After pastoring a local congregation in the Hebrew Roots Movement for the past 18, I’ve recognized a serious problem. Those who have a local congregation take it for granted, while those who don’t are aching to have one. Most of those who are blessed to have a local congregation to attend weekly take it for granted and do not fully appreciate the work and sacrifice that it takes to keep a congregation going. They take it for granted. On the other hand, those aren’t blessed to have a local fellowship long for one.
Here are some things for everyone to consider in this regard.
Hebrews 10:25, Not forsaking the assembling. The broader scriptural context of this verse gives us some valuable clues about the importance of believers in Yeshua assembling together on a regular basis. What was in the mind of the writer of Hebrew that caused him to place this admonition about assembling together after his discussion about the earthy versus heavenly tabernacle, how Yeshua is our Great High Priest, and how the blood of Yeshua is much more efficacious in cleansing us from sin then the sprinkling of animal blood on the mercy seat in the tabernacle? What’s more, the writer goes on to talk about the saints boldly entering the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary by way of the blood of Yeshua and being washed by the water of the Word of Elohim. After this, he admonishes the saints to not forsake assembling together, and so much more so as they see “that Day” (i.e., the day of Yeshua’s coming) approaching. What does all this have to do with the saints assembling together? It is this: The saints coming together (on the seventh day Sabbath, biblical feasts and any other times) should be a holy of holies experience — the nearest thing to heaven on earth this side of heaven! In as much as the holy of holy, in Hebraic thought, is a prophetic picture of the bridal chamber where YHVH will meet and spiritually commune with his people, by the saints assembling together, they are rehearsing the soon coming reunion between Yeshua and his bride (redeemed believers who love Yeshua by keeping his commandments) at his second coming. This is the larger context behind the admonition to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”
The Benefits of Being Part of a Local Congregation
Church attendance is plummeting in America. Though roughly 85 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, only a very small percentage of these people attend church services weekly. Those who do, spend only one or two hours a week in church at the most. Evenmany Messianics or Hebrew roots-type believers have become victims of these trends. There seems to be a lack of discipline about regular church attendance, and many seldom go if at all. For many, church attendance has become a perfunctory ritual; people feel that they need to go to church, but they’re not sure why they do it.
In Israel in the time of Yeshua and earlier, the synagogue was the heart and soul of each community. It was the place of spiritual and secular education, prayer, fellowship, and acted as a sort of community center. We see that this was the case among the first century redeemed believers as well.
As many of us return to the spiritual and Hebraic roots of the Christian faith, then perhaps we need to reevaluate the role the local congregation played in the lives of our spiritual forefathers, and what the Bible teaches about this to see if our lives are mirroring the Word of Elohim. If not, then we need to ask ourselves some hard questions as to why so many among us no longer see the need to gather together with like-minded believers on YHVH’s appointed times (the weekly Sabbath and seven biblical feasts).
The Word of Elohim has much to say about the importance of gathering together regularly on YHVH’s Sabbaths including the biblical festivals. In fact, this is key to the spiritual survival of YHVH’s people, which is a crucial reason YHVH commanded his people to do it.
Yeshua told his disciples (and us), that if we love him, we will keep his Torah-commandments (John 14:15), which includes gathering together at his appointed times.
Yeshua rebuked the religious hypocrites of his day for professing to obey YHVH with their mouths, but for not backing up their profession with action (Matt 15:8). James instructs us that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:26).
Yeshua rebuked the Laodicean believers for professing a faith in him, when, in reality, they were spiritually lukewarm. Elsewhere Yeshua discusses those who have professed a faith in him, who have claimed to have followed him, and who even appear to have done great spiritual works in his name, but who have failed to do the basic will of his Father by walking in obedience to his Torah. This includes gathering together as a spiritual community on his Sabbaths and feasts. On judgment day, Yeshua will tell these sincere, but sincerely misguided people to depart from him — that he doesn’t know them (Matt 7:21–23)!
