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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 20, 2009

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).


Some people may say that I emphasize the local church too much. But I don’t think so. It is my feeling that the old-fashioned Baptist emphasis on the local church is exactly what this generation needs.  We have heard to many confusing ideas on church growth that I am deeply troubled.  We need to go back to the old-time Baptist teaching on the local church.  Nothing else can save us in these days of confusion and apostasy. 

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

What is this verse talking about? I’ll tell you what it’s not talking about first. It’s not talking about a denomination. The church it is talking about was not the Methodist denomination, or the Presbyterian denomination, or the Catholic denomination. There were no denominations when this verse was given! Second, it is not talking about a church building in the first century! There were no church buildings. Read the New Testament and you will see that quickly enough. Today, when people talk about a church, they are often talking about a building. They say, “Isn’t that a beautiful church?” They are referring to the building. But since there weren’t any church buildings when this verse was written, it couldn’t be talking about that. People met in homes to conduct church services in the first century!  So our text couldn't be referring to a church building!  Third, it is not talking about the “universal church.” There is no thought of that in this verse. It is plainly talking about real people, who really came together, in a real place, in a local church! It was known as “the church which was at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1).

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

It does not mean that people were added to a denomination, or to a "church" building, or that they were united to the “universal church.” No! It simply means what it says, that the Lord added to the church at Jerusalem “such as should be saved”! It means what it says! It says what it means!

The word “church” is the English translation of the Greek word “ekklesia.” It is a compound word, joining the preposition “ek” (out) and the verb “kaleo” (to call), meaning literally “the called out ones” (cf. The Criswell Study Bible, note on Ephesians 5:23). Dr. Criswell pointed out that “a ‘church’ is a group of people who, having been called out of sin and unbelief to faith in Christ, have given witness to that faith through believer’s baptism and banded themselves together into a voluntary fellowship” (ibid.). That’s a good definition. The church is a group of people who have been saved and have come together to form a fellowship. That’s what Acts 2:47 is talking about!

“And the Lord added to the church [at Jerusalem] daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

That’s the reason I often say, “Why be lonely? Come home – to church! Why be lost? Come home to Jesus and be saved.” Am I confusing coming to church with coming to Christ? Not at all! I say repeatedly that coming to Christ and coming to church are two separate things. If you come to church without coming to Christ you will go to Hell! Only Christ can save you! I often quote Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” We make that crystal clear. Salvation and church membership are two separate things. Why be lonely? Come home – to church! Why be lost? Come home – to Christ!  That motto we use makes it crystal clear that salvation and church membership are two different things. 

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Here are four simple points I will bring out this morning:

I. First, coming to church will heal your loneliness.

You have to understand who I’m talking to. I’m talking to you! This goes out word-for-word on our website – all over the world. There may be people reading this who don’t feel lonely. I don’t know. I do know that most people feel lonely today – at least in the big cities. But I’m not talking to the Internet this morning. Those reading this on our website must understand that I’m talking to you!

Our church does a lot of evangelism – especially on the campuses of several secular colleges, and other places where young people gather, in the Los Angeles area. This church is full of college and high school kids this morning as a result – and I’m talking to you! I know you are lonely. All young people are – and so are you. And I’m saying that God doesn’t want you to be lonely. In the Garden of Eden God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God created Eve out of Adam’s rib so he would not be alone (cf. Genesis 2:18,21-22). God did not want the man to be alone. And God doesn’t want you to be alone. That’s one of the reasons that God created this local New Testament Baptist church – so you wouldn’t be lonely.

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

God created the woman so the man would not be alone in the Garden of Eden. God created the local church so you would not be alone in the world today.

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

So, we say, “Why be lonely? Come home – to church!”

Are we wrong to say that? Should we say, “Don’t tell these kids that. They may come to church for the wrong reason.” Well, I’d rather have you come for the wrong reason than not to come at all! You may very well be saved if you keep coming! Then you will come for the right reason!

If coming to church because you are lonely is the “wrong reason,” then I came for the wrong reason myself. When I was thirteen years old the people next door invited me to church. I came because I was lonely. I kept coming because I was lonely. Later I was converted. What’s wrong with that? Nothing is wrong with tha!

