In addition to our being “steadfast in the apostles doctrine or teaching,” we come to this “fifth essential:” “Fellowship,” or the holding of things in common. We are dealing with a divine truth that has to do with companionship or partnership with Christ. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 1:9, ”God is faithful, through whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Someone has said that when “fellows in a ship” are of one mind, and are rowing in the same direction, progress is made and common goals are reached. Unity is the natural outcome of this fellowship. The “assembly” or “called-out company” is the Lord’s. In His house, He dwells in the midst. Therefore, order must be maintained. Since it is His temple, and He is holy, practices must be in keeping with His Word. How important it is, then, that believers read and meditate on the Scriptures daily. Plainly, the Word of God affects all our hearts and strengthens us in present testimony. John, who loved to lean upon the bosom of His Lord, gave very practical teaching when he wrote, “that which we have seen and heard declare … truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1John 1:3). “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness we lie … if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth, (or keeps on cleansing), us from all sin” (vv6-7). For there to be collective fellowship, there must first be fellowship with Him in our hearts.
I remember the joy I felt while sitting in “the seat of the unlearned” observing in the little assembly, when I heard my name mentioned for reception into the fellowship. Thankfully, with God’s help, we have “continued in the fellowship” these 57 years. In God’s assembly there is room for the whole Word of God. Unity in the assembly is maintained and saints are drawn deeper into spiritual fellowship with regular ministry meetings and Bible readings.
The highest peak of assembly fellowship is enjoyed in the breaking of bread, when the assembly is gathered to remember our Lord. This “sixth essential,” the breaking of bread, was instituted by our blessed Lord, on the night he was betrayed (Luke 22:19-20). It was practiced by the first gathering of believers (Acts 2:42), and its frequency is taught (Acts 20:7); “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.” Its teaching was given to Paul from the risen Lord (1Cor 11:23-34); “For as often as ye eat this bread … till He come (v26), shows the duration of the feast; it is to be kept “until He comes.” As with the essentials mentioned above, these doctrines were all taught by our Lord in the gospels, practiced in the Acts, and taught in the epistles. Therefore, all are intended to continue through this church age, “until He comes.”
Believers are not received to the breaking of bread, but to “the fellowship” of the assembly. There is need for self- examination before partaking of the breaking of bread, as taught in 1 Corinthians 11:27-34. Partaking of this supper in an unworthy manner, or with unconfessed sin, calls for God’s judgment. (v28). “But let a man examine himself and … eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” This is not positional worthiness, but rather, it is conditional worthiness. Fellowship is clearly taught in this gathering, as all partake for themselves of the one bread and the one cup. A brother who has the confidence of the assembly divides the loaf for convenience, and passes it to be broken by each believer in the fellowship. Likewise, the cup is passed to each believer. With hearts softened, a word of ministry after the emblems are passed is often profitable. Worship comes before service; therefore, this should be the order. In Heaven His wounds will forever tell the cost of our redemption.
Last but not least, we have the seventh essential, “they continued steadfast in prayer.” Paul gave instruction regarding the prayer meeting: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplication, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings …” (1Tim 2:1-2). In verse 11, instruction is given showing that this is assembly teaching. “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.”
In Acts 12, a special prayer meeting for a severe trial was called by the assembly. James was killed with the sword by Herod. Peter was also arrested and his life threatened. “But prayer was made without ceasing … for him” (v5). God delivered Peter. Prayer is that which moves the arm that made the worlds. The prayer meeting is the power house and the thermometer of the assembly. If we are praying privately, it will be evident in the prayer meeting. There will be definite burdens on the hearts of the saints, and not just repetitive prayers.
What has been written in this three-part article will be familiar to those longer on the journey. However, as Peter wrote, “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2Peter 3:1). Furthermore, it is our burden that a renewed appreciation of the assembly will be the result of these articles to younger believers. The assembly is not just another place, or a better place, but it is the place. It belongs to God. It is referred to as a “lampstand”(Rev 2:5) by our Lord in His Revelation of Himself, to give light in this dark world. May our hearts be stirred as we who make up assembly testimony, give true light in a perishing world so that His name will be honored.