From January 1999, we have printed articles on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. This Person of the Godhead is pleased to make an assembly His residence on earth. His very character is holiness, “For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor 3:17).
Can we refuse the Lord’s Supper to a true believer? This is a frequently asked question. To some, reception of everyone who comes seems to be a kinder method, but is it scriptural? It is even suggested that in refusing fellowship to anyone, we are professing a higher level of godliness than other believers. This is not true. We believe there are many believers in denominations who may have a deeper devotion to the Lord than we manifest. However, reception to an assembly is not a one-way street. It means reception to the assembly, but it also means reception of the assembly, its beliefs and practices, by the one received.
What if an Unknown Believer Comes to Break Bread?
We should treat every believer we ever meet with love and kindness, but if an unknown person presents themselves for reception how do we know if he is a genuine believer? Those who say that we can receive all who are truly saved, clean in life and sound in doctrine fail to explain how brethren can know if these things are true of a person who as a stranger appears at the door. Only life works prove reality (Matt 7:20).
There is a second problem. He may profess to want to break bread on this day, what does he do on the other 51 Lord’s Days of the year? This introduces the subject of continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:41-42). It is plain in the NT pattern that the Lord’s supper is not an individual but an assembly privilege. We never receive to the supper, but to the fellowship of the assembly. This fellowship is steadfast and continuous, not spasmodic.
An Assembly is an Entity
An assembly is made up of a number of believers in a given location. It has a within and a without (1 Cor 5:12-13). It has shepherds who are known by the assembly and know every sheep and lamb in the little flock (1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4). How could shepherds teach or guide believers they do not even know? How could they carry out discipline? A true believer may be outside of an assembly either by being put away (1 Cor 5:9-13); or because of being unlearned (1 Cor 14:23-25).
Do we have the right to question a person about his salvation experience, his beliefs or his life? The Jerusalem assembly had apostles in it, yet they used caution and refused fellowship to Paul until these three questions were answered fully (Acts 9:26-28). Then he was “with them,” that is, he continued steadfastly in assembly fellowship.
Distinctions Between the Body and an Assembly
It has been taught that all that are in the great spiritual body of Christ are automatically in assembly fellowship. But there are numerous distinctions between the body and a local assembly. The
body is entered at conversion, an assembly is entered by reception (1 Cor 12:13,; acts 2:41). Every true believer is in the body, but there are believers who are outside of an assembly (1 Cor 5:11, 14:25). In the body there is neither male nor female (Gal 3:28). But in an assembly, women are silent (1 Cor 12:34). It is impossible to be separated from the body (Rom 8:38-39), but it is possible to be put away from an assembly (1 Cor 5:11-13). Nothing false can ever enter the body (Matt 16:18, but an assembly is warned against wolves and false teachers entering it (Acts 20:29). The body has perfect unity (John 17:21), but an assembly might have schisms (1 Cor 3:3). There are many more such distinctions.