Hebrews 10:25

Well, here it is: the only verse in the entire New Testament that even comes close to being  a commandment from God to attend church.  We trot it out whenever attendance falls off, hoping no one ever asks for more corroboration because we know there’s no more there.  People hardly ever do, so we skate by on that one verse.

Unfortunately for those who would like to enforce church attendance, “the day” has already come and so the admonition no longer applies.  (See the Introduction of A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom for posts that make this clear.)

Let’s leave aside for the moment, however, the issue of the coming of the day of the Lord.  Even apart from that issue, it is hypocritical of us to announce this scripture as a summons to Sunday worship services at the local church because we do not even obey it ourselves.  Here’s why: The scripture says that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  We never do it together; we always do it separately.  In any given city, even in small ones, there is a Baptist gathering, a Methodist gathering, a Presbyterian gathering, a Roman Catholic gathering, a Greek Orthodox gathering, a non-denominational gathering, and on and on – sometimes right across the street from each other!

The New Testament church did not divide up this way.  When the first sign of fissures began to show, Paul rebuked them strongly (1 Corinthians 1-3).  There was one church per city.  Has this even been tried in our day?  Yes…and to much failure.  What then are we to do?  Acknowledge that the day of the  Lord – the kingdom of God – has come.  Thus we should seek the Lord, seek His kingdom – not try to build houses named Ichabod.

At the very least, let us admit that Hebrews 10:25 is not a call to church attendance, but rather an indictment of our disobedience to the Lord who called us to be one.  Thus, the Bible verse that is most often used to compel church attendance actually condemns it in our day.

I do not fault the sheep for they merely want to know more about Jesus.  We shepherds, however, should know better.  We have been wrong to make the sheep choose among us.  We should not be calling the sheep to ourselves but rather directing them to Him who is their true Shepherd.

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10 Responses to Hebrews 10:25

  1. Pingback: The Christians Can’t Practice the New Testament Anymore Than the Jews Can Practice the Old Testament | A Bible Reader's Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

  2. Pingback: When the People in the Church Changed to the Kingdom of God in People | A Bible Reader's Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

  3. Pingback: The Saints Were to Gather to Each Other Until They Gathered to the Holy One Himself | A Bible Reader's Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

  4. There’s certainly some truth to what you’re saying. I think it’s sad that Christianity is so divided by so many different issues into all these separate denominations. At the heart of our faith is a love for and desire to better know and serve the person of Jesus Christ, and I think we quickly lose sight of that because of debates on non-essential aspects of the faith. It is sad that Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and so on, must disagree as though they are not members of the same faith.

    That being said, it is clear that we are called to unity. As you pointed out, the New Testament model is one where each city has just one church. Paul wrote letters to the church in Rome, the church in Ephesus, the church in Corinth, it’s always singular. While unity is obviously a good thing, we must examine whether or not it is plausible to meet like this today. Bear in mind, population density in cities in the time of Paul was not even close to what it is today. I think of a city like Dallas. There are thousands upon thousands of church-goers all over the Dallas area. Is it even feasible to build a single church that could house all of them? To me it seems unrealistic. As a church planter myself, the logistics of it kind of make me want to crawl into a hole and hide.

    Let’s say though, that that doesn’t matter. Let’s say we are absolutely called to unity, and there should only be one church in each city. Regardless of whether or not that’s what we’re called to, that’s not what has happened. The fact of the matter is we do have piles of denominations meeting in different places all the time. My issue here is that you’ve decided that the logical thing to do is ditch the idea of church altogether. Logically speaking, we’re called to gather as believers, and we should do so one way or the other. I don’t think God went “alright guys, let’s make one big church. Well, looks like you failed at that, so let’s just go ahead and toss out that church idea altogether.”

    Finally, I do have to point out that there is a level of unity between Christians, even if we don’t all attend the same exact church. It’s clear that the word “church” does not refer to the building, but to the body of believers within it. I consider members of other churches to be part of my spiritual family, and I do see many ways in which we are united, even if we aren’t watching the same teaching on Sunday mornings. I attend small groups and Bible studies that contain a mix of people from various gatherings. At one point, me and my old roommate put together a worship night that combined musicians from several local churches to come and praise God together as one body. We did that three times over a few months and saw hundreds of people attend, and you know what? It didn’t matter to anyone that we weren’t all from the same church. We were there to praise Jesus. That’s where I think unity ultimately plays a role: in the fact that we all want to love, adore, and praise Jesus Christ.

    Those are my thoughts on the matter. I’m certainly no authority on spiritual matters, but I do love the Bible and a good discussion. I look forward to hearing back from you!

