The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word, “ekklesia”, which means a gathering, or an assembly. The most common use of this particular word is to describe a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This group of people or assembly is a “called out company.”
This company is unique and precious to God. Paul speaks of them as “the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28. The Lord Jesus “loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Ephesians 5:25.
It is God’s desire that this purchased company should meet in the place of His choosing and around the Person in whom is all His delight.
Where is this place? And this Person? Hebrews 13:13 says, “Let us go forth, therefore unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”
This separation has always been God’s plan and purpose for His children. Consider the Prophecy of Shiloh in Genesis 49:10. Jacob lay dying in Egypt. He called his sons to bestow a father’s blessing. God enabled him to look into the future and tell what would befall the descendants of his sons.
Two things should be noted in this Scripture:
1. There was to be a place where God’s people should gather—Shiloh. 200 years later, as the people were about to enter the Promised Land, God decreed that they should separate themselves from the places where the heathen worshipped their gods. Deuteronomy 12:5. God made a promise to Israel: (1) That He would choose a place in the land; (2) Where He would put His name; (3) Wherein He would dwell; (4) To which His people should come. Seven years later we read, “The whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the Tabernacle there”—Joshua 18:1
2. The second thing we notice in the verse is that they were not only to gather in an appointed place, but they were to gather around a person. “Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” Who was this One whom the Patriarch named Shiloh? Shiloh means “peace-bringer.” There is only one who brings real peace to any heart—the Prince of Peace. On that occasion Jacob received a great vision of future things. Not only did he see Israel gathered unto God, but figuratively he saw the Christian Assembly gathered unto the Lord. Matthew 18:20.
Beloved, our gathering center must ever be the place of the Lord’s choosing, where He has placed His name and where His presence is. This place should be a place of separation. Deuteronomy 12:10-14, 29-32.
Israel was commanded to separate themselves from the world’s religion. Their offerings, sacrifices and tithes were to be brought o the place which God had chosen. They were commanded to separate themselves from the world’s ways.
One purpose for which Christ died on the cross is found in Galatians 1:4. Being thus delivered, we are exhorted to “present our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Romans 12:1.
To have no fellowship with unbelievers, unrighteousness, darkness, Satan, with everything which is unclean, that God and Christ may be all in all.
The local assembly should also be a place of commemoration. Israel was instructed by God to keep the Passover, to remember their deliverance from Egypt. In perfect harmony with this divine picture we see the early assemblies meeting on the first day of the week to break bread in memory of Christ. As the Passover was held on the Sabbath, a holy day, it is fitting that the Lord’s Supper should be held on the “first day of the week”, a special day, the day of our Lord’s resurrection.