…you despise preaching and the Sacrament. In other words, Christians go to church. Those who leave the fellowship of the Church are not Christians (1 John 1:29). Sometimes physical disabilities prevent people from making it to church. In those cases, it’s the pastor’s job to bring church (Word & Sacrament) to them. Those people are Christians even though they can’t get to church. Those who despise preaching and the Sacrament aren’t Christians.
Christians believe in “the communion of saints.” Communion (or fellowship) with other Christians is at the heart of the Christian faith, and this communion fellowship lives by preaching and the Sacrament. God called us into His family in Holy Baptism, which means Christians aren’t only children. Satan is out for blood, and we’re much easier prey when we’re alone. As Solomon says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
So that Satan might not prevail against us, Jesus has called us into His body (1 Corinthians 12), His flock (John 10), His family (Matthew 12:46–50). Just as a body, flock, or family isn’t made up of one member, neither is the Christian life lived in isolation. This is why, when a new Christian is baptized, we welcome them into the Church with these words:
“In Holy Baptism God the Father has made you a member of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir with us of all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We receive you in Jesus name as our brother/sister in Christ, that together we might hear His Word, receive His gifts, and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Listen also to how St. John emphasizes the togetherness of the Christian faith:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete,” (1 John 1:1–4).
Fellowship—being together in the Divine Service, receiving the gifts of God—is such an essential part of the Christian faith that St. John says the whole point of proclaiming the Gospel is “so that you too may have fellowship with us.” To reject this fellowship is, at best, to reject those means by which Christ grants forgiveness. At worst, it is to deny your need for forgiveness altogether. To reject the Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27) is to reject the Bridegroom Himself (Matthew 25:40; 1 John 2:19; Ephesians 2:19-22, 5:29-30; 1 Corinthians 12:21-27).
It’s wonderful to read the Bible and pray at home. After all, Satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh don’t limit their temptation activity to one hour, once per week. However, reading the bible and praying is actually the work of Satan when it becomes an excuse to avoid the fellowship of the Church. To depart from the Church is, as St. John says, to walk in the darkness (1 John 1:5–7).
While nobody can keep God’s Commandments perfectly, Christians are those who strive to walk by the light of His Word, which includes keeping the 3rd Commandment. To fear and love God is to love preaching and His Word, to hold it sacred, and to gladly hear and learn it. In short, to love God is to go to Church.