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    Nathan,

    I can’t tell where you stand. You acknowledge some of the fundamental points of the post, but then defend the status quo. The two are not compatitble. Either it’s scriptural to have different churches as we do today or it’s not. If the status quo is scriptural, then defeat my arguments. If the status quo is not scriptural, stop supporting the status quo.

    The New Testament church was a bridge from the nation of Israel to the kingdom of God. The purpose of a bridge is to get us from one side to the other. We don’t build our houses on the bridge. We should be building our houses where the bridge takes us: that is, the kingdom of God.

    What is the kingdom of God?

    “At the heart of our faith is a love for and desire to better know and serve the person of Jesus Christ.” – Nathan Brown

    You don’t have to go to a church to do that.

    • Sorry about that. Happens to me all the time: I have a million thoughts at once and I try to present them all in a way that makes sense and fail miserably every single time. My stance is essentially this: church is important. Without regularly gathering together with other believers, listening to teachings, corporately worshipping, I honestly don’t know where my walk with Christ would be.

      As far as different denominations, it is sad to me that we make such a big deal of non-essentials. It’s sad that Arminians will condemn Calvinists as though the teachings of Calvin were somehow heretical. We forget that faith in Christ is central, and make such a big deal of non essentials that we end up fighting with our brothers and sisters. I do think that people need to accept that certain debates are in house, and break down some of these barriers we have due to denomination.

      That being said, I do not believe that it’s wrong that there’s more than one church in each city. In my own, there are several that I like very much. While I know people at many churches, and occasionally attend/help out at many of them, I do have one that I regularly serve at, am very involved in, and consider my “home church”. The gospel call to unity is certainly being fulfilled in my life, as I have a strong group of Godly friends who I regularly fellowship with and grow spiritually with. I am also unified with the body of Christ in that I regularly attend service, worship with the rest of my church, so on and so forth.

      My understanding of your stance is essentially that we should rid ourselves of denominations, build one big church in each city, and have every Christian in every city be a member of the exact same church, and if we can’t have that, we shouldn’t have any churches at all. I would love to hear you defend that scripturally, because I think that the entire book of Acts, being that it’s about the founding of the church, would clash with that viewpoint.

      In defense of my stance, I suggest reading the last portion of Acts chapter 2, starting in verse 44. After Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were saved by God, and they all remained unified, as one body. I know I started this comment by saying I can talk too much sometimes, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for doing that again.. Hope this helps though!

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    I took your suggestion and read Acts 2:44-47. I can’t understand how you think this passage justifies church as it is practiced today.

    In that church “all those who believed were together” – in today’s churches we have denominations.

    In that church “many signs and wonders were taking place through the apostles” – in today’s churches we have few signs and wonders and no apostles.

    In that church “they had all things in common, were selling their property and possessions, and sharing them with all as any might have need” – in today’s churches there is some generosity, but nothing to compare to that scale.

    If you want to scripturally justify today’s churches you will have to find scriptures other than this passage, as it undermines your position rather than supports it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I recognize that that is the case, I’ve stated it repeatedly. My point is, if you feel that our modern day churches have gotten away from what they are supposed to be doing, isn’t that a call to action? I certainly don’t think it makes any sense to give up on church altogether as some sort of failed experiment. Also, what scriptural backing do you have to support the idea of not having churches, other than verses that say we’re going about it the wrong way?

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    Nathan,

    If you are familiar with the New Testament, you know that the hope of its church was the coming of the kingdom of God (often called the Second Coming of Christ) in their lifetimes. This hope is referenced from one end of the New Testament to the other – almost on every page. The expression of that hope begins with John the Baptist saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and reaches a fever pitch by the book of Revelation which concludes with Jesus saying, “I am coming quickly” three times in the last chapter.

    You can either believe the kingdom has come and seek it instead of church, or you can believe that Jesus and His disciples were wrong about the timetable. I find it impossible to believe that Jesus and His disciples were wrong about something they agreed about so thoroughly, emphasized so strenuously, and repeated so frequently.

    I am not suggesting that today’s churches be reformed; I am suggesting that we seek instead the kingdom of God as Jesus teaches us to do (Matthew 6:33). It makes no more sense for us to forsake the kingdom in order to reform the church than it would have made sense for the disciples in Acts to forsake the church in order to reform animal sacrifice in the temple. Both temple and church are now obsolete. The kingdom of God is in our midst. If we truly love Jesus, we must seek it.

  8. Mike Gantt says:

    Nathan,

    Here are some posts to help you see that the kingdom of God is greater than church:

    And here are some posts to help you see that the kingdom of God came just when Jesus and His apostles said it would:

    Lastly, I would simply say that one way of defining the kingdom of God is that it is the lordship of Christ over a human life.  Today’s churches are about the lordship of church leaders; the kingdom of God is about the lordship of Christ.

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