Let us start with a biblical prototype for believer interaction – “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” Ephesians 5:18-19.
Notice that there is no indication at all that this is culturally or time period relative. That is, it is a time independent prototype.
Now, continuing, we also have method. As we gather – ” Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
And next, motivation to gather regularly – “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.
So proto-typically, we have believers gathering together regularly to study and speak of the Word and of the Lord, thankfully (and by implication humbly) rejoicing in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Further, the disciples documented in Scripture modeled this in their behaviour once they were on their own, after Pentecost – ” They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
And again ” Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,” Acts 2:46. It is also significant to note the “Day by day continuing”. This was not something occurring only periodically, be that weekly or monthly. It was a daily mode of living the believing life.
Putting this all together, what do we have and what happens when we follow this paradigm in our day? First we should take note that, although church is vitally important, this does not sound anything like a church service anywhere that I know of, which is interesting in itself.
A key here is that the focus and feeling is centered around a humble thankfulness in salvation, and the upon the Lord, through the primary means he specified, scripture. This may have taken several forms and expressions, but the focus was on Him and His Word.
It is also edifying to note what the focus was not on. It was not on ‘activities’ outside of praise, worship and directly associated fellowship. It was not on the work of the assembly in the community. Not that this work did not exist or was not important, but it played no apparent part in the assembling. It was external to it. For example, there was no focus on the men who were helping the widows. In fact, it appears from their appointment elsewhere that they were appointed so that their work would not be disruptive to the gathering in the Lord’s name.
The sole reason for the beloved to gather was to fellowship in rejoicing in the Lord and His work of creating His people. All the activities were an expression of that rejoicing. And this was a daily way of life, which would result in that mindset overshadowing all other activities.
One might say that in consideration of what the Lord has done, rejoicing in Him in a way that eclipses all else would seem only appropriate to believers. But here we see it modeled explicitly.
So, how about us in the 21st century? I don’t see that anything has changed. Yes, life has become cluttered with countless new distractions of the world, and that same world would have us believe that this clutter is of over-riding importance. Remember who the world represents and to whose ends this worldly emphasis contributes – none other than the Prince of the Air (Ephesians 2:2). Further, the Scriptures have not changed. There has not been any new revelation that changes these prototypes as given in the existing canon.
The result is that we are to follow suit in our focus. And having said that, I would atest that when we actually manage it, which as sinners is often sporadic at best, the experience is wonderful, humbling and convicting. It mirrors David in Psalm 139:6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.” The humble thankfulness and joy of gathering with other believers to give thanks and rejoice in the Lord in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is just too wonderful for us to fully take in.
To be awestruck is the only appropriate response. T’would that it were our only way of life…