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September 26, 2001

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Q/A Topics
Forsaking the assembling of ourselves?

READER QUESTION:
The question of not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, especially as we see the day approaching, really is troubling to me. If we come to the place where we are sitting alone in our living room, how can be anything but forsaking assembling together? (I am not trying to argue this point but to think it through.) There must be valid reasons we are instructed to assemble together. I do not believe it means a "church building" but it does mean meeting with other believers. I can see benefits like instruction, reproof, and mutual aid and care come from assembling together. Also, what of baptism should one lead someone to a saving faith? This subject has really been on my mind because I can see that, if I come to this point, I will probably be virtually alone. I am experiencing a kind of "rejection" because I don't quite fit in and don't just blindly follow all of the "churchianity" programs. Even though I am quiet in the assembly, people know when someone is not jumping on the band-wagon of every program and new teaching (Prayer of Jabez for one example) (And "big sin"... I don't work in the nursery) Would one have to answer to the Lord for not assembling? I feel this is a very serious issue. But I can see that some of us may even be driven from any assembly by "christians." Would you consider a more expanded teaching on this subject? What things came up in the churches where you felt you had to leave? Help please. Answers from Scripture? Thank you.

VW ANSWER:
The writer of Hebrews talks about our "boldness" to enter the "Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus". (Heb10:19) Of course, being written to "Hebrews" (Jews), this is one of the many symbolisms that Israel observed regularly, which Jesus fulfilled with His death on the cross. As Believers we have direct access to the Father through Christ. So the exhortation is "let us draw near with a true heart..." (vs22) That's our worship of God.

And then, we also have a responsibility to one another. What is the purpose of getting together? To "stir up love and good works". (vs24) And rather than "forsaking the assembling" we are to "exhort" one another. (vs25)

Before we go any further in the answer to this question, let us stop right here and analyze, briefly, "who" this passage is addressing. In light of our recent studies, this is very important. When the priest went into the Holy of Holies with the blood (without looking up the O.T. references now) let us realize that he did so -only- after he had done rituals by which to sanctify himself, to ceremonially cleanse himself of sin. (Heb9:7) Now, in ch10 it speaks of the Believer having direct access to the Father because of Jesus' shed blood. A Believer is one who -is- "the righteousness of God in [Christ]" (2Cor5:21) So, in the SAME CONTEXT, is there any question in anybody's mind that the "assembling together" is also talking about 'BELIEVERS'? It is not addressing 'wolves in sheep's clothing'. It is not addressing 'pretend [c]hristians'. It speaks of the Genuine Article. The "glorious church" that is "without spot or wrinkle" (Eph5:27), having been "washed in the blood of the lamb". (Rev1:5, 7:14)

So... Here's the question: -if there is a group of 'people' meeting regularly, but most of them are "christian" only by label, but there happens to be one 'lone' True Believer in the group, is that Believer, (situated in this group of unbelievers, attending the regular weekly meetings) fulfilling Heb10:25? The Believer is certainly "assembling" with -some- "people". But if they are not True Believers, this 'assembling' is not a fulfillment of Heb10:25. Remember, Heb10:25 is talking about those who are cleansed of sin, Righteous through Christ's blood, who have the authority to approach God's presence boldly. The group of people this 'lone' Believer is 'assembling' with does not have that right, because they are not saved. Even though the Believer is around other people, and if it is truly the case that he/she is worshiping God in their own heart, they are still "alone" before God, even though surrounded by the group of unbelievers. Are we following (understanding) this? So, if such a Believer comes to realize the true state of the group they have been fellowshiping with, and leaves, has their state before God changed? They were "alone" before God while in the group. If they leave the group, they are still "alone" before God. Their leaving changes nothing with regard to their "assembling" before God.

