“Meeting Together” by Jack Gray

One of the brothers I met on my recent trip to New Zealand, Jack Gray, sent me an article he had written some years ago on Hebrews 10:25. It says so well what I have come to embrace. You can find more of his writings at The Pilgrim Path.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. The quotation of this verse is the main ammunition of those who oppose people, whose view of the Church has led them to abandon regular attendance at “services” or religious meetings. What these proof-text-quoters fail to realise is that the verse will not bear the meaning they wish to read into it. In an endeavour to be honest with myself and to face up to the real meaning of the original of this verse, I did some research.

Firstly, I found that most modern translations simply say, “Not neglecting to meet together.” Now, I suppose one may construe that in the sense that we are not to neglect attending meetings; but equally it would support quite informal times of getting together. The important point, from the context, is what we do when we do meet together. This context makes it clear that meeting together should be the occasion of “provoking one another to love and good works” and of “encouraging one another”. The meeting is for interaction, relationship and mutual encouragement. My personal experience would strongly suggest that these aims are much better served when I am together with two or three brothers and sisters in an informal situation, rather than in structured “meetings”. But maybe I too am guilty of making the verse say something to suit my position, so let us go to the original Greek text of the verse and seek the independent and authoritative interpretation of “The Expositors’ Greek Testament.”

The word here translated in the King James version, “Assembling yourselves together” is “Episunagoge” rather than the simpler word “Sunagoge”. Here is what Expositors has to say, “Delitsch suggests that the compound word (episunagoge) is used instead of the simple one in order to avoid a word with Judaic associations, but “sunagoge” might rather have suggested the building and formal stated meetings, while the word used denotes merely the meeting together of Christians.” In other words, it would seem that the writer to the Hebrews had been at pains to indicate that his meaning was not formal religious gatherings in a religious building, but rather any coming-together of Christians.

Further, I would suggest that there is much less true “meeting” in “Meetings” than in times when we sit down together, two or three believers, to open our hearts to one another, and to talk about the Lord. It is on such occasions that I find myself being encouraged and provoked to love and good works more than in formal services.

The other point of considerable importance is this; when these early Christians came together, they did not gather in the name of any denomination, but simply as members of the one Body of Christ, the Church. They had no Christian denominational menu to choose from, such as is set out in the “Church Notices” in our newspapers. If they belonged to the Lord, they belonged to the one and only Church, and meeting together was only unto Jesus Christ the Head of that Church.

No matter how fervently we sing, “We are gathering together unto Him”, so long as we are meeting under denominational banners and the names and organisations of men, we are giving the lie to our words by our actions. So, if those who quote Hebrews 10:25 to me can show me where in this land I will find Church as it was in the New Testament, there I will be glad to assemble together with my brothers and sisters in the Lord, but I will not gather in the divisive denominational churches of today, whose very existence denies the unity of the Spirit we are exhorted to maintain.
To summarise: I reject the way in which this verse is used by those who would persuade us that, because we do not “go to church” and attend services and religious gatherings, we are in disobedience to the word of God. I reject it for the following reasons:

1) The original Greek text does not specify attendance at regular organised services, but rather the evidence strongly suggests that it means something less formal, which does not take place in religious buildings. Indeed, the whole Epistle to the Hebrews is aimed at demonstrating that the “Old Covenant” with its “Regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary”(Hebrews 9:1) has been abolished and the New Covenant, which needs none of these things, has been established.

2) I would hold that wherever and whenever Christians come together, and they encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works, then they are meeting in the true sense of this verse.

3) True meeting of heart and spirit is much more likely to occur with twos and threes than in larger formal gatherings.

4) Even should we concede that larger gatherings are what is meant in this verse, we have departed from the original ground of gathering, simply in the name of Jesus, by meeting instead in churches with denominational names. When Christians in a town gather in a dozen different churches on a Sunday they are not “Assembling together” but assembling separately.

