Ed Alexander - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Convention - Sunday Morning, 2016

I Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, 'Take eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me.' And after the same manner also, He took the cup, when He had supped saying, 'This cup is the New Testament in My blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.'” If we weren’t here at convention today, most of us would be in our home sitting in a group with the bread and with the wine in the middle of the meeting room. The last little while I have finally woken up to realise that these things are more than just a custom, they are real. I really like what Paul said, "As often as you do this eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come." We know the Lord has not come yet. Every time we have our little meeting around those emblems, we are expressing to each other and to the world that we believe in the Lord’s death and the Lord’s resurrection. We believe everything that goes with that.

I would like to speak about our Sunday morning meeting and why we do what we do. I suspect all of you have had the same experiences that I have had. My grandparents professed before my mother was born and my father’s parents professed when he was 15 years old. Basically, both my parents were raised in God-fearing homes. They were professing when they were married, so we children were raised in a God-fearing home. The things we do we have kept them because we believe they are right and that is good but it is not enough. There are many people in the world that do a lot of good things and have a lot of traditions and things they do religiously because they believe they are right.

It has been a wonderful conformation to me and all through the scripture especially the New Testament and what we do in light of what the scripture says. I love it because it proves what we do is what the scripture says and that is what the spirit leads us to do. Especially for you who are younger, I just want you to understand the things we do are not just tradition, they are scriptural of what was established in what Jesus established and what Jesus disciples established after Jesus was taken from them. It is very interesting to me that there are things that are doctrine and things that are traditional and just because it is traditional, it does not mean it is wrong. It means it is a comfortable way to comply with what we have been taught. I was interested to find out the other night that you stand to pray because back home we do not do that, and it does not mean that you’re wrong and we are right and it does mean you’re right and we are wrong and that is just a custom and we have traditions so we know what comes next.

There are four parts to a Sunday morning meeting and those four parts are singing, praying, prophesying or taking part, and the communion which is the bread and wine. There is nothing in the scripture that tells us, and there is nothing that tells us we need to sing a hymn to start with and we have to pray immediately after singing and singing another hymn and then have testimonies and then have the bread and wine and sing another hymn. We could think how confusing it would be if every meeting you went to was conducted differently. The way we conduct our meeting is pretty much worldwide and that tells me the spirit has been working with us to do that. The Bible does not say we have to do it that way. The reason I am saying this is because a friend of mine had a letter from a young man, a young man that is spent some time in the work and is not in the work right now. He is struggling spiritually and he questioned many of the things that we do and he doesn’t want to do this. The reason he is struggling, because he is rebelling and may be it is not doctrine and it does not have to be done this way, but it is the most practical way to do it. Rebels are never happy. Something we don’t understand when we are a rebel, the reason for our unhappiness is very seldom what we are rebelling against. The reason for our unhappiness is what is within us, we don’t rebel because of what we don’t like, and we rebel because we are not willing to submit.

In Luke 22, it possibly was not a Sunday but a Wednesday night meeting that Jesus had with His disciples concerning the breaking of the bread and really we can say that was the first true New Testament fellowship meeting and it was the last true Passover and that night was the point the old Testament Passover and the New Testament fellowship meeting intercepted. Jesus said in that meeting, "This do in remembrance of Me." Acts 2 and this was the day of Pentecost 50 days after the Sabbath following the Passover. 50 days is seven weeks plus one day this day of Pentecost was roughly our little less than two months. Acts 2:41-42, “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” Verses 46-47, “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Praising God and having favour with all people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

I think this would be one of the clearest definitions we have in the New Testament of the difference between a gospel meeting and a fellowship meeting. It says these were recent converts and is says there were 3,000 souls added to the Church in one day. Just think of the job the apostles had even establishing meetings. Homes were not large and may be 20 people in each meeting and that is 150 homes had to be established and 150 elders to be chosen. It says they continued in the temple daily and that is where the disciples taught and it was not a fellowship meeting and they did not break bread. It says they were breaking bread from house to house and this was about 2½ to 3 months after Jesus had ascended into heaven. It was clearly established that the bread and the cup were broken in the homes. They were having gospel meetings if you could call them that every day in the temple and all the new converts would gather together in the temple to hear the Gospel and they were open-air gospel meetings. We read about two chapters later 5,000 more made their choice and that was 8000 which is 400 homes and 400 elders to choose. They continued the breaking of the bread from house to house.

Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” This is about 20 to 30 years after the first chapter of Acts. Have you ever been in a meeting that continued to midnight? This was not the Sunday morning meeting and remember the Jewish day began at sunset and it went through the night into the next sunset. So their meetings would have been what we call Saturday evening; to them, it was the beginning of Sunday. They were not to travel very much on the Sabbath and Sunday came and they got ready for the meeting and depending on the time of the year it would be about 7 or 8 o’clock at night when they had the meeting. So it is not quite so amazing it lasted to midnight, but still it was a long meeting. So it was about 20 or 30 years later that the disciples gathered together to break bread.

What I would like to talk about the four parts of the meeting and what they mean and what they can do for us. I Corinthians 11:17, “Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.” Have you ever had that experience? Have you ever been in a Sunday morning meeting and going away and feeling, "I am worse off now than when I went to the meeting?" I can say there is only been one time in my life that I have ever had that feeling. In a little town in a state where I laboured and there was only three families that met together in that town. Two of the families were not speaking to each other and one of those families had the Sunday morning meeting in their home. I was in the field and for some reason, I was there by myself and I went to the meeting with the family that was not involved in the dispute and it was terrible. The woman of the house was more or less staring daggers to the people with whom they were having a problem. The people they were having a problem with were not doing much better. The people I went with were kind of like you’re in a middle of the war and you were dodging the bullets. So we got through the meeting and we got back in the car and were driving away and I said, "That is the worst meeting I have been to in my life." They said, "That is the best one we have had for quite a while." Even though it was the best, they were still meeting together for the worst because there were unsolved issues in the meeting which made it impossible for them to be in harmony.

