EARLY RISING

Scripture Reading: S.S. 7:12; Psa. 57:8-9; 63:1; 78:34; 90:14; 108:2-3; Exo. 16:21

Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves. (Song of Solomon 7:12)

Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.  (Psalms 57:8-9)

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;  (Psalms 63:1)

When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.  (Psalms 78:34)

O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.  (Psalms 90:14)

Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. (Psalms 108:2-3)

And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:21)

 

 

I. EARLY MORNING BEING THE BEST TIME OF THE DAY

What time should believers rise up every day?

A sister once put it well when she said, “How much a person loves the Lord can be judged primarily by the way he chooses between his bed and the Lord. Do you love your bed or the Lord more? If you love your bed more, you sleep a little longer. If you love the Lord more, you rise up a little earlier.” She spoke these words more than thirty years ago. Yet they are still fresh to us today. A man must choose between his love for his bed and his love for the Lord. The more he loves the Lord, the more he will rise up early.

A Christian should rise up early because the early morning is the best time to meet the Lord. Except for those who are sick, all the brothers and sisters should rise up early. Actually, many sicknesses are not sicknesses at all. They become sicknesses because men love themselves too much. Other than those who are advised to rest by doctors, everyone should rise early. We do not want to go to extremes; we advise sick brothers and sisters to sleep more. However, the healthy ones should get up as early as possible. The best time to meet the Lord, to contact Him, and to fellowship with Him is early in the morning. Manna is gathered before the sun rises (Exo. 16:14-21, “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.”). Anyone who wants to eat God’s food should rise up early. When the sun waxes hot, manna melts and is gone. If we want to receive spiritual nourishment and spiritual edification, and if we want to have spiritual fellowship and spiritual supply, we need to rise up early. If we rise up late, the manna will be gone. The early morning is the very time when God dispenses His spiritual food and holy fellowship to His children. Whoever is late will not gather anything. Many children of God lead a sick life, not because they have spiritual problems, but because they rise up too late. Many children of God have no lack in consecration, zeal, or love, but they cannot live a normal Christian life because they rise up too late. Do not think that this is a small matter. Do not think that this has nothing to do with spirituality; it has much to do with spirituality. Many people are not spiritual because they rise up too late. Many people have been Christians for years, yet they fail to live a proper Christian life because they rise up too late. We do not know of anyone who knows how to pray, yet rises up late. Nor do we know of anyone who has intimate fellowship with God, yet rises up late. All those who know God rise up early. They rise up early as a rule to fellowship with Him.

Proverbs 26:14 says, “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” Here it says that a slothful person in bed is like a door that turns upon its hinges. The slothful keeps turning upon his bed; he cannot leave it. He turns to one side on his bed. Then he turns to the other side on his bed. Whichever way he turns, he is still on the bed. Many people cannot part with their bed. They love their bed as they turn from one side to the other. When they turn left, they are on their bed. When they turn right, they are still on their bed. They love to sleep and cannot part with their bed. Many people just want to sleep a little longer; they cannot get out of their bed. If one wants to learn to serve God and be a good Christian, he has to rise up early in the morning every day.

Those who rise up early in the morning reap much spiritual benefit. Their prayers at other times of the day cannot be compared with their prayers in the early morning. Their Bible reading at other times of the day cannot be compared with their reading in the early morning. Their fellowship with the Lord at other times cannot be compared with their fellowship in the early morning. The early morning is the best time of the day. We should spend the best time of the day—the early morning—before the Lord, rather than in other things. Some Christians spend the whole day on other matters and kneel down to read the Bible and pray only at night when they are about to go to sleep. No wonder they are ineffective in their Bible reading, their prayer, and their fellowship with the Lord. They wake up too late in the morning. The moment we believe in the Lord, we should set apart the early morning for fellowshipping with God and for contacting Him.

II. EXAMPLES OF EARLY RISING

In the Bible we find God’s servants rising up early in the morning. Let us consider their examples:

  1. Abraham—Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3
  2. Jacob—Gen. 28:18
  3. Moses—Exo. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4
  4. Joshua—Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10
  5. Gideon—Judg. 6:38
  6. Hannah—1 Sam. 1:19
  7. Samuel—1 Sam. 15:12
  8. David—1 Sam. 17:20
  9. Job—Job 1:5
  10. Mary—Luke 24:22; Mark 16:9; John 20:1
  11. The apostles—Acts 5:21

These many verses tell us that God’s servants had the habit of dealing with God early in the morning. Every one of them had the habit of waking early in the morning and fellowshipping with God early in the morning. They rose up early in the morning to do many things related to God’s business. They also rose up early in the morning to consecrate themselves. Although there is no commandment in the Bible that tells us to get up early, there are sufficient examples in the Bible to show us that all faithful servants of God rise up early. Even the Lord Jesus Himself rose up early. He rose up very early in the morning, while it was still night, and went away to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35). When He wanted to appoint the twelve apostles, He called them to Himself early in the morning (Luke 6:13). If the Lord had to rise up early to do these things, how much more do we need to rise up early?

Any brother or sister who wants to follow the Lord must never think that there is little difference in rising up an hour early. You must realize that your Bible reading becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Likewise, your prayer becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Although one may spend the same amount of time in reading the Bible, an hour’s difference will produce very different results. Early rising brings in great blessing. We hope that you will not miss the blessing of early rising at the start of your Christian life. One brother was asked at least fifty times during his first three years as a Christian, “What time did you get up this morning?” Early rising is a great blessing. Those who have learned to rise up early know the significance of it. If you do not rise up early in the morning, you will live in spiritual poverty. Late rising brings in much loss. Many spiritual things are lost through late rising.

