Have you ever asked why GOD wants the church to assemble together?
Most people would say that Christians gather in order to worship.
Many Christians "go to church" because it's what they've always done, it's what their parents taught them, they believe GOD expects them to, or because Heb. 10:25 says not to stop meeting together.
For every command, instruction and principle GOD has given, there exists a practical beneficial reason(s) behind it. Most of the time, if not always, we can discover those reasons in the Scriptures.
GOD has never been pleased with people who merely do the right thing, but rather He expects us to do the right thing for the right reason. It's faith and obedience working hand-in-hand.
Paul talked about this with regard to the Jews who refused to believe in Jesus:
1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
(Rom. 10:1-3 NIV)
And on the other extreme, we have the lackluster obedient whose heart isn't focused on GOD.
Jesus said to the Christians at Laodicea:
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
(Rev. 3:15-16 NIV)
So, according to the Scriptures, why should Christians meet together?
In a word: edification.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Eph. 4:11-13 NIV)
The word edification comes from the root word edifice, which literally means a building or structure, such as a house or a store.
Spiritually speaking, the concept is that we Christians build up each other up. That is, we strengthen each other in the holy faith.
The result is that we each become more mature, more like Jesus.
Without this strengthening, we become like an old house that is no longer maintained. Everything falls apart.
Three quick examples to illustrate:
- In Acts 14, as Paul and Barnabas wrapped up the mission trip the Holy Spirit had called them to, they called together the church so that they could encourage them regarding what GOD had done through them.
26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
(Acts 14:26-28 NIV)
- Later, when a dispute arose over whether Gentile Christians must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to seek counsel from the elders and apostles there. Afterward, the elders and apostles in Jerusalem concluded it is not necessary to keep the old Law in order to be saved, so they wrote a letter and sent it with delegates to Antioch, accompanied by Paul and Barnabas. The result, in short, was encouragement:
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
(Acts 15:30-32 NIV)
- And finally, consider Paul's message to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 14. Beginning with 1 Cor. 12:1 and continuing through the end of chapter 14, Paul discusses miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians had inappropriately elevated the ability to speak in tongues (other languages) above other gifts, and Paul corrects this attitude:
Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. ... 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. ... 26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
(1 Cor. 14:12b, 17-19, 26 NIV)
So, whereas tradition may say to follow a certain routine, such as singing, praying, giving, preaching and participating in the Lord's Supper each and every Sunday, the New Testament says our purpose is to edify one another when we meet.
What this should prompt us to ponder is how effectively our particular assembly strengthens each other in the way that we go about conducting our assemblies. For many churches, their "services" are entirely preplanned productions that more resemble a theater or a rock concert than they do reaching the heart of those gathered. For others, their assemblies look more like a funeral home than life-filled Christians.
If it's broken, fix it.