This week, we continue our look at the Fundamentals of the Faith and look at the topic of assembling with the saints to worship.
I’ve been saved, why do I need to come worship with the church? I mean, I can think of quite a few reasons not to come: I’m tired; I’ve got other things to do; I don’t like the preacher; I don’t know the songs; if I go, they’ll expect something out of me; I just don’t like church.
Some people teach that gathering with the saints isn’t necessary, others teach that it is. The truth of the matter is that coming together with other Christians is an outgrowth of what’s in your heart. If you don’t come, then that shows where your heart is. If you do come, but you complain about it or are unwilling to participate, that also shows where your heart is. If you come, and you actively join in, then that shows where your heart is as well.
We all would (I hope) agree that the Bible is our standard of right and wrong. So today, let’s look at what the Bible says about gathering with the saints.
When was it done? Where was it done? Why was it done? Must it be done?
When did the saints meet for a specific time of worship?
There are several religious groups who claim that the church met on the Sabbath (Saturday), and that meeting on Sunday is from Satan. But we’re not interested in what they have to say. We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it.
Jesus rose on the first day of the week (John 20:1-ff). This obviously isn’t proof in and of itself, but it is evidence that points in a certain direction. Christianity is completely based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead, it would make sense that the church would gather on the same day of the week. This is circumstantial evidence, proving nothing by itself, but it does help point the way.
The disciples gathered together on the first day of the week after the resurrection (John 20:26). In this passage, it says “after eight days…” The Jews counted time by including whatever day it happened to be at the time, so they would have counted the Resurrection day as day 1, so the eighth day would have been the next Sunday. “After” would place it on Sunday evening. This, as well, isn’t definitive proof, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.
The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2). Pentecost literally means “fifty days.” It took place fifty days after the feast of Passover. This places the first sermon in the church, the first meeting of the church, on the first day of the week.
But, let’s look further.
The disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). This is talking about the Lord’s Supper. But even if it wasn’t, it is noteworthy that the apostle Paul waited an entire week in the city of Troas so that he could meet with the saints there (20:6-7). This shows us—without any doubt—that there was a specific gathering of the saints on the first day of the week, at least in Troas.
But was this just a local custom, or was it something that took place in all the churches?
The church in Corinth—by apostolic authority—met on the first day of the week. In Acts 18, Paul went to Corinth, and he is the one who planted the church there. He stayed for 18 months, teaching them the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and how God is to be served in the Christian era. He later wrote to them, and said, “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store” (in other words, take up a collection), I Corinthians 16:2.
But notice that this is something that was to take place on the first day of the week—the day that Paul obviously told them was their day to come together and worship God.
But there’s more—the verse before it says that Paul made the exact same command to the churches in Galatia; that is, to take up a collection on the first day of the week.
When did the church in the Bible gather together for worship? On the first day of the week! By inspiration of God, Paul commanded it.
It is also significant that there is not one passage in the New Testament that shows Christians gathering for worship on the Sabbath. There are passages where Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach the Jews—because that’s when the Jews would meet. But not one passage that says the church ever gathered on the Sabbath.
It’s true that especially at the beginning of the church, the Christians met together daily for food, encouragement, and support (Acts 2:46). But meeting specifically for worship (specifically the Lord’s Supper and giving) was expressly stated to be on the first day of the week. Is it any surprise that it has been known as “The Lord’s Day” for almost 2,000 years?
Where are the saints to gather together?
The city doesn’t matter. We have records in the Bible of Christians meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). But also in Corinth (II Corinthians 1:1), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), and many other cities.
The churches met in different types of places. The church in some locations apparently met in synagogues (James 2:2 – the word “assembly” is the Greek word “synagogue”). The church in Troas met in an “upper room,” but nothing is specified as to whether this was on top of a house or above a merchant’s shop, or perhaps even a community building (Acts 20:6-8). The church in Laodicea met in the house of Philemon (Philemon 1-2). It is possible that the Christians in Jerusalem met at the temple for a time (Acts 5:12).
