Figures of the Assembly

  1. Focus of the Assembly
  2. Foundation of the Assembly
  3. Figures of the Assembly
  4. Fragrance of the Assembly
  5. Fruitfulness of the Assembly
  6. Function of the Assembly
  7. Fellowship of the Assembly

We are going to look at what an Assembly is compared to and mention them as we find them in the different places of the New Testament.

In Acts Chapter 20, Paul called for the elders at the Church at Ephesus.
In :28 He says: 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.
Paul refers the church here as a ‘flock of sheep’.

The Church is a laborer in God’s building
In 1 Cor 3:9 For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

The Church is the Temple of God
1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

The Church is the Body of Christ
1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

The Church is compared to a chaste virgin
2Co 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

The Church is the house of God
1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

The Church is compared to a lamp stand
In Revelation John receives a tremendous unveiling of the Lord Jesus
Rev 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
Rev 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

With this description of the Lord a discussion between the Lord Jesus and John follows:
Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
The 7 stars are the messengers of the churches.
The 7 candles sticks are the 7 churches or assemblies.

There is going to be a certain amount of repetition in these meetings covering the same truth from different angles.
As we look at these pictures we discover many similarities:
We discover that we are:

  • Sons in one family
  • Servants in a field
  • Subjects in God’s Kingdom
  • Sheep in a flock
  • Stones in a building
  • Stewards in God’s household

And when we look at the Dispensational Church we have other thoughts coming in as the Church Dispensational includes all saved believers from Pentecost till the Rapture – no matter from what denomination or group they are linked with – if they are genuine believers they are part of the Body of Christ. And so in that sense they are spoken of as the Bride of Christ.

But when we come to the local church, there are terms used to describe the local church.
One or two of these terms can be used in different ways.
For example:
The Temple of God – your body can be spoken of as the temple of God as found in 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
However in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 the local church is also called the temple of God.
And if we turn to Ephesians chapter 2, we find the church – the Dispensational Church also spoken as the temple of God.
So we always need to clearly know what we are speaking of when we speak of some of these pictures that speak of the local church.

We have read of 8 of them as found in the Word of God.
We want to now look at what makes each of them different and consider what each of them has in common and then consider what it all means today.

So we start with speaking with, what is unique to each to each:

  • When you think about a tilled field, you are thinking of fruitfulness.
  • When you think of a building, you think of the labor that has gone into it.
  • When you think of a temple, you think of sanctity and purity.
  • When you think of a lamp stand, you think of its radiance shining and its autonomy.
  • When you think of a chaste virgin, you think of her fidelity and chastity.
  • When you think of a body, you think of its unity and how it functions.
  • When you think of the house of God, you think of its Order and its Occupant.
  • When you think of a flock, you think of its need to be fed and the need of a shepherd over the flock.

So the Spirit of God has given us different pictures to make us understand the different needs and aspects of the assembly.
So let us look into each of these to help us understand them.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 that an assembly is God’s husbandry or God’s tilled field.
God is looking for fruit in this field. That fruit can appear in many different ways – it may be the fruit of worship or recall as it says in Hebrews 13 which speaks of the fruit of your lips – So one fruit that God is look for is the fruit of the worship of our lips.

Now John 15 speaks of another kind of fruit – remember of the story of the vine and the branches?
Here the fruit that God is looking for is the ‘life of Christ’ developed in me.
God is looking for Christ likeness in the life of each believer.
This carries the idea that God enjoys and feeds on the fruit found in this field.
It reminds us that it is God’s tilled field. It is He that cultivates it and He that prunes it.
He is at work to see the fruit being produced.

Remember John chapter 13 and John chapter 15?
In John chapter 13 we have the Lord Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and He says I am giving you an example to do as I have done.
In John chapter 15 the Lord Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches.
His Father is the husbandman, He prunes and He cleanses.
So in these two chapters we have a similar background, but there is a tremendous difference between the two of them.
When I am called to help a believer I am to take a basin and a towel.
But when the Father is at work He uses a knife.
I am not called upon to use a knife on my brother instead I am called upon to use a basin and a towel toward my brother and I am to make sure that that water is neither ice cold or scalding hot, so there is a clear difference in how we treat our brother and how God works to bring forth fruit.

Paul reminds us that an assembly is called a building.
In this picture of an assembly as a building, we think of the structure and the foundation and the development of an assembly.
We are building to please God and not to please man.

