FOCUS OF THE ASSEMBLY by Mr Higgins

  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

Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother unto
1Co 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:

1Co 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
1Co 3:9 For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.

1 Co 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

God will bless the public reading of His Word.

The New Testament speaks of the CHURCH in two different ways. There is the church that includes every believer saved from Pentecost till the Rapture when the Lord comes. We sometimes refer to it as the church universal or church dispensational. It includes every believer no matter from where they come from or where they are if they truly belong to Christ they belong to the Universal Church which is His Body.

The Bible also uses the word ‘church’ to describe a local church. There are many differences between the Church which is the Body of Christ and the Local Church.
Some examples:
There is no distinction or difference made between male and female in the Body of Christ.
But in the local Church there is difference between male and female.

No one can be put out of the Body of Christ.
But in the local Church people can be put out for various reasons.

Many people think the Church as a building … it needs painting … repair work …
Many local Churches do need the above at sometime or the other – they need to be painted and repaired over time but it is not really the same thing.

The word ‘Church’ here would have been better translated as ‘Assembly’.
One example – Paul is in Ephesus and the silversmiths who were making money through making images to Diana were very upset about the gospel and a small riot occurred. Look at:

Act 19:32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
Act 19:39 But if ye enquire an thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
Act 19:41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

The word 3 times translated as assembly is the same word used for church
Notice they were confused, not knowing why they had gathered together.
Notice also it was not being gathered together as a lawful assembly and it was an assembly that could be dismissed and sent home.

We do not want to be in assemblies where people do not know why they come together.

What makes an Assembly or church lawful?
And what right do we have to gather as we gather?
With this background in mind look at the focus of the New Testament Assembly:

First thing to notice:
It is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the GROUND and FOUNDATION for the Assembly:
We read in Corinthians – no man can lay any other foundation that the foundation that is IN JESUS CHRIST.
Now it is important to distinguish between not just things that are different but things that are similar.
Normally when Paul speaks about Jesus he speaks about Christ Jesus.
And Peter addresses Him as Jesus Christ.
Why the difference?
Peter knew the Lord first as Jesus Christ on earth and then as Christ exalted by God.
Paul did not know Him as a man on earth … he came to know the Lord AFTER He was exalted by God.
So Paul nobly refers to Him as ‘Christ Jesus’.

Yet in earlier chapters of Corinthians 3 times Paul addresses the Lord as ‘Jesus Christ’.
Why?
In chapter one – he speaks of himself as being an apostle to Jesus Christ
In chapter two – he speaks of wanting to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
In chapter three – the foundation for the local church is Jesus Christ.
We have to understand why he uses that title (Jesus Christ) as a Foundation for the local assembly.
As ‘Jesus Christ’ HE is a man – a man who was despised and rejected.
But as Christ HE was a man who was approved and exalted by God.

He was showing the Corinthians in the early chapters that what they valued was in contrast with what God valued.
Paul exposes in chapter one that they valued the wisdom of the world, the power of the world and the great men of the world, and so he says not many wise, nor many mighty, not many noble are called.
So, what did the wisdom of the world think of Christ?
The world in its wisdom crucified the Lord of Glory.

What about the power of the world?
It put Him on the cross.

What about the nobility of the world – the religious leaders and governors?
They despised Him, mocked Him, slandered Him, rejected Him …

And so he reminds them that the Foundation of the assembly is what the world despises.
The assembly is built on the Foundation of a despised man.
However, what the world despises God honors.
He impressed upon the assembly at Corinth that they would have this SAME standing in the world.
The world will think of them as insignificant and foolish.

To function as an assembly as we do the great men of the world will not be associated with it.
It is however that which is pleasing to God and what God honors.
So, as an Assembly we link with a despised man. And all that we value is folly in the eyes of the world. We take our character from the Foundation.
When we are building everything must square up on that Foundation so that everything is consistent with that Foundation.
It reminds us here that we must be building on that foundation of verse 12.
It talks of a Foundation of gold and silver…
… And wood, hay and stubble that would be burnt up.

Co 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

Now having been built up he reminds them that they are built on THAT Foundation.
The Person of Christ is the GROUND for the local assembly – we read of the promise of Christ in the gathering center where two or three are gathered in His name.
Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

God is everywhere, He is Omnipresent in essence.
However there is a major difference between God being omnipresent and God taking up habitation.
Example from Old Testament easy to understand:
In the Old Testament when Moses finished the work of building the temple according to the pattern given by God … and everything done by God’s instruction …. Then the glory of God Descended and took abode in the tabernacle.

