“Why do we feel such a loss concerning not being together for Sunday worship?”
Since I have had a little more time to read, I’ve dived back into the book The Church of Christ, by James Bannerman. This book is the classic work on the church and especially Presbyterianism (983 pages). Bannerman wrote in 1869. I intend to post quotes from it here and there to help explain what we have as the corporate body of Christ and why not meeting together is antithetical to our theology. Bannerman writes,
“In the first place, the Church is spoken of as ‘the body of Christ,’ in a sense in which the words cannot be applied to the individual believer. (*) It cannot be said of any individual Christian, however richly endowed with spiritual gifts from the Saviour, that he is ‘the body of Christ.’ But in some sense, not the same with but similar to that in which the human nature of Christ was His body during His life on earth, can the Church, and not individuals, be said to be His body now. And just as the indwelling of the Son of God in the human nature of Christ richly endowed and gloriously exalted that nature with all spiritual graces and gifts and powers unknown to any other person, so the indwelling of Christ in His Church, in a way and manner unknown to individual believers, exalts and endows the Church with gifts and graces and powers which no Christian individually possesses. The Church is ‘the fulness of Him that filleth all and all.’**”
We learn from this doctrine:
- That corporately we see the nature of Christ through the whole body of Christ.
- As people use their gifts to build up one another, we experience Christ building us up through the gifting of His body.
- As people admonish, encourage, pray for, teach, and worship with one another, we experience the ministry of Christ among us through the graces poured out upon the church.
- As God acts through the worship, prayer, and obedience of His people collectively, we experience the power of Christ among us.
- When the body of Christ can’t come together, in a very real sense we are all weakened in our understanding and expression of and growth through the body of Christ.
- This explains one reason why people who do not belong to a local church find their growth stunted. It is in the body of Christ that we grow in the fruit of the Spirit or the image of Christ.
* Ephesians 1:23; 4:12; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18, 24; 3:15; I Cor. 12:12ff. 27.
** Ephesians 1:23; compare with Col. 1:19; Col. 2:9