Why We Gather: Hearing Together
In the first post of this series, we looked at God’s command and our need to be stirred and encouraged by the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25). As we enter into moments of fellowship, it is God’s design that we intentionally seek to minister to our brothers and sisters by encouraging and provoking each other to good works while we await Christ’s return.
In this post we will look at the significance of our gathering together to hear God’s Word. Paul instructed Timothy to devote himself “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13-16). This is not for Timothy’s benefit alone, but ultimately for the sake of the church.
Scripture reading, exhortation, and teaching is vital for God’s people. God’s flock needs to be fed by the Scriptures, and we see this in Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21:15-17 as He tells Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” God’s Word is our spiritual food, and we see this illustrated in Hebrews 5 as the author compares the teaching of God’s Word to milk or solid food.
Both individually and corporately, we should read, study, and enjoy the Scriptures. We see God’s gracious design in that He has given teachers to the church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-16). When we gather together, it is important that we hear the preaching of God’s Word that we might be equipped for the work of ministry, and that together we might become more like Jesus. This passage in Ephesians 4 shows us the interrelatedness of the body of Christ and our need for each other as we grow together.
When we gather together to sit under God’s Word, we place ourselves under the shepherding and teaching of the elders God has given to the church. Every elder is then in turn accountable to God to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). The elders are made overseers of the church by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), and they have a God-given responsibility to keep watch over their own souls, as well as the church. Along those lines, the body of Christ needs to hear the full counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:27) which does not leave room for dangerous neglect of the Scriptures. And it is in the consistent and faithful teaching and application of God’s Word that the flock is protected from wolves (Acts 20:29-30).
The elders are responsible to faithfully and accurately teach the Scriptures, but that does not mean that we relinquish personal responsibility for doctrinal integrity, for we should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. We are individually responsible and accountable to God, and we should keep watch over our own souls. Yet by God’s perfect design in the body of Christ, we are not meant to be loners, and the elders have God-given responsibility to care for the souls in the church (Hebrews 13:17). As we gather together, we experience this care through the faithful preaching and application of God’s Word.
When we listen to the preaching of God’s Word, there should be something powerfully different about our hearing together as a body in contrast to a podcast. The importance of what’s being read and taught should be palpable as we see each other listening with attentiveness and reverence. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra reads the Law to the people of Israel, and they listen and respond with worship. As our families sit together in the pew, whether we think of it or not, we are teaching our children and those around us how they too should listen and respond. Going to church is so much more than just going to church. As we gather together, may we glorify God by giving ourselves to the hearing of His Word and by humbling ourselves in response to it!
God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what we need, He has spoken to us in His Word, and His Word still speaks. The Bible is completely sufficient for us (2 Timothy 3:13-17), and it is by the hearing of God’s Word that faith grows (Romans 10:17). There is so much more that can be said about the importance of the Scriptures, our great need for them, and why we should love, value, and enjoy them (Psalm 119).
But for now, I invite you to come join us on Sunday mornings as we continue in our sermon series on the Gospel of Mark, and to also take advantage of other opportunities here at Occoquan Bible to learn from God’s Word. We offer Sunday morning classes at 9:30 and 11:00am, leadership training classes on Sunday evening, and we also have several home Bible studies (FLOCKS) that meet throughout the week. Come listen to God’s Word with us!
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