Why Do I Have to Go to Church?

One Sunday morning, a wife went to wake her husband to tell him it was time to get ready for church. He replied, “I don’t want to go.” When she asked, “Why not?” he retorted, “I’ll give you two good reasons. First, the people of our church don’t like me, and second, I don’t like them.” His wife replied, “Fair enough. But I’ll give you two good reasons why you should go. First, you’re 39 years old, and second, you’re the pastor!”

Children sometimes dislike going to church, for they fail to understand the importance of regular church attendance. But this should not be the case for mature adult Christians. It’s true that we live in an age when God’s people can access sound Bible teaching by means of radio, television, the internet, and other venues. But none of these avenues of ministry can take the place of the warm, in-person fellowship that is found in the local church.

We know that the Apostle Paul understood the importance of such fellowship, for he wrote,

“Furthermore, when I came to Troas…I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother” (2 Cor. 2:12,13).

Paul speaks here of the serious adverse effect it had on him when he was deprived of the fellowship of a fellow believer who was very dear to him. And he begins these verses with the word “furthermore” because fellowship was also the subject of the preceding context, although this is not readily apparent. So let’s back up to verse 6 to see how the apostle began this discussion:

“Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.”

Here Paul was speaking about the man who had committed unspeakable fornication in Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1), the one he said should be put out of the assembly (v. 2,13) lest sin like that spread like leaven throughout the congregation (v. 6). By the time he wrote his second epistle to the Corinthians, he was delighted to hear that they had followed his instructions and had disfellowshipped that brother. However, he was dismayed to learn that they were then refusing to restore fellowship to the man after he repented! That explains why Paul told them that the punishment they had dutifully inflicted upon the man was “sufficient,” and why he added,

“So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7).

The fornicator had obviously sorrowed unto repentance, or Paul wouldn’t have instructed them to forgive him and readmit him to their fellowship. But if they didn’t follow this second instruction as faithfully as they had followed his first one, there was a strong likelihood that this sorrowful brother would be “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”

Clearly, Paul understood how much the fornicator needed to be surrounded by the loving fellowship of his church. And whether the members of his church knew it or not, they needed the fellowship of the repentant fornicator! Paul made that clear when he said in verse 12, as it were, “Furthermore, even I Paul need fellowship,” adding that he had “no rest” apart from it. Surely if even the great Apostle Paul needed fellowship, it is certain that the Corinthians needed it too—and so do we!

I say all this because grace believers know that the Apostle Paul never commands us to go to church. Even if you believe that Paul wrote Hebrews, as some do, the exhortation we read in Hebrews 10:25 to assemble with the saints is not in the imperative mood in the Greek text, and it is not an imperative statement in English either. That means it is
not a command.

But while Paul never commands us to go to church, he assumes that we will want to attend church regularly. He prefaced a rebuke that he gave to the Corinthians with the words,

“For first of all, when ye come together in the church…” (1 Cor. 11:18).

Do you see how Paul just assumed that even the carnal Corinthians would want to gather together regularly with other saints to study God’s Word, sing His praises, and fellowship with one another?

If you are thinking, “Pastor, you don’t understand. My church is filled with knotheads, difficult people with whom I find it really hard to get along.” If so, that’s all the more reason to go to church! You see, you can never learn to demonstrate the grace of God in your life without difficult people to be gracious to! There is no better place to learn to reflect the gracious nature of God in your life than the local church.

The church is also a great place to learn how to demonstrate forgiveness, mercy, and longsuffering. I mean, if you never go anywhere where people give you grief, how are you ever going to learn how to display the same forgiveness, mercy, and longsuffering that God extends to us when we grieve Him?

And aren’t we talking about the greatest of God’s attributes? Don’t you want opportunities to display the mercy, longsuffering, and grace of God, and in so doing testify to the depth of the tremendous work that He has done in your life?

If you think about it, these grand attributes are actually the only attributes of God that we can display. Not a single one of us can demonstrate God’s omnipotence, His omnipresence, or His omniscience, but we can all learn to exhibit His grace—but only if we are surrounded by difficult people who test our ability to display these virtues.

When Paul declared that he had no rest in his spirit when denied the fellowship of Titus (v. 13), we know that this was an unrest that he felt deeply, for he prefaced his words by saying,

“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus…” (v. 12,13).

Here Paul implies that the absence of the fellowship of his coworker affected him so severely that he didn’t enter an open door of opportunity to preach the gospel. It is evident from this that the absence of his fellowsoldier’s fellowship must have shaken him to his very core. We know this to be so, for this is the only time Paul failed to enter an open door. Why do you think God would allow this dark blot on his otherwise unimpeachable record if not to teach us the importance of fellowship?