We have seen many examples from the Bible. How about the servants of God who are not mentioned in the Bible, like George Müller, John Wesley, and many other famous servants of God? They also rose up early in the morning. We can say that almost all the ones we know of or have read about from books, who are of any use in God’s hands, pay attention to the matter of rising early. They call this early rising “morning watch.” All servants of God emphasize morning watch. The term morning watch itself tells us that it is done early in the morning. Have you heard of anyone who keeps watch when the sun is already up? Never! One keeps morning watch early in the morning. This is a good habit, and we Christians should cultivate this habit. God’s children should not be sloppy people. The church has been practicing this for years. We should maintain this good habit of meeting God early in the morning. The term morning watch is not found in the Bible. We can give it another name, but no matter what name we give to it, meeting God early in the morning is a very crucial matter.

III. WHAT TO DO IN THE EARLY MORNING

We do not merely rise up early. There must be spiritual exercise and spiritual content to what we do. Here are a few things to do early in the morning:

A. Fellowship with God

Song of Songs 7:12 shows us that the early morning is the best time to fellowship with the Lord. To fellowship means to open up our spirit and our mind to God and allow Him to enlighten us, speak to us, impress us, and touch us (Psa. 119:105, 147). During this time our hearts are drawn near to God, and we allow God to draw near to our hearts. We should rise up early in the morning to tarry before the Lord, to meditate, to receive leading and impressions from God, to learn to touch Him, and to give Him an opportunity to speak to us.

B. Praise and Sing

There must be the sound of praise and singing in the early morning. The early morning is the best time to sing praises to God. When we offer our highest praise to God, our spirit rises to the highest peak.

C. Read the Bible

The early morning is the time for us to gather the manna (which is Christ). What does it mean to eat the manna? It means to enjoy Christ, to enjoy God’s Word, and to enjoy His truth early in the morning every day. After we eat the manna, we have the strength to journey in the wilderness. The early morning is the time to gather the manna. One will not be fed spiritually or be satisfied if he spends his early morning on other things.

We have mentioned already that we should have two Bibles, one with marks and notes in it to use in the afternoon and the other with nothing in it for “eating manna” early in the morning. In the early morning, do not read too much and do not take many portions of the Word. Instead, read a single portion of the Bible carefully, always mingling your reading with unceasing communion with God and singing. This does not mean that you should fellowship with God first, praise second, and then read the Bible last. You have to blend all these things together. At the same time you should also pray. Come to God’s presence and open His Word. As you read, you may be convicted to confess your sins. As you read certain portions, you may be touched by His grace to offer up thanksgiving. You can also pray to God concerning what you have read in the Word. You can say, “Lord, this is truly what I need. This portion, this verse, this word, truly exposes my lack. Lord, fill up this lack of mine.” When you find a promise, you can say, “Lord, I believe in this promise.” When you find grace, you can say, “Lord, I take this grace.” You can also intercede. While you are reading, you may remember the condition of those who fall short of what this portion says. You should not accuse or criticize them. Instead, you should pray, “God, fulfill this word in me. Fulfill this word also in my brother and sister.” You can confess your sins and the sins of others. You can pray for yourself and for others. You can believe for yourself and for others. You can give thanks for yourself and for others. Your Bible reading in the morning should not be too long; it should not cover too much. Two, three, four, or five verses are sufficient. You can dwell on them for an hour. As you read these verses word by word, pray over them, and commune with God through them, you will be filled.

Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, there were people who fellowshipped with God this way. They knew God and communed with God. Their fellowship with God became part of their lives.

In Psalms David interchanged the pronouns you and He freely. At one moment he would be speaking to man, and at the next moment he would be praying to God. In the same psalm, he would say a few sentences to man and then say something to God. On the one hand, David spoke to man. On the other hand, he spoke to God. The Psalms show us that David was a person who was in constant fellowship with God.

While Nehemiah was working, he would speak a few words and then offer a short prayer. When the king asked him something, he would speak to the king first and then to the Lord. He mingled his work and prayer together. He did not separate his work from his prayer.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to those in Rome. However, more than once he turned his speaking to the Lord. A few times he seemed to have forgotten the fact that he was writing to the Romans. It seemed as if he were talking to God. We can find frequent examples like this in Paul’s Epistles. In an instant he could turn around and speak to God.

Those who have read the autobiography of Madame Guyon will notice one characteristic of hers. Most autobiographies are written for man. But in Madame Guyon’s autobiography, she spoke to man in one instant and to God in the next instant. In one moment she would be speaking to LaCombe (who asked her to write her autobiography), and at the next moment she would be speaking to God. This is fellowship. One does not know where fellowship with God begins and where it ends. Fellowship does not mean to set aside other affairs to pray. Nor does it mean to pray first and then deal with the affairs. It is to do both simultaneously.

Hence, during this early morning hour of gathering manna, you should learn to mingle prayer with God’s Word. You should learn to mingle praise and fellowship with God’s Word. One moment you may be on earth, but the next moment you are in the heavens. One moment you may be in yourself, but the next moment you are in God. If you maintain this practice before God every morning, you will be filled after some time, and God’s word will dwell in you richly. Such reading of God’s Word, such gathering of manna, is indispensable to us. Many brothers and sisters are weak and unable to take the wilderness journey. We need to ask them, “Have you eaten anything?” They cannot walk because they have not eaten enough. Manna is gathered in the early morning. This is why we need to rise up a little earlier. We will not have any manna if we are late. We have to rise up early in the morning to labor in God’s Word.

