DON’T BE NEGLIGENT

DON’T BE NEGLIGENT

The term negligent refers to behavior that is “marked by or given to neglect especially habitually or culpably.”[1] In other words, you are considered negligent when your conduct and/or attitude is careless, lazy, or inattentive, and, as a result, threatens the well-being of others. Legally speaking, negligence is the basis for many personal injury lawsuits and can be defined as “the failure to exercise a certain degree of care in order to minimize the risk of injury to another person.”[2] Therefore, one would be considered a negligent driver if he or she ignored traffic laws or operated a vehicle in an impaired (e.g. driving under the influence) or distracted state (e.g. texting while driving).

Interestingly, Scripture provides several warnings against negligent spiritual behaviors. Typically such warnings take the form of a “Do not neglect” phrase (e.g. Proverbs 8:33; Luke 11:42; Hebrews 13:16). Their presence in Scripture indicates that it is possible for us to be spiritually negligent. Quite possibly the most well known warning against spiritual negligence is found in Hebrews 10:24-25 where we are instructed to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In this passage, the inspired author of Hebrews instructed his readers not to neglect assembling with the body of believers. However, he’s not just advocating for everyone to be present; he’s advocating for everyone to fellowship, that is to develop intimate, unified, and mutually beneficial relationships.

HOW DO WE NEGLECT FELLOWSHIP?

First, we may neglect fellowship by failing to be present when the church assembles. This appears to be the specific context of Hebrews 10:25. The author of Hebrews challenged those who were habitually “forsaking” the “assembling” of the body of believers, to use the language of the New American Standard Bible. It is worth noting that the author of Hebrews did not specify his definition of assemblies. In other words, he did not say “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together on Sunday mornings.” He left it open to a broad context. While the Sunday morning assembly is the primary worship assembly for our congregation, meaning that it is the assembly with the highest attendance, it is not our only assembly. We should remember that the first century Christians did not limit their assembling to just the first day of the week, although it should be noted that their “first day of the week” assembly was the assembly associated with the partaking of the Lord’s Supper and contribution according to Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 respectively. Instead, the first century church originally assembled in various fashions and locations on a daily basis (Acts 2:46) because they understood that fellowship creates an opportunity for mutual edification that in turn prevents callousness (Hebrews 3:13).

Second, we may neglect fellowship by failing to make ourselves available to the whole body. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul chastised the Corinthian congregation for not being considerate of one another when they assembled. In fact, he indicated that their coming together did more harm than good (1 Corinthians 11:17). Why? Because they lacked fellowship. The lack of fellowship apparently originated from socio-economic divisions that manifested during a weekly potluck meal, which was known in the first century as a “love feast” (Jude 12). One commentator explains it this way…

“the minority of well-to-do believers, including the major financial supporters and owners of the homes in which the believers met, would have had the leisure-time and resources to arrive earlier and bring larger quantities and finer food than the rest of the congregation…Latecomers (the majority, who probably had to finish work before coming…[since] there was as of yet no legalized day off in the Roman empire)…[and] those that could not afford to bring a full meal, or a very good one, did not have the opportunity to share with the rest in the way that Christian unity demanded.”[3]

As a result, a clear distinction between the “haves” and the “have nots” developed, evidenced by the fact that some went without (i.e. “one goes hungry” in 1 Corinthians 11:21) while others over indulged (i.e “another gets drunk” in 1 Corinthians 11:21). Thus, this time of fellowship had lost its communal purpose and became an individualized pursuit of pleasure. The problem in this scenario was not the activity (i.e. the love feast) but the attitude (i.e. “each one goes ahead with his own meal” in 1 Corinthians 11:21). Their divisive attitude invalidated their worship assembly, particularly their observance of the Lord’s Supper. As Dr. Duane Warden says, “The way the Christians were observing the ordinary meal, making distinctions based on socioeconomic levels, was making a lie of their claims of being one body, a oneness symbolized in the taking of the Lord’s Supper.”[4] So, by creating a situation in which the working class members were unable to fellowship with the upper class members, the church in Corinth was criticized for neglecting fellowship.

WHY SHOULD WE NOT NEGLECT FELLOWSHIP?

First, we should not neglect fellowship because fellowship is EXPECTED. The first century church is described as being “devoted…to fellowship” in Acts 2:42, which indicates that fellowship was an expectation of the assembly on par with biblical study (i.e. “the apostles’ teaching”), the Lord’s Supper (i.e. “the breaking of bread”), and prayers. Additionally, Paul used the phrase “when you come together” repeatedly in his first letter to the Corinthians as he instructed them on matters related to congregational assembly (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34; 16:2). Paul’s use of the word “when” rather than “if” indicates that assembling was an expectation rather than an option.

Second, we should not neglect fellowship because fellowship is UNIQUE. In fact, fellowship is the only aspect of our assembling together that necessitates our involvement with other people. Practically speaking, you can engage in praise, prayer, Bible study, stewardship, and even the Lord’s Supper all by yourself. Now, I’m not suggesting that you should, but, instead, am pointing out that it is physically possible to engage in all of those required activities of the worship assembly without having to interact with or involve other people. However, there is one aspect of the worship assembly that you absolutely cannot do in isolation, and that is fellowship. Therefore, fellowship is unique.

Finally, we should not neglect fellowship because fellowship is POWERFUL. According to Hebrews 10:24, fellowship promotes “love and good works,” according to Hebrews 3:13, fellowship prevents hard-heartedness, and according to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, fellowship provides support (i.e. lifting one another up, keeping one another warm) and strength (i.e. two can withstand what one cannot). Since fellowship can promote godly behavior, prevent sinful behavior, and provide necessary benefits, it is a powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal.

The only thing left to consider is whether or not you are neglecting fellowship because if you are, then you are missing out on the Lord’s plan for you as His disciple and you are missing out on some amazing benefits as a member of His body.



[1] “Negligent.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2018.

[2] http://statelaws.findlaw.com/georgia-law/georgia-negligence-laws.html

[3] Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 228.

[4] Duane Warden, 1 Corinthians, Truth for Today Commentary (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications, 2016), 319.