Have you ever heard the expression:
Running around like a chicken with his head cut off?
Have you ever taken time to consider the implications of what this means? To run around without a head? To run around without a brain? How about the fact that without either of these things, the chicken will most assuredly die – in fact, it is already dead but just doesn’t know it yet.
What about as believers? Do we need a head? Do we need a brain? They seem like stupid questions, don’t they? Let me give you some more information and then ask the question again . . .
Do we need to go to church, shul, synagogue – whatever? Some would say no.
Do we need to belong to a body of believers? Again, some would say no.
Do we need the love and encouragement of others? Some would say no to this too.
Do we need to love and encourage others?
Okay, what does this have to do with chickens?
Tevye: As the good book says, when a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick.
Mendel: Where does the book say that?
Tevye: Well, it doesn’t say that exactly, but somewhere there is something about a chicken.
Sorry, I digressed for a minute. However, the funny quote above from Fiddler on the Roof is sometimes how the text is approached. By the same token, sometimes things that are in the text are ignored or discarded just as easily as they are added and with that same kind of approach.
What specifically am I talking about?
Regularly attending and belonging to a congregation of believers.
Don’t sigh brothers and sisters. It is in the text. I know many will tell you that it is not necessary to go to church. They might even quote the text to justify their lack of attendance:
Matthew 18:20 (CJB)
20 For wherever two or three are assembled in my name,
I am there with them.”
I have heard this example used more often than not as the scriptural justification for not regularly attending and being in an assembly of believers, ie, church. You have probably heard it as well. Maybe you have used it yourself to justify not attending church. It goes something like this:
I watch church on TV with a friend or loved one.
We are both gathered in His name
therefore He is there with us
and we don’t need to belong or go to church
because we are the church!
The problem is, the text of Matthew 18:20 is not about attending a congregation – church. It is about binding and loosing (prohibiting and permitting). If you look at the context surrounding this verse, you will see in verse 18 the instruction that Yeshua (Jesus) is giving His talmidim (disciples):
Matthew 18:18 (CJB)
18 Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth
will be prohibited in heaven,
and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
In fact, if you look at the bigger context, this is the authority that Yeshua gave His talmidim. This authority was used by the Jerusalem Council regarding Gentiles in Acts 15 without a doubt.
So where does that leave us with the chicken?
We are part of a body just like the chicken’s head is part of his body. What body are we part of?
1 Corinthians 12:27 (CJB)
27 Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah,
and individually you are parts of it.
Messiah is the head – indeed, without Messiah we would die – just like the chicken. We would run around not even knowing we were dead already.
Some rationalize (make the unreasonable sound reasonable) that they have a:
“personal relationship” with Christ (Messiah)
and that they don’t need or follow organized religion and practices.
I hate to admit it, but when I was young, I have justified my not going to church at times with something very similar. Problem is, to have a “personal relationship” would imply you love Messiah, wouldn’t it? Yeshua said that those who loved him, obeyed His commands. Yeshua also loved the church. Can you really have a “personal relationship” with Him while ignoring His commands and His church?
Sometimes, we can get or start having an elevated estimate of their own importance by thinking that we ourselves are the head and don’t need the church. What does the text say?
Colossians 1:18 (CJB)
18 Also he is head of the Body, the Messianic Community —
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might hold first place in everything.
You see, he is the head and we are the body. We were called to be part of that body and be thankful . . .
Colossians 3:15 (CJB)
15 and let the shalom which comes from the Messiah
be your heart’s decision-maker,
for this is why you were called
to be part of a single Body.
And be thankful —
Sha’ul (Paul) likes to address and rebut question or excuses before they happen by stating “some might say . . .” Let me do that here too because “Some might say:”
“I am part of the body whether I am in church or not.
Not going to church doesn’t make me any less a part of the body . . .”
Sounds good – especially if you don’t want to attend a congregation and be part of a fellowship of believers. But is it biblical?
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CJB)
24 And let us keep paying attention to one another,
in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds,
25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings,
as some have made a practice of doing,
but, rather, encouraging each other.
And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.
There are a few words here that you should be aware of:
2627. κατανοέω katanoeō verb
Perceive, consider, notice, observe carefully. To notice trickery
3810. παροξυσμός paroxusmos noun
Irritation, incitement, exasperation, contention. Provoking – sharpening
1452. ἐγκαταλείπω enkataleipō verb
Desert, abandon, leave remaining. Forsake as in “why has thou . . .”
1981. ἐπισυναγωγή episunagōgē noun
A gathering together, assembly. For worship and maybe as supplemental or in addition to
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “1981. ἐπισυναγωγή,” in The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon, (Springfield, MO: Complete Biblical Library, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1981. á¼Ï€Î¹ÏƒÏ…Î½Î±Î³Ï‰Î³á½µ”.
Let’s write it and expound it just a little bit:
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CJB expounded and amplified by me) 24 And let us keep carefully observing, noticing any possible trickery, considering (having discernment) towards each other in order to provoke and push each other to acts of love and to do good deeds 25 while not forsaking, deserting and abandoning our worship assemblies and gatherings, but instead encouraging each other not only to make it important – to make it all the more important as you see the Day approaching.
Without a doubt, attending church or shul or synagogue is a biblical command because the text is clear here about that. We all need encouragement and we all need accountability. It is the way Adonai created us. Yeshua is the head of the body. To say that we don’t need that part of the body, or any part of the body for that matter, is also contrary to the text. In fact we are even given an explanation in the text as to why:
Ephesians 4:14-18 (CJB)
14 We will then no longer be infants
tossed about by the waves
and blown along by every wind of teaching,
at the mercy of people clever in devising ways to deceive.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we will in every respect grow up into him
who is the head, the Messiah.
16 Under his control,
the whole body is being fitted and held together
by the support of every joint,
with each part working to fulfill its function;
this is how the body grows and builds itself up in love.
17 Therefore I say this — indeed,
in union with the Lord I insist on it:
do not live any longer as the pagans live,
with their sterile ways of thinking.
18 Their intelligence has been shrouded in darkness,
and they are estranged from the life of God,
because of the ignorance in them,
which in turn comes from resisting God’s will.
As you can see, several of the things we have went over in this post are present in this verse. He is the head. We need to be aware of those that try to deceive. We are to be part of a body that builds each other up in love and encouragement. We are to stop being worldly – Sha’ul “insists” on it. Is this letter from him an indictment against us as well? It can be if we insist on continuing in the sterile ways of thinking we had when He was not our Lord – At this time He was not our Lord because we resisted the will of Adonai.
In fact, let’s look at another piece of the text that puts the body into perspective for us:
1 Corinthians 12:12-18 (CJB)
12 For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah.
13 For it was by one Spirit that we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free; and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 For indeed the body is not one part but many.
15 If the foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body,”
that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body.
16 And if the ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,”
that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear?
If it were all hearing, how could it smell?
18 But as it is, God arranged each of the parts in the body
exactly as he wanted them.
As it says, “God has each of the parts in the body exactly as He wanted them.” This final piece of the text will help you see that Hebrews 10 is not optional because we each belong to each other:
Romans 12:3-5 (CJB)
3 For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust. 4 For just as there are many parts that compose one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function; 5 so there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others.
Can you with any conviction, based upon the text and the commands in the text we have just discussed, still proclaim a “personal relationship” with Christ (Messiah) that doesn’t involve regular assembly (church) with other part of the body (believers)?
Not being part of an assembly of believers is truly like being a chicken running around with its head cut off.
Yeshua loved the assembly of believers, shouldn’t you?