D. Pray

In the early morning we should fellowship, praise, and gather the manna. We must also pray to the Lord. Psalms 63:1 [KJV] and 78:34 [KJV] both say that we should seek the Lord early. The prayer spoken of in the previous paragraph is a kind of blending prayer. But the prayer we are talking about here is more specific. After one fellowships, praises, and eats manna, he has strength and can present everything in prayer before God. Prayer surely requires much strength. One must first draw near to God early in the morning and be fed. Then he can set aside about half an hour or a quarter of an hour to pray for a few urgent things. He can pray for himself, for the church, or for the world. Of course, he can pray also in the afternoon or at night. But if he takes advantage of the fresh power he has gained, the power acquired in the early morning through fellowshipping with God and eating manna, he will receive greater support.

Every believer should do these four things conscientiously before the Lord early in the morning: fellowship with Him, praise Him, read the Bible, and pray to Him. Whether or not a person has done these four things in the morning is manifested in his walk during the day. George Müller confessed that the degree to which he was fed by the Lord in the morning determined his spiritual condition throughout the whole day. His spiritual condition for the day depended on his feeding before the Lord in the morning. Many Christians find themselves weak during the day because their mornings are ill spent. Of course, there are those who are so far ahead in their spiritual journey that they can experience the total separation of the spirit from the soul. Their outward man is broken, and they are not that easily shaken by anything. However, this is another matter altogether. New believers should learn to rise up early. Once they become loose in this, they become loose in everything, and everything will go wrong. There is a great difference between being nourished and not being nourished in the morning.

A very famous musician once said, “If I skip practicing for one day, I will notice it. If I skip practicing for two days, my friends will notice it. If I skip practicing for three days, my audience will notice it.” If this is true for practicing music, it is even more true for the spiritual lesson of rising up early. If we fail to have a good morning watch before God, we will know it. Those who are experienced in the Lord also will know it when they come into contact with us. They will know that we have not touched the spiritual source. From the very first day, new believers should strictly discipline themselves. Every morning they should rise up early to exercise this way before the Lord.

IV. THE PRACTICE OF EARLY RISING

Finally, we should speak a little about actual ways to implement this practice. How can we rise up early? We need to pay attention to a few things.

All early risers must have the habit of going to bed early. No one can stay up late and rise up early. This is like burning a candle at both ends.

Do not set too high a standard for rising. Some people want to rise up at three or four o’clock in the morning. When they find out that they cannot make it, they quit after a few days. It is better to take a moderate course. Five or six o’clock is a suitable time to get up. Get up when the sun is about to rise or has just risen. Always get up around sunrise. If one tries to get up too early, his practice may not last long. An unreasonably high standard will only result in a condemned conscience. Some people have set too high a standard for themselves. They get into problems with their family or their work. When they take hospitality at the homes of others, they get into problems with their hosts. This is not a profitable thing to do. Our standard should be reasonable. We do not advocate extremes. Do not set too high a standard for yourself. Before the Lord you should consider carefully the proper time for you to rise up. You should take into consideration your physical limitations as well as the environment. Set your standard accordingly and keep it.

You may face a little difficulty at the beginning. It is always easy the first and second day. But the third day is difficult. You will find it easy for the first few days. But after a few days, you will love the bed so much that you will not want to get up at all. This is especially true in winter. It takes a long time for us to build up a new habit. Perhaps you are used to getting up late, and your mind has been used to getting up late. But if you rise up early a few times, your mind will gradually adjust to getting up early. After you do this for a few days, you will not want to go back to sleep even if your mind is telling you to do so. In the beginning you will need to force yourself a little in order to rise up early. Before a habit is built up, you need to ask God for grace. Continue to ask until this habit is built up. Try to do this again and again. Give up your bed daily to rise up early. In the end you will rise up early spontaneously. You must build up this habit before God. You must not miss the grace of fellowship early in the morning.

A healthy person does not need more than eight hours of sleep. Do not think that you are an exception. Do not worry that early rising will affect your health. It may be your anxiety which is affecting your health. Many people love themselves too much and worry themselves to sickness. You may need ten or twelve hours of sleep if the doctor says that you are ill. But six to eight hours of sleep are sufficient for a normal person. However, do not go to the extreme. Maintain at least six to eight hours of sleep. We do not expect those who are sick to rise up early. If you are sick, it is all right for you to lie on your bed in the morning and read your Bible there. However, those who are not advised by doctors to stay in bed and who are not really sick should rise up early in the morning.

We hope those who are mature and weighty in the Lord will uphold this practice. The church should push the sluggard ones to go forward. They should be shaken up a little. We should usher the new believers into this great blessing. You should take every chance to ask the new ones, “What time do you get up every day?” After a few days, you have to ask them again, “What time did you get up this morning?” This kind of reminding should go on for at least a year into a person’s initial Christian life. After a year, you may still need to ask, “Brother, what time do you rise up now?” Ask the new believers whenever you see them. You need to go to them and render them some help in this matter. However, if we have not learned the lesson well before the Lord, it will be hard for us to do this to others. This is why we must first learn this lesson well ourselves.

