The writer of Hebrews issued a 13-chapter warning to the Church not to fall away in the midst of immense pressure, hardship, and persecution. Instead, and despite the difficulty, the writer in chapter 10 challenged the Christian with five “let us” statements that represent our reasonable response to the living way Jesus provided through his blood. Because of what Jesus did, we should (a) draw near to God, (b) hold unswerving to our hope, (c) spur one another on to love and good works, (d) continue meeting together, and (e) encourage one another all the more as we see the day of his return approaching (Hebrews 10:19-25).
The staggering next verse states, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (v. 26). In fact, the Scripture says that to do so is to insult the Spirit of grace. The Word teaches that the Spirit of God can be grieved, quenched, resisted, and even blasphemed. Hebrews 10 tells us He can also be insulted which means to scorn, outrage, or show contempt for the Holy Spirit. The Message rendering is quite blunt and graphic: “…what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit?” (v. 29). The question is, what sin is the writer talking about that insults the Spirit of grace? The rule of context tells us that the sin is drawing back on Christ demonstrated by the failure to keep the “let us” statements just mentioned in the chapter, including the mandate to continue gathering.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on our nation in terms of lives lost, businesses destroyed, schools in confusion, and churches weakened or shuttered. It’s not a stretch to believe that the virus is an instrument of the evil one to undermine our economy, weaken our nation, destroy lives, and marginalize the Church. Christians, however, should be honest and admit that the exhortation of Hebrews does not contain a footnote or asterisk whereby we can set aside the “let us” statements during a crisis. The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews literally took their lives into their own hands by associating with Jesus or going to or from a meeting. Plainly stated, to refuse to gather together is a direct violation of this command and it is such an insult to the Holy Spirit to do so. Despite this truth, researchers are predicting that up to 25 percent of previous church attenders are not attending now and will not return to church as a result of COVID-19.
Some Christians are insulting the Spirt of grace because church leaders have decided not to meet. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of what a public health official has said. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of what a politician has said. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of fear. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace under the guise of Christian charity claiming that to not meet shows love and compassion for their neighbor when in reality, real love is obeying the commands of Christ (John 14:15). The problem is that none of these voices represent the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Word of God that states do not stop coming to church. What’s amazing is the same Christian who will not come to church for COVID-19 has no problem stepping out to go to work, a home supply store, grocery store, restaurant, or to get their kids to school. Apparently, COVID-19 is extremely smart and particularly antagonistic to those who attend church.
Obviously, if you have been infected, are quarantined, are otherwise ill or vulnerable, you should avoid such a group gathering. On the other hand, if you’ve just become lazy opting to watch church online, gotten out of the habit of coming to church, or you are listening to an unbiblical voice telling you to stay away, you need to stop insulting the Spirit of grace, repent, and return to your local church. If your local church is not following the clear commands of Scripture, you need to find a church that will. Make the quality decision today based on what Jesus has done for you to honor God’s Word even in this tough and challenging season. The Scripture says God will honor those who honor him (1 Samuel 2:30).