Some Points to Ponder About the Importance of Congregational Life
In the Torah, YHVH commanded the Israelites to assemble weekly on the Sabbath (Heb. Shabbat) and at the seven annual feasts, which are set-apart convocations (Heb. miqrai kodesh) and appointed times (Heb. moedim, Lev 23:2). This same command applies to all Bible believers down through the ages because YHVH’s words and commandments don’t change.
Consider this: How can one properly obey the Torah without assembling weekly on Shabbat and the biblical feasts? To not be part of a congregation (a community of redeemed Israelite believers in Yeshua) and to assemble on YHVH regular appointed times is to disobey the very heart and core of the Torah!
Keeping Torah is a community affair. Those who are independent and act like modern-day Robinson Curosoes and Lone Rangers are not fulfilling the requirements of the Torah. Torah was for the nation of Israel, and Israel was meant to be a united community, not a bunch of scattered, selfish, and narcissistic individuals each looking out for himself and doing what was right in his own eyes irrespective of other members of the community.
The Testimony of Yeshua (the New Testament) record show us that the first century kahal (church) was a community. The apostles expected that redeemed believers would be attending a congregation each Shabbat (Acts 15:21).
The kahal is like a human body; in fact, it’s the spiritual body of Yeshua (Rom 12:4–5; 1 Cor 12:12–30). All the parts cannot function properly unless they come together. Shabbat and the feasts are YHVH’s appointed times when this occurs.
In Acts 2:42, we find listed the main purposes of the spiritual community of the redeemed. The local congregation is…
- a place to be taught the apostles doctrine (i.e., biblical truth or the Word of Elohim).
- a place to be encouraged to remain steadfast in the apostles doctrine (i.e., biblical truth of the Word of Elohim).
- a place of fellowship
- a place to break bread (i.e., the spiritual bread of Elohim’s Word and the physical bread of shared community meals).
- a place to pray collectively, to engage in synergistic prayer (i.e., there many examples of community prayer are found in the Scriptures (e.g. John 17:1–26; Acts 1:14; 4:23ff). Yeshua talked about the prayer of agreement where two of you pray agree as touching any matter, and it shall be done, Matt 18:19–20). This was in a congregational context.
YHVH started his kahal at Mount Sinai (Act 7:38). The community of redeemed Israelite believers is a continuation of that community of Israelites that began at Mount Sinai when YHVH gave the Torah to his people. When the modern saints, as redeemed or one-new-man (Eph 2:11–19) and grafted-in Israelites (Rom 11:25), the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16) and children of Abraham (Gal 3:7, 9, 14, 28–29) gather together each week, they are celebrating their eternal and spiritual heritage.
What Are the Benefits of Being Part of a Local Congregation?
The Testimony of Yeshua (the NT) uses the Greek word ecclessia in reference to the kahal of Yeshua. The word ecclesia refers “to a group of individuals called out from the world that is organized and meets regularly.” This is the meaning of the Greek word.
- The local kahal is a place to learn the fear of Elohim (Acts 5:11).
- The local kahal is a place to corporately praise YHVH (Heb 2:12 qv. Ps 22:22, 25). YHVH inhabits the praise of his people (Ps 22:3).
- The local kahal is a place to learn to walk in love and in the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be walked out fully except in community where people learn to work out their differences, and to cooperate with each other in a selfless way. It is a place where iron sharpens iron, where people learn to turn the other cheek when offended, and to forgive one another in love.
- The local kahal is a place to grow and to excel in spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:12). Within the local kahal, the gifts of the Set-Apart (Holy) Spirit should be at work to edify, exhort and comfort the believers (1 Cor 14:3). Such a rich spiritual infrastructure can only function as believers come together regularly in the corporate setting.
- The local congregation is a place to share testimonies of answered prayers, blessings, spiritual breakthroughs people have received and other wonderful things YHVH has done (Acts 14:27). This builds up or edifies everyone and brings glory to YHVH. Through public testimonies the evil one is overcome (Rev 12:11) and all are encouraged and spurred onward and upward spiritually.
