A pastor in Baltimore tore up a cease and desist letter the church received for holding in-person services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The church was threatened with a $5,000 fine. The pastor cited Hebrews 10:25 as his reasoning for defying the order.
“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.”
Now I don’t care that he wants to defy a government order. That’s fine with me and I think he’s likely on good legal ground, although it may not sit as well with the community there regarding the church’s testimony. That’s for him and the church to decide. But I do object to misinterpreting and misapplying biblical passages. Here’s my beef with using that verse the way he does.
- The context of that passage is not a formal church service. It’s provoking one another to love and good works and exhorting (coming alongside) each other in support. This does not require a church service. I would argue that this, very often, is best done outside of a formal service.
- The “assembling” simply means a gathering together in one place. It does not refer to a specific number or percentage of people. It’s just Christians getting together in any context which supports provoking to love and good works which should prevent God’s punishment for those who otherwise could fall into sin. (Heb. 10:29)
- If he really believes that “so much the more” refers to church services, then I would ask him when he is adding more regular church services to the weekly church schedule. The fact that he doesn’t proves my point.
My interpretation and application of that verse is that Christians should gravitate towards one another for support as our world approaches the end. There are a few other details involved, but that’s the basic idea. It has nothing to do with a church service. As a matter of fact, the Bible does not specify what day or time that a local church should meet (contrary to popular opinion).
In my reading of this passage, if Christians gather informally in a home, workplace, or at a restaurant for mutual exhortation, they likely are fulfilling Hebrews 10:25.