And 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 drawing near. (Hebrew 10:24-25)
In Sunday's message, we noted once again the three tools of sanctification (the Word, prayer, and fellowship) as well as how essential they are to our growth in valuing Christ above all things. As I mentioned then, the first two are ingrained in us – we know we must spend time in the Word and in prayer. But we tend to neglect the third – fellowship or meaningful relationships with other believers.
It could be the case that some of us are unaware of what this should look like. We may know that God has designed the church to grow by mutual edification, but what qualifies as mutual edification. How do we go about building up the body of Christ? This post will be the first in short series seeking to answer that question.
Hebrews 10:24-25 calls us to stir one another up to love and good deeds. I would suggest that this is one of the clearest indications of what biblical fellowship should entail. We are called not merely to hang out and have fun together, although there is nothing wrong with that. But this is a call to a specific activity and destination. We are to help one another grow in love and good deeds.
I find it interesting that v24 reads, “Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds,” and not merely, “stir one another up to love and good deeds.” What difference does that make? A couple of things. First, it assumes that we should stir one another up. Second, it commands us to devote thought to how to do this. It indicates that we are to concern ourselves with one another’s love and good deeds.
Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to stir ourselves up to love and good deeds. This passage asks us to make a priority of doing that for others. And I believe the reason for this is that when we are all doing this, everyone is stirred up. As I am stirring someone else up, they are stirring me up. This fosters the kind of others-centeredness that is so prominently encouraged in the New Testament.
Most people in the modern church don’t think this way, but rather think with a self-centered bent (“how can I stir myself up to love and good deeds”), which is what enables so many people to justify cutting themselves off from the church and pursuing an isolated Christian life. We need to reject a solitary view of sanctification and adopt a corporate view. Certainly we should be concerned about our own growth, but the Bible calls us to be concerned with the growth of others around us as well.
The command of Hebrews 10:24-25 is not directed to a subset of believers. It is given to all, which means that involvement in this kind of relationship is not some kind of extra-credit for spiritual over-achievers. If we’re not doing it, we’re disobeying. If we are not actively stirring others up to love and good deeds, we are sinning.
Before we consider what a Heb 10:24-25 kind of interaction might look like, let’s think about what kind of “involvement” with others doesn’t qualify as obedience to this command.
First of all, regular church attendance doesn’t qualify. We use v25 frequently to make the point that believers should attend church regularly, and we use it to confront those who stop coming to church. However, that grossly lowers the bar of this passage. The writer of Hebrews was not shooting for believers to come into a building and warm a pew for two hours a week. Merely showing up is not what he was looking for.
What did He have in mind? Stirring one another up. That is the main verb in the verse – “let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds.” Then there are two participles modifying that main verb. The first is “not neglecting to meet together.” That’s a negative qualifier. Then the second is a positive qualifier: “but encouraging one another.” You see, the opposite of “not neglecting to meet together” is not “showing up at church,” but rather is “encouraging one another.”
Consider this: if you come to church every Sunday of the year, and you do the normal greeting time, and you stay afterward for a few minutes and have a conversation or two about whatever, and that’s the extent of your involvement in the church, can you say that you’ve been obedient to Heb 10:24-25? Surely not.
Is it possible that there are people at Providence Bible Fellowship who come to church every Sunday and never miss but who have absolutely no meaningful interaction with others in which they stir them up to love and good deeds? I would dare to say that this is the habit of many of us. We need to repent of this.
Coming to church, coming to Sunday School, coming on Wed nights – these are not things to which Heb 10:24-25 calls us. These are good things that we should do so that we might be equipped to serve, but they should not be the extent of our involvement in the church. And if that is the extent of our involvement in the church, we cannot say that we are a functioning member of the body of Christ. It would be more appropriate to consider ourselves dead weight, like a leg or arm that is paralyzed. We’re a drag on the body rather than a vibrant, obedient vessel contributing to the body building itself up in love.
Another activity that does not qualify as obedience to Heb 10:24-25 and Eph 4:7ff: Some may think, “well, I do this in my family. I do all this one anothering at home.” It’s great that you obey the one another commands in your home. Praise God for that. But Eph 4:7-16, which explains that sanctification is a corporate activity, wasn’t written to families. Family instruction is at the end of Eph 5 and the beginning of Eph 6
There has been a movement in recent years among some to think of the family as a church. That just isn’t biblical. We need the church. And if you are not involved in relationships in the church, stirring others up to love and good deeds, you are sinning. The family is the family and the church is the church. The Bible gives explicit and distinct direction for involvement in both, and involvement in one does not count as involvement with the other.
Next time, we’ll consider one other kind of involvement that may not qualify as obedience to Heb 10:24-25. Then we’ll consider some ideas about what would qualify. Until then, consider your weekly routine. Your monthly routine. Do you have any regular interaction with other believers for the specific purpose of stirring them up to love and good deeds?