The “Grievous Sin” of Neglecting the Church (Ames)

Do you have a low view of Christ’s church, or are you purposely staying away from her?

For this reason the Westminster Confession notes that outside of the church “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (25.2).  This doesn’t mean that a Christian who cannot possibly join with the fellowship is lost (for example, there are Christians in some prisons who have no way of being part of the church or fellowship).  But it does mean that those who willfully refuse to be part of a church are putting their souls in grave danger.  Why?  Because neglecting the assembly is a multi-layered sin against God, others, and self.

 

The Lord Jesus has a special love and care for his church (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:25ff).  He is the good Shepherd who carefully watches over his flock (Ps. 23) and unselfishly gave up his life to save her (Jn. 10:11).  He loves his bride (the church) so much that he promised to build her up, beautify her, sanctify her, protect her, and preserve her unto the end (Mt. 16:18, Eph. 5:27, etc.).  For these reasons Christians should be quick to identify with the church, love her, support her, and pray for her.  We find Christ’s blessings in his church.  William Ames wrote well on this:

“Since the ordinances of Christ always have God’s blessing joined with them, various promises of God are made to the church about the presence of Christ (Mt. 18:20, 1 Cor. 5:4).  So in a special way he is said to live and walk in the churches (Rev. 2:1, Is 31:9).  And promises are made about the presence of the Holy Spirit (Is. 59:21).  Thus an ampler and surer blessing of God may be expected in the instituted church of God than is found in any solitary life.”

“Therefore those who have opportunity to join the church and neglect it most grievously sin against God because of his ordinance, and also against their own souls because of the blessing joined to it.  And if they obstinately persist in their carelessness, whatever they otherwise profess, they can scarcely be counted believers truly seeking the kingdom of God.”

For this reason the Westminster Confession notes that outside of the church “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (25.2).  This doesn’t mean that a Christian who cannot possibly join with the fellowship is lost (for example, there are Christians in some prisons who have no way of being part of the church or fellowship).  But it does mean that those who willfully refuse to be part of a church are putting their souls in grave danger.  Why?  Because neglecting the assembly is a multi-layered sin against God, others, and self.

Do you have a low view of Christ’s church, or are you purposely staying away from her?  True, the church is not perfect, but it is an assembly loved by Christ, cared for by him, blessed by him, and being protected and perfected by him.  Pray that God gives you a Christ-like view of the church!

The above quotes are found in William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, 181.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.