Now then, there's the other matter. Recall in 1Cor ch5 how a person guilty of gross sin is to be ousted from the fellowship of believers and to "deliver such a one to Satan..." (vs5) If we go farther down that chapter Paul speaks of "keeping company" (vs9) with various types of immoral, idolaters, etc. (vs10) And he makes a specific point of defining -exactly- what he means. He says, "I certainly did not mean with the...people of this world...but...not to keep company with anyone NAMED A BROTHER, who is...[all the various things]" (vs9-10) Paul is clearly stating a principle here about the catagory we continually call the "pretend christian". This is a person who makes the claim to being a "Christian", but for everything looks like the world. Now, while he refers to these as being "saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (vs5); thus, in the instance he was addressing at Corinth, they were 'real' Christians... only, "carnal" (3:3-4); he also speaks of the "wolves" which "come in among you", coming "from among yourselves" (Acts20:29-30) So, the principle is: if it makes a claim to being "Christian", but looks/acts like the world, "purge out the old leaven" (vs7) Now, this is where the congregation is predominantly Believers, and has one or a few "pretenders" in its midst.

But when a "lone" Believer finds himself in a predominantly "wolf den", the lone Believer obviously cannot kick out the congregation. Thus, the passage we proclaim continually, "Come out of her My people..." (Rev18:4)

If a lone individual is fellowshiping with an unsaved congregation, it is an "unequal yoke". You are saved; they are not. Remember; before God you are "alone", whether you are in the group, or alone in your home. But when you are with the unsaved, you actually have an added dimension of "disobedience" in being "unequally yoked". You are singing, "praying", and doing all sorts of other things 'together' in a name that claims to be "Jesus Christ". Whether you are "one" with them or not, they 'think' you are with them. And so; both out of obedience to God, and for testimony's sake, the Believer -MUST- leave such a congregation.

When a Believer comes to understand the pagan nature of that which is called "Christian", he/she -MUST- leave. The big scourge against Israel was that they took Egypt's idols with them. God had just judged Egypt's gods, and Jehovah proclaimed Himself to them from Sinai, but they continued in Egypt's idolatry. God said to them, "Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am Jehovah your God. But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not, each man, cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt." (Ezek20:7-8) Whether you are willing to see it or not, that which makes up "christendom" today -is- of "Egypt". It is of Egypt's gods' progeny. We won't repeat again what we just considered recently. But God judged Israel for their idolatry. What christendom is today, is "idolatry" no less than what Israel did. If God's wrath was poured out upon Israel... what do you suppose is in store for that which calls itself the "church"? That's why He calls out to "My people" (True Believers) to "come out of her". (Rev18:4)

Now, as you noted... they do notice that you are not 'really' one of them. And this is where the problems I always had, came up. I would stick to God's Word, but they would rile up in anger against anything that "condemned" their ways. And I must say, that one church I went to during college was most strange, too. I was continually asked to lead the college group's Bible studies; but then when I did, they would rile up and argue against God's Word. But then, knowing how I taught, they would still ask me to teach again... and argue against the Word, again. If they were so against what I was teaching, as I think back on it now, it really seems preposterous that they would have continued to ask me to teach! As for the incidents you ask about, I really don't want to make this a platform to bring to light things that are best left covered in the past. All those people must answer before the Lord.

However, what about it? This e-list has many family units that meet privately, apart from any organized organization. But what about the "lone" individual? If there are any other Believers in your group, they are not yet to the point where they are willing to "come out of her". So you find yourself leaving... alone. Well, again... it is no different in God's sight, than when you were 'in' the group. And now, you actually have the added blessing that you are being -OBEDIENT- to the Lord regarding not maintaining that unequal yoke with them.

So, is it OK for a lone individual to meet with the Lord "alone"? If there is no other believer in your vicinity, what other choice do you have? You have none. Daniel, in a pagan land, spent time 'alone' with the Lord daily. Remember, go a little farther down that chapter and we see that the "just (Believers) live by faith". (Heb10:38, Rom1:17) Abraham (and his household) were "alone" in a land of heathen. And it is recorded that he was pleasing to God by faith. Did they "have church"? It only records a few times where he offered sacrifices.

