What does it mean to be a church? We would agree that it’s about the people more than the steeple, but is it a team, a family, a club, an organization, a group, or a business? In truth, a New Testament church is a faith-family – a covenant community. [This article is the practical application, built upon “A New Covenant” as the theological foundation.]
Hebrews 10:19 & 21 reminds us that we, as Christians, have received a new covenant. To call our attention to these, the author says: “Having…” We have access to God, into the Holy Place, and we have an advocate before God, Jesus our High Priest. Based upon what we have in the new covenant because of Christ, the Scriptures then call us to action three times: “Let us…” (v22-24). These three are what being a church is all about…
Together, we draw near to God in FAITH (v22).
Even though God has provided us all He has through the new covenant, sometimes we can get lazy in our seeking after Him. We have to fight against becoming hard-hearted (Heb. 3:8). Togetherness helps keep my heart soft (3:13). In the midst of our struggle to stay hot (and not become lukewarm), the greatest motivator is our common salvation. JUSTIFICATION is our salvation past (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus Christ substitutionally appeared on a cross for me and shed His blood so that I could be declared innocent – a positional salvation. SANCTIFICATION is our salvation present (Heb. 9:24). Jesus appears in the Heavens for us as we are becoming holy – a progressive salvation. GLORIFICATION is our salvation future (Heb. 9:28). Jesus will appear one day in the clouds to remove me from this world of sin – a perfected salvation! Let’s not just believe once for salvation, but let us continue to approach God, together, with sincerity and with confidence.
Together, we hold fast to God in HOPE (v23).
We should realize that just because we are saved doesn’t mean that we won’t have problems, that we won’t be tempted to turn back. That’s why we are encouraged to hold fast “without wavering.” Difficulties come in all shapes and sizes: trials, loss, setbacks, temptations, pain, road-blocks, etc. (the list goes on…) When I start to stress out about my middle-class, very-average, status-quo sized problems, it helps me to consider what some people have endured for their faith. Hebrews 11:32-40 tells of unbelievable difficulties that normal people endured with great hope. Looking to their example helps me hold fast. They encourage me to hope.
Not only can we find hope in others, but we must find hope in God. “He is faithful…” God’s very nature, His reputation, His character is itself a promise: He is trustworthy. As surely as God is God, His promises prevail! He is dependable. Not only can He, but He will! He will release, receive, redeem, renew, refresh, relieve, and He will return (John 14:3; Acts 1:11)! Hallelujah! Count on it!
Together, we motivate one another to LOVE (v24).
The word “consider” means to fix your thoughts on (see also Heb. 3:1). Not just a fleeting thought (of others) – but a focused attention (on fellow believers). The word “provoke” means to push the right buttons. This verse is not teaching us to be loving and to do good deeds, although those are good things. This verse teaches us to take a good, hard look at how we can help others be more loving and to help them to want to serve others.
We can’t do this isolated or alone. We must gather with one another regularly and we must encourage each other continually (10:25). What I’m about to say might surprise you, but the emphasis of this verse doesn’t dictate we go to a church building for one or two hours on a specific day… we can’t really do a good job of encouraging one another and motivating one another during a few minutes of fellowship and music. Yes, you might get encouraged, but this verse is about giving encouragement. The emphasis of this verse is so much more than sitting in a Sunday morning pew… it’s about Christians in community: in minivans, around the dinner table, playing games, sending texts and emails, in the bleachers, and in small groups.
The covenant by which we belong to Christ
creates a community in which we belong to each other.
– Dr. David Platt