Due to the rapid spread of the Corona-virus, warnings have gone out from Local, State and Federal government instructing churches to take steps to protect the welfare of older members. Basically, the over 65 and up group were asked to stay at home. On a church forum one person asked if it would be biblical to miss services if he was in that older group. One lady replied with a form “no.” Apparently, the lady considered her reply biblical and it was her duty to discourage folks from disobeying God’s command to assemble.
Hebrews 10:25 is often quoted making any absence from the assembly a sin regardless of the reason. The idea is also advanced that one sin will immediately send you back to the devil’s darkness. Regretfully some take that passage out of its context. It is not addressing absentees who are under a major life robbing pandemic. Neither does it condemn someone fleeing from persecution. It does not condemn someone staying home due to sickness whether adult or tending a child. It does not command withdrawing from someone called in to work. What it does do is direct one’s attention to the actual party that is forsaking the assembly. They are:
- Those who were a) once enlightened, b) have tasted the heavenly gift, c) become partakers of the Holy Spirit, d) tasted the good Word of God, e) tasted the powers of the age to come, f) But have fallen way, g) they crucify again the Son of God, h) and they put Jesus to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6).
- 2. They willfully sis by setting aside God’s new covenant and have returned to the Old one for salvation.
- 3. They trample on the Son of God.
- 4. They consider Jesus’ blood unclean.
- 5. And they also insult the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:26-29).
The sick, persecuted, the called into work, or someone taking a medical emergency serious are not the ones being addressed. When we separate a passage from its context, we are successful in changing God’s Good News.
The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10). Jesus asked if one of them on the Sabbath would not rescue his sheep that had fallen in the ditch (v.11). Jesus told his crowd that the Sabbath was made for man, man wasn’t made for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). I’m sure someone thought Jesus’ answer made him more concerned for a singular sheep than in faithfully keeping God’s word! For some, law keeping is their gospel. Phariseeism did not cease to exist in the first century. It is doing quite well in this one.
If we are restoring the New Testament church, which congregation are we using as our pattern? Would it be the Jerusalem church that met daily with a membership of about 3,000 and soon added another 5,000 priest? Perhaps our divine pattern would be the Troas church? Luke shows they met on the first day of the week and ad preaching with the breaking of bread being after midnight. Are we less spiritual because we don’t follow either pattern? When Jerusalem decided to not meet every day, were they losing their spirituality? Were they forsaking the assembling of themselves together by not meeting every day? Was Troas engaged in sin by not meeting on Wednesday as we do? Luke only records them attending the first day of the week assembly. Yet, Paul, Luke, and company were there for seven days. Why didn’t they attend Wednesday night? We measure other saints by what we do and whether or not they mimic our activities. We assume our way of doing things is God’s way. Sadly, man has a habit of making his own religious laws, binds them on others, and pridefully elevates his religious piety.
Sadly, we are more successful in restoring Phariseeism in today’s society than living New Testament Christianity.