- The local kahal is the pillar and ground for truth (1 Tim 3:15). The truth of YHVH is taught and defended within the local congregation, and there YHVH’s sheep are protected from grievous wolves who, if the sheep were outside the group, would be picked off one at a time by the enemies of YHVH Yeshua.
- The local kahal is a place of spiritual accountability (1 Pet 5:5). There is accountability for a person’s actions and words within the context of a community where people get to know each other intimately. When the saints, in love and respect, hold each other accountable for their actions that are contrary to the Word of Elohim, this helps everyone to overcome sin and to mature spiritually.
- The local kahal is a place to provoke (Gk. to incite or sharpen) one another unto love and good works (Heb 10:24).
- In the local kahal, people learn to die to self by sublimating personal agendas and needs to the greater needs of the community. Those who are stronger spiritually learn to hold up, build up and encourage those who are weaker (Rom 14:1). This brings everyone to a higher level of spiritual maturity.
- The local kahal is a place where people learn to serve one another (Acts 16:1) as they follow the example and admonition of Yeshua (Matt 23:11).
- The local kahal is a place to help the needy and to support the ministry (Phil 4:15).
- The local kahal is a place to receive prayer for healing (Jas 5:14).
- YHVH’s desire to add to the local kahal of believers (Acts 2:47).
- The local kahal is a place where like-minded believers come to support each other in times of persecution, to corporately pray or intercede for each other, and to corporately discern the will of YHVH with regard to what their response should be toward that persecution (Acts 8:3; 12:1, 5).
- There is moral support in community. People can help each other when they’re down, and rejoice when they’re up (Rom 12:15; 1 Cor 12:26).
- A local spiritual community offers a multitude of counselors. There is wisdom and safety in a multitude of counselors (Prov 11:14).
- The local kahal is a place where people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds can learn to love each other unconditionally as equals before YHVH Yeshua.
- The local kahal provides a venue and platform for those with itinerate ministries to be able to present.
- The local kahal provides a place for people to meet and marry.
- The local kahal can help support and strengthen weak marriages.
- The local kahal provides a place for the spiritual instruction of children.
- The local congregation has pastors, shepherds and elders who can marry and bury people, provide counsel, visit the sick, and care for other needs of the flock.
- Yeshua taught that the local kahal is a place of arbitration for people to work out and to resolve their differences — to learn to get along and to live in peace (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 6:1–4).
- Elders, servants, and leaders are raised up in the local kahal (1 Tim 3:1ff).The “five-fold” ministry is able to function within the local body of believers (Eph 4:11; Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 12:28).
- The local kahal is a place where ministries are birthed and launched and from which the kingdom of Elohim can be expanded and the gospel message spread (Acts 11:22). Spiritual synergism occurs when like-minded spiritually oriented people share their wisdom, knowledge, gifts, efforts and resources in helping to advance the kingdom of Elohim. Those who are detached from the local kahal can’t accomplish as much as a group that pools its resources, support, experience and wisdom.
- As Yeshua is the head over his kahal, so the husband is the head over his wife and family. There is a dynamic inter-relationship between Yeshua and his kahal, and husbands and their families. Paul calls this relationship “a mystery” (Eph 5:32). When Paul uses the word mystery, he is referring to “something that is hidden or is a secret that is confided only to the initiated, and not to the general public.” As one becomes a regular and an active participant in a local congregation, the mystery of how marriage and the family is a spiritual shadow-type of the relationship between Yeshua and his kahal will become apparent. The inter-relationship between marriage, family and the spiritual body of Yeshua—the local congregation—is so important that Paul clearly teaches that a man could not be an elder in the local kahal unless he has been married and has his family in order spiritually. (Eph 5:21–33; see also 1 Tim 3:5 and Col 1:18). Only a man who is married and has raised his children is qualified to be a leader in the local kahal. We may infer from Paul’s statements that only such a man could fully understand this deep mystery, and hence teach it to others.