Early rising should be a believer’s first habit among all habits. Giving thanks before meals is a habit. Meeting together on the Lord’s Day is also a habit. Rising up early is even more an essential habit. A new believer needs to build up this habit. It is unfortunate that some have been Christians for years and yet have never enjoyed the blessing of early rising. They have never enjoyed the grace of early rising. If we want to experience this grace, we have to learn this lesson well. If more brothers and sisters will come together to learn this lesson, and if everyone will rise up early in the morning, the church will grow. When one brother receives more light, the whole church will receive more shining. When everyone receives a little more light each day, the church as a whole will become richer. The church is poor today because too few people are receiving their supply from the Head. If everyone receives something from the Head, however little it may seem to be, the culmination of all the little portions will make the whole very rich.

We do not wish to see only a minority of people working in the church. We hope to see all the members rising up before the Lord. We hope to see the whole church rising up to receive God’s riches and grace. What one member receives from the Head becomes the profit of the whole Body. If every brother and sister takes this way, there will be many containers before God, and we will be richer and richer as the days go by. We hope that you will not consider early rising as a small matter. If we all learn to rise up early, and if we all maintain this habit, we will have a bright spiritual future ahead of us.

Over 30 years ago I read these lessons and put them to practice in my life.  This lesson was special to me.  I would go to work at 5:00AM and while waiting for the construction crew to arrive, I had my “morning watch” praying and singing unto the Lord.  It was a few years later when I was praying early in the morning that I was inspired to write this poem which became a song:

IN THE MORNING

In the morning, that’s when I meet my Savior

And then I His wondrous presence know.

In the morning I tell Him all my problems.

That’s when I to God’s own throne room go.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He shows me all His mercy

And forgives my sins from day to day.

In the morning He understands my heartaches

As I seek to walk with Him each day.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He fills my cup with blessings

And His love melts all my fears away.

In the morning we walk and talk together

As he listens to all that I say.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning I sing to Him His praises

That have caused this sad heart now to sing.

In the morning my heart is broken often

As I   think how few lost souls I bring.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning I hear Him whisper gently

That in time He’ll show me all His will.

In the morning that’s when He shows me simply

How “that day” His will I can fulfill.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He opens wide my vision

Of a world that’s dying now in sin.

In the morning He makes me want to tell them

How that they can have real peace in Him.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.  (Hear this song on the front page)

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

Meeting With Believers – Eklesia or Church – Lesson 11

MEETING WITH BELIEVERS – THE CHURCH

Scripture Reading: Heb. 10:25; Matt. 18:20; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:23, 26

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:25)

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.  (Matthew 18:20)

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  (Acts 2:42)

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:22-33)

 

I. CORPORATE GRACE BEING FOUND IN THE MEETING

God’s Word says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). Why should we not abandon the assembling together? Because God dispenses His grace to us through the assembling together. God’s grace to man can be divided into two categories –personal and corporate. God gives us not only personal grace but also corporate grace. This corporate grace can be found only in the assembling together or the meetings of the Baptist Church.

We have already spoken of the subject of prayer. One can learn to pray by himself at home; there is no doubt that God listens to such prayers. God listens to individual prayers. However, there is another kind of prayer. In order for this other kind of prayer to be answered, it must be prayed in the meetings, in the principle of two or three asking together in the Lord’s name. If a person tries to do this alone, he will not get any answer. Many great matters must be prayed over in church meetings before God will answer. They must be brought to the prayer meeting before we see them come to pass. God’s corporate grace comes to man only through the church meetings. You may think that it is sufficient for a man to pray alone and that he can seek God’s mercy by himself. But the experience of many people tells us that individual prayers alone will not work. It seems that unless two or three people pray, or all the brothers and sisters come together to pray, God will not answer. Therefore, we have two kinds of answers to prayers: One is answer to individual prayers, and the other is answer to church assembly prayers. If we do not meet with others, some prayers will not be answered.

We have also spoken of reading the Bible. Of course, God will give us individual grace when we read the Bible. However, some portions of the Word cannot be opened up by one person alone. God gives light when we meet at church, when we assemble ourselves together. In such a church meeting, some pastor or teacher may be led to open up a particular portion of the Word. There may not be any speaking concerning that particular portion of the Word, yet the fact that everyone is assembled together gives God the opportunity to shed His light. Many brothers and sisters can testify that they understand more of God’s Word in the church meeting than when they study it individually. Many times in the church meeting, God opens up one portion of the Word through another portion of the Word. As one person speaks on one passage, light shines on another passage. In this way more light is unveiled, and we receive grace in a corporate way.

If we do not meet with others in church, the most we can have is individual grace; we will miss a great part of the corporate grace. God will only give us corporate grace in the church meeting. If we do not meet with others in church, we will not receive this grace. This is why the Bible charges us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

II. THE CHURCH AND THE MEETING

One outstanding characteristic of the church is that it meets. A Christian can never substitute church meetings with “self-taught” pursuits. God has a category of grace reserved for the church  meetings only. If we do not meet with others, that portion of corporate grace will not be available to us.

In the Old Testament God commanded the Israelites to meet. In many places in the Bible they are called the congregation. That they were called a congregation meant they had to meet together. When we come to the New Testament, the revelation is even clearer. We have the clear commandment not to abandon “our own assembling together.” God is not that interested in individuals being “self-taught.” We must assemble ourselves together before we can receive His corporate grace. No forsaker of church meetings will keep His grace. It is a foolish thing to abandon assembling together. A man must meet; he must come together with other children of God before he can receive the corporate grace.

