One of the strongest arguments for believers to fellowship together in-person is found in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us 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.”
The word that is translated as “meet together” is derived from the Greek word “synagogue,” which means a “place of assembly.” The author of Hebrews wanted to let believers know they need to prioritize face-to-face interaction with other believers. The early church was established in a hostile environment that would have made it easy for people to not want to gather together.
Christians were kicked out of the Jewish synagogue if they aligned themselves with Christ (John 9:22). They were marginalized by the Jewish majority, and we know from the book of Acts that they were actively hunted down and persecuted (Acts 9:1-2).
This makes Hebrews 10:24-25 all the more profound because the believers continued to physically gather together, even though some of them were risking their lives to do so.
The reason the author of Hebrews called for believers to gather together is because fellowship with other believers is a necessary extension of the fellowship that exists between God and each believer. Christ’s death on the cross made it possible for believers to “enter the holy places” and to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-22). Once a believer is born again he or she will be compelled by the Holy Spirit to seek fellowship with other believers.
This is exactly what the early church did. Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This type of fellowship required physical interaction between believers. The Greek word used for fellowship is “koinonia” and it refers to “close association involving mutual interests and sharing” (BDAG). When believers have fellowship with each other they are sharing their lives with each other.
They are not only hearing preaching and praying and singings hymns together. They are doing so as people who are connected by the supernatural fellowship of God.
When John wrote his first epistle, he made it clear that this fellowship came from God and was extended to believers. He wrote, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3) If you read the context, you will see that this is a physical fellowship that is tied to the physical incarnation of Jesus Christ, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you.” (1 John 1:1-2)
This type of fellowship is impossible to experience unless you are in the physical presence of other believers. This is why going to a church service in person is always so much better than worshipping online. Believers were created to have fellowship with God in the presence of other believers. That was the expectation of the early church and that should be the expectation for every generation of believers.
This is important to grasp because it gives believers the justification to never settle for virtual fellowship. There may be a time or a season when someone needs to use technology to hear God’s word preached or to be encouraged over the phone by other believers, but those experiences should always create a longing in the heart of the believer for physical, biblical fellowship with other Christians.
That is why the author of Hebrews gave such clarity when he called believers to “stir up one another to love and good works.” A believer can encourage someone with the use of technology, but he cannot have full, biblical, incarnation fellowship with believers unless it is done face-to-face, the way God intended.