Should seating for observers at assembly meetings and for those in the fellowship be separate?
We will find no scripture specifically commanding this, yet any thoughtful reader of I Corinthians 14:15-25 will recognize this separation in seating can be helpful to the observer who needs to learn God’s order in the assembly. A physical separation in seating demonstrates the distinctions the Spirit of God makes between “the whole church” met together and others present who are “unlearned (untaught) or unbelievers.”
Initially, it is easier to observe” from without than from within a company. The Christian who first learns truth regarding the assembly while looking on will continue to learn more when he becomes part of the fellowship. Even an observer who is unsaved may be instructed by the Spirit as he observes the distinction between the saved ones in the circle and his own place before God. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew (“announce” or “proclaim”) the Lord’s death till He come” (I Corinthians 11:26). While we declare His death to the Father, the Supper can also proclaim gospel truth to the lost!
Most important, Paul states, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40). A separate seat preserves order in the gathering. One seated outside the “circle” will be less apt to participate publicly or to partake inadvertently of the emblems at the breaking of bread. For this reason, a separate seat is most appropriate at the Breaking of Bread.
How would reverence affect the way we conduct ourselves m assembly meetings?
In Psa 89:7, we read “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” Some assemblies display that text to encourage reverence.
Here are some guidelines.
- All believers should concentrate on the meeting without unnecessary eating (or chewing). While most can chew gum inconspicuously, some can do so most unbecomingly! Apart, however, from how this looks to others, how must this appear to angelic beings who cover their faces in awe before Him?
- We should all be careful not to make unnecessary noise during the meeting. Neither restlessness nor carelessness seem appropriate in His presence.
- Parents should do their best to keep any noise from their children to a minimum. On the other hand, because it is so commendable for parents to bring their small children to the meeting, the rest of us should be willing to make allowance for them.
- Awe of the Lord’s presence should keep us all from being distracted by others.
Should the Scriptures be read at the meeting to remember the Lord?
The Scriptures should be prominent and opened in all assembly gatherings (I Tim 4:13 – “public reading”). The Spirit will dictate what is appropriate on Lord’s Day morning, whether continued thoughts about His Person, work, or coming, or a devotional or practical Word. The nature of Paul’s discourse after the Breaking of Bread in Troas is not recorded (Acts 20:7). When would we be more likely to respond to ministry that challenges our lives than after being occupied with His body given and blood outpoured? The Lord “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). What an exposition that Lord’s Day by the greatest Teacher! He found them with hearts broken and left them with hearts burning! We too need our hearts warmed and zeal renewed to face a hostile world.
Opening the Scriptures before the bread is broken needs qualification: the remembrance of our Lord is preeminently occupation with Christ, especially His death (1 Corinthians 11:26; Luke 22:19, 20). It is NOT for teaching. Reading the Scriptures about the Lord Jesus with a few brief comments can lead the saints to worship our Lord. As appropriate hymns lead us in worship so likewise do appropriate Scriptures.
Does the Scripture address our attire for meetings?
The Scripture clearly teaches distinction between ordinary dress and dress suitable for God’s presence. In fact, it appears to be an intuitive understanding. Before a record of its being taught appears, Jacob instructed his family to make outward changes before going to the house of God (Genesis 35:1-4).
In Exodus 3:3-5 and Joshua 5:13-15, the Lord commanded outward change in drawing near to Him. Then in Exodus 20:26, God gave commandment about outward appearance in approaching God’s altar. God made it an issue! Shortly after, the Lord demanded outward change in His presence: “And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb” (Exodus 33:6).
Similarly in the NT, Paul instructs Timothy about dress in public gatherings. While I Tim 2:9 may be broadened in its application to include dress in private, the context plainly is assembly gatherings. Some attire is clearly not suitable for the divine Presence.
We live in a casual age where respect for authority is sadly lacking. We will pay an awful price if we imbibe this attitude of disrespect toward the Almighty God of the Universe.