The Bible gives explicit commandments as well as clear examples of people meeting together. When the Lord was on the earth, He often met with His disciples. He met with them on the mountain (Matt. 5:1), in the wilderness (Mark 6:32-34), at home (2:1-2), and at the seaside (4:1). On the last evening before His crucifixion, He borrowed a large upper room and met with the disciples (14:15-17). After His resurrection, He appeared in the midst of their gathering (John 20:19, 26; Acts 1:4). Before the day of Pentecost, the disciples gathered together in one accord to pray (v. 14). When the day of Pentecost came, they were also gathered together (2:1). After that they continued steadfastly in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. Shortly thereafter, they were persecuted and went back to their own places. Yet they still met together (4:23-31). After Peter was released, he went to the house where the disciples were gathered together (12:12). First Corinthians 14 tells us clearly that the whole church gathered together (v. 23). It was the whole church that gathered together. No one who is part of the church can be exempt from meeting together with the church.

What is the meaning of the word church? The word church is ekklesia in Greek. Ek means “to come out,” while klesia means “to congregate or to gather.” Thus, ekklesia means the gathering of those who have been called out. God is not only after some called out ones; He wants the called out ones to gather together. If all the called out ones are separated from one another, we will not have the church; the church will not be produced.

After we have believed in the Lord there is a basic need we must take care of, that is, to come together with other children of God. We should never have the strange thought that we can be “self-taught” Christians. We must eliminate such a thought from our mind. Christianity does not have “self-taught” Christians; it only has the gathering of the whole church. Do not think that we can be Christians who just shut ourselves up to pray and to read the Bible alone at home. Christianity is not built on just individuals but also on the assembling together.

III. THE FUNCTIONING OF THE BODY
MANIFESTED THROUGH THE MEETING

First Corinthians 12 speaks of the Body, and chapter fourteen speaks of the meeting. Chapter twelve speaks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and chapter fourteen also speaks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Chapter twelve speaks of the gifts in the Body, whereas chapter fourteen speaks of the gifts in the church. According to these two chapters, it seems that the mutual functioning of the members of the Body is expressed in the meeting. When we put chapters twelve and fourteen together, we see clearly that chapter twelve shows us the Body while chapter fourteen shows us the Body in function. One chapter speaks of the Body, while the other speaks of the meeting. One speaks of the gifts in the Body, while the other speaks of the gifts in the meeting. The functioning of the Body is realized specifically through the meeting. The mutual help, mutual influence, and mutual care of the members (e.g., the eyes helping the legs, the ears helping the hands, the hands helping the mouth) are more clearly manifested in the meetings. Through the meeting, we receive many answers to prayer. We often receive no light individually. But when we come to the church meeting, we find light. What we see individually through our own pursuit can never match what we see in the church meetings. All the ministries ordained by God operate through the meeting and are for the meeting. If a person rarely meets with others, he will have little opportunity to realize the functioning of the Body.

In addition to being the Body of Christ, the church is also the dwelling place of God. In the Old Testament the light of God was in the Holy of Holies. There was sunlight in the outer court, and there was the lamp with olive oil burning before the veil in the Holy Place. But in the Holy of Holies, there was no natural or artificial light. There was only the light of God. The Holy of Holies is the place where God dwells. Wherever God dwells, there is His light. Today when the church gathers together as the dwelling place of God, we find God’s light. When the church meets together, God manifests His light. We do not know why this happens. We can say only that this is one of the results of the mutual functioning of the members. The mutual functioning allows God’s light to be expressed through the Body.

Deuteronomy 32:30 says, “How shall one chase a thousand, /And two put ten thousand to flight,/Were it not that their Rock sold them,/And Jehovah delivered them up?” If one could chase a thousand, how could two put ten thousand to flight? This is a strange thing. We do not know how, but we know that this is a fact. According to man, if one can chase a thousand, two should be able to chase only two thousand. But God says two can chase ten thousand, which is eight thousand more. When two chase separately, each can chase a thousand. Putting the two together, we should only have two thousand. But when two are joined together to chase the enemy, we have the mutual functioning of the members, and they can chase ten thousand, eight thousand more than if it is done separately. A person who does not know the Body and who does not care about meeting together will lose the eight thousand. Therefore, we need to learn to receive corporate grace. Do not think that personal grace is enough. We repeat: A special characteristic of Christianity is that it meets. A Christian can never substitute meeting with “self-taught” pursuits. We need to see this clearly and pay attention to it.

The Lord promises us two kinds of presence. One is in Matthew 28, and the other is in Matthew 18. In Matthew 28:20 the Lord said, ” lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ” One can say that this implies His presence in individuals. In Matthew 18:20 the Lord said, “For where two or three are gathered together in (into) my name, there am I in the midst of them.” His presence here refers to His presence in the meeting. Only in the meeting can we have this second kind of presence. The Lord’s presence with an individual and His presence in the meeting are two different things. Some only know the Lord’s presence as individuals. But this knowledge is insufficient. The more compelling and powerful presence is experienced only in the meeting; we cannot experience such a presence individually. Although individually we can have the Lord’s presence, this presence is never as great or as powerful as His presence in the meetings. But when we are among the saints we can touch a presence which we could not otherwise experience as individuals. We have to learn to meet together with the brothers and sisters because it is in the meeting that we experience the Lord’s special presence. This is a tremendous blessing. This presence can never be felt by us as individuals. It is impossible to find a “self-taught” Christian who can experience this kind of powerful presence of the Lord.

