A CONFIDENT LIFE

 

Week of August 24, 2008

 

Bible Verses:  Hebrews 10:19-29,32-36.

 

Biblical Truth: Christians can worship and witness with a confidence based on the sacrificial work of Christ.

 

Know the Source of Confidence: Heb. 10:19-23.

 

[19]  Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, [20]  by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, [21]  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [22]  let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. [23]  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  [NASU]

 

[19-21]  Confidence emphasizes a new, objective reality obtained for the Christian community by the death of Christ, the right of free access to God. This presupposes the objective work of Christ in purging the conscience and authorizing Christians to stand with boldness in the presence of God. Boldness provides the ground for the following injunction to draw near to God continually [v. 22]. It is only possible to approach God in worship at the present time because the heavenly high priest has secured free access to the heavenly sanctuary. The decisive factor in the boldness of Christians that enables them to approach God is indicated in the phrase, by the blood of Jesus. It is striking that whenever the writer makes his most emphatic assertions concerning the saving work of Christ, he makes an explicit reference to the blood of Jesus [9:12,14;10:19,29;12:24;13:12,20]. The expression a new and living way describes the free access. It concerns the way into the heavenly sanctuary. The way is described as new because it is a recently opened way, in contrast to the old way into the earthly sanctuary that has been set aside as a mere shadow of what was to come. The way is also qualitatively new because it participates in the incorruptible freshness of the new covenant. The way is also defined as living in the sense that it leads to life, as demonstrated by the powerful effect that free access to God has upon the community of faith. The reference to the veil that hangs before the heavenly sanctuary expresses the old Jewish conception of the hiddenness and inaccessibility of God. Here the writer asserts that the Christian's approach to God has its source and parallel in Christ's approach through the veil. In this context, flesh is an alternate expression for Jesus' obedient death on the cross. The phrase by the blood of Jesus in verse 19 is connected with  His flesh in verse 20 to indicate only the Cross removes the veil and enables the Christian free access to God. A second blessing obtained for the community through Jesus' sacrifice and enthronement is the assurance of Christ's priestly rule over the household of God. The expression a great priest furnishes the second complementary object to the participle since we have in verse 19. The blood of Jesus not only gives us confidence to enter into God’s presence but it also provides the Church with a great high priest who intercedes for us.

 

[22-23]  The parallel assertions in verses 19-21 now furnish the basis for three significant commands in the present tense, which follow in verses 22, 23 and 24. The fact that each of these verses begins with a different verb would seem to indicate that each verse presents a separate thought and is not necessarily to be interpreted in the light of the other two. The first of the writer's coordinated appeals calls the community to that personal and congregational "drawing near" to God through Christ which is the essence of being a Christian. This is the only appropriate response to the benefits described in verses 19-21. The command to draw near recalls the earlier exhortation to prayer in Heb. 4:16. The use of draw near elsewhere in Hebrews [7:25;11:6;12:18,22] indicates that earnest prayer is a significant expression of the new relationship between God and His people promised in the new covenant. It is unnecessary to limit the reference to prayer; it is inclusive of every expression of worship in the life of a congregation. Only when the heart has been purged from the defilement of a smiting conscience can it be renewed in fullness of faith and sincerity toward God [9:9,14;10:1-2,15-18].  The perfect tenses of the participles (having our hearts sprinkled clean and our bodies washed) refer to actions which are accomplished and enduring facts; they stress conditions of approach to God which Christians already enjoy. The reference to washed with pure water is almost certainly to Christian baptism, which replaces all previous cleansing rites. The second command is to hold fast the confession of our hope in verse 23. Both in Heb. 6:18 and 10:23 the hope to which the writer refers is an objective reality related to the priestly activity of Jesus. In Hebrews the term hope always describes the objective content of hope, consisting of present and future salvation. To hold fast the hope we profess is to maintain a firm confidence in the objective gift of salvation God has extended to the community on the basis of Christ's priesthood and sacrifice. It is the responsibility of the believer to act upon God's constancy by steadfastly holding on to their beliefs without wavering.

 

Stay in Church: Heb. 10:24-25.

