“Some Assembly Required.”
Three of the most frightening words a parent ever sees in print. These words are probably most commonly seen on Christmas morning. And then j-u-s-t when you think that you have your child’s new prized possession finally assembled properly you see that it also takes two (2) AA batteries . . .which are not included. Doh! to joy?
The Christian life is a bit like that too. Some assembly is required, and it isn’t always (ever?) easy. And a big part of that assembly (the putting together of the Christian life) happens in the, well, assembly together with our fellow believers.
In other words, the church matters. It matters a lot. It is not enough to worship God all by yourself. We need more than just personal devotional study – we need the preaching of the Word. We all need the shared wisdom of our fellow believers “teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16) as well as the shared singing of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (ibid).
Christianity is personal, but it is not private. It was never intended to be so.
The book of Hebrews has something to say about the necessity of assembling together as God’s people:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
It is not without reason that the Apostles’ Creed reminds us that we believe in “the holy catholic church” and “the communion of saints.” The church is not just a matter of preference or convenience – it is an essential article of the Christian faith!
Consider Paul’s words in the book of Ephesians:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16).
What is he saying there? The Lord Jesus Himself gave spiritual gifts to His people. (Let us for the moment stay on point and save for later the arguments about what those gifts are and which ones are still around.) He gave them to us for a reason. And none of those reasons are private; none of them are just for our own personal enjoyment and edification. The purpose of the gifts is to build up one another.
So as believers in Jesus Christ we need “shepherds and teachers” (v.11). Many deny that simple truth today, to their own impoverishment. Simply put, we need the ministry of pastors and teachers. Without them, we will not be sufficiently or properly equipped for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (v.12).
But it goes beyond just needing pastors and teachers, as important as they may be. We also need all of our fellow believers in the church. Have you ever thought about that? You don’t just need your pastor(s), you also need those people who sit next to you or across the aisle from you during worship on Sundays! And they need you. Everyone loses when we neglect the assembly together for worship.
Look again at v.16: “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Every believer is in some way gifted by the Lord Jesus in such a way as to bring something vital and necessary to the body of Christ.
How vital? If “every part” isn’t doing its job, the body will not grow properly. We will never reach spiritual maturity by ourselves. It is an utter impossibility. Why? It is contrary to God’s design.
So gathering together as God’s people is not optional. It is not an addendum to the Christian life, but a vital and integral part of it. Let us thank God for the church; let us thank God for one another in the church; and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
See you Sunday!