It is a spontaneous thing for God’s children to function in mutuality when they come together. We do not know how this mutuality in the Body works in the meeting, but we know that this mutuality is a fact. When one brother stands up, others see the light. When another brother stands up, others feel the Lord’s presence. One brother opens his mouth to pray and others touch God. Another brother speaks a few words and others feel the supply of life. This phenomenon cannot be explained by human words; it surpasses human explanation. Only when the Lord comes back will we really know how the Body of Christ functions in mutuality. Today we merely obey the Lord’s ordination.

Perhaps you have not paid much attention to the church meeting because you have just been saved. You do not know what the light of the Body is and what the function and efficacy of the Body is. However, experience tells us that many fundamental spiritual lessons are learned only in the Body. The more you meet, the more you learn. If you do not meet, you have no part at all in these riches. Therefore, we hope that you will learn to meet properly from the very beginning of your Christian life.

IV. THE PRINCIPLES OF MEETING

How should we meet? The first principle in the Bible concerning meetings is that all meetings are conducted in the Lord’s name. Matthew 18:20 says, “Gathered into My name,” which can also be translated as, “Gathered under My name.” What does it mean to be gathered under the Lord’s name? It means to be under the Lord’s authority. The Lord is the center, and everyone is drawn to Him. We do not go to a meeting to visit certain brothers or sisters, nor do we go because we are attracted by certain brothers or sisters. We go to the meeting to be gathered together with other saints under the Lord’s name. The Lord is the center. We do not meet to listen to someone’s preaching but to meet the Lord. If you meet to listen to someone’s preaching, I am afraid you are coming under that person’s name, not under the Lord’s name. A preacher may have a name and a following but it is the Lord that speaks through him.  Sometimes, men’s names are used to attract people. This is to draw men under that person’s name. But the Lord says that we have to meet under His name.

We should come under the Lord’s name because the Lord is not with us in a physical sense (Luke 24:5-6). Whenever the Lord is not physically present, there is the need of His name. When the Lord is physically present, there is less of a need for His name. The name is present because the person Himself is not present. As far as His physical body is concerned, the Lord is in heaven. Yet He has left us with a name. The Lord has promised that if we meet under His name, He will be in our midst. This means that His Spirit will be in our midst. Although the Lord is sitting in heaven, His name is still in our midst, and His Spirit is also in our midst. The Holy Spirit is the One who upholds the Lord’s name. The Holy Spirit is the guardian of Christ’s name; He protects and guards the Lord’s name. Wherever there is the name of the Lord, there is the Holy Spirit, and there the Lord’s name is manifested. Those who want to meet must meet under the Lord’s name.

The second principle of meeting is that its goal should be for the building up of others. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul told us that the basic principle of meeting is to build up others, not ourselves. Everything in the church meeting should be for the purpose of building up others, not ourselves. Tongue speaking builds up the speaker, but the interpretation of tongues builds up others. In other words, every move that builds up just one person is in the principle of tongue-speaking. The principle of the interpretation of tongues is to dispense into others what we ourselves have been built up with, that others may also be built up. This is why there should not be any tongue-speaking in the church meeting if no one can interpret the tongue. No one should speak anything that builds up himself and not others.  The truth is that speaking in tongues is not necessary unless there are more than one language in church like in some foreign countries.  I have been in a church where there were head sets that allowed the people attending to hear in many different languages.  This is the true meaning of tongues.  There should be no tongues as we see in Charismatic churches because tongues are languages that people speak and if someone speaks in German there should be someone to interpret into English.  This happens every Sunday in some missionary meeting on the foreign field.

Hence, we must consider others when we meet. It is not how much we say, but whether or not what we say builds up others. Whether or not sisters can ask questions in the meeting is determined by the same principle. Asking questions in the meeting is not just for one’s own benefit. It is a matter of whether or not the meeting would be dragged down by such questions. Do you want to help the meeting? The clearest indication of whether or not a man’s individuality has been dealt with is seen in the church meeting. Some only think of themselves. They have a message in their heart which they want to preach, and they must speak it when they come to the meeting. They have a hymn in their heart which they like to sing, and they will do anything to find an opportunity to sing it. They do not care whether the message will help the meeting or whether the hymn will enliven the congregation. This kind of person brings nothing but damage to the meeting. This is why God ordained pastors and teachers so that new Christians can learn from them and a properly organized church will let everyone learn to teach as they sit and learn from more experienced teachers and pastors.

Some brothers have been Christians for years, yet they still do not know how to meet. They care little for heaven or earth, the Lord or the Holy Spirit; they only care about themselves. They seem to think that as long as they are present, even alone, they can have a meeting. In their eyes, none of the brothers and sisters exist; they are the only ones who are present. There are far too many who go to church to warm a seat or pew.  People need to get involved and add something to their church.  This is truly arrogant. When they speak in the meeting, they want to speak until they are satisfied. In the end they are the only ones who are happy; the other brothers and sisters are all unhappy. They feel that they have a “burden” which must be released. But as soon as they open their mouths, others are forced to pick up this “burden” and take it home with them. This is why God ordained pastors and teachers so some can’t just come and decide that they want to say something without doing it under the authority of the pastor.  This often happens in a church business meeting or a prayer meeting.  Some like long prayers. When they pray, others become tired. When someone breaks the principles of the meeting, the whole church suffers. We must not offend the Holy Spirit in a meeting. Once we offend the Holy Spirit, all the blessing is gone. In the church meeting, if we take care of the needs of others and try to build up others, the Holy Spirit will be honored. He will do the building up work, and we will be built up. However, if we do not build up others but talk loosely and offend the Holy Spirit, our meeting will be in vain. When we meet, we should not think of getting something out of the meeting for ourselves. All the activities should be for the benefit of others. If you think your speaking will benefit others, you should try to get an opportunity to teach or speak. If you think your silence will benefit others, remain silent. Always try to take care of others; this is the basic principle of meeting together.

