“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:11-15 KJV).
A little lad of six was invited to lunch in a neighbor’s home. As soon as all were seated at the table, the food was served. The little boy was puzzled, and with a child’s frankness, asked, “Don’t you say a prayer before you eat?” The host was uncomfortable and said, “No, we don’t take time for that.” The lad thought diligently a moment and said, “You’re just like my dog! You start right in.”
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4:4-5).
It’s a long step from Sunday to Sunday! There is surely more to being faithful to the Lord of heaven and earth than “church attendance,” but can one be faithful to Him without? Is it necessary (to please God, to grow spiritually, to be saved) for one to assemble faithfully with the saints? If the New Testament teaches anything, it answers “yes”! We are obviously not speaking of the sick and shut-ins and others who are hindered beyond their control, but those who able to come. We aren’t merely asking if the preacher or elders care, but does God care? Consider the following:
Lord’s Day Assembly
Saints are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ (I Corinthians 11:24). The apostolic example (Acts 20:7) and uninspired early church history confirm that the church ate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (cf. I Corinthians 16:1-2). These things were to be done “everywhere in every church” (I Corinthians 4:17). To willfully miss the Lord’s day assembly is to disregard these commands.
What about Sunday evening, Sunday morning Bible school or Wednesday night? Are such meetings Scriptural or unscriptural? Various meetings besides Sunday were held in the early church with apostolic approval (Acts 2:46; 4:23; 12:12, etc). It is certain that such additional meetings for study, worship and fellowship (Gospel meetings series, vacation Bible schools, workshops, etc.) greatly strength-en those who attend them and do untold good. In spite of Scriptural precedent and practical need for these meetings, some still weakly cling to the “Lord’s Supper only” approach to church attendance.
A Direct Command
As clearly as the New Testament teaches us not to commit adultery, not to steal or not to murder, it teaches “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). To forsake is not merely to be absent. The sick man will be absent without forsaking the assembly if he would have been there except for sick-ness. To forsake is to abandon for something deemed more important. It is mere speculation to limit this command only to the Lord’s day assembly. Whenever there is a meeting of the saints at which we could be exhorted to pure living, we ought to be there. Moreover, we ought to want to be there!
Lovers of God have always cherished worship and study opportunities (Psalms 42:1-4; 84:1-2, 10; Matthew 5:6). Can one “seek first the kingdom” while forsaking its assemblies? (Matthew 6:33). Does God care where we are when the saints meet?
In chapter four of Hosea, God condemns Israel for her refusal to obey His Word. In verse 1 we note, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” What a desolate condition!
This was a time when there is no truth. A time where the mercy of God is not accepted nor is the knowledge of His goodness respected. God says that the people have separated themselves by “swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery…” (cf. Hosea.4:2). In verse 6 the ancient prophet penned words of destruction due to the malady of the time, hear him, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
It is the case that the people of Hosea’s day had refused to acquire and live by knowledge of the Word of God. They never thought of the penalty for their neglect in all likelihood. They were going along to get along and practicing the same sins as the people about them while God had commanded them to be separate or different from those nations around them, but this seems to have never entered their thought process. They wanted to be like the nations about them when they desired a king. God granted them their wish, but their desire led to great suffering and turmoil.
As Hosea writes God is rejecting His priests and His people. He even forgets their children. A calamity exists in the land that does not respect and know God. We are taught in the Scriptures that eternal life is to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It is rather obvious that there is trouble in our land this day in the year of our Lord, 2015.
Unless we come to a knowledge of God, man will be lost. We remember a classic passage in Judges 2:10 that address situations like this. “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” The first generation out of Egyptian bondage perished in the wilderness.
The second generation is the one that Judges is addressing who were faithful. The third generation was lost because they did not know the Lord. They served Balaam while forsaking the Lord.
Are we talking about an antiquated condition? No! A thousand times NO! We are describing present day America. We are talking about a time when God is respected less and less. There is lying, swearing, killing, stealing, adultery and the list goes on and on. Filth and turmoil fill our news programs while the Bible is closed on the shelf and most of all closed to our hearts. Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). Knowledge alone will not save. It must be applied to the heart of man. The condition of our time is such that we had better WAKE UP, OPEN UP and READ UP if we want to GO UP to heaven some day. All one has to do is read the front page of the newspaper and we see Hosea all over again.
This book contains: The mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true and its decisions immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to supply you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven is opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be open at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents.
There are those today who claim that the Bible teaches that there are Christians who are not members of the church of Christ. But I have no hesitation in affirming that the Bible teaches that every person who is a Christian is, a member of the church of Christ. This means, obviously, that I am affirming that the Bible teaches that there are no Christians who are not members of the church of Christ. The church of Christ is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1: 18). The saved are those who have been reconciled unto God, and those who have been reconciled unto God are members of the body (church) of Christ (Ephesians 2:13-18). The matter is really just that simple, but in the light of the importance of the matter, let us say a bit more about it.
