Inaugural Lecture - Center for Classical Theology - REGISTER
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Why We “Go to Church”

By Fred G. Zaspel

The epistle to the Hebrews was written in large part to exhort professing Christians to continue on with the Lord. Some were being tempted to turn back, and the Biblical writer warns them urgently of the awful consequences of leaving Christ. If we leave Christ we will have no savior and no salvation, for there is no other savior, and there is no other sacrifice for sin. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” “Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We must be very careful to guard our hearts and our lives so as to go on with the Lord, lest we prove our profession false and we perish.

It is in this context that we are exhorted, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb. 10:25).  In view here, obviously, are the stated formal gatherings of the church. And the point is that attendance at these meetings is not only our duty — it is our support, the means by which we are strengthened to continue with the Lord. The public gathering of the people of God is one of God’s appointed means of keeping us. We call it a “means of grace.” Simply put, we meet together because we need it.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” B. B. Warfield comments here that in reading this you can almost see the Biblical writer snarl as he writes that last phrase — “as some are in the habit of doing.” Who are these people who are so very strong and so supremely holy that they do not need this divinely appointed means of grace?  Are they really so strong, so secure, so advanced that they do not need the common worship and ministry of the Word which God has appointed for them? What arrogance!  What fools! They are courting the very worst of all dangers, and they seem oblivious to it.

We “go to church” because God commands it and because God says we need it. And when we think other things are more important — that “we do not have the time” — it is only because our spiritual state is already at such a low point.

Contrariwise, to be active and faithful in the public meetings of the church is an indication of a heart and mind that understands the need and appreciates the provision. If our hearts are warm to the Lord, our feet will be quick to take us to the place of ministry and worship. If we have any understanding of our weakness and our tendency to fall away, we will run eagerly to the place God has appointed for our strengthening.

As in everything else, even here our Lord himself sets the example. Following his baptism and the mount of temptation, he came back home to Nazareth and on the Sabbath day went to the synagogue of meeting “as his custom was.” It was our Lord’s practice to take his place with the people of God in the stated place of worship to which he belonged. This one who above all others was pleasing to God in all things, this one who is supremely the perfect man, without sin, felt that even he could not neglect regular public worship. For all its imperfections, and for all its dullness, and for all there was about it that was beneath him, he saw it as a divine provision for him. Even our Lord needed it, and he was faithful to it.

We “go to church” because it is good for us, because we need it, and because God commands it. Our attendance at our gathered meetings has much to offer us. Whether we know it or not, we cannot do without them. And our attitude toward them speaks volumes about us.

 Fred Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also the interim Senior Pastor at New Hyde Park Baptist Church on New York’s Long Island, and Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is also the author of The Continuing Relevance of Divine Law (1991); The Theology of Fulfillment (1994); Jews, Gentiles, & the Goal of Redemptive History (1996); New Covenant Theology with Tom Wells (New Covenant Media); The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010). Fred is married to Kimberly and they have two grown children, Gina and Jim.

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