Constant Encouragement (No. 5 in Series)

In Heb 10:25 we are given two ways of provoking one another to works of love: (1) Not forsaking the meetings where Christians gather for worship and fellowship; and (2) Exhorting one another.  Both of these, “not forsaking” and “exhorting,” are called “instrumental participles.”  You can see in English that these are participles by the use of “-ing” at the end of the words.  An instrumental participle is one that shows “how” something takes place.  It indicates “by means of.”  So, the Hebrews writer is telling believers to consider one another in order to stir-up loving deeds, and you may ask: Well, how do I do that?  The Scripture says, “By means of not forsaking the assembly and by exhorting one another.”  We have already discussed the first, so let us now discuss the second part, “Exhorting one another.”

Instead of abandoning the church, we are to exhort one another.  Exhortation means “urgent insistence” and may include the full range of meanings: rebuke, warn, encourage, comfort.  The author has already told his readers in 3:13, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  We must encourage each other in the life of faith with reminders of the sufficiency of Christ and of all His privileges.  We have to continually tell one another to not give up, to finish the race.

Healthy Christian living involves mutual encouragement, that is, encouraging other believers through your presence, your actions, and your words as well as receiving encouragement from other believers for yourself.  This takes place when we remain faithful in our association with the body of Christ.  We have to be together to accomplish this circle of encouragement.

This world beats us up.  Many of us have stressful jobs.  Health concerns in our families are difficult to manage.  Raising kids in this corrupt culture sometimes feels overwhelming.  The terrible way Christians are being treated in our country is something that many believed would never come.  In simple words, life is not easy.  We have to take one day at a time.  We must lean on the everlasting arms of God.  But, we can also lean on one another.  This is the way that the Lord has ordained for us to live—in community.  We must cheer for one another.  We must support one another in Christian love.

You! Yea, You! (No. 4 in Series)

In our last article, we saw in Heb 10:25 that the most basic way that we can develop love in the Christian community is by “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” that is, we have to be together in order to love and encourage one another.  We cannot neglect Sunday gatherings.  Church attendance has to be one of the highest priorities in the Christian’s life.

The preacher even puts some on the spot with, “as is the manner of some.”  He is saying, You!  Yea, you!  Those of you who have sporadic attendance, you are not only hurting your own spiritual life, but you are actually sabotaging the health of the whole church.

It had become commonplace for some of those believers to seldom attend church times, and we are experiencing the same predicament in many American congregations.  While we may think that things have changed, that our culture is too fast-paced, and that these demands are too strenuous for modern believers, we should be aware that this is nothing new.  In the early days of the church, Christians were expected to gather together regularly, and when many abandoned the assembly, they were called out.  Christians are to be holy, that is, different.  It is not too much to ask that believers gather consistently.  We go to work and school every day.  We have our own hobbies that we do not desert.  We take our kids to their extracurricular activities each week without fail.  Why would we not give, at the very least, the same kind of commitment to the Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Hebrews audience may have been discouraged from attending church gatherings due to persecution, the delay of the second coming, divided loyalties to church and synagogue, a sense of superiority, short-sightedness, laziness, simple dulling over time, or by outright indifference.  Whatever the reason, the preacher makes clear that their neglect is not good.  There are many excuses today for lack of church attendance.  Some are more legitimate than others.  For example, one author has said, “[S]ome people have not found within our churches the warmth, care and concern for which they hoped [so] they have turned away” (Brown, 187).  That may be a legitimate excuse but should be carefully considered.  Have we prayed for unity?  Have we, ourselves, worked toward the type of community that we would like to experience in our church?  In my humble opinion, very few excuses actually hold up under honest scrutiny.  Let’s not allow lack of attendance to be our habit.

Abandonment Issues (No. 3 in Series)

As we continue our discussion of Heb 10:24-25, we should remember how the exhortation began: “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”  One of the primary ways we do this is by, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  The “assembling of ourselves together” can mean more sharply, “our own assembly” (Cockerill, 480).  The word “assembly” is the word for a gathered group of people.  It is the local church that the preacher has in mind.  We are not to abandon the local church.  It is not “church attendance” in general that we are not to forsake but the actual people.

There is Old Testament background to the idea of abandonment.  In the Greek version of the OT, the word “forsake” is a covenantal term which is used 170 times and often refers to Israel abandoning the Lord and His ways (Deut 28:20; 31:16; 32:15, 18; Judg 2:12, 13, 20; 10:10, 13; 1 Sam 8:8; 12:10; also see 2 Tim 4:10, 16).  To “forsake” the assembly is to neglect the Lord’s expectations for us, but it is also to “abandon” other believers and deprive them of needed support.  One scholar has put it this way, “The first negative concern is prerequisite . . . those who absent themselves from God’s people can do nothing to ‘provoke one another to love and good works’” (Cockerill, 479).  If we are to love one another and encourage others to be loving, then we must be together.  Again, let it be said, we can never truly minister to one another if we keep each other at a distance.  This abandonment has tragic results because encouragement cannot take place in isolation.  You see, you do not go to church just for yourself.  You go to church for others.  You go to church to share with and support other Christians.

Our own local church cannot be all that God wants it to be unless we individually and as households decide to make a commitment to gather together on a regular basis for worship and fellowship.  “[T]he author [of Hebrews] sees their discontinuance of common fellowship and worship as fatal for perseverance in the faith” (Guthrie, 345).  The local church is at the very least damaged by lack of attendance and may even be destroyed without a covenantal commitment of its members.

Stirring Up Love (No. 2 in Series)

Hebrews 10:24-25 begins with, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”  The first place to begin a discussion of church attendance is, as we saw last week, the consideration of one another.  The primary purpose of paying attention to one another is to “stir up love and good works.”  The phrase, “stir up” can be used negatively for something that is bothered, but here it is used positively for motivation and stimulation.  There is some irony in the wording.  The idea is to “provoke” someone.  Just as a person may be forcefully provoked to anger, believers are told to strongly provoke one another to a life of love.  A stagnant pond breeds bacteria, but a flowing stream keeps the water fresh.  Believers should constantly work toward the stimulation of others so that the “water” of the Christian community will remain “fresh” and “healthy.”

The “stirring” is to be a motivation to love and good works, or “good works inspired by love” which was, apparently, the church’s reputation (Heb 6:10).  Christians have a high calling to stimulate one another spiritually and morally, to lead a life of mutual encouragement.  The best way this is accomplished is to share in one another’s lives; to assemble together for worship and fellowship.
Love is expressed relationally.  We must spend time, get to know, and form a bond with each other in order to love one another and motivate love in our church.  We can never truly consider or motivate one another to loving deeds if we keep each another at a distance.

And, be sure, this love is not emotional or soft, it is a condition of the heart to do what is right in our relationships with others.  We should welcome every opportunity to gather with the people of God in order to grow in our own love and motivate others to do the same.