31 October 2015Hebrews 10:19-25
“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, … encouraging one another.” (vv. 24-25)
Psalm: Psalm 119:33-48
The sting of this passage is in the tail (verse 25). Some members of the congregation were drifting away from regular attendance at meetings. The author urges everyone to arrest this decline by identifying three tasks which can only be achieved when Christians meet together in fellowship.
Worship (verses 19-22). Still using the rich Old Testament images of priests, sacrifices and the sanctuary, now reconfigured to spell out the Christian message, the author clarifies who worships in the Christian way and what worship is.
Who worships? All who have been baptized (verse 22 is a fulfilment of Ezekiel 36:25-26). That is: people who have come to faith; and, demonstrating their sincerity ("a true heart" (v. 22)), have been inwardly cleansed of a guilty conscience by God's free forgiveness and outwardly washed with pure water.
What is worship? A deliberate and confident approach to the ultimate mystery of holiness (pioneered by Jesus and now an open and "living" (v. 20) way for the baptized) with the expectation of enjoying immediate communion with God. It is a sharing with the angels and the exalted Christ in the praise of heaven.
Confession of the Christian hope (verse 23). Rich and wonderful may be the "new" (v. 22) life of worship, freedom and grace to which faith gives access, but God has even greater joy in store. God's promises are utterly trustworthy. Quite when that is to be delivered, no one knows (Mark 13:32). But surely it would be soon? Was that not the natural corollary of Jesus' majestic achievement on the cross? ("You see the Day approaching" (v. 25)).
Provoking one another to love and good deeds (verse 24). In fellowship Christians stimulate one another, stir up one another and support one another in the practice of the Christian life, within the congregation and in society at large.
- Reflect on your experience of Christian fellowship - what do you consider to be its strengths and weaknesses?
- How attentive is your congregation at noticing when regular worshippers miss a service? What response is best made to absenteeism?
- Many perceive a Church where, overall, the number of worshippers is declining and their average age increasing as being profoundly demoralised. What in your judgement can best kindle Christian hope?