Why we are Different

Why don't you meet as the institutional churches do?

This question has been asked a number of times over the years and well deserves an answer. Therefore, I will attempt to do so in a very simple manner, so all can understand what is at the heart of our hearts. Understanding that it is not at all intended to be a full presentation of things.

Imagine a world without any knowledge of the truth concerning God's love towards men through His Son Jesus Christ. This was the state of things during the time of the Twelve Apostles. They had known Jesus for over three years during His ministry on earth yet when He had died, for those few days He lay in the tomb, they were lost. They didn't know what to do. All hope was gone. They had no mind to spread the gospel those few days for there was no gospel to spread. This is because Jesus had not given them a cause to live for or a code to live by but He had given them Himself. He had made the presentation of the good news of the kingdom of God inseparable from Himself - without Him there could be no kingdom of God!

However, the grave could not hold the Lord of Life for long. God raised Him up victorious over sin and death. He then gave Him a name above every name and seated Him on His right hand with honor and glory in the heavens. Christ having made Himself known to the Twelve then sent them forth to proclaim that He was alive, that Jesus Christ lives! And that God had made Him both Lord and Christ! That He was the promised Savior! He is Lord! Hosanna to our King!

In a short space of time many believed and as a result something new was in the earth! Never before had it been realized or known. God had kept it a secret in His own heart from all the generations before. Even this, that those who believed in His Son should be united with Him and live through Him, forming a community - a church.

Now, even though Christ was in heaven they that received Him could also know Him personally, inwardly, as a constant companion. For the promised Spirit had come even as it was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Joel when He said, I shall pour out My Spirit upon all flesh. He spoke indeed concerning that time but also for ours as well...to you is the promises, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him. Acts 2:39 As a result the Lord was real to them. In their lives He was real, before others He was real, and it was real they were indeed being led by the Spirit He had given them. To be around those people was to be aware of all this, resulting in the testimony that 'GOD IS WITH THEM!'.

So what has happened to us today? The majority of christians have had no such experience and if perchance they have known something akin to it they often keep it to themselves because it does not fit into the religious environment they are in. So then, what is the difference between that early generation and ours? "Well", one might answer, "They were more spiritual in the beginning than we are now; they had the Spirit in more fullness then." This may be true but the question is still, why were they more spiritual?

Now, so many things may come to mind but let us simplify things by identifying the central players in this world's drama. They would be, of course, God and Satan. What then are their objectives? Well, God wants to establish His rule of love over the heavens and the earth beginning with His rule over the hearts of those that believe now in this age, in preparation for the ages to come; and He has decreed it to be accomplished in His Son. On the other hand, Satan also wants to be god of the universe but he would rule by the power of evil, through the evil in the hearts of men in rebellion toward the true God; and he is against all that would come between him and that realization. SO, THE PRIMARY ISSUE OF THE UNIVERSE IS WHO IS TO BE LORD! If we understand this , so as to see this issue behind all this world's events and seasons, we will come closer to understanding what has happened since the first century concerning the state of the believers.

Now, we want what God is after but for the lordship of Jesus Christ to be a reality it simply must be that Jesus Christ, as the Living One, be known by His people, so that they are able to respond to Him in love and obedience. Let me assure you Satan will not accept this and that he is out to stop it from being realized at all cost. Consistently, relentlessly, he is working to intercept, detour, and avert any attempt for Christ's lordship to be experienced by God's children. He is determined to have our Lord Jesus Christ lord only in name and not in truth, practice and experience.

However, it hasn't been an easy task for Satan to accomplish this. For you see one of the unique things about those in Christ is that each and every one of us can know Him, from the least to the greatest. This is a characteristic of the New Covenant and it is on this principle the Lord builds His church. For we are living stones being built up together for a habitation of God; and it is the church Christ is to rule over through the Holy Spirit which He has given us. Therefore, the adversary, to accomplish his goal, must somehow undo, come between, this communion of Christ and the believer so as to stop us from knowing , experientially, Jesus as Lord. One of the very effective ways he has done this is by coming against the order and function of the assembly of God's people.