This does not mean that everyone should be silent in the church meeting. Many times speaking damages others, but silence also damages others. If you do not care for others, the meeting will suffer whether you speak or remain quiet. Your speaking must be for the benefit of the meeting, and your silence must also be for the benefit of the meeting. Always seek the building up of others. Those who should speak should not remain silent. In the meeting, please remember, “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26). Everyone should come to the meeting with a goal in mind –he is there for others, not just for himself. We should never do anything that will stumble others. If our silence will stumble others, we should speak. If our speaking will stumble others, we should be silent. We need to learn to speak for the purpose of building up others, and we need to learn to be silent also for the purpose of building up others. Whatever we do, it is for the purpose of building up others, not ourselves. When we are not for ourselves, we will end up being built up ourselves. But when we think only of ourselves, we will not receive any building up.

If you are not sure whether your speaking will build up others, the best thing to do is to check with more experienced brothers, the pastor, the assistant pastor, deacons, or teachers. You should ask them, “Do you think I should speak more or less in the meeting?” You have to learn to be a humble person from the beginning. Do not think that you are “somebody.” Do not think that you can sing and preach well and that you are great. Please do not make any judgment about yourself. The best thing to do is to ask the experienced brothers. Check with them to see whether your speaking builds up others. Speak more if they encourage you to do so. Speak less if they remind you to speak less. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is “Amen” or “Praise the Lord.”  Our meeting will be high if everyone humbles himself to learn from others. When this happens, others will sense that God is in our midst when they come in. This is the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit. I hope we will pay attention to this matter. If we do, our meeting will glorify God.

V. IN CHRIST

Here I should mention another matter. Whenever we meet and whenever we fellowship with one another mutually, we should remember that, as believers, we are one in Christ. Let us read some verses:

First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” The word whether means that there is no distinction. In the Body of Christ there are no worldly distinctions. In one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body and were given to drink one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27-28 says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” We were baptized into Christ, and we have also put on Christ. There cannot be Jew or Greek, slave or free man, male or female, because we have all become one in Christ.

Colossians 3:10-11 says, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” Both Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 use the phrase there cannot be. There cannot be any distinctions because we have put on the new man; we are being constituted into one new man. This new man is created according to God (Eph. 4:24). In the new man there cannot be Greek or Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free man. Only Christ is all and in all. There is only one entity, and all have become one.

In reading these three portions of the Scripture, we notice that the believers are one in Christ. In the Lord there is no distinction of past status. In the new man and in the Body of Christ, there is no difference whatsoever. If we introduce these manmade distinctions into the church, the relationship among the brothers and sisters will be shifted to the wrong ground.

We have mentioned five distinctions so far: the distinction between Greek and Jew, between free man and slave, between male and female, between barbarian and Scythian, and between circumcision and uncircumcision.

The distinction between Greek and Jew means two things. First the Jews and the Greeks are two different races; they belong to two different countries. In the Body of Christ, in Christ, and in the new man, there cannot be Jew or Greek. The Jews should not boast that they are descendants of Abraham and God’s chosen people, and they should not despise all foreigners. We must realize that both Jews and Greeks have been made one in Christ already. Boundaries no longer exist in Christ. In the Lord all have become brothers. We cannot divide God’s children into different classes. In the Body of Christ and in the new man, there is only one entity. If you bring the idea of kinship and regional flavor into the church, you do not know what the church of Christ is. You are in the church now, and you must see that we have no distinction between Jew and Greek here. It is a hard thing for the Jews to give up this distinction. But the Bible says that in Christ there cannot be Jew and Greek. Christ is all and in all. In the church there is only Christ.

There is another distinction between the Jews and the Greeks. Jews have a zealous and religious temperament, while Greeks represent an intellectual temperament. Historically, whenever you speak of religion, people think of the Jews. Whenever you speak of science and philosophy, people think of the Greeks. This is a distinction in character. However, no matter how different their characters are, Jews can be Christians, and Greeks also can be Christians. Those who are zealous for religion can be Christians, and those who are intellectual also can be Christians. In Christ, there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks. One is concerned with the feeling of the conscience, and the other is concerned with reasoning and deduction. Are these two different? According to the flesh, they definitely are different in disposition. One acts according to feelings, and the other acts according to intellect. But in Christ there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks. A warm person can be a Christian, and a cold person also can be a Christian. The one who walks by intuition can be a Christian, and the one who walks by reason also can be a Christian. All kinds of people can be Christians.

Once you become a Christian, you must leave your past temperament behind. There is no such thing in the church. Often the church suffers because many people try to bring their natural flavor and peculiar traits into the church. When those who do not like to talk gather together, they become a quiet group. When those who chatter gather together, they become a chattering group. When those who are cold gather together, they become a group of cold people. When those who are warm gather together, they become a group of warm people. As a result, many distinctions are built up among God’s children.

However, there is no place for natural dispositions in the church. In Christ and in the new man, there is no place for natural disposition. Do not think that others are wrong because their disposition is different from yours. You must realize that your own disposition is also unacceptable to others. Whether you are quick or quiet, cold or warm, intellectual or emotional, once you become a brother or a sister, you must put off these things. If you bring these natural elements into the church, they will become the basis of confusion and division. When you bring your disposition and temperament into the church, you will make yourself the standard and the criteria. Those who are up to your standard will be classified as good Christians, and those who are not up to your standard will be classified as poor Christians. Those who get along with your character will be deemed right and those who do not get along with your character will be deemed wrong. When this happens, the church will suffer through your disposition and temperament. Such distinctions must never exist in the church.

