God’s View of the Local Assembly7 min read
The modern approach to whether or not the assembly should be highly esteemed would begin on preference. And when something doesn’t fit that preference, suddenly the concept of the local assembly fails to have any potential of being a dignified concept in that person’s mind. However, if we realize that it is God’s assembly we are considering, and that He has spoken long before our preferences ever existed, we will soon see that we fade out of the picture and are instead obligated to ask “What is God’s view of the assembly?” Is it dignified to Him? Is it precious to Him? Does it’s pattern matter to Him? These are questions which will determine how we view the assembly. And to answer them, we will need to ask ourselves “Does God care about what the assembly is?” and “Does God care about what the assembly does?”
God Cares About the Assembly’s Identity
In the New Testament there are several metaphors which the Holy Spirit uses to convey different aspects of the local assembly. 1 Corinthians 3 gives us three of those metaphors: a tilled field, a building, and a temple. 2 Corinthians gives us the title “chaste virgin.” Acts 20 gives us the title “little flock.” Revelation 1 gives us the title “lampstand.” When Scripture was penned, God was very careful and deliberate in the words He chose to convey the multi-faceted concept of a local assembly. Why? Could it be that such descriptions show their closeness to His heart? A tilled field: this tells us he has invested time and effort into promoting the assembly’s growth. A building: this pictures the assembly as a grand edifice of God’s wisdom and labor. Little flock: this shows the tender care which God deems fit for His assembly. Why? Because it was purchased with precious blood. A chaste virgin: surely God must care about an assembly’s preservation and faithfulness in the truth. All these cry with no end: God loves His assemblies! Sad thing when we treat them without dignity and honor. He does.
Here is the issue: if the assembly was simply a social club, an organization, a concert-hall, a pep-talk rally, or any of the other things so many would make it out to be, then of course it would be a place without special dignity or worth. Oh, but when it is a place marked by the blood of Calvary, that changes everything! God doesn’t have many entities in this world to speak for His Name, but the assembly has just that honor. And that is why He has put so much effort into building up local testimonies for that Name. God is never arbitrary in what He does, and He was certainly not when it came to establishing unique entities of blood-bought people across the globe to uphold His truth and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. The only reason one could think God is passive about the local assembly is because he isn’t honest with the facts and may not even know them and really may not even care. Let’s be honest with the Scripture and reflect something of the attitude God has toward the local gathering. May we be able to cry out with David “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”
God Cares About the Assembly’s Activity
This idea about God’s care for the assembly’s activity can be seen in extreme clarity in Revelation 1-3. Notice where John’s vision begins:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
This powerful description of Christ and His relation to the assemblies is only confirmed again and again at the beginning of each of His letters to the assemblies. Regarding Ephesus, we see Him as one Who sovereignly holds “the seven stars” in His right hand and Who walks in constant activity and observance of the seven assemblies. He says “I know thy works.” How? He is watching. Why? He cares about assembly activity. And consider how He cares for assembly progress as seen in His message to Philadelphia: “These things says He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the key of David, He that opens and no man shuts, that shuts and no man opens. I know your works: behold I have set before you an open door.” Why would He on the recognition of the assembly’s track record open a door for them? Because He cares about assembly activity.
With that foundation being laid, notice firstly His sovereignty and personal authority over the assemblies. He is seen as intrinsically holy, One Who is by His worth clothed with garments of dignity and Deity. He is seen with a voice as the sound of many waters. He is seen as bright as the sun when it shines in its fullest intensity. Oh that we would understand this is the One we give account to! These descriptions don’t need any comment; rather they need a response. It is so easy to distance ourselves from the Lord of the assembly, thinking the pattern is subject to change, thinking it is a place to constantly criticize, thinking it is just another facet of Christian living; but if we learned to always see “One like unto the Son of Man” when it came to assembly matters, surely we would approach things differently. Suddenly it would become about listening fully to His Word – not adding to it, nor taking away from it. Why? Because we will realize that if He is Perfect, so is that which He prescribes to us. The assembly is God’s, and we must treat it as a stewardship under His authority and direction rather than an organization that we can feel free to format. God cares about His assembly’s activities and approaches to doctrine; thus He sees fit to emphasize the Lord of the assembly – unmistakable authority. May we come to grips with such a tremendous expression of Christ’s glory and authority as was committed to John; this is the first need for any consideration about the assembly and its function.
Notice, secondly His continual assessing of local assemblies and their works. This is seen in that He had eyes as a flame of fire. Fire is that which purifies, and with His eyes as fire He is constantly seeking out that which needs purification. And when He saw what needed refining, He was not hesitant to point that out, as the next two chapters of Revelation point out. Why does He care so much? Because He purchased the assembly with His own blood (Acts 20:28). It is too precious to leave unjudged and without assessment. May we remember this in all our assembly activity. When it comes to our pattern or attitudes or behavior, let us never forget the words “I know thy works.” He is watching. When we realize that, suddenly it doesn’t become about pragmatism or about preference: with holy fear we rather confess it is about His glory. May we so respect His concern for the assembly by reflecting it.
In the end of this all, we should feel left with a sharp two-edged sword that comes from the mouth of Christ – it is His Word. May we see it as authoritative in all matters. May we see man’s wisdom as foolishness in light of God’s infinitely potent revelation. God has revealed His desire to the assembly, because He views the assembly as a precious entity to glorify Him; but it only glorifies Him when it obeys Him fully. Thus He gave us His Word. How simple. So then, let it be our greatest desire to uphold God’s view of the assembly and behave in it His way, for He has declared it to be indispensable.