Do Not Forsake Assembling Together: What Some in Church History Have Said about Hebrews 10:24–25

heb10And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
— Hebrews 10:24–25 —

This morning I preached a message called “The Blessing of Assembling Together” on Hebrews 10:24–25. Here are further reflections on the discipline and privilege of gathering together with God’s people.

Early Church

Stressing the spiritual importance of gathering together, early church father Ignatius observes:

“When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” (Ignatius)

Speaking about the value of “gathering together,” Chrysostom writes:

For as “iron sharpeneth iron” (Prov. 17:17), so also association increases love. For if a stone rubbed against a stone sends forth fire, how much more soul mingled with soul! But not unto emulation (he says) but “unto the sharpening of love.” (John Chrysostom).

We can’t produce love in others, but Chrysostom reminds us that we can lead others to love such that they walk in its course:

For as on the highway, if any man find the beginning, he is guided by it, and has no need of one to take him by the hand; so is it also in regard to Love: only lay hold on the beginning, and at once thou art guided and directed by it. (John Chrysostom)

Reformation

Aware of the Jewish inclination to separate themselves from the Gentiles–a problem that ran throughout the New Testament (see Acts 10, 15; Galatians 2; 1 John 2:2), John Calvin sees Hebrews 10:24 addressing the Hebrews especially.

Inflated by such a privilege, they despised other nations, and wished to be thought as being alone in the Church of God; nay, they superciliously arrogated to themselves the name of being The Church. It was necessary for the Apostles to labour much to correct this pride; and this, in my judgment, is what the Apostle is doing here, in order that the Jews might not bear it ill that the Gentiles were associated with them and united as one body in the Church. (John Calvin)

Calvin also draws a general principle for all people:

It is an evil which prevails everywhere among mankind, that every one sets himself above others, and especially that those who seem in anything to excel cannot well endure their inferiors to be on an equality with themselves. And then there is so much morosity almost in all, that individuals would gladly make churches for themselves if they could; for they find it so difficult to accommodate themselves to the ways and habits of others. . . . Extremely needed, therefore, by us all is the admonition to be stimulated to love and not to envy, and not to separate from those whom God has joined to us, but to embrace with brotherly kindness all those who are united to us in faith. And surely it behoves us the more earnestly to cultivate unity, as the more eagerly watchful Satan is, either to tear us by any means from the Church, or stealthily to seduce us from it. And such would be the happy effect, were no one to please himself too much, and were all of us to preserve this one object, mutually to provoke one another to love, and to allow no emulation among ourselves, but that of doing good works. For doubtless the contempt of the brethren, moroseness, envy, immoderate estimate of ourselves, and other sinful impulses, clearly shew that our love is either very cold, or does not at all exist. (John Calvin)

And again, Calvin reminds us that schisms in the church are nothing new. In every age, even the Apostolic age, Gods’ people must be reminded to gather together:

It hence appears that the origin of all schisms was, that proud men, despising others, pleased themselves too much. But when we hear that there were faithless men even in the age of the Apostles, who departed from the Church, we ought to be less shocked and disturbed by similar instances of defection which we may see in the present day. (John Calvin)

British Evangelicals

On the duty of Christian love, Matthew Henry writes,

Christians ought to have a tender consideration and concern for one another; they should affectionately consider what their several wants, weaknesses, and temptations are; and they should do this, not to reproach one another, to provoke one another not to anger, but to love and good works, calling upon themselves and one another to love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, to love their brethren in Christ more, and to do all the good offices of Christian affection both to the bodies and the souls of each other. (Matthew Henry)

To gather together is a great  privilege, one not to be taken for granted, as Henry reminds us.

The communion of saints is a great help and privilege, and a good means of steadiness and perseverance; hereby their hearts and hands are mutually strengthened. (Matthew Henry)

Charles Simeon notes how the church should mutually inspect one another:

We should “consider one another;” we should notice each other’s wants and weaknesses, defects and failings, in order to guard each other against the very beginnings of declension in the divine life, and to stimulate one another to exertion in the cause of truth and love. We should mark also one another’s abilities and opportunities for serving God, in order that the energies of all may be employed to the best effect. The members of our natural body, if attempting to execute offices for which they are not fitted, can effect little; but, when exerting themselves in their appropriate sphere, they all contribute to the general good. Thus should all the members of the Church seek out for themselves, and assign to each other, such offices as they are best qualified to perform; that, each labouring in his proper vocation, (“he that ministereth, for instance, or teacheth, or exhorteth, or giveth, or ruleth,” in the due discharge of their respective duties,) the whole body may be edified, and God’s name be glorified. (Charles Simeon)

And Simeon exhorts us to mutually stimulate one another, and to do so with the weight of eternity pressing us forward:

No member of the body should be idle: there are some good works which all may perform: and all should be penetrated with a desire to do what they can. It is by the unwearied exertion of all their powers that the designs of God are to be accomplished, both in the Church and in the world. . . . there is a day of trial near at hand, even the day of death, and of our appearing before God in judgment. Then all our opportunities of serving and honouring God will be terminated for ever. O how diligent then should we be in redeeming the present time, and in labouring whilst it is day; seeing that the night, when no man can work, is so near at hand! To impress these thoughts on each other’s minds, and to stimulate one another to activity in the consideration of them, is our bounden duty: and whatever we may imagine about serving God acceptably in secret, whilst we neglect these public and social duties, we shall find ourselves awfully mistaken, when God shall call us to account for “hiding our talent in a napkin (Charles Simeon)

Know of any other good quotes on Hebrews 10:24–25, please add them to the comments.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

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