Many will tell you that they are that group. Just check any newspaper “church page” and you will find a plethora of churches advertising themselves as giving, caring, sharing, and Bible-believing. What more could one want? How about … the truth?
The problem with many is that instead of looking into Scripture with an open mind in search of the truth, they seek out a group that is teaching the doctrines they already believe. And those tenets do not necessarily need to come from the Bible.
Tradition is the most popular teacher, which is why doctrinal errors like the immortal soul teaching, the rapture, ever-burning hellfire, heaven as the ultimate reward, worship on the first day – and many more nonBiblical teachings continue to abound. Basing their belief on the fact that they have always believed them, people accept such doctrines as truth.
Others are not as concerned with the teachings as they are with the group’s prestige, its comfortable sanctuary, gifted choir, handsome minister, or any number of other reasons that have nothing to do with what is taught there.
For many, a religious affiliation is a marriage of convenience, a compromise for the sake of the spouse or children. For others it is used to enhance their worldly status.
Just as perilous is the person who believes he or she is justified in worshiping Yahweh alone. Maybe some problem in their former affiliation prompted them to go it alone. They may even pride themselves with going solo.
Should we reject organized worship when problems arise? Are we given the Scriptural alternative to worship separately from everyone else? Is that the arrangement we find taught in the Bible? What does Scripture reveal about becoming part of a group of worshipers and working with and through the Body of Messiah? Could private worship signal spiritual defeat or does it have Yahweh’s complete blessing?
‘I Will Build My … lndividual’?
Scripture is clear on the subject of worship. It also has much to say about group affiliation. Clearly, the command to assemble is there: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching,” Hebrews 10:24-25.
We are directed to join in fellowship, encouraging and exhorting one another to good works and sacrificial love by word and example. We must seriously consider the Savior’s words about those called out from the world to be a part of the Body of Messiah. It is obvious that He expected His followers to become a part of a greater Body of believers who would be close to one another and who would help guide one another.
Yahshua said there would always be a group of True Believers on earth teaching the truths he magnified and brought to light: “And I say also unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my assembly; and the gates of [the grave] shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16: 18). He established an organized worship based on Peter’s confession that Yahshua was the Messiah.
If we seek salvation, we must become a part of that Body. His assembly was to continue until His return, 1Peter 4: 17. Teaching the truth of Scripture, His Body would be the physical representation of Him on earth. This Body would be the repository of His truth and mirror the example He set.
The writers of the New Testament, and especially Paul, shared the belief that Believers must congregate as a body whenever possible. Acts 2:42 relates that after Yahshua’s death that the early apostles continued steadfast in fellowship and prayer. The apostles were in constant fellowship with one another throughout the Book of Acts. They were aware that persecution was soon to fall on them and they used every opportunity to encourage one another and to preach the Word wherever they could.
It is up to all who have been called to proclaim the Good News and encourage others in the truth of the Name, Sabbath, Feasts, clean foods, and other truths neglected for millennia. These are the bedrock teachings that must be reintroduced before the Savior returns, Jude 3. Those who have this knowledge are to be teachers and guides of others searching for it, 1Peter 2:9; Romans 2:21.
The only real way to get the message out effectively is through a united effort!
Message Through the Body
For a number of important reasons Yahweh’s people are to congregate to study His Word. The overriding concern is to help sinful lives change to lives of righteous obedience. The Book of Acts is filled with examples of conversions to Messiah. The Apostle Paul himself was struck down on the Damascus road in Acts 9, where he actually heard and spoke to the risen Messiah (vv. 1-6). Although Yahshua spoke to Paul, He did not tell him the entire plan at that time.
Rather, the plan of salvation was to be found in going to the city and letting those in the ekklesia – the Body of believers – tell him what had to be done. Yahshua had given the keys of the Kingdom to His called-out ones, and although He could just as easily have told Paul what to do for others directly, that was the job of the Body. It still is today.
The early assembly was busy showing the path to those who were seeking the strait gate and the narrow way. For example, the Ethiopian treasurer was trying hard to understand the Book of Isaiah (Acts 8). Philip explained the Scriptures to him and brought about his conversion and desire for baptism. This is a prime example of Yahweh’s Spirit working through His people to help others find the way of salvation. That truth is lodged in the Body of believers.
Yahweh could just as easily have spoken to, or in some way moved, the people He was dealing with to do His bidding. Instead, He used those who had prepared themselves and were qualified, to help others seeking truth. It is up to the Body of Messiah to preach the Good News of salvation as Yahshua said in Matthew 28: 19.
Although signs, visions, and miracles were used on occasion by Yahweh in the New Testament Assembly, the message of salvation was given and expounded to others by those in the ekklesia, the called-out ones.
Shaping the Building Stones
Another reason for the necessity to gather with others of like faith is that all those placed in the Body of Messiah have a particular gift that is to be used to edify and build the Assembly, 1Corinthians 7: 7. That gift is to be used for the ekklesia and is not for personal glorification, 1Corinthians 14:12.
