In Hebrews 10:19-25, the author makes a transition from great doctrinal teaching to applying that doctrine to the life of his hearers and readers. In the first part of this passage, the emphasis has been on the confidence the Christian has in Christ, namely how they can draw near to God through the blood of Jesus by holding on and treasuring the sufficiency of His work. The byproduct of this is found in Hebrews 10:24-25 with the focus being on how they are to stir one another up to love and refrain from neglecting meeting with one another.
These verses do not provide a foundation for us to be judgmental busybodies and make the lives of others a burden, but they do mandate we take a lively interest in the affairs of other believers. The writer states, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Let us consider. In other words, we are to study and implement methods to motivate one another towards godly living.
This means that no Christian can be an individualist.
You and I are our brothers’ keeper. We must give thought to how we can help other believers. We must consider the impact of our actions on the faith of others, often surrendering personal freedoms so as not to offend the weak. This alone provides an excellent reason to gather together so that we may be of benefit to others, encouraging them and taking care that they are standing firm as the day of the Lord approaches. This also provides a mandate for the types of practical ministries that help our churches make a powerful impact on other people’s lives such as men’s group, women’s groups, youth ministries, college ministries, single adult ministries, and marriage retreats, just to name a few.
A study of the verbs in Hebrews 10:24-25 offers a practical primer on how to be a good and helpful member of the church.
First comes the verb “consider” which has to do with your thinking.
We are accustomed to thinking only of ourselves, but our thoughts are better given to others. Ask yourself: Is someone I know doubting? Discouraged? Depressed? Struggling with temptation? We must give thought to the condition of those around us. If we are not doing this, we are nothing more than consumers of religion who are of little use for the eternal destiny of other people.
The next term “stir up”, means to incite or provoke or stimulate.
The way we live should be provocative to other Christians in the best sense of the word. They should be reminded of spiritual truth because of how we live our lives. We should “stir up” and provoke each other toward godliness. The result of our example should be love and good works in the lives of other believers. Ask: does the way you handle yourself provoke others to take seriously what the Bible teaches? Does your counsel cut against the grain of worldly logic and press home the claims and promises of God? Does your behavior set a helpful model for weak or new believers? If not, you are not making the impact you should for Christ’s work in the church.
We are also to “encourage” one another.
This action requires us to come alongside other people in a way that will strengthen them in Christ. Encouragement may mean bearing a load for them. It may mean prayer, companionship, or sharing your own conviction that God is faithful based on your experience of his loving care. The writer of Hebrews made this point in 3:13, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We often overlook how threatened each of us is by sin and its deceptive character. Like climbers roped together on a steep mountain, like soldiers teamed together on a battlefield, we must keep track of one another.
People have a thousand reasons to stay away from church.
This is not a new problem. The early Jewish church had a fall off in church attendance due to persecution, ostracism, apostasy, and arrogance. Today, persecution and ostracism may not be our experience, but people find many other reasons to avoid church not the least of which is laziness. With that said, there are solid reasons why no one should forgo church.
The first reason we should not forgo church is the presence of Christ in the gathered church.
This is dramatically portrayed in the first chapter of Revelation as Christ, holding seven stars in his right hand, walks among the seven golden lampstands that are emblematic of the church. We meet Christ in a special way in corporate worship. It is true that a person does not have to go to church to be a Christian. He does not have to go home to be married either. But in both cases if he does not, he will have very poor relationships.
The second reason we should not forgo church is that not going will hinder your ability to glorify God in worship.
Congregational worship makes possible an intensity of adoration that does not readily occur in solitude. On the tragic level, a mob tends to descend to a much deeper level of cruelty than individuals. It is understood that the appreciation and enjoyment of an informed group of music lovers at a symphony is more intense than that of a single listener at home. This holds true for worship as well.
Corporate worship provides a context where passion is joyously elevated and God’s Word ministers with unique power. Martin Luther spoke of this when he confided, “At home in my own house there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”
The third reason we should not forgo gathering together is that not going will negatively impact your theology and doctrinal understanding.
Paul, in Ephesians 3:18, prays so that the church in Ephesus “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Great theological truths are best learned corporately “with all the saints”. Theology is to be done by the assembled church.
The final reason we should not avoid church is practical.
For example, the second half of the 10 Commandments require relationship with others. You cannot love your neighbor and have holy relationships without being around people. Considering the famous triad in 1 Corinthians 13, one theoretically may be able to develop faith and hope while alone though even that is questionable), but not love! Developing love is a communal activity for the church. So for all these reasons, ontological, doxological, theological, psychological, it is impossible to be a mature Christian while voluntarily avoiding the corporate body of believers.
So how may we spur one another?
The author of Hebrews is pleading with his people not to make such a mistake because he knows they would not survive and neither can we: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
This idea of spurring one another on is an exciting concept because the word translated spur is extremely strong in its application. The phrase stir up is the Greek word paroxysmos from which we get paroxysm, a sudden convulsion or violent emotion. Normally, as in the rest of the New Testament, this is not a pleasant word. For example a sharp disagreement (paroxysmos) came between Paul and Barnabas. As used in Hebrews 9:24, the meaning connotes encouragement, encouraging a pleasant sense of prodding our brothers and sisters toward love and good deeds.
Here are some ways we can do this.
First, we must provoke each other by praying for each other by name for the development of volitional selfless agape love and for specific good deeds. If we do this, it will happen! It is as simple as that. Do you think your pastor or spouse or boss or others you come in contact with are grouchy? Pray that he or she will have an attack of niceness!
Second, we are to provoke each other by example. Oswald Chambers said, “It is a most disturbing thin to be smitten in the ribs by some provoker from God, by someone who is full of spiritual activity.” Jim Elliot wrote, “Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him.” It is a fact that loving God and man and doing good deeds are more readily caught than taught. To provoke others upward by example is the high road indeed, one we must travel.
Third, it is necessary to provoke each other through God’s Word. God’s Word is the primer for love and good deeds. The more we internalize it, allowing God’s Word to flow through us, the more we will become conduits of its virtues and gentle examples and provokers of grace.
Finally, we have to take responsibility to verbally spur each other on through words of encouragement. You and I can change a life with a kind word. Encouragement is a Christian duty. Lives of provocation through prayer, example, scripture, and encouragement are gifts the church needs desperately.
And do it all the more as you see the Day of the Lord approaching.
Hebrews 10:19-25 is no insignificant text. The author wisely moves from instruction to application. So let us boldly draw near in prayer to God with a wholehearted sincerity. Our entire human spirit must be engaged in prayer and worship. Let us hold onto to the anchor of hope we possess in Christ. Our hope is in Jesus and is anchored in heaven, where he intercedes for us. This is no blind optimism but rather a tremendous reality. Finally, let us devote ourselves to the corporate church and do everything we can to provoke each other to love and good deeds.
If we do this, the church will ride high on every storm that comes and be bold before the throne of God’s grace and bold witnesses for King Jesus. As the body of Christ, we must do this more and more as we see the Day of the Lord approaching.