Forsaking the Assembling [Emphasis in bold, and indented passages are taken from translator notes in the margins of the 1880’s KJV Sunday School Teacher’s Edition Bible, cross references, Strong’s definitions, and Greek or Hebrew Dictionaries.]
16 “This is the covenant [new] that I will make with them after those days [old covenant], saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. [see Matt. 26:28] 19 “Having therefore, brethren, boldness [liberty] to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated [made new] for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil [4190 πονηρος poneros pon-ay-ros’ 2) bad, of a bad nature or condition; 2a) in a physical sense: diseased or blind; 2b) in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad] conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession [confession] of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; [1 John 1:9]) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking [abandoning] 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. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
As important as it is to gather together with fellow Christians to pray, bear one another’s burdens, lift each other up with encouragement, etc., we must keep the verses above in context. The whole of which is addressing accountability, not attendance to church services. If left to ourselves, we in our sinful nature would succumb to temptation the majority of the time. Exhorting and being exhorted to stand firm in our faith, provoking unto love and to good works encourages accountability and avoidance of sin. Verse 26 is quite clear on this—what was the point of having Jesus sacrifice his blood for our sins if after receiving the knowledge of truth we are saved, but willfully choose to continue in sin anyway?
The word forsaking in Heb. 10:25 and forsaken in Matt. 27:46 are from the same Greek word as defined below. Jesus asked his heavenly Father “why hast thou forsaken me” when he bore our sins on the cross. It was necessary for God the Father to temporarily abandon his son because he cannot be in the presence of sin.
In more conservative churches, however, Heb. 10:25 is most commonly quoted to keep the congregation in faithful attendance, but, as it has just been pointed out, these verses are not pertaining to attendance. The overly emphasized word is “forsaking,” but what is not taught is the correct definition—abandonment.
#1459 εγκαταλειπω egkataleipo eng-kat-al-i’-po from 1722 and 2641; v
AV-forsake 7, leave 2; 9
1) abandon, desert
1a) leave in straits, leave helpless
1b) totally abandoned, utterly forsaken
2) to leave behind among, to leave surviving
Spiritually, it is the pastor’s responsibility to look after the flock of his congregation when they are gathered, but it is on the individual’s shoulders to be responsible for his or her spiritual walk when not in attendance. In this way, there should be no blame or guilt placed on either side if and when an individual strays from that which he or she professed to believe and uphold.
For church elders to imply in any way that a person is forsaking the assembly if he or she is not faithful in attending every service they see fit to schedule, especially when they say “it is a Christian’s duty to be here every time the door is opened,” then they are as guilty as the Pharisees for expanding the written law and expecting equal reverence to it. There is no timetable as to how often Christians should gather.
It has been voiced by many a preacher how physically tired they get from the work put into preparing for the services they preach, not to mention, the other duties they are called upon to perform such as visitation, comforting those in the hospital, or shut-ins due to health or disabilities, counseling, and so forth. “The Sabbath”, or as it has come to be known “The Lord’s Day”, was not intended for so much work. As time has progressed, more and more edicts of men have been added to the “assembling together.” This, the preachers have brought on themselves, and thus, by their actions, have taught their congregation to expect it of them.
This, by no means, is advocating non-attendance to church services—abandonment of Christian fellowship whether in church or elsewhere is not wise. By the same token, missing some services, or occasional lack of attendance to every weekly, by-weekly, and extra services for special occasions, etc., is not breaking a law of God or any of His principles. These are traditions of men!