Homilies of John Chrysostom: Hebrews 10:24-25
[3.] (Ver. 24, 25) “And” (he says) “let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” And again in other places, “The Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing.” (Phil. 4:5, 6.) “For now is our salvation nearer: Henceforth the time is short.” (Rom. 13:11.)
What is, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”? (1 Cor. 7:29.) He knew that much strength arises from being together and assembling together. “For where two or three” (it is said) “are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20); and again, “That they may be One, as we” also are (John 17:11); and, “They had all one heart and [one] soul.” (Acts 4:32.) And not this only, but also because love is increased by the gathering [of ourselves] together; and love being increased, of necessity the things of God must follow also. “And earnest prayer” (it is said) was “made by” the people. (Acts 12:5.) “As the manner of some is.” Here he not only exhorted, but also blamed [them].
“And let us consider one another,” he says, “to provoke unto love and to good works.” He knew that this also arises from “gathering together.” For as “iron sharpeneth iron” (Prov. 17:17), so also association increases love. For if a stone rubbed against a stone sends forth fire, how much more soul mingled with soul! But not unto emulation (he says) but “unto the sharpening of love.” What is “unto the sharpening of love”? Unto the loving and being loved more. “And of good works”; that so they might acquire zeal. For if doing has greater force for instruction than speaking, ye also have in your number many teachers, who effect this by their deeds.
What is “let us draw near with a true heart”? That is, without hypocrisy; for “woe be to a fearful heart, and faint hands” (Ecclus. 2:12): let there be (he means) no falsehood among us; let us not say one thing and think another; for this is falsehood; neither let us be fainthearted, for this is not [a mark] of a “true heart.” Faintheartedness comes from not believing. But how shall this be? If we fully assure ourselves through faith.
“Having our hearts sprinkled”: why did he not say “having been purified”? [Because] he wished to point out the difference of the sprinklings: the one he says is of God, the other our own. For the washing and sprinkling the conscience is of God; but “the drawing near with” truth and “in full assurance of faith” is our own. Then he also gives strength to their faith from the truth of Him that promised.
What is “and having our bodies washed with pure water”? With water which makes pure; or which has no blood.
Then he adds the perfect thing, love. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” which some (he says) do, and divide the assemblies. For “a brother helped by a brother is as a strong city.” (Prov. 18:19, LXX.)
“But let us consider one another to provoke unto love.” What is, “let us consider one another”? For instance if any be virtuous, let us imitate him, let us look on him so as to love and to be loved. For from Love good works proceed. For the assembling is a great good: since it makes love more warm; and out of love all good things arise. For nothing is good which is not done through love.
[4.] This then let us “confirm” towards each other. “For love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10.) We have no need of labors or of sweatings if we love one another. It is a pathway leading of itself towards virtue. For as on the highway, if any man find the beginning, he is guided by it, and has no need of one to take him by the hand; so is it also in regard to Love: only lay hold on the beginning, and at once thou art guided and directed by it. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor” (Rom. 13:10); “thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor. 13:5.) Let each man consider with himself, how he is disposed toward himself. He does not envy himself; he wishes all good things for himself; he prefers himself before all; he is willing to do all things for himself. If then we were so disposed towards others also, all grievous things are brought to an end; there is no enmity; there is no covetousness: for who would choose to overreach himself? No man; but on the contrary we shall possess all things in common, and shall not cease assembling ourselves together. And if we do this, the remembrance of injuries would have no place: for who would choose to remember injuries against himself? Who would choose to be angry with himself? Do we not make allowances for ourselves most of all? If we were thus disposed towards our neighbors also, there will never be any remembrance of injuries.
And how is it possible (you say) that one should so love his neighbor as himself? If others had not done this, you might well think it impossible: but if they have done it, it is plain that from indolence it is not done by ourselves.
And besides, Christ enjoins nothing impossible, seeing that many have even gone beyond His commands. Who has done this? Paul, Peter, all the company of the Saints. Nay, indeed if I say that they loved their neighbors, I say no great matter: they so loved their enemies as no man would love those who were likeminded with himself. For who would choose for the sake of those likeminded, to go away into Hell. when he was about to depart unto a kingdom? No man. But Paul chose this for the sake of his enemies, for those who stoned him, those who scourged him. What pardon then will there be for us, what excuse, if we shall not show towards our friends even the very smallest portion of that love which Paul showed towards his enemies?
And before him too, the blessed Moses was willing to be blotted out of God’s book for the sake of his enemies who had stoned him. David also when he saw those who had stood up against him slain, saith, “I, the shepherd, have sinned, but these, what have they done?” (See 2 Sam. 24:17.) And when he had Saul in his hands, he would not slay him, but saved him; and this when he himself would be in danger. But if these things were done under the Old [Covenant] what excuse shall we have who live under the New, and do not attain even to the same measure with them? For if, “unless our righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:20), how shall we enter in when we have even less than they?
John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle to the Hebrews. In P. Schaff (Ed.), T. Keble & F. Gardiner (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews (Vol. 14, pp. 455–456). New York: Christian Literature Company.