So, what about a "lone" individual? How does an individual "assemble"? When Israel was exiled into far-away lands due to judgment, God, however, made a promise to them as they were, scattered away from Jerusalem and the ability to "assemble" around the altar sacrifices, etc. He says, "...yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the lands where they have gone." (Ezek11:16b) Remember, Jesus promised, "I will not leave you orphans; I am coming to you." (Jn14:18) And how does He fulfill that promise? Through the Holy Spirit. (Jn16:13)

Just an interesting thought as I sit here, typing this. It wasn't until I had finally (for the final time) left the organization/s 'for good' that VW began. Throughout my life I continually tried to work for the Lord within the system. But it was always continually obvious that they and I were of two different spirits. And understandably enough, even though I did little bits of this and that, no real 'door' for substantive service ever opened while I remained. But within a year (or so) after I left, the Lord 'called' me to this work.

Another interesting thought... Back when I was trying to remain in the organization, I had occasions to visit some little groups meeting either in a remodeled barn loft, or living room, or...? At the time, I was still attached to my unequal yoke, and these groups always saw something 'amiss' about 'us'...in some cases, they actually pinpointed her (even though I didn't, and defended her to them). And I always thought they were a bit 'strange', being by themselves. I wonder how we would get along now, were I to meet up with any of them again..?

So... if you need to leave that organization, how do you decide whether to stay or leave? Let's not forget that Jesus said that the tares 'will' be among the wheat until the end. (Mt13:24-30)

You must listen to the Holy Spirit. One reason I don't want to address my past incidents is because, some of you will then try to compare your situation with mine, and then decide what to do based on what I did. You cannot do that. Each servant is answerable to his own Master. (Rom14:4) While some of you consider me to be your "pastor", I cannot dictate to you what you should do. You do not answer to me. You answer to the Lord. When/if it becomes time for you to leave, you will know from the Holy Spirit and God's Word. And, certainly, expect the sparks to fly. Expect to be attacked, either outright, or by slithery stealth. And expect your flesh to become discouraged, and for your mind to have doubts due to the cleverness of their arguments. But through it, be willing to make yourselves vessels of God's proclamation to them. And don't worry about saying "the right thing" because you feel inadequate to the task... especially if the pastor has all sorts of letters behind his name, and has an overbearing nature. "..do not be anxious about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak" (Mt10:19) If you are yielded to the Lord for this, the Holy Spirit will guide the whole situation; from whatever incidents that come up for which reasons you need to take a stand, to what you say, to how you leave... whether quietly, or creating a ruckus by writing letters and speaking to people.

However, as you look at the congregation you fellowship with, of what does it consist? Does it consist of primarily Believers or unbelievers? What about the pastor? Is he a man of God? Does he proclaim "thus says the Lord"? Or does he lead the group in "unity" with the world? If the pastor doesn't proclaim God's Word, and nobody in the fellowship seems to notice, you might as well leave. Congregations typically tend to get pastors with a heart similar to theirs. And/or, whatever the pastor is, the congregation will tend to follow, if he stays for any length of time. I know that some of you actually have the rare privilege of being part of groups with Godly pastors. Some 'get to' have fellowship with others of "like precious faith". (2Pt1:1) Others, like me, don't. And this is precisely where I'm supposed to be right now, since many of you are in the same place, too. But whatever/wherever the Lord has you, be sure of this, that He knows -just- exactly where you are. Perhaps He has a work for you to do... and like me... He won't open that door until you leave? Whatever He has for "John" to do, don't worry about "John"... He says to you, "you follow Me". (Jn21:22)

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'A' Believer is not 'the Church'

Re: "But the True Believer -is- "-The- Church"." from Q/A

READER COMMENTS:
Please note that a Believer is not the church. The church consists of bodies of Believers, each equipped by God for His ministry on this earth, in their respective communities and spheres of influence, each having eyes and hands, etc., as He sees fit.