Let’s make the local church a happy place! Let’s make it the happiest place on earth! Let’s sing the great gospel songs and hymns! Let’s preach old-time gospel sermons – and shout “Amen!” Let’s sit down and eat dinner (Not lunch! Lunch is something you carry in a sack!). Let’s have “dinner on the church grounds,” like the old-timers did! Let’s have old-fashioned fellowship. If somebody says, “Bah! Humbug! Fellowship is humbug!” – let him go off in the corner and eat cold gruel like that mean old man Ebenezer Scrooge! Let’s sing that song, “Come Home to Dinner.”  It's the third stanza of the last song on your song sheet!  Sing it!  

The big city people just don’t seem to care;
They’ve little to offer and no love to spare.
But come home to Jesus and you’ll be aware,
There’s food on the table and friendship to share!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!
   (“Come Home to Dinner” by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
      chorus to the tune of “On the Wings of a Snow White Dove.”)

Many young people came to have “dinner on the grounds” at the old-time evangelistic meetings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – when God sent down His power and those kids who came to eat dinner stayed and heard a preacher pound the pulpit and wave his Bible in the air – and shout the gospel of Christ. We need that today!

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

Yes, sir, coming to church will heal your loneliness. Why be lonely? Come home – to church! Sing the chorus again!

Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

II. But, second, coming to church will not save you.

One old evangelist used to say, “Going to church won’t make you a Christian any more than going into a garage will make you an automobile.” He was right on that point. He was talking to people who thought they were saved because they went to church every Sunday. But there aren’t many people like that here in Los Angeles today. Very few "modern" people out in our city think like that in our time. They have other false hopes of salvation today.

But there may well be some of you here this morning who still think that. You may say in your heart, “I’m coming to church now. I’m saved.” Oh, no! You must not think that! Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you an automobile!

Christ said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). You must experience the new birth to be saved. The Bible says,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Salvation is by grace alone. No human work can save you – not even coming to church. The only way to be converted is by coming to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said,

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. You must come to Jesus and believe in Him with all your heart, “for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10). You are converted by coming to Jesus. Church attendance will not save you.

Our text says,

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

You are only really “added to the church” by being saved. And you are saved only by believing in Jesus.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Sing the third stanza and chorus of “Come Home to Dinner.”

The big city people just don’t seem to care;
They’ve little to offer and no love to spare.
But come home to Jesus and you’ll be aware,
There’s food on the table and friendship to share!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

III. Third, coming to church will put you under gospel preaching.

The Apostle Paul said,

“How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

It was Peter’s preaching that God used to get three thousand people saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41). Then they were added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47).

“There were added unto them about three thousand souls”
       (Acts 2:41).

They were added to the church by being saved under Peter’s preaching.

I still believe in preaching the gospel! I preach the gospel twice every Sunday in this church. I know that is out of fashion in many churches today. But I could care less about being “in fashion!” I have got to preach to get you young people saved! I don’t think we will ever see revival if we don’t get back to preaching the old-time gospel in our services every Sunday!

Paul said to the local church at Corinth,

“But we preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23).

Others may give a story to entertain the people. Others may give long expositions of Scripture. Some may give 15-minute “inspirational messages.” "But we preach Christ crucified" (I Corinthians 1:23).  Here at the Baptist Tabernacle we still “preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). “But we preach Christ crucified.” No matter what others do, we will keep right on preaching the Gospel every Sunday!

Won’t that make the people shallow? It sure hasn’t made our people shallow! We have some of the finest Christians I have ever known in this church. Most of them were converted under my gospel preaching, every Sunday morning and Sunday night. They were fed by my gospel preaching, Sunday morning and Sunday night. They grew into tremendous Christians by my gospel preaching, Sunday morning and Sunday night.

Our deacon, Mr. Griffith, was saved under my gospel preaching – and is a tremendous man of God. Our deacon, Dr. Chan, was saved under my gospel preaching, and is a tremendous man of God. Dr. Cagan, our third deacon, came here shortly after his conversion, and has spent 30 years listening to me preach the gospel every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. He is one of the best Christians you will ever meet. Every one of the leaders in our church was saved under my gospel preaching. They have heard nothing but gospel sermons, Sunday morning and Sunday night, for their whole Christian lives. They are terrific Christians. They have come up under old-fashioned gospel preaching!

