This is the second part of an article in which we consider some important hedges that the Lord has placed around local assemblies to preserve them for His glory.
Hedge Four: Observing the Lord's Supper:
Paul reminded the Corinthians of the Lord's injunction, "that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:2325). The Lord's supper is an ordered event that occurs regularly in every scripturally gathered local assembly. It was first kept by the assembly in Jerusalem and it has been kept by thousands of local assemblies since that time. It is not a convenience to be carried out wherever Christians wish, but is an ordinance to be carried out in association with a company of believers permanently gathered in a specific locality. Each Lord's day when we carry out this command in a local assembly, we enjoy a precious time as we show forth the Lord's death until He returns.
The Scriptures give clear instructions regarding the order at the breaking of bread. First, the breaking of bread is a privilege for those who are in fellowship in a local assembly We should not come together because of a sense of obligation, but we should be drawn by in deep love for the Lord Jesus Christ. When we come with this attitude our hearts will move us to worship and praise the Lord for His work and what it means to us. Participation in the Lord's supper also re quires preparation. Paul wrote, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, no discerning the Lord's body" (1 Co: 11:28,29). Self examination expose: things in our lives and our heart that are not to the glory of God. Although there may be times when this self examination may cause us to feel unworthy to partake of the Lord's supper, the Lord still intends that we partake of it. However, we should first confess and forsake the wrongs in our lives and then come to the Lord's supper with a sense of humility and unworthiness so we can fully appreciate His grace.
Participation in the Lord's supper should also be orderly. When the Spirit of God is leading, the worship will be controlled and ordered by His wisdom. Sometimes, stranger, who have observed the Lord's supper have wondered who was the chairman or what program was being followed because the worship flowed so smoothly and developed in such an orderly fashion. If 2 brother is going to be in a proper condition for the Spirit of God to use him in leading the saints in public worship, then he should have SOME fresh thoughts regarding the person and sacrifice of Christ, or an exercise about some hymn or some portion of Scripture prior to the gathering. Furthermore, we as brethren should be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit as the meeting progresses, so that when we take part, it will build upon what the Lord has been exercising others to give in worship.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we have a prohibition that should control the exercise of gift in an assembly If charity or love is not present in the use of gift then that gift should not be exercised. Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1). Fellowship, ministry and worship will only be warm and up building in an assembly when love and all its characteristics are seen in our ministry and our lives. The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all that is described in this chapter. We can test the extent to which the virtue of love is seen in our lives if we substitute the pronoun "I" for the word "charity" in 1 Corinthians 13. If we have charity then we will be able to say, "I suffer long and am kind. I don't envy. I love not myself. I'm not puffed up. I do not behave myself unseemly I seek not my own.." and so on for all the mentions of charity in the chapter. However, if we are honest before God, we will acknowledge that our hearts condemn us as we make some or even most of these statements.
There are five gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 that are active in the church today Other gifts such as tongues and prophecies were also active in the early church. However, their use was exclusively for the foundation of the church and their use ended more than 18 centuries ago. Paul wrote, "charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away" (1 Cor 13:8). There is an important role for gift in ministry (teaching and exhortation) today. There is a pressing need for ministry that meets the needs of the Lord's people. Paul emphasized the importance of ministry that addresses the needs of the Saints and is spoken in a clear, understandable way. He wrote, "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (language)" (1 Cor 14:19). The Lord needs brethren who will engage in ministry for the upbuilding and edification of God's people.
In 1 Cor 14:16, Paul describes the "outside of an assembly." Those who are unlearned (concerning the principles of the assembly) or unbelievers have a special place designated for them, namely, "the seat of the unlearned." This is a place from whence they can observe the order of the assembly Some have been saved while observing the Lord's supper, while others have been convinced that the order practiced in the assembly is scriptural and follows the pattern Paul taught for the early assemblies.
Hedge Five: Commitment to Doctrine:
Paul emphasized the need for commitment by the Corinthians to hold and practice the doctrines that they had been taught. He wrote "be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58). Just as Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we need to remain steadfast in the things which we have learned from the Word of God.
Hedge Six: Order in Giving:
Paul taught that giving should be done in an orderly fashion. He wrote, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (1 Cor 16:2). It is not God's order to have men sending out letters soliciting funds, nor does he encourage haphazard giving. Giving is to be an exercise before the Lord. We are to give to the Lord the first fruits of our material blessings in a regular way when we come together on the first day of the week.
Hedge Seven: Following order in Government and Service:
The Lord has established a form of government in each local assembly to ensure that the decisions and activities of the assembly are carried out in an orderly way and in accordance with His word. Paul taught that elders and deacons should be appointed in each assembly. Elders are responsible for guiding the flock, and their rule is to be acknowledged by everyone in the assembly. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Heb 13:17). Deacons are appointed for special tasks in an assembly. These tasks include special exercises in the spiritual realm or the administration of material things such as ministering to the needs of the poor (see Acts 6:1-3).
We have considered a number of the hedges that God has placed around the assemblies of His people. These hedges are extremely important today because the devil is actively seeking to destroy the testimony and effectiveness of assemblies. In some assemblies, the hedges have been broken down. God is looking for brethren and sisters to stand in the gap so assembly testimonies will be preserved to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where a scriptural order is not followed and the hedges are broken down, an assembly may cease to be recognized by the Lord. May God grant us the wisdom and the help to preserve the hedges around local assembly testimonies for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!