How does the Spirit guide a meeting?

THE SPIRIT’S GUIDANCE

Is the Breaking of Bread meeting open for ministry, etc., under the Spirit’s guidance, in a way which would not equally apply to a Conference, a Gospel meeting or a Prayer meeting?

I certainly think it is; but in order to understand why, it is necessary to apprehend the special character attaching to meetings of different kinds. Each has in effect its special character, which predominates, though there is a certain latitude, and other things may have their place up to a point. Thus a Gospel meeting is for the preaching of the good news to sinners; that should characterise the meeting, though a short word to believers present may sometimes be in place and cannot be forbidden. A teaching meeting is for teaching the truth of God to believers, and need not be taken up too much with long prayers and hymn singing; an exhortation meeting is for exhortation, also to believers. In these cases it is a question of the exercise of gift manward. All are not evangelists or teachers; all are not called to exhort, etc. “He gave some, evangelists, some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11); and in Romans 12:6 we are reminded that “we have gifts differing according to the grace given,” either for prophesying (a foundation gift that no longer exists) or for ministry of various kinds—teaching, exhortation, etc. To apply the principle of equality of opportunity to all in such cases is clearly to set on one side the Lordship of Christ, who has given gifts according to His own will. We may invite men known to be qualified to evangelise or teach to the more general meetings for teaching (wrongly called “conferences,” for rarely does anyone confer). Where there are several teachers present, unless some special brother has been invited to minister the Word, there may well be an opportunity for open ministry, not however to all present, but only to those known to possess the gifts needful for edification.

Too often what is called “the open platform” has been abused, either because of too much liberty granted by elder brethren convening the meetings, or because of too much liberty taken by brethren present, who are not truly qualified to teach, but who get up on the plea of “the liberty of the Spirit,” and waste valuable time by unedifying talk. Let those who are gifted to teach wait on their ministry, and consider their brethren. The liberty of the Spirit is not anybody’s liberty to do as they like, but for the Spirit to do as He wills and use whom He chooses. The breaking of bread meeting is quite different; it is not primarily for ministry, though there may be secondary opportunities for this, when the true object of the meeting is over, which is to “shew the Lord’s death” (thus remembering Him in the breaking of bread), and to worship the Father. The object of those present is not to receive instruction, but to obey the Lord’s command, and as priests to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. As all believers, by the fact of the new birth, are constituted priests, the meeting is left open for all present to worship the Father, whether silently or vocally.

In the 1 Corinthians 11:  passage there is not a hint of any arrangement of speakers for ministry, and much less of anyone to preside and, as clergyman, minister, or pastor, “administer the sacrament” or “dispense the elements.” The bread is “the bread which we break,” the cup is “the cup of blessing which we bless.” These are terms which make breaking the bread and giving thanks for the cup a general privilege, rather than an ecclesiastical monopoly. The same principle applies to a prayer-meeting. All may pray, the women silently (1 Corinthians  14:34), the men “everywhere lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8); that is, it is they who lead in prayer. How can a prayer-meeting be rightly anything but “open” for the Spirit’s guidance? He alone knows the state of each soul; He alone knows the particular needs, and can make known that need to each and give suitable words to express it. Accordingly, there is not a hint in 1 Timothy 2: of anyone presiding over or directing the prayer-meeting.

W.H.