‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching’ (Heb 10: 25).
From time to time well-meaning friends have reminded us of this verse in Hebrews, fearing that we might be ignoring it. Well, let’s have a closer look at it.
Where and when should we assemble? In the old days the answer was pretty obvious: 11 am on Sunday at the local church! All we had to do was to turn up, and as long as a few other people did the same, there was an assembly. We were obeying Hebrews 10:25! The only problem we encountered - and it was a serious one - was, “Was Jesus at the centre of the gathering?” Sometimes, we hope, he was. Sometimes he was at the fringe. Sometimes he wasn’t there at all.
The Greek word for assembling in this verse is επισυναγη (episynagoge) from the verb επισυναγω (epi-syn-ago) meaning to assemble. This word has 3 parts. ago means to lead. syn means together and epi means at or to. synago (from which we get synagogue) means to lead or gather together. The word for assembling (epi-syn-agoge) therefore means a gathering together at....
That’s fine, but it doesn’t say where or when. To find out where, we need to turn to 2 Thes 2: 1: ‘Now we beseech you, brethren, by the presence (or coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him.’ We have the same word episynagoge, but this time it does tell us where! We have to gather together to him! He is the meeting place.
When we go to church, we meet the other people who go to church. When we go to Jesus, we meet the other people who go to Jesus.
Of course this agrees with what Jesus himself said. His words were: ‘Come to me’ - not ‘Go to church’. He also said, ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ He is the meeting place. Again the Greek word for gathering together is συναγω.
Now a parable. Once I saw a circle with myself and others on the circumference. I wanted to get closer to my brothers and sisters, and so I moved round the circumference in one direction. But as I got closer to some I got further away from others. When I reversed my direction it was no better. Again I got closer to some, but further away from others.
So I gave up, and stopped trying to get closer to my brothers and sisters, and instead moved towards the centre of the circle, and others did the same. And what do you think happened? We all got closer to each other. And who do you think was at the centre of the circle? The same one who said, ‘Come to me.’