 

[24]  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, [25]  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  [NASU]

 

[24-25]  The third appeal is a summons for the continued caring for one another that finds an expression in love, good works, and the mutual encouragement that active participation in the gatherings of the community makes possible. By considerateness and example, Christians are to spur one another on to the love and good works that had distinguished them as a community in the past. Good works are tangible expressions of caring love. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another are matters of critical urgency in the life of a community exposed to testing and disappointment. The appeal in verse 24 is supplemented by two participial phrases in the present tense in verse 25. These contrasting phrases indicate the importance of the regular gathering of the local assembly for worship and fellowship. The neglect of worship and fellowship was symptomatic of a catastrophic failure to appreciate the significance of Christ's priestly ministry and the access to God it provided. The reason the meetings of the assembly are not to be neglected is that they provide a communal setting where mutual encouragement and admonition may occur. The verb encouraging includes the notions of warning and reproof as well as encouragement, with the implication that reproof should be given in a loving way. The urgency for encouragement and reproof is that the community experiences an unresolved tension between peril and promise so long as it lives in the world.

 

Take Sin Seriously: Heb. 10:26-29.

 

[26]  For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27]  but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. [28]  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29]  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  [NASU]

 

[26-27]  The neglect of God's gifts is almost tantamount to a decisive rejection of them. In this instance, the neglect of the meetings of the local assembly actually displayed a contemptuous disregard for the truth, which exposes hardened offenders to divine judgment. The severe warning in verses 26-31 is parallel in form and function to Heb. 6:4-8. Verses 26-29 provide the counterpoint to 19-22 which sets the appropriate response to the sacrifice of Christ and His entrance as high priest into the heavenly sanctuary. The provision of access to God invites sincere and earnest worship. In the present passage the inappropriate response of those who fail to appreciate their continuing need for Christ's redemptive action commands the writer's attention. The key expression in the description of the response that merits the wrath of God is if we go on sinning willfully. The effects of this attitude are not developed until verse 29. Sin that is committed willfully clearly implies a rejection of the worship itself and of God who provided for it. Their rejection expresses open, intentional and voluntary apostasy. The concept of deliberate sin derives from Num. 15:22-31, where a distinction is made between those who unintentionally transgress God's commandments and the person who sins defiantly, who must be cut off from His people because he has despised the Lord. A deliberate and calculated violation of the commandments placed the offender beyond forgiveness. The heinous character of this offense resides in the fact that it occurred after the reception of the full knowledge of the truth. Knowledge implies a penetrating and certain knowledge, a clear perception of the truth. Truth is the revelation of God's provision for the defilement of sin through Christ, it is something to be received from God. The results of a calculated, persistent renunciation of the truth received are specified in verses 26b-27. In a formulation designed to recall Heb. 10:18, the writer now declares there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. This follows because the only sacrifice that can remove defilement has been repudiated, and the sufficient sacrifice of Christ cannot be repeated. What remains is an inevitable, terrifying expectation of judgment. This describes a religious dread that reflects in anticipation upon the destruction that must follow from a display of contempt for God. The apostate is regarded as the adversary of God.

 

[28-29]  Set aside signifies the willful repudiation of a divine institution. It denotes to act unfaithfully, to be apostate. The gravity of defiance of the law of Moses under the old covenant throws into bold relief the far greater seriousness of apostasy under the new covenant. Since the blessings God has bestowed through Christ are greater than those provided through the old covenant, the rejection of those blessings entails a far more severe punishment. Contempt for a privileged relationship with God through Christ in the new covenant will involve retribution more terrible than the death penalty attached to violation of the law. The character of the contempt for God expressed by apostasy under the new covenant is elaborated in verse 29 by three parallel participial clauses that describe its effect. In each instance the aorist tense of the participle summarizes a persistent attitude. (1) To trample under or to treat with disdain. The paradoxical notion of treating with disdain one who possesses transcendent dignity commands attention. (2) The juxtaposition of considering defiled blood which consecrates is rhetorically forceful. A deliberate rejection of the vital power of the blood of Christ to purge sins decisively is indicated. (3) The connection of the Spirit with sacrifice in Heb. 9:14 may account for the reference to the Spirit of grace here. The attitude of the apostate, however, is summarized in the aorist participles: having insulted, having outraged, having displayed contempt with injury. Here as well the juxtaposition of the contradictory notions of insulting a gracious Spirit is calculated to command attention. Taken cumulatively, the three clauses define persistent sin as an attitude of contempt for the salvation secured through the priestly sacrifice of Christ. Nothing less than a complete rejection of the Christian faith satisfies the descriptive clauses in which the effects of the offense are sketched. The magnitude of the affront displayed by apostasy clarifies why this offense is ultimate.

