Gathered Together: Gathered Together

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
AT 18:20{"The path of the church of God is a narrow path, such an one that mere moral sense will continually mistake it. But this should be welcome to us because it tells us that the Lord looks that His saints be exercised in His truth and ways, unlearning the mere right and wrong of human thoughts, that they may be filled with the mind of Christ."
(Extract from a tract entitled, "Woolen and Linen", by J. G. Bellett).
In a day of ruin, failure and apostasy, what is the mind of the Lord in regard to the path to be followed by His saints? Is each to do "that which is right in his own eyes?" (Deut. 12:88Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. (Deuteronomy 12:8); Judg. 17:66In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6).) "There is a path which no fowl knoweth and which the vulture's eye hath not seen" (Job 28:77There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: (Job 28:7)), which is discernable only to the eye of faith.
EB 10:25{His mind is expressed in the desire which Heb. 10:2525Not 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) lays before the children of God. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting (encouraging) one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching." But does this warrant Christians to assemble according to their own thoughts and ways? Is scripture silent as to where and how we are to be assembled? If those who profess His name are directed not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, especially as we see the "approaching day" drawing nigh, surely God will have provided a meeting place for His saints. "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach." (Heb. 13:1313Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. (Hebrews 13:13).) Here we have a direction to go not merely "outside the camp" but "unto Him," that is Jesus, our Lord, who suffered outside Jerusalem, the place of religious profession. (Read carefully noting the connection of the verse with what has gone before it, Ex. 33:77And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. (Exodus 33:7)). And where do we find Him? "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20))
No doubt almost every company of professing Christians has appropriated this promise. But let us examine this verse closely. It says that the "two or three are gathered together" and does not say "gather themselves together" or "where two or three meet together"; the form of the expression "are gathered together" points to a gatherer. To use a simple illustration, I see a basket of fruit on the table. How did it get there? It was gathered together, did not get there by its own efforts. The word for "gathered together" in the Greek is "sunago" whose literal meaning is, "to lead together" and could be translated "are guided together", all of which suggests a gatherer.
Who is this gatherer? Surely it can be none other than the Holy Spirit. Who but He could the Lord Jesus entrust with the gathering of His loved ones unto His name? The best intentioned of men have gathered the Lord's people under man made rules and standards. I am persuaded that believers would be just as incapable as the fruit on the table to be brought together in accordance with Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20) unless guided by the Holy Spirit.
And is the Holy Spirit gathering all the various divided and independent companies who seek to appropriate this promise? Such an assumption necessarily involves placing the blame for the existing deplorable and Christ dishonoring division and independency upon the Holy Spirit. Are these multi-centers seen in the professing church due to the work of the "Spirit of Truth" who came to glorify Christ? (John 16:13,1413Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13‑14)). Far be the thought!
He is gathering saints "in My name" (A. V.) or rather "unto My name" (N. T.). Are we to connect man's self-will in forming multi-named centers with that name? "Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you." (1 Cor. 1:1010Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10).) "Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor. 1:1313Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:13).) "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name." (Psa. 29:22Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2).) "Holy and reverend is His name." (Psa. 111:99He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. (Psalm 111:9).) Is it that Name or the power of the Holy Spirit that divides God's people and acts on their hearts to bring them together in independent groups? Does the Lord sanction these companies by His presence in the midst? Can the saints meet in schism and yet find scriptural warrant for a claim that the Holy Spirit has gathered them unto the name of the Lord Jesus? Is it not true that some other name or object than Himself has separated them from their brethren? Let every believer ask himself in the presence of God where he stands, for I believe that it is trifling with the truth of God to attach the name and authority of the Lord Jesus to these schismatic companies. "He that gathereth not with Me scattereth" (Luke 11:2323He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. (Luke 11:23)). There may be gathering but if not "with Me", it is scattering.
"Then there shall be a place (Mark, it is one only) which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there: thither shall ye bring all that I command you, your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the Lord. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest. But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings and there thou shalt do all that I command thee." (Deut. 12:11, 13, 1411Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the Lord: (Deuteronomy 12:11)
13Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: 14But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee. (Deuteronomy 12:13‑14)
). Comparing the quoted scriptures with Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20), can it be maintained that these diverse companies are of the Holy Spirit's gathering and that the presence of the Lord is found among them approving all? Is it not alone, in "the place" which He chooses that He gathers and not "places."
