A few weeks ago a troubled young
lady stopped by the office to talk about some of her problems.
As she described her situation, it became evident that the solution
to some of her difficulties would be for her to obey the gospel
and attend worship.
Like so many people, she did not
know how to become a Christian. She repeatedly mentioned not "feeling"
close to God, and we examined Proverbs 28:26 and Jeremiah 17:9,
which explain that our feelings are not the correct means upon
which to decide matters as important as salvation.
In response to her concerns for her
children, however, it was evident that being part of the church
could help her family. A grimace formed upon her face as she asked:
I'd have to come to church?"
Several responses to this question
come to mind, the first of which is that we don't come to church;
Christians are the church. She probably would not have understood
such a difference -- even brethren have a hard time grasping it.
The second thought was: "You
don't have to come to worship God; you get to come."
But for one never saved by the blood of Christ and
added to His precious body (Acts 2:47), the value of the observation
could be lost.
Why is it that so many people
have such a bad taste in their mouths about the word church?
Is it that they have some cold ritualistic service in mind?
Or is it that they have no worship to bring to God?
The best course to pursue seemed
to be to explain the purpose for the church and the subsequent
value of it.
God did not design salvation so that we could all be hermits.
Notice that those being saved from their sins were added to the
body of Christ (Acts 2:47).
The early church did not then say,
"This salvation experience here in Jerusalem has been
grand; now let's all go home and get back to our lives."
Instead, they "continued stedfastly
in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread,
and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Imagine being part of the long
awaited kingdom and being privileged to learn the doctrines of
So close to one another were first
century brethren that the Scripture says they were "...continuing
daily with one accord in the temple..." (Acts 2:46).
What a great opportunity to learn and grow together. How great
was the wisdom of God to design the body this way--that we could
encourage and strengthen one another.
Not only were the inspired apostles able to teach the will of
God, but evangelistic growth soared. Soon the number of those
who believed was five thousand (Acts 4:4). What an encouragement
to see more and more obeying the gospel each day!
But being a member of the church
involves more than sharing in spiritual triumphs. Moments of sadness
and tragedy also occur. When Peter and John were threatened, the
church girded itself for spiritual warfare and prayed that they
might speak the word with all boldness (Acts 4:29). If there were
a cowardly voice protesting that the apostles were making enemies
needlessly and that they should therefore "tone it down"
or try some other approach to win converts, he was ignored.
Acts 12 describes Herod killing James
the brother of John; he further intended to kill Peter, also.
But the church had met together to pray on his behalf (vs.12).
We are brethren not only when things are going our way, but in
times of persecution and sorrow as well.
Christ in View
Though the church enjoyed such a
great beginning, perfection seldom lasts. Satan gets busy trying
to destroy the great things God has accomplished for man's benefit.
God created the Garden of Eden, but Satan introduced sin into
it. Jesus shed His blood for the church, but mankind has introduced
various ungodly elements into it.
In Corinth, members brought in their
own selfishness. Some were bragging about the teacher or preacher
they liked best. "Now I say this,
that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or
'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ'" (1 Corinthians
1:12). This unbiblical attitude was causing them to go to law
against their brethren--even before unbelievers (1 Corinthians
Even the most spiritual things became
methods of vaunting self and avenues of downgrading fellow Christians.
Some had miraculous knowledge (see 1 Corinthians 12:8), but they
were using it as a weapon against their brethren instead of exercising
love (1 Corinthians 8:1). Others were so enamored by the spiritual
gifts they possessed that they just had to use them--even if it
meant interrupting someone else's use of one. And if no one could
profit by the message because it was spoken in an unknown tongue
and no one in the congregation could interpret it, the selfish
person did not care (Study 1 Corinthians 14).
One of the most spiritual aspects
of worship is the Lord's Supper, and some were perverting even
that (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)!! The basic problem was one of selfishness;
the cure was to begin practicing LOVE. The many definitions of
"love" are not located in 1 Corinthians 13 by accident.
Those brethren needed to learn such things as patience and kindness
(1 Corinthians 13:4). These attitudes can not be taken for granted.
The selfish person does not bear with other members (Why doesn't
he do what I want him to do--and right now?). Paul calls for patience.
Those who cannot disagree with someone without being disagreeable
need a huge dose of kindness, too. A person motivated by love
does not act rudely (1 Corinthians 13:5).
If brethren cannot treat one another
kindly, what will they have to offer to the non-Christian?
"By this all will know that you are
My disciples, if you have love one for another" (John
Paul teaches the brethren at Corinth
that the members of the body "should
have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers,
all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all
the members rejoice with it" (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
That's certainly better than "biting and devouring one another"
The lady who visited the office felt
alone, and her children had few friends. The church can fill those
needs. Had she obeyed the gospel, she would have had loving brothers
and sisters; she would not have needed to feel alone. And her
children would have found new friends here. Why? Because that's
one of the benefits of the way God designed the church. These
are not reasons to become a Christian; the reason for obedience
is salvation from sin. But they are certainly good byproducts
of faithfulness. How marvelous is God's plan, and how fortunate
we are to be part of it (Eph. 4:16).