Continued from Part One
As we continue now, going on to Hebrews 10:23, the next three verses read:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 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. Hebrews 10:23-25
This is one of the verses that this teaching from Hebrews 10 is all about. It says: HOLD FAST! or HANG ON!
Why do we hold fast? Because our God is always in control…of everything. It doesn’t matter if I understand everything that is happening in my life or around me. If my life is His, He will be in control. God is faithful and we, His people, should be faithful in our walk with Him. The enemy of our souls hates our faithfulness! Listen to these powerful words from the Book of Romans:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:31-32
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
Because of this, we should stay strong in our faith walk with the One who walks so closely with us. We have good reason to continue that walk, as it says, without wavering, because He who promised is faithful! History is full of stories of those who in their dying breaths told the world why they were willing to pay with their very lives for their faith. One of the men better known in early church history is a man named Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of John the Apostle. When as a very old man he was caught and brought before the Roman authorities and was facing public execution by being burned at the stake, he was given one last chance to publicly deny Jesus Christ. When they kept pressuring him, he responded with these words: Four score and six years have I been serving Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can then I blaspheme my king who saved me? Because he would not bend in his commitment to his Lord, he was condemned to die. These were his last recorded words. They were a prayer:
“Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of thee, the God of angels and of powers and of the whole creation and of the entire race of the righteous who live in they presence, I bless thee that thou hast deemed me worthy of this day and hour that I might receive a portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ, unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. Among these may I be received before thee this day, in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou, the faithful and true God, has beforehand prepared and revealed, and hast fulfilled. Wherefore I praise thee also for everything; I bless thee, I glorify thee, through the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved son, through whom, with him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto thee, both now and for the ages to come, Amen.”
This real life story of Polycarp could be told millions of times in one form or another throughout the church age, an age which is quickly drawing to a close. God has accurate and detailed accounts of each and every Christian life that has been lived. I believe there will be great libraries in heaven that will have within them the historical records of all of God’s people. There will possibly be a special section dedicated to those who became martyrs; men, women, and children who refused to deny their Lord and Master. And, all of those dwelling in Heaven will meet these amazing people and share a glorious eternity with them. So we see there is good reason for us to serve God without wavering!
The enemy of our souls will come and try to rob us of all that God has given and promised us for life and eternity. Satan will try to steal our faith, hope, holiness, and comfort we have in Him. We must grab onto God’s promises and hang on without wavering, doubting, or disputing, without falling away. We must be tenacious in our faith!
As believers we have been given everything we need to keep from falling. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, we earlier mentioned God’s exceeding promises that keep us from falling. This is how Peter has them listed:
…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
Part of our walk with God is our involvement with the brethren with whom we are sharing this walk. There are Christians who think it is enough for them to walk with God alone, but this is not what the Word of God teaches us. We need to have fellowship with others of the faith and they need our fellowship. This includes a genuine tender consideration and concern. This is part of imitating the love of the Master. We need to consider others’ wants, needs, weaknesses, and temptations—not so that we can provoke them in some way, but to encourage them to good works, inspiring them to love God more, as well as His people. We are given an example in the description of the early Church in Acts.
…and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Verse 25 of Hebrews 10 has this for us to contemplate:
…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.
It is a sad thing to see how many of those who identify themselves as being followers of Jesus have decided to do it all on their own. They have decided that they can live the Christian life outside of Christian fellowship, just as easily as from within. The problem is that God intended us all to be part of a “body” and we all have a separate function in that body. The Apostle Paul speaks to this issue in his first letter to the Corinthians.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 13:12-20
Paul’s teaching of the body actually continues on for several more verses in 1 Corinthians 13 but the point is clear. Each member of the body has an important part to play in how the body moves and lives. One part is no more important than another, even though some are more visible. Another important point though about the different members of the body is this: Not one part of the body can live without being connected to the rest of the body. God has taught us all to stay well connected, not just to the Head of the body, but to the body itself. The enemy of our souls, the devil, will do everything he can to separate us from fellowship with other believers. If we are unwise, we will allow any number of distractions to keep us from what the Lord has prescribed to keep us protected and well connected. Particularly in the affluent West, there is a never-ending list of entertainments or activities that we allow to take a higher priority than our gathering together with the saints. When it is a direct instruction from the Lord, we should not ignore it. We will bring unwanted consequences upon ourselves if we ignore the directions of the Head of the Body.