5) Finally, Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” The verb, “gathered” is in the passive mood. Do we trust Jesus to do the gathering, or do we arrange gatherings? We are finding that, as we allow Jesus to do it, He provides times and occasions of rich intimate fellowship and times of mutual encouragement, quite often when we have not expected it. I look forward to the time when there will be a restoration of that original creation of God, a pure unified Church, unified, not by the ecumenical schemes of men, but by the Holy Spirit of God, released in fresh Pentecostal power among us. Then, I have no doubt, there will be large “family reunions”, joyful gatherings with wonderful fellowship, but no religious services conducted by men. These gatherings will be creative events directed and orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.

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8 Comments
  1. Ann Duncan September 12, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    This resonates deeply with me, with my spirit. Thank you!

  2. Ann Duncan September 13, 2004 at 2:40 am

    This resonates deeply with me, with my spirit. Thank you!

  3. alex wills October 7, 2004 at 3:49 am

    First I want to say that I appreciate your work and this article was an encouragement to me.

    Secondly, I feel so torn because my friends that are leaders of "nondenominational churches" agree very much with the abomination of the denominations, yet things like this are looked at as attacking their ministry as well. For me it is easy to say that, I give up "my" ministry and I just seek Jesus each day… but my heart goes out to these servants of the Lord who have faithfully served as "pastors" etc… While I agree that we should have "His church, His way," part of me still sees so much good coming from the faithful teaching of the Word by some of these fellowships.

    Shall we call them all bad?

    What advice would you give to the young pastor of a Calvary Chapel who is faithfully teaching the word of God to many people each week and lives are really being changed despite the "leaven in the church" and the "disconnectedness" ?

    …feeling torn

  4. alex wills October 7, 2004 at 6:49 am

    First I want to say that I appreciate your work and this article was an encouragement to me.

    Secondly, I feel so torn because my friends that are leaders of "nondenominational churches" agree very much with the abomination of the denominations, yet things like this are looked at as attacking their ministry as well. For me it is easy to say that, I give up "my" ministry and I just seek Jesus each day… but my heart goes out to these servants of the Lord who have faithfully served as "pastors" etc… While I agree that we should have "His church, His way," part of me still sees so much good coming from the faithful teaching of the Word by some of these fellowships.

    Shall we call them all bad?

    What advice would you give to the young pastor of a Calvary Chapel who is faithfully teaching the word of God to many people each week and lives are really being changed despite the "leaven in the church" and the "disconnectedness" ?

    …feeling torn

  5. Brian Biddinger October 20, 2008 at 7:07 am

    I have to say that reading “so you don’t want to go to church anymore” has helped me tremendously. It resonates somewhere deep in my soul with my past church history and I know it’s the path God’s got me on right now.

    Regardless, I felt like I needed to resolve Hebrews 10:25 for myself, with god – independently of what Wayne says.

    This posting really helped me tremendously!

    It really needs no other backup as it stands on its own truth and what exactly what I needed.
    But as I was reading it, I felt like I had a mini-revelation and I felt a “nudge” (as Wayne calls it) to post something here – so I will.

    I grew up protestant in a small (79K) town north of Kansas City in the Midwest that was predominantly catholic – which is an oddity in the mid-west USA. Protestant churches were a minority in this town.

    The Protestants were always quick to condemn the Catholics because they said we do not need a priest to come between man and god.

    I do agree with this completely and whole-heartedly.

    But what I didn’t realize until reading this excerpt by Jack Gray was that the Protestants had actually, ironically, done the exact same thing.

    They had set up that you had to be in a church or you couldn’t be a Christian. To be a Christian required regular church attendance as well as tithing, membership, witnessing as well as many other external rules for living in their denomination’s “manual”.

    As I thought about this, I was just amazed at the irony.

    The very thing they railed at the Catholics for doing, they were doing themselves.

