Those simple words, once safe and sweet, now haunt me at times. I remember discovering (it seemed) two verses at age seventeen. I memorized them, working each phrase into my adolescent mind and heart. Now they have taken on a whole new meaning almost two decades later.
Sadly, I have seen it happen over and over: how neglecting real, consistent, committed Christian community goes hand in hand with a cooling heart for Christ.
It often begins with taking corporate worship lightly — with just a few absences here or there. It progresses to a proclivity to not show whenever the slightest excuse presents itself. Soon this reality we call “habit” is working against a healthy soul, rather than for it.
Rarely have I seen someone who is seemingly warm to Jesus walk away all at once. Usually it has included a slow distancing to the means of God’s grace called “fellowship.” But week in, week out, life-on-life, non-negotiable Christian community covers a thousand threats:
"Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24–25)
1. The time is now, not later.
When I “found” this passage years ago, I assumed it had a future intensifier at the end: “. . . and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” In other words, it’s as if Hebrews were saying, “When you see signs of the coming of Christ drawing near, then be all the more diligent in Christian fellowship.” But that is a misunderstanding.
This idea of “the Day approaching” is not future for us today, or even future for the original readers, but present. Every reader and every hearer of this text, then and now, have lived in a day when the Day was already approaching. The New Testament is clear about whether we are living in the last days, and the first two verses of Hebrews make that as plain as any.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Hebrews 1:1–2)
The “as” in Hebrews 10:25 (“all the more as you see the Day approaching”) is not the “as” of “as it happens some day in the future.” Rather, it is the “as” of “as you see it happening now.” We are living in the last days already. If we only had eyes to see, we would know that life is already as serious and urgent as it can get. Eternity is now at stake, and Hebrews wants us to be uncompromising in our diligence about life together as Christians. Don’t hold anything back for future days that feel more pressing. The time is now. You will never need the church more than you do today.
2. God calls us to “provoke” each other for good.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone observe how God filled the New Testament with “one another” commands. You simply cannot be a Christian, in New Testament terms, on your own. Life together is vital.
But what Hebrews 10:24–25 calls us to is not just life together, but encouraging or stirring each other up — literally, provoking each other — to love and good deeds.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . . encouraging one another . . .
How does “provoking” (in the good sense) or inspiring each other to love and good deeds happen? Through knowing each other. There’s no “how” in the original Greek. To translate it literally,
Let us consider one another to the provoking of love and good works . . .
The object of “consider” is “one another.” In other words, know each other. Get close. Stay close. Go deep. And consider particular persons, as you interact with them, such that you exhort and inspire (provoke!) them to love and good deeds specifically fitting to their personality, temperament, and circumstances in life.
Here we taste how potent, and personal, is fellowship as a means of grace in the Christian life. As partners under God’s word, and in prayer, a brother who knows me as me, and not as another generic human, can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with specificity into my life, and give me a particular word “such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).