By Ken Sils
The writer of the book of Hebrews pleaded with Christians in the first century to place their heart and soul in faith for Jesus the Christ. The writer was aware of rumblings from several members of the church of Christ who were fading away from the faith, plunging headlong into worldliness or back to binding the law of Moses for religious practices. We read in Hebrews 10:23-27, “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. For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” These are sobering words which reveal serious and eternal consequences for failing to assemble with saints as the New Testament commands Christians.
God is telling Christians in Hebrews 10:23 to, “hold fast.” This means that there is no room for giving in or giving up. God is telling us through the Hebrew writer that we cannot give up the confession of our hope. There is only one hope available to men (Eph. 4:4), and that hope is eternal life with God in heaven (Tit. 1:2). It’s our only hope, but it’s the greatest hope man can have. Really, it is the only hope you need and Christians must understand this principle. We sing from time to time, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru. . . .” Our life on earth is one of faith, commitment, and sacrifice as Paul told Christians in Rome in Romans 12:1-2 to, “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
To prove our transformation to God, we must hold fast; we must learn our duties towards God revealed in the New Testament and steadfastly obey, grow, and work in the Kingdom of the Lord. However, there were Christians in the first century who did not hold fast. They failed to assemble as God commanded and, in the process, sinned wilfully. They rejected the knowledge of the truth by forsaking the assembling of themselves with a congregation of God’s people.
Yes, this is another lesson on our need to assemble! Brethren, failure to assemble with the saints is a major problem among congregations in America today. Yet, I am persuaded that “forsaking” is really the result of a greater problem, the problem of failing to “hold fast” one’s confession of hope. Many members of the church in America are not giving their hearts and souls to Jesus. Worldliness, sin, and sexual immorality are running rampant among some members of the church and many are seeking an avenue for, “having their cake and eating it too,” in religious service.
These types of members will attend public worship every now and then or attend just enough to avoid being “noted” (Rom. 16:17-18) for being contrary to the doctrine of “not forsaking the assembling of themselves with the saints” (Heb. 10:25). Then, there are other members who “hop” around from one congregation to another in hopes of finding a group who will allow them to have Jesus, “just the way they like Him.” I’m aware, as other gospel preachers are, of members who have been caught in sin, then they quickly write a distraught letter of goodbye to the church, indicating their own “withdrawal” from that congregation, using this letter as an attempt to avoid congregational discipline. I have also witnessed situations where rebellious members attempt to justify their departure from the Lord into worldliness by writing a polite letter to the congregation requesting to have their names taken off the membership list, using some lame excuse for not being able to be a member of that congregation anymore.
All behaviors of this nature are nothing more than devious and devilish attempts by sinful brethren to avoid being castigated as sinners. Imagine someone attempting to use such ploys belonging to a branch of the U.S. military! When one decides to go AWOL in military service to our country, a letter of polite resignation isn’t going to cut the mustard. You can’t just quit the military without serious consequences and a member of the church of Christ cannot just quit serving God without eternal consequences. When a member of the church attempts to run from a congregation, brethren need to quit upholding the hands of the rebellious by saying, “You can’t withdraw from those who have with- drawn themselves from us!” The New Testament is clear. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” To “note” someone for rebellion to God’s law is to distinguish or to mark that person as living in sin. That person could be on the other side of the world, still running from God, but that does not minimize the obligation God has placed on the congregation one bit. Paul told Timothy and, in the process, told the world in that, “. . . Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). I wonder if Demas wrote Paul a letter saying, “I just can’t serve God with you anymore for life has simply become too difficult and I need time to think”? If he did, it surely didn’t stop Paul!
The only way we can hold fast to our hope is to become a Christian, worship, and work with a congregation of God’s people through thick and thin and be faithful to God’s every command until death. Faithful members in churches of Christ do not run from sin, they fight against it and if they fall prey to sin, they overcome it (1 John 2:1-2). If they have problems with their brethren in a congregation, they work them out together in a spirit of love as Jesus commands (Matt. 5:23-24). Real Christians assemble as often as they can for they are determined to “hold fast” to their confession. They want to work in the vineyard of the Lord. No excuses! No congregational hopping! No running from their problems! They have virtue, they have brotherly kindness, and they have love for God and each other. They will worship and work with a congregation of God’s people. They will stir up their brethren to love and good works. They will assemble with the saints at their every opportunity. Being one with this world is no longer an option for them. Excuse making for lax service and worship is deplorable to them.
My friend, you can’t hold fast to God without an absolute determination to obey God’s every command. It is Satan who encourages you to find a way around congregational activity and discipline, but it is God who says that those who sin willfully have nothing left but, “a certain fearful expectation of judgment” (Heb. 10:27). One of the responsibilities the New Testament has placed upon churches of Christ is to warn sinful brethren of the harsh consequences that rebellion against the Lord will bring. Far too many rebellious members are getting away with sin. We must warn! We must cry out! We must mark the wayward! Brethren, let us never forget the powerful statement in Hebrews 10:31 which says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”
If you serve God with all your heart and soul, there is a bright hope for us to hold fast to. If you leave the Lord by returning to the ways of the world, there will be death. The choice is ours. No one reading this article can afford to make the wrong choice.