AKING a study of the early church is very
worthwhile and absorbing. And as we further
pursue this series of articles involving the word
"when," we find this word repeatedly used in
connection with the church coming together. A
decided pattern of time and practice unfolds before
Therefore, with our minds fixed upon this word,
let us enter into a study that should prove both
practical and informative. Then, upon learning the
truth of what is taught, let us be diligent to put it
I. THEY WERE COMING TOGETHER
The brethren in the early church not only were a
community of believers, they were a community of
believers that assembled together. The apostle Paul
in his I Corinthian letter makes several references
l "For first of all, when ye come together in the
church, I hear that there be divisions among you;
and I partly believe it" (I Corinthians 11:18).
l "When ye come together therefore into one
place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper" (I Corin-
thians 11:20; more will be said about this later).
l "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 unbeliev-
ers, will they not say that ye are mad?" (I Corinthi-
l "How is it then, brethren? When ye come to-
gether, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doc-
trine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an in-
terpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying" (I Corinthians 14:26).
Notice the "when" in these references. It is
plainly implied that they were coming together as
an ordinary and usual practice (as they did all of the
time as Christians), although there may have been
some problems and abuses in the Corinthian as-
sembly which needed correcting.
While upon this earth the Lord had said, "For
where two or three are gathered together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew
18:20). It is of interest to note what Paul wrote in I
Corinthians 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the tem-
ple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in
you?" The "ye" in this verse is plural. God was dwell- ing in them collectively. One manifestation of this
was when they assembled together.
The writer of Hebrews admonished, "Let us hold
fast the profession of our faith without wavering:
(for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider
one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as the manner of some is; but exhorting one an-
other; and so much the more, as ye see the day ap-
proaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25). The book of Acts
records the early church coming together regularly
and at different times under different circum-
stances. James 2:1 and following speaks about visi-
tors coming into the assembly of Christians and how
they are to be treated.
So, it is quite apparent that the believers were
regularly meeting together in public assembly as
Christians. The word "when," as well as the other
Scriptures, makes this evident.
II. WHEN THEY WERE COMING TOGETHER
The First Day of the Week
Let us examine Hebrews 10:25 a little more
closely where the writer said, "Not forsaking the as-
sembling of ourselves together, as the manner of
some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the
more, as ye see the day approaching." In their dili-
gence to be found faithful, they were to exhort one
another to not forsake the assembly. This was to be
done in view of them seeing "the day approaching."
What does "the day approaching" mean?
Different possibilities have been presented as to
what day this is. (1) Some have suggested the sec-
ond coming of Christ. (2) Others point toward the
destruction of Jerusalem 70 A.D. (3) Then others
strongly say it must mean the Lord's day, the first
day of the week.
Perhaps in a sense all of these possibilities could
be true, but the Lord's day (the first day of the week) is the most basic in our consideration. Other Scrip-
tures bear this out.
The early church did make a practice of assem-
bling on the first day of the week. Acts 20:7 reads,
"And upon the first day of the week, when the disci-
ples came together to break bread, Paul preached
unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and con-
tinued his speech until midnight." As already
pointed out, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth
about "when" they came together. Then specifically
in I Corinthians 16:2, he said, "Upon the first day of
the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as
God hath prospered him¼"
The first day of the week was nothing new with
these Christians as this day had been the center of
focus since the beginning of the church. In Acts 2:42
we can find the worship of the church on the day it
was established, the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).
What day was the day of Pentecost? It was a Jewish
holiday that fell upon the first day of the week
(Seven Sabbaths followed the Passover, and the
next day after the seventh Sabbath was Pentecost,
meaning 50th day¾Leviticus 23:15,16). The first
day of the week also was made great because it was
tied in with the resurrection of Christ (Mark 16:9;
John 20: 1,19,26; Psalms 118:22-24; Acts 4:10-12).
What a day for Christians perpetually to assemble!
And with the Psalmist exclaim, "This is the day
which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be
glad in it."
Other Times of Meeting
Yes, the early church met on the first day of the
week, the Lord's day, but that was not the only time
they came together.
In the early days of its initiation, the church met
on a daily basis. Those were exciting days. "And
they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house, did eat
their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church daily such as
should be [were being] saved" (Acts 2:46,47). The
language of Acts 11:26 may indicate that this expe-
rience was repeated in the first Gentile church in
the early days of its inception, "And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with
the church, and taught much people. And the disci-
ples were called Christians first in Antioch." In
times of gospel meetings and revival the modern
church has practiced meeting on a protracted basis.
How wonderful when there is the enthusiasm and
spiritual appetite for extended periods of coming to-
We find the Jerusalem church coming together
for a prayer meeting in Acts 4:23-31. Again we find
the church in a prayer meeting in Acts 12. James
had been killed and Peter was imprisoned. We read,
"Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was
made without ceasing of the church unto God for
him" (12:5). We see the nature of the prayer meet-
ing. "Many were gathered together praying" in the
house of Mary the mother of John Mark (12:12).
Prayer meetings of the church, whether on a set ba-
sis or a called basis, are always in order. The "when"
may be on a Wednesday night or other times.
