How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God. God is everywhere. And besides, wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst.” Taken independently, these three statements are true. In context, they are false. Even pastors use the last phrase incorrectly, applying it indiscriminately to any situation where Christians gather for whatever purpose (usually prayer).
This verse comes from Matthew 18. Its primary context is discipline (often called church discipline). Its greater context in the chapter is Jesus’ teaching about humility in the kingdom. The meaning we attach to this verse is usually man-centered and proud. We think that all we have to do is get a few Christians together and Jesus will show up. We think the same way about Sunday church. God is nowhere around and not to be found until 11am when all the Christians show up. Then “Poof!” there He is in the midst of us. Choose any church, any denomination, and God is at our service. Some pastors still call the church “the house of God”. This is also an error.
For New Testament believers, the “house of God” is within. God says our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ preincarnate name is Emmanuel – God with(in) us.
We don’t go to church or synagogue anymore to meet with God. He is no longer behind the veil. We are the Church Body of Jesus Christ. As one with God through Him, we go together and we are one everywhere we go. God is not tagging along waiting for a congregational gathering. He has made Himself one with us again through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Does it matter what church we go to? Not a bit. It matters that we are the Church and that at all costs we maintain our one relationship to God. This brings glory to our Father any day of the week, any time of day whether you are alone or gathered with the Body in fellowship.
This brings us to one other point of issue. Some people say, “If you tell us to stop going to church then you disobey Scripture which tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” Let’s take a look at that verse and see if this is a fair and true statement. This verse is part of a very long sentence beginning in verse 19 of Hebrews 10. I alluded to it a moment ago. “Having therefore , brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus….” God goes on to list three things to do in response “let us draw near…let us hold fast…and let us consider….” Since the word “therefore” precedes all this, we must understand what the therefore is there for. That provides the context of the passage. The context is not a commandment for regular church attendance.
The context is all about redemption and atonement for sin by Jesus. His blood sacrifice bought our way forever into adopted membership of His Body, His Church, as His Bride. Following the verse in question, God warns us of the consequences of trodding under foot the Son of God and counting His blood an unholy thing. We don’t do this by not showing up on Sunday. We do this by breaking our one relationship with God when we sin.
Going to church won’t stop you from sinning. The power of Jesus’ atoning blood alone enables us to go and sin no more. We die to sin as we die daily with Him. He died once, but we must continually reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin. The problem is, as Oswald Chambers says, we refuse to go to our own funerals. So many of us were genuinely saved but quickly fell asleep in sin once again and have remained so for so long that we no longer know the difference between our former lives as sinners and our pathetic church-going lives as so-called Christians. Stop going to church and trodding on Jesus.
If you must, get together with two or three brothers and sisters in Christ who love you enough to lead you to repentance in tears and humility. Restore the joy of your salvation. Jesus indeed will be there in the midst.