If we could know how godly men and women in the Bible viewed the local church, wouldn’t that help us shape our attitude toward it too? If we could find examples in the New Testament of apostles interacting with local churches, wouldn’t we be well served to emulate their example? And if we found that our attitude toward the local church was different than theirs, shouldn’t we repent?
Lo and behold in Acts 9 we find Saul’s attitude toward local churches. He has just seen Jesus on the road to Damascus and obeyed the Gospel in that city. His very next order of business? “Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus” (Acts 9:18-19). Then when he traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem, “he attempted to join the disciples” (v26). While the Jerusalem disciples are hesitant to accept this once-persecutor, Saul is able to join them in fellowship because of Barnabas’ advocacy.
Here is what faithful disciples in the New Testament do: they join with their brethren in local churches wherever they go! Saul became a disciple in Damascus and then he joined with his fellow disciples in Damascus. When Saul traveled to Jerusalem, he knew he needed to join with the disciples there too. If Saul showed up in Bay City, TX, what do you think he would do? He’d join his brethren in this town too.
Contrast Saul’s attitude toward local churches with common attitudes today that say things like, “I don’t need church.” “Me and God are good. I can commune with him just fine all by myself.” “I love Jesus but I don’t do church.” Similar attitudes are possessed by people who never join themselves to a local church, but instead live as “free agent Christians,” bouncing from one church to another.
Instead of advocating for Saul with the Jerusalem disciples as he did, can you imagine Barnabas saying, “don’t worry about it Saul—you’re right with God, so you don’t need any church.” Both Barnabas and Saul knew they needed the local church. Do we know better than them?
“Let us consider how to stir 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 (Heb 10:24-25). Saul needed the local church and so do we.