Five Post-Covid Exhortations for Believers (Hebrews 10:22-25)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (18:04)

Albrecht Anker, 'Wounded Soldier' (1870s)
Albrecht Anker, 'Wounded Soldier' (1870s), watercolor, 12.5 x 10 inches, Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Switzerland.

Let me share with you a heavy burden on my heart and then some Scripture that speaks directly to the need. Please excuse the long introduction here, but I need to share it so you understand the urgency of the text we'll be studying. Covid-19 is related, but it's not really the point, as you'll see.

An Army of Wounded Christians

This is my burden. As I look across our land, I see a vast wounded army of Christians, believers who no longer attend worship regularly. Or attend at all.

Some of the wounded are shut-ins, physically unable to get out to church anymore. The accumulated ailments of age prevent them. Their caregivers can't get out either. Understandable. God knows.

But many of these wounded believers never darken the doors of church because of sin or pain or selfishness or laziness. They can be described, if truth be told, with one sad Bible word: "backslidden,"1 often translated "unfaithful" or "faithless."

"Our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you." (Jeremiah 14:7, NIV)


Now, I'm sure that these wounded believers would reject that label vigorously. I'm not backslidden! I take your e-mail Bible studies, Pastor. That makes up for what I would get in church! I just can't find a good church in my area -- at least not one of my denomination, one that meets my standards of what a good church should be.

I remember when they sang the old hymns and wore suits and dresses to honor God. Not any more! These younger folks just don't appreciate us older Christians. You wouldn't want me to compromise my standards of what church should be, would you? Of course not!


To tell the truth, Pastor, I've been hurt. We used to have a pastor whose moral failing injured me, made me cynical. And I have suffered wounds from insensitive, hypocritical hateful people in the house of God. I just can't bring myself to go and be hurt again. So I stay home.

Pastor, during the Covid pandemic I got used to going to church on TV or YouTube. And I've kept on after Covid. Faithfully! The preachers on TV are great -- far better than any pastor in my town, I can tell you that! And the music is wonderful, professionally done. Sometimes I hum along. It's pleasing to me. I'm getting fed and blessed. What's not to like about that?

I am quiet as I ponder these responses and wonder how Jesus would evaluate them.


But as I look more closely at this wounded army, I see vast numbers who no longer actually worship, at least, not in Bible ways. They no longer gather to honor the Lord they say they love. They no longer join with God's people in their community as a united witness of allegiance to their Savior. They no longer celebrate new life with baptism in the midst of the Christian family. They no longer partake of the Lord's Supper with other believers. I see them as "Lone Ranger2 Christians."

As I look over the land, I see towns and cities who now have more self-identified Christians who stay home, than those who faithfully gather in the house of God each week. This vast hidden army is largely made up of AWOL soldiers -- Absent With Out Leave.


Many of these wounded soldiers are now financially stunted, since they have stopped giving financially to Kingdom work and have thus deprived themselves of the financial promises God intended for his people.

The flow of their spiritual gifts, too, designed to be used to bless God's people, has ceased. These God-given ministries are no longer well-oiled by the Spirit, but rusty from disuse. The love and encouragement and instruction they once offered hurting Christian brothers and sisters, boys and girls, has gone still -- unsaid, ungiven, unblessed. It is a sad picture. And this picture likely includes you or someone you love.

Sparsely-filled Barracks

As I look across the land, I see struggling congregations, the ones that are left after Covid took its toll. I see overworked pastors and their families struggling to stay afloat. I feel the desperate needs for Sunday school teachers and workers. Harvest fields in the neighborhoods are now neglected. Lost people no longer hear the word, because, as Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." Foreign missionaries are being forced to return home due to lack of funds. There is big-time discouragement among the faithful.

But it shouldn't be this way. It doesn't have to be!

The Five Exhortations of Hebrews 10:22-26

Hebrews 10:22-26 gives us five exhortations to ponder. The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to return to their old ways and forsake following Jesus as Messiah. It was a spiritual battle for their very souls!

Each of the five exhortations in these verses begin with the words in our English Bibles, "Let us."3

  1. Let us draw near to God (verse 22)
  2. Let us hold on to hope (verse 23)
  3. Let us stir up one another (verse 24)
  4. Let us not stop meeting together (verse 25a)
  5. Let us encourage one another (verse 25b)

1. Let Us Draw Near to God (Hebrews 10:22)

The first of these exhortations is found in verse 22

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)

To "draw near" (NIV, KJV) or "approach" God4 is not a trivial action. Consider how hard it would be to gain an audience with the CEO of a major corporation or a nation's president or king (Esther 4:11). We are called, invited, to come before the very presence of God himself!

