The Christian Pastors’ Second Favorite Commandment
Heb. 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 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.
And there we have it – the favorite passage of your more dominating church Pastors AND their acolytes alike. This six-word fragment of a sentence that is hidden away toward the end of a chapter which is talking about the sacrifice of Messiah is what is most important to many in the church world. Whatever commandments you keep or break, “Thou shalt NEVER forsake the assembling together of yourselves!”
Rightly Dividing Truth
First of all, let’s look at something very basic, namely: how to “rightly divide” the Scriptures. Let’s do it very SIMPLY for now for the sake of making this point, and keeping it easy for those of us who are not Bible scholars. The reason for this is – we need to understand what a “commandment” is and what a “sin” is.
These two concepts are closely related. John explained that “sin” is defined as a trespass / transgression / violation of “the Law,” which is the body of commandments YHWH (our god) gave His people to obey forever.
1John 3:4 Everyone who keeps sinning is violating “Torah” — indeed, sin is violation of “Torah.” (CJB)
So what is “Torah?” To understand that within the full context of the Bible, we need to know how the Bible is structured and how the pieces fit together. There are (let’s say) four parts to your Bible: the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Letters.
1. The Law consists of the five Books of Moses. They contain the “Torah” which is also called the “will of YHWH”, the “word of YHWH,” and the “Law of Moses.” These five books are the very foundation upon which the rest of the Bible is built. Within “the Law” is a prohibition from EVER adding to or taking away from this “Book of the Law.” So guess what: throughout the rest of the Bible, there are NO NEW COMMANDMENTS, and no commandments are ever taken away, replaced, modified, abolished or etc..
2. “The Prophets” is a term Yahshua (the Messiah) used to describe the rest of the “Tanach” which today we call the Old Testament. During this time, YHWH dealt with a growing Israel who would often struggle, go astray and repent. To do so, He would speak through certain men who would bring his words of warning and admonishments and calls to repentance to his people. These men were called “Prophets.” They were messengers – NOT LAWMAKERS. During this time, YHWH’s commandments / Law never changed.
3. The Gospels are the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which are the first four books of the New Testament. These books are written by men taught by Yahshua who walked with him during his ministry. During this time, Yahshua did what the Prophets did: called Israel back to repentance. Of course his life and death were MUCH more consequential than just that. But for now, let’s focus on one point: the Messiah did not CHANGE THE LAW in any way! Rather, he was calling a wayward people mired in religion (Rabbinical Judaism) to come back to obedience to Torah.
4. The Letters contain the remaining “books” of the New Testament. In these, taught men (Apostles) wrote records and letters of exhortation to the first century congregations of believers in various cities across the region. They addressed concerns of the day, controversies and threats and gave advice and guidance all WITHIN the dictates of Torah. Once again, there were no changes to the Law.
Back to Our Passage
So let’s go back to Hebrews chapter 10. What part of the Bible are we in? We are in “the Letters.” Now – were new commandments being created in the Book of Hebrews? Did the author have the authority to “add commandments” to Torah and define a new kind of sin? No and no, obviously. Was this an exhortation to a body of believers to keep doing something that was benefitting them? Yes it was! Had they not heeded the advice, would that be “sinful?” No, not at all. There is no commandment that our god ever gave His people which says they have to get together once a week, have a meeting every Sunday, or anything else like it.
The closest commandment to this is that all of Israel show themselves at the Temple (which today does not exist) three times a year on designated days. That is not the same thing that is being discussed in Hebrews chapter 10, but it is the only commandment to congregate that is in the Bible, and today, it is impossible to perform this command.
Assembling Together of Ourselves
Now that we see that regular congregation is NOT a commandment of our god, let’s take it for what it is – a WONDERFUL PRACTICE – and see how we can and should do it. The first thing we want to understand is – who is involved. OURSELVES. And who are “we?”
2Cor. 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Whoah, did you read that just now? There are “righteous” people in this world, and there are “lawless” people and these two people are on opposite sides of the fence. And what “Law” are we talking about here? The Law of Moses – Torah.
So I have decided that I should and desire to congregate. I keep Torah. I obey the commandments. Now – CAN I join myself to a Christian church that teaches that the Law of Moses was abolished, doesn’t apply to Gentiles, is only for Jews and lives in blatant disregard of the whole thing? According to what you read just above – CERTAINLY NOT!
“Righteous people” are people who live ‘right’ before the law by not breaking it. Lawless people are people who do not HAVE the law and thus don’t obey it. These two peoples CANNOT congregate together.
So congregating regularly is GREAT and IMPORTANT, but equally important is understanding WITH WHOM we are to congregate.