Study 5 THE EXCITEMENT OF GOING TO CHURCH
TWELVE OF MY FAVOURITE BIBLICAL THEMES
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: John 20:19-25
If we really love the Lord we shall find our church-going a thrilling and an exciting experience! Going to church does not make us a Christian, but a real Christian will want to go to church, to gather with the Lord’s people on His day. Christians can leave behind all the demands of the week and go “to their own people” (Acts 4:23). Many of God’s people are not free to go to church on His day, due to circumstances such as illness, age, or legitimate duties connected with their home or work. What are the characteristics of a company of God’s people, and what lessons should we learn about this from John 20:19-25?
1. The Day we Keep (verse 19)
We read that they met together “on the evening of that first day of the week”. It was not now the seventh day, not the Sabbath, but it was the Lord’s Day when they met, for they were now moving into the new Dispensation. The seventh day, which was the memorial of Creation, was now replaced by the first day, on which Jesus rose again. So Sunday to us is the memorial of the New Creation. Ever since that time, through the centuries, Christians have kept the first day of the week, and they have met on that day for worship and for service. It is significant to notice:
- 1. The Lord’s Day was foreshadowed in the Feast of Firstfruits, a festival which typified the Lord’s resurrection (Leviticus 23:15-16).
- 2. It was on the first day that the Holy Spirit descended to constitute the Church (Acts 2:1-4).
- 3. It was on the first day of the week that the early Christians met for worship, for the presentation of their offerings to the Lord and for the observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
2. The Appointment we Keep (verse 19)
We are told that “the disciples were together, with the doors locked …” They were shut in and were trembling “for fear of the Jews”. Their Lord had been cruelly done to death and it was very natural that they should be fearful. But the special thing to notice here is that we have a portrait of what we do every time we go to church - we keep an appointment; we gather on His Day to meet Him. It might be as well to ask: Do you make attendance at God’s house a priority, or are you casual and careless about this? Look up Hebrews 10:25. You cannot be careless about your job, and you go to work whether it is wet, fine, hot or cold. Nor are you careless about visiting your friends.
3. The Person we Meet (verse 19)
We read that when the disciples were met together, ”Jesus came and stood among them”. This shows us the importance of the appointment we keep! Jesus Himself is present with us when we meet in His Name. We come as members of the same family (Ephesians 3:15); we share each other’s joys and sorrows; but the most important thing is that we meet with Him - look up Mark 6:31-32. Every time we meet together in the Name of Christ the promise of Matthew 18:20 is fulfilled. It is that which makes every time of worship so precious, so unique and so helpful. It is not the presence of the preacher or the crowd, or the attractiveness or otherwise of the building; it is the Person of Christ among us.
4. The Blessings we Receive (verses 19-22)
All the disciples who were present on that occasion received these blessings from the Lord Himself. So it is with us. Notice exactly what we receive when we meet together in the Name of Christ.
- 1. THE COMFORT OF HIS WORD. Notice in verses 19-22 the word ”said”. When we meet with God He speaks to us. All through the week we listen to many voices (1 Corinthians 14:10 AV); now we come together to listen to His voice (Psalm 85:8). Like Samuel, the prayer of our heart is - 1 Samuel 3:10.
- 2. THE ASSURANCE OF HIS LOVE (verse 20). When our Lord showed His hands and side to the disciples they were glad, because they knew sin had been dealt with, death had been overcome, Satan had been defeated, and Hell had been subdued (Isaiah 44:22). They had all failed but He had made provision for their pardon, restoration and cleansing (1 John 1:7).
- 3. THE GIFT OF HIS PEACE (verse 21): “Again Jesus said, ’Peace be with you!'” He had already said this (verse 19), but He repeated this eastern greeting and this time invested it with tremendous significance. Like us, the disciples could now know peace with God (Romans 5:1); the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) – compare John 14:27; and perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3), for they were in the presence of the One who himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
- 4. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL. While they were with Him, the Lord had something to say about their responsibility towards those who did not know Him (verse 21) – “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We are to declare to men and women that if they will believe on the Lord their sins will be forgiven: this is the meaning of verse 23. And in Acts 13:38-39 the Apostle gives an illustration of the way we should declare this great truth.
- 5. THE POWER OF HIS SPIRIT. It is impossible to tell others of the Saviour in our own strength, and so Jesus said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (verse 22). As we meet in the Lord’s presence we become filled and freshly equipped for service – look up Acts 4:31.
These are some of the blessings we receive when we go to church in the right spirit and with a longing to meet with the Lord. Notice that Thomas was not there when all this happened. What a lot he missed! - read John 20:24-25; but everything came all right in the end for Thomas (John 20:26-29), as it will for us as we come to Him in repentance and faith.