Do Not Forsake

This is a constant question asked of Christians: Why do I need to be at every service? Isn’t Sunday morning enough? This question betrays a lack of understanding at best, and at worst a complete disregard for the commitment and love God showed to us by sending his Son to die for our sins.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “. . . not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another.” Sometimes its meaning is taken far beyond what God intended, and sometimes its application falls short of the truth. This is an essential command, as God gave man no non-essential commands. Let us examine the context of the book of Hebrews and look into the warning about slipping back into Judaism as some first century Christians would have done.

This command does not refer to one assembly in particular. Frequently this passage is paraphrased “Forsake not the assembly.” Looking closely, however, the command is not, “not forsaking the assembly, “ or “not forsaking the assemblies,” rather it is “not forsaking the assembling.” The word assembling is used as an adverbial noun and, therefore, refers to the practice of meeting with the saints. Consider some other translations:

	<ul><li> <strong>(NRSV)</strong> not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some </li>
		<li> <strong>(NWT)</strong> not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have </li>
		<li> <strong>(KJV)</strong> not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some </li>
	</ul><p>Simply put, the term means when and how often the assembling was done is determined from some other source. This verse does not deal with the day, time, or frequency of the assembling.</p>

Forsake does not mean complete abandonment. Some would argue a person has not forsaken the assembling until he or she has stopped assembling altogether forever. These would have us believe forsaking is complete apostasy and if I miss once in awhile I have not violated Hebrews 10:25. If a husband neglects his wife, does he abandoned her? If he takes her to a town and then drives off without returning for her until the next day, I believe she would feel abandoned, deserted, or forsaken. Suppose he does it again a few days later and continues doing it on a regular basis. He has made a habit of forsaking her without renouncing her forever. Parents who “abandon” their small children even for a day are not fit to be called “parents.” Children of God, who “abandon” Him, are not fit to be called Christians. A very good example of the proper use of forsaken is from Matt 27:46 when Jesus asked: “why have You forsaken Me?” God did not permanently abandon Jesus. Forsaking the assembling was a habit of some. Forsaking, therefore, was something repeated as a habit, and shows irregular attendance, not a once and for all forsaking as some have suggested. If your heart suddenly started missing a beat once in awhile, would you be concerned? This could be a life threatening problem and you would take action. The habits of some are to be avoided. If one misses assembling once in awhile, it can lead to forsaking.

Is it a sin to miss just one service of the Church? No, but when we miss it is necessary to examine our hearts. It is a condition of the heart which causes one to miss services. God, who knows all hearts, commands us to assemble in order to prevent just such a heart condition. It is the kind of condition which leads to wilful sin, and that is addressed in the next verse. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:26-27).

These assemblies are a part of God’s plan for the church and cannot be ignored or neglected. Forsaking, therefore, is getting in the habit of not assembling, and unless we are ready to suffer the consequences of sin we must avoid it. How accurate do you think God’s records of your attendance will be? Are you ready to be judged by both the book that contains Hebrews 10:25 and by the record of your deeds, both good and bad? We ought to attend every service. Forsaking the assembling of the saints only hurts us in the long run. Let’s not start a bad habit that can cost us our souls.