Take some time to read the stirring list of things that Paul endured in the ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. As you read each item in this poignant register, remind yourself that the beatings that Paul endured didn’t stop him from entering open doors, the stonings didn’t stop him, the shipwrecks didn’t stop him — NOTHING stopped him. But a simple lack of fellowship stopped him dead in his tracks.

This year it is stopping baseball players dead in their tracks. Sports analysts know that the encouragement of a stadium full of fans gives a team what’s known as “home-field advantage.” But the coronavirus concern that prompted major league baseball to ban fans from the stands has nullified that advantage. Home teams are only winning .505% more of their games than visiting teams, barely an advantage at all. Obviously professional athletes need the encouragement of their fans, and we need the encouragement of one another!

Our need of fellowship is just one of many reasons the Bible emphasizes the importance of the local church over and over again, in many different ways. We know that establishing grace churches is what God sent Paul to do, for he spent his life doing it. He then followed up that church-planting ministry by writing most of his epistles to local churches.

The local church is where the Scriptures are read (Col. 4:16) and taught (1 Cor. 4:17), and spiritual men are ordained to the ministry (Acts 14:23) to feed God’s Word to His people (Acts 20:28). It is where disputes among brethren are settled (1 Cor. 6:4) and the poor are given aid (1 Tim. 5:1-10). It is where the gospel is preached to the lost (1 Cor. 15:1-4) and saints are edified by the teaching of God’s Word (1 Cor. 14:12). It’s where spiritual leaders care for the spiritual needs of God’s people (1 Tim. 3:5), who in turn support God’s work in their area by giving of their finances (1 Cor. 16:1,2; Phil. 4:15). It is also the place where God’s people “show the Lord’s death til He come” by observing a communion service (1 Cor. 11:23-26), and it’s where the Lord’s servants serve Him and His people (Rom. 16:1). The local church is, in short, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

So if you haven’t returned to church after the Covid-19 concern caused such a massive upheaval in the fellowship of God’s local churches, I would encourage you to rejoin your local assembly as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. I say this because I know that once our routine of going to church is broken, it’s sometimes hard to get back on track.

I know that it’s tempting to just sit home and watch grace pastors and teachers expound God’s rightly divided Word in the comfort of your own home. I thank God that these days even smart phones can ensure that the sound teaching of our grace pastors is no longer limited to those who can actually darken the doors of their churches. There are many stranded grace believers who depend on these infinitely valuable extended ministries to grow in the faith. But these avenues of ministry must never be allowed to take the place of participation in a living, breathing group of sanctified saints when it is available.

Many years ago, when contributing Searchlight writer Dave Stewart was pastoring a local church, some grace believers visited his church and explained that they lived nearby but didn’t attend his church, for they could learn the Word from the ministry of grace pastors and teachers who had online ministries. Dave replied (more graciously than this, I’m sure!), “Whatever gave you the idea that the reason to go to church is to see what you can get out of it? The reason to go to church is to see what others can get out of you, as you learn how to give of yourself to them and aid the Lord’s work in every possible way.”

And so it is. Even if you are not among the proverbial movers and shakers in your local church, your very presence there is an encouragement to other congregants—especially to your pastor! Nothing brings more cheer to the heart of a pastor who has spent twenty or thirty hours preparing his message than to look out and see grace believers who hunger to hear the Word taught. So why not make plans right now to return to the warmth of your church’s fellowship this Sunday. You’ll be eternally glad you did!

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.

What’s In A Name? – Acts 9:36-43



“Tabitha” (9:36) was a Hebrew name, the Greek Gentile translation of which was “Dorcas.”  All names have meanings, and Tabitha means “beauty,” while Dorcas means “gazelle.”  So both names mean kind of the same thing, for gazelles are beautiful animals.

But the meanings of names in the Bible often have spiritual significance.  This woman was a type of the nation of Israel.  You see, when the people of Israel did good works like they did under King Solomon, He made sure they were beautiful in the eyes of the other nations.  But when they did bad works instead, He allowed the Babylonians to destroy their beautiful city and take them captive (Lam. 2:13-15).

But they were beautiful as long as they were doing good works, as we see symbolized by Dorcas, whose name means “beauty,” and who is said to have been “full of good works” (9:36).  She lived in Joppa, another name for beauty, making it a symbol of Jerusalem.  She was beautiful and lived in a beautiful city—just like the people of Israel when they were doing good works!

But the beauty of Israel died when they got so sinful God allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and take them captive, and it died again when they crucified Christ and stoned Stephen in Acts 7, something we see symbolized when Dorcas died here in Acts 9:37. God wanted to restore a beautiful kingdom to them, like they had when they were doing good works under Solomon (Acts 1:6), but all hopes of that died when they stoned Stephen, as depicted with Dorcas’ death.

