Exercise Confidence

Explore the Bible Series

November 5, 2006

 

Background Passage: Hebrews 10:19-39

Lesson Passage: Hebrews 10:19-36 and 39

 

Introduction: The author of Hebrews peppered his writing with a number of exhortations, and this week’s lesson considers one of the most powerful of these admonitions.  To this point, Hebrews has presented a coherent, persuasive argument for these ethnically Jewish believers to continue in the faith.  In doing so, he has proposed one theological principle after another (focusing primarily on the supremacy of Christ); however, he wisely realized that theology is not an end in itself.  This man was no armchair theologian.

 

Some years ago, I took a series of courses from a wonderful college professor.  Among other courses, I took my first year of Koine Greek with this fine Bible scholar. Of course, we centered much of our attention on the mundane matters of mastering verbal endings and memorizing vocabulary.  Occasionally, the class would examine specific New Testament passages to illustrate the material we had learned in class.  Very often, this dear teacher would stop the class to remind the students of the importance of following our study of the Bible with trust practical obedience.  With a delightful chuckle, he would always close these class sessions with a reminder that we needed to “have our Bibles bound in shoe leather.”  We understood his point.

 

I cannot imagine a more dangerous practice than studying the Bible as a theoretical, merely academic enterprise; that is, to engage in endless theological wrangling to the neglect of obeying the precepts of the word of God.  Frankly, Reformed people may have some tendencies to fall into this error.  Swelled libraries can lead to swelled heads!  I love books, and I enjoy reading; nevertheless, the intellectual life must serve as our starting point and not as an end in itself.  Occasionally, I need this reminder.  Is Satan a capable, knowledgeable theologian?  Think clearly about your answer.  Does Satan have a strategic grasp of the truth of the gospel?  Does he understand sound Christology?  Can he quote Scripture?  Honestly, I think Satan has a much better grasp on eternal realities than I do.  What separates Satan from the true, humble believer?  I propose that the difference does not rest in the amount of knowledge each possesses; rather, the believer distinguishes himself in the “therefores” of Scripture.

 

Our lesson passage begins with the word “therefore.”  My old Greek professor used to say, “When you see a ‘therefore’ stop and see what it’s there for.”  A careful mastery of the previous theological materials in Hebrews will do no good unless the believer presses forward with the practical application of the principles learned.  Dear reader, do not satisfy yourself with a bare intellectual apprehension of these truths.  Examine your heart, and determine that you will continue with Christ until you reach the glories of heaven. 

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   Three Practical Exhortations (10:19-25)

A.    The grounds for these exhortations (vv. 19-21)

1.      since we have confidence to enter the holy places…”: This confidence grows from Christ’s work on the cross which opened a new and living way for the believer to enter into the presence of God.  As the Tabernacle veil was torn open when Jesus died (See Matthew 27:51), so the tearing of Christ’s flesh opened the way top God for the believer (See v. 20). 

2.      since we have a great priest over the house of God”: Not only did Jesus serve as the perfect sacrifice for sin by the shedding of his blood, but he also serves as a great high priest to represent God’s people in the throne room of heaven (See v. 21).

B.     The exhortations (vv. 22-25)

1.      “Let us draw near” (v. 22): The imagery here continues the thoughts about the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle.  In the Old Testament the people remained at some distance from the Holy Place; indeed, the Law forbade anyone, except for the high priest, to enter this portion of the Tabernacle.  Now, Christ has made it possible for repentant sinners to draw near to God with “full assurance.”  Just as the priest sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat, so Christ has sprinkled the blood of the cross on the hearts of his people. The phrase “washed with pure water” probably evokes the imagery of the ceremonial cleansing of the high priest before he entered the Holy Place (See Leviticus 16:4).  Some believe this alludes to the symbolism of baptism.

2.      “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (v. 23):  The Christian’s hope rests in Christ and his glorious work for sinners.  Because of his impeccable and eternal work, the believer may have confidence without wavering.  The Christian’s hope of gracious security centers on the faithfulness of Christ to complete his redemptive work in his people.

3.      “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (vv. 24-25): Believers must not see salvation as merely an individual interaction with God.  Many will enter the Holy Place of God, and, in doing so, they share a common inheritance and family bond.  Brothers and sisters must, in God’s redemptive economy, understand their responsibilities to one another.  They must stir one another to love and good works and also encourage one another to keep strong the bonds of Christian fellowship.  God has not called his people to a “lone wolf” existence. 

 

II.                A Sober Warning for Those Who Do Not Persevere in the Faith (10:26-31)

A.    “…If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (v. 26):  This verse, of course, does not teach the sinless perfection of Christians.  The sin referred to here is turning away from Christ and abandoning the confession of him as Savior and Lord.  Thomas Hewitt summarizes the point well, “It is better, therefore, to suppose that the only persons the author can conceive of apostasizing are those who have received Christianity as a formulated system of beliefs, but without any personal experience of God in Christ… ‘the knowledge of the truth’, therefore, would mean that they had discerned and relieved the truth of Christianity but that it had not become a living force in their lives.” 

B.     “…a fearful expectation of judgment” (vv. 27-31): The consequences of such apostasy are grave indeed.  There is, according to our text, no other sacrifice for sin except the priestly work of Christ (v. 26b).  The Law showed no mercy to those who violated its precepts, and God regards it even a worse transgression to profane the blood of Christ. Our author says that apostasy is a sin against the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (vv. 30-31).  Such a prospect should produce fear in any man who considers turning back from his profession of faith in Christ.

 

III.             An Appeal to the Experience of These Jewish Believers (10:32-39): “...recall the former days when…you endured a hard struggle with suffering…”

A.    Their own personal struggles (vv. 32-33a): These folks had suffered real hardship for the sake of the gospel. Their sufferings included public reproach for their faith in Christ.

B.     They identified with other believers who were persecuted for the faith (vv. 33b-34):  When fellow Christians were mistreated by local authorities, these believers stood firm in support of their brother and sisters. Furthermore, they joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property by those who did them harm. 

C.     A final exhortation (vv. 35-39):  The author tells his readers not to throw away their confidence, and he employs a word that means to discard an old garment (v. 35).  Twice he mentions the glorious reward that awaits those who hold fast their confession (vv. 35 and 36).  Finally, Hebrews ends this critical chapter by paraphrasing Isaiah 26:20; then, he assures his readers that he hopes better things for them (v. 39).