In Christendom today, there are about two thousand different religious bodies calling themselves Christians. Instead of being gathered together on the ground of the unity of the assembly, these Christians are gathered apart; they are scattered.
Nevertheless, what saith the scripture? 'Using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace' (Eph. 4:3 JND). Is the principle shown here being followed? 'For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them'
There are seven distinct points in this divine principle:-
1. WHERE identifies a divine place;
2. TWO OR THREE is all that is needed for a divine testimony;
3. ARE GATHERED indicates the presence of divine power;
4. TOGETHER establishes a divine oneness;
5. IN MY NAME testifies to divine authority;
6. THERE AM I tells us of His divine presence;
7. IN THE MIDST OF THEM tells us He is the divine centre.
Sad to say, the divine principles regarding Christian assemblies have been set aside today only to be replaced with earthly principles. The divine place has been replaced with human choice. The divine authority has been replaced with human order. The divine presence has been replaced with self-imposed but not necessarily Spirit-led ministers. The divine oneness has been completely replaced with the formation of denominations which are sectarian.
From the first, the Spirit of God has warned us of this scattering through Paul's writing: 'For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them' (Acts 20:29-30).
Not long after Christians had begun to gather to the Lord's name in Corinth it was heard said, 'I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.' In the same way today, many Christians claim the leaders of their choice with the creeds, views and principles set down by such leaders as their guide in worship and pattern of life.
The big question still remains: 'Is Christ divided?' How did Paul meet that spirit of sectarianism among the believers? He writes: 'Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you' (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Divine choice for Israel
God has always intended his people to follow Him regarding gathering and worship and not individuals making the choice for themselves. When Abram was called at first, God's word to him was, 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee.' Also when he was to go and sacrifice his son to God in worship, the Lord's word to him was, 'Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac' whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of' (Gen. 12:1; 22:2).
As soon as God separates a people for Himself, He tells them He wants to dwell in the midst of His people and that His people should draw near to Him there. Therefore, God told Moses to speak unto the children of Israel: 'Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, . so shall ye make it' (Ex. 25:8-9).
In Canaan, Jerusalem was the place which the Lord had chosen to place His name. Therefore, God's temple was built in Jerusalem in the place where the Lord led Abraham to offer up Isaac, the same place where the Lord appeared unto David (2 Chron. 3:1).
The life of God's people must be dominated by the fact that God dwells in their midst. In the days of captivity, in times of ruin, the majority had no longing for the God-given land nor for Jerusalem where the temple had stood. But amidst the ruin, the believing remnant went to Jerusalem. They gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:1).
There was no difference of opinion as to what was to be done. God's word was studied and obeyed (Neh. 8). God wants His people to be one practically, and the name of our God possesses a wonderfully unifying power. Many believers do not see this but godless Jeroboam saw it very well. That was why he established a worship separated from 'the place which the Lord had chosen to place his name there' (1 Kings 12:25-33).
What a ruin today, as many have also gone the way of Jeroboam to establish a worship on denominational ground based on human principles, separated from the divine principles of the one Body-the Assembly.
New testament assembly
There is a space of perhaps 400 years between the end of the old and the beginning of the New Testaments. We do not find any communications from God in the scriptures during that time. Then, after the silence 'there was a man sent from God whose name was John.' He came to prepare the way of the Lord, who would in the future build the assembly of the living God. John, in his witness of Christ, declares that 'The world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own (the Jews) and his own received him not. But as many (Jews and Gentiles) as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name' (John 1:10-12). These were those God called unto the fellowship of His son Jesus Christ our Lord.
When Jesus was revealed as the Christ, the Son of the living God, He announced; 'Upon this rock (Christ) I will build my church' (Matt. 16:18). Christ, who at His resurrection broke through the gates of Hades and was thus declared to be the Son of God with power, builds the Assembly of the living God on Himself as the Son of the living God. Jesus promises His disciples who gather as the Assembly that He will be in their midst, if they are gathered to His name. The authority of the Assembly rests on the fact she is gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and that He Himself is in the midst (Matt. 18:18-20).
To be gathered unto the name of Jesus Christ therefore means that everything is regulated through his name, which is the sole centre, He being the host. The two or three gathered to his name alone should do nothing else but ask, 'Lord what wilt thou have us to do?' This question characterized the early disciples of Christ (Acts 9:6). The Lord's mind and choice were always sought in all things. When the Lord instituted the supper, the place of His appointment was their only choice (Luke 22:7-13).
When they were to meet Christ after His resurrection, the 'disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him' (Matt. 28:16-17). These verses end with, 'but some doubted.' We are being faced with the questions today about where and how should Christians gather to worship Him.
Confused believers have replaced the divine principles of God for His gathered saints with human opinions. Therefore denominations are on the increase and ministries are cunningly turning to what they call Bible Churches. These are being ruled by their founders, and people are scattering abroad, pitching their tents at the mountains or revival camps of their choice. God said, 'Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest' (Deut. 12:13). For Israel, the Lord their God chose 'a place' for them where He has caused His name to dwell. Today we have Christ as the gathering centre. Unto Him must the gathering of His people be to perform all that He would want them to do.
'Verily, the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made ... but Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands ... that he might sanctify the people with his own blood suffered without the gate' (outside the camp of earthly worship). (Heb.: 9:1,2,11; 13:12). When the Assembly was born at Pentecost, 'all that believed were together ... continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2:44,42). Now ruin has set in; evil has entered. People have departed from that which was from the beginning. Vessels to dishonour have perverted almost everything to suit their carnality.
Unfaithful servants like Hymenaeus and Philetus have made shipwreck of the faith and have abandoned fundamental Christian truth. The Holy Spirit says: 'Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.' We are also invited to 'go forth therefore unto Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach'
(2 Tim. 2:17-19; Heb. 13:13).
As the house of God on earth in time of ruin is compared to a great house, I must cleanse myself from the vessels to dishonour so as to be 'a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work' (2 Tim. 2:21 JND). Then I unite with those who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart: that is, with those who gather on the basis of the one Assembly, a people builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit who pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, offering sacrifices of praise to God and continually give thanks to His name, 'The Father seeketh such to worship Him' (John 4:23).
Dear reader, we can return to that which 'was from the beginning' (1 John 1:1). We can be gathered together by the Holy Spirit to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby enjoy His wonderful presence in our midst, even if we are only two or three (Matt. 18:20). The name of Jesus Christ and His presence attracts God's people. Lord, 'the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee' (Isa. 26:8).