Regardless of the fact that Sunday worship was never part of the early Church, and it's origins are derived from Emperor Constantine's worship of the Sun god, I can tell you that I have felt frustrated while sitting in Christian circles and hearing comments like "Well, at least they were in Church on Sunday" -- as if that one act fulfilled some Christian checklist of what makes a righteous person. And never mind how they behaved the rest of the week! Plus, where did the every Sunday come from? Shouldn't our greater consideration be whether that person was fulfilling the Commission Jesus gave every Christian in Mark 16 and Matthew 28? And didn't Jesus say, "You will recognize them by their fruits"? Nowhere do I see Him saying that His followers will be recognized by their Church attendance, or that Church attendance guaranteed a saved soul.
I would like us to consider that perhaps this is a man-made tradition and not a commandment from Jesus or the Father. Yet there are many Believers who cling to this tradition, and they always go to a corrupted use of a partial verse in Hebrews 10 as the foundation of their argument ... they will quote it as follows, "Let us not forsake the gathering together as is the habit of some". So I decided to take a good look at this Scriptural reference. FIRST OF ALL, there is a whole important segment of that verse between "Let us" and the "not forsake gathering together" part. SECOND OF ALL, I believe we need to consider the context of the entire chapter of Hebrews 10. Let me try to summarize my understanding of it as concisely and accurately as I can.
In Chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews is juxtaposing the religious system of the Old Covenant with the freedom from sin [offered by faith in Jesus] in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was characterized by ceremonies and traditions that could never completely deliver one from sin. The New Covenant completes the atonement of sin [through Jesus's sacrifice] and cleanses those who are being sanctified and brought to spiritual completion and maturity. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ, not any Law. Yet how many Christians don't think they can live a righteous life if they are not involved in some kind of structured, organized religious practice? [For the sake of argument, we are just considering Sunday Church attendance, but I'm sure you are thinking of other rituals that have taken on un-Scriptural significance].
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that there is a new and Living way to live life; and we can receive a full assurance of faith by believing [with a true and convicted heart] the promises made by Jesus. THEN comes Hebrews 10:24-25, from which the fragment of Scripture is used to validate man's tradition ... And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Now, I know I'm probably not going to convince someone who may be struggling with their religious traditions, but I ask all to seriously study these two verses. One cannot simply extract the middle of that sentence [to prove their argument] and ignore the significance of the entire precept. The idea of not neglecting to meet together is for the purpose of stirring up one another to love and good works. It is not about Church attendance! It's about loving our fellow man and doing good works! And what are those "good works"? I would propose to you that Jesus came as our model of how to do "good works". He says in Matthew 5:16, In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. He says in John 14:12, Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
I contend that the "good works" are the works that Jesus did; His ministry to the sick, those dying in their sin, Deliverance and Healing [both physical and spiritual]. So the Scripture actually says don't neglect to meet together to stir each other up to do these works, and then goes on to say that meeting together is to encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day of the Lord drawing near. The other part of doing the good works of Jesus is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom; and to go out and make Disciples of others to spread the Word so that no man may be dead in his sins -- because the rest of the Chapter goes on to say that there will be a Divine Judgment and It is a fearful and terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [incurring His judgment and wrath]. And that's why we don't need to neglect to meet together -- to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus; teach them about Kingdom living; and then send them out as Disciples to teach others. That is what the "encouraging one another, and all the more" is about!
Back to Hebrews 10 ... I am NOT saying that you have to separate doing the good works and loving your fellow man and encouraging Disciples from Sunday church attendance. And I am not saying that there aren't Church congregations, both large and small, who are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom! God bless you if that is your mission! But if you are one who needs that tradition of structured gathering, honestly ask yourself this question ... Do I see my Church/Home Church doing the good works, saving souls, and making Disciples? Or are we telling ourselves that's what we're doing as we meet together, listen to a sermon, teach a Sunday School class, have a meal together? Are we encouraging each other to go out into the world [as Jesus and His Disciples did] to display the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives? Or are we content to gather together and "talk" about partnering with Jesus and the Spirit? Are we substituting the study of Jesus's model for actually doing what He did for the glory of His Father?
I will admit that these are questions that Mark and I are asking ourselves. We feel as though God is finishing up a season of downloading His knowledge about His Kingdom and the part we play in it, and He's about to take us into a new season ... one that demands we walk out what He's taught us. And I will also admit it's hard to make these transitions in our service to Him and our fellow man. It's much easier to study and discuss -- and, yes, to "meet together" and declare these new revelations -- and it's harder to put them into daily practice. So, I empathize with you, if what I've presented is difficult for you to swallow. And if you disagree, then can I, in love, challenge you? Can you at least accept that there is no clear Scriptural mandate that Sunday Church service is obligatory to serving God and His Kingdom? I am not condemning those who do. I simply ask that you do not judge or condemn others who see a different calling upon their lives as to how they worship and walk out their faith. The important thing is that our lives serve as a light to shine upon the glory of God - every day!
Colossians 1:9-12 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.