Meeting together is a part of who we are as Christians. Church means assembly or meeting. Without the physical assembly of saints, we are not church.
The assembly appears everywhere in the New Testament. One commentator describes some of the elements of the church’s worship in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in his comments on chapter 4, verses 7-18:
Elements of worship in the Early Church are also revealed. The met in their own homes (15). They sang hymns and gospel songs (3:16). They read the Scriptures (16), offered fervent prayers (12), and ministered to each other within the Christian circle according to their abilities (8, 14) (Nielson 424).
The letter does not mention all the acts of worship of God’s people. (We need the whole of the New Testament for that.) The Colossian Christians had received personal instruction from the apostle on what to do in their meetings. But this window offers us a good view of the warm meetings guided by the commandments of Christ and his holy apostles.
Let us see some of these elements in more detail.
- Worship in homes was the almost universal practice of early Christians, 4.15. The home provided an ideal place for the family of faith. It was a factor in the fast growth of the church. The coronavirus has pointed up that many saints today are so tied to buildings that they have little concept of the nature of worship. May we all learn this profound truth again.
- They sang, 3.16-17. Singing is a one-another activity. Preachers have long insisted that all sing. Home viewing via the internet frustrates this and other mutual edification activities in the church. So do instruments of music. We sing together because we live and worship “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” by his authority.
- They read Scripture, 4.16. Apostolic writings are authoritative, along with the other Scriptures, 2 Peter 3.15-16. Some churches have dispensed with public reading of Scriptures, except for when the preacher does it. (Another evidence of preacher-centered faith.) But see Revelation 1.3. Who aspires to be a Bible reader in worship? Frequent and repeated public readings place Scriptures in the center of our faith and practice, 1 Timothy 4.13.
- They prayed, fervently, 4.2. They were devoted to it. No rote phrases here. No mumbling or putting only those who couldn’t preach to do the job. A big part of prayer was thanksgiving. The church is a grateful people, who know how richly they are blessed. Prayer always remembered the mission of the Good News, 4.3-4.
- They served one another, 4.8, 14. Those who failed to serve got called out, 4.17. Service was done in honesty and truth, 3.8-10. Love and forgiveness undergirded their relationships and expressed their love, 3.12-14. Serving was done together, for the Kingdom of God, 4.11. The end of prayer for other saints is their maturity and confidence, 4.12.
As we see in other books of the New Testament, the letter to Colossians indicates that the meetings serve to unite the family of faith, strengthen brothers and sisters in Christ and prepare them to fulfill their mission in the world. This picture informs and encourages us to be the church of the New Testament.
Let us so structure our meetings that they are truly spiritual moments. Let us give them proper value in order to be, in truth, the people who please the Lord.
NIELSON, John B. 1965 “The epistle to the Colossians” em A.F. Harper, ed., Beacon Bible commentary, vol. 9: 355-430. Kansas City: Beacon Hill.