In verse 25, God’s instructions about fellowship with one another tell us that we should exhort one another daily. This means to encourage one another, and often. Then it says to do this gathering together and encouraging—especially as we see the Day approaching. What day? In many translations of the Bible “Day” will have a capital ‘D’. This means this day is not just any day, but a special day. This is the “Day” of the approaching return of the KING of Kings and LORD of Lords, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This is referring to “The Day of the LORD.” Those of us watching in this day and age are recognizing that the return of the Messiah is very, very close now. Because of this, we should be increasing our gathering together and we should be increasing our encouragements of each other as well. There are many passages of Scripture that speak of the Day of the Lord. One of these is found in the Old Testament book of Zephaniah. In chapter two we read:
Gather yourselves together; yes, gather together, O undesirable (unashamed) nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger comes upon you! Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility; it may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger. Zephaniah 2:1-3
Here in this passage we find a very strong warning to all the world, those who are unashamed of their spiritual lack, as well as those that are God-seekers. The warning is that the Day of the LORD is coming at a fixed time in history. Because Jesus gave His disciples an array of signs to watch for that would make clear the time of the end of the age, we now know that we are at the very end of events that directly lead to the beginning of John’s apocalypse so vividly described in the Book of Revelation. This is the time to make sure we follow through on all of the instructions given by the Head of the Church to the Body of the Church. Not putting it off until tomorrow, but doing it TODAY.
Today, the most effective way of gathering together as believers is in small groups. This does not negate the importance of gathering in the corporate church setting. The intimacy of a small group, however, cannot be matched in a mass setting. From history we see that eventually, in all societies, the corporate church becomes a tool of the government. If it refuses, it is shut down. Then the true Church is forced into an underground movement which consists of small and scattered groups. This is almost the only way that Christians are able to gather in most nations of the world where Christianity is not accepted and Christians are persecuted. By God’s grace and power, instead of the persecution destroying the Church, it only causes it to grow much stronger. But, it depends on Christians following the instructions of our Lord not to forsake the assembling together…especially as we see the DAY approaching. Praise God, this Day is approaching!
ENCOURAGED TO OBEDIENCE
One of the greatest proofs of our love for our Lord is our obedience to Him and His commands. If we find ourselves taking issue with what He has encouraged us to do as the days of darkness and troubles are coming, what is the measure of our love for Him really? We must make the choice that the prophet Elijah confronted the Israelites with on Mount Carmel so many years ago, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, God or Ba’al!” Maybe today the false god is the god of self? I think so!
In the next verses of Hebrews 10, the writer strengthens his exhortations to the body of believers. He makes some statements that tend to disturb some who read the passage. Here is what has been recorded for us in verses 26-27:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgement, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
This passage of Scripture has often been misused and taken out of its context, and has often been used as a scriptural hammer. The Scriptures were not meant to be a whip to keep the people in line but rather a guide into all truth. If passages of the Bible are not taken in the context they were written, the original meaning and intent will be distorted and twisted. This is what has often happened with this passage. So, what is the writer of Hebrews trying to get across to the reader?
The willful sinning that is referred to has nothing to do with the incidental failures and weaknesses we have as human beings. We have a carnal nature that we will struggle with until the day that when our mortality is replaced with immortality and corruption has been replaced with incorruption. Even though we become a new creation, as earlier Scriptures have shown, we have not arrived at a state of perfection. A Scripture that shows this quite well is found in the Book of Romans.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:18-25
I included quite a few of the verses from the 7th chapter because the Apostle Paul was trying to show that as humans we fight this battle every day, every hour of the day. Even the great Apostle fought this battle. But, does this mean that Paul, the writer of the Book of Hebrews, has gone beyond the point of no return with the “sins” he was describing in Romans 7, and there is no more sacrifice available to cover his sins? Not at all!
Paul was describing the same struggle we all have but you will notice that he also gave the answer right at the end his comments about his own struggle. He said, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” So, we ask the question again, what was the writer of Hebrews speaking of in Hebrews 10:26?
Continued in Part 3