Encourage in Love
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (10:24–25)
The third mark of a positive response to the gospel is love. The particular expression of love mentioned here is fellowship love. The Jewish readers were having a hard time breaking with the Old Covenant, with the Temple and the sacrifices. They were still holding on to the legalism and ritual and ceremony, the outward things of Judaism. So the writer is telling them that one of the best ways to hold fast to the things of God—the real things of God that are found only in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ—is to be in the fellowship of His people, where they could love and be loved, serve and be served. There is no better place to come all the way to faith in Christ, or to hope continually in Him, than the church, His Body.
The day drawing near could refer to the imminent destruction of the Temple, which brought all the sacrifices and rituals to a close. The Old Covenant simply could not function without the Temple, which, when the book of Hebrews was written, was about to be destroyed by Titus. But I believe the primary reference is to the coming of the Lord, which makes the passage apply to all of us. The only place where we can remain steadfast until He returns is with His people. We need each other. We need to be in fellowship with each other, as we mutually strengthen each other and encourage each other.
Some years ago, a young man sat next to me on a plane and we struck up a conversation. When he discovered I was a minister, he said, “I used to belong to a church, but it seems to me that a person’s relationship to Christ ought to be personal, not institutional. What do you think?” After thanking the Lord silently for providing such an open opportunity for witness, I said, “I certainly agree with you.” He then asked if I knew how he could have a personal relationship with Christ—to which I also answered in the affirmative. I thought to myself, “He certainly seems to feel his need for Christ,” and so I asked if he had studied the truth of the gospel and the evidence for Christ’s claims. He replied, “Yes, but I just don’t know how to get to Him.” “Are you ready to commit yourself to Him?” I asked. He said that he was, and as we prayed together he made the commitment. The next Sunday he was in our morning worship service, and afterward asked me if our church had anything going on during the week that he could become involved in. This young man gave every evidence of being a true believer. He felt his need, he studied the evidence, he made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and was showing every desire to hold fast to Christ and to have fellowship with His people.
The writer is saying very simply, “The door is open, the way is made available to enter into God’s presence. Come in and stay and fellowship with His people, and enjoy God’s company forever.”
10:24–25 / The third exhortation in this section directs the readers to be concerned with the welfare of others in the community of faith. There is a need to spur (or “stimulate”) one another on toward the basic Christian conduct of love (cf. 13:1) and good deeds. It is worth noting that we have encountered the three great virtues of faith (v. 22), hope (v. 23), and love in three successive verses (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). The mutual encouragement that our author has in mind can occur, of course, only in the context of Christian fellowship. But some, perhaps even in this community, had been neglecting to come together. The avoidance of public meetings on the part of Jewish Christians may have been caused by the understandable desire to escape persecution, whether from the Romans or from the non-Christian Jewish community. Perhaps in the light of past experiences (see vv. 32–34) as well as threats concerning the imminent future (12:4), it was deemed wise to avoid attracting attention. Despite the twofold let us (both are added by niv) in verse 25, no new exhortations are present; rather, the material in this verse supports the exhortation of verse 24. The way in which the readers can manifest their concern for one another is through active participation in fellowship, on the one hand, and through mutual encouragement, on the other. Christians need each other, and especially in trying circumstances. The whole matter, moreover, is to take on a special urgency with the increasing sense of the imminence of the eschaton, as you see the Day approaching (cf. the quotation of Hab. 2:3 in v. 37).
10:25. To spur other believers forward in the Christian life, followers of Christ must meet together. Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship, and this limited their ability to give and receive encouragement toward good works.
Christians who meet together with the aim of promoting godliness and love for one another can be remarkably successful in their ventures. Regular fellowship with believers is an essential ingredient in Christian growth. The readers of Hebrews knew that the Day of Christ’s return was drawing near. The closeness of this day compelled them to stimulate one another in an outburst of energy and concern.
Persecution may have led some believers to drop out of the fellowship. The remedy they needed was to begin meeting again. The verses following in 26–31 showed the final outcome of neglecting to meet with other believers. Such careless living could produce a contempt for Jesus and a renunciation of Christianity.
25. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
One of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and the neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from the worship services. He forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Apparently some members of the Hebrew congregation to whom the epistle originally was addressed showed a disregard for attending the religious services. They did so willfully by deserting the “communion of the saints.” From sources dating from the first century of the Christian era, we learn that a lack of interest in the worship services was rather common. The Didache, a church manual of religious instruction from the latter part of the first century, gives this exhortation: “But be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for your souls.”
In an earlier chapter the author of Hebrews warns the readers not to follow the example of the disobedient Israelites in the desert, and not to turn away from the living God (3:12). The author exhorts the readers to “encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (3:13). He realizes that among some of the members spiritual zeal has declined. Therefore once more he says, “But let us encourage one another” (10:25). Not only the writer of this epistle but also all the members of the church have the communal task of encouraging one another daily. Together we bear the responsibility, for we are the body of Christ.
As Christians we must look to the future, that is, to the day when Jesus returns. The closer we come to that day, the more active we should be in spurring one another on in showing love and doing deeds acceptable to God. We would have appreciated more information about “the Day,” but the author is as brief as other writers of the New Testament who mention it (see, for example, Matt. 25:13; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:4). Says Philip Edgcumbe Hughes: “When spoken of in this absolute manner, ‘the Day’ can mean only the last day, that ultimate eschatological day, which is the day of reckoning and judgment, known as the Day of the Lord.”
10:25 Then we should continue to meet together and not desert the local fellowship, as some do. This may be considered as a general exhortation for all believers to be faithful in their church attendance. Without question we find strength, comfort, nourishment, and joy in collective worship and service.
It may also be looked on as a special encouragement for Christians going through times of persecution. There is always the temptation to isolate oneself in order to avoid arrest, reproach, and suffering, and thus to be a secret disciple.
But basically the verse is a warning against apostasy. To forsake the local assembly here means to turn one’s back on Christianity and revert to Judaism. Some were doing this when this Letter was written. There was need to exhort one another, especially in view of the nearness of Christ’s Return. When He comes, the persecuted, ostracized, despised believers will be seen to be on the winning side. Until then, there is need for steadfastness.
10:24, 25 Consider means “to observe,” “to contemplate,” or “to have an intelligent insight into.” Note that love and good works need to be stirred up; they do not just occur. The Greek word translated stir up has come into English as paroxysm, which means a “convulsion.” In this context the Greek word speaks forcefully of the tremendous impact believers can have on each other. That is why the author exhorts the Hebrews to gather together. Evidently some believers had stopped attending the worship services of the church, perhaps because they feared persecution. The author does not use the usual Greek word for church, perhaps because the term had come to mean the spiritual, invisible body of believers. Instead he uses a compound form of the word synagogue, which specifically means the local, physical gathering of believers (Ps. 40:9, 10; 42:4). Exhorting means coming alongside and inspiring another with the truth. The local assembly is where the gospel message is preached, but also where the Word of God is applied to the circumstances of our lives. Approaching may also be translated “at hand” (Rom. 13:12; Phil. 4:5; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3). Knowing that Christ’s return is imminent, the believers were to encourage each other even more to remain faithful to Him (3:13).
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2192). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.