Building, Protecting and Beautifying the Assembly
K. T. C. Morris, Southampton
When Paul was instructing Timothy how to conduct himself in the assembly at Ephesus he spoke of that company as God's house. In that house Timothy had to behave as having to do with the living God (1 Tim. 3. 15). 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning' (Rom. 15. 4). Hence, when we read of a house in the Old Testament we often find instruction illustrating truth found in the New Testament regarding our assembly life. Let us consider three examples
BUILDING THE HOUSE.
'Every wise woman buildeth her house; but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands' (Prov. 14. 1). Writing of his work in the assembly at Corinth Paul describes himself as 'a wise masterbuilder'. But the Corinthians by their selfish and carnal behaviour were plucking down. Not only when gathered together, but in their activities during the week, they betrayed a grievous lack of the love that builds up. Therefore those who are desirous of spiritual gifts are commanded to seek that they may excel in building up the local assembly (1 Cor. 3. 10-17; 8.1; 14. 12).
Is this our ambition? Are we diligently building up the assembly where God has placed us? Or are we spending energy in building up a work of our own, or societies and associations which have no warrant in scripture? The question is urgent, for the character of our work will be revealed in, and tested by, fire. The 'faithful and wise servant', who will gain our Lord's approval, is he who not only winneth souls, but who feeds and strengthens the assembly of the saints where he is (see Matt. 24. 45-47).
PROTECTING THE HOUSE.
'When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence' (Deut. 22. 8). This was God's gracious provision that the immature and infirm might not be endangered by going unprotected on to the flat roof of an eastern house. The householder himself might be in no danger of falling off, but he had to consider the weak.
We also are to 'encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, and be patient toward all'. We are to 'consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works'. One means of doing so is by "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,' and by 'exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching' (Heb. 10. 24-25).
He who walks in love will do nothing that might cause his brother to stumble. He may feel free to do things which, in fact, he abstains from doing because he desires to protect his brethren from all that panders to the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. Are we allowing things in the assembly which might be a snare to the weak? This question will help to solve many a problem, particularly when we are tempted to copy the religious world around us. We must make straight paths for our feet, lest those who are lame be turned out of the way (Heb. 12. 13).
BEAUTIFYING THE HOUSE.
"Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches' (Prov. 24. 3-4). We need understanding from the scriptures both to build and to beautify an assembly of God. 'The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit' is one of the things that should enrich the house (1 Pet. 3. 4). "Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife' (Prov. 17, 1). Better is an assembly poor in spiritual gifts and material wealth, in which brethren live in peace, than one with abundant gift and material prosperity which is marked by party spirit or pride. That was the trouble at Corinth. So Paul writes, 'Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you' (2 Cor. 13. 11).
We should, indeed, be concerned that the assemblies might be enlarged, but 'It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a wide house' (Prov. 21. 9, R.V.). Not numbers, nor activity, important as they are, should have our first consideration, but the maintenance of that harmony which flows from a meek and quiet spirit, from a submission to the word of God, and from a submission one to another in the fear of God (Eph. 4. 1-3). So will the house be established. So will it be beautiful to the eye of God.