No, gospel preaching will not make you shallow – unless it is shallow gospel preaching! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached the gospel every Sunday night at his great church in London – and often on Sunday morning as well. He is considered one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century. I heard a tape of one of his evangelistic sermons not long ago. It was absolutely terrific! Electrifying! That kind of gospel preaching will not only be used by God to convert you – it will also build you into a strong Christian.

Gospel preaching will get you saved, and will build you up as a Christian, just like it did in Bible times. Paul said,

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Yes, come home to church. But also listen to the preaching and come to Jesus. Listen to me preach, as those people did at Pentecost, and you may be saved also! Sing the chorus, “Come Home to the Church and Eat”!

Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

IV. Fourthly, coming to church will teach you how to become a good
Christian after you are saved.

We are told in Ephesians 4:11-16 that leaders in the local church are given for the

“perfecting [equipping] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ”
     (Ephesians 4:12).

Dr. Harold B. Sightler said:

The church is an agency of maturity and spiritual growth. It is the responsibility of the church to mature the babes in Christ… We are an agency of maturity. We have no other choice in the matter but to lend a helping hand to the babes in Christ as they grow into the full-grown child of God which God purposes and intends the believer to be. Where could they go for this kind of help but to the church? Where could they find this kind of love or this kind of help but in the church? (Dr. Harold B. Sightler, The Church, Greenville, SC: Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1983, pp. 41-42).

Young person, get into this local New Testament Baptist church, make sure you are converted, and get to work for Christ. Go soul winning right away. Buy a Scofield Study Bible and read it every day. Read through the Bible with us.

Billy Graham used to end every one of his TV broadcasts by looking straight into the camera with those piercing blue eyes. Then he would say, “And be sure to go to church on Sunday.” Was Billy Graham wrong to tell people that? No, he was wrong on other things, but not on that. I say without apology that Billy Graham was absolutely right when he said, “And be sure to go to church on Sunday.”

My wife and I used to go over to my mother’s house and watch Jerry Falwell every Sunday night after church. We heard Dr. Falwell say many times, in nearly every sermon, “And be in church every time the door is open.” I have heard Jerry Falwell say that uncountable times on television. Was Jerry Falwell wrong to tell people to be in church every time the door is open? No! I think he was wrong on some things, but he was not wrong when he said that. I say without apology that Jerry Falwell was absolutely right when he said, “Be in church every time the door is open”!

Jim Gent is an old-fashioned Baptist. His book was endorsed by Dr. Lee Roberson and Dr. Tom Malone. Jim Gent said:

Although prominent men suggest that the local church is obsolete and that modern times demand another program and plan, we can truly say that the apostles founded churches and they founded nothing else, and the local church is still, today, the pillar and ground of the truth! According to the Scriptures, the church is still God’s means to fulfill His program and plan for this age (Jim Gent, God Says You Need the Local Church, Smyrna Publications, 1994, p. 90).

Young person, come to Christ and find salvation – “And be sure to come to church next Sunday.” Young person, you come to Christ and be washed from your sins by His Blood, “and be in church every time the door is open.”

Why be lonely? Come home – to church! Why be lost in a life of sin? Come home – to Jesus Christ and be saved! Sing the chorus, “Come Home to the Church and Eat.”

Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Sing the last song on the song sheet, “Come Home to Dinner.”

Come home to Jesus, the table is spread;
Come home to dinner and let us break bread.
Jesus is with us, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

The fellowship’s sweet and your friends will be here;
We’ll sit at the table, our hearts filled with cheer.
Jesus is with us, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

The big city people just don’t seem to care;
They’ve little to offer and no love to spare.
But come home to Jesus and you’ll be aware,
There’s food on the table and friendship to share!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

Come home to Jesus, the table is spread;
Come home to dinner and you will be fed.
Your friends will be waiting, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!
Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 2:41-47.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Blest Be the Tie That Binds” (by John Fawcett, 1740-1817).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

(Acts 8:1; Ephesians 5:23; Acts 16:31)

I.   First, coming to church will heal your loneliness,
Genesis 2:18; Luke 14:23.

II.  Second, coming to church will not save you, John 3:7;
Ephesians 2:8-9; Matthew 11:28; Romans 10:10; Acts 16:31.

III. Third, coming to church will put you under gospel preaching,
Romans 10:14; Acts 2:41; I Corinthians 1:23; 2:2.

IV. Fourth, coming to church will teach you how to become a good
Christian after you are saved, Ephesians 4:11-16.