take them to the assemblies of the church and make that first priority. By showing them the word of God applied to your life every day, in every circumstance.
Are Christ and His church the very heart and center of your home, or just maybe a small part of it? If it’s not the center of your home, you are failing your children. I don’t care what kind of home, clothes, food, education, or anything else we might provide for our children. The most important duty we have with our children as a sacred trust from God is to lead them to Jesus Christ. What made Hannah a good mother? Did you have a good mother? I suppose on this day that your heart is full of all kinds of memories of childhood. I hope you had a mother that you feel is worthy of your love and devotion. I hope you had a childhood that you can look back on with fondness and a home that was filled with love and affection. Most people have mothers who were involved in their lives, who loved them, and who put their children first and cared for them—that’s wonderful. What made them good mothers?
Perhaps Hannah spent a lot of quality time with Samuel. In fact, I’m certain she did. But that’s not necessarily what made her a good mother. I’m certain she doted over him and showed all kinds of motherly affection to him, but that’s not what made her a good mother. Maybe she was a good cook. The Bible indicates that she was a seamstress. You may have wonderful memories of your mother, the meals she cooked, the clothes she made, the memories she provided, the time she was always there to meet you when you got off the school bus and all the times she kissed your bumps and bruises. All of that is wonderful, but it’s not really what makes her a good mother.
What makes a woman a good mother is when she teaches and raises her children to know Christ and love and serve Him. If you have a mother like that, honor her and thank God for her. We need more mothers like Hannah today because we need more Samuels today. If you have children in your home now or you want to have children, may I encourage you to dedicate them to God right now. How do you do that? By beginning to put spiritual things first in your life. Take them to the assembly of the church. Show them how important their eternal souls are. Point them to Jesus. Maybe you need to learn more about Jesus yourself and get your own life on track. In so doing, you can lead your children to eternal life. I hope you’ll take the example of Hannah seriously today and do just that.
©2020 BibleWay Media. All rights reserved. BibleWay Media grants permission to copy this material for personal use. Permission is also granted to distribute this transcript as long as it is reproduced in its entirety, used solely for its original purpose of spreading the gospel, and attribution is given to the author and Let the Bible Speak.
One of the most famous mothers of all time was one of the most influential. Her people were in spiritual and moral disarray and while the nation was looking to human government to solve its problems, she looked to the cradle. In today’s Let the Bible Speak, learn how this wonderful woman’s desire, devotion, and dedication is a model for mothers in our times, which are much like the ones in which she lived.
Many today claim they don’t need the church in order to be a Christian. There are many reasons why. Some point to hypocrites or corruption they have witnessed in the church. Those things can lead people to say, I live a purer Christian life than those people so why should I associate myself with them? Of course, keep in mind that the temple and synagogue of Jesus’ day had their share of hypocrites and blind guides. Though Jesus rebuked and condemned their sin and hypocrisy, it still did not diminish His love for the house of God, nor did it stop Him from frequenting those places.
Others say that with all the spiritual resources available online or on television, they can learn or grow that way. They feel that technology has really replaced the need to physically attend a church service or be a member of a church. I’ve received enough mail through the years to know that there are some well-meaning people who look at this program as their “virtual church.” In fact, I’ve noticed some ministries and churches encouraging people watching online or on television to become members of their “media church” and worship along with them from home, and send offerings to them just like they would if they chose to be a member of a local church.
Then there are those who say, I worship God wherever I am and serve God in my own way. I try to do good and help people. That’s my church. Or I attend the church of nature. I worship God when I’m out fishing, on the golf course, and sitting up in the deer stand. But is that God’s design for you? Do those things constitute an acceptable alternative to traditional church membership and faithful attendance in a local church?
Acts 2:41-42 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
We learn in verse 47 that this is speaking of the church. These events took place on the Day of Pentecost, the day when Jesus established the church. Since that time, the Lord has added every saved person to that church. These verses indicate that those who were added to the church began functioning as local bodies of believers united in Christ. As the gospel began to spread throughout Judea and ultimately throughout the Roman Empire in years to come, local bodies of believers were established, united in Christ, and that’s what the local church is. Is that model still relevant today, or can one be a Christian and choose not to be a part of the life and activity of the local church? As always, we will let the Bible speak about that subject today.
The Bible uses the word that is translated church in two or three different ways. The Greek word is ekklesia and it means called out or an assembly. Sometimes the term is used in a spiritual sense. For example, it is used to refer to all the saved called out of the world and spiritually assembled in Christ. In other words, it would refer to the spiritual relationship that all the saved the world over and throughout time have to Christ and thus to each other. This spiritual assembly is not a literal assembly of people that can be literally seen. Rather, you might think of it as an idea or a spiritual union or relationship.
Other times, the Bible uses the term to refer to a physical congregation in a given locality. In fact, many of the times the word church is used in scripture, this is how it’s used.
