God has a purpose for the assembly of the righteous. For one thing, it is more of a spiritual necessity than a legal requirement. If you gather with fellow believers out of a sense of obligation, you are gathering for the wrong reason. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" (Heb. 10:25) is more an exhortation than a commandment--and there is a difference. A commandment presumes a fundamental tendency to draw back from God. An exhortation postulates a primary inclination to Him. In the first, people are alienated, in the second, they have been reconciled. This is a critical distinction.

In salvation, a transformation takes place that alters the approach to the transformed. This is indicated by a marvelous Pauline expression. When dealing with those living beneath their privileges as the sons of God, he verbalized confidence in their ability to recover and progress. " . . . having confidence in you all . . . " (2 Cor. 2:3). "I rejoice, that in everything I have confidence in you" (2 Cor. 7:16). " . . . because of great confidence in you" (2 Cor. 8:22). "And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you . . . " (2 Thess. 3:4). "Having confidence in your obedience . . . " (Philemon 21). "For I am confident of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:6). When people are "in Christ," this type of confidence is warranted. Now what appears as a harsh commandment becomes a strong appeal to the "new man," resident in every believer.

The assembly is a place where Christ ministers in a special way. "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16). While this ministration is not confined to the assembly, it is concentrated there. Working through the various members of His body, spiritual growth is realized at the personal and collective levels. This is why Jesus is in our gatherings. With this in mind, recall His wonderful promises: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). It is truly Christ, "the Head" that causes the "joints and bands" of the body to emanate qualities and expressions that minister "nourishment" to the body, thereby producing growth (Col. 2:19). There is no substitute for this appointed means of nourishment.