Hebrews 10:24-26 reads, in context:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
We can clearly see from this passage that Paul warns us not to forsake the “assembling of ourselves together,” as the consequence of doing so could lead to our committing the unpardonable sin.
What is meant by, “assembling of ourselves together”?
Note the following renderings, which make the intended meaning clearer:
The Berkely Version of the New Testament says: “… not neglecting our own church meeting.”
J.B. Phillips writes in The New Testament in Modern English: “And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings.”
The Living Bible states: “Let us not neglect our church meetings…”
The Jewish New Testament, by David H. Stern, renders it in this way: “… not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing so, but, rather, encouraging each other…”
These renditions state correctly that we are not to forsake assembling for CHURCH SERVICES. The following commentaries support this understanding:
The Nelson Study Bible writes:
“Evidently some believers had stopped attending the worship services of the church… [Paul] uses a compound form of the word ‘synagogue,’ which specifically means the local, physical gathering of believers (see Ps. 40:9, 10; 42:4)… The local assembly is where the gospel message is preached, but also where the word of God is applied to the circumstances of our lives… Knowing that Christ’s return is imminent, the believers [are] to encourage each other even more to remain faithful to Him.”
The Ryrie Study Bible writes that the term “assembling” describes “the gathering of Christians for worship and edification,” and that “the Day” describes “the day… of Christ’s coming (also v. 37; 1 Cor. 3:13; Phil. 1:10).”
Some have stated that Paul had public gatherings in mind, when speaking about “assembling together,” rather than private Church worship services. However, this does not seem correct. In any case, as Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains, the difference is of little consequence. Clarke points out:
“Whether this means public or private worship is hard to say; but as the word is but once more used in the New Testament [compare 2 Thessalonians 2:1], and there means the gathering together of the redeemed of the Lord at the day of judgment, it is as likely that it means here private religious meetings, for the purpose of mutual exhortation: and this sense appears the more natural here, because it is evident that the Church was now in a state of persecution, and therefore their meetings were most probably held in private.”
Clarke continues to warn against deserting regular Church attendance, for whatever reason:
“For fear of persecution, it seems as if some had deserted these meetings… They had given up these strengthening and instructive means, and the others were in danger of following their example… Those who relinquish Christian communion are in a backsliding state; those who backslide are in danger of apostasy…”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible explains that “assembling” describes “their act of meeting together in some one place to attend his [God’s] worship, word, and ordinances. Now to ‘forsake’ such assembling, signifies a great infrequency in attending with the saints, a rambling from place to place, and takes in an entire apostasy. It is the duty of saints to assemble together… on the account of the saints themselves, that they may be delighted, refreshed, comforted, instructed, edified, and perfected… And an assembling together ought not to be forsaken; for it is a forsaking God, and their own mercies, and such are like to be forsaken of God; nor is it known what is lost hereby; and it is the first outward visible step to apostasy, and often issues in it… in our day, this evil practice [of forsaking the assembly of the saints] arises sometimes from a vain conceit of being in no need of ordinances…”
Gill states correctly that forsaking the assembly means forsaking God [as we don’t obey His command to assemble for Church services]. Gill also mentions one important “human justification” for forsaking Church services–the wrong idea that we don’t need the Church; that we can stay at home on our own, doing our own Bible studies and gaining thereby the same kind of knowledge which we might have received by attending Church services. This wrong concept is dangerous. It also ignores the fact that we are not only to assemble to be instructed, but also to fellowship with and encourage and help other members.
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains:
“The Greek, ‘episunagoge,’ [for “assembling”] is only found here and [ in 2 Thessalonians 2:1] (the gathering together of the elect to Christ at His coming)… The assembling or gathering of ourselves for Christian communion… is an earnest of our being gathered together to Him at His appearing. Union is strength; continual assemblings together beget and foster love, and give good opportunities for ‘provoking to good works,’ by ‘exhorting one another’… To neglect such assemblings together might end in apostasy at last…”
Jamieson points out correctly that assembling with other members at Church services demonstrates our love to God and to our neighbor–to God, as we DO what He instructs us to do, and to our neighbor, as we show him or her that we care enough for them to assemble and fellowship with them.
