The apostle John saw Jesus in the flesh face to face and what he witnessed in his participation with the Lord’s earthly ministry changed him forever. In 1 John 1:1-4, John writes:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
Personal knowledge of Jesus Christ had given the apostle John joy and he wished to impart that knowledge and joy to others.
While John by inspiration wrote letters which form a good portion of the New Testament, there were many things he wanted to express to his fellow Christians face to face. Second John is a brief letter including this statement near the end explaining its brevity, “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 John 12). Third John is even shorter and ends with these words, “But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name” (3 John 14).
Obviously, there is something to seeing others face to face, being physically present with them, and calling them by name. Anyone who has gone through a lengthy automated phone system (where pressing a number just leads to another automated message) quickly feels a strong desire to speak to an actual person. Technology that allows us to communicate with others all around the world has also made us more mobile; thus, good friends often move away from each other. Ironically social media that is intended to connect people seems to promote less authentic, surface relationships that can leave individuals feeling lonely.
The need for Christians to “come together” (1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34; 14:23, 26) in one physical location to worship God and commune with Him and one another in the Lord’s Supper is still very real even in the 21st century. We are affected by who comes in the assembly (James 2:2-3). We can be encouraged by the presence of others or discouraged by their absence. Thus, we must still make every effort to provoke one another to love and good works, not by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but by encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Look at the influence Jesus had on the world by being present with those whom He came across in His earthly life. Read the Gospel accounts and be impressed with the effect Jesus had on those in His presence. Are you present with those who are around you or is your mind and attention elsewhere? Are you present when we come together and worship? Tremendous good can be done if we learn to show the love of God to others face to face.