    They would flatly reject Catholicism because we don’t need man to get to god, but then in the next breath they would say that to be a Christian required regular church attendance, membership and participation.

    I hate to use the word hypocrite to describe what I’m referring to here because it naturally connotes some hostility which I do not desire.

    But for them to say on one hand that Catholicism was wrong – and yet on the other say that we are required to go to church as they define it, is clearly hypocritical.

    As a fundamental principle, you either have to believe as a core conviction that you need man or man’s institutions to get to god, or you don’t.

    And while we do need other Christian brothers and sisters in our walk, it’s more for our help – and theirs, not as a requirement that our souls are saved or to be “Christians” and we will positively be misled and go to hell if we don’t. That diminishes God’s power and requires “man” to help us get to god.

    Anyway – I was just truly struck with the irony of it all and felt nudged to post this.

  6. Brian Biddinger October 20, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I have to say that reading “so you don’t want to go to church anymore” has helped me tremendously. It resonates somewhere deep in my soul with my past church history and I know it’s the path God’s got me on right now.

    Regardless, I felt like I needed to resolve Hebrews 10:25 for myself, with god – independently of what Wayne says.

    This posting really helped me tremendously!

    It really needs no other backup as it stands on its own truth and what exactly what I needed.
    But as I was reading it, I felt like I had a mini-revelation and I felt a “nudge” (as Wayne calls it) to post something here – so I will.

    I grew up protestant in a small (79K) town north of Kansas City in the Midwest that was predominantly catholic – which is an oddity in the mid-west USA. Protestant churches were a minority in this town.

    The Protestants were always quick to condemn the Catholics because they said we do not need a priest to come between man and god.

    I do agree with this completely and whole-heartedly.

    But what I didn’t realize until reading this excerpt by Jack Gray was that the Protestants had actually, ironically, done the exact same thing.

    They had set up that you had to be in a church or you couldn’t be a Christian. To be a Christian required regular church attendance as well as tithing, membership, witnessing as well as many other external rules for living in their denomination’s “manual”.

    As I thought about this, I was just amazed at the irony.

    The very thing they railed at the Catholics for doing, they were doing themselves.

    They would flatly reject Catholicism because we don’t need man to get to god, but then in the next breath they would say that to be a Christian required regular church attendance, membership and participation.

    I hate to use the word hypocrite to describe what I’m referring to here because it naturally connotes some hostility which I do not desire.

    But for them to say on one hand that Catholicism was wrong – and yet on the other say that we are required to go to church as they define it, is clearly hypocritical.

    As a fundamental principle, you either have to believe as a core conviction that you need man or man’s institutions to get to god, or you don’t.

    And while we do need other Christian brothers and sisters in our walk, it’s more for our help – and theirs, not as a requirement that our souls are saved or to be “Christians” and we will positively be misled and go to hell if we don’t. That diminishes God’s power and requires “man” to help us get to god.

    Anyway – I was just truly struck with the irony of it all and felt nudged to post this.

  7. Robert Ellis May 20, 2010 at 6:45 am

    This article Resounds my thoughts as well on the church has made it a business and not a gathering as Jesus describes in the new testament. Not to say the Spirit of God can not fall on them as well. I myself have always been more comfortable in spirit lead spontaneous meetings that start out with a divine appointment then in a study by the church out of a book that is printed and formatted by Pharisees, leader of the law. It felt more like a business meeting to me. God is good, all the time….

    I recall that when ever Jesus meet it was in a informal setting.

  8. Robert Ellis May 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

    This article Resounds my thoughts as well on the church has made it a business and not a gathering as Jesus describes in the new testament. Not to say the Spirit of God can not fall on them as well. I myself have always been more comfortable in spirit lead spontaneous meetings that start out with a divine appointment then in a study by the church out of a book that is printed and formatted by Pharisees, leader of the law. It felt more like a business meeting to me. God is good, all the time….

    I recall that when ever Jesus meet it was in a informal setting.

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