We are placed in the Body of Messiah as living stones making up a spiritual temple. Each member of the Body has been selected to be a part of that temple and is even in this life being fitted for an individual place in Yahweh’s spiritual temple.
The chipping, shaping, and fitting of each of the called-out ones goes on as we live our lives and change according to His Word. Yahshua is the chief cornerstone of the entire living, spiritual temple. He is not a lone rock on the seashore. We are to be formed collectively into a spiritual house, 1Peter 2:4-7, founded on Yahshua.
Yahweh has a purpose for gathering His people. We are to use whatever gift He has given each of us for the edifying of the temple. If we never associate with others of like faith, how can we exercise the gift we have received? Only through interaction with others do we learn to subjugate our own wants and desires as we uplift, edify, and strengthen others in the truth and faith.
“Living stones” that make up the body fit together only once they have been chipped and shaped and smoothed through contact with other living stones. The finished, polished pieces fit into a harmonious building where Yahweh’s Spirit dwells.
As an individual member of the Body of Messiah begins to pattern his life after that of the Messiah, he stops committing acts that he learns are sinful and against Yahweh. He starts following a course in accord with Yahweh’s way of life.
His mind is stayed on the Messiah. He no longer is taken up with satisfying his flesh and former way of life. He now longs to please the Heavenly Father and no longer indulges in wickedness of the lower nature: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of Elohim” (Gal. 5: 19-21).
Advantages of Fellowship
Through the Body of Messiah the fruits of Galatians 5:22-23 are grown, nurtured, and matured: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Examples of the kind of people we are to become should be visible in each assembly.Here we meet with those who are also trying to become more like the Messiah, growing in His likeness and stature. This is not possible to fulfill alone, which is why it is all the more important that we fellowship with other saints. Regardless, we should always live as if the Messiah were living right here among us no matter where we are.
Another great advantage of regular fellowship is the mutual understanding one can derive from others. Often we learn of a strange new doctrine that arises from an isolated individual who does not “test out” his idea with others for validity and harmony with the Scriptures. How often have we all been corrected or redirected by a brother or sister who had more insight on an idea or teaching! We need one another to stay balanced and on track. This is just another advantage of regular fellowship.
Believers Same as Yahshua
While most of us fully recognize the great debt of gratitude we owe Yahshua the Messiah, we often forget the most obvious way we can show our appreciation and love to Him for the price He paid that we might have life.
The Apostle Paul got the message in a big way. Supernaturally struck down on the Damascus road, he heard a voice asking him, “Shaul, Shaul, why do you persecute Me?” Who was this he was hearing? The answer comes: “I am Yahshua whom you persecute,”Acts 9: 1-5.
Suddenly Paul realized the astounding fact that Yahshua was so close to His disciples that anything Paul had previously done in persecuting them was the same as attacking the Messiah Himself! That is how important the Body of Messiah is to our Savior, and that is why each person must have a place in it and work through it. To work and worship with the Body is to work and worship with the Savior!
Paul never forgot the lesson. On frequent occasions he would mention that he – more than anyone else – needed forgiveness because he had persecuted the Body of believers, and through them Yahshua Himself. Philippians 3:6; Galatians 1: l3, 1Timothy 1: l3.
Yahshua again revealed the deep and intimate feelings He has for His True Worshipers when he spoke of the righteous saints who inherit the Kingdom, Matthew 25:34-40. He said that doing good to the saints is the same as reaching out to Yahshua Himself. He likens His spiritual Body to his own body. When we do anything to a fellow believer we are in essence doing the same to Yahshua. When we refuse to fellowship with the Body, we are refusing Yahshua.
In verses 41-46 He makes the same point with the wicked who have not shown compassion and love for the Body. He speaks of not having cared for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned.
Some hunger for the Word; we should feed them. Some thirst for the Holy Spirit; they should be taught. Strangers should be taken into the camp and made spiritual Israelites wherever possible. They should be clothed in the robes of righteousness. If they are sick, they need healing and should be made whole. Those in prison should be freed from the captivity of sinful living.
Yahshua identified the group of believers in Matthew 12:48-50 when He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples and said, “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister and mother.”
Keeping His words in mind will help us to think of one another in the ekklesia as brothers or sisters. Whatever we do to these followers of the Messiah we also do to Him. He said that the ekklesia was also His Body. He refers to the called-out ones as the spiritual mother of the Body of believers. This is the same thought Paul had when he referred to the spiritual Jerusalem as the “mother of all,” Galatians 4:26.
Strength Through Fellowship
It is quite apparent that Yahshua expected the Body of believers to assemble as often as they could. Not associating with the saints leaves much of the development of the spiritual aspects of our lives unfinished. The interaction between the believers is necessary not only to help us become better followers of the Messiah, but also to learn from others who have met and overcome many of the same problems and difficulties. It strengthens us as well to see how others have overcome their trials.