Now I will start talking about singing. Why is that that we start all our meetings with a hymn? A few years ago I was thinking about this and suddenly, it became very clear. When we sit down and we are very quiet before the meeting starts and the part of the meeting is to be quiet and respectful. You have your thoughts and I have my thoughts and you may be thinking about the things that happened during the week and everyone has their own thoughts. A hymn is chosen and suddenly, all our thoughts are bought together. There is a reason why we do music, music is composed of two things. Time and tone or a time and a pitch. In order to sing in harmony we have to sing in time and in tone.

There is a lot of submission in singing. A person has been asked to lead the singing and we need to submit to the person leading the singing and we sing with them in tune as much is possible and in time. What that does is it brings us more in harmony together. Here we have come from all different walks of life and all different experiences and a hymn is given out and we are all bought into harmony together into one thought. Someone showed me a video recently of a hymn being played with 500 instruments. The conductor was conducting from a screen. The effect on me was the children, because the harmony was just incredible, just beautiful. I could not hear one single instrument out of time or out of tune because they were focusing on the conductor.

I had this beautiful picture in my mind and it is in Revelations 5:9-12, “And they sung a new song, saying, 'Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.' And I beheld and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing.'” Can you imagine being part of this group which is tens of tens of thousands? 100% on time and in tune and that is what awaits us in heaven and that is a little view of what awaits us in heaven. We may not be able to sing on earth and the song sung in heaven does not rely on our natural singing ability on earth. It depends on our submission, the more submitted we are the more in harmony we are going to be with that song in heaven. God is wanting to teach us and that is to be willing to submit and be in harmony together while on earth.

Then there is a second part and that is prayer. Prayer in a meeting should not be long. I was reading of some of the prayers we read of in the Bible that were in a meeting or a gathering. Most of them were long and then I realised only one person prayed. In our meetings, brevity is consideration and we do not have to go all the way around the world. One thing about prayer and this is what it should be when we pray, it should be an audible conversation between us and God. We are not praying to impress those around us. Those in the meeting have the privilege of hearing us converse with God and we have the privilege of hearing them converse with God and pour out their heart to God.

The third part is prophesying and that is used mostly in the scripture or we say taking part or testifying. I Corinthians 11-14 are all to do with the Sunday morning meeting and our relationship if the church. Chapter 11 talks about the breaking of the bread and chapter 14 speaks about prophesying or taking part. I Corinthians 14:2-3 “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men but unto God; for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification and exhortation and comfort.” In these two chapters, there are three things should be uppermost in our mind when we take part in a meeting. Edification simply means to build up. Exhortation simply means to encourage and we know what comfort means. When we speak in the meeting, we could speak to build up an others faith, we should encourage them to continue and to comfort them in their struggles.

Back in the Old Testament, Samson had a battle with a lion, the lion met him in the way and Sampson killed the lion and Sampson did not say anything. Time went by and one day, he went by the same place and it says there was the carcass of the lion but I would imagine it may have only been the skeleton and a swarm of bees had taken up residence there and there was honey there. So Sampson took the honey and went on his way and met his parents and shared with them the honey. We do not read about him telling them about the battle. If I had had a battle with the lion on the way and had killed the lion with my bare hands, the whole world would have known. But Sampson didn’t. We don’t have to tell our struggle in the Sunday morning meeting, it is better not to tell our struggles and a lot of the times it is not really profitable. If we get victory, we can always share the sweetness of our struggle and that is profitable.

Now the last thing is the bread and the wine. The bread speaks of the life and testimony of Jesus and you can find that in John 6. Jesus said when He gave the bread and the cup, "This is My body which has been given for you." That incorporates all of His teachings, all of His life, all of His actions the bread of life. Jesus said in John 6, "I am the bread of life." When Jesus gave them the cup, He said, "This cup is the New Testament in My blood which is shed for you." I Peter 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; grace unto you, and peace be multiplied.” I think we could say the body of Jesus represents the writing of the covenant, and the blood of Jesus represents the sealing of the covenant.

When Moses gave the law there were probably 2 to 3 million people and God gave them a covenant with the Jewish people which was the Law of Moses. Moses read it and they said, "All that is written in that law, we will do." They were saying, "We will sign the covenant or the agreement." The way they signed it was they took and killed lambs and they collected the blood in basins and they went among the people and they sprinkled them with the blood. That was a sign of the committing to the covenant. So today, how can we sign the new covenant? We have the new covenant in the life and teaching of Jesus and we sign it by claiming His blood.

When we ask for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, there is only one way we can have forgiveness through the blood of Jesus and that is, if we have already made the choice to come under the covenant. The world wants to claim the blood of Jesus without the covenant, but they cannot. There was an old brother that used to tell us, "You don’t get the benefits unless you work for the company." We don’t get the benefits of the blood of Jesus unless we are willing for the covenant. Just remember and especially you young people, because I struggled with this, when we profess we are saying, "I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price by the blood of Jesus." That is what it means when we take part in the Emblems and I am accepting, "In order to receive forgiveness in the blood of Jesus, I must accept I am not my own. My own life is not mine to direct." When we accept that, we come into the richness and the fellowship of Christ. Amen.