- The local kahal is a place for Gentiles (i.e., those who are without God and without hope, Eph 2:12) to be grafted into the spiritual olive tree of Israel (Rom 11:13–24), and for the lost sheep of Israel to regather and be reunited as prophesied (Ezek 37:15–28).
- The local spiritual community is a place where end-times prophecy of Malachi 4:4–6 can be fulfilled. It is there that the hearts of the children will be turned back to the spiritual fathers of our Hebraic faith, and people will learn the ways of the Torah before the great and dreadful day of YHVH occurs just before the return of Yeshua (Mal 4:4–6).
Conclusion: “Forsake Not the Assembling of Ourselves Together…”
Our ancient forefathers, the children of Israelites, were part of a nation. They weren’t lone rangers! They came out of Egypt as a nation, trekked through the wilderness as a nation, built the tabernacle as a nation, worshipped YHVH as a nation, and entered the Promised Land as a nation. Israel was also a family comprised of tribes that collectively were called “the children of Israel.” They were also a congregation or kahal (Acts 7:38) who were called out of this world (or Egypt), and were given a divine calling and a common purpose (to worship and obey YHVH by following Torah) and a common destiny (to enter the Promised Land and to be the light of YHVH to the nations).
The glue that held this community of families together was the Torah, and the cornerstone of the Torah was weekly (seventh-day) Sabbath and the annual biblical festivals. The axiom is true that says that the Jews didn’t keep the Sabbath as much as the Sabbath kept the Jews! Without the Sabbath and feasts, the Israelites tended to drift away from YHVH and his Torah such that the rubric “and every man did what was right in his own eyes” become the norm in Israel to describe their spiritual declension toward Torahlessness, idolatry and general spiritual lukewarmness. A quick review of the Book of Judges will confirm this fact.
Can one properly observe the Sabbath and feasts and be Torah-observant without being part of a community? Affirmatively no! Leviticus 23 is very clear on this point. The Sabbaths and biblical feasts are divine appointments (Heb. moedim) when YHVH’s people are commanded to suspend their worldly routines and meet together with him. Furthermore, these days are also called set-apart (holy) convocations (Heb. miqrei kodesh) or literally “a set-apart time when YHVH’s people are called together” to meet with him and each other (Lev 23:2). This was the “church” in the wilderness to which Stephen makes reference in Acts 7:38.
At every turn, the apostolic writers emphasize the continuity of this spiritual community. From its very inception in the upper room, the “New Testament church” was a united community that met on the Sabbath and annual festivals. The Book of Acts is an historical record of this. The early redeemed Jewish believers were spiritually empowered together on Pentecost, prayed, broke bread, received spiritual instruction, sang, worshiped and suffered together (Acts 2:42; Eph 5:19; 1 Thess 5:14). Paul likens the community of believers to a human body comprised of various interdependent and indivisible parts that can’t exist independently and expect to fulfill the purpose of glorifying Elohim, manifesting the light and love of Yeshua to this world, and otherwise, edifying, comforting and exhorting one another (see Eph 4:11–16; 1 Cor 12 and 14). Brethren, these activities occur when redeemed Israelites assemble together on YHVH’s appointed times: the Sabbath and biblical feasts.
What’s more, please consider this important point. The broader scriptural context of Hebrew 10:25 gives us some valuable clues about the importance of believers in Yeshua assembling together on a regular basis. What was in the mind of the writer of Hebrew that caused him to place this admonition about assembling together after his discussion about the earthy versus heavenly tabernacle, how Yeshua is our Great High Priest, and how the blood of Yeshua is much more efficacious in cleansing us from sin then the sprinkling of animal blood on the mercy seat in the tabernacle? What’s more, the writer goes on to talk about the saints boldly entering the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary by way of the blood of Yeshua and being washed by the water of the Word of Elohim. After this, he admonishes the saints to not forsake assembling together, and so much more so as they see “that Day” (i.e., the day of Yeshua’s coming) approaching. What does all this have to do with the saints assembling together? It is this: The saints coming together (on the seventh day Sabbath, biblical feasts and any other times) should be a holy of holies experience — the nearest thing to heaven on earth this side of heaven! In as much as the holy of holy, in Hebraic thought, is a prophetic picture of the bridal chamber where YHVH will meet and spiritually commune with his people, by the saints assembling together, they are rehearsing the soon coming reunion between Yeshua and his bride (redeemed believers who love Yeshua by keeping his commandments) at his second coming. This is the larger context behind the admonition to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”
Additionally, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews foresaw a time when believers would forsake the assembling of themselves together—presumably on the weekly Sabbath and feast days—and he warned against our doing this. In fact, the author admonishes the people of YHVH to be more dutiful about getting together as the day (of Yeshua’s return and judgment) approaches.
