1) New creations love other new creations
The Bible says that we are born in the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13), wanting to do Satan’s will (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10), and that in this state we are under God’s wrath (John 3:36), have darkened minds (Eph. 4:18), are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3), and cannot become Christians until and unless the Holy Spirit awakens our darken slumber (1 Cor. 12:3). This is the work and task of the Holy Spirit: He gives you a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), gives you the gifts of faith (Eph 2:8-9; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:29; Heb. 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:1, 21; 1 Tim. 1:14) and repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25), and you become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a born again follower of Christ (John 3:3).
Those who have been rescued from the state of being dead to sin want to be with those who are new creations like they are. There is some truth in the saying: “Birds of a feather flock together.” Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and, as citizens of the same place, Christians have a unique and spiritual bond: all of us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.
2) The Holy Spirit builds community
The church exists for the preaching of the Word, corporate and individual worship, discipleship and growth, evangelism, missions, and living life with other Christians. The Holy Spirit, writes Sinclair Ferguson, “does not isolate individuals but creates a new community.” The Holy Spirit builds the church, which, in Greek, “by virtue of its deprivation from verbs that mean ‘to call together,’ already denotes a gathering of people who come together for some purpose and are mutually united for such a purpose” The Holy Spirit does not save people to be an island unto themselves. Rather, He saves people and brings them to each other. And was it not Christ Himself who prayed that we would be united, just as He is united to the Father (John 17)? Surely, Christ’s prayer has been (and will continually be) answered.
3) Scripture tells us to attend church
Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to “stay away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do” (HCSB). Christians are people who have a posture of submission to the Scriptures; therefore, we gladly follow when told to do something.
4) We need the means of grace
As Christians, we need the means of grace weekly. From the preaching of the word, to the Lord’s Supper, to baptism, to prayer, the means of grace sustain weary pilgrims each and every week.
Richard Barcellos defines “means of grace” as
the delivery systems God has instituted to bring grace – that is, spiritual power, spiritual change, spiritual help, spiritual fortitude, spiritual blessings – to needy souls on the earth. Grace comes from our Father, through the Son, by the Spirit ordinarily in conjunction with the ordained means. The means of grace are those conduits through which Christ alters, modifies, adjusts, changes, transforms, and develops souls on the earth. Herman Bavinck says, ‘Christ is and remains the acquisitor as well as the distributor of grace.
Regarding the preached Word, Christians are edified each and every week, for the Word of God is powerful. Through the preaching of the Word, we have the Gospel spoken to us. The voices of the world can seem overpowering, and so having the Gospel spoken into our lives is an absolute must. Christians are also confronted in the preaching of the Word. That is, we are convicted, exhorted, chastened, and molded by it. We are also matured by it. Sitting under the faithful exposition of the Word each and every week is simply a must for the growing Christian.
When we partake of the Lord’s Supper—the bread and wine—each week, we are receiving it as a means of grace. The Supper does not change into Jesus’ physical body and blood, but remains bread and wine. Nevertheless, Christ is there spiritually, nourishing us. As John Calvin said, “[T]he godly ought by all means to keep this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is surely present there.” This does not cause us to gaze at the elements as though they contain, within themselves, some magical qualities; rather, it causes us to lift our gaze heavenward, from whence all grace doth spring.
5) Perseverance of the Saints is a communal project
As John Piper said in a sermon:
[W]e must be the church for each other. And what is the main thing that the church does for each other? We speak to each other in ways that help us not be deceived by the allurements of sin. Or to put it positively, we speak to each other in ways that cause us to have hearts of faith in the superior value of Christ over all things. We fight to maintain each other’s faith, by speaking words that point people to the truth and value of Jesus. That’s how you guard against an evil heart of unbelief. Unbelief means failing to rest in Jesus as your greatest treasure. So helping each other believe means showing people reasons why Jesus is more to be desired and trusted and loved than anything else.
As believers in Christ, we need to be chastened by the Scriptures, encouraged by other believers, and disciplined when we fall into sin, when we deviate from the narrow path (Matt. 7:13).
6) We need to be under pastoral care
As Christ’s sheep, we need to sit under the authority of spiritual leaders. We are commanded in Scripture: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Heb. 13:17a). Just as we have doctors who watch over us physically, so too do we need spiritual doctors to watch over us. Simply put, Christians need to regularly hear the preached word, to be visited by the pastors of the church, to receive biblical counseling, to be accountable to spiritual leaders, and to be disciplined when we go astray (Matt. 18:15-20; Luke 17:3; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 1 Tim. 1:18-20).