Let us turn to Luke 22:7-137Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. 8And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. 9And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? 10And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. 11And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? 12And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. 13And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. (Luke 22:7‑13). Here we find the Lord sending two of His disciples to prepare the passover,-that which pointed forward to Christ's death, to which the Lord's Supper points backward. The question is asked, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare?" And He said unto them, "Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water: follow him into the house where he entereth in." (Verse 10). Here we discern the Holy Spirit again in the man carrying the pitcher of water for he clearly represents the Spirit in suited activity, and that which marks His guidance, the "written word" of God. (For water in Scripture is repeatedly used as a type of God's Word.) The disciples are directed by the word of the Lord to follow the "man" where he enters. He leads to a definite place of meeting, one which the Lord sanctions and where He promises to meet His own, "there" He says, "make ready" (verse 12). And note that they are to ask the goodman of the house "Where is the guest chamber?" and not merely "Where is a guest chamber?"The Lord has only "the guest chamber" for His appointed place and that of His choosing.
It may be said, "I can see that the denominations have missed the directions of scripture in these respects, but it is not clear that such may be equally true of the divided companies of those who profess in much greater responsibility to be gathered to the Lord's name alone." Prayerful and subject consideration of the word of God, particularly as to the passages I have referred to will, I trust, make it plain that it may be just as true of those professing to be so gathered as it is of any other company of professing Christians. The various companies which, regardless of their claims cannot establish their charter from Scripture, are just as much of man's work and will as the denominational bodies. To assert that they all are gathered by the power of the Holy Spirit would put the blame of division upon Him who caused the Apostle Paul to write, "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them," (Rom. 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)) or "turn away from them." ( New Trans.).
It may be deemed charitable or broad minded to hold that all these believers are so gathered, to the "Name above every name", but in reality, it is, tested by the infallible Word, indifference to the name of Christ. It may be thought that to assert that one company only may be truly gathered in accordance with Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20) is a pharisaical presumption, but is this not evidently the teaching of scripture?
To say that all are so gathered leads to indifference to the claims of Christ as to the ground of His people's gathering during His absence and as to whether or not we are truly gathered to His name.
It may be asked, "How am I to know which, if any, saints of God are truly so gathered in this day? How am I to find the "guest chamber"? I answer, "By following the man with the pitcher of water and asking the goodman of the house:"`If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering:'(James 1:5,65If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (James 1:5‑6)). The place or the path is one which no natural intelligence can discover though it be keen as the eye of the vulture; nature can neither find it nor walk in it, though it have the strength of the "young lion." It is a path which faith alone can find; "wisdom and understanding" from God are necessary. "And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil is understanding." (Job 28:2828And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)). "The light of the body is the eye, therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light." (Luke 11:3434The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34)). But the eye is not single if looking upon and guided by man, no matter how trustworthy or intelligent in the truth of God, one's natural kindred, friendships or activities may be. Christ said, speaking to the Jews, "If any one desire to practice His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine." (John 7:1717If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17) New Trans.).Do you desire to practice His will? Let us give earnest heed to His word spoken by the apostle Barnabas who "exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide with the Lord." (Acts 11:2323Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. (Acts 11:23) New Trans.).
Quench not the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:2020Despise not prophesyings. (1 Thessalonians 5:20)) who does the gathering and "prove all things, hold fast the right."(1 Thess. 5:2121Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) New Trans.). This proving and holding fast may be disagreeable to the fleshly or carnal mind, but is the Lord not worthy to be sought?
Canst thou say, "Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Psa. 119:129,130129PE. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. 130The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. (Psalm 119:129‑130).) God's Word abides, and furnishes light for every step. We still have His Word and His Spirit. What is needed then but to have hearts exercised in His presence, to seek the path of obedience according to that Word and under the guidance of His Spirit? "Where-fore be ye not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:1717Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17))
Are there no Christians near you whose hearts and minds have been exercised and have, by God's mercy, been gathered apart from all divisions of the professing church? Are there none who, weary of sectarianism and party names, have been gathered only to the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ? None who see that there is "One Body" to which all God's people belong and not the many groups which can be seen everywhere who deny it practically? None who are endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
If there be none such as we have described, then stand alone and be much with God in secret. Peradventure, He will soon give you the fellowship of another of His children and then you can look up together for guidance. "The meek will He guide in judgment and the meek will He teach His way." (Psa. 25:99The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. (Psalm 25:9)). And forget not, that where two or three are gathered unto His name, be it in a kitchen or a barn, there He is in the midst of them.
H.S.
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