Hebrews 10:19-25 is an instructive text—both for understanding the letter as well as for living as a follower of Jesus today—especially as it relates to community life. This section consists of two conclusions (punctuated by the word “since”) and three calls (“let us”).
The conclusions are:
1) We have confidence to enter into the presence of God through the “new and living way” made possible by the blood and body of Jesus (v. 19-20),
2) We have a great priest (v. 21).
Although there’s nothing new here (these are truths the Hebrews writer has been developing throughout the letter), there’s nevertheless something celebratory in his proclamation of it. It’s like reaching the summit of the mountain where everything can be clearly seen—including the path you have taken to get there. Having reached this height, the writer moves to how these truths should affect our behavior.
The first two things he calls for:
1) Drawing near with full assurance (v. 22),
2) Holding unswervingly to their hope (v. 23).
These exhortations are foundational and are the result of appropriating Jesus as our high priest and living under His covenant. These are also things the writer has significantly developed, so he moves on to his third call, which is:
3) Considering how to “spur one another on” to love and good deeds—especially as this relates to their assembling (v. 24-25).
This has to do with the practice of community which has only been touched upon only briefly (see 3:13), so he pauses to develop this a bit more.
The first thing to note is that, as with any text we know well, our familiarity is often selective. We’re familiar with what we remember, but that isn’t always the complete picture. For example, before we ever get to the part about not forsaking or neglecting assembling together, there is the often-overlooked instruction of v. 24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds.”
With these words he is directing their thoughts away from themselves and toward each other. His comments are founded upon the truth that our trek to the promised land of heaven is a journey together. It is not a private venture, but a community one as the body of Christ. We have a symbiotic relationship—I need you; you need me, we need each other. In light of this, the writer wants us to think about the needs of our brothers and sisters and what we can do to help to “spur” them on to love and good deeds.
That is where he sets the bar. Having a physical presence in a facility is not what the writer is after! It’s a prerequisite—one of the occasions where we have an opportunity to practice community—but v. 25 is to be understood only in light on v. 24 and not as an isolated text!
That’s the difference context makes.
With this we’re challenged to do more than show up in the assembly. We’re to have intentionality about why we’re there. We’re not there as passive, self-absorbed religious consumers, but as disciples who are actively engaged in enabling others. We are to view the assembly as a relational recharging station.
Paul said in anticipation of visiting the disciples at Rome, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (1:11-12). Whether he saw them in an assembly or on some other occasion, Paul wanted them to know he was bringing a gift! It wasn’t some supernatural ability he was going to impart to them. It wasn’t some special revelation. It was that they would be enriched by his faith, and he would be by theirs! There are too many assemblies taking place where no one is bringing a gift!
Let me offer three words in conclusion.
1. Clarity – I hope our look at this passage has helped us to see the assembly as a great opportunity for us to be engaged in body building by stirring others up to love and good works. This calls for living outside ourselves and making relationships with others a priority in our lives.
That’s the basic teaching of Hebrews 10:24-25 and it’s seriously distorted when it is reduced to whether we show up at a building or not. When we reconnect with what the Scripture actually teaches, we gain this clarity.
2. Consistency – Consistency is a mark of maturity. Anyone can do anything one time, maybe even a few times, but to it repeatedly is what we all strive for. When that happens, we change. We become whatever it is we are consistently doing.
I think it’s healthy thing to look at our practices in light of what we read here and ask the question, “How consistent am I in this area?” We’re not asking if you’re in the assembly consistently—remember that’s a prerequisite. So, if we’re sporadic in our attendance that’s where we need to start—but not where we need to finish. We need to finish by consistently bringing our gift.
3. Community – All of this underscores the importance of community. To put it in the language of today, we cannot be the best version of ourselves by ourselves. In fact, we cannot be the best version of ourselves if we’re not actively helping others to be the best version of themselves.