This verse made my top ten proof text list. As I pointed out then, it’s often misquoted, with people talking about “forsaking the assembly.” It becomes about being in the building “at each appointed time,” rather than an exhortation for Christians to seek out chances to be with one another.
I don’t see the writer as approaching this from a legal standpoint. It’s no more a law than is “draw near to God” (verse 22) He’s not trying to establish a new commandment about attending church meetings.
I’ve compared it to the owner’s manual of your car saying that you need to change the oil. Not a rule. Not a law. But pretty foolish not to follow what it says.
So what’s the difference between a law and instructions on the best way to live? I see a difference, if only in how we react to such things. When we make a rule out of “not forsaking the assembling,” for example, we can get to what some do: show up, take the Lord’s Supper and leave. They’ve followed the rule. When we look at “not forsaking the assembling” as something that has a function in our spiritual walk, as a necessary something for our well being, we won’t have to be prodded to be there.
I’ve seen guys that were required to attend AA meetings. Few of them got anything out of it. Others choose to be there because they know they need it. They won’t miss if at all possible.
Teach your kids that the Bible is a bunch of rules and they’ll spend their lives looking for loopholes. Show your kids that the Bible teaches you the secrets of how to live and they’ll spend their lives looking for insight.
I believe in the importance of meeting together. I believe that Christians need to teach this importance to one another. But not as a law like those given at Mt. Sinai. It should be taught as what is necessary for keeping our faith strong.