Why Do I Have to Go to Church?
Is it enough to just follow Jesus?
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Did God give us a list of steps we must take before we can go on to maturity? In a way, yes! An interesting Bible passage warns us not to get stuck in our growth, but to move on to maturity. In doing this, it actually gives us seven “basic things” mature believers need to understand clearly. It begins with our personal relationship with God. It moves to our earthly identification with God’s people. And it ends with the ultimate heavenly destiny of all God’s people.
Are you ready for a tour? Turn to Hebrews 6 and follow carefully along.
Just You and God
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God...” (Hebrews 6:1)
Every follower of Jesus needs to clearly know Who He is. He’s “the only Son, who is truly God” (John 1:18). He loves us so much that He left heaven to live under His own Law. He was tempted in every way, but He remained perfect and sinless. He suffered rejection, mockery and a cruel execution to take the punishment our sins deserve. He said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) when He died, and His resurrection proved it was true.
For this “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10-14) to work for me, I had to realize all I ever did only increased my guilt. My works were “deeds that bring death.” If there were any other way for me to escape hell, “it was useless for Christ to die” (Galatians 2:21). Believe this, pray humbly to receive Him, and trust that He’s able to save you forever, and you become a child of God (Hebrews 7:25; John 6:37).
You and the “local church” — the people of God near you
“And we shouldn’t need to keep teaching about baptisms or about the laying on of hands…” Hebrews 6:2a
As the passage implies, God did not save you simply so that you could enjoy eternal life. As His child, you’re part of a family with a mission. Not to keep teaching already-saved people the same things over and over, but to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19) But until a new believer has been baptized, he or she needs to be taught.
Water baptism is a public ceremony identifying you with Jesus and the other “called-out” people of God (that’s what “church” means). In order to do this, you have to have fellowship with other Christians, even if it’s only with one or two other people who follow Jesus. “Laying on of hands” takes it a step farther — this means publicly choosing and sending someone out for service. God empowers each believer “so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong” (Ephesians 4:12).
You and the “universal church” — the whole family in heaven and earth (Ephesians 3:15)
Finally, the passage ends with two more important points: “…the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:2b).
When Jesus returns, there will be a resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Believers who have died will be raised and united with those still living on earth. This is so that, in heaven, the work of the entire Church can be judged at once by Him (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5), and He can “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7).
In this lesson, it’s easy to see that we’re not meant to live the Christian life alone. You might be able to think of exceptions: missionaries who travel to places where there is no church. Isolated believers in countries where Christians are persecuted. Those whose family members do not allow them to attend. But these are the special cases, because those who are denied church fellowship are the very ones who want it most! Christian children whose parents do not take them to church long to know what it is like. Isolated believers do their best to meet in secret or find a substitute, like broadcast or online services. Remote missionaries are going for the very purpose of establishing a church.
As Hebrews 6:1-2 shows us, there really is no way to move on to Christian maturity, to serve in the role for which God has called and empowered you, to accomplish the deeds for which He deserves praise in heaven, without being a part of an assembly of believers.
Pray this week:
Father, will you teach me everything I need to know about being a member of the Body of Christ?
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