19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. (1 Corinthians 11:17–19, NKJV)
The only other time in 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul is inspired to use the word translated “instructions” in verse 17 is in chapter 7:10, where it is translated “command.” The word carries the force of a message that is enjoined upon us, a charge given by the apostle. He was about to charge them with proper attitudes and conduct when they came together to worship. It had been reported to Paul that the worship assembly of the Corinthian church was marred by division. He would rebuke them, not praise them, for their factious conduct when they came together. (The simple and clear truth is that we must discard every practice that cannot be praised by an apostle.) Their divisions over class and wealth were disrupting and perverting their worship. Therefore, verse 19 does not endorse factions in a church, it explains the effect factions have on a church. Factions serve to identify genuine (true) disciples from those in error (which Paul will show in subsequent verses). Our assembled worship must be decent and orderly, characterized by unity in truth, not divisiveness and strife (1 Cor. 14:40; 1:10).
“Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.” (Psalm 111:1, NKJV)
The Lord has arranged assembled worship for Christians (1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 16:2). While worship is congregational, it is unquestionably individual. God seeks true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). The first day of the week is revealed as the day disciples of Jesus Christ congregate to worship God, each one lifting up praise and prayers to Jehovah with an undivided heart of devotion, honor and adoration. The day of worship is not to be forsaken, but the outcome of considering one another and stirring up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). All that is done in the worship assembly is for our spiritual edification – prayers, songs, the Lord’s Supper, giving, and preaching God’s word (1 Corinthians 14:26). View each Lord’s Day as a great opportunity to worship Almighty God and to drink deeply from the spiritual benefits He has arranged for you in the congregation of the upright.
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:17–18, NKJV)
It is disruptive and discouraging when Christians are not united in spirit, doctrine and practice as they “come together as a church.” Such was the state of affairs in the Corinthian church, and the apostle registered his protest. Clearly, God was not pleased with them. There is a clear and important lesson here for us: Sin prevents the true worship of God (Jno. 4:23-24). A local church nullifies its praise of God in assembled worship when brethren are divided against one another. Just because brethren assemble under one roof does not mean that church has Christ’s approval. Indeed, when sinful attitudes and actions exist in a local church, both true worship and effective edification are hindered. Therefore, it is essential that Christians solve personal disputes of sin among themselves so their worship is not impeded. It is necessary that truth, not error, defines our conduct when the church comes together. God has no praise for those who offer Him corrupt praise.