COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL
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, 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. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
— Hebrews 10:19-27, ESV
“O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O Come ye, O come ye …” to your local church.
One of the plagues of twenty-first Christianity is the low esteem in which professing Christians hold the Lord's church on the Lord’s Day. For decades the largest Protestant denomination in history, the Southern Baptist Convention, has admitted that on any given Sunday, only about a fourth of members show up for public worship. Roman Catholics confess to similar sagging statistics.
The spirit of the age encourages people to be spiritual but not religious, to have a privatized faith with no public witness, to affirm God but have no affiliation with a gathered church. I’d like to see a grocery store employer tell his boss he truly believes in food, but he’s not coming to work anymore. Good luck cashing that paycheck.
The most spiritual thing a person can do is show love and allegiance to the true and living God. Such love will long to abide by His sacred text, the Bible. God’s word includes various and sundry demands to gather together regularly with a congregation of like faith.
This admonition in Hebrews 10 stands out. It contains five very positive reasons for being faithful to attend one’s church, and one feisty warning. The problem with church-skipping is age old, apparently, and the advice the inspired writer of Hebrews gives the early church is doubly good for us. Don’t neglect to meet tougher, but come, all ye faithful, to the Lord’s church on the Lord’s Day!
Church is a Holy Place
“Holy places” are where we go to encounter the holy, true, and living God. There are many in nature, I must admit. Hearth and home should be a sacred place, too. I’ve even given thanks to God at a ballgame, providing my team was ahead at the time.
God designed holy places in the Old Testament and New Testament. In our dispensation, the most holy place to meet with God is a house of people where, according to Calvin, the word is preached, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper are observed, and true disciples are chained together by the word and Spirit of God. This is the church!
O come, all ye faithful, to the holy place of Christ’s church.
Church is a Relationship with God
“The new and living way” is no doubt a reference to the New Covenant, which has perfectly fulfilled the Old Covenant. A covenant is terms of a relationship, like a marriage covenant, or a covenant relationship with God.
You cannot make a marriage covenant alone, neither can you be in a right relationship with God all by yourself. God’s design has always been a corporate relationship, between Him and His people, and His people and His people. This was true for Old Covenant Israel, and it is true for Christians and their New Covenant church.
Personal salvation is a necessity, to be sure, but once you are saved you are to live in this corporate relationship with Christ and His church. One is perfect and the other is decidedly not, but that does not change the rules.
O come, all ye faithful, to the corporate relationship with Christ through His church.
Church is Led by the Lord Jesus Christ
In your church you will find leaders. They should be servant leader pastors or elders, and leading servant deacons, the two particular offices of the proper New Testament church. But the writer of Hebrews mentions here the church’s supreme leader, “We have a great high priest over the house of God.”
You should love and respect your earthly ecclesiastical leaders, unless they have made themselves unworthy by moral failure or heretical error. But if you are a Christian, your true Lord and Head of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and every Lord’s Day the Lord bids you to come.
O come, all ye faithful, to meet with the Lord in the Lord’s meeting place.
Church contains Life’s Most Important Lessons
One of the things the true church does when we gather together is “hold fast the confession.” Confession here means same words, or same truths, or same doctrines of God. Are any lessons in life more important than the knowledge of God?
To learn the doctrines of Christianity takes time, repetition, effort, beginning with the energy it takes to gather together. We read from Holy Scripture, hear sermons from those trained best to handle it, and sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which put doctrine to rhyme and meter so that it can be learned and remembered.
There is no school on earth more important than the school of Christ taught by His gathered church. So come, all ye faithful, to learn the word of God in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Church gives Comfort, Motivation, and Encouragement
In giving yourself to a congregation of the saints you will receive much more than you give. In the heart of this Hebrews passage, we are promised many gifts. Pure hearts and cleans hands appear when we are washed in public worship. We literally stir each other up, or motivate one another, to bring grace and goodness to our community when we depart. We grow in our love for God and one another.
Such gifts do not come with a price tag. They are invaluable. And they cannot be purchased in any store. They come, by grace through faith, in your regular and ongoing relationship with Christ and His church. O come, all ye faithful, for the blessings of committed church membership.
Church Prepares Us for at the Second Coming of Christ
Now the tone of the text becomes more ominous, in positive and negative ways. First, the positive. Responsible church membership and worship is designed to prepare you for “the Day drawing near.”
Day is capitalized in most translations, and the original author was not talking about Monday, as daunting as Mondays can be. He is speaking about a particular day, a promised Day, the Day of the Lord when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth, with salvation and judgment in His hands.
When we take our part in the church, and our place in the pew on Sunday, we ready ourselves for the return of Christ. There are many admonitions in the Gospels about being found worshiping and working when the Great Shepherd comes for the sheep.
O come, all ye faithful, to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day, for what if it is the Day the Lord returns? For Christians, this will make our salvation complete. For non-Christians, nominals, and hypocrites, however, there will be no salvation when Jesus comes back, only judgment.
Church will Keep you out of Hell
Moderns make a million reasons to skip church on Sundays. Hopefully, this text has just given you several positive notes that should serve to overcome all of the excuses. Church will keep you right with God in so many ways, and it will also serve to keep you out of the most wrong place of all.
“Sinning deliberately” is a scandal before God. But exactly what sin is being referred to here? It is the sin of skipping church, the sin of forsaking the assembly of the saints, the sin of so many who talk the talk of Christianity but do not walk the walk of responsible church membership and worship.
The rolls of all of our churches and the roll that will be “called up yonder” are by no means the exact same. There are many on the church rolls of today who have never been genuinely born again. There are many who join church and attend regularly out of a prideful effort to work their way into Heaven, modern Pharisees if you will.
On the other hand, there are exceptions to the rule, even the sacred rules revealed here in this sacred text about church participation. There are a precious few, genuinely saved souls, who have been so betrayed by the church, so wounded and scarred by wolves in sheep’s clothing, that they rarely darken the door of a Sunday worship service any more. God knows their pain, for Christ Himself was betrayed unto death by a beloved insider.
But the vast majority of professing Christians who put the church out of their lives have not been betrayed by other professing Christians. They are just unrepentant, unfaithful, unregenerate, and uncaring about the claims of Christ. Let the close of this text serve a severe warning.
O come, all ye repentant and faithful, to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Come and adore the Lord. Come and adhere to His inspired, inerrant, and infallible word. Come and accept your rightful place among the righteous, the saved, the people of God, who gather with Him now and will do so forever and ever. Come, all ye faithful.