Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 July 24, 2022
“Fundamentally Sound: Public Worship”1
Earlier in our series, we noted that to be an excellent musician or an excellent athlete requires fundamental soundness in the relevant skills. The same applies to be an excellent student. To write well requires mastery of this like spelling, subject/verb agreement, and punctuation, among others. To excel in mathematics requires command of arithmetic facts, order of operations, algorithms (or processes to solve a problem), and so forth.
Likewise, we must be fundamentally sound in the things of God to endure and to thrive in these times less congenial to Christian faith and practice. Again, let’s review the course so far. Two weeks ago, we looked at our first fundamental of faith, Scripture, from 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Last week, we looked at our second fundamental of faith, prayer, from Luke 11:1-13. This morning we look at our third fundamental of faith, namely, public worship. As we look closely at Hebrews 10:19-25, may the Lord encourage us to continue meeting together—and all the more as we see the day of His return nearing.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Hebrews, in toto, is an appeal to believers in Christ, of Jewish background, not to return to former ways—and not, thus, to forsake Him Who is the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6). The author of Hebrews appeals to his readers by showing Jesus’ superiority over several Old Covenant items. Jesus’ incarnation, God’s ultimate revelation of Himself on this earth, is superior to the earlier prophetic revelation—wondrous though that was (1:14). Jesus is also superior to the angelic host (1:5 ff.), to Moses (3:1 ff.), to the priesthood of Aaron, Moses’ elder brother (4:14 ff.), and to the Old Testmental sacrificial system (8:1 ff). Then the author, having demonstrated conclusively that Jesus is superior to the aforementioned—and, presumably, to anything else extant or imagined—makes his final, extended appeal to the end of the epistle. Our text begins that final appeal.
The author grounds his exhortations in certain truths—truths prefaced with the word since. Since, on the basis of everything from Hebrews 1:1-10:18, we have confidence to enter the holy places (or innermost access to our Lord) by Jesus’ blood, through His flesh—and, since we have a great High Priest over the house of God, able to sympathize with us in every way (4:15) and living to interceded for us (7:25)—let us do as the Holy Spirit, through the author of Hebrews, enjoins.2
First, let us draw near to God. We, by the Lord’s grace, may draw near to Him with a heart made true, cleansed from an evil conscience, in full assurance of faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. The Hebrews hearing this letter, ca. A. D. 65-70, lived under constant pull for forsake Jesus for the Old Covenant way. Our human author, led by the Spirit, calls them—and us—to quite the opposite, to draw near to God. Second, let us hold fast the confession of our faith. Let us do this, moreover, without wavering, because He Who promised—to wit, our triune God—Himself never wavers, but is ever faithful. Those first readers were tempted to waver—and so too are we—but we can (and must, by God’s grace) stand firm in the faith, because the Author and Finisher of our faith (cf. Hebrews 12:2) never wavers, but is ever faithful.
Third, let us consider how to stir one another to love and good deeds. We may consider this in general terms, to be sure, but the Lord through His inspired penman lists a special case for our consideration—namely, not neglecting to meet together. To judge from the text, such neglect was the habit of some in that day (again, ca. A. D. 65-70)—and it certainly is the habit of some today who claim Jesus for Savior and Lord. Let us encourage one another not to forsake the assembling of ourselves for public worship of our three-in-one God—especially in these times we endure today, and all the more as the day of Jesus’ return nears. It is true, in view of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), that good will grow until the end of the age—but evil will also, and we’ll need to spur one another to worship the Lord together more and more as the time of His return nears.
With all the foregoing now said, and agreed thereunto, I understand that certain difficulties remain for some—concerning attendance at public worship. Some cannot come just now—or no longer can come at all—due to physical limitation and much-decreased physical health. Some cannot attend due to psychiatric difficulty (such as, for example, severe social anxiety disorder). Others struggle to attend due to material lack: either of a car, or of a car that actually will start, run, and stop, or of money to put gasoline in the car. Still others cannot come to a local church due to current incarceration. Most of these, at one level or another, can be surmounted. For those who cannot come, perhaps the church, in some sense, can come to them. For those of insufficient material goods, ride-sharing may be the answer. For those incarcerated, either via Christian chaplaincy or via visiting congregation, Christian public worship may be offered. Yet all of these difficulties, taken together, afflict a relatively small slice of the Christian public. The rest of us, by God’s grace, need to assemble with other Christians for public worship.
Participation in public worship, in these difficult days, draws us near to God, through the Holy Spirit’s work. Worshiping the Lord together helps us to hold fast our faith in Christ. This occurs in public worship as we confess our faith together (via, e. g., the Apostles’ Creed). By sound preaching and teaching, received in the context of public worship, our ability and drive to hold fast our confession grows. Being present at public worship also places us physically within Christ’s society of mutual encouragement, His Church—both to receive the encouragement we so desperately need and to dispense the encouragement another so desperately needs. Resist, therefore, every temptation to forsake public worship—as, alas, is the habit of some. As we present ourselves week by week, season by season, year by year, among other faithful Christian souls in public worship, may our souls be ever more sound in Christian faith. May we be fundamentally sound and fortified in Christ, then, as we take Scripture into our souls, spend time with the Lord in prayer, and worship the Lord, in His sanctuary, with His people.
1 This manuscript is revised and slightly enlarged from that prepared for morning worship on Sunday, June 5, 2022, at the church-wide retreat of the Highlands Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Grayson, Georgia—held at Bonclarken Conference Center, Flat Rock, North Carolina.
2 What follows is a set of Greek verbs, like many others in Hebrews and a few others elsewhere in the New Testament, that are hortatory subjunctives. Even if you know no Greek, they are easy to spot, for translators usually render them, “Let us…,” with the specific verb completing the ellipsis. My Greek II class at Erskine Seminary, under Dr. John Blumenstein (January term, 1993), learned to refer to passages containing such verbs as the let us passages—with let us run together verbally like lettuce.