About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Going To Church


You may think I'm splitting ecclesiastical hairs but I think the phrase "going to church" needs some Biblical attention.  Words do matter, something Jesus alluded to in Matthew 12:34 (CSB) when He said "the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart."   We may not admit it, but what we say is what we think, and what we say is how we feel.  


The medieval church (roughly 400 AD to 1600 AD), often viewed as the dark age of church history, has had a profound and lasting negative impact on church.  Unless you know the history you will fail to recognize some of these negative effects that in one form or another remain in our ecclesiastical world today.


Going to church for many means watching the performance on the platform in a regularly scheduled meeting in a building called a church.  I believe going to church means much more than that.  A detailed study of Hebrews 10:24 and 25 shows this to be true.  The CSB translates these verses this way.


"And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching."


The phrases "let us watch out for one another" and "encouraging each other" imply personal relationships with those to whom Jesus has joined us alongside in the community of Christ.


The word "provoke" should not be understood in negative terms.  The Greek word "paroxysmos," in my opinion, is better translated as "stimulate."  Gathering together involves stimulating each other to love and to do good works so we can collectively fulfill God's will in and through us.    


Our English words "gather together" in verse 25 are translated from the Greek word "episynagoge."  This word is not a Greek word as you might expect.  It's a Hebrew word that has been inserted into the Greek language.  In technical terms, such an insertion is called a transliteration.  Knowing what "episynagoge" means helps us understand what gathering together or going to church means.   


Over time the word "episynagoge" came to mean a place of worship called a synagogue, but more fundamental than that it means the "community of people belonging to God and to each other."  That might well have been the author's thinking as he penned this Hebrew word in his letter to his Hebrew readers.  We, thus, should not understand gathering together in Hebrews 10:25 as simply attending a meeting we call church.  Gathering together implies being properly fitted into the community of God's people where we love and stimulate each other to do good works in the process of accomplishing God's plans on earth. 


Going to church for me is sharing my life and functioning in ministry with those to whom Jesus has placed me alongside in the Body of Christ.  Meetings and buildings are just two of many tools that help implement God's purposes in and through those of us who are gathered together in the community of God's people.  A tool is just a tool.  It is not the Biblical meaning of going to church.  The next time you attend a meeting called church, tell yourself that those who are gathered with you are those whom Jesus has placed you alongside in supportive personal relationships that are intended to implement God's will in the community in which you live.    


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