Staying Saved Together

Intro: Ezek 18:23“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” Read that again in the New Century Translation: “I do not really want the wicked to die, says the Lord God. I want them to stop their bad ways and live.” This text and many other passages of the Bible teach an important truth about our God. God does not want anyone to be lost. We observed this in our Wednesday study as evidence that God has not eternally chosen some to be lost without respect of their free choice.

  • We also know that God desires all to be saved because He sent His Son to taste of death for every person.
  • In our most recent Wednesday study we allowed the scriptures to teach us that a Christian can abandon God, become an unbeliever. It is possible for us, as God’s saved, to lose our salvation. But here again, we know that God does not desire this.
  • God warns against apostasy and has provided gifts that bind us closer to Him. One of the strongest indications that God does not want us to fall away is the Biblical description and work of the congregation. God’s desire is that we help each other remain faithful and stay saved together. The local church is a means that God has provided for keeping us saved.

I. No Christians “At Large”: When God saves us He does not want us to live and exist independent from other saved people. When the converted Saul of Tarsus returned to Jerusalem “he assayed to join himself to the disciples” (Acts 9:26, KJV).

A. The original words of the text are interesting.

1. The word assayed means to endeavor or attempt. Saul was not a member of this group. He had to make an effort to join them. He was certainly added to the church in a spiritual sense when he obeyed the gospel. But this congregation of Christians had to be joined through his own effort.

2. The word “join” is the same word that is used in Genesis to describe the marriage bond. (A man shall leave his father and mother and “cleave” to his wife) It literally means to be glued together. This relationship that Saul sought was not a casual acquaintance. He desired to be glued to other Christians. (If you ask to be glued to a woman in marriage, you anticipate more than just causally seeing her once a week and making small talk.)

3. Saul’s action and desire had God’s approval. He does not want us to hold ourselves aloof from the other disciples. He wants to bring the disciples in a locality together into a group.

B. Some folks misunderstand this. When we encourage people to be “just Christians” without joining a denomination they assume that they do not need to affiliate themselves with any congregation of Christians. They may be baptized and then never return to work and worship with the congregation. Robert Bunting and Harold Dowdy tell about baptizing a man who, after being raised from the watery grave, exclaimed, “Wheeee! That feels good!,” then dove back in and swam off never to be seen again.

1. Consider this: If it is right for one member to hold himself aloof from the body, it would be right for every Christian to do so. If that is so, then there is no Biblical mandate for the local congregation. That view cannot be right.

II. “One Another” Responsibilities: There are 87 occurrences of the phrase “one another” in the N.T. These references speak to the numerous responsibilities we have toward each other as Christians. (See list on slides) These mutual obligations all point to the importance and validity of the congregation.

A. Christians are designed to have an impact on each other. In fact, this mutual influence is a natural fruit of our association. It can be for good or bad. Paul warned “Be not deceived: evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).

1. It can also be for good. This helps keep us saved. 1 Thess 5:8-11 – 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. …v. 14 – Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

III. The Call to Assemble: The call to mutual encouragement is a call to congregate. This thought is advanced further in Hebrews 10:24-25 – 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

A. “Consider one another” The word “consider” here means to “observe fully”. Vincent says it means to “take careful note of each other’s spiritual welfare… It denotes “attentive, continuous” care.”

B. “in order to stir up” – with a view to incitement, to stimulate or sharpen. The assembly is not the end in itself. The assembly is designed to encourage and stimulate us toward certain activity. Some have compared it to the huddle of a football team. It is the motivational and planning meeting that would have little meaning if there was never an actual play. Is this why assemblies are boring to us and have little relevance?

1. The N.T. describes the assembly of the church as an arena of influence, not an institutional membership meeting. (My Umpire Association has regular meetings of the membership. These meeting are required – sign in sheet. If you miss more than the required amount you get fined. They are also training sessions, where the experiences umpires teach the new guys the rules and mechanics. They prepare us for a test. You can view them either way)

C. “Not forsaking the assembling” the word “forsake” means to abandon or desert. It is sinful for a Christian to “forsake” the practice of assembling with other Christians. Ironically the Christian who habitually stays away from the assembly is the person who needs it the most. God has reason behind the command.

