When Jesus told His disciples, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” we often misinterpret what He said. Having grown up in the United States, where the most common form of fishing is recreational, and is accomplished with a rod and reel, we often think of fishing as a recreational activity meant to be enjoyed in a relaxing manner. Such an activity can easily be enjoyed alone, and in some cases, it’s easier to enjoy the serenity of God’s creation when fishing alone.
However, as previously mentioned, fishing for the disciples of Christ was not a recreational activity accomplished with a rod and reel. It was a commercial enterprise undertaken for mere survival that was accomplished by casting a net. One thing we did not specifically address in the above-linked post is how the net was cast, and how it was drawn from the water.
In order to successfully fish with the types of nets the disciples used, you had to have a team (which is one reason you didn’t see the disciples by themselves when Jesus called them to be fishers of men. They were working as teams.) Often, these disciples utilized two boats to draw the net from the water. It took a lot of hands to fish with those nets, but the harvests could be great. With the help of Christ, they were on more than one occasion.
A fisherman who chose to fish alone would not only have a hard time properly casting the net, but properly drawing the net with a sufficient catch would prove nearly impossible.
The Spiritual application to this fact is that, as Christians, we will never be as strong in isolation as we will be when gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The fundamental truth of fishing, whether commercially in Jesus’ day, or Spiritually in our day, is that it is a team effort. The Christian who chooses to isolate himself from his brothers and sisters in Christ has chosen a life that will prove frustrating and discouraging.
Therefore, let’s heed the Biblical command in Hebrews 10:25, which tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and let us come together to encourage, pray and lift up each other. Then, let’s minister for the Lord together.
Christianity has become such a mainstream facet of American culture that often we pursue the activities of the faith under the assumption that everyone knows the basics. As a result, we rarely discuss the basics because we don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence. As a result, many move forward on the false assumption that we all understand the basics.
One need not be offended by discussing the basics, or by having the basics taught to them. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi often began his first practice of the year by holding out a ball and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Lombardi then went on to discuss what all you could do with a football, as well as the objective of the game of football. Lombardi explained that the objective of football was to get possession of the ball, maintain possession of the ball, and advance the ball across the goal line for a touchdown. Then, the process repeated. The secondary objective, which was accomplished if you met the first, was to keep the other team from advancing the football across the goal line.
Advancing the football could be accomplished by running the ball, or passing the ball. He demonstrated how to carry the ball, and how to throw the ball, etc. This is riveting stuff for a football novice. However, Lombardi was talking to players who were professionals. These guys had been playing their entire lives. Still, he understood the value of fundamentals. And he was successful.
In that vein, we’d like to return to the fundamentals. And we begin by asking, “What is a church?”
The word, “church,” in the New Testament was translated from a Greek word, ekklesia, which means an assembly. This is important. As our Lord founded the Christian faith, He used words that were already widely in use in that culture. Our Lord did not sit down with the disciples and invent a new vocabulary and systems of practices for this new religion we call Christianity. No, He merely taught that we were to repent of our sins and trust His death on the cross for our salvation. He did so using common words of that day.
So, when the Lord said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church,” He didn’t invent a new word. That’s why none of the disciples said, “What is a church?” They already knew. Our English translations of the Bible say, “Upon this Rock I will build My church.” What the disciples heard was, “Upon this Rock I will build My assembly (ekklesia).”
The word “assembly,” i.e. “ekklesia,” was widely used, and practiced in the Roman Empire. Ekklesias were called out assemblies in local cities used to conduct business, take a vote, or discuss a pressing matter. There was a legal structure and framework for these.
You see this concept in action in Acts 19. The entire city was gathered to discuss the controversial teachings of Paul, who proclaimed that there were no other gods besides God, and that the way to God was through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, the local industry (sales of idols to the goddess Diana) suffered as more turned away from idolatry and toward Christianity. The town clerk realized that the assembly did not meet the legal requirements to hold such a meeting under Roman law, and as such, “he dismissed the assembly (ekklesia).”
