Characteristics of a Scriptural Assembly

For an assembly to function scripturally it must have qualified elders.

Conversely, it must have obedient believers. Unity = blessings Psalm 133.

Sound eldership produces sound doctrine there (?) in turn produce a Scriptural Assembly. Titus

We live in a day of changing values and uncertain priorities. Because of this it is good for us to see how important certain truths were to the early Christians.

These truths were abiding value and not subject to fluctuations of popularity, nor so-called advancement of thought. “Strengthen the things that remain.”

In Acts 20 there are three very important facts of divine truth.

1. The importance of the Lord’s Supper

2. The importance of elders

3. The importance of the Ministry of the Word

The application of these divine principles produced the most mature N.T. church (Ephesus)

There also must be a recognition of the “Headship of Christ” in the church.

Within the scope of this truth there lies several other principles.

    (1) The Lordship of Christ

      (2) The Presidency of the Holy Spirit

        (3) The Authority of the Scriptures

          (4) The Sovereignty of God

For an assembly to function at its best there must be the recognition and development of spiritual gifts.

Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts.

To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually as He wills. I Corinth 12.

From Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 we learn that every believer has a special God-given gift for service.

1. Gifts differ in value, but are all equally honorable.

2. Gifts are to be used in love.

3. Gifts must not be regarded as an enlargement of natural ability; but should be used for the glory of God, the building up of the saints, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. Many individuals with little natural talent have been mightily used of God, through the spiritual gift He gave them.

The growth of an assembly is often hindered by members who do not recognize this gift, and even if they do, --neglect it—refusing to stir it up and develop it.

The success of the young church in Antioch can be attributed to at least five things. Acts 11

    (1) They preached the Lord Jesus [See Corinth I]

      (2) The hand of the Lord was with them.

        (3) There were results – great numbers believed.

          (4) There was a missionary spirit and outreach.

            (5) This church was a giving church.

My personal studies lead me to believe that the priorities of the Assembly are as follows:

    (1) The worship of God.

      (2) The building of saints in spiritual maturity.

        (3) The outreach in to the world.

This order can be substantiated from Heb 11.

    (1) Abel worshipped – He offered a more excellent sacrifice.

      (2) Enoch walked with God – He pleased God.

        (3) Noah worked – He built an ark to the saving of his household..

Some assemblies have died because they have concentrated entirely on the worship of God.

Others have attempted to survived by practicing worship and walk with the believers in fellowship. They are ineffective and dying.

Those who are prospering are the ones who worship and are walking with God and fellowshipping with each other, and reaching out into the sinful around.

The assembly should be a tributary into the world, rather than a refuge from it.

We must reach the lost with the Gospel – this is the great commission. “Go”

This is everyone’s responsibility.

Sometimes we have to take it to them. This brings in the thought of visitation.

To grow numerically our visitation must supercede the bounds of the saints.

Give personal experience here.

Three Important Things

We live in a day of changing values and uncertain priorities. Because of this it is good for us to see how important certain things were to the early Christians.

These things were of abiding value and not subject to fluctuations of popularity nor the so-called advancement of thought.

In Acts 20 there are three very important facts of divine Truth

1. The importance of the Lord’s Supper.

2. The importance of the Elders.

3. The importance of the Ministry of the Word.

Point (1)

Vs 6 and 7 give us a scriptural precedent and a N.T. example for holding the Lord’s Supper on the First Day of the week. Paul and his companions arrived in Troas on Monday. They desired to break bread with the saints there, so they waited seven days for the usual gathering on the Lord’s Day.

It was of great value and importance to Paul and his companions to remember the Lord in fellowship with the saints in Troas.

It is sad to say that there are some believers, so conditioned, that the slightest diversion becomes more important than the prior clam “This do in remembrance of Me.”

This particular remembrance feast was held in the evening. Some have used this scripture as a reason to the B of B in the evening.

However we must consider that in those days there was no such thing as Sundays free.

It was a working day like the rest.

So it was for them the first spiritual exercise of the week – it had Priority.

This is always Divine Order.

First, as holy priests we offer up our spiritual sacrifices. I Peter 2:5

Then, as royal priests, we go forth to declare the glories of Christ. I Peter 2:9

The “worship of God” is always before “service to men/”

Our “service and its fruitfulness” is always related to our “worship and its fragrance.”

