"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
- Hebrews 10:24-25
I remember in college, all the folks who drifted in and out of our student fellowship. As Southerners, our natural first question was, "Where do you go to church?" A recurring response was something to the effect of, "I don't go to church; I can worship God anywhere." Even though I was young in my faith at the time, I still found something out-of-sync in that response. In contrast, I immediately found a church the first Sunday I was at college (which was about four hours away from my home), without even questioning that it was important to do so.
In Psalm 122:1, David rejoiced, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" Passion for the corporate worship of God is even included in the millennial blessings described by the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah 2:3 declares, "Many peoples shall come, and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He might teach us His ways and that we might walk in His paths.'"And again in Zechariah 8:21, "The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.'" Lone Ranger spirituality just isn't known in the Bible.
The reasons given in Scripture for the gathering of God's people are numerous. For example, Hebrews 13:17 tells us, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." So the gathering of the church will bring you into consistent contact with men that God gives a special responsibility for your spiritual welfare (see also II Timothy 4:1-2 and Titus 1:9). The Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 4:12-13, that Christ gave these elders and deacons "to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, [and] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Building up the corporate church is also one of the outworkings of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because the church is his body. Ephesians 2:19-22 describes the organic growing together of those who are in Christ. To refuse is to reject the very spiritual work that Christ is doing in our world (I John 3:14).
Robert Rollock addresses the Lone Ranger attitude in these words: "It is a folly to thee to say thou wilt depend on the providence of God, and in the meantime to leave off means, for by so doing, thou temptest God, who, as He hath ordained the end, so He hath also ordained the means to the end. As, for example, if thou wouldst go to heaven, thou must use the means, the hearing of the word, etc. Yet many will condemn the means, and yet brag they are assured to come to heaven; they will condemn the preaching, which is the instrument God uses. But I say to thee, thou deceivest thyself." See I John 2:4.
"For in Thy courts one day excels
a thousand; rather in
My God's house will I keep a door,
than dwell in tents of sin."
Psalm 84:10, Metrical Version
39 Articles—Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude (4)
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