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Gathering together

September 24th, 2020 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments

Gathering together

President Kie Bowman has given you a tremendous outline of the upcoming Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. There are different viewpoints about what is prudent in the way of gathering during these days. The SBTC staff will do all we can to follow proper protocols. I hope you will plan to attend. It will be a time of encouragement we all need.

A recent message I preached included Hebrews 9:22-24. There are three commands to believers found in these verses. One is to draw near (v.22) to God. If there ever was a time our hearts need to turn to heaven it is now. The words used imply a continual and repeated drawing. The plural pronoun in that verse includes corporate worship as well as individual worship.

A second command to the believer is to hold on without wavering (v.23). We are to continue in faithfulness because he is faithful even when we are not. The “hope” we have is not wishful thinking; it is calm assurance. Success in the Christian life is not measured by metrics but by faithfulness to the Father.

The third command is to watch out for others (v.24). This refers to the mutual reciprocity of the members of the Christian community. Believers are to recognize their responsibility to one another. 

Because we are in the family, we have love for one another (1 John 3:14). We are either a stepping stone or a stumbling block. Believers are to help each other by living the example. This is continual consideration of the wants and needs of our brothers and sisters. We are to stand ready to render mutual help and counsel.

“Provoke” is an odd word to use for Christian encouragement. We usually provoke people by criticizing their faults and failures. The Greek word means to incite or irritate. The word carries intense emotion. It is almost always used in the negative sense. Here it carries a positive meaning for believers to have mutual care for one another. 

Some of the readers of Hebrews were abstaining from worship. We do not know the reason but some possibilities are indifference, fear, ignorance or self-centeredness. 

Thank God for modern technology. YouTube, Facebook and other means of broadcasting the gospel are wonderful. But these are not the church gathering. The New Testament gives ample examples of believers gathering for worship. They faced ridicule, persecution and even death—but they gathered. Gathering is more than just getting together. Fraternal organizations, political parties and Home Owners Associations meet. 

While the term ekklesia is not used here, it is impossible to have “church” without gathering together in one place. ”Neglecting” or “forsaking” means “to abandon” the gathering together of Christian believers for worship and exhortation in a particular place.

Not meeting can limit believers in the ability to give and receive encouragement. Regular fellowship with other believers is essential for Christian growth. Results of not assembling with other believers may be illustrated in verses 26-31. Spiritual dryness and uselessness is certain. Even contempt for Jesus can arise.

Episunagoge is the Greek word for “gather together.” It is only used here and in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 where it refers to all believers gathering at the coming of the Lord Jesus. When we come together on the Lord’s Day with the Lord’s people (the church) it is a pre-figure of the great day when Jesus comes and gathers us together unto himself. It is nearer than it was yesterday, last week, last month or last year. He is coming!

I know the annual meeting of messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is not the church, but we need one another as never before. If you have the liberty to attend, I’ll see you there.