And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
I wonder if the purpose of “doing church” has been lost on some folks. Even those who show up regularly might need a reminder of why they are there. There are several social reasons to go to “church”, such as friendships that are fostered, common interests, and opportunities to serve. As important as these are, they are secondary to the reasons that Scripture gives.
First, we are to come together to set apart ourselves from the work of the world. It is a day of rest and restoration of the body, mind, and spirit. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but (on) the seventh day … you shall not do any work, Deuteronomy 5:13–14 It shows that we trust God enough that our livelihood does not depend on “bread (money) alone”, but on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” So the assembly of the church is an act of faith in God’s provision. It is, by the way, a COMMANDMENT! If you fancy yourself a keeper of God’s law, but do not keep this one, then think again.
Secondly, it is not just rest alone, but praise and prayer. We praise God for allowing us rest from physical labor and from the spiritual labor of trying to compensate for our sins. We praise Him for the rest that we find in His Son, our Savior, whose death cleanses us of our guilt and makes eternal life possible. As any relationship breaks down for lack of gratitude, so does ours with God. Without making the effort to praise and thank our Lord we can forget from whence come our blessings and soon turn into complainers. To those who say, “I can praise God at home, I don’t need to go to church,” I would answer, “Yes, but do you actually do that?”
Thirdly, we not only rest and worship, but we do so “devoted…to the fellowship.” By gathering together we encourage each other, pray for one another’s need, and serve one another. Those who feel strong enough to go it alone may be forgetting that others need the benefit of their strength to encourage them. Coming together is the opposite of selfish isolationism. It shows that you do truly love your fellow believer. Truthfully, none of us is as strong in the faith alone as we are in community.
Finally, we come to God’s house to receive the instruction of God’s Word and the strength of His Sacrament. (“apostle’s teaching and the breaking of bread”). The disciples gathered regularly to receive the gift of God. The meaning of the word “service” in reference to the Divine Service is that God is serving us Himself. Are there any who could not use some wisdom and strength from God, His people, and his Word? Jesus characterized the day of worship very simply by saying that it was made for us, not us for it. It is where God himself blesses us.