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What Does the Bible Say About..Missing the Assembly?

I was reading your article concerning context, etc. Due to current sermon preparation I was interested in what you had to say about Heb. 10:25. I have viewed Heb. 10:25 with question espe. in view of the "as you see the Day approaching".. what Day is that - is that the destruction of Jerusalem that early Christians had been clearly warned of.. hmmm.. also, if that DAY is SUNDAY should I encourage my brethren more on Thursday than I did on Monday (i.e. Heb. 10:25). I still one of the greatest verses in answering the question, "Do I have to attend every service?" is Matt. 6:33.

Well I personally believe that all Christians should assemble every time the doors are open. Yes, there will be times/occasions in which this is impossible... without writing out an article or sermon - I would like your thoughts on the following: and by the way, I have recently presented this to our eldership.

If the elders set up these times in which the body is to assemble is it sinful to forsake those assemblies (Heb. 13:7, 17). Here at this cong. the elders have set up these times so that the sheep under their care can have access to fellowship and faith... they expect them to be there.... so, if brethren forsake the assembling together per the instruction of Scripture (Acts 20:7) and the instruction of those to whom they must submit (Heb. 13:7, 17)... I see sin written all over it.

Recently I have asked the eldership about this - since they do not enforce it (in a loving manner of course) then do they still want me to preach on it?


First, as to the question of what day is meant in Hebrews 10:25, I can confidently say that I don't know what it means. Some have, as you point out, said it was the destruction of Jerusalem, in which case the phrase becomes meaningless to us. There is nothing in the passage to suggest this idea. Others have said that it means Sunday. As you say, that would mean that we should provoke others to love and good works more on Thursday than on Tuesday and perhaps not at all on Sunday. This doesn't make much sense when, as many did in the first century who followed the Jewish pattern, Christians met every day. If you assemble daily, why exhort one another more on one day than another? And today when many of us don't see each other except on Sunday and Wednesday, would this imply that we must be in contact with each other daily? (That would be the ideal, but I don't see it happening when a congregation may consist of members widely scattered geographically.) I tend toward the third option, that the day (or Day) here is the "day of the Lord," the day of judgement. It would make more sense for us to encourage each other in love and good works knowing how imminent the day of our death or judgement may be. Of course, this would mean that we must "see the day approaching," which many people do not, and should.

Now to the broader question of assembling when the elders set aside a time to do so. I agree that if we followed Matt 6:33 we would be more eager to assemble with the saints. If we had more love for one another, we would be more eager to do so. Many people today don't have the sense of family that would encourage assembling together. So perhaps an unwillingness to assemble every time set aside for it may show a lack of love for Christ or the brethren.

If the elders are not enforcing the assembling on times other than Sunday, perhaps it is because they do not "expect them to be there;" they may themselves consider it optional, in which case it may not be sinful to miss the assembly. That is something each eldership would have to define for their congregation. If they feel it is a requirement for each member to be at every assembly (would that include social gatherings to which the entire congregation was invited? If Wednesday is designated a "Bible study" is that an assembly?) then it is their responsibility to "enforce" such attendance. On the other hand, they would be hard pressed to find scripture to back such a position. They could find scriptures, such as Matt 6:33, that would show that attendance would be desirable. To take the position that scripture says it is required, however, would be to say first that there would be no excuse for missing any assembly, and second that we are under a system more legalistic than even the Law of Moses.

Acts 20:7, by the way, doesn't instruct assembly as you say. It states that the saints were assembled on that day, and possibly that they set that day aside specifically for the Lord's Supper. It establishes a tradition, but not a command. The only scripture that would establish a command to assemble on the first day of the week would be 1 Cor 16:2. But that would apply only to one assembly on Sunday, not to a second assembly on that day or an assembly on other days of the week.

I encourage attendance every possible opportunity, but have to admit that as long as the elders don't come out and say it is a requirement for their congregation one can not find scripture to require attendance every time set aside for assembly. Most elderships with which I have been associated would hesitate to require every assembly without more clear scriptural authority. Therefore, they encourage frequent assembly, but don't force it on those who can not or will not assemble each time.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my email. I appreciate it. I was amazed just how similar your email was to the one I sent to the eldership. My thinking was along the same lines - why should I constantly HARP on the need to be there for various assemblies when the eldership is not enforcing it or informing the congregation of the need, etc... I had written the eldership concerning this saying that some may be able to make an argument against Matt. 6:33 if it were used as a "Proof Text" for assembling together. In other words, if you don't come on Wednesday night then you are in violation of Matt. 6:33.... Here is why? An argument could be made that I am seeking 1st the Kingdom (Matt. 6:33) by spending quality time with my family on Wednesday Night... maybe my son has a baseball game or some type of thing that will involve the whole family being together... maybe, I have agreed to work OT on Sunday Evening because my family is in a financial crunch and I am trying to take care of them... etc., etc.. My point is this - there is more to SEEKING 1st the KINGDOM than just going to "church", etc... it is actively trying to do the Lord's will in this world!

