After warning his readers that they are in danger of committing apostasy like the first generation that left Egypt, the author of Hebrews begins telling them how to avoid it. Yesterday, we read a warning by the author of Hebrews for his audience to guard their hearts lest they leave the living God. While that is important, that is not all they can do to facilitate their perseverance.
John Calvin writes, “for as by nature we are inclined to evil, we have need of various helps to retain us in the fear of God.” Hebrews 3:13 tells us that one of these helps is to be found in a community of believers that exhorts one another.
The author tells his audience to “exhort one another every day.” Daily and constantly we must encourage other believers in their faith and have other believers encourage us in ours. We must exhort, edify, rebuke, and motivate each other in our Christian walk. When we do this, we avoid false teaching, renew our walk, and lead others out of spiritual depression. Constant encouragement is necessary because our faith is always under attack by the Evil One. Calvin writes: “We fall not immediately by the first assault into this madness of striving against God; but Satan by degrees accosts us artfully by indirect means, until he holds us ensnared in his delusions.” Our faith must be constantly encouraged by others or we will fall to Satan.
The author of Hebrews also writes that this encouragement must continue “as long as it is called ‘today.’” This refers back to 3:7, which itself refers back to the Exodus. The Israelites who wandered in the wilderness were given a period of time — forty years — to repent. That period is the one referred to as “today.” Though it was a long period, it was not an eternal period. There came a day when repentance and salvation were no longer possible for that generation.
Like the Israelites, the first audience of the epistle to the Hebrews only had a specific period in which repentance was possible. And like the first audience of Hebrews, we also have a specific period in which repentance is possible. We can only repent and exhort one another as long as we remain alive. That may be eighty years. It also could be much shorter. We do not know when our lives will end. We must exhort one another to salvation today before we die and it is too late.
It is very easy to go to church and yet never receive the encouragement we need from other believers. In order to effectively encourage one another, we must be willing to confess our sins to one another and hear the sins of others. Find a group of believers with whom you can share your struggles and to whom you can give encouragement.