Hebrews 10:23-25 states (in the King James Version): "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
back, someone at a church that I attended asked how often one would have
to miss church before he or she technically forsakes "the assembling of
ourselves together". Why would he ask this? I think it's
because there are many who have left Armstrongism who find themselves in
a state of exile, as they try to cultivate their relationship with God
outside of a church structure. But I'd also venture to say that even
Armstrongism itself can cultivate a "lone-ranger Christian" mentality.
Overall, the Armstrongites believed that they alone had the full truth.
But not everyone who accepted Armstrongite doctrines lived close to an
Armstrongite church, and they were not about to attend any nearby
Sunday-keeping churches, for they considered those churches to be
deceived! Consequently, there were a number of lone-ranger
Armstrongites who stayed home and rested on the Sabbath, as they
listened to sermon-tapes from the church's headquarters.
impression is that all Armstrongites were expected to attend the Feast
of Tabernacles. There were feast sites in various parts of the country
(even the world!), and many people associated with the church felt that
God wanted them to take a trip to one of those sites and attend services
As I did my daily quiet time in the Book of Joshua
recently, I thought about Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,
who lived in the Transjordan rather than where the rest of the
Israelites dwelt, namely, the Promised Land. Moses and Joshua told
these two-and-a-half tribes that they could dwell in the Transjordan,
but they still had to cross the Jordan River with the rest of the
Israelites to help those Israelites to take possession of the Promised
Land from the Canaanites. Once Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of
Manasseh completed this task, they could return to their homes in the
Would the two-and-a-half tribes be cut off
from the rest of Israel after they returned to the Transjordan? They
did set up a controversial altar close to the Transjordan, not for sacrifices,
but to communicate that they were still a part of the larger body of
Israel. But they were still expected to offer sacrifices (Joshua
22:27), which would occur wherever the central sanctuary of Israel
happened to be. Presumably, they would still gather with the other
Israelites three times a year, during the festivals (at least according
to Pentateuchal ideals).
How often does one have to
attend church to fulfill Hebrews 10:23-25? The Israelites only gathered
together as one body three times a year. There, they would celebrate
with their families while sharing their food with the vulnerable of
society. And they would remember their national history as God's
people: their slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, their experiences in the
wilderness, and God bringing them to the Promised Land.
about the rest of the year? They wouldn't be with the entirety of
Israel, but they would still be reminding themselves on a weekly basis
about their identity as God's people, for they would keep the Sabbath.
They would also observe God's dietary laws and wear items that reminded
them of who they were in relationship with God. Did they gather with
others throughout that time, however, albeit on a local basis? I don't
know. Exodus 16 says that the Israelites on the Sabbath had to stay in
their homes, and orthodox Jews still take that command as normative,
which is why they have eruvim as a way to circumvent it and allow them
to meet together. At least some Israelites visited the prophet on the
Sabbath (II Kings 4:23), and perhaps that was for a worship gathering.
Such passages as Isaiah 66:23 present a scenario of people gathering
before God on the Sabbath. And there were gatherings for worship
outside of the central sanctuary, for Deuteronomy 16:7-8 seems to
command local gatherings to celebrate the last Day of Unleavened Bread.
Maybe there were local gatherings for worship on the Sabbath.
even though not all Israelites may have gathered with others for
worship on the Sabbath, three times a year is not exactly
insignificant. These festivals were significant events. Israelites
prepared for them throughout their seasons by sowing and reaping and
setting apart their tithes and offerings. They journeyed to the central
sanctuary and rejoiced for a period of time. It was not a forgettable
event, in their minds, for they were salient times each year.
to Hebrews 10:23-25. I'm not sure when one technically gets to the
point where he or she is forsaking the assembly of the brethren. Some
act like missing one church meeting counts as that. Others have a more
liberal attitude. What's important to me, however, is the principle
behind assembling: coming together to support each other, encouraging
each other to do good, reminding each other of his or her identity
before God, helping people to avoid becoming hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin, etc.
The problem is that
not everyone sees church as a place that does this. They find church to
be discouraging rather than encouraging. They see as much vanity and
pride and carnality in the church as they see in the world. They feel
more refreshed and in touch with God when they are alone reading a book,
or when they are out in nature, than they do in church. I don't think
that it's my place to pressure other people on what they should or
should not do. I attend church, however, because it allows me to remind
myself of God, plus it gives me an opportunity to get out of the house
and be in a different setting. I've gone through times when I have been
in churches, and when I have been outside of them. For myself, I
prefer the former.