Both Sinners and Saints may Profit by Church Attendance
Some Scriptural Reasons
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25.)
To some people, "going to church" is something for other people to do. To some others, it is a religious habit kept up for little reason except that it is a habit. Still others go or stay home by spells, depending on their moods, the weather, or other changing conditions. Our text suggests that it is nothing new for Christians to forsake the assembling of themselves together, and admonishes us against such forsaking. In other words, we ought to "go to church" regularly. WHY?
Our Lord's Command
First of all, for true Christians, to know that our Lord has commanded us to do anything is reason enough to do it. ". . . Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46.) "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. . ." (John 14:21.)
We know, of course, that persons confined to their homes by bodily infirmities are not able to attend public services, but sometimes we hear able-bodied but spiritually ignorant Christians declare that they can be "just as good Christians," outside the church as in it. They may not mean it so, but really they are accusing the Lord Jesus of doing a useless and foolish thing when He organized His church and commissioned it to carry on His work.
"Ye are the light of the world," said Jesus to His disciples. "A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." (Matthew 5:14.) The reference is to the heavenly "mount Sion" and the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22), of which each true New Testament church is a representation on earth.
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:15, 16.)
The English word "so" in verse 16 is too weak and ambiguous. The Greek word is placed first in the sentence for emphasis, and verse 16 is better translated as follows:
"In this way" (that is, by putting your candle on the candlestick) "let your light shine" (Greek imperative — "I command your light to shine") "before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
The figures of candle and candlestick are explained elsewhere in the Bible: "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. . ." (Proverbs 20:27.) ". . . The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:20.)
It is true that the words "candle" and "candlestick" could be better translated "lamp" and "lampstand," but the principle is the same. Jesus commands true disciples to glorify the Father by putting their lamps (spirits) together on the lampstands (New Testament churches).
The Christian who hides himself under a bushel of worldliness or a bed of ease and thinks he can serve God "just as well" as in church is as foolish as a man would be who would light a literal lamp and then hide it under a bushel or under a bed. (Mark 4:21.)
Jesus' command to His disciples to join and assemble themselves together regularly in His churches is reason enough to do so, but He so commanded because He understood our needs.
Even the lost ought to attend the public services of true churches of the Lord Jesus, where His gospel is preached, because ". . . faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17.)
If the lost sinner is ever saved, it must be through hearing and believing the gospel of Christ, and there is no better place for this than in one of His churches.
But the injunction of our text is addressed to Christians who already are members of such a church. We are not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together."
Just as the message of salvation was preserved through the centuries and came to us, directly or indirectly, through the blood bought and blood-tracked testimony of ". . . the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15), so this church is the best place to go to on earth to get the ". . . sincere milk of the word" that we must have for normal spiritual growth. (I Peter 2:2.)
For this very purpose our Lord has given to His churches pastors and teachers, ". . . for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. . ." (Ephesians 4:11-14.)
It may be readily observed that, generally speaking, Christians who do not attend church regularly are spiritual runts, easily led astray by false teachings. The teaching ministry of His church is our Lord's appointed means of building up and strengthening His children in the faith of His word.
Too many Christians do not have the assurance that is their birthright as God's children. They lack assurance because they lack faith in the promises of God; they lack assurance because they lack obedience to the commands of God, and so their own hearts condemn them. (I John 2:3; 3:20)
Now, it is in the house of God (His church) that we can best find assurance if we are truly His children, because it is there that He especially manifests His presence: "And having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." (Hebrews 10:21, 22.)
In a church of our Lord can be found the best and sweetest fellowship this side of heaven. ". . . Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:3.)
A limited degree of fellowship can indeed be enjoyed among true children of God outside of His church. Despite differences of doctrine and practice, there are and ought to be some bonds of love and common interests among all the saints, who are children of one God and trust in one Savior, though their obedience to "one Lord" is more or less imperfect.
But it is only in the "one body" of a New Testament church that we can have the unity of the Spirit, one hope of our calling, one faith, and one baptism. (Ephesians 4:3-6.) It is only in such a church that we ". . . are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22.)
Joy in the Lord
Obedient Christians are happy Christians. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17.)
Our greatest joy is to be found in our Lord: ". . . In thy presence is fulness of joy. . ." (Psalm 16:11.) And Jesus assures us of His presence when His church meets: ". . . Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20.) The preceding verses show that He was speaking of His church.
So we see our own personal need of "going to church" to help us to grow spiritually, to attain mature stability, to gain Christian assurance, to enrich our Christian fellowship, and to have fulness of joy as God's children doing His will in His presence.
A Good Testimony
Finally, we have the privilege and responsibility of witnessing to others for our Lord and Savior. One of the best ways of giving this testimony is to show by our faithful attendance at God's house the genuineness of our faith.
Christians (if we can properly call them Christians) who despise ". . . the church of God, which he. . ." (the Son) ". . . hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28) will have a hard time trying to convince any intelligent person that they love the Savior or the souls of men.
Therefore, "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
[From Rosco Brong, Christ's Church and Baptism. — jrd]
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