Acts 14:23 “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Acts 14:27 “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
Acts 15:4 “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.”
Acts 18:22 “And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.”
1 Corinthians 1:2 “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”
1 Corinthians 16:1 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”
1 Corinthians 16:19 “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”
Romans 16:16 “…The churches of Christ salute you.”
By using the term churches in the last passage, Paul obviously means the congregations of the Lord’s people throughout the land. Each reference refers to distinct congregations of Christ in cities or provinces throughout the world. In I Corinthians 14, Paul refers even more specifically to the church as the people of a congregation meeting together in one assembly.
1 Corinthians 14:19 “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
When Paul says in the church, he is referring to the actual physical assembly of the church because that is the context of that chapter. So, from all of these passages, it is obvious that God’s design for the church of Christ was to be manifest in this world in the form of congregations of Christians throughout the world wherever the gospel is preached and believers are found. Does the Lord still add daily to the church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47)? I contend that nothing has changed in the mind of God and in His scheme of redemption and the results of it. If the Lord is still adding every person who is saved to the church, does that include identifying with and being part of a local congregation of people of like precious faith? That’s what happened in the first century, and I again contend that nothing has changed in God’s plan of dealing with His people, even today. New technologies, new philosophies, and modern trends and innovations do not set aside God’s original design for the church.
There are several reasons why I believe every Christian needs the church. Why YOU, my friend, need the church. If you are follower of Jesus Christ, there are reasons why you cannot be a faithful follower of Jesus without His church. You cannot be true to God and a loyal disciple without being a faithful and active part of the local church for the following reasons.
One: Because of the church’s relationship with Jesus
The Bible employs several metaphors to describe the church and its nature, its mission, its design, and its relation to the Lord. It’s called a vineyard in Matthew 20, implying that it’s a place where people work together for the Master. It’s introduced as Christ’s bride in Ephesians 5:23-27 and Revelation 22:17, indicating the spiritual and indivisible union between Christ and the church. It is referred to as the kingdom of God in Mark 9:1 and Hebrews 12:28, pointing to the rule of Christ over His subjects which make up the church. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:21, the church is the temple of God where God dwells, is worshipped and praised. You see, all these descriptions within themselves point to the divine importance and spiritual significance of the church–how God sees the church and thus, how we should see it. Many of those passages are written in the very context of local churches to which they were originally written. Should not the very relationship of Christ and the church which these metaphors illustrate show us the importance of the church?
Acts 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
If the church is that important to God—that it would take the blood of His Son to bring it into existence—shouldn’t it be important to you as well? Doesn’t that alone make the church worthy of your interest, faithfulness, service and involvement?
Two: Because the church is the living and functioning body of Christ
Here is another metaphor that the Bible uses to describe the church—a body.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”
Here, Paul is not referring to the worldwide universal church as the body; instead, he is talking about the local church right there at Corinth. The Corinthian church was fraught with a multitude of problems including jealousy and a competitive glory-seeking spirit among many of its members. Especially with the presence of miraculous gifts, these worldly-minded believers were comparing one person’s gifts to another’s. Some were flaunting their supernatural abilities while others were jealous of those who they thought had a more important or impressive gift than they did. This even caused their assemblies to devolve into confusion and chaos, warranting a strong rebuke from Paul. That is the context of Paul’s admonition throughout this range of chapters. Paul tells them that instead, they should understand the nature and function of the congregation in the same way they can see a human body function and operate.
1 Corinthians 12:15-18 “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.”
Here, Paul shows that every Christian at Corinth had some important and vital function in that local body, whether they realized it or not. Consequently, any time you read in the New Testament of Christians working and assembling, it is always in the context of the local congregation. That is incredibly important to keep in mind. No work, no human organization, no mission is ever ascribed to the universal church to carry out. Rather, it is for the local church. That is how God carries out His mission on this earth: through the influence and work of local churches.
Christians in the first century were not spiritual freelancers out doing the will of God on their own, but they were always knit together in a spiritual community with other believers in their own location. That IS the local church. Here at Corinth, Paul wanted them to understand that every member makes up the body as a whole to allow it to function under the control of its head, who is Christ. Each part—whether it be an eye, an ear, a nose, a hand, a foot—each part is vital to the proper and healthy function of that body. Thus, he says a few verses later:
1 Corinthians 12:25,27 “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another…Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
Have you ever seen a body dismembered and detached that was alive and functioning? Don’t the members of the body have to be attached to that body for those members to have life and function as they’re supposed to? Of course. If I were to cut my hand off, that hand would be dead and would serve no purpose to me. It would be useless. That is just as much the case in spiritual affairs. That’s just as much true with the body of Christ. If you call yourself a faithful Christian according to the Bible, that implies an attachment to Christ. You can’t be attached to Christ who gives spiritual life and function as God expects you to function without being attached to His body.
Three: Because God has commanded you to do things that can only be done by coming together with the church.
