The church gathers.
We get together week after week.
That seems obvious.
Why is gathering as a church so important? It’s a command. We see that in Hebrews 10:19-25. But, it’s not just a command. There are reasons.
In fact, if you look at Hebrews 10:19-25 you will notice the writer is making an argument.
We know that because he begins with the word therefore.
Do this because.
And he summarizes the because in verses 19 and 21 when he says, “Therefore brothers, since we have” in verse 19 and then again in verse 21, “and since we have…” When he uses that word since, it is kind of like he’s quickly drawing our attention to the main points he wants to have in our minds as we think about the exhortations we are going to read about our lives as a church.
And those two main points are, verse 19, one, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh. And two, verse 21, since, we have a great priest over the house of God.
Let us, let us, let us.
So you can sort of see the flow of the passage. It’s two realities, two sinces, and three implications. It’s kind of like here are your privileges as a church and then here are your responsibilities, and what I wanted you to see and this is what I am emphasizing, is that he doesn’t simply tell us our responsibilities, what to do as a church when we gather, he gives us reasons, he helps us understand the significance of our gathering together, he makes an argument.
And that’s important because there are lots of people throughout the world that gather together for lots of different reasons. But when you think about this gathering, the gathering together of the church, there’s a unique kind of reason for it, and it’s important you understand that unique kind of reason because it’s not really all that exciting if you just go to church and attend, but you don’t really understand the gospel reasons behind going. What we are hoping for when we talk about gathering is not just people who come weekly and don’t really know why they are getting together.
Now if you want to know why a lot of people go to church and why they make a priority out of gathering, it is because they think going to church and what they do at church, somehow that activity can make them right with God or get God to like them or keep them right with God. But that’s not the reasons we gather.
The reasons we gather have to do with what God has already done for us and is doing for us through Jesus.
The first reason the writer of Hebrews gives us in verse 19 is because we have the right to come into God’s presence.
He says, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.
Which might sound funny to you because of the word holy place and this talk of a curtain, being Jesus’ flesh. But really what he’s doing when he uses those ideas is trying to help us appreciate what a big privilege we have as a church by connecting the story of our lives to the great story God’s been writing in the universe.
There were these people in the Old Testament, you know them, the Israelites, and God had a unique relationship with them, they were His people, and they had a unique privilege in that God dwelt with them in a special way, in this place that was called the tabernacle and later the temple. This was like God’s house. And in that tabernacle there was a special part, called the holy place and then even beyond that and behind a curtain, there was a place they called the holy of holies, which was like God’s inner sanctuary.
And of course there were all kinds of rules about how to go into the holy place and approach God’s special presence, and then even who could go into the holy place, it wasn’t just anybody, it was a select group of people, and they had to make all kinds of preparations to do it and then into the holy of holies, only the high priest could go, and he had to take blood, he couldn’t just enter, he had to offer a sacrifice for his sin so that he wouldn’t be consumed when he came close to God.
And what the writer of Hebrews is saying here is as he turns from this story in the Old Testament to look at the church is that we as believers, we all have the confidence, and many would actually translate that word authorization, because they don’t think it so much refers to our attitude as it does to something objective, real, and what he’s telling us is, we all have the right to enter the holy places, we all have the right to enter the inner heavenly sanctuary of God.
And that’s really the first thing for me that makes this gathering of people so significant; it is that the church is a gathering of people who all have the right to stand in the presence of a holy God. I mean, imagine that! There are all kinds of people all over the world who are gathering together, and they are even groups of people who are gathering together to worship, and they are doing all these things, but it’s of no use, because they are children of wrath, they are enemies of God, they are still in their sins, how is that exciting, but when you are with a group of believers, you are with the people of God, you are with what you might call a set apart or holy priesthood, you are with a group of people, who have absolutely free access to the majestic and holy Creator of the Universe.
And that makes what is going on when those people get together pretty significant, because God looks on it with favor, and we know He does because it’s not based on their efforts, but this authorization or right to come into His presence, is based on the work of Christ, the writer of Hebrews says we have this authorization by the blood of Jesus, and then he explains it further, by the new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh.
When we gather on Sundays, this is not a group of desperate people trying to manipulate God into liking them, this is people who have the right to be before God because of what God’s done for them through Jesus.
And we might add to that, what God’s doing for them through Jesus, because the writer of Hebrews does.
A second way that the writer of Hebrews demonstrates the significance of our privileges as a church is in verse 21, where he says, “since we have a great priest over the house of God” and in saying that, it’s like he’s drawing our attention from each other and this free access we have to the one who is in charge of us and what’s going on, the head of the church, and that’s Jesus and what he’s saying is that Jesus, this one we come to worship, is not dead, he’s very much alive and he is at work, as priest over his house, which is the church.
And honestly if you want to know better what that means, you might just study the book of Hebrews, because there is so much of the book of Hebrews that is written to explain that but for now, what I want you to understand is that as we talk about gathering together as a church, we are not starting with, hey to be a good person and to get God to like you, then you need to do this and go to church every week, instead we are starting with, man look at what you have as believers, you have the right to enter into God’s presence, and you have this glorious Savior who is alive and who is at work, ministering, serving on your behalf, and that reality, those truths aren’t just there to look at, they have implications, they should change you.
I know and you know that there are people who might look at these gatherings we have, look at this group of people who get together on Sunday afternoons in this little hall, and ask what is so big about that?
What is so big about that is what these people get to do. They have access to God. And what is so big about that is the One they worship, the One is who in charge of them, it’s the great High priest, Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
That’s the reason for our gathering.
It is the gospel.
And you know these truths should change the way we gather as well.
If we are just coming here without knowing these reasons, we are going to tear each other apart in the long run. But, look, if we are gathering together confident in Christ, knowing that He’s the purpose, He’s the one who saves us, believing those truths enables us to have the real fellowship and community we long for and so desperately need.