Something happens when we gather in one place ‘as the church’ (as Paul frequently expresses it). In a way that happens nowhere else and at no other time the world is seen with GOD as the throbbing center and Lord over all that is. His Holy Son is proclaimed to be the gallant young Knight of God who fought with and conquered the predatory powers, Sin and Death and the rulers of the darkness that make themselves real and present through the nations and the Satan-serving power-wielders who are also the captives of these invisible powers. With one heart, mind and voice we announce this truth to one another: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”
It matters not that we don’t feel the pulsing truth of this each time we meet–it only matters that we genuinely believe it because we ‘Live’ by faith and not by sight, sound or feeling.
When Paul lived, suffered, wrote and preached to establish and mature ‘assemblies of Christ’ this is who he had in mind. He spoke, of course, to such congregations about the specific behaviors in mortal life that become “congregations of Christ” (that is, the indwelling Christ who takes congregational form, making Himself present in His People–Rom. 16:16). And when needed he confronted and exposed heresies and issues that created serious pastoral problems. Still, it is to the ‘People of God;’ God’s ‘nation’ that he writes. When Balam finally purposes to speak God’s identifying truth about Israel (Num. 23:8), this is what we hear of the tribes poised down in the valley of Moab:
From the top of the crags I see him
From the hills I gaze down on him
Look! A nation that abides alone
A people not numbered among the nations
It matters profoundly that those called by their Lord and Master to minister the Word of God to this ‘called- out-of-the ‘world’ nation “fully carry out their ministry.” This assembly that sits before the minister as he rises to speak or sits to write is not a number of free-standing persons that happens to share similar convictions. Paul (without malice or mockery) differentiates them from Jews and Greeks (non-Jews) and calls them ‘the Church of God’ (1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32). Once more this is a nation, the ‘end time’ people who in Christ—only in Christ and by faith in Him—are a new creation; a People ‘not of the world’ yet not taken out of it. In it because their Lord wants them in it as He was in it (John 17:14-19) to show forth the excellences of GOD, the ONLY GOD, the ONE TRUE GOD who created and called them.
It is these people to whom Paul writes 1 COR. 11; to an assembly where many were mired in and being conned by idolatry as were father and mother Adam and Eve. (More on that later, God enabling).
Paul, the personally chosen teacher for the Lord Jesus, writes to us who right now who watch or (for many who are experiencing) in unbelief the worship of the gods and goddesses; he vicious and wilderness-creating Sekhmet, the war-mongering Mars, the self-adoring Narcissus or Aesculapius, the god of healing. And given some relief we will go back to worshiping ourselves in whom these gods live and move and have their being.