Do I Have to Go to Church to Gain Eternal Life?


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It’s Sunday morning and your alarm goes off. You hit the snooze button, roll over and go back to sleep. You just can’t stand the thought of getting out of bed to go to church. Frankly, you’ve grown pretty tired of the whole church scene. Then you start to wonder: Will it really matter if I miss service this week? What about next week? Would God stop loving me if I didn’t go to church anymore?

More people are questioning whether going to church is necessary for a fulfilling Christian life. Our society highly values individualism, therefore a structured and disciplined church body is considered old fashioned and unnecessary. Some people just want Jesus, not the church. They want spirituality, not religion. After all, if Jesus is the one who saves, do you really need to sit through Sunday School, sing worship songs and listen to sermons to go to heaven and have eternal life?

On the one hand, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the church being part of salvation. On the other hand, there are many verses that refer to a community of believers coming together regularly to worship God. So, what do you do? In order to truly understand the role of the church, you must ask yourself a few basic questions:

What Is the Gospel and what does it have to do with eternal life?

A lot of people have this false idea that going to church is an automatic ticket to heaven. For many, going to church has become a weekly ritual and a strong source of tradition. But is that really the gospel? In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, just because you sing in the choir, attend youth group events or help teach children during Vacation Bible School doesn’t mean that you’re considered holy in God’s eyes. Putting on a Christian image to impress others or to make yourself feel religious does nothing when it comes to making yourself right before God.

The gospel is all about Jesus. Salvation comes in knowing that you’re born a sinner who warrants death and separation from God for all eternity. But God sent His only son to live a perfect life and then sacrifice Himself to pay the debt that you never can. And to show His complete power over Satan, Jesus rose from the dead and now lives with the Father. It’s only by putting your complete trust and faith in Jesus and allowing His Spirit to live in you that you can even approach God, let alone be with Him in heaven.

Yet there are still so many people who think that going to church will give them eternal life. But to God, their righteous acts are just “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). To truly understand the gospel and what it means to be saved, you must keep the cross at the center. The church is nothing more than the body of believers and Jesus is its foundation. If you take Jesus out of the equation, there is no church! Why waste your time sitting through sermons if you’re not being convicted, taught or renewed in the image of Christ? Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2? “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Does the church really matter for gaining eternal life?

Does this mean that once you repent and put your trust in God you don’t have to do anything else? Not at all! While it’s true that faith in Christ is the only thing that can bring you salvation, you can’t disregard the value of fellowship, discipline and community in the Christian life.

Human beings are meant to worship your creator. Though you can do this on your own through devotion and prayer, God still calls you to sing, study His word and take the Lord’s Supper as a unified body (Acts 2:42, 20:7, Romans 15:9, 1 Cor. 11:17-22). You should want to meet together on a regular basis to give glory to God and His kingdom, just like the early church did in Acts 2:42-47. Plus, your experience and encounter of God is far stronger when you’re worshipping as a Spirit-filled and led community of believers. Jesus said, “Whenever two or more of you are gathered, there am I in your midst.” (Mathew 18:20)

But the church is for more than just worship. Spiritual growth is part of being transformed into the image of Christ. This is done by using the gifts God has given you to help further the work of His church. And in using these gifts, you must be unified with fellow Christians, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12:25).

For a church to function well, it must also have structure and discipline. God is a God of order which means that home bible studies or watching a preacher on TV is no substitute for a formal church service. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing such things. But don’t let yourself think that they can take the place of a regular church meeting. Public worship of God is illegal in some countries. So, believers have no choice but to praise Him at home. But thankfully, you live in a nation that allows you to worship Christ freely. Therefore, take advantage of the leaders that help give your church structure. They’re a gift from God and their guidance will only help you grow in spiritual maturity.

How Should I View the Church?

Ask yourself if you need to reevaluate your attitude toward church. Though it won’t save you, being part of a church can strengthen your faith and draw you closer to fellow believers. Don’t think that you can live this Christian life on your own. Instead, look at the church as an incredible blessing from God. Use it to make your love and devotion to Him grow stronger through worship, teaching and encouragement from His people.

Next time you find yourself questioning the importance of your church, remember Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching”

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