The Bible teaches that salvation is in Christ (II Timothy 2:10). To be in Christ is to be in His church (Galatians 3:26-27; I Corinthians 12:13; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 20:28; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7; et al.). The Bible teaches that it is impossible for one to “cross the line” into salvation without “crossing the line” into Christ. The Bible also teaches that it is impossible for one to “cross the line” into Christ without “crossing the line” into the church.
The crucial relation of the church to salvation is seen in the statement, “And the Lord added (Greek imperfect “was adding,” TBW) to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47, KJV). The English Revised Version, in an excellent treatment, translates Acts 2:47 in this way: “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (Greek present participle).
In short, the Bible teaches that there are no Christians outside of the church for which Jesus died. When one obeys the Gospel, being baptized (as a penitent believer) in the name of Christ (that is, by His authority), the Lord adds him to the church. He never fails to do this (cf. Acts 2:41, 47; I Corinthians 12:13).
Thomas B. Warren
The Spiritual Sword (April 1985), p. 6
Repentance means a change of mind. It is a change of mind that results in a change in behavior. Repentance is the result of godly sorrow (II Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow is the quality being so grieved by the wrongs committed in the past that there is a determination to turn away from those kinds of actions combined with a determination to do only that which is right in the eyes of God. This sorrow (godly sorrow) is not the sorrow of being caught, but sorrow that is characterized by a broken, contrite heart. Jude tells us that such a one hates even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 23). Repentance was described by Jonah when it was said that the Ninevites “turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). When Jesus spoke of the same situation, He stated that they “repented at the preaching of Jonah” (Matthew 12:39-41).
All sin is against God and must be forgiven by God. King David recognized that though his sins involved others those sins were against God. He exclaimed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). God is not obligated to forgive. Forgiveness is the result of God’s mercy and grace. Forgiveness is through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). Paul in that passage also referred to the “riches” of God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive all of the sins of all of mankind. There is no inadequacy in the blood of Christ. No matter how awful our sin is, no matter how many those sins are we can be forgiven by God. If we are alien sinners (not Christians), we must do those things that God requires in order to receive the remission (forgiveness) of our sins. We must obey the Gospel to be saved from our sins. That Gospel stipulates that we must believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of man (John 8:24), repent of our sins (Luke 13:3,5), confess our faith in Christ before men (Matthew 10:32), and be baptized by the authority of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). If we are already members of the church, we must follow God’s second plan of pardon to be forgiven. We must repent of our sins (Acts 8:22) and confess those sins to God in prayer (I John 1:9; Acts 8:22). The blood of Jesus can thus cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In either case (alien sinner, fallen child of God), the common act required for forgiveness is repentance. It is, therefore, imperative that we understand what is meant by repentance and all that is involved in this act.
Repentance involves restitution. Restitution is restoring to another that which we have unjustly taken in our sins. If we have deprived others of some material thing, then we must restore to that person the thing taken or the value of that thing. If that cannot be done then reasonable satisfaction must be given. If what is taken is intangible, then every effort must be made to remove the effects of the wrong. In simple terms this means that if we have stolen an automobile we must return it if we have repented. We cannot keep riding around in the car if we have genuinely repented. I believe we all have the ability to understand this. This illustration has been used effectively many times. It clearly illustrates the idea of restitution involved in repentance.
If emotions were not so heavily involved in other similar situations, I believe we could see the parallel and apply this idea of restitution consistently with success. But, when “marriage” is the sin, many do not see as clearly as they would otherwise. If a person is in an unscriptural marriage (a “marriage” not authorized by God), then many want to suggest that a person can repent without giving up that which is not rightfully his or hers. Repentance requires restitution where possible. Baptism, in the case of the alien sinner becoming a Christian, does not sanctify an unscriptural relationship. The sin of adultery can be forgiven, but only when repentance occurs which means turning away from the practice of adultery. A person cannot continue in the sinful practice and have God’s approval or forgiveness. A person must stop the practice of whatever sin in order to be forgiven.
Perhaps this additional illustration will help. Suppose a practicing homosexual learned the Truth and wanted forgiveness. It is impossible to have that forgiveness and have a right relationship with God while continuing to practice homosexuality. That sinful practice must stop if forgiveness is to obtained! Baptism will not sanctify such a relationship that is sinful no more than baptism will sanctify an adulterous relationship. If forgiveness is to be obtained, then the sinful practice must stop. That is part of what repentance requires!