For those who know Jesus Christ, His works, His teachings, His mercy and infinite love for us, it is easy to fall in love with Him and want to follow Him. Jesus died for our sins and offers us eternal life1; all we have to do is accept Him, be sanctified by His blood and become part of His church.2 However, for some, the problem with accepting Jesus lies in that second part. Just the thought of becoming a member of the church – a place that may be perceived by some as being filled with hypocritical, illogical, judgmental and self-righteous people – can be off-putting. Why be a member of the church when I can worship and talk to God on my own? Or, can I? And so the question arises, is it necessary to be part of the church in order to have a relationship with God?
Certainly, the attitude and behavior of some Christians in the church can be disturbing even to existing Christians. I am sure I, myself, have acted in ways that have made some question my love for God and my neighbor. Many times I have needed to humble myself before God and my brethren and ask for forgiveness. And, at times, I myself have looked at my Christian family and wondered, “Where is the love of Christ? Where is the Holy Spirit of God which distinguishes us from the rest of the world?” Thus, I can understand how we have earned some of the negative stereotypes mentioned above. I understand why someone may look at the church and say, “No, thanks!” So then, why do I stay in the church? Why do people still decide to become part of it? Is there a reason that surpasses all the negative stigmas?
The thing to remember is that all Christians come from the world, and sometimes we bring our worldly habits into the church.16 It takes time to get rid of them. Moreover, even though we receive the Spirit of God upon baptism3, we are still in the FLESH and the flesh is weak.4 Which dominates our lives? That depends on which do we feed the most – the flesh or the Spirit. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7, NKJV). Of all the Godly men spoken of in the Bible, only Jesus is perfect. “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NKJV) This is why we need Jesus! If we could be righteous by our own merit, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come to die for us and cleanse us. We wouldn’t need a Savior if we could reach perfection on our own. Being like Jesus is every Christian’s goal, but while we are still in the flesh it is an everyday battle.
Even though there are wolves in sheep’s clothing and weeds amongst good grass5, most Christians genuinely believe they are sinners6, that Jesus is the only way to God7, and follow Him as best they can. We all have the same enemy – the devil – who doesn’t rest in tempting us and putting stumbling blocks before us.8 The devil’s sole mission is to make us fall and separate us from God (like he did in the Garden of Eden).9 One of his many tactics to conquer us is to divide us. When we are alone, we are more vulnerable and susceptible to fall for his traps. Being united as One Body makes us stronger. When I am weakest is when I want to be closer to God and to my family in Christ. We all have similar struggles, and when we share them with the church we are allowing our brethren to bear our burdens with us.10 God works through us!11 When we ask God for something He may respond through one of our brothers or sisters. Many times I have received comfort and strength through my brethren. Every time I have moved to unfamiliar territory around the nation, the church has been there to guide me and help me not feel alone.12 Many of my sisters in Christ are amongst my closest friends, to whom I confide in and ask for prayers and advice. And, because I am grateful to God for His many blessings and for the sacrifice of His Son, it is my pleasure when I can do the same for them. We serve God by serving our brethren.
“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)
Jesus died for His church – His bride!13 The church is the body of Christ and Christ is the Head.14 Therefore, one cannot accept Jesus without accepting His church. And, no one can have a relationship with God before first being cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Christ, which is how one becomes part of the Holy Nation – the church.15 So, to answer the question posed above, “is it necessary to be part of the church in order to have a relationship with God?” Yes, it is necessary… and it is also one of the best things in life to have family and support in all parts of the world!
- 2 Cor 5:21; 2 Pet 2:23-24; 1 John 5:11-12
- Acts 2:38,41,47; Eph 1:7; Heb 13:12
- Acts 2:38
- Matthew 26:41
- Matthew 7:15, 13:24-26
- Rom 3:23
- John 14:6
- Eph 6:11-12
- John 10:10; Mark 13:22; Eph 2:1-3
- Gal 6:2; Heb 10:24
- Phil 2:13; Eph 2:10; 1 Thes 2:13
- Rom 12:15; 2 Cor 1:3-4,11
- Eph 5:22-27; 2 Cor 11:2
- Col 1:18; 1 Cor 12:12-14,27
- Acts 2:38
- 1 Cor 3:1-3