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Hebrews 10:19-25 - In The Way of His Body

Pursuing Habits of Grace: The Spiritual Disciplines in the Christian's Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:15
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Neglecting our fellowship together weakens our confidence in Christ

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Introduction

This Thursday we will celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of God's faithfulness to a group of believers who refused to submit to government control of the Church. The Pilgrims, as we know them today, came to the shores of the New World after several years of living as refugees in Holland, where they had gone to escape the fines and imprisonments that the English government threatened for their non-conformity to the state-run Church of England. They would rather leave their homes, their livelihoods, their families rather than abandon their faith in Christ. Everything that we celebrate at Thanksgiving came about because of their unbending commitment to worship God according to the Scriptures and not secular government authority.
Four centuries later, and we are right back where they started. The civilization the Pilgrims founded in order to escape government oppression of Christianity is now threatening a kind of coercion and control that they could never have dreamed of—the Puritans faced fines and imprisonment for not using the Church of England’s government-issued Prayer Book, but 21st Century Christians now face threats of financial ruin for not conducting so-called “marriage ceremonies” for sodomites, or for singing hymns in church or standing within six feet of each other. But we have no “New World” to move to, do we? We do not have the option of leaving and starting another civilization somewhere else (at least, not until we start colonizing the Moon, or something!) So what are we to do, if we want to stand firm in confidence and faithfulness to God as threats against His people from the kings of this world continue to mount?
The Christians who received the letter to the Hebrews found themselves in much similar circumstances—they were being heavily pressured to leave their commitment to Jesus Christ as Messiah, and go back to the Old Covenant worship in the Law of Moses. So the author of Hebrews wrote this letter to demonstrate to them that Jesus Christ is the mediator of a New and Better Covenant than anything that the Old Law could possibly offer, and that they needed to stand fast in their faith in Jesus.
Here in Chapter 10, the author is laying out his case as to why Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is infinitely superior to anything the Old Covenant Law could possibly provide:
Hebrews 10:11–14 ESV
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
The Book of Hebrews is about our confidence in Christ. In verses 19-21 we are given two specific grounds for confidence:
Hebrews 10:19–21 ESV
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
We have confidence through the blood of Jesus, which provides a perfect sacrifice for sin, instead of the blood of bulls and goats:
Hebrews 10:4 ESV
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
And we have confidence through the priesthood of Jesus, who made one sacrifice, once for all:
Hebrews 10:12 ESV
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
"Therefore”, Verse 19 says, “we have confidence—by the blood of Jesus, and by the priesthood of Jesus. And verses 22-25 tell us how to act on that confidence. Because we have confidence in the work Jesus did on the Cross, the writer says, let us do these things. You’ll see the phrase “let us” is repeated three times in verses 22-24 (and remember, when you see a phrase or word or idea repeated over and over again in a passage it’s a good indication that God wants us to take notice of the point they make).
So there are three “Let us...” phrases here: Verse 22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith...” Verse 23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering...” and Verse 24: “Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works...” But if you look carefully at verses 24-25, you’ll see that these three positives—these three things that we ought to do—are accompanied by one thing we must not do:
Hebrews 10:25 ESV
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Let us draw near… Let us hold fast… let us consider… Let us not neglect to meet together. I believe that the author of Hebrews places that warning there at the end of these exhortations because our meeting together is essential for our continued confidence in Christ. Or to look at it from the other direction,
NEGLECTING our fellowship together WEAKENS our CONFIDENCE in Christ
As we are considering the role of the “Habits Of Grace”—the spiritual disciplines in the Christian’s life—we need to understand the way that we put ourselves in the way of God’s grace when we place ourselves in the way of His Body—the fellowship of other believers. As vital as it is for us to develop personal habits of hearing God’s voice through study of His Word and having God’s ear through habits of prayer, if we refuse to gather together with other Christians in corporate worship and fellowship, our Christian walk will suffer. As one author puts it:
There is an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in “meeting together” with other believers.
- Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, rev. ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), 111
And so for the sake of our confidence in Christ in the midst of a world growing ever more hostile to our faith, let us look here at these verses to understand what can happen to our confidence in Christ if we neglect our fellowship together.
The first thing that we see in verse 22 is that neglecting our fellowship with each other leads to