When Christ said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church,” He said, “upon this Rock, I will build My assembly.” This verse, supported by other verses throughout the New Testament, shows that the will of Christ for His followers is that we are to assemble, conduct His business, and encourage each other.
Therefore, given the meaning of the word, and the will that Christ expressed, and the teachings expressed throughout the New Testament, a church is an organized assembly of saved, scripturally baptized believers who have come together to carry out the Lord’s will. This assembly is a literal assembly, a local assembly.
Which means that, in order to be a part of the church, you must assemble with the church. And the Lord’s will is that you be a part of the church.
At Life Point Baptist Church, we’d love to have you be a part of our church, a part of our assembly. However, if you do not feel led to join with us, we will encourage you to join a church where God is leading you, and that you follow His will there.
May God bless you richly as you follow His teachings.
The church is dead.
The church is judgmental.
The church is full of hypocrites.
Those common complaints against modern American churches are nothing new. For years, people have complained that the church experience can be cold, uncaring, and full of betrayal at the hands of those who pretend to be Christian, but are not.
Often, those complaints against the church are used as justification for rejecting church membership altogether, electing rather to worship God alone. After all, if Christ knew just how awful the church really is, wouldn’t He support a mass exodus from the church?
It might surprise you to know that the issues with the modern American church are nothing new. In fact, these issues permeated the first century churches. Thus, in Revelation 2, Christ begins the process of addressing each church individually, assessing the condition of each church and instructing them to repent of their sins and shortcomings.
Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia (now known as Asia minor, or Turkey) to prepare them to meet the Lord. Speaking through the Apostle John, Jesus foretold the events that would precede His return, the events that would mark His judgment, and the promises to every believer.
The book of Revelation was written specifically to those seven churches to prepare them to meet the Lord, but the truth that is taught in this book will prepare us, also, to meet the Lord. Those churches of Asia met the Lord when they passed away. We will meet the Lord when we pass away, or when He returns, whichever comes first. Therefore, we should take the lessons of the book of Revelation and prepare for that day.
One of the most common errors in studying Revelation 2 is that many theologians believe that the letters to the seven churches are actually metaphors for seven different time periods during the church age. This approach to Revelation 2-3 is problematic for many reasons.
First, if Christ had dictated the letters to the seven churches as an allegory for the seven periods of the church age, then the message would have made absolutely no sense to those churches to whom the letters were written.
Secondly, as you read the letters to the seven churches, you will notice that Christ addresses specific issues, and specific individuals within the churches. While many try to parallel those specific individuals and issues with historic events during the church age, the fact of the matter is that there were specific issues and individuals addressed by Christ in those churches.
In other words, when these letters were read to the seven churches of Asia, no one had to ask, “I wonder what the Lord meant by that?” They knew exactly what Christ was talking about, whom He was talking about, and what He was commanding. There was no mystery to those first-century churches.
So, if these letters were addressed to the first century churches, and addressed specific issues within seven specific churches in Asia, then what’s the point of studying them today? Simple.
In the often forgotten Pauly Shore comedy, In The Army Now, Pauly Shore told the drill instructor that “welcomed” him to boot camp that she didn’t have to yell. The drill instructor replied, “IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE DO NOT YELL. WE MERELY SPEAK LOUDLY SO THAT ALL CAN LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!”
While it may seem sacrilege to reference a Pauly Shore movie during a Bible study, the fact is that we can learn from the mistakes of the seven churches of Asia, and we can take the lessons the Lord teaches them and apply them to our own lives.
In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2, we learn that Christ sees everything. He sees our love and works, or the lack thereof. He sees the motivation for our works. He sees our struggles and problems. He sees our errors. Then, He calls us to repent.
The above posted episode of The Point expounds those truths. If you listen, I predict you will be blessed by it.