Exo 40:34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
So God who is everywhere took up His habitation in the Tabernacle and HE dwelt between the cherubim.

God is everywhere, but He dwells ONLY where His Word is carried out according to the pattern in which He has given in His Word.

Recall:
Matthew 1:23  Matthew begins his gospel with one of the greatest titles of the Lord Jesus – Emmanuel, meaning God with us.
And how does Matthew end his gospel?
It ends with the giving of the great commission and “I am with you always!”

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew begins with God with us – Emmanuel
Matthew ends with “I am with you”
In the middle is Matthew 18 – Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am!

So the One who is Emmanuel – God with us, and the One who was the great Commissioner who was sending out men was with them, and when two or three gather in His name, He is there in the midst of them!

You cannot blindly take Matthew 18:20 to say whenever two or three are gathered HE is in the midst of them …
First of all it is the idea of being drawn to something …
It carries the idea of something being continued and being permanent.

So when you meet in your homes to discuss something He is there as He is Omnipresent.
However Matthew 18:20 has to do with a local Assembly gathering in His name.
They are attracted to the Person Christ.
It is absolutely vital that our hearts be attracted to the Person of Christ.

We do not gather because of a particular doctrine or because you get to meet the nicest people or it is a church closest to where you live.
The gathering is for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice when problems begin:
The Lord took up problems that existed in the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 and 3.
In Revelation 2, the first church that the Lord deals with is the church at Ephesus.
We would think all was well in this church -they were active and busy and they had outreach works and were seeking to further the truth of God. Yet the Lord points His finger at one specific problem – YOU HAVE LEFT YOUR FIRST LOVE!
What they once did in love for Him, they were now doing in routine.
Something very solemn was linked with this church in Ephesus.
It is the ONLY assembly where the Lord Jesus says HE WILL COME AND REMOVE THE LAMPSTAND!

We would certainly think things were far worse in Pergamum or Thyatira or Laodicea … but here the Lord is pointing to something we have all to re-learn ALL the time – that failure to love the Lord Jesus will eventually result for failure in Testimony for God.
So we MUST be attracted to the Person of the Lord as a gathering center.
Now:
Think of the Lord Jesus as the Provision of Guarantee for all the needs of the Assembly:
To be gathered in His name means many different things.
It means to be dependent on Him … to represent His Interests on earth … reveal His Person by the way we function … to be regulated by His Word … and depend on Him for our resources.

In Philippians chapter 4 the assembly sent money gifts to Paul on at least 2 occasions. Paul ends his writing to them in these words “You have met my needs financially, and then he adds – My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Paul was not referring to the financial needs of the assembly, just that what the assembly needed to function would be supplied by the Lord.
It means if there was a need in the assembly for gift – God would raise it up.
If there was a need for men to guide the assembly as shepherds – God would raise them up.
And He can give blessing in the gospel as well.
We have our source in God who can meet every need of the assembly.
Now this does not mean we just sit back and do nothing. It is the responsibility by every believer that we should be praying that God will provide for the needs of the assembly.
At the end of chapter 12 Paul says something very important:
There was rivalry in the church at Corinth for prominence because of their gifting in speaking in tongues and other things.
So he tells them to covet earnestly the best gifts.
So instead of complaining for lack of gift, they should be praying to God to raise it up.
If there is need for men to preach the gospel or teach the Word – pray for it.

God intends the assembly to be self sufficient, to have all it needs to function and prosper. It comes as a result of our dependence on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is at the center of our gatherings.

Recall how the Lord Jesus Christ presents Himself in the churches of Revelation 2 and 3.
In each assembly He presents Himself according to their needs.
So the Lord is available to every assembly to meet their every need.
Never be satisfied that we are good enough. There should be constant burdens before God for the assembly to be raised up for spiritual usefulness. This burden should be in the hearts of brothers and sisters and young and old believers for He is able to supply every need.

Preeminence of the Lord Jesus as the goal of the Assembly:
Many think that going to church is a good thing for them … sadly even some Christians do.
They complain I am not getting anything out of the meetings.
Is the purpose of the assembly to make YOU feel better or GLORIFY Christ?
If you come with something to give you will definitely get something in return.
The Person of Christ is the focus of the assembly.
We are to Worship, Witness and Work for Him.