Becoming associated with a group of True Believers allows one into a training ground or preparation for the work in the Kingdom. We develop talents or gifts that Yahweh has given us so they become ability. We use that ability to edify and build up the ekklesia.
In interaction with the saints we not only help them be better followers of the Messiah, but we also perfect ourselves. It is difficult or impossible to develop and use the spiritual gifts Yahweh gives us if we are alone.
Another purpose for assembling together is to make recommendations and judgments on the qualifications of the brethren. This was true in Acts 15:1-2 when the brethren determined who would go to Jerusalem. It was the brethren who decided the candidates for the role of deacon in the early assembly, Acts 6:3-6. In Acts 11:22 it was the ekklesia that sent Barnabas to Antioch. Later (Acts 15:22-23) it was the ekklesia that joined with the apostles and elders to send men they had chosen to visit the gentiles.
Cooperation Is Key
All through the New Testament we find that the Assembly played a vital part in the direction of the ministry. Decisions were made by the Body. There is no such term as head elder or directing elder in the New Testament, unless it refers to Yahshua. Examples of a plurality of people making the important decisions are found in the following:
Yahshua established the Assembly (Matt. 16:18), and to make it run He guides it by His Holy Spirit working through His people. It was the apostles or elders who recognized the choice of the brethren in ordaining individuals for the special task of serving the Body.
Most of us can look back on our Biblical pursuits and recall that we assimilated Bible knowledge by degrees. After we accepted one truth we went on to study deeper knowledge. Significantly, we learned through the help of others. Who can say that he learned all the truth totally without the help and direction of other people guided by Yahweh?
To say that we no longer need the fellowship and help of others in the Body is to reject the blueprint Yahshua established by which the truth is spread to all the earth.
One of the biggest thrills yet to come is when Yahshua returns to set up His Kingdom. It will not be the individual who thought it was “just you and me, Yahshua” who will make up that Kingdom. It will be ALL those who have been faithfully keeping the commandments and living daily the precepts they have proved true. It will be His entire ekklesia, the firstfruits, that will make up the core of His Kingdom of which there will be no end.
Serving the Body
In any organization, obligations and duties befall some for the good of all. For some, the reluctance to meet with a group is born of the fear of the responsibilities involved.
Yet that is exactly what the Kingdom will involve … responsibilities! We are in training now to handle the smaller duties of service so that we will be able to take on the much greater responsibilities to befall us in the Kingdom. If we shirk the little assignments of service now, how do we think Yahweh will consider us for the far greater and more demanding ones of ruling in His Kingdom? (Rev. 5:10)
A muscle that goes unused withers away. Yahweh wants involvement from His people. They in turn will grow with the responsibilities, ultimately to be qualified for a greater role to come. No one can presume to be an effective ruler in the Kingdom if he has not learned how to interact with others now.
This is one of the great truths of the Assembly. The ekklesia is a training ground, both for now and also for a more important role in the future. No one can effectively rule in the Kingdom if he has not learned to get along successfully with others now.
Traits of the True Group
How can we know which is the correct group of True Worshipers? The Bible gives us a clear understanding of the characteristics of truth seekers. Many teach that the law of the Old Testament has been done away. But Revelation 14:12 and many other New Testament verses maintain that Yahweh never changed His mind. His precepts are still binding. Besides boldly teaching the truth of the Word, other significant characteristics identify the true Assembly.
Revelation 14:12 tells of the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of Yahweh and have the faith of Yahshua. The saints, then, must be willing to endure situations that may not be pleasant. They must be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the truth. Conditions will come to pass that will severely test their dedication and resolve to be faithful to the Father they serve. Will they keep the commandments? Will they be willing to suffer shame for His Name?
Notice specifically in Revelation 14:12 that the True Worshiper keeps the faith OF Yahshua, not the faith IN Yahshua – but the same faith He had. Part of His faith was that He was obedient in all things, 1Peter 2:22. He kept all the commandments. All the Feast days. All the Sabbaths. He is our example, our model, and our goal.
Another characteristic setting apart of True Worshipers is that His people will know and use His Name, Isaiah 52:6. His people will also be hated because of His Name, Matthew 24:9, but they will never deny it, Revelation 3:8.
The way is narrow and the gate is strait that leads to the Kingdom, and few will find it. The closer an organization follows the truth the fewer there will be in that group.
But seek the Kingdom we must, and with all our determination follow the Savior. This is not just a hobby for the Truth Seeker, it is his and her very reason for living.
May you also join with us as we endeavor to fulfill all that the True Assembly means in these final days. Check out our Sabbath Fellowship you don’t have to “Go Solo”! Also, Check out our live sabbath services every Sabbath at 1:30 (Central time)