Tomm Stewart | The Voice of Zion October 2018 --
Both “home” and “Zion” are familiar and comforting words to believers. This has always been evident in God’s kingdom. Millennia ago Joshua said of his home and family, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). In this way Joshua made the same connection to home and Zion as God’s children do today. Initially, the Holy Spirit kindles faith in an individual through the living gospel. Jesus says, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit guides life in the Christian home, where the gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and blood blesses and carries faulty yet pardoned sinners in mutual grace, love and truth.
The Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed). This is a function of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers in our homes and local congregations. The Holy Spirit also works in this way in the mutual congregation, which includes all believers everywhere and crosses all human boundaries, imagined or actual. God’s love—the love of Christ—joins believers together in one faith, one hope, one God (Eph. 4) and in one love. Jesus says, “For by this shall men know that ye are my disciples in that ye have love one for another” (John 13:35).
The congregation has the God-given duty to take care of the office of the keys here on earth. Believers use God’s Word, communion, prayer and mutual fellowship to remain in and become strengthened in faith. We support and encourage one another, advise one another and rebuke one another with loving instruction (2 Tim. 4:2, 1 Thess. 5:14). Faith matters are cared for in the fellowship of the congregation. If one member suffers, all the other members suffer too. In the same way, one’s joy is shared joy (1 Cor. 12:26). The mind of Christ and atmosphere of peace are brought about by the love of God. Advice given in love is not meant to demand, but rather to help the child of God in his or her battle against the power of sin.
Christ and the congregation are inseparable. Therefore, a congregation member can’t live differently than what the congregation teaches. When Christ is with His congregation, the congregation endeavors in one faith, one doctrine and one hope. Christ is the way and the truth and the life. The congregation of God holds fast to God’s Word and Christ’s gospel of the forgiveness of sins.
Thus we see the role of our home and mutual congregations in Christianity. According to God’s Word these matters never alter nor pass away with changing times: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). In a spiritual sense we see God’s intentions for all believers. Jesus expressed it very simply, “Follow me” (e.g. Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34). He also says, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Just as we share roles and responsibilities in our own homes, so God also arranges for the orderly functioning of His congregation. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). In our local congregations and mutual Zion, in obedience of faith we are able to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It helps us on our journey to personally hear and believe the good tidings of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. We are also supported through gifts God bestows on those who serve the congregation, upbuild His kingdom, offer salvation to undying souls by preaching the gospel and call those without living faith to repentance.
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, local congregations and our mutual Zion appoint servants to help in the work of God’s kingdom quite the same way Jesus appointed disciples. It is so good and so important that services are arranged and that we have opportunities to hear God’s Word and enjoy fellowship and activities with other believers “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). We are blessed with this in our own homes, in our home congregations and in unity with our mutual Zion. “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).