I am always amazed at the number of people I come across my walk as a pastor who claim to be believers yet do not attend church on a regular basis. I know this speaks to the dreadful state of the church in a lot of instances, but to not even try to find a faithful church is beyond me.
How can those who are redeemed skip out of the church completely and have any real confidence in their salvation? I like what Paul writes in Colossians 1 concerning the need to continue on in the faith:
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
He is writing to encourage believers to be faithful. We cannot be faithful and remain separate from the body of Christ for it is Christ that has called us to be a part of the body. He is saying that we do benefit by continuing in the faith. By doing so, we become grounded in the gospel.
To separate ourselves from the body is to effectively excommunicate ourselves from the body. This is truly a serious matter for in doing so, we cut ourselves off from the benefits found in the body of Christ and have made ourselves out to be those outside the camp.
I wish I could convey how serious this is. To excommunicate someone from the body of Christ is so serious, that you can equate with the loss of salvation. The person that is so deep in sin and refuses to repent, has no assurance whatsoever that they are saved. Whether that sin is open and heinous like adultery, or simple laziness, repentance is necessary. The writer of Hebrews stated it this way:
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:
“ Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
He is writing to those who were tempted with leaving the congregation of Christ’s people, reminding them the need to remain together and in the body of Christ. We need the constant reminders of the wickedness of sin, and that doesn’t come about by remaining away from the people of God. When we walk with other believers, we are to encourage one another to watch out for sin in our lives. This doesn’t happen when we become islands unto ourselves.
Those who stay away are also missing out of the benefits found int he body.
First, when we are separated from the body of Christ, we cut ourselves off from being fed spiritually by the Holy Spirit via the means of grace, namely preaching, congregational prayer, which includes both spoken prayers and those we sing, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
When Jesus reinstated Peter to the ministry, He told him three times: “Feed my sheep.” This takes place through the teaching and preaching of God’s word. About 80 percent of those called to the body of Christ are not called to preach God’s word. So I doubt that those who are remaining home on Sunday mornings are preaching God’s word to themselves. Not very healthy at all.
They are also missing out from hearing Christ by doing so. We do hear God’s word when it is read and preached to us. In Romans 10:14, the word reads And how shall they believe in Him (of) whom they have not heard? The (of) should not be there, meaning that when God’s word is preach faithfully, we are actually hearing Him! This does not take place when we read God’s word in isolation, as so many say that they do. It takes place in the congregation of God’s people when the word is being faithfully preached. I stress the word “faithfully” because there are plenty of men in pulpits who say a lot of words, but never preach God’s word.
But the point is that those who remain away from the congregation of God’s people, or better yet, from Christ’s church that He is building, are missing out on the spiritual blessings and feeding that take place.
Secondly, islanders are also missing out on being in the presence of Christ and all the saints that have gone on before us. Revelation 4-5 give us a picture of the worship that is taking place continuously in heaven. When we gather with the saints to worship, we are also gathering with those who have gone before us. In fact, we are joining in on the worship that is taking place right now. Just as Mary was blessed spiritually by sitting at Christ’s feet, so too are we bless when we gather with the church triumphant in worshipping our Savior. This gathering doesn’t take place apart from the body of Christ. He died on the cross to make us a body, not individuals sleeping in, reading a Bible verse and calling it worship.
I know that many will say, “where two or more are gathered…” OK, but quit abusing that verse as an excuse to stay away from the body that Christ is bringing together. Yes, we can worship and home, which I encourage as well. But do not let that be the sum of our worship. We need the body of Christ. We need the pastors and teachers that Christ has given the church. We need the fellowship that is found in the body. We need one another. To act otherwise is to go against what our Savior set out to do in building us HIS body. By staying way, we are rejecting the work and plan of Christ for our well being. By remaining loosely tied to a fellowship, we are missing out on the privileges of being made brothers and sisters in the LORD.
I’ve also written a post: Why Join the Church?