The New Bible Commentary:Revised supports this concept:
“There should also be among Christians mutual ‘provocation’… to active good works by deliberately taking notice of each other’s needs… they should not, therefore, copy the custom of some and cease attendance at Christian meetings, but rather use such opportunities for mutual encouragement, and the more so in the light of the approaching consummation and judgment of the Day that is coming.”
In other words, one reason for assembling at Church services is to encourage one another, and to look after the needs of other brethren. Staying at home does not fulfill any of these requirements.
The Life Application Bible gives the following and most helpful analysis:
“We have significant privileges associated with our new life in Christ: (1) we have personal access to God through Christ and can draw near to him without an elaborate system…; (2) we may grow in faith, overcome doubts and questions, and deepen our relationship with God… ; (3) we may enjoy encouragement from one another…; (4) we may worship together (10:25)… To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians. We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen one another in the Lord. As we get closer to the ‘Day’ when Christ will return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and even times of persecution. Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength. Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services. Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance.”
There may always be “legitimate” reasons to the human mind for not attending worship services regularly and in person–reasons such as inconvenience, just not feeling like it, feeling too tired, staying with visiting relatives or friends, persecution, high costs of transportation or distance, as well as the idea that we don’t really “need” to attend. Rather, as the reasoning may go, we might as well stay home today and listen to sermon tapes or live services which are broadcast over the Internet.
However, based on the PURPOSE of PERSONAL CHURCH ATTENDANCE with other members, the means of broadcasting services of the Church of the Eternal God (CEG) over the Internet was developed for those brethren who are scattered, or who might be sick, and who therefore cannot attend regular CEG Church services. It was never meant to be a replacement for personal attendance. Listening to live Internet Church services or listening to sermon tapes does NOT constitute an equally valuable alternative to personal CEG Church attendance. Those who can physically attend CEG Church services are commanded by God to do so, for their own good and for the benefit of other Church members. Listening to Internet services and participating in the chatlines before and after services may only be the second-best option; personal attendance is always the preferable course of action.
The practice of meeting together for religious services that was observed by the New Testament Church of God and that has been faithfully continued to this time is based on God’s command regarding the weekly and annual Sabbath Days. Note how the weekly Sabbath is addressed in Leviticus 23:3: “‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a HOLY CONVOCATION…'”
Focusing on the annual Holy Days, which are also called “Sabbaths” (compare for example Leviticus 23:32, 39), notice the instructions regarding “holy convocations” in Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 24, 27, 35, 36-37, pertaining to the annual Holy Days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
Concerning the concept of a “holy convocation,” God very carefully commanded His people to assemble for worship services according to His instructions and in the place He chooses (compare Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14, 18, 21; 16:6, 11, 15-16). Upon the founding of the Church, Jesus Christ established the ministry and holds them strictly responsible to continue guiding His people in obedience to God’s commands–including, “…the assembling of ourselves together” (compare Ephesians 4:11-16).
Acts 2 reports that Christ’s disciples were all assembled in one room on the Day of Pentecost, and that is when they received the Holy Spirit. Would God have given the Holy Spirit to those, using modern terms, who had decided to stay home and listen over the Internet, while they could have assembled in person with the other disciples?
Paul’s warning to us today rings loud and clear: We are NOT to forsake REGULAR PERSONAL Church attendance, if we can reasonably do so. Our attitude towards this command tells God quite a lot about our whole make-up as Christians. How dedicated and zealous are we? How diligent are we to OBEY His command? How much LOVE do we have for God and our brethren? Remember, what we have done for the least of our brethren, that we have done for God. If we decide that it is not important enough for us to personally attend Church services, for whatever reason, then we are walking on dangerous ground. Paul tells us that if we are not careful, such an indifferent neglectful attitude might very well lead to the point that we commit apostasy–the unpardonable sin.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link