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What is “forsaking the assembly”?
Many of us are familiar with the text Hebrews 10:25, that states, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” The question is, just what does this mean?
Some contend that a Christian can skip a Sunday here and there, and since they don’t “abandon” church services altogether, these people cannot be accused of forsaking the assembly. Let’s take a closer look at this idea. The word forsaking in this passage means to leave behind, leave to desert. Does this mean that in order to forsake the assembly you have to leave and not return? It can, but not always.
Consider when Jesus was hanging on the cross. There is no question that he felt all alone. He uttered the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mk. 15:34). This is the exact same word that the Hebrew writer used. This isn’t a discussion of whether God forsook Jesus, or if Jesus just felt that way. The point we need to see is, could Jesus really use that word in that situation? I mean, wouldn’t Jesus have to wait weeks or months to then use the term? No. One can forsake when a person is not where they ought to be.
If a child of God decides I am going to take a first day of the week off and I will gather with the saints next week, the scriptures are teaching they have forsaken to assembly. Why? It is a place where they ought to be (I Cor. 11:17-18; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2). If this is not true, then there needs to be a cry for consistency. If one can skip a first day of the week, then everyone can. If not, why not?
Also, this is creating a double standard. If one says I will be back thenext Sunday – are they not expecting/demanding that the church will be gathered then? So, he/she expects brethren to be there when they want, but they can’t expect the same in return. That isn’t right, and we all know it.
There is no question that such behavior of hit and miss, is a heart problem. When the Lord demands to be worshipped (Jn. 4:24), and they have a disposition of – I will do it when it fits into my schedule, you know the Lord is not pleased. On top of that we have to be mindful of the example and precedent this sets forth for their children and other members. Jesus said that we need to be lights in a world of darkness (Matt. 5:13-15). Just where is the example of seeking first the kingdom of God when we would rather to something else (Matt. 6:33)?
To help to understand that forsaking the assembly occurs when someone takes a Sunday off from worshipping when one could, think about a marriage. If a husband goes off with another woman for just one night, can you really say he forsook their wife? Yes!!! Even if they planned to go back to their mate the next day, he has forsook the vow that he made. Saints are described as being married to the Lord (II Cor. 11:2). Therefore, when we choose not to gather with the saints to honor our Lord, is that being faithful? We know it isn’t.
Even though we have clearly explained what it means to forsake the assembly, let’s look at yet one more example. In Mk. 14:50, it reads that when Jesus was arrested all his followers forsook Him. That word also means to forsake, to leave. Notice that this word was used even though very little time has passed. The point is made yet again that a Christian can be guilty of forsaking the assembly by taking a day off from worship.
This begs the question – what does it mean when someone does skip a day of worship? The answer is obvious, they need to repent of their sin (Lk. 13:3). Local churches may have a hard time knowing if members are guilty of such, since many are creative in coming up with “reasons” why they couldn’t make it. The fact is, you might fool mankind, but you can’t fool the Lord. After all, you don’t have to answer to man, you answer to the Lord (II Cor. 5:1).
Let me start by saying that this is a Biblical lesson. The concept of expediency is taught in God’s word and it is vital that we understand what it means. We shall first start with the apostle Paul speaking on this when he wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful to me, but all things edify not.” (I Cor. 10:23). The word expedient means to be helpful; however, not all things are helpful.
The easiest way to understand what is considered expedient would be the place of worship. Local churches are required to assemble on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 10:25, etc.). The scriptures reveal that brethren set up a time and place for them to fulfill the Lord’s desire (I Cor. 11:17-18). Knowing that it is expedient for the brethren to rent or purchase a place to assemble, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Would it really be in the best interest of a local church consisting of two families to go out and build a million dollar facility? The answer is obvious – no, this would not be helpful. Having a place to meet is expedient, but there are times wisdom dictates that something that is lawful, in and of itself (finding a place to meet) can be the wrong thing to do.
The same thing can be said for a congregation that wants to evangelize. It’s an expedient to use TV as a tool to share the gospel. But if a local church cannot afford to fund such an effort, it would be unwise to engage in it. This is why the Lord Jesus stated clearly the need for His followers to use “righteous” judgement (Jn. 7:21-24).