I. Lingering GUILT before GOD (Hebrews 10:22)

Hebrews 10:22 ESV
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
When you neglect your fellowship together with other believers, you miss out on a wonderful way that God gives you the grace of assurance of your salvation. When you wake up on Sunday morning and think to yourself, “I’m too screwed up to go to church this morning—I don’t belong there! I had a rotten week, I don’t deserve to go to church!” Beloved, when you wake up feeling like that, the last thing you should do is skip assembling together for fellowship! Because
Fellowship STRENGTHENS your ASSURANCE (Galatians 6:1-2)
That’s what the writer is talking about in verse 22—having a “true heart in full assurance of faith”. A “true heart” means a heart that is not divided by doubt and guilt and shame—a heart that is wholly confident that it has been cleansed from sin by Jesus’ blood. If you stay away from other Christians because you think that you are too guilty or shameful, then Satan has free reign to continue to accuse and tear you down and tell you that God hasn’t really forgiven you, that you are still guilty before Him.
But when you come into fellowship with other believers, bringing your wounded spirit with you, the fellowship of God’s people carries that burden with you! This is what Paul said to the churches in Galatia, in Galatians 6:1-2:
Galatians 6:1–2 ESV
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
You cannot battle the accusations of guilt and shame that Satan throws at you by yourself—God has graciously provided you with brothers and sisters in Christ who will be there for you to battle on your behalf, to pray with you, restore you in gentleness! Do not forsake assembling together with other believers—it is God’s channel of grace to strengthen your heart in full assurance of your faith!
And the rest of verse 22 goes on to say that
Fellowship CLEANSES your CONSCIENCE (Romans 6:4-5)
The writer of Hebrews says that we draw near “…with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”. The washing with pure water is probably a reference to the believer’s baptism, in which we “act out” the New Birth that we have in Christ through the picture of going down under the water and back up again:
Romans 6:4–5 ESV
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
When you come to faith in Christ for salvation and you demonstrate that faith in baptism, you are making a public declaration to all of the assembled believers that you have died to your sin and are raised to live in Jesus’ life. They bear witness that your life has changed, they celebrate with you that your guilt and shame have been washed away in the waters of that baptism! God makes His grace flow to you through the fellowship of other believers to free you from lingering guilt and misplaced shame—don’t forfeit such a great gift by neglecting to meet together with your brothers and sisters in Christ!
Neglecting our fellowship together weakens our confidence in Christ—it leads to lingering guilt before God, and it leads to

II. Losing CONFIDENCE before the WORLD (Hebrews 10:23)

Verse 23 says
Hebrews 10:23 ESV
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
When you neglect your fellowship together with other believers, you give up one of God’s most powerful channels of grace to strengthen your confidence in your convictions in an increasingly hostile world—to “hold fast” to your profession of faith in Christ contra mundum—against the world. Verse 23 says that we hold fast without “wavering”—the word there literally means “without bending”, without going limp, without caving. So we might say that
Fellowship GIVES you BACKBONE
There is nothing more demoralizing than feeling like you are alone—poor Elijah in the Old Testament, found himself in a pit of despair in 1 Kings 19:10, when he cried out to the LORD:
1 Kings 19:10 ESV
10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
And when God answered him, he encouraged him that there were still seven thousand left in Israel that had not bent the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). In the same way, Christian, your fellowship with other believers—your life together with your brothers and sisters in Christ—is an enormous encouragement to you: These people have your back!
A few verses down from our text, in Hebrews 10:32-34, the writer reminds his readers that when persecution comes for the sake of the Name of Christ, believers look out for one another!
Hebrews 10:32–34 ESV
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
They were willing to lose their reputations, their homes, their businesses and even their freedom because they knew their fellow believers would be there for them. And not only so, but they were willing to risk everything for the sake of standing for Christ because they knew God was faithful! Fellowship gives you backbone, and
Fellowship PROVES God’s PROMISES (Mark 10:29-30)
In Mark 10, Jesus tells the disciples (who had left everything to follow Him) that
Mark 10:29–30 ESV
29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Christian, if your family abandons you because of your commitment to Christ, you have a family! If you lose your job because of your commitment to the Gospel, you have people to look out for you! The fellowship of believers who look out for one another, provide for one another, protect one another, who have each other’s backs and who stand shoulder to shoulder with each other against the world proves that God is faithful to keep His promises to His children—don’t forfeit this channel of God’s grace to you, Christian, by neglecting to gather with His people!
Neglecting our fellowship together weakens our confidence in Christ—it leads to lingering guilt before God, losing confidence before the world, and it leads to us

