Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
In these verses, I see a few positive instructions (Do this), a negative instruction (Do not do this), and some context for things.
First, the positives. I see believers instructed to (1) hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, (2) consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and (3) encourage one another. We need these.
I need to be reminded to hold fast my hope. The verb used could also have been translated keep firm possession of. The writer of Hebrews is aware that my confession of hope is going to be challenged by non-believers; by false believers; by life in general. Life can be a bit of a hopeless mess sometimes and I, as a believer, am instructed to keep firm possession of the hope I profess.
Connected to this is the idea that I, as a believer, should be thinking about how I can stimulate my fellow believers to love and good deeds. When I looked up the Greek word for stimulate, I almost laughed at the fact that the word is the root for the English paroxysm. A paroxysm is a sudden or violent expression of something. God wants me, and other believers, to incite one another to unexpected outbursts of love and good deeds. I am to provoke my fellow believers to love and good deeds. And the thought of provoking love and good deeds makes me smile.
Finally, I am told to encourage my fellow believers. Keeping firm possession of my hope and provoking my fellow believers to outbursts of love and good deeds requires encouragement. My fellow believers will not always be provoked to the love and goodness I aim for. Life in this world is going to try daily to strip me of my hope. I need to be encouraged. And, knowing that I need to be encouraged, I need to turn around and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The negative instruction that believers not [forsake] our own assembling together, as is the habit of some. I cannot provoke my fellows to love if I am not in their company. I cannot encourage nor can I be encouraged if I am not in fellowship. Years back, I was at a party thrown by a college friend and the phrase was coined “Get on the boat.” I find this a helpful analogy in the idea of fellowship. To have fellowship is to “Get on the boat.” with my fellow believers. To be “on the boat” is to be a part of what is going on and to be present with others. That is what it meant at that party. That, oddly enough, is what happens when I am in fellowship — the fellows’ ship.
Lastly, the context. The writer of Hebrews tells me that He who promised is faithful. This is connected with the idea of keeping firm possession of my hope. But it can be broadly applied to all of the instruction. God is faithful to take my efforts to provoke love and good from my fellow believers and to bring it to fruition. God is faithful to encourage others through me if I will but step out and try to encourage. I have seen it time and again in my own life — I have no words and this thought that seems self-evident and shrugworthy to me is the very thing that my brother or sister needs to be bolstered and stood back on their feet. God is faithful.
But the writer does not stop there. He adds that the believer should be doing these things all the more as you see the day drawing near. Which day? The day of Christ’s return. It just keeps getting closer. Which means that I should just keep increasing in tenacity to hold on to my hope and increasing in my desire to provoke my brethren to love and goodness and increasing in my encouragement of my brethren.
Father, these are wonderful things you desire from me. It is a wonderful thing to have hope to which to cling and to encourage others is a blessing and it brings me delight to even consider the idea of provoking love and goodness in my fellow believers. Please make firm the root of these things in me and cause them to grow and produce fruit to Your glory. I ask that You would cause me to cling to Your hope as a shipwrecked man to the flotsam of his ruined vessel. I ask that You would silence my tongue when it would be sharp and instead fill my mouth with encouraging words for my brothers and sisters. And I ask that You would continue me in this delight of considering provoking my brethren to love and good. May I not only delight in the consideration, but revel in the execution. Please make these firm in me and increase them more each day until You return for Your church.