IV. Mutual activities in the assembly: What did the N.T. church do together in their assemblies? That the church assembled regularly is indisputable. Paul describes such occasions in 1 Cor. 11 – 14.

  • 1 Cor. 11:18 – “when ye come together in the church (or assembly)”
  • v. 33 – “when ye come together to eat”
  • 1 Cor. 14:23 – “the whole church be assembled together

When you consider what God wants us to do when we come together you will realize that these public meetings are a large part of God’s provisions to keep us saved.

A. At the heart of the example of the church assembling on the first day of the week was the Lord’s supper – a memorial of the Lord’s death. Paul elsewhere describes it as a communion (fellowship) – 1 Cor 10:1616 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? To proclaim Jesus’ death (1 Cor. 11:26) Christians did other things together as well.

B. They sang together. God wants his people to be a singing people. But the scriptures that tell us to sing also tell us why.

  • Eph 5:19 – speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
  • Col 3:16 – Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness [grace] in your hearts to God.

1. This singing points in two directions. It points vertically, Godward – “making melody with your hearts to the Lord.” … “with grace singing in your hearts unto God.” But it also points horizontally, manward“speaking one to another,” “teaching and admonishing one another.” Singing cannot be ritualistic or entertainment oriented.

C. They prayed together. Herod arrested Peter and imprisoned him. The church’s response was prayer. Acts 12:5 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. Acts 12:11-12 – 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” 12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. Later the apostle Paul encourages the Corinthians to pray with the spirit and the understanding as they prayed in the assembly. (1 Cor. 14:15-17)

D. They received the teaching of the word together. In Acts 20:7 Paul preached those who were assembled. Public teaching was for the edification of the saints. When Paul was giving instructions concerning the use of spiritual gifts in the assembly he told the Corinthians that those who spoke should do it for edification. He sums he statements up by saying, “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26).

E. When they were assembled on the first day of the week, they contributed into a common treasury to support the spiritual work of the church and help needy saints. 1 Cor. 16:1-2“lay something aside”2 Cor. 9:7as he purposes in his heart, willingly.

F. There were other reasons for the N.T. church to assemble

1. For example, after Paul and Barnabas completed their first missionary journey, upon their return to Antioch they “gathered the church together” for the purpose of reporting to the congregation about what “God had done with them”(Acts 14:27a).

2. After Paul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem they once again “gathered the congregation together” to deliver a letter that contained the apostolic teaching concerning circumcision that had emerged from the meeting in Jerusalem. (Acts 15:22-30). And what effect did this have upon the congregation? “[T]hey rejoiced because of its encouragement” (Acts 15:31). Furthermore, Judas and Silas – members of the Jerusalem congregation – who had returned with Paul and Barnabas, used that occasion to “encourage and strengthen the brethren with a lengthy message” (vs. 32).

3. 1 Cor 5:4-5 – 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Paul instructed the church to discipline the brother who was living in fornication “When you are assembled together”. This discipline measure was to be a congregational affair.

G. The congregation is a God-designed and authorized tool to provide a defense against apostasy. It is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation and the writer of Hebrews is concerned with fortifying the Christians of the 1st century against falling away – going back to Judaism. Heb 3:12-1312 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is {still} called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (NAS)

1. The word “encourage” is form the N.T. word “parakaleo” and is translated as encourage. It literally means to come alongside in order to give help. The word itself pictures a close proximity among Christians.

2. Notice the command to “exhort one another day after day…” This command implies that Christians will spend time together. This consistent association provides strength. We need each other and we need to spend time together. It is a large part of God’s provision to keep us saved.

Conclusion: Among Christians there are 2 attitudes taken toward the public assembly.

  • Some see the assemblies as a matter of form, a routine that God want us to go through. They seldom get anything out of an assembly, and only attend beyond what they see as a minimum requirement (Sunday morning worship hour).
  • Some view the public assembly as an integral tool for their spiritual survival. They get strength from the assembly. This person wants to participate in more than one meeting a week if the opportunity is there. He gets something out of each assembly and strives to encourage the other person.
  • What kind of people are we when we neglect such opportunities or complain about them?
  • One last thought: Are you a member of this church? The word Church ekklesia means assembly. The act is in the word. How can you be part of an ekklesia unless you assemble?