III. Lacking MOTIVATION for MINISTRY (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Verses 24-25:
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
When you neglect gathering together with other believers, you miss out on the way God motivates you to serve Him—the word for “stir up one another” here is translated more closely in the King James: “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works...” It’s the same word used in Acts 15:39, when a “sharp disagreement” arose between Paul and Barnabas over whether to take John Mark with them on their missionary journey. But the sense here in Hebrews is not that we get into arguments over ministry (though we Baptists have been known over the years to be pretty good at fighting over ministry!)
Instead, the idea here is that
Fellowship CHALLENGES you for SERVICE
You are so stirred up by what you see God doing among the believers in your fellowship that you want to get involved! You hear the story of how God used one of the members of your fellowship to lead their co-worker to Christ, and you think, “I want to do that!” You hear someone teaching a Bible lesson and God uses their words to open your heart to some wonderful glorious truth about Jesus in your life, and you go home motivated to read and re-read that passage and meditate on it and study it and “dig” all the diamonds you can out of it. Placing yourself in the way of the Body of Christ is a wonderful means of receiving His grace to motivate you for greater love, greater acts of ministry, challenging you out of indifference and apathy and spurring you on to serve God and serve others so that you get to have a front-row seat for the miracles He is working in people’s lives!
When you lack motivation for ministry, fellowship challenges you to service, and
Fellowship ENCOURAGES you for the FUTURE
We meet together, says the writer, to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (v. 25). In the fellowship of other believers, you are reminded that the Day is coming when Jesus Christ is returning to judge the world—and all of your service, all of your love and good deeds, are done in view of what He will say when He returns.
Jesus tells the story in Matthew 24 about faithful servants:
Matthew 24:45–47 ESV
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.
When we gather together in the fellowship of His Body, we encourage each other to remember that Jesus is returning. And when He returns, He will bring every man’s paycheck with Him—all humanity will be rewarded for what they have done. Those who have lived their lives apart from Christ, in rebellion and refusal to honor Him, will receive the reward for their rebellion: eternal separation from God forever in the agony of Hell. But those who have come in repentance by faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who are trusting Him for the forgiveness of their sins and who live their lives in Him—they will receive the reward of the works they have done in Christ—as the old proverb puts it: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ shall last”. And the fellowship of believers is meant to encourage one another to remember both of those—the punishment of sins apart from Christ and the reward of works done in Christ. Christian, when you separate yourself from the fellowship of the Body of Christ, the church, you forfeit the great grace of God that keeps those realities before you, that reminds you that everything you do is done in the shadow of eternity!
Christian, do you struggle with lingering guilt before God? Does the Enemy of your soul constantly accuse you of being a failure of a Christian? Are you fighting a losing battle with sin in your life, and no matter how much you read the Bible and pray you just can’t seem to get past it? LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM! These are the people that God has graciously put into your life to minister His grace to you, to carry your burden with you, to restore you from the ravages of sin, to affirm the forgiveness of God through the blood of Jesus Christ for you! These brothers and sisters are here for you—don’t neglect the grace of God offered to you in fellowship with this church family!
Are you intimidated by the threats and pressures around you in the world today to abandon your commitment to Christ, to “go along to get along” at work so you don’t lose your livelihood? Are you worried that the coming months and years are going to bring with them a greater likelihood that you will suffer financial loss and suffer hatred and ridicule because you hold fast to your confession of faith in Christ? LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM! These are the people that have your back—they will not leave you to fight alone, they will not allow you to be left destitute because of your commitment to Christ! They are the ones who will stand shoulder to shoulder with you, who will lock their shields with yours and stand firm with you against a world that rages against your Savior—don’t neglect the confidence God offers you in fellowship with this church family!
Do you look at the fruits of God’s Spirit in your life and wish that you were more effective for His Kingdom? Do you see the way God is calling you to greater effectiveness and greater impact on the lives of people around you but just can’t seem to get the momentum for ministry? LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM! These are the people that God has graciously put into your life to cheer you on, to equip you, to excite you to make a difference in this world for the sake of the Gospel! They are the ones who can bring you along in your faith, encourage you to grow in hearing God’s voice through His Word and having God’s ear through prayer. They are the ones who, like you, are looking forward in hope to the Day when the Kingdom we labor for will finally come in all its glory, the Day when this world’s wickedness and rebellion and hatred of God will finally be put down forever, the Day when you will stand before that Throne with all of your deeds of love and good works done in the Name of Christ and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!”
Christian, don’t neglect this glorious treasure you have, the treasure of fellowship and intimacy and belonging with your brothers and sisters in Christ! You weren’t made to pursue the Christian life all by yourself—in fact, your eternity will be spent in Heaven as part of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev. 7:9)— so you’d better get used to worshipping that way now, right? So commit to this body, commit to these brothers and sisters, stand fast with them, hold on to them, protect them, encourage them, receive the grace of God through them! Be free from lingering guilt, hold fast in confidence to your confession, and strive forward to love and good deeds together so that the world will see the light of the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

What are the dangers that we face if we only read the Bible in isolation from other believers? How does grounding our Bible reading and our prayer life in the context of fellowship with other believers guard us from falling into error?
Have you ever felt like avoiding church because you are struggling with guilt or hard-pressed in a battle with some persistent sin? Read Galatians 6:1-2 again—what does this passage say about the role of your fellow believers in battling sin and guilt in your life?
How does knowing that your fellow church members “have your back” help you to hold fast to your confession of faith in Christ in a hostile world?
FOR FURTHER READING: “6 Reasons Why Membership Matters” - https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/6-reasons-why-membership-matters/
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