The “upper chamber” they laid her in was a type of heaven.  That’s where all Israel’s hopes and dreams of the beautiful kingdom God wanted to give her went after they rejected it.  And that’s where they are to this day (I Peter 1:3,4), as we see pictured when they laid Dorcas in an upper chamber.  Their kingdom is vested there in Christ, as we see it vested in Christ on Palm Sunday (Lu. 19:38 cf. Mark 11:10).  We see this again when the Lord told some unbelievers the kingdom was within them (Luke 17:21).  He meant the kingdom they asked about (v. 20) was right in their midst vested in Him (cf. the words “within you” to Deut. 28:43,44).

When Dorcas died, her loved ones didn’t bury her, they sent for Peter to raise her from the dead (9:38-40).  That’s a pic-ture of how Israel’s hopes of a kingdom were dead, but they weren’t dead and buried!  All the nation needs is a resurrection—the kind we see pictured when Peter raised Dorcas!

When it says they brought Peter into that upper chamber (v. 39,40), that’s a picture of how the Lord went to heaven to get the kingdom and return (Lu. 19:12-15).  That’s where He went after He died and rose again, but someday He’ll return with the kingdom to raise saved Jews to enter it.  “Lydda” (v. 38) was the Greek form of the Hebrew city of “Lod,” which means nativity or generation.  That’s a picture of the re-generation of resurrection that the Lord will give the Jews when He returns (Mt. 19:28)—but only Jews who did good works like Dorcas!

Remember, we’re saved by faith without works (Tit. 3:5), but Jews under the law were saved by faith plus works of righteousness (Ps. 15:1,2) like animal sacrifices (Deut. 33:19 cf. Ps. 4:5; 51:19).  They also worked righteousness by obeying the sabbath, the feasts, and other parts of the law (Lu. 1:6).  Then the Lord added another work they had to do to be saved, sell all they had and give to the poor (Lu. 18:18,22).

That’s called an “alms” (Lu. 12:33 cf. Acts 3:2,3), and Dorcas is said to have done “almsdeeds” (9:36).  So she didn’t make coats and garments (v. 39) for herself, but for the poor to be saved, making her a type of Jews in the Tribulation (James 2:14-17).  Job was a type of this (Job 31:19-22).  He had to go through some tribulation, but was rewarded in the end, just as Jews will have to go through the Tribulation but will be rewarded in the end—if they did the good works of clothing the needy like Job and Dorcas did!

When it says Peter “presented” her to her family, that’s a picture of Jude 1:22-24, where Jews who had “compassion” on the needy and clothed them will be “presented” to the Lord and His host to enter the kingdom.

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: What’s In A Name? – Acts 9:36-43

Time to Grow Up

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:1-2).

When we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we undergo “regeneration” (Titus 3:5) or new birth. At that point, we are babes in Christ. There is joy when one is saved and born into the family of God, but there is sorrow, and rightfully so, when one remains a babe and doesn’t grow spiritually. The Corinthians were failing to grow in Christ, and this grieved the heart of Paul. He longed for that joy of watching babes in Christ, whom he had led to the Lord, “henceforth be no more children…and…grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15).

Natural babies and “babes in Christ” have similar characteristics. Babies are dependent and unable to feed themselves. They often get into trouble and make a mess. They need to be watched closely and demand a lot of time and attention. They have no control and no concern for others. They fuss, cry, and want their way. These are natural things that are typical and expected of babies, but when believers like the Corinthians, who were no longer new to the faith, exhibited characteristics like this, something was wrong, and it was time for them to grow up.

Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat.” The Word of God is our spiritual food. We receive spiritual nourishment through taking in God’s Word by reading, studying, and hearing it taught. Just as much as we need physical nourishment to live and grow, we need spiritual nourishment through the regular intake of God’s Word to live and grow.

Like newborns, babes in Christ begin with milk. The milk of the Word “be the first principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12), or the elementary things of God’s Word. As newborns grow, however, they need solid food. So it should be with babes in Christ that, as they grow, they should begin taking in the meat of the Word and be able to receive “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).

God calls each believer to grow and mature in Christ by His Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). And when it comes to our spiritual growth, we should never think that we’ve arrived. “When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reporter threw him a question: ‘Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?’ And Mr. Casals answered, ‘Because I think I’m making progress.’”1 May we never stop making progress in God’s Word rightly divided!

1. “Making Progress,” February 2, 2009, https://bible.org/illustration/making-progress.

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Berean Searchlight – October 2020

Free Mail Subscription

For a free subscription to the Berean Searchlight by mail, visit the Berean Searchlight Subscription page.

Subscribe to the Berean Searchlight Monthly Email to receive an email announcement when each issue of the Searchlight is posted online.