|Volume 24 Number 1 January 2022
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted his brothers and sisters to remain faithful to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. There was the imminent danger of believers being lured back to the first covenant with all its rituals and animal sacrifices. Their hearts could be hardened if they turned their backs to the “new and living way” (Hebrews 11:20) through Christ. In the original, the word “exhort,” parakaleo, meant to encourage, entreat, to urge and to comfort. Now, as then, we are to encourage our brothers and sisters to be faithful to Christ, and not to be drawn away by the devices of Satan.
There are brothers and sisters who are drifting away, and we certainly need to encourage them. James wrote, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20 NKJV). We should do this while we have the opportunity, that is, as long as it is called today. This exhorting can be done in various ways and anytime by individual Christians. Perhaps a personal visit would be the most effective; however, we can send a card, write a letter, make a telephone call or send a text to our brothers and sisters. In whatever way we choose to encourage our brothers and sisters, we are instructed to do it today because tomorrow may be too late.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). As a part of the writer’s exhortation, he urged the disciples to “stir up love and good works.” To “stir up” is to motivate, provoke, encourage and arouse one another to love one another and do “good works.” In this passage, the writer mentioned “the assembling of ourselves together.” We know this was a regular assembly because some members were habitually forsaking it. This assembly would definitely include meeting weekly on the first day of the week to “break bread” as was evident in the first century (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7).
The word “forsaking” means to abandon, to completely desert the assemblies. Forsaking the assemblies also involves turning away from the only salvation that is to be found in the death of Christ when He shed His blood for our sins. To forsake is to “sin willfully,” meaning there remains no other sacrifice for sins. When we assemble together to worship God (John 4:23-24), we are to exhort one another. We do this when we sing together, pray together, teach one another the word of God, when we commune with our Lord and as a body of believers when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We also have fellowship with one another as we give our money to the work of the Lord. Likewise, we encourage one another when we speak a kind word, shake someone’s hand, express our love to one another and just to be in the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is a real sense of urgency found in the expression, “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” This “Day” was a time that could be seen by those Christians who read this epistle. This “Day” can be best understood as being the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). That “Day” most likely occurred a few years after this epistle was written.
Yet, there is another day coming when we will “…all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will hear either “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34) or “…Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Therefore, let us exhort one another to be faithful, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:42). Finally, brethren, note and be encouraged by the lyrics of the hymn, “Live for Jesus,” by Eden R. Latta. “Live for Jesus O my brother, His disciple ever be; Render not to any other, What alone the Lord’s should be. Live for Jesus, live for Jesus, Give Him all thou hast to give; On the cross the world’s Redeemer, Gave His life that thou mightst live.”
Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
When Christ in the beginning established His church, as He had promised in Matthew 16:18, Christians sang psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in the worship of God, without the use of any kind of instruments of music. They were taught, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). Likewise, Christians in Ephesus were instructed, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
When the Roman Catholic church began hundreds of years after the establishment of the church of Christ, it began to use mechanical instruments of music in its worship. In the beginning of the 16th century when the Protestant movement started, founders and leaders of prominent denominational churches, including Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley, spoke against the use of instruments of music in the worship of God.
Christ taught, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God desires that people, whom He created, should worship Him with their hearts and lips, which God made and not through musical instruments which man made. Hebrews 13:15 teaches, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
[Editor’s Note: The foregoing is part of the introduction appearing in a new Hindi and English languages songbook published in New Delhi, India. It is very appropriate and biblically based. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]