Is Organized Religion Biblical?

What do you mean when you say that you don’t like organized religion? Could it be that “organized religion” is really your way of referencing the church?  Consider a typical Biblical church service: people come together in an “organized” assembly for a “religious” (religious simply means worship) service.  Maybe a corollary question to “Is organized religion Biblical?” could be “Is church Biblical?”

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 18, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publican.”

A little earlier in Matthew, when Peter declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” the Lord replied, “I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (16:18).  The rock that the Lord Jesus is referring to in this passage is Himself; the Lord would build His church upon Himself, the chief cornerstone.

Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus declared that Christ is the “head of the church” (5:23) and that He “loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27).  In Hebrews, Jesus said, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (2:12).  Jesus gave commandments in the book of Revelation to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos and four others.  Obviously, we can conclude from these passages that Jesus believes that the institution of the church, and the organized assembly and worship of the church, is Biblical.

The apostle Paul certainly believed that church is Biblical as he wrote letters to the “churches” at Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonica.  Now, are there false churches in the world?  Certainly.  The Catholic Church teaches that the Pope can pray souls out of purgatory and that people should recite mindless prayers to Mary as a “co-redemptress.” This is absolute blasphemy and corrupt doctrine.  So-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” (they are absolutely not Jehovah’s true witnesses) teach that Jesus was not God and yet the gospel of John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). John later declares, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (1:14).  This is obviously referring to Jesus and it is obviously declaring Him as God in this opening passage of the gospel of John.

So, yes, there are false churches in this world.  This does not mean, however, that people who profess to believe in Jesus should not assemble together in a church.  The very word “church” in the Bible comes from a Greek word that means a “called out assembly.”  There is no such thing as a church that is not assembling.  So then, if Jesus told us to tell the fault of an erring brother to the church after two or three brethren have confronted him, if He declared that He would build His church, if He sang in the midst of His church, if He is the chief cornerstone and head of the church and He loved and gave Himself for it, and if Paul the apostle wrote a significant portion of the New Testament explicitly to churches, then how can a professing Christian (which means “Christ-imitator” and implies following Christ) not believe in “organized religion”?  Organized religion (church) is all over the New Testament.  The local, visible, New Testament church is  what the Lord Jesus established until He comes again.

It is obvious that organized religion- that is, true New Testament churches- are indeed Biblical.  It is commanded that every Christian assemble in a church.  Hebrews states, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Christians are to assemble together in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, edifying fellow brethren and glorifying the Lord.  What could be more Biblical than that?