The second distinction is between free men and slaves. This distinction has also been eliminated in Christ. In Christ, the distinction between free men and slaves does not exist.

Paul wrote the Epistles of 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians during the Roman era when slavery was practiced. At that time slaves were like animals or tools; they were their masters’ possessions. Children born to slaves were automatically slaves; they had no freedom their whole life. The distinction between the free man and the slave was very great. However, God does not allow this distinction to exist in the church. The Epistles of 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians all say that there cannot be free man or slave. This distinction has been eliminated in Christ.

The third distinction is between male and female. In Christ and in the new man, the male and the female have the same status; there is no distinction between them. The male does not occupy a special position; neither does the female. Because Christ is all and in all, there is no distinction between male and female. In spiritual matters there is no difference between male and female. A brother is saved by the life of Christ, that is, by the life of God’s Son. A sister also is saved by the life of Christ, the life of God’s Son. The brother has become God’s son, and the sister has become God’s son as well. In Christ we are all God’s sons, and there is no distinction between male and female.

The fourth distinction is between barbarians and Scythians. This is a distinction of culture. There are differences in cultural standards, yet Paul told us that the cultural distinctions of barbarians and Scythians alike have been abolished in Christ.

Of course, we should learn to be a Jew among Jews, and to be as under law to those under law (1 Cor. 9:20-22). Among people of other cultures, we should behave according to their culture. We should learn to be one with all people in all places. When we contact those of a different culture, we should learn to be one with them in Christ.

The final distinction is between circumcision and uncircumcision. This distinction has to do with marks of piety in the flesh. The Jews have the mark of circumcision on their bodies. It shows that they belong to God, that they fear God, and that they reject the flesh. Yet they overemphasize circumcision. Acts 15 speaks of some Jews who tried to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised.

Christians also have their “marks of piety in the flesh.” For example, baptism, head covering, the breaking of bread, the laying on of hands, and so on can all become marks of piety. Baptism has a spiritual meaning, but it can also be a mark of piety in the flesh. Head covering with the sisters has a spiritual meaning, but it can also be a mark of piety in the flesh. Bread-breaking and the laying on of hands have spiritual meanings, but they can also become marks of piety in the flesh. All of these things have spiritual meaning; they are all spiritual matters. However, we may use these things to separate God’s children, boasting about marks which others do not have, and the result is disunity. If we do this, we have downgraded these matters from their spiritual level and made them mere physical marks in the flesh. When this happens, we become, in principle, the same as the Jews who boasted in circumcision; our baptism, head covering, bread-breaking, and hand-laying have become our “circumcision.” If we differentiate between God’s children based on these things, we have made distinctions according to the flesh. However, in Christ there is no distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision. No physical mark of the flesh can be used to differentiate God’s children. In Christ we are made one. The life in Christ is one. All of these things are outside of the life of Christ. Of course, it is good to have the spiritual reality that accompanies these physical marks. But if one has the spiritual reality yet is lacking in the physical marks, we cannot count him out. God’s children should not allow physical marks to damage the oneness in the Lord and the oneness in the new man.

We all are brothers and sisters. We are the new man in Christ. We all are members in the Body, and we all are parts of the Body. Once we are in the church, we should not have any distinction outside of Christ. Everyone stands on new ground. Everyone is in the new man created by the Lord and everyone is in the Body built up by Him. We must see that all of God’s children are one. There is no place for superiority or inferiority. We must eliminate the denominational and sectarian thoughts from our hearts. If we do this, there will be no division in the meeting of the church of God and in the fellowship between the saints. We have to pay attention to these matters in the meeting, and we have to live out such a life in our daily walk. May God bless us.

One of the best lessons on the church is a book by Dr. Jack Hyles, former pastor of the great First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.  What was written by Watchman Nee is good and he defines the church as a local body of believers meeting together which is very true.  However, due to the fact that he was isolated in China from the Baptist Movement that has been ongoing since the days of Jesus and the Apostles, I have included the online version of this book here:

The Church Defined – Part 1

The Church Defined – Part 2

To read more about the history of Baptists and their persecution through history and also about the attempt by Satan to destroy the Bible in English, the KJV please see the links below and read as much as you can after reading about the definition of the Baptist Church which is the same church that Jesus founded when he ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost

Read about the TRAIL OF BLOOD

View the Trail of Blood Chart of History

The Pre-Millennial Return of Christ

 

History of Pre-Millennialism

Buy the book here – New Age Bible Versions by  Dr. Riplinger

Read Who Were the King James Translators

The Bible that GOD HAS USED

Famous Scientists who Believed in God

Famous Baptists in History.

I CHALLENGE ANYONE WHO IS READING THESE LESSONS TO FIND A GOOD INDEPENDENT BAPTIST CHURCH TO GO TO THAT YOU CAN GET INVOLVED WITH AND LEARN TO WIN SOULS AND TO TAKE A CLASS OR A BUS ROUTE, OR SING IN THE CHOIR OR EVEN HELP CLEAN THE CHURCH AND SET UP CHAIRS OR GET READY FOR MEETINGS.  GOD WILL BLESS YOU AS YOU DEDICATE YOUR LIFE TO HIM AND HIS LOCAL BODY OF BELIEVERS.

WANT TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY?  CLICK HERE

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.


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