Our approach should be accompanied with several qualities.

  • Sincerity, that is, a sincere (alēthinos, "true, genuine") heart.
  • Faith. The word is plērophoria, "state of complete certainty, full assurance, certainty."5
  • Cleansing. The NRSV and ESV translate the word "sprinkled" as "sprinkled clean," in keeping with the Old Testament practice of priests of sprinkling blood on objects and persons to cleanse them ritually and set them apart to God.6 As we confess our sins, we are cleansed by Christ of a guilty conscience and given assurance that we are indeed forgiven.
  • Baptism. "Our bodies washed with pure water," is a reference to baptism, an outward symbol of the inner cleansing that we receive by faith.

2. Let Us Hold on to Hope (Hebrews 10:23)

The second exhortation is a call to perseverance:

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

The readers were tempted to fall back to their old Judaism. Here, they are told to "hold on" (Hebrews 3:6) and "hold firmly" (Hebrews 3:14; 4:147) to Christ and his teachings. The verb is katechō, "to adhere firmly to traditions, convictions, or beliefs, hold to, hold fast."8

Notice the how, the manner with which they are to hold on: unswervingly, without wavering. The word means literally "not to lean," that is, "bending to neither side ... without wavering."9

And what are they to hold on to? "The hope we profess," that is, the firm expectation that Christ "will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28).

Why should we believe this? Because "he who promised is faithful" (pistos), that is "pertaining to being worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring trust/faith."10 We can trust God because he is faithful, so let us hold on to him persistently!

3. Let Us Stir Up One Another (Hebrews 10:24)

The third exhortation is a call to Christian fellowship. The first two exhortations relate to our own relationship to God. The third commands attention to spiritual health of others in the congregation.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24)

So often we consider ourselves first and foremost, but that is selfish. Verse 24 tells us to consider the needs of others!11 This takes two forms:

Means. "Stir up" (ESV), "spur on" (NIV) or "provoke" (KJV, NRSV) translates a Greek noun that means "rousing to activity, stirring up, provoking."12 The verb means basically "to cause a state of inward arousal, urge on, stimulate."13

Goal. The purpose is encourage or prod others toward "love and good deeds." Christianity is not designed as a hermit-oriented faith (though a few Church Fathers were hermits), but one with intense love and concern for one another in the congregation. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).  If we take seriously Jesus' primary command to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27), we can't isolate ourselves. We are commanded to "do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).

It is hard to spur one another along remotely. This is a face-to-face ministry!

4. Let Us Not Abandon Meeting Together (Hebrews 10:25a)

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." (Hebrews 10:25a)

A fourth exhortation is a negative command. Don't "give up" (NIV), "neglecting" (ESV, NRSV), "forsaking" (KJV) meeting together. The word engkataleipō is a strong one. It means, "to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert."14 It is the Greek word used in Jesus' prayer based on Psalm 22:2, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). It is the word used in the firm promise, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5b based on Deuteronomy 31:6).

Notice that abandoning, deserting your brothers and sisters in church gathering is a bad "habit."15

So often, people attend or don't attend church based on whether they perceive it meets their own needs. That is grossly selfish and contrary to the direct command of scripture! Rather, we should attend congregational meetings also (1) to worship God and (2) to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters. When we abandon regular Christian fellowship, we hurt ourselves. We deprive God of the honor due him! We deprive our brothers and sisters of encouragement. And we deprive other believers of the gifts and ministries God has given to us on their behalf in a sacred trust! Don't abandon your brothers and sisters! It is a bad habit! So says God's Word!

5. Let Us Encourage One Another (Hebrews 10:25b)

"But let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25b)

This reminds me of an earlier exhortation in the Letter to the Hebrews:

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

These verses have two similarities: (1) an exhortation to encouragement, and (2) a concern for the times we live in -- the Last Days.

Christian encouragement is needed to help us -- and our brothers and sisters -- to stay on the path of Jesus. To keep us from being hardened, made cynical, become increasingly dull and calloused. The word "hardened" in Hebrews 3:13 is sklēruno, "to cause to be unyielding in resisting information, harden."16 It is used in the phrases "hardened hearts" and "stiff necks." We need to help one another!

