Text: Hebrews 10:24-25

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.
(Heb. 10:24-25)

We are God’s church, God’s family. Just like how an earthly family should spend much time together, so too should God’s family endeavour to have fellowship one with another. Thus, it is little surprise to see God’s Word commanding us in Hebrews 10:24 that we should not the assembling of the saints. When we assemble, we show forth the unity we have in Christ and His Word. How wonderful it is that those who were once the sons of wrath should be adopted as the sons of God in the heavenly family! Thus, every occasion of assembly should be a time of rejoicing in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, every assembly has a purpose. What then is the purpose for our assembly? Is it simply for socialising? Or is there a far grander purpose? Verse 24 has the answer – the reason we assemble is to provoke one another!

The word “provoke” in verse 24 is translated from the Greek noun paroxusmos. This noun has the sense of rousing, stirring or exciting one unto activity. It is used only twice in the New Testament. The first use of this term is found in Acts 15:39 where it is employed negatively to depict the sharp argument and disagreement that arose between Paul and Barnabas. The second use of this term is as what is found in the text today, where it is employed positively to the rousing of a man unto love and good works.

There is a right type of provocation, and a wrong type of provocation. The wrong type of provocation is forbidden in Galatians 5:26 – “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Such provocation excites others to walk in the flesh instead of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:17-21), and will result in the brethren biting and devouring one another (Gal. 5:15). Such ill behaviour also provokes God unto anger (see for example Deut. 4:25; 29). Let us therefore be careful not to let sin be named among us. Everyone of us have this responsibility to guard our hearts and actions. Once we sin, we will not only affect ourselves but also influence others to follow us in moving away from Christ. Remember, we are a gathering of the saints (i.e. holy ones), not a gathering of rebellious sinners. Holiness and righteousness must reign in our midst.

On the other hand, biblical provocation involves exciting one another unto a closer walk with the Lord. Firstly, we rouse each other to love the Lord with our all. When we love the Lord, we will obey His commandments (c.f. John 14:15; 21). We will also love our brethren in the truth (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17). As we grow in love towards our Lord, we will also abound in good works unto Him. This was God’s intention from the very beginning (Eph. 2:10). Our meetings with one another must always result in pointing one another to Christ. Otherwise, our meetings will be in vain.

Moreover, verse 24 tells us that we must first have the spirit of “considering” one another before we can provoke one another unto love and good works. The verb “consider” (katanoeō) describes a careful attention, study and perception of situations. It refers to how we must always actively look out for the interests of our brethren. This spirit is different from the world where self-interest comes first. However, for the Christian, Christ’s interest always comes first. For the sake of Christ, he will be actively looking out for the spiritual welfare of his brother in love. Being indwelt by the Holy Sprit, we are given heavenly wisdom to perceive what exactly are the needs of our brethren and how exactly we can help them. As we grow in God’s Word, we also know how to encourage, comfort and instruct one another in God’s Word. When we do so, our meetings will be most sweet in our Lord.

Finally, verse 25 teaches us that our meetings are an urgent affair. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the day of the coming of Christ is drawing nigh. Therefore, we cannot afford to let each other be taken in by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). We have to make our limited time on earth count for Christ. Therefore, let us exhort one another to press on in the Lord.

Unlike the meetings of the world, the assembling of the saints are a means of grace from the Lord to encourage us in Christ. Let us understand why we meet, and make every assembling of ourselves count for the Lord.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew