By H.E. Phillips
Reasons For Attending All Services And My Obligations To God
Not only are there reasons relating to ourselves and our fellow man for attending every service of the church, but we have certain obligations to God that demand our faithful attendance to every service.
1. Every child of God must present his body a living sacrifice unto God (Rom. 12:1). This does not mean in contrast with the dead sacrifice of the Jews, for the Jews did not offer a dead sacrifice. They killed a living sacrifice in their offering. There are two things involved in this plea of Paul to the Romans.
(1) They must present their bodies to the Lord as a resurrected body from the grave of sin. One who has been made dead to sin by repentance, and who has been buried with the Lord in baptism, arises as a new creature, a living creature in Christ, to present himself as a sacrifice to the God of heaven. “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). But more:
(2) As a resurrected creature from the watery grave, he must present himself a perpetual sacrifice, a living sacrifice, unto God. A living or continuing sacrifice unto God every day and every hour. Now how can one present himself a perpetual or living sacrifice when he fails to attend the place of worship at the appointed time? If I present my body a living and perpetual sacrifice unto the Lord, I am obligated to attend any and every service that will glorify Him.
2. The last statement leads us to the next reason. I must glorify God in the church. “Unto him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). Now, we either glorify God or we do not. If we glorify Him it will be as a member of the church of the Lord.
The word “church” is from a Greek word meaning “a called out” people, or an assembly. The word is one sense means all the Christian men and women in all ages who have been redeemed by Christ. This is the meaning of the word when Paul said Christ purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). But there is another sense in which the word is used. Several letters were written to churches. These were local churches or congregations, composed of members living in the same locality. Inasmuch as it is impossible for all the redeemed to meet at one place, it follows that we can give glory to God in the congregational sense only. Of course, we, as members of the church, give glory to God in the general sense, but we can not express public worship to God except in the local sense. Without the local church we can not glorify God in the worship, for this worship requires an assembly of two or more together in the name of Christ.
From the foregoing we see that if we glorify God at all we must be a member of the church. As a member of the church of the Lord we must glorify God in the congregation where we live. Now what sort of glory does God get when I fail to attend a service of the local church where I belong? The only answer is: absolutely none. How can one imagine he is glorifying God when he doesn’t think enough of the blood bought church of Christ to attend the services? I know not how. Then we must attend all services to glorify God as we should.
3. We are taught by Christ to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). That the church and the kingdom are the same is plainly shown by the statement of Christ to Peter in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi. He said, “I will build my church.” Then to Peter he said: “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:13-19). He had in mind the same institution – the church.
Can I be seeking first the kingdom or church when I allow other things to come between me and my attendance to the services of the church? Again we must answer no. The failure to attend services, when physically able to do so, is a direct, wilful disobedience of this command of Christ. No one can be saved when he lives in disobedience to the Lord.
4. I must be faithful unto death to receive the crown of glory. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Is it possible to be faithful unto death, and at the same time fail to assemble with the saints to worship God at the appointed time? I do not believe any would so contend.
To be faithful is to be steadfast in the doctrine of Christ. The early church continued steadfastly in the worship as they had been taught by the apostles. All who do not continue faithful in worship and service have not God as their Father. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 9). This includes faithfulness in church attendance as well as all other things we are required to do. When before the Great Judge we stand someday, will we be cast out because we were unfaithful in our service to Him? Every man is unfaithful to the Lord who wilfully stays away from public worship. Let us think seriously on this matter.
5. As a member of the Lord’s church I must follow the divine example of Christ and his apostles. Paul said: “Brethren, be followers together of me” (Phil. 3:17). Paul, of course, was following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He then said in the last part of this verse: “And mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” If we find examples of the church meeting for worship and study other than Sunday morning, we must follow their example.
(1) Sunday night example. “And upon the first day of the week (Sunday), when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow (Monday); and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). It is strange indeed that some will forever complain about the length of the service of the church, crying for 15 or 20 minute sermonettes, when they are willing to set for hours to see a movie or ball game. We have an example here of an all-night service. Or, at least, until midnight. Verse 8 says “there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.” There is no doubt but that on Sunday night Paul was assembled together with the church, and this by divine approval.
(2) Example of week day services. “And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). This was a prayer meeting of the church. Peter had been put in prison awaiting the wicked Herod to kill him as he had James. Peter was in prison until after the Passover, which was on Saturday. The night before the Passover Peter was freed by an angel of the Lord and led out of prison. When he came to the house of Mary, a young maiden by the name of Rhoda came to the door and found Peter. The church was inside engaged in a week-night prayer meeting. By these examples we see that it is right to meet and engage in prayer and worship during the week as well as on Sunday night.
6. As a Christian must grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). 1 need spiritual food – the word of God – and exercise in order to properly grow in spirit. If I wilfully neglect to assemble with the saints at the appointed time, I am depriving myself of that food and exercise that I must have to grow. How can one develop his spiritual being and not exercise it in public worship? To answer these questions is to show the folly in claiming to grow while neglecting the public worship. The more one worships God, the more he grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
7. When I attend every service of the church I use my talents to glorify God. There is a story by which Jesus taught this lesson, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. One of the servants was condemned because he buried his talent in the earth and did not show increase when his master came and required of his work. Am I using my talents to the full advantage when I stay away from Sunday evening service, or Wednesday evening service? What talents may be mine to use to the glory of God can not be increased as long as I do not exercise them in worship to God. Just what do you think your Master would say to you if he should come and find you away from any service of the church, when you could have been there? It is certain that he would say the same thing that his master said to this wicked servant. It would certainly not be these words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21). It would be these words: “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30). God gave you a talent (or talents) and he will require of you some day what you did with it (them). By attending every service, I can develop my talents to an increase, to be returned to my Lord when he calls.
8. This is the last reason I shall mention in this article. It has to do with common logic. From all we have read in. the Bible about the nature of Christ and the apostles, I propound this question: What would Christ, Paul, Peter, James, John or any of the other apostles do if it were possible for them to visit you in the flesh for about a month? When time came for the Sunday morning Bible study, do you suppose they would go, or would they just wait and sleep a little longer and go to the 11:00 worship? Then when the time came for the evening service would they attend, or just stay at home and “rest”? And then when the time came for the mid-week service would they be “too tired” to attend, or would they suggest that “we all” go to a “movie” instead? Would they say, “There are too many services of the church for me to attend all of them”? Can you imagine Paul saying, “Sunday evening service and the Wednesday evening service are not essential to our salvation, and there is no real need to go”? Just what do you think Christ and his apostles would do if they were here today?
On the other hand, what would you do if they were visiting you in the body? I’ll tell you. You wouldn’t miss a single service of the church. You know you would not! Just because Christ is not here in the body don’t think he isn’t present every time the saints gather in his name. He said: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Attend every service possible. Jesus will be there. Your salvation depends upon it.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 24, pp. 741-742
December 17, 1987