The "when" in reference to the meeting of the
church can also be seen in Acts 15. Here they had a
special called meeting in the Jerusalem church to
deal with specific problems (15:4f). Likewise meet-
ings were called among the Gentile churches to read
the special communiqué from the Jerusalem church
Therefore, all things considered, we conclude that
the early church met regularly upon the first day of
every week and at other times when the leadership
esteemed it needful and profitable for all concerned.
Thus, with the Hebrew writer, we admonish you to
not forsake the assembling of your-selves together
(as the manner of some still is). Be found faithful.
III. WHY THEY WERE COMING TOGETHER
In the other considerations we have somewhat
touched upon why the early church came together.
But now let us more specifically look at it. Worship
is involved. Edification is involved. With Christians
worship is a way of life (Romans 12:1,2; James 1:27),
but it is also something more specific having to do
with time and place. They assembled for this pur-
pose, and at the very center of their worship was
Christ. Worship and edification go together.
The Lord's Supper
The early church met for the express purpose of
partaking of the Lord's supper on the "first day of
the week" (and every week has a first day). As al-
ready noticed, Acts 20:7 states, "And upon the first
day of the week, when the disciples came together
to break bread, Paul preached unto them¼" The
"when" indicates this was their regular practice. The
record could have said that they met to hear the
apostle Paul preach, but that is not what it says. Al-
though on the surface it may sound just the oppo-
site, the weekly observance of the Lord's supper is
taught in I Corinthians 11:20, "When ye come to-
gether therefore into one place, this is not to eat the
Lord's supper." Read the rest of the chapter to see
what is meant. They were making a regular meal,
bordering on the riotous, out of the Lord's supper.
That is not what the Lord's supper is all about, nor
why they were supposed to be coming together, but
it should have been for a very solemn and sacred
religious observance (not just to "eat" the Lord's
supper). Aside from the Bible, it is a matter of public
record that the Lord's supper was observed every
Lord's day by the church in the early centuries. And
New Testament Christians will reverently and lov-
ingly do the same today.
Acts 2:42 contains many things that were en-
gaged in by followers of Christ as they met upon the
first day of the week. "And they continued stedfastly
in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in
breaking of bread, and in prayers." Teaching and
learning the apostles' doctrine, fellowship (which
includes giving and sharing, Philippians 1:3-5; 4:15-
18; I Corinthians 16:2), the Lord's supper, and pray-
ing are all very important. Each category deserves
our special study and care. As we can see, worship
and edification are interwoven.
I Corinthians 14:26
Although some of the things mentioned in I Cor-
inthians 14:26 have to do with the passing charis-
matic gifts that were much in evidence in the early
church, we can see what they did when they came
together. "How is it then, brethren? When ye come
together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doc-
trine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an in-
terpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
Abiding principles involving the assembly can be
seen here in statements like, "Let all things be done
unto edifying." Then later in this chapter (14:40),
"Let all things be done decently and in order."
To Hear God's Word
Some interesting and informative Scripture is
found in I Timothy 4:13-16. It starts out by saying
(Paul to Timothy), "Till I come, give attendance to
reading, to exhortation, to doctrine [teaching]¼"
The word "reading" here has reference to the public
reading of God's Word (then the exhorting and the
teaching are tied in with it). Much of the New Tes-
tament constitutes letters that were to be read to
assembled churches. Paul said in Colossians 4:16,
"And when this epistle is read among you, cause
that it be read also in the church of the Laodi-
ceans¼" Notice I Thessalonians 5:27. How that the
reading, preaching, and teaching of God's Word is
needed today. This is what will build our souls up
and give us a home in heaven (Acts 20:32). But
some churches are bored by this and prefer to come
together for other reasons.
This little article is not an extensive treatment of
this subject, but the church came together at other
times and for various reasons. Protracted meetings
for preaching and teaching have already been
named. Besides the prayers at the regular assem-
blies, there were special prayer meetings (Acts 4:23-
31; 12:4-25). The church met specifically to address
church problems (Acts 15), as well as dealing with
problems when they regularly met (I Corinthians
5:4,5). The truth of I Corinthians 14:26 ("Let all
things be done unto edifying") and 14:40 ("Let all
things be done decently and in order") governed
Considering the word "when" involving the as-
sembly of the church has led us down some interest-
ing paths. From it we have concluded that the early
church came together as a regular practice. That led
us into identifying the "when." They met on the first
day of the week and at other appointed times as was
In view of their divinely established practice of
assembly, the writer of Hebrews admonished, "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 approach-
ing" (Hebrews 10:25).
Yes, we need the Lord. We need one another. Let
us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together
in these days of the church. To forsake the assembly
is to forsake Christ and the strength and fellowship
much needed in these evil times.
Re-printed from Sword & Staff March 1994
Email for subscription details to Sword & Staff:-
Http://web.infoave.net/~jgibbons/ The Sword And Staff VOLUME 32 — 1994 — NUMBER 3
By JAMES E. GIBBONS
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Mt. Airy, N.C. 27030 U.S.A.