Our Own Assembling Together - Part 1

Introduction

This work is a compilation of my own thoughts on the subject and rewriting of several works by John Nelson Darby. If you have attempted to read JND than you will grant me this concession. If you would like to read the original works I have listed them here:

As we look at this topic we must do so by first understanding that the Word of God is where the answers to these questions are. They are not found in dogma or by my own feelings on the matter. Secondly, I must bow to what scripture says. Often this is easier said than done but with the Lord’s help and a humble reliance on Him we will attempt it.

What is the Church?

Put simply the word “Church” used in the new testament means assembly, specifically in Greek it is an assembly of privileged persons, citizens gathered to execute government. There is no instance in scripture of the “Church” being used to reference a place of meeting or of worship. The whole multitude of believers on earth baptized into one body by the Holy Spirit forms the assembly or church.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13

It should be our desire, and I believe God's will in this current time, that all the children of God should be gathered together in the world but not of the world. 

and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
John 11:52

This gathering together in one was the immediate object on earth of Christ's death. The Jewish dispensation which preceded His coming into the world had for its object, not to gather the church upon earth, but to exhibit the government of God by means of an elect nation. At this time the Lord's purpose is to gather as well as to save, to realize unity, not merely in the heavens, where the purposes of God shall be accomplished, but here upon earth, by one Spirit sent down from heaven. By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. This is the truth concerning the church as it is set before us in the word. We and others may go about proving that hypocrites and evil men have crept into the church, but there is no resisting the truth that there was a church into which they had crept. The gathering together of all the children of God in one body is according to the mind of God in the word.

This truth of the gathering together of God's children is seen in various localities. In each central locality the Christians living there were members of one body.  At Jerusalem, where there were more than five thousand believers meeting in private houses and upper rooms, Christians were one body. They were under the guidance of one Spirit, with one rule of government, and in one communion. 

The church in scripture is seen in two distinct characteristics the house of God and the body of Christ. We must be careful not to mix the two up. Firstly, because we are charged with rightly dividing the word. Finally, when we speak of the body of Christ it is directly touching the holiness of our Lord. 

The house of God

Scripture lays before us the house of God in two ways as well. On the one hand the building of the house is seen as being done by God here on earth. On the other, it is seen as being built by man. In either case it is seen as the church.

but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
1 Timothy 3:15

God builds His house

The assembly is viewed as the habitation of God. In this sense the church is not yet formed, it is not yet complete.

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Matthew 16:18

There is tremendous privilege in that the church is where God dwells corporately in the Spirit.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19–22

It is true that we individually all are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and Christ liveth in each of those that are His (Galatians 2:20). It is only in the church that God dwells. This is a corporate rather than individual promise.

When God build’s His household it will be accomplished.

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4–5

Peter takes the perspective of God building His assembly and shows us this work is active and ongoing. At first this was a public and evident body.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46–47

Today it has become what some call the invisible church, we will discuss this in further detail in the What is the current state of things section.

Man’s responsibility pertaining to God’s house

The other view of the assembly as a house and habitation of God, is as established by the instrumentality of man, and under the responsibility of man.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.
1 Corinthians 3:10–13

These verses are interesting when viewed in light of 1 Peter 2 which we looked at in the previous section. God builds with living stones, man builds using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw. Seven building materials.

There is work for man and responsibility. Notice that man’s responsibility is always in reference to the house not the body. There can be no wood, hay, and stubble that will be burned, no vessels of dishonor when discussing the assembly as the body of Christ.

God never dwelt with Adam, He walked with him. God never dwelt with Abraham, though He visited and blessed him. However, the moment Israel was redeemed out of Egypt, God came and dwelt among them. The dwelling of God with men is the fruit of redemption.

“They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.
Exodus 29:46

Now true redemption has been accomplished, and God has formed and is building a habitation for Himself where He dwells by the Spirit. We are God's building. Man may have built in wood and hay and stubble; but God has not yet executed judgment. Judgement begins with the House of God.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17

In the house of God we see this is where God dwells, but we see no unity with Him. This is the view of the body of Christ.

It may be good to note also that the house of God that man builds includes all those who profess to be His, reality or not. The Lord in this dispensation bears with the work of His servants. I do not mean that He approves of it, only that as the time of judgment has not yet arrived He allows the work to remain, and does not pronounce upon its character.

The body of Christ

The assembly is also seen in scripture as the body of Christ. In this we have an intimate connection, unity with Christ our head. The body is not complete without the Head, and it is the Head that animates the body. 

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:22–23

It is by one Spirit we are baptized into one body. The final completeness of this will be in heaven, although it is established on earth. It is interesting to note that the title of body as far as I can see is an earthly title. When we are gathered to Christ in heaven the church takes on the character of the bride united to Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was accomplished by His coming down on the day of Pentecost.

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4–5
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13

This is an earthly title for the assembly. We can see this by looking further at 1 Corinthians 12. We see He has set in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, we have miracles, gifts of healing, this must be on earth. Note that they are set in the whole church, members in the one whole body. Such is the church or assembly as depicted in scripture.

I think that is as far as we will go today. 
 
 Read Part 2