Roles and Relationships: Assembly Relationships

What is true of roles, responsibilities and relationships in the home is also true in the local assembly. In order for an assembly to experience unity and harmony among believers, there must be a proper understanding and appreciation of the roles that each one has been assigned by the Holy Spirit of God. Linked with this is not only growth and prosperity but also the blessing of God, both collectively and individually.

The majority of the problems that we face as assemblies of God’s people are not moral or doctrinal in nature, as serious as those are. Personality problems make up the majority of the problems we are facing today in our assemblies. It is a lack of understanding and appreciation of roles and responsibilities of others in the assembly that is the root cause of these problems, eventually leading to a breakdown in relationships among brothers and sisters in the local church.

There are specific roles that are assigned to each individual member of the assembly, each diverse from the other, but all working together for the “perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).[1]

We are made to understand from the Scriptures that there is a diversity of gifts in the church, indicating the role each believer is given to fulfill. The gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, some of which are listed for us in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

It is important to understand and underline the truth stated in 1 Corinthians 12:18: “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.” In the same chapter, the apostle Paul asks the question, “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” (v15).

Remember that in chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians, there were divisions and personality clashes in the assembly. No gift or role or function is superior to another. Therefore, no person or member is superior to another. In Romans 12, Paul writes, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man [person] that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (v3).

Seeking to put things in proper perspective, Paul once again, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, asks a series of questions: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” We would all do well to remember the principle stated in 2 Corinthians 10:18, “Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”

There seems to be a danger of being puffed up (1Co 4:6), as well as the danger of putting others down (16:11). That which God has given us to do (roles, functions, gifts) He has given for the benefit and blessing of the assembly of which we form a part and for His ultimate glory and honour.

God never calls a person to do something that He has not fitted that person to do. Nor does He fit a person to do nothing at all. It is necessary to understand as well that, while we all have gifts, or roles or functions, the work of God in our souls is far greater than the work of God in our hands.

Having said something of the roles of individuals in the assembly, let us look now at the responsibilities of each toward the other. We will see that in the fulfilling of responsibilities, proper relationships will be maintained. The Word of God is very clear on our responsibilities toward one another as believers. A right attitude and appreciation for our brothers and sisters in Christ will help us in our relationships with them.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he exhorts the believers to unity so that they might strive together for the faith of the gospel (1:27). In chapter 2:1-2, he suggests that there is consolation and comfort and communion to be experienced and enjoyed when the saints have the same love and the same mind. In verse 3, he says that this can only be experienced by having “lowliness of mind … each esteem[ing] other[s] better than themselves.” This is indeed a challenge, for it is opposed to the way we are and think naturally.

How, then, is such a thing accomplished? The answer is given in verses 5-8. Verse 5 begins with this phrase: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The verses that follow describe for us the humility that marked our Lord Jesus, from His incarnation to His sacrificial death upon the cross. Armed with this attitude of humility, may we seek to maintain right relationships with our brothers and sisters in the assembly of God.

The last five chapters of the book of Romans list a number of responsibilities we have toward one another. In chapter 12:10, we are exhorted: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” We are responsible to love one another (13:8). Not only is our love for one another a fulfilling of the law as in Romans 13, but it is evidence that we are Christ’s disciples (Joh 13:35) and evidence that God dwells in us (1Jn 4:12).

In order to prevent schisms or divisions, Paul says that the members “should have the same care one for another” (1Co 12:25). In Galatians 6:2, we read, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We are to be forbearing of one another and to forgive one another (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13).

We have a responsibility as well to edify one another (Rom 14:19; 1Th 5:11). Peter exhorts, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1Pe 4:9). In the next verse he reminds us of our responsibility concerning our gifts to “minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

There are many other responsibilities that we have toward one another recorded for us in the Word of God, but if we endeavour by the grace of God to do as Paul reminded the believers in Galatians 5:13, it will help us in the discharging of those responsibilities. There he encouraged them with these words, “By love serve one another.” Let us ever remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme example in all.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.