EKKLESIA

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

The scripture verse above, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, is arguably the most often quoted verse when “church-goers” attempt to convince other “believers” of their need to attend “Sunday church”. Interestingly, few ever finish quoting the verse when asked to give a good reason why we should attend. The second part of the verse, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching, sums up the exact reason why we should gather together as Christians Shamefully, in most “churches” such practice is either pitifully shallow, or not existent.

The word 'church,' in the New Testament, is translated from the Greek word ekklesia. The definition for ekklesia is: congregation, assembly or a group of people gathered together. It is never used, in the Bible, to describe a place of worship, or conducting a service or mass. Ekklesia is translated almost exclusively as ‘church’ in the New Testament, except on one occasion it was used to define a riotous mob (Acts 19:32), and on other occasions the reference is the Israelites in the desert with Moses.

Historically, Christianity did not own, or designate, any buildings for gathering during the first 150 years of its existence. Instead, they gathered together in private homes or in the countryside.

What are we supposed to do with the word 'church?' If the Greek word for church means to gather together, and the Bible commands believers to assemble, then shouldn’t we? Most believers would agree emphatically that we should. Disagreement comes when we discuss where, when and why. By putting aside every man-made construct of tradition and doctrine we associate with ‘church’, and adhering to the Bible definition exclusively, we would find far fewer reasons to divide ourselves into the “rival factions” of denominations we are currently segregated into.

Let us tackle the where, when and why of this issue, exclusive of doctrine or tradition. God’s Word is our guide. Where: Let’s look at the example that Jesus set for us. Upon careful examination of the four gospel books we find that Jesus did not always attend synagogue. There is no law given through Moses that stipulates, in any form, that the Jews were to attend synagogue. Does the Bible state anywhere that Christians are to attend a routinely scheduled assembly? The answer is no. So what is our obligation in this matter? Are we exempt from attending Sunday service, mass or Sabbath synagogue? Not exactly.

So, if Jesus cannot be accused of wrong doing for His sporadic synagogue attendance then can believers be accused? It should be apparent that we cannot, we follow the example He set for us. We should follow His example even if it flies in the face of all we were brought up to believe, even if it disrupts our traditions. What did Jesus do when not at synagogue on the Sabbath? Did he catch a football game? Go shopping? Sleep in? The answer to this is important. Jesus did not give up meeting together with other believers. Instead he did the opposite, he spent time in assembly with all who wanted to fellowship with Him. Sometimes this was in a private home, sometimes on a hillside, sometimes in a crowded street and sometimes in a boat. Wherever he assembled with others he fed them God's Word to build them up and encourage them that the Kingdom God promised had come.

When: When is the right day to worship God? More specifically, is there a wrong day to worship God? Jesus taught us about observing the Sabbath, but the Bible does not designate the Sabbath as a day of assembly. We are told by God to observe the Sabbath and make it Holy, because it is Holy. The Jews observe the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection. They may attend synagogue or spend time with family and loved ones. Their assemblies are not primarily focused on corporate worship. All believers observe the same day of Sabbath. In Israel the Sabbath day sees the shops and businesses close. Even the newspapers on the Internet stop reporting for the Sabbath!

Jesus observed Saturday as the Sabbath, just as Jews have always done. He rested like others and yet he also ministered if compassion compelled him to. He wasn't always idle, he gathered with believers, and even healed on the Sabbath. As we know, this caught the eye of the Pharisees who condemned such actions based on their traditions rather than on the law. Here as well Jesus leads by example.

In short, there are no requirements in all of Scripture in regards to what day to assemble. The Sabbath was given as a day of rest and reflection, not as an assembly day. Sunday, was not given as a replacement for the Sabbath, or as a required assembly day for all Christian believers. Jesus assembled with all believers who wanted to assemble with Him, on any day, and at any time! Why, if this was the way of Jesus, is it not the way of those who are called by his name? I do not oppose assembling on Sunday, just the erroneous practice of false guilt placed on believers for not routinely attending “Sunday worship”as if they were not in good stead as a believer before God.

Why: While churches, in general, search for new ways to compose their services to attract new attendees, the real purpose of gathering and of the Body of Christ has been severely neglected. If I were to ask “church-goers” what is the main purpose for gathering together in ‘church-buildings’, the answer would be a resounding, “To worship together!” This answer is at the heart of the problem, it is wrong. Not one verse in the entire Bible tells us to gather together for the express purpose of worship. Yes, we see examples in Scripture where people gathered and worshiped God, but their purpose in gathering was not to worship, they were moved to worship God in their hearts as they assembled in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God is looking for true worshipers who worship in spirit and truth, but worship is something that is on a personal level, not something we schedule for Sunday mornings and evenings! ” These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” Mark 7:6-9

So why and how do we gather together? The answer was given at the beginning of this article. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. So, the purpose of gathering together is to encourage one another. Why? That DAY is approaching! That “Day” is the day of the LORD! The day when He comes riding a white steed and takes the Body of Christ to be His wife. This is the original “knight in shining armor” story! Before that time comes, and even now, brothers and sisters, we need to encourage each other, remind each other, and minister to each other the hope of the resurrection of the dead! That, is why we come together! The desolation (time of great tribulation) will be tough, but when the going gets tough God's true believers strain towards what lies ahead, the resurrection of the dead!

How we gather is given in a very simple way by Jesus, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) When just two of you gather together you have ekklesia, an assembly, and it doesn’t matter where or when. It could simply be two believers meeting on a sidewalk, a few moments in a store, with your family, and yes, even at the church-building assembly. You become the Body of Christ and God’s temple, and Jesus is there with you as the head of the body. The gifts are given to you to encourage each other and build each other up as we see that Day approaching.

Unlike modern “styles” of service where we have the assembly face forward while a single orator expounds on a view, the Jews allowed all males 12-years and older to have a voice, the younger deferring to the elderly, but all were entitled to expound for a short time. You may remember the story of Jesus in the temple when He was 12, teaching the teachers! And they did not rebuke him for it, He was in ekklesia with them. The focus in the synagogues was interactive discourse among fellow believers, not the gifts of one focused on the many, but the gifts of many focused on each other. Just as in the early days of the Church (Body of Christ), many house churches today use a similar form of this model. Many house church attenders will attest to the closeness of the fellowship and the deeper level of understanding to be gained. Much of the cell church movement has gained traction among believers for these same biblically sound reasons.

Conclusion: The true Body of Christ will have no choice during the desolation. They will meet in the way of the true church, whenever and wherever, just as they should have been doing all along. All the while the apostate church will steam ahead in its present form until that Day. For a little while longer a few true believers will still attend the assemblies in those buildings, but the day is fast approaching when true believers will be handed over to the synagogues (apostate churches and synagogues) and will be persecuted, just as Jesus was before the Sanhedrin. We must understand that one of the greatest persecutors of the true Body of Christ will be the apostate church. Brothers and sisters, reach those who will listen still inside those white washed tombs filled with dead men's bones. Assemble with those who will receive you, and give encouragement in light of what's coming in the days ahead, prepare each other, so that together you may stand firm until the end and be saved.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to local councils and flogged in synagogues . . . Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:9-13

From Outside Babylon