For nine and a half chapters, as broken up in our modern copies of God’s word, the author of Hebrews has been giving us a big, grander vision of Jesus so that we would not give up on our faith. The author wants us to be strong in our faith and not turn back under life’s difficulties. This is what the author establishes for us in Hebrews 10:19. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God…” This introduction is a reminder of all the pictures and proofs that the author has given us so far. We can now come into the presence of God. We can now enter where others were unable to enter.
Essentially, the impossible has occurred. We have confidence to enter into God’s presence. The only reason we are able to enter with confidence is because of the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice puts us near the Father in a way that the first covenant could not. We are able to pass through the curtain that not even the priests could pass through. We have a new and living way to approach the Father. Now as we approach the Father, we do not find an impenetrable curtain standing between God and us. Rather, we find Jesus as our high priest and we are able to enter the curtain through him.
Let Us Draw Near (10:22)
The writer tells us that we must draw near the Father with a true heart in full assurance of faith (10:22). We do not have to draw near in fear, but we do need to draw near in a certain way. We can have full assurance and great confidence as we approach the Lord when we approach with sincere, true hearts. This is the start point. There is no reason to read any further if we do not start here. We must not have hearts that are stubborn. We must have hearts that are circumcised. We must have God’s law written on our hearts. It is a heart that has been examined by the word of God (cf. 4:12-13). Motivation is everything to God. We cannot do certain ritualistic acts and think that we are successfully in a relationship with God. If we do not have hearts that are cut for the Lord after all that we see God doing for us through Jesus, then there is nothing that is going to open that stubborn heart. But coming to God with a sincere heart is to lead to us having confidence before him.
The writer then describes the means by which we can approach God. We are to draw near with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. We have a picture of coming to God with a different heart. We can draw near because God has cleansed our hearts. God has cleansed our evil consciences. The apostle Peter describes our appeal to God in baptism as an appeal to God for a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21). The sprinkling of blood was a picture of purification in the first covenant (cf. Hebrews 9:13). Rather than an external being sprinkled clean, our consciences and our very hearts have been made clean. We noted earlier in this chapter that the repetition of the sacrifices caused the worshipers to remember their sins every year (10:2-3). But now the guilty, evil consciences are cleansed.
Further, we can approach because our bodies have been washed with pure water. It is far too simplistic to merely read this as baptism. Pure water certainly indicates that there is symbolism involved in this picture. Aaron as the high priest had to wash his body with water before entering in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:4). Ezekiel promised an inner cleansing where God would sprinkle the people from all their iniquities with pure water and give them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27). A body washed with pure water represents the life of obedience that is expressed from the heart cleansed from an evil conscience. So it is not just that you have been baptized so therefore can enter. Rather, hearts sprinkled clean and bodies washed with pure water toward obedience is what is symbolized in our baptism. Baptism is a symbol that stands to us that we have been made clean inside and out. We have clean hearts and clean lives. We have the inside of the cup and the outside of the cup cleansed. This is what our baptism into Christ represents. So the writer first says that we must draw near to God because cleansing inside and out has occurred.
Let Us Hold Fast To Our Hope (10:23)
Second, the writer tells us to hold on to the hope we have in Christ without wavering. This has been the point of the book. Do not waver! Hold on to your hope! God is faithful to his promises and he cannot lie. So hold to that hope you have in him. We do not have an empty hope. We are not holding on to something that is false. We have the hope that our sacrifices will be worth it. We have the hope that enduring for the cause of Christ will be worth it. We have the hope that our obedience in difficulties will be worth it. We have hope that our momentary afflictions cannot compare with the eternal weight of glory we will receive. Our faithfulness to God is the only appropriate response to divine faithfulness.
Let Us Consider How To Stir Up Love and Good Works In Each Other (10:24-25)
Third, the writer wants us to think about how we can motivate love and doing good in other people. Notice that the writer does not tell us to consider how to love each other and do good works toward each other. This is true but not the point here. The point is that we are thinking about how we can stimulate others to have love and good works. It is not merely love and do good. It is thinking about how we can encourage others to love and do good works. This is what we are supposed to be thinking about today. We are not to be thinking about what we are going to do next. We are not to think about what others are doing for us. We are not to think about what people think about us. We are to think about how we can motivate others to love and good works.
This leads to a necessary implication. Since Jesus has made it possible for us to enter into God’s presence, we are to approach with a true heart, hold fast to our hope, and stir up each other in love and good works, then we need time together. To motivate each other in these things requires us to spend time together. In particular, the writer sees that our gathering times in the week is the time when we motivate each other. We come together to encourage each other. We come together because we have been thinking about how we can encourage love and good works from each other. This means that if we do not want to be here, then we are thinking about ourselves and not others. This passage is not supposed to be a negative but a positive. This text does not say to go to church services and Bible studies because you have to. Rather, the writer says that when we understand what we have in Christ, we will want to be together to encourage love and good works in others. We need time to be encouraging to each other. Our gatherings are not about me but about encouraging you toward God. In fact, we need more and more encouraging as the time approaches, not less (10:25). I have mentioned before and I will continue to make the point that we need more time together, not less. We do not need less worship opportunities but more. We cannot lose sight of why we come together. There are people here who are on the brink of falling away, drifting away, and slipping away and we have to encourage each other while it is still called today (Hebrews 3:13).
The Need For Encouragement (10:26-31)
Why is this so important? Because if we turn and start sinning deliberately we are doomed. There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. The only thing that remains is a fearful expectation of judgment. The only thing that remains to look forward to is a fury of fire that consumes the adversaries. If we have the knowledge of the truth and walk away from that knowledge, we are doomed. Painfully, I have seen this happen far too many times in my life. I have seen far too many people turn from the Lord because they are ensnared in their sins and cannot see it. They drifted away. They slipped away. Their hearts became hardened toward God because they refuse to stop their sins.
Now we might be surprised to read that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins when we willfully choose to go our own path and follow our own will. So the writer of Hebrews proves this declaration that there will not be mercy. Under the Law of Moses, anyone who rejected the Law died without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. So how much worse punishment will be deserved for us? Notice how the writer describes what we are doing when we refuse to repent and turn away from our sinful direction.
We are trampling the Son of God underfoot. We are pictured as walking all over Jesus. Jesus died for us and we are just going to walk all over him. We are treating the blood of the covenant that has cleansed us from our sins as trivial and unimportant. We look at what he has done and we are unmoved. The blood of the covenant was a commitment to the covenant ratified through Jesus’ blood. In our rebellious sinning we are looking at the covenant established through the death of Jesus as nothing. It is unimportant. Who cares what Jesus did for me? Finally, the writer says that we have insulted the Spirit of grace. We have looked at God’s mercy and grace and discarded it. The rescue God has accomplished by his grace is not enough to turn us from our evil ways. What will happen to us if we trample Jesus under our feet, consider the blood of the covenant as unimportant, and reject the grace that was accomplished for us?
The writer makes clear what will happen. There is not a sacrifice for our sins any longer. Rather, the Lord declares that he will judge his people. The Lord says that he will repay for treating his Son in this way. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The consequences for rebellion under the first covenant is nothing in comparison to the punishment for rebellion under the new covenant of Christ. We need to come together and encourage each other because there is a very real danger of people in this room turning from the living God.
Let us draw near to God with the right heart, holding on to the hope we have, considering how we can stir up love and good works in others. This is the faith we need. Watch out for failure. Hold on to what Jesus is offering. Do not turn your heart away from him. A heart that desires sin over God no longer has a sacrifice for sins but a fearful expectation of judgment because you have walked all over Jesus.