Christ will not accept second place in our lives. As our Creator (Col. 1:16), our Sustainer (Col. 1:17), our Savior (Phil. 3:20) and our Lord (Acts 10:36), He expects and demands to “have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18). Second place is not an option (cf. Rev. 3:16).
It is evident that such priority and preeminence applies to His body, His church, as well. The Bible reveals that Jesus loves the church so much (i.e., it is of such preeminent importance to Him) that He “gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). How important is the church to be to Christians today? Jesus states it plainly, “Seek first His kingdom” (Matt. 6:33). Second place is not an option! A serious question for every Christian, therefore, today is, Do I have the church “first” in my life? There are a number of litmus tests to answer that question, but Scripture provides one very clear indicator.
If the church is first in my life (and if Christ is first), then “His righteousness” will be first (Matt. 6:33). “His righteousness” entails much in the Christian life, for Scripture teaches that “all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172). Rather than define or follow our “own righteousness,” we must submit “to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). This includes what happens on the Lord’s Day.
If the church and God’s righteousness are first in my life, then gathering with the church on the Lord’s Day will be first in my life. Five times in 1 Corinthians 11 (the latter half of the chapter being devoted to correcting the church’s observation of the Lord’s Supper), Paul talks about the first day of the week being when the church would “come together” (11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34). If I do not “come together” with the church each Sunday, can I truly say the church is first in my life?
The focal point of the “coming together” (as emphasized by the aorist infinitive in 1 Corinthians 11:20 and Acts 20:7) is “to eat the Lord’s Supper” (i.e., “to break bread”). On every first day of the week, the New Testament Christian is to gather with fellow Christians to engage in “communion” (1 Cor. 10:16) with them and with the Lord Himself (Matt. 26:29). If I do not “commune” in the Lord’s Supper with the church each Sunday, can I truly say the church is first in my life?
I cannot say that the church and God’s righteousness are first in my life if, by choice, I am “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). When I willfully absent myself from worshiping God on the first day of the week, I am choosing to put Him and His church in some place other than first. Fellow Christian, you can’t be putting the church first if you’re not putting the worship assembly first!