From a piece written by Greg L. Bahnsen, titled: “Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?”
The New Testament Normative Example
Regarding the Old Testament Sabbath, New Testament believers confess that Jesus Christ is “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). In the New Testament age, it is thus appropriately called “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Scripture shows that since the Lord’s resurrection, this day has been changed from the last to the first day of the week. The Old Testament festivals of firstfruits and Pentecost (looking forward to Christ’s resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit) were celebrated on the first day of the week (Lev.23:11, 16, 35, 39). Likewise, the new creation began on the first day of the week, having been brought about by Christ’s resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-28; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13-19).
Regarding the Old Testament temple, New Testament believers confess that they themselves now constitute “the temple of God” wherein God’s Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). The outward trappings of Old Covenant worship have changed in the days of the New Covenant. The basic moral obligation of “holy convocation” has not.
The early church of Jesus Christ regularly gathered together as “God’s temple” for corporate worship, daily at first (Acts 2:46) and eventually weekly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2), “the Lord’s day.” The early church did not break with the long standing requirement, revealed previously in God’s word, for believers to participate in worship assemblies―even when they saw their New Covenant practice (outwardly changed) against the background of the Old Covenant pattern.
The priestly ritual of the temple has passed away, to be sure; yet, God’s New Covenant people looked at their practice of worship in the light of it. For instance, “through Him (Christ) then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name” (Heb. 13:15), or again “you are a spiritual house for a holy preisthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
From various indications in the New Testament we learn what constitutes the congregational worship of the New Covenant people of God. It includes at least the following items:
1. Praise to God (Heb. 13:15; 1 Peter 2:9 [Is. 43:21]),
2. Corporate Prayer (1 Tim. 2:8; Cf. Phil. 4:6)
3. With Congregational Amens (1 Cor. 14:16),
4. Hymns (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19),
5. Scripture Reading (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13),
6. Preaching (1 Tim. 4:6-16; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20:7-9).
7. The Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Cf. 1 Cor. 11:20).
We should remember that God’s word is normative for us; it is a law, even when not prefaced with a formula such as “Thou shalt do...” What we find in the New Testament practice of worship, accordingly, is the standard of worship to which we must adhere.
Worship is defined, not by personal whims and religious imagination, but solely by the revealed word of God (cf. Col. 2:23). Thus the second commandment forbids us to devise, use, or approve of any religious worship which is not instituted by God Himself―as well as prohibiting us from neglecting, or taking away from, that worship which God has ordained (Ex. 20:4-6; cf. Lev. 10:1; Deut. 4:2; 32:46; Matt. 15:9; 28:20).
Therefore, our obligation to gather with God’s people for worship must be understood and measured by the elements of New Testament worship set forth above. If we are doing what God requires of His people, we engage in worship assemblies which are characterized by praise, corporate prayer, hymns, Bible reading, authoritative preaching, and the sacraments.