the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
In this eleventh lesson of our study on the Lord’s church, we will be looking at the teachings of the Bible concerning the importance of church attendance.
We will be looking at this subject from three different standpoints:
1. The command to attend the assembly
2. The examples to attend the assembly
3. Our responsibility to others to attend the assembly
The command to attend the assembly
Perhaps Hebrews 10:25 is a command for every believer to join, and faithfully attend the Lord’s local assembly… “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.”
Here, the Christian is exhorted to not “abandon” or “permanently walk away” from the assembly of believers. This can hold one of two meanings:
1. This is speaking of the assembly of believers in the Lord’s church.
In this case, this text explains the need for Christians to not abandon the attendance of a local assembly where God’s people meet. It seems to go further and explain that as the second coming of Christ draws nearer, the need for faithful attendance to the assembly will increase.
This interpretation is the historical interpretation that is held by most Godly men of the past. Also, it seems to apply in today’s time that we see more and more Christians forsaking the assembly. This could be why we are told to attend “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Could this be said because, in the latter days, there would be a forsaking of His assembly?
If someone does walk away with no intention of every returning to the place of worship, prayer, praise and fellowship there is a real question as to whether his faith is a persevering, genuine faith. This is the point John made in 1 John 2:19 – “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
However, there is another possible interpretation of this text as well…
2. This could be telling the followers of Christ to not forsake belief, nor concentration, on His second coming when He will “assemble” His people to Himself.
A true genuine faith will not lose hope in the second coming of Christ and the entrance of His saints to glory. Col 1:27-29 makes it plain that the indwelling Spirit and His second coming are inseparably linked and a source of great encouragement for the people of God… ”To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
Why do many believe this is the interpretation of this text?
The phrase “assembling together” comes from one Greek word “episunagoge” it carries with it the idea of “a gathering from all areas” or “a complete gathering”. This same word is only used one other time in the Scriptures in 2 Thess 2:1 where it is speaking of the assembling of God’s people at the second coming of Christ. This word for assembly NEVER spoke of God’s people assembling in a church meeting. There is another Greek word “ecclesia” that is normally used to describe that type of assembly.
Lastly, Peter related a denial of His second coming to lost mankind in the days before His coming in 2 Pet 3:3-4…. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
This can explain the phrase “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
These are the basic reasons why some believe this text is speaking of not forsaking a belief in His second coming and the deliverance of His people from a sinful world. But to further explain the confusion on this text….
3. Could this text be referring to the assembling of believers in BOTH ways we have previously described?
We need to study the root word from which we get “episunagoge” which comes from the Greek word “Episunago” this root word is used as follows:
1. Christ gathering Jerusalem like a mother hen to protect them – Matt 23:37, Luke 13:34
2. Christ gathering His people at His second coming – Matt 24:31, Mark 13:27
3. Citizens of a city gathered to see miracles of Christ – Mark 1:33
4. Multitudes following Christ to hear His teachings – Luke 12:1
In EVERY case the Greek word “episunago” and it’s derivative “episunagoge” is used to described people gathered TO CHRIST. There is no exception to this. This is a very important point.
In Hebrews 10:25, a way to transliterate this verse would be “Not abandoning the assembling ourselves to Christ, as the manner of some is…”
If this is the case, then either event could apply to this text…
1. You see, when God’s people meet to worship Him, He promises to be in their “midst” in the person of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 18:18-20, 1 Cor 5:4).
2. And as we have seen previously, we will all be gathered together to be with Him at His second coming. (1 Thess 4:13-18).
Could it be, that this verse is written on purpose to be vague, and both ways of understanding it are in alignment with God’s Word? We have seen in this short section, Scriptural foundation laid that support both views. In my own personal studies, I believe this dual-view of the text is the closest interpretation to its intended meaning.
4. Basic Principle Summarized…
To summarize this verse… Whatever was meant by the phrase “assembly” the principle is basically the same. To encourage (exhort) other believers, and ourselves, we need to be sure we are living out our beliefs. This can be done by not forsaking church membership and by not forsaking our hope in the second coming of Christ. This is the last great sign of a living faith that will affect the lives of others.
The examples of attendance of the assembly
Here are a few, of many texts, that set a clear example for believers to join and attend the local assembly…
1.“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” (Luke 4:16)
Jesus set the example for us by consistently (“as his custom was”) attending the place of worship chosen by God. (Which was during the first stages of His ministry, the synagogue).
2. “Now the first [day] of the [feast of] unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth [his] hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [it], and brake [it], and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave [it] to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:17-30)
Here Jesus met with the first church members (His apostles) as they met to observe the Lord’s Supper PRIOR TO His death. This is one of many examples showing us that Jesus continued to set the example for us of attendance to the new place of worship, the local assembly.
3. “Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them [his] hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23)
Following Christ’s death we find the church continues to meet on the first day of the week. Again, this is setting the example for us.
4. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” (Acts 2:41-43)
Following Christ’s ascension, the Lord’s church continued to meet on a regular basis. This can be seen throughout the book of Acts and the Pauline epistles.
These verses, and others, clearly establish that the followers of Christ joined together forming an assembly and then continued to meet together for instruction, encouragement, and fellowship.
Our responsibility to others to attend the assembly
There are many texts that help us to understand that all of us have a responsibility to join a local assembly, and by doing so, show our love to our brethren (John 13:34-35). This is done by giving them support, encouragement and strength.
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:3-5)
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body [were] an eye, where [were] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [were] the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where [were] the body? But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those [members] of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness. For our comely [parts] have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that [part] which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
“As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:14-18)
When we come to understand the role that we can play in the lives of our brethren within the context of local assembly, we can see it is our duty to join the assembly for the sake of our love to them.
Through these verses we are given an understanding of the importance of membership and attendance in the Lord’s local assembly. May we all remember the Lord’s command, His example, the example of other New Testament believers, and the great opportunities that await us to show our love for others, to motivate us to find a local assembly of the Lord, enter into its membership, and serve Him among our brethren.
Why should we should attend, join and support the ministries of a local church? It is an act of obedience to the Lord, and it is an act of love towards the other spiritual brethren in your area.
Just a quick note… Please keep in mind, this study as all the rest of the studies, is only speaking about our responsibility to the Lord’s local churches that exist throughout the earth. These principles do not apply to other houses of worship that hold to false doctrine and are not sanctioned by Christ. The idea that “it is better to attend a false church than no church at all” is unscriptural and can actually harm a child of God’s testimony, growth and communion with the Lord.
What happens if there is no church of the Lord in my area? The best way to handle this situation is to find the closest church of the Lord and explain your situation and your desire for an assembly in your area. They will then examine your particular situation and find the best remedy for you. Normally, most church will accept your membership under these conditions, minister to you through the mail or internet and also seek to establish a sound body that you are able to attend.
May the Lord bless us as we seek His truth.
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