“I can worship God on my own,” he said. “I do not need the church as a crutch to help me in my spiritual life. If I want to know what God says, I have the Bible right here. I do not need anyone telling me what the Bible says. I can read it, study it, and learn it on my own. I have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
I do not know how many times I have heard this idea expressed by those who shun church attendance and corporate worship. The idea runs contrary to the Bibles teachings. Those who say they can read the Bible on their own, and do not need the church, must not be doing so. If they did, the Bible would drive them to church. The Bible is a church book.
If you open the Bible to the gospels and read the words of Jesus himself, you will see that the Son of God says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) The entire Book of Acts stands as a testimony to the growth of the church as it spread from “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). You can’t read the Book of James and adhere to its words without the church (James 5:13). When you open the Bible, the church spills out.
The majority of the New Testament is comprised of letters written by the Apostle Paul to churches. In the opening of several of these letters he explicitly names the church to whom he addresses. For example, “The Church of God that is in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2 & 2 Corinthians 1:2), “The Church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 & 2 Thessalonians 1:1), and the “Churches of Galatia” Galatians 1:2. When Paul closes the letter to the Romans, he sends a greeting from “the whole church” (Romans 16:23). Even in Paul’s short little letter to Philemon, he specifically addresses the church that meets in his house (Philemon 2).
When Paul writes to individuals, Timothy and Titus, the full content of the letters involves the operation of the church. He tells Timothy, the pastor of the Church in Ephesus, how important it is for a pastor to care for “God’s Church” (1 Timothy 3:5) and gives him explicit guidelines on how to do so. Paul’s letter to Titus reads like a church planting instruction manual as Titus oversees the planting of new churches on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5).
When Paul writes to the Church at Ephesus, he explains that God’s plan of self revelation floes through the church (Ephesians 3:10). When he writes to the church at Philippi he commends and thanks the church for their partnership (Philippians 4:15). When he writes to the Church at Colossae he reminds them that Christ is the head and the church is his body Colossians 1:18. So seeking a relationship with Christ apart from the church is like trying to decapitate Jesus.
The entire Bible speaks of believers in community with others. The author of the Book of Hebrews writes, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) So like author Wayne Mack said, “Attempting to grow in Christ outside the church is like trying to swim without ever getting into the pool.”
The Bible ends with The Book of Revelation which is written to seven churches (Revelation 1:4) and in the last chapter Jesus says, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.” (Revelation 22:16) The Bible, from beginning to end is a church book. How could anyone claim to read the Bible, and walk away without hearing the Word of God pointing him to the church?