In Colossians 1 we learn of God’s eternal purpose that Christ has the Preeminence.
He has it in creation, in the cosmos, and He will have it in His coming Kingdom.
God intends that NOW He have Preeminence in the local church and in our hearts.
So when we come, we come not in expectation what we are going to get, rather we come to GIVE something to Him – making Him Preeminent and MORE exalted.
So on the Lord’s Day we come to remember Him and to worship Him and praise Him and honor Him.
However, this is not limited to just the Lord’s Day because what we bring on the Lord’s Day depends on what we have gathered all week.
Hebrews 13:15 mentions the ‘fruit of our lips’ to be offered as a sacrifice continually.
Fruit is something developed, it ripens over a period of time and it matures … so the fruit of our lips is something we have thought over during the week … it has ripened and matured and now brought before the Lord on the Lord’s Day as a sacrifice offering of praise and thanksgiving.
In doing so the Lord is exalted and given the Preeminence in our Worship and Witness and Work for the Lord.

There are many ways in which the assembly witness and testifies for Christ.
One way is through preaching – proclaiming the gospel to sinners telling them of the wonderful work of Calvary and the ability of the Lord Jesus Christ to save
In our Ministry we give Him preeminence by declaring His sufficiency for our life and the assembly.

  • We also witness for Christ in another way we may not have thought of before:
  • We witness for Christ in what He is like in the way we treat each other.
  • We witness for Christ in the way we gather. We give Him the place of Preeminence.
  • We take no other name but His name.
  • We do not take the name of any great religious leader or a particular Christian movement.
  • We gather to a PERSON.
  • The way we function is with multiple overseers giving testimony to His preeminence.
  • The sisters taking their place with their hair covered and submission are testifying to His Headship.

So all we do is linked to His Person.
These are NOT the rules of the church.
These are principles that touch on the Person of Christ.

We not only worship and witness but we also work and when we work we are working for Him.
We are serving Him. Now if we serve Him we will serve each other.
But the moment I think I am serving you I will look for appreciation and when I am not appreciated I will get bitter and angry. But if I remember I am serving Him and waiting for His day of thanks I will not get bitter or upset.
So all we do is done for Him.
He has to be the attraction that controls our heart’s affections.
The apostles thought it all joy to suffer for His name and they went forth for His namesake.
We have committed into our hands something to do for Him and we are responsible to serve Him.

Precepts or the Word of God as a guide for the Assembly:

  • Am I willing to have the Word of God control my life?
  • Am I willing to have the Word of God control the Assembly that I am linked with?

Paul tells Timothy in 3:15 that the Word of God is inspired and so it is profitable for Doctrine, Reproof, Exaltation and Correction so that the man of God may be fully furnished for every good work.
And so we are reminded that the Word of God is sufficient for our personal life.
The Word of God is also sufficient for my family life.
It tells me of my relationship to my wife as a husband … as a father to my children.
The Word of God gives us principles to cover every aspect of our lives.
The Word of God is absolutely sufficient for assembly life.

In Acts 20 Paul is leaving the assembly.
He thought he would not see them again so he commends the assembly to God and the Word of His grace.
This is the UNCHANGING WORD in a constantly changing world – God and the Word of His grace.
Paul tells Timothy to give attendance to the public reading of the Word of God.

So the focus of the assembly is the Person of Christ. It is all about Him.

  • The Person of Christ as the Foundation.
  • The Promise of Christ as the gathering center
  • The Provision of Christ for every gift we need
  • The Preeminence of Christ as the goal of the assembly to exalt Him
  • The Word of Christ telling us of how we should gather.

Presence of Christ with which we are honored:
What a privilege to bear Testimony for Him and uphold His name.
Recall the days of Joseph when he was in the land of Egypt:
Joseph was dying … he tell his people too carry his bone back to Canaan and 400 years later Moses takes his bones back to Canaan.
For 40 years in the wilderness the bones of Joseph were carried in a chest.
They were the bones of their redeemer.
Think of the honor the men had who carried the bones of Joseph, what honor they would have felt!
How much MORE us … who bear the Testimony of a LIVING Redeemer and Savior!

Then think what humility as well to realize that sin caused Joseph to suffer and go into Egypt.
So as we gather on the Lord’s Day, what tremendous humility ought to bear down on us as we realize we are ONLY SINNERS and our sin took the Lord Jesus to the cross to be crucified?

What holiness it should cultivate in us to think what sin meant and what it cost Him?
We should each of us rise with greater hatred for sin when breaking bread on the Lord’s Day.

Think also of the harmony created in the men who carried the bones of Joseph:
We are not sure if there were 2 men or 4 men who carried the chest
Four or two – they would have to keep in step, walk together at the same pace and walk in the same direction.

Christ in the Center should create Harmony in the people of God with every heart attracted to Him, every heart seeking to exalt Him and glorify Him and honor Him.

Christ as the focus of the local assembly – God help us give Him the PLACE HE DESERVES.

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