The Order of Preaching, Worship, and Edification

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
First, as to preaching the word. This evidently varied according to circumstances. The first day, the Pentecost, was ushered in by the descent of the Holy Spirit. A vast multitude was called together by the rushing sound from heaven. The Assembly of God on earth was formed by the Holy Spirit. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke with miraculous power. Peter was then used to preach the crucified and risen Christ. The result is a new company is formed at Jerusalem. That company is called the Church, or more properly translated, “the Assembly.” The word thus translated always means an assembly. It is so used to describe the nation of Israel in the wilderness (Acts 7:3838This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: (Acts 7:38)). It is the same word in the Greek used to describe a crowd in the theater at Ephesus (Acts 19:32, 39, 4132Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. (Acts 19:32)
39But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. (Acts 19:39)
41And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:41)
), and it is properly translated assembly.
But what is this new company called “the Church,” or “the Assembly”? That it is a new company is clear. “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God” (1 Cor. 10:3232Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: (1 Corinthians 10:32)).
Does this company, “the Church of God,” ever appear in scripture before Pentecost? (Acts 2). Never, except in two passages, and there as a future thing. Matthew 16:18; 18:1718And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:17)
: “I will build My Church,” “Tell it unto the Church.” Peter preached at Pentecost, but the Lord by the Holy Spirit formed this new Assembly. It was not that He formed what we see now, hundreds of sects, or denominations. He did not form the Greek, or Roman, or Anglican churches, etc., but “the Church of God.” It is of immense interest to inquire what this was, and what it is. Did you ever do this? It was composed of all saved persons. “The Lord added [together, or] to the Church daily such as should be saved.” This new company then was composed of such as should be saved. The true Church of Christ was only composed of the saved, or such as were being saved. All that were saved were added together, and formed the Assembly of Christ. To this agree the words of Paul, “Unto the Assembly of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” etc., and again, “Unto the Assembly of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia.”
Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:11Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:1) and 2 Thessalonians 1:11Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thessalonians 1:1). Thus it is most certain that no person belonged to the Church of God, in the First Years of Christianity, except the holy ones, the sanctified in Christ Jesus. Be not deceived, if this is not your case, you have no part nor lot in the Church of God, be you pope, emperor, king, or bishop.
This Church is also the Body of Christ, “and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22, 2322And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23)). And note, this body is not a body of Christians organized by men.
“For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body” (1 Cor. 12:1212For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)).
This Body, this One Body, is composed of all true saved believers, and is formed by the Holy Spirit. Dear fellow believers,
Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular.
Such is the Church, the Body of Christ. “And God hath set some in the Church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healings,” etc. (1 Cor. 12:2828And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)).
Note, this is all of God. He set what He pleased in the Church, and what He pleases still remains Do not be too sure that what you call the church is the Church of God, but search the scriptures. Only of this be sure, that if you are not saved and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, whatever other church you may belong to, you do not at present belong to the Church of God.
Now as to the preaching and ministry of the Word of God in the First Years of Christianity, we must notice the difference between individual responsibility to Christ, and ministry in the Assembly. Individually they had the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to where they should go, as Paul in Acts 13. He and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit. And they had the fellowship of the Assembly at Antioch. And we find them preaching Christ, and declaring the glad tidings at Antioch in Pisidia. Then Paul and Silas are directed to Philippi, by the river side. See the same guidance at Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth. In Ephesus we find Paul for two years daily in the school of one Tyrannus (Acts 19).
So that it is evident the evangelist or teacher is responsible as guided by the Holy Spirit to preach the word wherever the Spirit opens a door for him. These should also be commended and helped on in their work by the Assembly (3 John).
It is, however, astonishing how little we find as to the Assemblies’ meetings for worship and edification, that answers to modern Christendom. Suppose you look through the Acts and the Epistles, do you find anything in the least like the mass? Is there any priest to offer a sacrifice for the living or the dead? It could not possibly be, since all the worshipers were forever perfected by the one sacrifice of Christ, and there is no more sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:1-181For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:1‑18)). To break bread in remembrance of that death through which they had redemption, even the forgiveness of sins, was done by the disciples on the first day of the week (Acts 20:77And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7)). To offer another sacrifice would be to deny the eternal efficacy of the one sacrifice which had been offered. Do you find the disciples ever did this?
That all true believers were worshipping priests, is evident. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:1515By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15). Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priest-hood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)).
What kind of places of worship had they? Had they churches, or chapels, or temples? Had they consecrated bells, or buildings? These abound now, but do we find a trace of such in the New Testament? Not a trace. We find them in an upper chamber in Acts 20:88And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. (Acts 20:8). Wherever the saints were gathered together to Christ (Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)), there was, and there only, the true Church or Assembly. Was it not so?
Worship was spiritual — in spirit and in truth and in the holiest (Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19)). This was the very immediate presence of God, the third heavens. The tabernacle or place of worship of Israel was a figure of this. There is the atmosphere; the starry heavens; and the dwelling place of God, the third heavens, the holiest. And in spirit the whole Church had holy boldness there as worshipers. But as to buildings, so-called places of worship, we do not find one even in imperial Rome. Read the last chapter in the Epistle to the Romans, and all must admit that all we find are Assemblies in houses. Thus the place was nothing. The Father had found worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
But when gathered (together) to the name of the Lord Jesus, do we find the order of worship and ministry described in the Word of God?
Note, this is in the Assembly. But no man could take the place of the Spirit of God, and no man could take the place of the Lord. But if confusion took place, did they not appoint a man as the minister over the Assembly? We never find such a thing. Confusion had come in 1 Corinthians 14. Do we read that one man therefore must take the lead or the whole service? No, we read, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”
Read to the end of the chapter 1 Corinthians 14:29-4029Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:29‑40). It is quite true that human arrangements have set all this aside. But such was the Christianity of the First Years. The presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit was a reality. And Paul says, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (vs. 37).
Now whatever men may set up, it is most certain that when the Assembly is gathered together for worship and edification, it is the will of the Lord that there should be this holy liberty, for two or three to be used of the Holy Spirit in ministry. Surely we have lost that deep sense of the Lord’s presence which was in the Assemblies in the early days of Christianity. A mere imitation, however, of this true order of ministry in the Assembly, without real heart subjection to the Holy Spirit ever present, would be utterly powerless, and would soon degenerate into radicalism or self-will.
If, on the other hand, human pretensions have usurped the place of the Spirit, and human organization has entirely displaced scriptural primitive order, let us not boast, but humble ourselves, and ever remember the apostolic commendation is to God and the word of His grace, and not to any party or denomination of men. And though Christendom has ceased to walk according to the commands of Christ, yet we are warranted in expecting to find some who desire to own Him who is the Holy and the True. To such Jesus still says, “I know thy works: behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and HAST KEPT MY WORD, and hast not denied My name”
Beloved reader, is the Lord’s word nothing to you? Is it quite enough for you to go on with the stream of modern profession? Is it nothing to you what name you bear in Babylon? Or, while conscious of much failure, is it the desire of your heart to answer to what the Lord so graciously approves in the above scripture, indeed in all scripture?
May the Lord use these few remarks on the First Years of Christianity to stir up our hearts, to seek to walk so as to have the testimony that what we do in these last days of Christendom may be pleasing in His sight.
Many of the readers may say: Would it not be profitable to look into the Scriptures for an answer to this question what is the church? We will look to the Lord to enable us to do so.