As Greg Beale has shown, the Great Tribulation was inaugurated at the cross of Christ. Now, the spirit of the Antichrist is here causing divisions, teaching heresy, and leading people astray. For this reason (c.f. Acts 14:22-23), God established the office of elder/pastor: to maintain sound doctrine, to rebuke those who contradict (Titus 1:9), and to protect God’s people from the work of the Antichrist. God’s people will be tempted by false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1-3), false messiahs (Matt. 24:24), false doctrine that sounds good to the ears (2 Tim. 4:3), Satan masquerading as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15-16), who will try to infiltrate God’s people and sow rebellion, division, false doctrine, and sin. It is a simple fact: God’s people need biblical leadership in their lives.
7) We must contribute our time and money to the body of Christ.
Every talent and spiritual gift is needed in a body of believers, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27:
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
And the Scriptures give us this example:
All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47).
What is more, the Bible is replete with commands to care for those in the household of faith (Matt. 25:34-46; Gal. 6:9-10; Heb. 13:1-3; Jas. 2:14-17; 1 John 3:17-18). In fact, Jesus said that those who do not care for “the least of these who are members of my family” (Matt. 25:40, NRSV) will go away to the “eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41). How can we care for other believers, use our spiritual gifts, and support Christ’s church if we are not present and active?
8) If it is okay for you not to attend church, then it is okay for no one to attend.
If the logic for not attending church works for you, then that same logic works for everyone—which would mean that it is acceptable for the visible church to not exist. This, however, is obviously against the wishes of Christ.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon gave sound advice to the members of his church, stating:
Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers. The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.
9) The Sabbath Day is part of God’s moral law
The Ten Commandments are a summery of God’s timeless moral law. This moral law is present in both the Old and the New Testaments—it does not go away. It is unlawful to, say, murder, steal, worship false gods, or break the Sabbath. The moral law regarding the Sabbath is that one day of seven is to be a day of resting in the enjoyment, worship, and service of God. The temporal (positive law) aspect is the specific day. For example, in the Old Testament, the people of God were to observe the Sabbath on Saturday (the 7th day), for it was the day that God rested from His work of creation. In the New Testament, by contrast, the Sabbath is to be observed on Sunday, for it is the day Christ was resurrected, the day He was brought into rest.
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith says this about keeping the Fourth Commandment under the New Covenant:
The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy [LBCF 22.8].
10) Loving Christ means loving His bride
The church is Christ’s Bride (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1-2). I can’t say it any better that this Derek Webb Song.
11) The Church has a mission that involves all of Christ’s sheep
The church is:
a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.
Christians don’t attend church because they want a sense of nostalgia, but because we have a mission to accomplish. The church’s mission is:
[S]ummarized in the Great Commission passages—the climactic marching orders Jesus issues at the end of the Gospels and at the beginning of Acts. We believe the church is sent into the world to witness to Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations. This is our task. This is our unique calling… Since hell is real, evangelism and discipleship are not simply good options or commendable ministries, but are literally a matter of life and death.
What is more, this mission includes our children and young adults. It is the task of both the parents and the church to partner together in assuring that our children and young adults are brought up in the doctrines of Christ (Deut. 6:6-7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15).
12) We should want to worship and glorify God
Keach’s Catechism question two states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Corporate worship brings glory to the Triune God. In fact, we are born worshippers, wanting to worship. The question is if our worship is aimed to the One for which our worshiping was designed?
Psalm 96:1-2 says: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” The Psalmist went on to write, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being” (Ps. 104:33). And Paul exhorted, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Gathering with other redeemed saints to lift up our voices in song – to sing about God’s mighty work of salvation – is glorifying to Him, and it is He that we seek to glorify.
© copyright J. Brandon Burks
See: Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (Nashville: B&H Academics, 2012), 69-77.
Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, in Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 192.
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Abridged in One Volume, ed. by John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 596.
Richard C. Barcellos, The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More Than Just a Memory (Scotland, UK: Mentor Imprint, 2013), 23.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1975), 1371, [IV.17.10].
G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 201-204.
As quoted in: Brad House, Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 21-22.
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 26, 245.