The design God intends for the church is one that incorporates Christ into the very fiber of each of our existence; so that to go on in spiritual things, to grow spiritually, one must know Him and interact with others that know Him as well. For spiritual progress inherently involves giving and receiving benefit to and from others out from our relationship with our Lord: spiritual benefit acted out in our everyday lives and especially in the assembly. It is primarily in the assembly the saints are edified each from the other. No one is complete in himself or herself, as a result of God's design...WE WERE MADE, ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL, TO BE DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER IN HIS SON. This should help keep us humble and encourage us to cleave to each other in love, while knowing the Lord as supreme among us. Now, this is what fellowship in Christ is; and when it is experienced and expressed, when the saints gather, Christ, Who is in our hearts, is then also in our midst. We then, assembled in His Name, TOGETHER KNOW HIM IN REALITY, AND HE, THEREFORE, RECEIVES THE GLORY DUE HIM, FOR WE KNOW HIM AS LORD.

Now, as stated, Satan greatly opposes all this and he would undo the design God has intended. He would break apart the believer's fellowship with Christ as well as their fellowship with one another. He would accomplish this by placing men and their organizations between God and the believer. So by encouraging believers to look to men for leadership, but outside of fellowship with Christ, the evil one was able to elevate the leaders to a class of religious professionals, 'Authorities', in the things of God. Something known to all of us as the clergy/laity system of church order.

Under such a system the people can not help but feel inferior and inadequate seeing how they are not the 'professionals'. So they turn to the Priests or Bishops or Pastors or whatever other name men may give to those in that class. They receive them in the same way one would receive a dentist or doctor, plumber or electrtian..."They know best, they are the professionals". On that basis and not on the basis of mutual fellowship, not on the basis "They shall each know me from the least to the greatest", they come to expect God to be known. Consequentially, this system usurps the Lord's authority: by prohibiting the interaction among fellow believers in the assembly, the Lord, Who would be present in their ministry, will not be known. The experience of mutual edification of the members one to another in Christ will not be a reality. Judge for yourselves: Are the institutional churches functioning according to 1 Cor. 14:26-33, where it is stated that all men may participate in edifying each other when assembled?

All that has developed, as a result of this clergy/laity system, is far too much to cover here but to state the obvious is to acknowledge that eventually the saints assumed the role of spectators in the assembly and that this attitude followed them into their daily lives. They became detached from spiritual things and in contrast to the reputation of the early church, when it was exclaimed that God was among them, now even simple inquiries concerning the faith are referred to the "professionals". So, after two thousand years, the dynamics of community and ministry having been altered from what God intends, the church is experiencing very little of the Spirit's work of building up the members together as living stones. The church no longer holds onto the thought of spiritual fellowship being needed for the furtherance of God's purposes.

Granted, meeting in homes versus buildings means in itself little. It certainly will not guarantee Jesus Christ will be honored as Lord but it can be a step in that direction. No one will think of the church as owned by someone or some institution when the building is gone. The church will not be mistaken for an edifice instead of the believers themselves. On this right footing, it can be realized more clearly, that no man or institution owns the church but the church belongs to God. Getting rid of the clergy/laity system is yet another step toward honoring Jesus Christ as Lord over the church. With the two of these things gone, the building and the clergy/laity system, what can result is that each man and woman can look to know the Lord for their own selves in fellowship with others. The Bible may then be taken up and read and searched and meditated on for direction from the Lord in all subjects. The Lord's people can then converse over what it teaches and, I am assured, if you remain little in your own eyes, you will be surprised at how much you are able to find the Lord in one another.

At this point, if one actually rid themselves of these hindrances, they will have already begun an adventure, full of challenges, joys and sorrows that will cause them to grow spiritually, increasing in the knowledge of the Lord. If they continue in this way they will be enlarged so as to appreciate what is of Christ in all their brothers and sisters. Together they will abound in love for one another, even as they learn from one another and care for one another. If this were realized the world might eventually take notice and exclaim as they did in former days that "God is among them and Jesus Christ is their Lord".

So this, in short, is why we gather in our homes in the simple way we do. We do so in hope of experiencing Jesus Christ in our midst and to thereby honor Him as our Lord. Amen.