Explained so well; and shared truths from our gathering yesterday, hallelujah! We are a small but committed group, and among those looking for a larger, more mature congregation to learn from. Commitment and preparation is lacking in the entire Body, and we pray we all wake up and not be found lacking, as five of the ten virgins were.
Hello Natan : I have been reading & pondering this article for the last 24 hrs. Can I share something with you Natan, it is still very vivid in my memory & I am really laying my heart open here.
Way back in a very hot summer it was actually FEB 99. MY HUSBAND & I & OUR 2 YOUNG SONS HAD MOVED INTO A RENTED HOME TO BE CLOSER TO A SUNDAY CHURCH WE WERE ATTENDING AT THE TIME. ( AT THIS TIME WE HAD NOT COME TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE SABBATH OR FEASTS ETC…THAT UNDERSTANDING RE SABBATH ETC CAME MUCH LATER IN MID 2003 😉 much happened from 2003 onwards as led by the set apart spirit.
THE POINT I AM MAKING RELATES TO POINT 6. The local kahal is the pillar and ground for truth 1 Timothy 3:15. TRUTH OF YHVH TAUGHT ETC.. AND THERE YHVH’s SHEEP ARE PROTECTED FROM GREVIOUS WOLVES, WHO IF THE SHEEP WERE OUTSIDE THE GROUP, WOULD BE PICKED OFF ONE AT A TIME BY THE ENEMIES OF YHVH YESHUA. BOY!! Reminds me of verses in John chapter 10 …I think I conveyed to you in another REPLY re wimps & bullies VERSES GODLY SHEPHERDS.
WE HAD BEEN ATTENDING THIS SUNDAY CONGREGATION FROM MARCH 95 UNTIL THE END OF 1999 REGULARLY : WE EVEN CHANGED SUBURBS TO BE CLOSER TO THE CHURCH ( less travelling & for our sons to attend school) WHEN WE MOVED ON TO FIND ANOTHER HOME CHURCH ….because of a fairly big split @ the end of 1999 over many factors ….people who had been there longer than us decided to leave & they had families also.Much happened to sway our decision to leave.It was not an easy decision @ the time, many unanswered questions
BACK TO POINT 6 RE WOLVES.
Prior to us leaving [end of 1999] ; in the beginning of 1999 ..Feb. I had a very vivid dream..? Open vision .I was resting on the sofa as it was an extremely hot summers night…when I remember waking up and I literally saw a Wolfs face looking @ me . It was the head of a wolf I saw with green eyes staring right @ me ( in my face so to speak). It was early hrs of the am, I woke up opened my eyes as if to think what is this…?? That I saw ..but it was vivid..have never forgotten it…this article brings it back to my memory because of point 6.
So in saying all this ( Sunday congregation not Torah observant …congregants were still into Christmas, Easter etc….another split had occurred prior to 1995 in the same Sunday church lots happened over many years .
Many important points mentioned re importance ( benefits of belonging to a local congregation here Natan & very comprehensive ) ….could I say we need to seek the father for his wisdom & his will in our lives as to where he leads us his sheep and plants us so we can find the green pasture he is leading us to.
Thank you for such well explained points on what a local kahal should be …appreciate.!