The True Meaning of Forsake Not Assembling Together
Defining the church
When the Bible refers to the "church" it is always talking about the people who make up the body of Christ. When Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews there were no church buildings. Houses of worship were not a part of the faith until around 323 AD. when Emperor Constantine initiated them. The Apostle Paul could not have been talking about religious services as we have them today because they had not been instituted at the time. He wrote his letter to the Hebrew Christians who were living during his lifetime and, his correspondence would have been addressing the current issues of that day. During that dispensation, those who accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior met with other sisters and brothers in Christ inside of their homes.
The church that prayed for Peter in Acts chapter twelve were men and women who gathered in a home. Christianity, as a whole, has transitioned from that day to our modern establishments of elaborate physical structures that are referred to as churches, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with Paul's letter to the Hebrews.
Unlocking the truth
Information on the website Rawgod.com gives compelling reasoning as to why Hebrews 10:25 is not talking about church attendance. Please note that the information shared in this article is not an attempt to discourage believers from attending church services. This Hub is about sharing Biblical truth so that Christians can make informed decisions and not make choices based on tradition and rhetoric. The Raw God site takes the approach of those who say that Paul was talking about the gathering of the saints when Christ returns to the earth.
” Assembling together” is from one Greek word whose lexical form is episunagōgē. This word is a noun and is found only in one other place: II Thessalonians2:1-2. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” “Gathering together” is translated from episunagōgē. In this passage it is believed that episunagōgē refers to our being gathered to Christ on THE DAY of his return.
The evidence from both the context and the words used is compelling.. It clearly indicates that t Hebrews 10:25 is admonishing believers that we should not forsake the faith in and the hope of our gathering with Christ when he comes as some at that time had done, Christians are to encourage and exhort each other to hold on to the blessed hope. We are to do this even more as we see the day of His return approaching. Many Christians today are saying to one another that the Bible is fulfilling and signs of His second coming are all around.
The author, Ryan Hellyer goes on to say the following; To translate ‘do not forsake the gathering of yourselves’ into ‘don’t neglect to go to church,’ is to diminish hope, religiously distract people from the epic promised event, and exact a man-centered sort of extortion on the saints by leveraging shame for attendance".
On the website Radically Christian, Wes Mcadams says that in Hebrews chapter 25, Paul is admonishing believers to be encouraged and to “hold fast to their faith without wavering” (vs. 23). He is warning them not to “profane the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified” (vs. 29), not to “throw away their confidence” (vs. 35) or to be like believers who “shrink back and are destroyed” (vs. 39). It seems that some early Christians became discouraged because Jesus did not return during their lifetime and Paul's letter was an attempt to deter more of the faithful from falling away. Putting the entire chapter in perspective, Mcadams agrees with Hellyer that verse 25 is about not forgetting or forsaking faith that Christ will come again.
Peter Ditzel expresses this same sentiment in great detail. He says the word ekklēsia is mistranslated as “church” in most English Bibles and is not something we go to but what we are. His take on Hebrews 10;25 is that as Christians, we are cannot forsake our assembly because we are always assembled before God. We the believers are the assembly, we are the “called out” of Christ. The literal meaning of ekklēsia is the “called out ones,” but the Greeks used it to refer to the people who were called out of the community to be a part of the assembly The Bible also speaks of the ekklēsia in a local sense as a coming together in a family, house or city, according to (kata) as sunerchomai–literally, “come together”). It is never spoken of as something we go to that is apart from us and that we go to, nor is our coming together locally ever spoken of as a duty.
Hope for the future
It is only natural to take Hebrews 10:25, at face value and apply it to our modern-day system of going to church. There is nothing wrong with encouraging a congregation to continue to fellowship together. The problem comes in when the original context is misunderstood and or wrongly used to make parishioners believe they are not pleasing the Lord should they miss a Sunday service. In conclusion, Paul was advising his brothers and sisters in Christ not to forsake the promise of the blessed hope of our gathering together with Jesus when He returns to earth for a second time. (2 Thessalonians 2:1), He indicates that this was the custom of some during his time. and the Bible indicates that the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of the dead. ( Matthew 22:23).
There are those today who say they are Christians, but don’t believe in the return of Jesus or the resurrection of the dead in Christ. There are Increasing numbers of believers who are forsaking their hope by saying “my lord delayeth his coming” (Matthew 24:48) or that “the resurrection has already” taken place. (2 Timothy 2:18) Hebrews 10:25 is advising us that instead of forsaking the promise and hope, we are to encourage each another, and so much the more as we see the signs that day of His return is drawing near. This can be done within a local assembly or whenever you talk, text, email or gather with family, friends, or co-workers who are blood-bought. You may even find yourself encouraging believers while in a taxi, uber, or lift ride, on the bus, a train station or a subway. You can encourage other Christians in a hospital, nursing home, or a food or clothing pantry. However, you walk out your faith always make sure you understand the proper context of scripture so you will not be misinformed.
The bottom line
As stated earlier, this hub is only to address the fact that the Apostle Paul was not referring to church assembly as we know it today. This article is not intended to persuade or dissuade any believer in Christ regarding church attendance.
As a final point, consider these words from the website What sayeth the scriptures regarding this matter:
We need not handle God’s Word deceitfully, for that will profit us nothing in eternity. Let us first set aside our denominational biases, then let us search the Scriptures, and finally, let us agree, “Let God be true, but every man a liar. Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most mistreated verses in the book of Hebrews—maybe in all the Bible."
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston