There has been a plethora of articles and blog posts written about the sharp decline in church attendance due to the 2020 Covid-19 fraud. People are scared, I think unnecessarily in most cases, but the media has certainly succeeded in promoting this undo fear of death. They have succeeded in some measure in convincing church-goers that it is in their best interest to not gather. But the Bible warns us of an even greater danger than any Virus known to man, the danger of apostasy, the danger of hell itself.
Hebrews 10:25 is often quoted in the exhortations of pastors to get people to stop skipping church for worldly pursuits. Rightfully so, and I applaud those pastors who are serious about the Sabbath/Lord’ Day, and the spiritual health of their people. My only complaint is that they often don’t take the danger as seriously as they should.
Hebrews 10:25 sits in a context that is often passed over in order to get directly to the imperative of, “not forsaking our own assembling together as it the habit of some,”. But what surrounds that imperative are implicit and explicit warnings that absolutely must be heeded and preached.
First, the author of Hebrews tells us about our immense privilege of entering into the special presence of God. Note Verses 19-22, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Allow me to give a summary here, Christians are those who have been brought into mystical union with Jesus Christ. His death is our death, His life is our life, and we are covered in His righteousness by faith alone. We therefore, have confidence to enter the holy place. To come into God’s special presence when the church gathers and do so with confidence. It is our right and our privilege to worship with the church and Jesus lived, died, and rose again to ascend into heaven to forever intercede on our behalf so that we can do so with confidence. The implication is clear-let us draw near.
Go to church because it is the blood bought privilege and right of every person who has faith in Christ to come into God’s special presence on the appointed day of worship.
The fact that this drawing near is specifically pointing to corporate worship on the Sabbath and not your “quiet time” is made clear in the imperatives of Verses 23-25. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
These passages jump out at us, first, holding fast the confession of our hope without wavering. The hope is our privileges in Christ to enter the holy place; to be in God’s special presence without fear of Divine retribution. We are to hold it fast without wavering which is the first clue to the steadfastness of our devotion to meeting regularly with the saints in God’s special presence in order to receive the means of grace that build and strengthen our faith.
But, this isn’t just a personal issue, stop thinking it is. The spiritual well-being of the entire church is at stake here because we are to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, which is what happens when, among other things, we meet on the Sabbath to sing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Then we have that explicit command to not skip church, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” In other words, unless you are providentially hindered by duties of necessity or mercy, you may not skip church. Not for fear of colds, not for soccer, not even for hunting trips. You may not forsake the assembly.
Why is skipping church so terribly dangerous?
The text doesn’t end with the imperative to not skip church, don’t think it does. It goes on and explains that forsaking the assembly is the path to apostasy, it is the road to hell for false converts.
It gives the direst warning church-goers can hear. Notice verses 26-27, For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” What sin is he talking about? I think it’s quite obvious from the context that he is specifically talking about the violation of the 4th commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Is here contrasted with the sin of forsaking or violating it.
Follow this, Jesus died so that you can be saved from your sins and enter into the special presence of God. We come into His presence to worship Him, we do this in His Holy Temple that is the gathering of the church. We meet because God has called us to do so, we are motivated to meet by the invitation to enter His presence and offer praise and receive the means of grace.
Imagine, being invited to meet with God and saying, “I can’t because I don’t want to get sick.” Is He not the God of all things? Who in their right mind would refuse such an offer? I’ll tell you who, people who don’t really believe that God meets with us, or unbelievers as we call them.
So there is an explicit command from God to not forsake our gathering together, and a warning from God, if you persist in forsaking the assembly you risk hell. Now, ask yourself, what really matters to you? Your physical health or your spiritual health? Your avoidance of a cold or your avoidance of hell? Lest you think the issue of church attendance is not a matter of heaven and hell the author of Hebrews warns us that those who persist in such sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.
I didn’t say it, God did. Go to church or risk going to hell.
When a person persists in forsaking the meeting with God and His people, they do exactly as verse 29-30 say, “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (emphasis mine)
In summary, by skipping church, they set aside God’s law, they trample Jesus blood underfoot and they insult the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of grace. That’s the actions of an apostate.
Don’t miss the point, it is quite simple and extremely forward. Unless you are providentially hindered (actually sick or unable to come) from church by duties of necessity or duties of mercy, the Bible tells us to go to church or risk going to hell.
[Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by Matt Davis, pastor of Reformed Baptist Church of Helena]