“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” (Heb. 10:24-25, KJV).
“(A)nd let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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” (NASU).
“Let us…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” This is a positive instruction (something the Lord expects us to do). In all the previous “Let us” admonitions in Hebrews, the instructions are broad encouragements to faithfulness. That is, they do not name specific activities. Here in 10:24ff the general admonition, which is to have concern for one another, includes a specific activity by which that is to be done. What is it that the Lord expects us to do that pertains to considering one another? He expects us “not to forsake…” Or to state it positively: He expects us to attend (and participate) in the meetings of the church. The writer names a specific way of showing consideration for one another. That is, to be with them in the assembly to encourage them.
Does “Forsaking” or “Neglecting” Mean Total Abandonment (Apostasy)?
No. It is not about total departure from the church (though continued neglect might come to that). While the Greek word for “forsaking” in other places indicates abandonment, that definition does not fit this context. Instead, he cautions against what had become the habit (NASU) of some, that is, they were neglecting to attend. The participle “forsaking” is in the Greek present and indicates ongoing action, a habit. It is not about those who have denied Christ and no longer claim membership in the body. Rather, it is about those who profess membership, but are not faithful to attend. We are told not to be like them. If we are not to be like those who neglect to attend, we should instead be like those who do attend.
This relates to the admonition to “consider one another.” One way to fail to consider one another is by neglecting to assemble with them. One of the failures of the negligent ones was that they were not considering the welfare of others. Everett Ferguson comments: “Forsaking the assembly is not a sin against an institution, but against the brothers and sisters to whom we owe mutual edification and fellowship (Heb. 10:25)” (233, The Church of Christ, Eerdmans, 1996).
Are Worship Assemblies In View?
Many commentators, both within the church and others, have understood this to be the worship meetings. It has been so understood by many sound and studious gospel preachers. Dedicated elders have cited the text to rebuke members who are careless about missing worship. That so many have so understood it does not by itself prove it, but one ought to consider their views carefully before teaching a radically different viewpoint. The fact that there were other occasions for Christians to be together does not change the fact that there were scheduled worship assemblies that all Christians were expected to attend.
The letter to the Hebrews had the purpose of preventing apostasy. Jewish influences were tempting Christians who were converted from Judaism to return back to their old religion. Part of this pressure was from the fact that they had been accustomed to attending the Jews’ synagogue meetings. When the writer says, “our own assembling together” (NASU), it is possible he was making a distinction between Jewish meetings (which were for Jewish instruction and worship) and Christian meetings (which would be for proper instruction and worship).
“Exhorting one another” was to be in the assembly. This text is not saying that we should exhort one another outside the assembly. Other texts teach that, but that is not the point here. Rather it is saying that we need to attend because it is an occasion for exhorting one another. The purpose of church meetings is for edification (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).
To argue that the word “worship” is not in the passage is to beg the question. What is in the text are assemblies that Christians are instructed to attend. The writer’s purpose was to name a specific occasion when they could edify one another. There is no gathering which would provide more edification for the group than when they are together worshiping.
The fact that other contexts indicate other gatherings is not the question. Is there a Divine command to have regular social meetings? Here is a Divine command to attend. What assembly activity is set in place until the Lord returns? It is the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26), which would be accompanied with other acts of worship every Lord’s Day. Is this a necessary meeting of the church in the New Testament pattern? Why would the inspired writer give a specific command if there were no specific meetings in view? We appreciate the value of meals together, of home Bible studies, even of business meetings, but none rank to the level of assemblies for worship.
The word “church” actually means “assembly.” “To be a church it must meet…the church must manifest that it is a body by being together” (Ferguson 235). It is in its assemblies of worship that the church manifests itself as a distinctive body of people. When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch they identified with the church in their assemblies (Acts 11:26). Paul’s practice was worship with the local congregation wherever he went, for example at Troas (Acts 20:7ff). It is unreasonable to assume Paul had no other contact with the brethren in Troas during the week he was there. Doubtless he had several meetings with various ones. However, the only assembly named was the appointed time for worship.
What Assemblies Are Required?
The New Testament pattern requires the Lord’s Day meeting. This is set and provides for no optional meeting in its place. Regardless of what other occasions there might be when Christians might meet together, Hebrews 10:25 requires Lord’s Day attendance.
The leaders of a congregation, such as elders, may determine there should be other occasions for meeting together. When in their spiritual judgment they determine a reasonable schedule (such as Sunday night, Wednesday night, special series) for the purpose of spiritual enrichment, it behooves the membership to participate. This Is not to say their judgment is equal to a Divine command, but every member ought to respect their guidance (Heb. 13:17). Just as in the Lord’s Day gatherings, these meetings provide for exhorting one another, for edifying (1 Cor. 14:26).
Some have asked, “Can you prove it is a sin to neglect attending Wednesday night classes?” This deserves being answered by another question: “Can you assure people that they are not sinning when they for frivolous reasons choose not to attend?”
Ultimately, it’s an issue of the heart.
David is a member of the board of directors and the former editor of the Carolina Messenger. He is an elder of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill, SC.