Keep in mind that expediency is not some sort of loophole for the local church to do whatever they want with church funds. Staying with the discussion of the church building: it’s one thing to rent or buy, it’s another matter altogether for a church to rent or buy a meeting place to use it for social events. It’s the lack of discernment that has opened the door for religious groups to use the building for a daycare, Boy Scout meeting place, providing chicken dinners and celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Folks, these do not fall under the area of expediency. They fall under the realm of being unscriptural.
The best way to clear this up is by looking at two passages of scripture. First, in I Corinthians 11:22, after rebuking the brethren for turning the Lord’s Supper into some sort of meal, Paul said, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.” Now, before we examine this, let’s now note a text in Romans 16, where Paul speaking about Priscilla and Aquila, mentioned, “Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” (vr. 5).
Now, can brethren have social events in their own homes? Of course they can. I don’t know where the brethren were meeting when they were rebuked by Paul for turning the Lord’s Supper into a feast. Could they have been meeting in someone’s home? Possibly. Even so, does that mean the apostle could not have said what he did in I Corinthians 11? Not at all. Brethren could just as easily turn the Lord’s Supper into a feast even if meeting in someone’s home. The fact is, the church comes together to worship God His way (Jn. 4:24). When brethren have finished their worship, the brother and sister can now go back to the regular use of the home and even be hospitable (Rom. 12:13).
When brethren own a church building, it was bought with the purpose for which it is to be used. The local church doesn’t use its funds to build a kitchen or gymnasium onto the meeting place. Why not? It’s because it isn’t expedient. It doesn’t aid in worshipping God. In other words, it is not a help, it’s a hindrance. You don’t mix the two. Those who don’t understand expediency fail to see the error in using their church building for whatever use they see fit. This doesn’t respect the word of God.
Supply and Demand
We all know that this title relates to the offering of a product to the consumer. For example, if there is a huge demand for a certain tool, then a company will do what they can to supply that need. On the flip side, if there is very little interest, there would be no need to supply that need. This is why businesses come and go. Those that survive have found a product that continues to be in the demand.
So, just how do we get excited in spreading the gospel, when Jesus Himself stated that there won’t be much of a demand for it (Matt. 7:13-14)? The answer is simple. Even though many people don’t want the truth, there is a huge need because everyone needs it (Mk. 16:15). Unlike any business today, people can live without whatever new invention comes along. However, everyone NEEDS the gospel whether they believe it or not.
The danger comes when you lose sight of what people need in favor of what people want. Let’s face it, if someone knew that lots of people wanted a product that isn’t available, they would do what they can to make it. Sadly, in the religious realm, you have those who have decided to preach what people want rather than what they need. This is exactly what Timothy was warned not to do (II Tim. 4:2-5).
There is a reason why there are so many religious groups today, and why more and more churches of Christ have drifted away from the pattern in God’s word, it’s called supply and demand. People have lost sight of what man really needs. This should not surprise us. We see it in that way people are raising their children. Kids are getting anything they want, because it is easier to let them decide what’s best for them. How sad that is!
This reminds me of the mindset of Israel of old when everyone did right in his or her own eyes (Judges 21:25). Mankind would do well to remember the words of Jeremiah when he stated, “It’s not within man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jer. 10:23). Yet, that’s exactly what you see in the religious realm. People starting their own sects, creating their own doctrines; designing “better” and more appealing worship. This may supply the demand, but our God demands we stop supplying their wants!
Paul admonished Timothy with these words, “remain in Ephesus that you charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” (I Tim. 1L3). Why Paul? Those teachers are having some “good” results. That’s just the problem, people think that any sort of success is God approved. It’s as if the Lord is interested more in quantity than quality. That is simply not the case. If anything, it is the opposite. Oh, yes, our Lord is not willing that any perish (II Pet. 3:9), but that desire of wanting everyone saved doesn’t mean He will overlook sin.
The interest in the quality is taught over and over in scripture. When it comes to worship, it is to be done in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). The doctrine taught must ONLY be the doctrine of Christ (II Jn. 9). There is also no better church that the one Jesus built with His own blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; Rom. 16:16). It simply doesn’t matter to the Lord if His people are the few. After all, the Lord is not there to please man, it is man that must please the Lord (Heb. 11:6). Take note that pleasing self doesn’t necessarily mean it is pleasing to the Lord.