Paul also spoke of us being the Temple of God of which ye are.
Here we are reminded of the tremendous privilege of being linked with the assembly.
He tells us that as a temple, the Spirit of God dwells in the local assembly.
Now just think for a moment what is involved in all this?
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, the Lord Jesus is there and in 1 Corinthians chapter 3:16 we read that the Spirit of God dwells in the Temple.
And in chapter 14 we read that the men who come in here, make the confession that God is here!
So the assembly is home to the entire God head.
The Father makes His residence there.
The Son has promised to be there.
The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in the local assembly.
So within this temple of God we are reminded of its sanctity.
That this is actually the dwelling place of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!
And that is why Paul gives a tremendously serious warning – he warns that if any man corrupts the Temple of God, God will corrupt that man.
So we are reminded that the assembly is not only a place of fruitfulness but also a Building going for God, and as a Temple the assembly is a place of sanctity.

If you or I were invited to meet the great men of the world, we would make sure us dressed right and acted properly.
So as we come to meet holy and divine Persons I must care that I come to meet them in the right way.

Now let us draw our attention to the Lamp stand of Revelation chapters 1, 2 and 3.
The English Bible uses the word ‘candle stick’.
But notice in most margins it changes to an idea of a candle stand.
Now this in itself is important.
A candle burns by itself, but a lamp needs to be supplied by oil.
We cannot bear testimony for God on our own power.
We know that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and so we need external power from the Holy Spirit to bear testimony for God.
So what makes the lamp stand different from the tilled field?
It is now not the fruitfulness but the radiance that is the focus here.
Remember in the Tabernacle the lamp stand shinned in the Holy Place.
There were three different kinds of light in the Tabernacle.
In the court there was the light of the natural sun.
In the Holy Place there was the light from the lamp stand.
In the Most Holy Place there was the light of the Glory of God.
The lamp stand gave light for the priests for their activity in the Holy Place.

However the Lamp stands in Revelation chapters 1, 2 and 3 appear a little bit different.
They appear here as shining in the world giving witness for God.
The lamp stand in reference to the local assembly signifies the assembly’s responsibility to bear testimony for God and shine for God.

There are also several things similar to the lamp stand in the Tabernacle.
If you have studied the Tabernacle, you know how specific the details are – measurements are given very very carefully for its construction, however there are NO MEASUREMENTS given for the lamp stand.
Instead of measurement God gave the weight for the lamp stand, so that the value of the lamp stand was not on how big it was but how pure it was and its value was placed in its weight before God.
Likewise the value of the assembly is not on how big it is but in its value in its character before God.
We would all like to have large assemblies. But we want assemblies that have power for God.

One other thing about the lamp stand in the Tabernacle:
It spoke there that it gave light against itself – it revealed its own beauty to the world.
So as a lamp stand giving light, we are to display the radiance of Christ to the world around us.

As we see the features and the figures of the lamp stand we learn of another important principle.
We learn the truth of the autonomy of the local assembly.
There were 7 lamp stands and the Lord was walking in the midst of them.
He will address each of the assemblies and in 5 of them He will point out their problems.
He will call upon 5 assemblies to repent and to change.
But He never tells one assembly to correct another assembly or to cut off from another assembly and have nothing to do with it at all.
Each assembly is responsible to the Lord and so we must be answerable to the Lord.

There is also desire to maintain respect for other assemblies.
And so as a lamp stand we are reminded of our value – in our character and testimony for God.
We are reminded of our purpose to be radiant displaying the radiance of Christ.
We are reminded also of autonomy – our responsibility before the Lord ALONE.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul uses another figure for the church – that of a chaste virgin:
Paul is very concerned for the assembly at Corinth as he writes that just as Satan deceived Eve so they too would be deceived from their singleness of affection for Christ.
So we are reminded of fidelity and our faithfulness to Christ.
God is jealous with holy jealousy.
And we read how the assembly owes its single heartedness and devotion to Christ.
Satan made Eve doubt God’s Word and today Satan can distract us from our affection for Christ and delude us in his false ways.
God is looking for single heartedness and affection from His people
This is the first problem that Christ mentions as He deals with the 7 churches – that our affections for Christ can grow cold.

