"Not Forsaking The Assembling"
Hebrews 10:25 has been the center of attention for many months. So it seems, at least, based upon the articles written about it. For some time dozens of articles passed across my desk relative to the assemblies. And at least it can be said that there is more agreement concerning this matter than one can find on rarely any other subject. However, it must be noted that such agreement is unfortunate, as this writer is persuaded that it is agreement in that which is erroneous. I hasten to say that such an observation doesn't by any means make me right and all the others wrong; but, it is to suggest that the seemingly glib manner in which most seem to treat this passage should be examined very carefully.
The matter is this: Does the passage relate itself to all of the assemblies that Elders or brethren may arrange or does it relate itself only to the first day of the week assembly? Most brethren say the former; fewer still say the latter. I'm persuaded that the latter is right and the former is wrong. I asked a well known preacher last year why he believed brethren misuse this passage. He said he did not know. Another preacher present at the time remarked that he believed it was because of the pressure upon preachers to keep up the attendance at all services. Brethren, just how close did he get to the actual truth? But whatever the reasons one may conjure up the passage has been and is being perverted. A close study leaves little room for doubt.
The context concerns apostasy. The condition of the apostate having forsaken Christ as demonstrated by his coming together with the saints in their commemoration of the Lord's death. Recently a bulletin came in which a brother was quoted as saying that many people had made the mistake of believing that this passage had only to do with the Lord's Supper. He maintained it had to do with all the times of assembly that might be arranged. The very thing this brother calls a mistake of believing is the very truth of the passage. Brethren this passage does not have any relationship to other services than that in which the Lord's Supper is observed.
Three areas of study need attention: (1) Points of agreement. (2) Points of disagreement. (3) Apparent inconsistencies. Several points of agreement appear. First, the passage does include the Lord's Day worship service. Secondly, those wilfully forsaking the Lord's Supper should be disfellowshipped. Thirdly, all other services planned should be attended if at all possible.
The area of disagreement: First, the passage includes all services such as Sunday evening, Wednesday nights and gospel meetings, etc. Secondly, those absenting themselves are guilty of forsaking the assemblies as per Heb. 10:25. Thirdly, many will contend that such should be disciplined as those abandoning the Lord's Supper.
The area of inconsistencies has to do with the fact that brethren, though believing the passage includes all services, will excuse the absence of brethren for many reasons, though the passage itself will not. Brethren, the trouble is that "we" have been guilty of placing our "traditions" into the passage. I have said, at other times, that if we never met again at any other time, than to observe the Lord's Supper, that God's law would not be violated in any manner. Yet there are thousands of brethren that feel and teach that we would be on our way to hell if Sunday night and Wednesday night services were dispensed with. Where did we ever pick up such a wild notion? Such services are of our own planning! I know of one group that upon beginning the present work decided not to have any services other than the one for the Lord's Supper. Are they in violation of God's law? Many will say yes. See what tradition does for all of us! Brethren, we must appeal for attendance at other services on some basis other than a perversion of Heb. 10:25. You and I absolutely have no right to bind what God has not bound.
This thing has been so bad through the years that brethren have been known to object to the Wednesday night service even being changed to some other night in order to accommodate the schedules of some in secular matters. Others have objected to it being cancelled even for one week for some legitimate reason. So I have been asked many times if I believe it would be all right to discontinue such services. Certainly I do. Am I advocating it? I am not! I'm only trying to get us to quit binding tradition upon people under threat of discipline, for whatever reason we are doing it.
It is said that it seems that this position would encourage the weak to forsake all other services and that therefore this should not be taught. Are we going to pervert scripture in order to "encourage" the weak? What of the weak when they discover what we have been doing? Attendance, at services arranged by the Elders, should be approached upon an entirely different basis than that of the Lord's Day worship. But even those who teach that all services are included in Heb. 10:25 do not believe what they teach. Ask some one if those not attending on Sunday evening and Wednesday nights, because of working, are sinning? "Oh no," I'm told. "They are excused." Well now just who has the right to excuse them? If they must work and thereby miss the Lord's Supper will you excuse them or will you teach them Heb. 10:25? If the Lord included all these services in the passage then please explain how you can so glibly get around it. Brethren many of you need to deal with this serious matter and when you do I believe you will quit perverting the passage.
But again some one will conclude that I'm advocating either the abolition or non attendance at other services; so, let me repeat that I believe that all of us should enjoy and be profited by worshipping together whenever possible. But I also repeat that we should stop this "traditional" talk about such services being on a par with and included in the command of Heb. 10:25. This thing has gone so far that brethren include gospel meetings. And many times brethren will of necessity be working every night. According to this raise theory earn of these would have to forego working during that meeting. Brethren at least be consistent and discipline all that would be included or else quit teaching tradition to be in the same category as God's commands. It is not uncommon to read of one repenting of having forsaken the assembly on Sunday evening or Wednesday night. Repentance perhaps was needed but if produced by some preacher misapplying this passage then it is unfortunate indeed. This writer knows of only one time of assembly that God has commanded. The commemoration of our Lord's death. And until some one can find another please tell me by what right does anyone arrange other times and threaten discipline over those who do not or cannot attend?