Hebrews 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
How are we to exhort our fellow believers? By assembling together with them, the Hebrew writer says.
Acts 20:7 “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…”
On the first day of the week…that’s Sunday. When the disciples came together…That very language indicates that this was their custom. This is what occurred on the first day of the week. It was their regular practice to come together on Sundays to break bread. They met on the Lord’s Day to eat the Lord’s Supper. And then they heard Paul preach on this particular Lord’s Day. When did they break bread? When they came together. That’s very significant. A lot of people miss this aspect of communion.
Listen very carefully: communion is not an individual activity between a person and God. Rather, it is described in the New Testament as a joint participation with the church. Paul could’ve communed somewhere by himself in his journey had he so chosen, but he didn’t do that because that is not God’s design for communion. That’s not what communion is about. Paul purposely waited to meet with the church at Troas on this Lord’s Day to break bread with them.
The very word communion means a common sharing. It necessitates a congregation of people coming together to share this divine meal at its appointed time. That is the only example that we have. I want to kindly say that I do not believe in people taking communion by themselves or in some other setting than in the assembly of the local church on the Lord’s Day because eating bread and drinking fruit of the vine within itself does not constitute communion. Did you realize that? Rather, sharing that loaf of bread and sharing that cup of fruit of the vine with the body of Christ—that is how the Bible pictures communion. The act of sharing the meal is just as important as eating the meal.
Now, a person may be sick at home or in the hospital or incarcerated. Of course, if they’re a child of God, they would rather be in the assembly. Of course, they long to be able to commune with the church. But the present circumstance or stress they are in prevents them from doing so. Just like exile prevented the apostle John from being with the church on the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10). John was able to be in the spirit on the Lord’s Day, but he couldn’t eat with the church. The Bible says nothing about him breaking out a loaf of bread and some grape juice and having the Lord’s Supper there on Patmos. His mind went to his brethren over yonder who were worshipping and coming together, and he longed to be with them, but he simply could not. He was hindered, providentially, from being with them.
Back to the troubled church at Corinth. They had allowed certain practices to take away the solemn significance and benefit of eating the Lord’s Supper together as a body, so that when Paul wrote and rebuked them, he said this:
1 Corinthians 11:20 “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.”
They were coming together just as they were supposed to, into one place. That’s what the assembly of the church is. Who was doing that? the church at Corinth. Why were they supposed to be coming together? To eat the Lord’s Supper. But because of their carnality and pettiness, they were not properly observing it. They were not remembering the Lord and properly discerning the body as they came together. But the fact is, they were coming together into one place and the purpose of that meeting, rightly so, was supposed to be to eat the Lord’s Supper. That is God’s design today. If a person is sick and not able to be there, they simply cannot be there and they simply cannot commune. Communion is an act of sharing with the disciples. It is sharing that meal that the Lord designed on the night of His betrayal. It is a vital part of the Christian life and the church’s worship. It is required of every faithful Christian who is able to do so. It is not only required, but it should be our yearning desire.
Friend, it is wonderful that you can use this and other mediums as a means of studying the Bible. I truly hope this program is a great help and encouragement to you from week to week. I hope it encourages you to study the Bible, to become a Christian, and to acceptably serve the Lord. But I want to stress that not this, nor any other program or online teaching can be an acceptable replacement to the local church and my place of membership and service within it. We need the church because there are things that God has told us to do that we can only do within the local church.
Four: Because of the accountability that it provides.
It is impossible to live in spiritual isolation. Not only that, but it is wrong to do so.
Romans 14:7 “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”
For example, the New Testament teaches that elders are to be appointed in the local church to oversee and shepherd that particular flock.
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
God in His wisdom designed the church not only as a body, but as a family, a community. So that we might spiritually exist, grow, and thrive together and be held accountable in that process. Accountability is vital to successful development and frankly, that’s one of the main reasons that some think they DON’T need the church. They don’t want to be accountable. They don’t want people to know how they live and what they do. They want to be their own person and live their own way. According to the scriptures, you’ll never please God that way. You’ll never please God by trying to avoid accountability to Him, nor can you please Him by resisting the accountability that being part of the body of Christ provides to you.
Friend, you NEED the church. No matter what people try to tell you and how tempting it is to think otherwise, you need the church. It is designed by God, built by Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit, and kept and preserved by the power and the grace of God. I want to encourage you to seek to be part of it today.
©2020 BibleWay Media. All rights reserved. BibleWay Media grants permission to copy this material for personal use. Permission is also granted to distribute this transcript as long as it is reproduced in its entirety, used solely for its original purpose of spreading the gospel, and attribution is given to the author and Let the Bible Speak.
The connection between the Christian and the local church is vital. While technology is a useful and powerful tool for sharing the gospel with others and providing biblical content that strengthens the church, nothing replaces a disciple’s involvement in the local congregation. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we emphasize several reasons why every Christian needs the church.