Let me begin to mention the Body and its Unity:
In 1 Corinthians Paul mentions the assembly as a body.
As a Body we are reminded of unity and harmony, interdependence one with another and how indispensable every believer is to the local assembly.
There are no unnecessary Christians in the local assembly.
The background of 1 Corinthians is rivalry and contention.
Everyone wanted the best gifts to be the most prominent.
In reality – believers may never be the most prominent or the best preachers, and yet they are essential in the assembly. These believers may very well be the very backbone of the assembly by their very faithfulness and their attendance, and by their persevering prayer and by their kindness to other believers.
The tragic fact of this is that we don’t miss them until they are gone.

Paul also likened the assembly to a Flock of Sheep:
We are reminded of the tendency of sheep to stray. So the assembly is dependent on shepherds.

All these pictures give us an idea of what a local church is.
There is one thing common to all these pictures – they all remind us of what God gets.
We tend to think of what we can get – Am I getting my needs met?
Do people love me? Is my gift recognized? Am I appreciated?
Such thoughts get us thinking backward.
Our focus instead ought to be on what we can give to God and not get.
God gets fruit from the assembly.
God gets worship from the assembly.
He gets our affections and honor as we bear testimony for Him.
So if I come to the local assembly complaining that I am not getting anything, I am getting it all backward.
I should come to give what God desires and if I do that then is the guarantee that I will get from God. We cannot give to God without getting back.
If I come looking for honor and love and respect instead of giving ALL the above to Him, I will get NOTHING.

We have been looking at what is unique to all and what we are all responsible for.
Do I come and give fruit for God’s field?
In the Song of Songs we find God coming into His garden looking to find fruit to enjoy.
Both brothers and sisters are responsible to bring fruit.
Proverbs 24 ends of walking by a field of a slothful of a man who is void of understanding.
His field was overgrown with thorns and his walls were broken down.

There is much need for walls for if there are no walls all that is outside will get in.
The assembly needs walls of separation from the world – if not the world will get in.
Weeds too have to be removed.
And then there is watering and work.
So the first question is do I bring fruit?
Secondly – What am I building into the assembly?
Are you building with gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay or stubble with nothing to build into the assembly?

Mr Higgins testifies that in his own assembly at home there were just about 20 believers in days gone by. Today the number of believers has risen to 60.
He gives credit for the increase in numbers for the prayers of 3 sisters who worked to open their homes … inviting people for meetings and people got saved!
So every believer has the responsibility to build into the assembly.
As a tilled field, do I bring fruit to the local assembly?
As a building, do I contribute to see the work of God progress in the local assembly?
As a Temple of God, do I live a holy life?
As a lamp stand, am I supplying any oil?
But you quickly – “Is not the oil the Holy Spirit?”
Yes it is. So how much of the Spirit of God do I bring into the gathering of believers?
Am I contributing spiritual power to the assembly?
Read 1 Corinthians chapter 3 – Here Paul writes of 3 kinds of people.
The Natural man – the unsaved man.
The Carnal man – not living for God
The Spiritual man – whose life is controlled by the Spirit of God.
Am I a carnal or spiritual Christian?
There is something very solemn about the assembly at Corinth – very likely there has never ever been such a gifted assembly ever!
In chapter one Paul describes this assembly as having lacked NOTHING!
And yet with all their gifting they were just about to self destruct by those very gifting!
So we learn that here is a lot more than just gifting that is required to see an assembly prosper.
An assembly needs spiritual men and women using their gifts for their God given purpose.

Consider now the Assembly as a Body:
Do I realize that I need every other believer in the assembly?
The most gifted person needs every other believer.
Paul uses the imagery of the ‘body’ to make this clear.
My brain is very important. But it cannot function without my heart and lungs. So too are the tiny never endings that send messages along pathways. So every part of my body is needed for my body to function right.
Likewise, in an assembly setting I need you for my spiritual welfare.
And if you as a believer are not in assembly fellowship, you are depriving me of something I need, while also you are depriving yourself of what the rest of the body can do for you.
So we see we all have a need of each other.

In Caring for the Flock:
Do I value the flock of God? And if I am given the responsibility of leading them do I recognize the responsibility of caring for the flock of God?
It is God’s flock and He finds pleasure in it.
Every shepherd will have to give an account before God to his caring of the sheep.

We have looked at both what is unique and what is common in the pictures that describe an assembly.
We have also looked at each of our responsibilities.
It is the greatest privilege to be part of the local Church of God.
It also carries with it great responsibility.

May God Bless His Word.

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