This is a primary reason for believers to meet regularly and fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with each other. They need to be edified and built-up, and then to go out and minister according as to how the Lord has gifted them. They are to be baptized as commanded and also to partake of the 'Lord's Supper' whcih He enjoined that we do, remembering His work on our behalf until He return.

The body is not just an arm, or an eye, etc. It is a complete body consisting of all the parts necessary for ministering in the place where God has put them.

A Believer is not 'the church'.

VW ANSWER:
Well, of course! What would make you think otherwise? 1Cor12, Rom12 and Eph4 are quite clear on the matter of all the body "parts".

On the other hand, and this is what was meant in that Q/A (I thought the context was obvious??). The "Church" is not an "activity" which we "do". The Church is an entity. Church is not something we "do". The Church "is"; it exists. "ekklesia" is a noun, not a verb. It is "an assembly of people". Believers do not -go- "to church" (building). They do not "have church" (liturgy). Believers -ARE- the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ is all those who have received the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit3:5)

If a butcher was cutting up cuts of meat; from a cow, pig, sheep; and the parts are laid out; to a person who knows what they look like, if you see a beef steak sitting there, you know it's not pork. While you see the piece, you express, "That's beef". Now, when you make that statement, you are not saying that the piece is the "whole cow". But you are saying it is "beef", as distinguished from "pork", or whatever. In the same way, while the Church consists of 'all' Believers, -a- Believer is "[the] Church".

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Jewish customs/laws and Sabbath

READER QUESTION:
firstly on a similar topic, in matt 23:2 why does jesus command everyone to follow jewsish customs and laws if in a few days he is going to end the need for them?

["The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (Mt23:2-3)]

VW ANSWER:
The topic of that passage is hypocrisy. Exhorting the people to not be hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees. The S&P would teach one thing for the people to do, but they themselves would behave differently. Continue on in that chapter and you'll see what I mean.

READER QUESTION:
and similarly in matt 24:20 why does he mention sabath??

["And pray they your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath"]

VW ANSWER:
Just statement of fact. Jews keep the sabbath...and other feasts. The war of 1973, for instance, is called the "Yom Kippur War" because the Arabs attacked Israel when they were essentially "shut down" (even the military) due to their Feast (sabbath/rest) observances...and many died before Israel got mobilized and God worked a victory for them. Otherwise, it was almost looking, for a time, like Israel would be innundated.

A little aside here, for those for whom (like the Pharisees of Jesus' day), ignoring Col2:16, the "Sabbath" is their #1 belief, over any and all others. There are some who think that observing the "sabbath" means observing the "7th day" of the week. Indeed, if one looks the word up in an English dictionary, one comes up with observances of a "7th day"; whether Saturday or Sunday. And also, indeed, in the O.T. the 7th day was observed.

The word we use as "sabbath" has its etymology back through English, French, Latin and Greek; where the word has the number "seven" associated with its meaning. But prior to Greek, it came from Hebrew. And in Hebrew "sabbath" means "cease, rest, desist, put an end to". Which is where the sabbath came from when "God RESTED (shabath)from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen2:3) When it says that He "blessed the seventh day", the word "seventh" is a different word, "shebiy'iy". The "7th day" has BECOME associated with the meaning of "sabbath", but in the strictest sense, "sabbath" means "rest". And indeed, one of the forms of the Hebrew "shabat" for definition, lists the various Feast days...some of which were on the 7th day, but others were counted from "so-many-days" into the given month, and so they might be on most-any-day of the week. But they were days-of-observance, in which "No manner of work shall be done on them;" (Ex12:16,etc), because "sabbath" means "rest".

Example: this month Israel celebrates two non-Saturday sabbaths. Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets) is on Monday/Tuesday. Yom Kippur (Atonement) is Wednesday/Thursday. But they are both "sabbaths" of "rest".

Thus, we saw an instance where Mt24:20 saw significance in 1973. Will there be others before all is said and done with Israel?

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