Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And 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." The CEV says, “ Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.” Now, more than ever, American Evangelicals need the church. They need to know what the church is, Whose it is, what it’s purpose is, etc. Let’s get into God’s Word.
In his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, Kent Hughes writes, “Today, at the end of the twentieth century we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other century: churchless Christians. There is a vast herd of professed Christians who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship, living apart from the regular benefits of the ordinances.” St. Augustine wrote, “Outside the church, one’s sins have no remission. The deserter of the church cannot be in Christ, since he is not among Christ‘s members.” Martin Luther stated, “Outside the Christian Church, there is no salvation or forgiveness of sins…. Although there may be a great appearance of holiness.” John Calvin said, “Those who neglect the order of the Church and the Ministry, want to be wiser than Christ. Woe to there pride!” The New Testament, as well as doctors of the church through out it’s history, held the church in the highest esteem. Should we do any less? Has Jesus changed? Be assured, He hasn’t (Heb 13:8).
The Greek word for church, pronounced “ek-klay-see-ah”, means “Those called out”. The church are “the called out ones”. Called out from the world. “Come out from among them and be separate“, saith the Lord, “and touch not the unclean thing” (2Cor 6:17). In Thayer’s Lexicon, he defines it in general as a public assembly; and in Christianity, it is an assembly of Christians gathered for a religious meeting, the church universal (all those whose are born again and whose Lord is Christ the King), and the assembly of Christians already dead and received up into heaven.
This signifies that there is an invisible church (universal), and a visible church (local assembly). While there has been much focus on the universal church in the past century, there are actually more verses that speak of the local church, than do of the universal church. Biblically speaking, there are more examples and commands concerning the local church. Therefore, to see the local church as unimportant, is to see much of the Apostles writings as unimportant. To claim to be part of the universal church, yet refuse to partake in it’s local expression, is unfounded in the New Testament.
The word church is first mentioned in the New Testament in Mt 16:18 where Jesus said, “Thou art Peter (Petros - a stone), and on this rock (Petra - massive rock) I will build my church.” Who was the Petra? Jesus Christ Himself (Dt 32:4, 15, 18 and 1Cor 10:4). He is the Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22), and the Apostles and Prophets are the foundation of the Church. We, as Believers, are living stones being built on this foundation. Jesus then gave the ministry offices to the church to make the saints complete, to build up the church, to equip for ministry, to make known Who the Son of God is, and to bring into the unity of the faith, lest through deceit and craftiness, false teachers prey on ignorant Christians (Eph 4:11-15).
A couple of verses that speak of the universal church are Heb 12:22-25 and Eph 1:22-23. What was the NT example to become a member of the body of Christ? Conviction, repentance, faith, water baptism, membership in the local assembly. The only reasons not to be in church in the NT are negative - never positive. One, if one is in gross sin and misconduct, and unrepentant, they were to be kicked out - turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh in hopes of the salvation of their soul. Two, apostasy, as in Heb 10:25. This is not company we should want to be in. A few Scriptures on the local church are: Act 14:23, 20:17, 28, Rom 16:3-5, Col 4:15, Philm 1:2, 1Cor 4:17, 1Cor 11:18, 1Cor 14, Php 4:15, 1Tim 3:5, 15, Heb 2:12, and Jam 5:14.
What are some benefits to being a member in a local assembly of Christians? Corporate worship, breaking bread (communion), giving unto God, continuing in the Apostle’s doctrine, discipleship, prayer, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, unity of the faith, accountability, purpose, focus, vision, etc. Christian, you need the church. Pray diligently. Find out where God wants you to be. Then get serious and get committed. Until next time, rejoice in the Lord!