by Amy Peeler
(Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. 2024)

Hebrews 10:25 is one of the few instances in which an ethical instruction has a clear proof text. When asked if Christians should attend church, one can answer, on the basis of this verse, with a solid yes.

— Amy Peeler, Hebrews
Therefore, siblings, having boldness for entrance into the holies by the blood of Jesus, which is a new and living way he inaugurated for us through the veil—that is, his flesh, and having a great Priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith as those who have been sprinkled from an evil conscience with respect to the hearts and as those who have been washed with pure water with respect to the body; let us hold fast to an unwavering confession of hope, for the one who promised is faithful. And let us attend to one another for strengthening of love and good deeds, not deserting the gathering of yourselves, just as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. — Hebrews 10:19-25


With bold faith in their High Priest, the author of Hebrews invites his listeners: Let us approach. Since they have a great priest who has opened this way, they can approach. As they do so, they are positioning themselves as those whom he is ultimately able to save to the utmost since they are those for whom he is making intercession (7:25). This faithful approach will qualify them to please God (11:6) and ascend Mount Zion (12:22).

It is not surprising, then, that the author has criteria for their approach. They should come with a true heart. The singular heart for a group of people highlights their connection to one another, a preview of what he will soon admonish in Hebrews 10:25. They can approach with true hearts, not ones that are duplicitous, and in full assurance of faith. Instead of being unfaithful like those who wandered in the wilderness (3:12, 19), they can have the fullness of faith. To have this faith is to trust in the one who is faithful, to trust that God the Son is the glorious revelation of God the Father’s faithfulness (2:17; 3:2; 10:23; 11:11). Trust in God’s faithfulness, for the author of Hebrews, is a posture toward God that results in action, as it did for Joshua and Caleb (4:2) and Abraham (6:12). He reminds them that they are a community on a journey, trusting God to lead them to the promised end (4:3).

As he urged them to carry the fullness of hope (6:11), here he encourages the fullness of faith, another evidence that he is laying the groundwork for his extensive discussion of faith in the next chapter. That he chooses to employ a term (plērophoria) related to the verb pherō, “to bear,” connects the holding of their assurance to the sacrifice that Jesus carried in (5:3; 9:14, 25, 28; 10:12). 

Hold Fast

The author has another admonition: Let us hold fast. He used this particular instruction twice (3:6, 14). There also it was related to God’s household. They are God’s house as they display the firmness of a building, holding fast (3:6). Similarly, they remain partners of Christ, very sensibly, as they stay tethered to him (3:14). As is so often the case in the sermon, the author urges both approach and steadfastness, forward movement as well as retention of a confession previously made. For the author, these are not in opposition but necessary to each other. They can only move forward toward Jesus, on the pathway that is through him, as they stay connected to him. Therefore, since he asks them to hold fast to the confession and in every instance the confession is related to Jesus, then holding fast to him is to hold fast to their word of agreement about who he is and what he has done. In this instance, the content of the confession consists of hope, which is a virtue the author encourages often (3:6; 6:11; 11:1). Their confession, as is true in the Creeds passed down through generations to Christians today, is not only a proclamation about the past but also concerns what God will do in the future. The movement between past and future is why the author asks that they hold on to this unwavering confession. The confession itself is firm because it is based on God’s solid and trustworthy work in Christ, and it follows from this point that since the confession of what God has done in Christ is unchanging, they can hold on to it, without wavering (12:13). They will be able to do so because they have already seen what God has done in the past, and so can trust what God will do in the future. Hence, the author is able to say, For the one who promised is faithful

God is the one who made a promise to Abraham and Sarah and kept it (6:12, 13, 15; 11:11, 17). God the Father made a promise to Jesus the Son and kept it (8:6). God has made the promise of the new covenant and brought it to fruition. God has made promises to this author and his community (6:17): to enter rest (4:1), to receive an eternal inheritance (9:15), to shake the earth and heaven (12:26). Consequently, they can trust that these promises as well will come to fruition. As those acquainted with the story of Israel, they know the God of Israel to be trustworthy. While God, often specified as the Father, has made the promises and so has shown faithfulness, it is the Son who is most often described as faithful, a faithful High Priest (2:17), and faithful to God (3:2). 

Attend to One Another

As Christians hold on to Jesus, approaching him and approaching God’s presence through him, they also need to be mindful of one another, and so the author adds the third admonition of this paragraph: And let us attend to one another. This is no surprise as his previous admonitions focused on them as individuals and as a group. As he urged them earlier to devote their thoughts to Jesus (3:1), now he asks them to turn their minds to the fellow members of their family. As God disciplines because God loves (12:6), so too community members should be willing to enter into hard situations when necessary out of love. If they are willing to be honest and bold in their attentiveness to one another, their attention will result in the strengthening of love and good deeds. By naming both love and work, the author encompasses both the attitude they should have toward one another and what should result from that attitude. He leaves no space for a love that does not act.

They cannot do any of this for one another unless they are meeting together, and so the author states an obvious corollary to his last hortatory subjunctive: not deserting the gathering of yourselves. In New Testament literature, the word for “deserting” has a more intense meaning than “forgetting” or “neglecting.” It conveys not a sense of being distracted and failing to attend but an active desertion. For example, the word appears on the lips of Jesus in the cry of dereliction from the cross (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34) and the woeful tale of those who have deserted Paul (2 Tim 4:10, 16). This term evokes the intense warning against falling or turning away (Heb 6:6), which is not surprising given that another warning passage is on the horizon. The author does not want them to reject the closeness of the group who is gathering, a term that conveys proximity and intimacy (Matt 23:37; 24:31; Mark 1:33; Luke 12:1; 2 Thess 2:1).

This admonition is necessary; hence, he urges the opposite of deserting each other when he says but encouraging — literally, be near so that you can speak. He does this for them through the sending of this sermon, even when he cannot be present in body (Heb 13:19, 22). He urges them to practice the same encouragement for each other (3:13) as they stay together through regular meeting. He wants them to be about the work of encouragement all the more as you see the day drawing near

Given the challenges their community has faced, and potentially could face in the future (12:4), encouragement is vitally important. This need is even more pressing in light of their ability to read the times. They are in the last days, living while it is still called today, and they hear God’s voice (1:2). Until the final end of these last days, they must be in regular, thoughtful, and mutual relationship with other members of the family of God. Hebrews 10:25 is one of the few instances in which an ethical instruction has a clear proof text. When asked if Christians should attend church, one can answer, on the basis of this verse, with a solid yes. 

Within this summative and climactic paragraph (at the close of the new covenant section), the author provides a triad of exhortations: let us approach (10:22), let us hold fast (10:23), and let us attend to one another (10:24). They capture the heart of this exhortative sermon. This community, and by extension all believers before Christ appears a second time (9:28), are “in the wilderness.” All are called to have our vision set on a final destination, dwelling with God in God’s kingdom (12:2, 25–26). 

The admonitions are built on the fact that God, in gracious respect of a human capacity that he created, invites the agency of human response. God also designed humanity not to go through this journey alone. Attending to one another is not a distraction from the personal work of faith but a necessary aspect of it. Not only do individuals benefit from the support of others, but getting outside oneself, demonstrating love and good deeds for another, is to follow the way of God, who did not selfishly hoard the love between the Triune persons but allowed that love to overflow for the good of all creation. Being willing to receive help from others and to take the time to give help to others is not only the best way, but truly it is the only way to approach God and hold fast to Christ.

Adapted from Hebrews by Amy Peeler (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2024). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.