The verb parakaleō, found in both verses, means "to urge thoroughly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage," literally "to call to one's side."17 The Holy Spirit is called our Paraclete or "Comforter, Counselor, Helper" (John 14-16) because he is the One God calls alongside us to encourage us and help us. When we renege on our encouragement to one another by being absent from church or a small group meeting of believers, it is a serious thing.

Both Hebrews 10:25 and 3:13 mention the times in which we live.

"... as you see the Day (of Judgment and Christ's coming) approaching" (Hebrews 10:25)

"... as long as it is called Today" (Hebrews 3:13)

Judgment day is coming when we will face Jesus and give answer for our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10). Then it will be too late to repent and do on earth what Christ has told us to do. Too late.


The writer of Hebrews calls us to revival.

  1. Let us draw near to God (verse 22)
  2. Let us hold on to hope (verse 23)
  3. Let us stir up one another (verse 24)
  4. Let us not stop meeting together (verse 25a)
  5. Let us encourage one another (verse 25b)

I find myself praying daily for a Holy Spirit revival to have mercy on us, to sweep across our land and turn us back to God!

My dear friend, pray with me for revival. First, revival in me. "Not the preacher or the teacher, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer." Then, revival in our churches -- the church that God directs you by his Word to support and be part of. And revival in our nation, our region, our continent. O God, send us revival or we die!

References and Abbreviations

[1] The Hebrew words are šôbāb, šôbēb, and mĕšûbâ, "backsliding," all from šûb, "(re)turn." Mĕšûbâ: Jeremiah 2:19; 3:6, 8, 11, 22, etc.; Hosea 11:7; 14:4; Proverbs 1:32; Ezekiel 37:23; šôbāb: Jeremiah 3:14; 14:7; Isaiah 57:17; šôbēb: Jeremiah 31:22; 49:4; cf. Revelation 2:5. Mĕšûbâ, "backsliding, disloyalty, faithlessness." (TWOT #2340, 2340d, 2340e). Also see Jeremiah 15:6: "You keep on backsliding!" (NIV; literally "going backward").

[2] Lone Ranger refers to a long-running American radio and TV cowboy drama (1933-1957), and later films in 1961 and 2003.

[3] For the Greek scholars among us, the words "Let us" aren't found in the Greek text. Rather, each of the primary Greek verbs occurs in the subjunctive mood, specifically, the "Hortatory Subjunctive ... used in the first-person plural in exhortations, the speaker thus exhorting others to join him in the doing of an action" (Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek (third edition; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1898), §160, p. 74). "The subjunctive supplements the imperative (as in Latin, etc.) in the first-person plural as in classical [Greek]" (F. Blass and A. Debrunner, Robert W. Funk (translator and editor), A Greek Grammar of the New Testament of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 183, §364).

[4] Proserchomai, "approach or entry into a deity's presence" (BDAG 878, 1b).

[5] Plērophoria, BDAG 827.

[6] Hebrews 9:13,19, 21; 12:24; Exodus 24:6 and many times in Leviticus.

[7] The verb in Hebrews 4:14 is krateō, here, "to adhere strongly to, hold," of commitment to someone or something, "hold fast (to) someone or something," and hence remain closely united (BDAG 564, 6a).

[8] Katechō, BDAG 533, 2b. Also in Hebrews 3:6, 14.

[9] Aklinēs, BDAG 36.

[10] Pistos, BDAG 820-821, 1aβ.

[11] The primary exhortation, considering the Greek sentence structure, is to "Consider ... one another." The verb is katanoeō, "to think carefully about, envisage, think about, notice" (BDAG 522-523).

[12] Paroxusmos, (from which we get our English word "paroxysm," fit, attack, convulsion), BDAG 780. It is used of a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:39.

[13] Paroxunō, Liddell-Scott. The verb means literally, "to make sharp, to sharpen" (Thayer, in loc.).

[14] Engkataleipō, BDAG 273.

[15] "Habit" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "manner" (KJV) is ethos (from which we get our English word "ethos"), here, "a usual or customary manner of behavior, habit, usage" (BDAG 277, 1).

[16] Sklērunō, BDAG 930, b.

[17] Parakaleō, BDAG 764-765.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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