What can we take from this? That the physical location is unimportant. The important thing is to actually meet with the saints, wherever they are meeting.
Why should the saints gather together?
God never gave a command that was arbitrary—every command has a benefit for us. So, what is the benefit of gathering together with the saints? To the Bible for the answer!
To take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Judging by the biblical testimony, it appears that the Lord’s Supper was the centerpiece, or focal point, of the early Christian worship. Acts 20:7 says that they came together in order to break bread (take the Lord’s Supper). Paul severely chastised the Christians in Corinth because when they came together, it wasn’t for that purpose (I Corinthians 11:17-20). In fact, he called it heresy! (v 19).
This isn’t to say there weren’t other things that took place (as we will see), but that was to be the main reason—remembering Christ’s death through the memorial feast. The saints should gather on the first day of each week to take the Lord’s Supper and honor Jesus Christ through it.
To give as they have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2). In the context, Paul was specifically telling them that they needed to start taking up a collection each week so that the poor Christians in Jerusalem could be aided.
But we can easily take this principle and apply it to other financial needs that may arise, such as assisting others (Galatians 6:10), paying those who proclaim the gospel and do other work for the church (Luke 10:7), purchase food for feeding the members of the congregation (Acts 4:37; 6:1), and helping out Christians who had need (Acts 4:34-35). Is there ever a time when there is not a need?
But what benefit do we get from this? It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). It is a time to remind ourselves of the blessings that God has given to us. It’s an opportunity to show our love for others and for God by sharing some of what we’ve been blessed with.
To sing praises to God (I Corinthians 14:15-19, 23). Singing songs of praise to God was to be done “in the church” and when “the whole church is come together in one place” (these are phrases used in the context of verse 15). Thus, they were to be done when they church comes together. They were to be intelligible songs (sing with the understanding). These songs are to teach (Colossians 3:16). These songs are to be sung to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). These songs uplift and edify us.
To encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24). “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Coming together as a family shows support, encouragement, and love for one another. This is one of the many blessings that come with assembling with the saints.
To study God’s word (Acts 20:7). When the Christians of Troas came together, Paul preached to them. When the Corinthians were gathered together, it was understood that someone would be bringing a message from God (I Corinthians 14). What better time than this to study God’s word deeper?
Must the saints come together?
We’ve seen when, where, and why the saints came together in the Bible; now the question is “Must the saints come together?” Is it required? Is it mandatory to get to heaven? Again, let’s go to the Bible for the answer.
“Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. Because if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:25-26).
The inspired writer here says that if you sin willfully, your sins will not be forgiven. In fact, he goes on to say that the only thing you will have to look forward to is judgment and fiery indignation reserved for the enemies of God (10:27).
But look at what his example of willful sin is—verse 25 – forsaking the assembling of yourselves together. This isn’t missing a service here or there because you’re sick or otherwise physically unable to come. This is willfully deciding that you aren’t going to worship with the saints. And this is the example of willful sin that makes you an enemy of God!
Must the saints come together? If they want to go to heaven, they do.
I don’t like hearing people say “I have to go to church.” Our attitude should be “Ain’t it great? I get to go to church today!” Skipping services isn’t the problem, it’s just a symptom of a spiritual problem.
I’m glad you made the decision to gather with the saints to worship God today. It is my prayer that you have been blessed by being here.
Jesus Christ gave His life for you, and is it really asking all that much that you devote a few hours of your week to coming together with His people?
If you truly appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, then you’ll want to devote your entire life to Him. If you’re not a Christian, then what are you waiting for? You’re lost in sin, surrounded by the fiery pits of hell on all sides, but Jesus is reaching out to save you! All you have to do is take hold of Him by believing that He is the Christ, the Son of God; repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized—the water saves you from the fire!
If you are a Christian, and your priorities haven’t been where they should be, why not make it right today?