The writer of Hebrews knew that his audience, made up mainly of Jewish believers who had just come to faith, was struggling with how to incorporate their Jewish heritage into their walk with Christ. The author therefore spends a great deal of time explaining that Jesus Christ prepared the way for uninterrupted fellowship with the Father. He is our great High Priest. His death provided the way for individuals to have personal access to God without going through a human agent.
At times, this principle was difficult for the Jewish Christians to accept. They were accustomed to participating in a variety of ceremonial washings and offerings to be cleansed from their sins; immediate access to God apart from those things was something new. But the writer assured them that since Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead, they could now go directly to the Father with their prayers and needs. The author also knew the challenge facing these converts to remain faithful to their new faith. So he exhorted them to “hold fast … without wavering” (Heb. 10:23)
He instructed his readers to help one another hold fast to their faith in God. He knew they would be tempted by trial and persecution to drift from the truth that God had plans for their lives. So he said, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). The Greek term translated “stimulate” literally means “to irritate” or to pressure one another to consider what the Lord has done in the past. He is faithful and does not abandon the work of His hands. We are His creations, and when we encounter difficulty, sorrow, rejection or any other distress, we can know without doubt that God will provide the wisdom and resources we need. Even in times of joy, He is blessed by happiness and contentment. In essence, the author was instructing his readers to spur one another along, to refuse to become ensnared by negativity, and to take responsibility for their lives in Christ as well as one another.
With this backdrop, the author made it clear that they should not stop meeting together (Heb. 10:25). They needed one another, just as we need other believers. To give up meeting together would spell disaster because it would provide Satan an opportunity to draw them away from the Lord. In meeting together, they found the mutual encouragement to keep going. The same is true for us.
God wants us to regularly meet with other believers. He wants His people in church! Many believers don’t take this admonition seriously because they don’t know the reason behind it. I have often heard this refrain: “I can worship God at home. I don’t need to go to church.” Many believers believe the sole reason we meet together is to worship—and understandably so. After all, we call it a worship service.
If worship were the only reason we are commanded to meet, then those who claim they can worship at home would have a strong argument. But worship is not the sole reason. Nor is it so that we can be taught God’s truth. We can turn on our radios and televisions and hear good Bible teaching. On the surface, it seems that anything we can do at church we can do just as well at home, alone.
So why are we commanded to meet? Why go to church?
The writer of Hebrews says it is to safeguard against drifting. We are the body of Christ, and when we are with other believers, we are doing what comes naturally and what we will do for eternity—being together in His presence. We make up the church, and together we provide strength for one another through prayer, fellowship, and encouragement.
Enemy forces are always at work around us, seeking to blow us off course. Sheer individual commitment is really not enough to keep us in line. We need the presence and accountability of other believers who love us and are willing to laugh, cry, and check on us. At times, when we feel as if our faith makes no difference—or we see no fruit in our lives, and we don’t think our testimonies make a difference—it does. When we surrender our lives to Christ, He uses us in countless ways, ways we may never know.
In the atmosphere, worship, and fellowship in God’s house, we discover that we are not alone. We hear others talk about how the Lord has miraculously provided for them. One may describe the pain he has suffered as a result of a loss. A new believer may tell her story of redemption, rejoicing in God’s grace. As we listen to others recount God’s work in their lives, something happens inside of us. We are spurred on to faithfulness and to praising God for His goodness.
The accountability and encouragement found in church anchor us against the tides that work to sweep us away. To neglect the regular assembly of fellow Christians is to miss out on this essential element in the development of our faith.
Throughout the Bible, we find that one of God’s principle desires is to have a close relationship with each one of us. By becoming active in a local church, you safeguard yourself against missing out on all that God has for you. Your participation in a body of other believers safeguards your personal fellowship with God. Remember, when you drift away from the family of God, it is only a matter of time until you drift away from fellowship with God.
Regular church attendance should never be viewed as something you do to gain God’s merit. We are not saved by good works. Instead, it should provide the catalyst for spiritual growth. Make sure the church you attend teaches the Word of God without compromising His truth. If yours doesn’t, I recommend you visit another church. Find one that accurately teaches the principles in Scripture while demonstrating God’s love, forgiveness, and grace. Remember that you also have a responsibility to actively use your spiritual gifts for the benefit of other believers.
Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, © 2009.