"Do I have to come every time the church has an assembly?" This question has been asked many times by many people through the years. It has also been answered by many.
Some have answered, "Yes", and have cited Hebrews 10:23-25, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." What can anyone say to this answer but, "Amen"?
Others have answered the question not in words, but in practice, "No." They have done this by forsaking many assemblies for other activities (or inactivities as it may be) in which they felt justified. Some have taken the position that if they are present in the assembly for the Lord's Supper, then they have fulfilled their obligation to assemble. Therefore, they feel that any other assemblies may be neglected.
I am not as concerned with the practical application of this question as I am with the attitude that generates the question. If a Christian has the right attitude, then this question becomes irrelevant to him. He will not find the requirement to assemble with the church to be such a burden that he wants to avoid it. I realize that there are occasions when a Christian is prevented from assembling with the church, and I find no evidence that one is condemned for such occasions. However, to seek permission to avoid assembling with the saints undermines the spirit of brotherhood in Christ.
In reading the New Testament, one will quickly conclude that Christians in the first century were often assembled together. Sometimes they came together for common causes such as taking their meals. Other times they were assembled for the formal purposes of worshipping God and edifying one another as a church. In these events, they were not burdened to assemble, but rather they came together because they wanted to be together.
Consider Acts 2:42-47. When the gospel was first preached, it had such an effect on those who believed that it immediately became a way of life for them. Verse 42 says, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Verse 44 says that they "had all things in common" in reference to their material possessions, but they shared more that just property. Verse 46 says that they were "day by day continuing with one mind." They had the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17. They shared a "most holy faith" (Jude 20). These early Christians were together because they understood the value of being together.
Assembling for the purpose of worshipping is especially valuable for a Christian. It is an opportunity to collectively express praise and adoration to our God. The attitudes of those early Christians were like that of David, who said, "I was glad when they said to me, 'let us go to the house of the Lord'" (Psalm 122:1). David did not consider whether or not he was required to go to the house of the Lord. He was glad to go.
So then, why are some Christians asking, "Do I have to come every time the church has an assembly?" The answer from the Scriptures is obvious, but what do their hearts tell them? If a person seeks to avoid assembling with the Lord's people, then I would question his love for the Lord. And if a person seeks to avoid worshipping God on earth, I would question if he were ready to worship God in heaven.
Stacey E. Durham
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