Acts 13:13-16 tells us:
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it." So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen."
No matter how many times I read it, this passage continues to fascinate me. Paul and company are on what is often called the first missionary journey. When they arrive in Antioch in Pisidia they follow their custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Although what Paul says in 13:16-43 is of most importance, it is what the rulers of the synagogue say that intrigues me.
They invite Paul and his companions to share a word of encouragement for the people if they have one. Specifically:
1. They were invited to share.
2. They were under no compulsion to share.
3. They were specifically invited to share a word of encouragement.
4. They were invited to share any word of encouragement.
5. They were to share for the benefit of the people.
Clearly, this is not a church gathering. However, we see that even in this situation the people present can benefit from hearing from others. Paul's statements were expected to be grounded in the Law and Prophets, which had just been read, and designed to encourage the other Jews there. Whatever he said was for the purpose or goal of encouragement.
We learn from this passage that when a group gathers, we can all benefit from hearing from one another. What is said must be truthful and based on previously revealed truth (scripture), and designed for the up building of the people. It sounds like an excellent recipe for a church get together.
Although the readers of this blog probably gather with other believers in a variety of ways and manners, my hope is that you have a time when everyone is free to share a word with the body for the benefit of the body.