The Reading Meeting

When Christians Gather Together - The Reading MeetingThere is some interest in the “reading meeting” practiced in some assemblies of the Lord’s people. What is a reading meeting? is there Scriptural support for having such a meeting? How would we go about holding one?

Sometimes we refer to the reading meeting as the “Bible study” or the “Bible reading”. It’s an informal round-table discussion of a passage of Scripture. The reading meeting can be an excellent opportunity for teaching in the assembly: the very nature of a reading makes it easy to ask questions, offer corrections, and help one another understand difficult passages.

Of course we ought not consider any sort of meeting without considering what Scripture has to say about it. So let’s ask the most important question, “What does Scripture say?”


Why Do Christians Meet Together?


Scripture gives several reasons for the assembly to gather:

First, we meet together because the Lord is present in the assembly. The assembly is “a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22, JND). The Lord Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20, JND). We understand from the epistles that the Lord is with us individually (1 Corinthians 6:19-20): but the teaching of Scripture is clear that the assembly is a place where the Lord is present in an entirely different way. So there’s a sense where we go to the meetings to meet with the Lord.

Second, we meet together to eat the Lord’s Supper. This is taught remarkably in 1 Corinthians: “I do not praise, namely, that ye come together, not for the better, but for the worse… When ye come therefore together into one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-20 JND). The apostle writes to the Corinthians like this is a strange thing, that they’d gather not to eat the Lord’s Supper. And the story of Paul’s visit to Troas corroborates this: “the first day of the week, we being assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed to them, about to depart on the morrow. And he prolonged the discourse till midnight” (Acts 20:7 JND). Clearly the early Christians assembled the first day of the week, specifically “to break bread”.

Third, we meet together to edify one another. 1 Corinthians 14:2-5 says, “he that prophesies speaks to men in edification, and encouragement, and consolation. He that speaks with a tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the assembly” (JND). This is one reason we gather: to edify one another. What is edifying? To edify is to “build up”1. So we gather to build one another up. The idea here is not an ego boost: it’s to encourage one another and help one another grow.

There are other reasons to gather, but three are sufficient for our present purpose. We might consider Matthew 18 as the Lord’s instructions regarding the assembly gathering to settle a dispute between brothers. We might also consider the where a wedding or a funeral fits into the gatherings of the assembly: that would be an interesting discussion in itself.

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Reading John Nelson Darby

Collected Writing of J N Darby

A friend asked me to write about my experiences reading through Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby. What was it like? What did I learn from it? Are there any tips and hints for someone else wanting to read the whole set?

I read Collected Writings over the course of 15 years. There were some volumes I read in a week or two, others took months. Sometimes I’d go months, or even a whole year between finishing one volume and starting the next. And of course I read some other things in the meantime, which might have helped me understand JND a little better.

To answer the most important question, yes it was tough reading, but it was definitely worth the effort. I would absolutely encourage anyone else to read Darby. Whether reading through Collected Writings is worth the effort depends largely on who you are and what you’re looking for. If you want a verse-by-verse commentary, you’ll be disappointed. Darby wasn’t really an expositor. If you want a study of types and shadows in the Old Testament, you might want to read C H Mackintosh (CHM) instead: that isn’t really what Darby writes about.

Darby’s writing is all about bringing the Word of God to bear on every question, of bringing every thought into captivity to Christ. It’s about seeing everything in the light of the whole counsel of God. It’s about gazing out at the vast ocean of God’s love.


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