Now, if the eldership stands before the congregation and says, "As your Shepherds we are very much interested in your souls and we want everyone in this fold to be here each and every time the doors are open, etc...." of course in view of Eph. 4:15, etc.. I would then believe that for that local congregation it would be a sin to forsake, etc..

Now, I would like some further clarification on your comments concerning Acts 20:7. This is what you wrote, "Acts 20:7, by the way, doesn't instruct assembly as you say. It states that the saints were assembled on that day, and possibly that they set that day aside specifically for the Lord's Supper." Please comment further on this. Are you saying that we can meet on other days to partake of the Lord's Supper? I look at Acts 20:7 as an example of what the early disciples did... that is how we establish Bible authority by direct command, necessary inference, and/ or Bible example, etc...

Granted, attending the assembly of the church is not the entirety of seeking first the kingdom, but it would be a part of that. The stated purpose for our assembly in Heb 10:24-25 is to encourage one another toward love and good works. If we don't assemble with one another it becomes that much harder to encourage one another. On the other hand, even Hebrews 10:25 does not say to assemble every time. It says "not forsaking," which would be better translated "not abandoning." It means not leaving it completely and utterly. One who misses on occasion, or even misses a particular assembly regularly because of work or other reasons, is not "forsaking" the assembling together. Technically the only way to violate Hebrews 10:25 would be never to assemble. I have a particular objection to "internet churches" because of this. One can not be said to be assembling by logging on to a computer widely separated by space from others doing the same thing.

As before stated, if the elders were bold enough to lay a non-scriptural requirement that everyone attend every assembly, it may be incumbent on the congregation to do so. But you would be hard pressed to find an eldership willing to do so. If they did so, there would be no acceptable excuse for missing a single assembly; nobody would be allowed to leave town over a weekend because they would have to be at that congregation every Sunday without fail. This is impractical, unscriptural, and abusive of their authority.

My comment on Acts 20:7 was that the verse does not command attendance on Sunday, but shows that the early church in Troy assembled on that day. There is a difference between saying, "when the disciples came together," (as the scripture says) and saying, "you must come together on the first day of the week." The verse itself commands nothing. It does, however, show that it was common practice in the early church for the congregation to assemble on Sunday to "break bread." Whether that was the Lord's Supper or a common meal is open to question. The same phrase is used in Acts 2:46 as a daily activity.

Could we partake of the Lord's Supper other than Sunday? I don't know. Jesus didn't specify how often "as often as you partake" should be. Using this scripture the Jehovah's Witnesses argue that it should be taken only on Passover every year. It appears from Acts 20:7 that the church in Troy may have taken the Lord's Supper every Sunday. It could be argued from Acts 2:46 that it is allowed every day.

We often argue in the churches of Christ that we must have direct command, necessary inference, or apostolic example for what we do spiritually, although we have many traditions that meet none of those requirements (invitation songs, Sunday evening/Wednesday assembly, a prayer before taking the collection). Essentially that phrase "apostolic example" would mean that we could follow the traditions of men as long as the traditions can be traced back to the first century. In the case of Acts 20:7, the example is of a tradition of a single congregation and not even the tradition of the apostle Paul; he just met then because they did. The apostolic example from Paul is to assemble on Saturday (Acts 13:14; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4), Sunday (Acts 20:7), or whenever an assembly could be found. Whether they partook of the Lord's Supper on any day other than Sunday is not stated. I firmly believe in partaking of the Lord's Supper every Sunday, based on the example (not command) of Acts 20:7. Whether I could scripturally condemn anyone for taking it more often, I am not sure. Whether we can condemn anyone for taking it less often, I am not sure. Incidentally, if we use Acts 20:7 as an example of how often to partake of the Lord's Supper, why don't we use verse 6 as an example that we should celebrate Passover? The same arguments that I have heard all my life for observing the Lord's Supper on Sunday could be made for annual Passover observance. Because John specifies that Jesus walked in the Temple courts on Hanukkah are we required to celebrate that holiday? How do we decide which Biblical examples/traditions to bind and which to reject?

Sometimes we need to spend less time making laws for the church and more time emphasizing that the grace of God applies to all. After all, Romans and Galatians are as much a part of the New Testament as Acts and 1 Corinthians. Both aspects are important.