A Multi-Gifted Body

Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth gives us some unique insights into the reasons why the church met and the activities that took place when they did.

"When you come together...", writes the apostle, "everyone has a...." He then lists a sample of the different gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence that members of the community might exercise.

Here is the starting point for answering the question, "Why meet?" The church in Corinth met in order to build itself up in God through (a) the sharing of its life together and (b) the exercise by its members of its God-given gifts as guided by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of all.

A shorter definition of this sentence might be to say that the reason the church gathered was for fellowship and edification.

A study of the word "worship" in the New Testament will reveal that it is never used as a word to describe the focus of the local church's meetings. (If you don't have a free online concordance, Bible Gateway is a good one to get you started.) That's not to say that the early church never sang praise or worship songs - far from it. But it appears that this was not the focus of their gatherings.

Perhaps more controversially, it's also difficult to argue that the primitive churches met in order to hear preaching. It's hard to write a sentence like that without appearing to endorse the anti-doctrinal elements that are rife in the "new church" or "emerging church" movements. For the record, I do not endorse this anti-doctrinal emphasis, believing it is dishonoring of God's word and that it also produces weak Christians. My point is simply that, while teaching played a prominent part in the meetings of the early churches, it is difficult to argue that this was the essential reason why they gathered.

Instead, Paul's letter paints a picture of a multi-membered body, each member filled with the Holy Spirit, coming together to share their common life in God and build up each other through using the gifts God had given them. In this sense, they were a charismatic church. In fact, the term is tautologous: there is no concept in the pages of the New Testament of any kind of church that did not function on the basis of the giftedness of its members.

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