Vol. 4, No. 4
Since You Asked
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What constitutes an "assembly?" ~ Jim Taylor
The word "church" is used in three senses within the New Testament to refer to the divine institution that Jesus established and over which he is the head. There is the universal sense (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 1:18), the congregational sense (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:1) and the assembly of a local congregation (1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:4-5). First Corinthians chapters 11 and 14 essentially provide a biblical definition of the worship assembly of the church.
The assembly is described as a coming together: "come together" (1 Corinthians 11:17), "come together in the church" (1 Corinthians 11:18) and "come together therefore into one place" (1 Corinthians 11:20). First Corinthians 14:23 summarizes the definition of the worship assembly thus: "the whole church be come together into one place."
Hence, the worship assembly is when the whole church assembles together in one place at the same time. Doubtless, there are other occasions on which the whole church might come together in one place at the same time for purposes other than to worship God (e.g., fellowship meal, bridal shower or wedding, church work, a public event, etc.).
A worship assembly involves the purpose of worshipping God, the entire church (as much as can be noting that some cannot always be present and others absent themselves without justification), coming together, at one place and at the same time. Therefore, the biblical definition of a worship assembly does not support parallel assemblies of the same congregation. In addition, gatherings of church members for which the purpose of gathering is not to worship God do not constitute the assembly of 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.
... I am currently studying Stage 2 Religion. I was just wondering if you had the time to email me with the answers to a few questions. What is the definition of Religion to you? What is the definition of Spirituality to you? Is there any connection between the two? Emily Bussenschutt, a student at Thomas More College, Salisbury, Australia,
Religious questions for which one desires biblical answers are welcome. The international survey via the Internet that we have received does not exactly follow our purpose in receiving and answering questions. However, perhaps the following response will prove useful.
The word "religion" is variously represented in the New Testament. One of its definitions, from the Greek, threskeia, has to do with the visible, external aspect of religion, which may be manifested in worship or in deportment, and ideally will be obvious in both (Acts 26:5; James 1:26-27). Another Greek word, theosebeia, translated "godliness," means reverence for God (1 Timothy 2:10). Still another Greek word, eusebeia, translated "godliness," pertains to the piety exhibited toward God in Christianity (2 Timothy 3:5; 2 Peter 3:11). The New Testament portrays religion, reverence and godliness or piety as inseparable components of the New Testament religion, Christianity.
Hence, religion that is 'practiced religiously' and spirituality are one in the same. Accordingly, a valid dictionary definition for religion is the 'service and worship of God' and 'devotion to religious faith.' Likewise, spirituality by definition is 'sensitivity or attachment to religious values.' Therefore, the New Testament contains rebukes for those who irregularly and unenthusiastically practice Christianity.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:25-31).
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).
More than simply a heritage or a cold empty form, the religion of Christianity depicted upon the pages of the New Testament is vibrantly alive and responsive to the Gospel message. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). For those who fully embrace it, New Testament Christianity is a way of life that will not fail us on earth or fail us eternally.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).
Dear Brother, your answer to the question about the use of individual cups or a cup in the distribution of the fruit of the vine was one of the worst I've seen in sometime. The cup represents the one new covenant that God has made with man through Jesus Christ 1Cor.11:25. The cup and the blood are not the same thing! The bread represents His body, the fruit of the vine His blood and the cup the new covenant. I can read and understand what the Lord had in mind but I can't read what you are practicing with respect to the Lord's Supper. As your brother I ask you to reconsider your position on this important subject. ~ Randy Blankenship
I'm curious! What does the plate that bears the bread represent?
First, look carefully at the passage cited where purportedly the "cup" represents the "one new covenant" and does not represent the blood of Christ.
23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
The counterpart to the "bread," which Jesus said "is my body," which was eaten is the "cup," which they were to "drink." Whereas one may physically "eat" (consume) the "bread" (substance), it is physically impossible to "drink" (consume) "the cup" (container). Further, the phrase of verse 27 "eat this bread, and drink this cup" stands in apposition to the phrase also in verse 27 "body and blood of the Lord." The verse from which one desires to "prove" the cup does not refer to the blood of Christ affirms that the cup does refer to the blood of Christ. The passage does not teach that "the cup" represents a literal, integral component of observing communion on par with the bread and the fruit of the vine. References to the "one new covenant" and associating it with "the [one] cup" is a twisted hermeneutic to justify the erroneous doctrine of requiring a single container for a congregation to share in communion.
Regarding references to "the new testament," both testaments were dedicated with blood.
18Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you (Hebrews 9:18-20).
Obviously, Jesus said "the cup," when instituting the Lord's Supper, was his "blood." He added that his blood was the "blood of the new testament," which was the counterpart to the animal blood of the Old Testament. The accounts in the Gospel records of the institution of the Lord's Supper verify that Jesus said "the cup" when referring to the "fruit of the vine" and called it his "blood."
26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:26-29).
22And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 25Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God (Mark 14:22-25).
Consequently, 1 Corinthians 11:25 and Luke 22:20, when they read "This cup is the new testament in my blood," refer to the blood of Christ which is the blood of the New Testament, the counterpart to the animal blood of the Old Testament with which it was dedicated.
Anyone who argues for a single container for the fruit of the vine in communion based on references to "the cup" in 1 Corinthians 11:25, avowing further that "the cup" means the one covenant and not the blood of Christ, is sincerely deluded at best. No valid hermeneutic or rule of interpretation justifies either such a clumsy handling of 1 Corinthians 11:25 or the ignoring of the companion passages in the Gospel records that clearly affirm that the use of the phrase "the cup" refers to the "fruit of the vine," which Jesus called his "blood."
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Mankind is obligated to handle aright the Word of God and speak only as the oracles of God reveal (1 Peter 4:11). Especially teachers have a weightier judgment and corresponding condemnation for the error they may teach, since they publicly influence a number of people (James 3:1).