Looking at things from the Lord’s standpoint in examining supply and demand, saints should be motivated to do all they can. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37). This is why we find the Christians in the early church, when persecuted, went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Was there a large demand for the gospel? Yes, even if people didn’t want it. The key thing is that there are people looking for the truth and that is a demand that needs to be supplied. Are you doing what you can to supply that need? For people to find what they seek (Matt. 7:7), there needs to be children of God there pointing the way to Christ.
Have you ever wondered how the early Christians knew when to gather together when the Bible didn’t state where and where on Sunday? Was it just a coincidence that all the brethren showed up at the same place and at the same time (Acts 20:7)? It is reasonable to conclude that the church decided this ahead of time.
Knowing there had to a decision that needed to be made, did they do this with Biblical authority? The skeptic will jump in and say no because there isn’t a book, chapter and verse to tells them when and where. That is not true. The passage is found in I Corinthians 11:17-29. This is where Paul pointed out that brethren were to gather to take the Lord’s Supper. You cannot fulfill that command without understanding necessary inferences. No one can function in this world without doing such.
For example, a mother tells her child to clean their room today. Is that enough information for the child to get the job done? Absolutely. They will use their legs to walk into their room. They will use their eyes to look around. They will use their hands to pick up things and put them where they belong. They will schedule time that day to get it done. Now, if the child doesn’t do the job because their mom didn’t provide all those inferences, will the mom accept that? Not a chance.
The question is, does the principle of inference, open the flood gate so people can infer anything they want? No. There are boundaries. Going back to the mother and child example. If the child gets their baby brother to clean the room, they violated the command – “you clean your room.” If the child opts to clean it another day, they violate the command. If the child opts to clean their parent’s room, they violate the command.
Abiding in the teaching of Christ (II Jn. 9), consists of doing what we are told by thinking about the inferences that are connects with what we are told. Look for next week’s bulletin where we deal with aids and additions, in understanding authority.
Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Muslims
For Christians, when they have a desire to teach people that belong to other religious sects, they need to go to the heart of the matter. After all, it was Jesus Himself who stated, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (Jn. 8:24). Therefore, children of God must ask, “What do you believe about Jesus?”
What’s vital is seeing the need to get clarification. After all, the three religious sects mentioned in the title would say, “Yes, we believe in Jesus.” However, the fact is, none of them believe the Jesus you read about in the Bible. Not one of them believe that Jesus had pre-existence and that He is God (Jn. 1:1; Heb. 1:8). Is this really that big of a deal? Let’s see where their denials took them.
Book of Mormon, the Quran, and the New World Translation
You can make claims that Jesus was born of a virgin; performed miracles and that He was a prophet. Yet, to strip Him of His deity opens the door to additional “revelations” to justify additions to the Bible. It was the Father that said that He has spoken unto us in these last days by His Son (Heb. 1:2). This message is complete (Jude 3). Knowing the scriptures are sufficient to make man complete (II Tim. 3:16-17), why would there be a need for additional writings?
The Bible is inspired but not reliable
Not only with the three religious groups under discussion, but along with other religious people, you often see people picking and choosing what they want to accept in the Bible. The statement I have heard in the past is, “Yes, we believe in the Bible as long as it is translated correctly.” In other words, on the points we disagree with it’s because we believe that is a wrong translation, tha the Bible is corrupted in that part.
Such reasoning is ridiculous. The same evidence used to support the parts that are accepted as being true, provide the same support for all other Bible teachings. Again, Christ put it this way, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (Jn. 12:48). Since the apostles were promised by our Lord to be guided into all truth, they spoke by revelation of Jesus Christ, thus we have all His words (Jn. 16:13; Gal. 1:12).
You need to put your faith in other men
Whether it be Joseph Smith, Mohammad, or the Watchtower Society; people are people deceived and influenced to follow someone else. Coming back to our Lord’s words once again, He made the proclamation that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6). This is the point of contention with these other groups.
People have been lured away by these groups thinking they are very similar to what Christians believe. The truth is anything but that. This is why one must learn not only what people believe about Jesus Christ, but what they don’t believe about Him. You can’t have it both ways. When it comes to our Savior, He is the whole package, you can’t take just part of Him and be right with God.