Why We Assemble (and further on the love feast)

CommunionHow should we conduct the assembly if the five acts aren’t our standard? The answer is plain enough in the Bible. We start with Hebrews 10:24-25–

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

One purpose of the assembly is to encourage one another and to spur others to love and good works (not to be encouraged, but to encourage!) “Spur” is a reference to the literal spurs used to urge horses to go faster.

A similar passage is found in 1 Corinthians 14–

2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

When confronted with the question of whether to let Christians prophesy or speak in tongues in the assembly, Paul doesn’t refer to a list of approved “acts.” Neither does he issue a list of arbitrary rules, declaring some actions clean and others unclean. Rather, he asks the most practical question: does the proposed action edify?

If the action edifies (builds up), strengthens, encourages, or comforts, Paul permits it. If it doesn’t, he bans it. If an unacceptable practice (prophesying without an interpreter) can be modified to be acceptable (prophesying with an interpreter), then the practice is allowed. It’s neither inherently permitted nor inherently prohibited. Rather, it all depends on whether it furthers the purpose of the assembly.

Hence, announcements, for example, are perfectly permissible if they edifying, encourage, strengthen, comfort, or spur to love and good works. But announcements that accomplish none of these things should not be allowed.

Just so, the love feast, properly conducted, can clearly accomplish these ends. But if the feast is conducted as described in 1 Cor. 11, just as clearly, it is banned. It just depends on what the feast accomplishes.

The Holy Kiss is permitted in cultures where men greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. In the American South, it’s not (thank goodness!)

And so we see, the rule isn’t about silences, additions, aids, expedients, or other such things. It’s about what accomplishes God’s will.

Finally, Paul also makes a point about the impact of the assembly on the unbeliever.

(1 Cor. 14:23-25) So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Although the assembly is foremost for the saved (it’s not a “seeker service”), it must be conducted in a way that allows the unbeliever to understand and give glory to God.

And so, may we add fried chicken to the Lord’s Supper? Well, it depends. If we do it in a way that builds the bonds of love among the Christian community, yes. If we show the glory of God by feeding even those who can’t afford to bring their own covered dish, yes. If we use the occasion to show love to the unloved, to recruit for good works, to comfort the mourning … yes! But if we selfishly stuff our faces and spend our time with those who already have friends, and run from the deacon recruiting for the lawn care team, and hide from the lonely mentally ill members of the church, no. The Love Feast is only for those who love.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Why We Assemble (and further on the love feast)

  1. Melina says:

    “The Love Feast is only for those who love.”
    well that just about says it all! One thing I’m very grateful to have been taught is to “prepare” for fellowship (And let us consider how we may spur one another on ) i.e. thinking about how I might encourage people I’ll see at church. Or as one brother I know says “the church is a school of love”

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