It would seem from O.T. examples that the glory of God in the midst of His people did not depend on the activity of their service but rather on the quality of their worship.

Point (2) The importance of elders.

The importance of elders is seen by the fact that Paul called for them to come to him. (A distance of about 30 miles.)

These elders were important to Paul – he had a message for them – they were also important, because, they were responsible for the affairs of the local church at Ephesus, and for the case of the flock there.

First note their identity.

This was not just a group of “interested brethren.”

These were men whose identity was known and could be located.

Their names and addresses were known to all in the assembly.

The word “elder” suggests mature spiritual experience and understanding.

Not age alone, for in many instances it is sadly obvious that advancement of years does not necessarily mean spiritual maturity.

Job said, “Great men are not always wise, neither do the aged understand judgment” 32:9.

Secondly, note their responsibility.

This is revealed in the word used in v. 28 “overseers.”

This conveys the character of the work undertaken.

It was to “watch over/”

The word “overseers” is sometimes translated “bishop,” but always in the plural.

In the early church there was never Bishop So-and –so set over a church or a group of churches.

The elders’ responsibility was:

1. To watch for his own life – v. 28.

2. Then to watch over the flock – v.28

3. To guard them and feed them – v. 28-30

4. To support the weak – with material assistance if necessary – v. 35

5. To be well acquainted with all facets of the truth – v. 35.

Point (3) The Importance of the Ministry.

This is seen is Paul’s exercise to impart something to the church. And also to the elders.

He speaks of his own ministry – how it was accompanied with lowliness, tears and trials – v. 19.

The avenues his ministry followed were, what was Profitable, both Private and Public – v. 20.

There were three avenues or aspects of his Ministry.

1. Showing --- this is a word which means declaration - v. 20. It is a telling forth of the Word.

2. Teaching --- this is a word for instruction - v. 20.

3. Testifying --- this is a word meaning to “intensely witness” --- to strongly attest, and is related here to the Gospel – v. 24

The power of the ministered Word is seen in V 34.

It is able to Edify – Enrich – and Enable.

In a day when there is so much effervescence in the world, so much that is transience and triviality, it would be a good thing for us all to review the values in the local church.

Then set our priorities again according to New Testament principles:

The Worship of the saints – the Word of God – The Watching ministry of the elders.

The Call of God for Service

The Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul unto Me for the work whereunto I have called them.”

The choice of God’s workers in never left to the church.

The Holy Spirit elects His own servants, and only works through those whom He calls.

Men and women down through the ages have known the call of God.

Paul knew that he was called, and endured everything in the light of that calling.

William Carey believed he was called by God to go to India.

His local church did not agree with him. They judged him a fool.

But today Carey is credited as being a man called of God, and the father of modern missions.

God called David Livingston from a Blantyre factory and put him in darkest Africa.

Robert Morrison went to China, and John Williams went to the South Seas because they heard the call of God.

Martin Luther heard the call of God and left the Roman Catholic church against the advice of his friends, saying, “So help me God, here I stand: I can do no other.”

The result of obedience to God’s call was the Reformation.

The greatest need of the hour is the presidency of the Holy Spirit in the church, calling believers to His service.

In this incident we have a marvelous picture of an assembly working in perfect harmony with the mind and will of God.

They were gathered together for a time of fasting and prayer.

This was no ordinary prayer meeting.

They were gathered together because of a heavy burden for the world of lost souls.

As they were met together in prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke to them.

“Separate Barnabas and Saul unto Me” etc.

He no doubt spoke through one of the prophets.

This verse is important as it emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the guidance of the church. It also shows the sensitiveness that believers should have to His leading.

V3. After the Holy Spirit had revealed His will, they continued to fast and pray.

Then the elders laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul

This was not an official act of ordination.

It was simply and expression of their fellowship and blessing upon these two men in the work to which the Holy Spirit had called them.

The words at the end of v3, “they sent them away” was an unfortunate translation. The church has no authority to send anyone, anywhere. The proper thought here is that “they let them go,” or “they sent them free for the work.”

It is God the Holy Spirit who sends forth those who have received the ordination of the nail-pierced hands. See verse 4

V4. With this verse we begin what is commonly called Paul’s first missionary journey.

The record of this journey extends to Ch 15, verse 35.