Hold Onto Your Faith
Hold Onto Your Faith
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25)
This passage is a little like a comfortable shoe. It has been worn so much that it fits just the way we like it. When we see a brother or sister struggling in their attendance, we turn to that comfortable and familiar 25th verse. We feel justified in our rebuke because this is the passage where the Spirit deals with the slackers.
There’s just one problem with that. Much like with the comfortable shoe, we must acknowledge that it only fits “right” because we have worn away the support that gave it strength, shape, and most importantly what made it a shoe. It’s not that we cannot use the passage to speak on attendance, but we should admit that it’s not just about attending worship.
Hebrews is a book of patterns. It has no introduction or salutation. Instead we are greeted with a two-chapter preamble on the greatness of Christ and the things that come from Him. By the time we reach chapter 3, the author is pointing out things that should strengthen our faith and that we should encourage each other in. It isn’t until chapter 10 that the get anything close to a theme for the book. What we see is a theme of motivation and encouragement written to people in the middle of some pretty difficult circumstances.
When we understand that the intention of the letter is to encourage weakened brethren to hold onto their faith, we see that this is not a passage teaching better attendance because God wants people in pews. Instead, it is a passage encouraging us to be more involved with our brethren on a regular basis. This involvement is both inside and outside of worship, and it is because we need to do the work of stirring up better things in each other.
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
When the passage is allowed to speak, we see more than a simple command to attend; we see an instruction to strengthen each other on a daily (regular) basis.
It would seem that some had fallen into a pattern of neglect when it came to assembling. Assembling is not merely talking about times of worship, but instead we can see from Hebrews 3 that it was a daily work of encouragement. This most certainly would have included worship, but just as we see in Acts 2 there was a pattern of daily study, encouragement, and hospitality among them.
Their pattern of assembling produced growth within the body, and it encouraged them in the face of difficult persecutions. Turning back to Hebrews 10 and following the text, we see that they were reminded of these things because the weight of persecution was causing some to withdraw from their association with their brethren and with Christ. In short, it was silencing their confession of hope and treating the blood of Christ as if it were unclean. The Old Testament language here is telling; is it not? It helps us to identify what forsaking meant to them, and it explains just what sinning willfully means in those latter verses.
If we can say that Hebrews 10 at least reflects on our attendance, why not just leave it at that? Ultimately it’s because our “comfortable shoe” has left us with a very mechanical view of this passage.
Treating this as if it is about attendance gives rise to the notion that we can be apart from those that we know and with whom we have bonds of unity as often as we like, so long as; we are worshipping somewhere. While we may be assembling, we will not be effective in the work of stirring up love and good works. We will have done nothing to encourage the faith of others.
It also does the work of stifling or silencing the confession. When this passage becomes merely about tracking attendance and using it as a measure of righteousness, then the important work of strengthening our brethren becomes secondary to the outward showing of attendance. Ours is a world that wants to stifle our confession. We overcome by reassuring one another of the superlatives of Christ. By reminding one another of the faithful things that He has shown us, we strengthen each other. We encourage each other in our efforts to seek His kingdom and hasten His return. This is the true purpose of our unity.
So while we may use this passage to encourage regular attendance, let’s be honest about whether or not we are stirring others up to love and good works. Ours is daily walk with Christ and with our brethren. The work of encouragement should be the same. Let’s not waver in our confession.