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Does a person have to attend church to be saved?

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The church is of great importance, yet the Bible is clear that the way to heaven in by faith in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 notes there are no works involved in earning our way to heaven: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Going to church is a good thing, but it is not meritorious—it does not merit eternal life.

A person's church involvement does not determine entrance into heaven. However, the Bible does emphasize the importance of Christian fellowship in a local church. The word translated "church" is the Greek word ekklesia, a reference to an assembly meaning "called out." The church is not a building, but rather the "called out" ones of God, the gathering of people with faith in Jesus Christ.

In addition, Christians are specifically told not to neglect "meet[ing] together, as is the habit of some." Rather, we should encourage "one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25). Church involvement is both an encouragement to us and an opportunity to encourage others.

The local church is a family, not a facility. A strong family will be there for each another during good times and bad. We are united by our faith in Jesus Christ, and we seek to help one another grow closer to Him and to share Him with others. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers" (1 John 3:14), and if we love them, we will desire to spend time with them.

The church is so important that the Bible calls it the bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:25 teaches that the model for a husband's love for his wife is Christ's love for the church. Wrapping up the topic of marriage, Paul says, "I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (verse 32). If God thinks so highly of the church as to call it His "bride," we must consider our fellowship with one another extremely important.

While no amount of church attendance will get a person to heaven, church involvement is the expected norm for someone who follows Jesus Christ. Our salvation is found in Him, and only Him (Acts 4:12), and the church is the context in which we encourage one another to grow and actively serve others.

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