 

Remember Past Victories: Heb. 10:32-36.

 

[32]  But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, [33]  partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. [34]  For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. [35]  Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36]  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.  [NASU]

 

[32]  The sharp warning of verses 26-31 is followed by words of reassurance and encouragement. The writer wants them to subject their present experience as Christians to a fresh examination in the light of their past stance of firm commitment. By pointing the community to the past as well as to the future, the writer seeks to strengthen their Christian resolve for the present. In verses 32-35 the writer counters an unhealthy attitude by setting forth the community's courageous stance of commitment under adverse circumstances in the past as a model for continuing boldness now.

 

[33-34]  The carefully structured recital of past indignities suggests that a part of the congregation had been exposed to ridicule because they had been defenseless against the seizure of their property. Others within the congregation had identified themselves with the hardships that those who had been imprisoned had endured from the authorities. The public nature of the sufferings endured by members of the congregation is indicated by the rare word spectacle which conveys the notion of being exposed to ridicule or held up to public shame. The strong sense of community that had characterized the congregation in that earlier period is evident from the parallel clauses in verses 33b-34a.

 

[35-36]  The community must now recapture the fervor that had characterized them. They must display in the present the same stance of steadfast commitment to Christ they had exhibited in the past. The manifestation of Christian boldness is viewed as a title-deed which assures the future enjoyment of the great reward in the consummation of the new age. The great reward has reference to the blessing of full salvation God has promised to those who wait for Christ. The writer anticipates the development in Heb. 12:1-13, where the summons to the endurance of hardships and disciplinary sufferings is supported by the example of Jesus who endured the cross and the hateful opposition of sinful persons. The necessity for endurance is linked to the accomplishment of the will of God. This suggests that the measure of endurance is obedience to God. The reception of the fulfillment of the promise is equivalent to receiving the great reward in verse 35; it stands for the final goal of the covenant people of God [11:39-40]. It is the distinctive understanding of the writer that Christians in this life possess the realities of which God has spoken only in the form of promise. The promise is inviolable because God who gave the promise is utterly reliable. The confidence of the Church in that reliability provides a basis for stability in an unstable world. What God has promised is eternal life [9:15]. God's unalterable will to fulfill his promise finds an appropriate response from believers in the stance of endurance.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.          Trace the flow of thought in 10:19-25. Upon what two great realities does the author rest his case [19-21]? Why does Jesus' blood give us this boldness? How do we put this boldness into practice in our daily living? 

 

2.          What three part challenge does the author give [22-25]? How are we to draw near to God? What is a sincere heart in full assurance of faith? What hope are we to hold without wavering? What causes us to waver in this hope? What can we do about this? Why does the author place so much importance upon encouraging one another?

 

3.          What is the connection between 10:19-25 and 10:26 (“for”)? What does it mean to receive the knowledge of the truth [26]? What three things are characteristics of the one who sins willfully?

 

4.          What is the better and lasting possession which has great reward that God has promised? How does the assurance of this possession enable believers to act like the the Hebrews did in verse 34? How should this assurance motivate us to act?

 

5.          In this passage [19-39] look at the characteristics of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul [39]: boldness [19]; draw near [22]; hold fast [23\; consider one another in love [24]; endured [32]; compassion [34]; knowledge of a better possession [34]; promise of eternal salvation [36]; endurance [36]; certainty of Christ's return [37]. Use this as a guide to measure the strength of your own faith.

 

 

References:

The Book of Hebrews, Philip Hughes, Eerdmans.

Hebrews 9-13, William Lane, Word Books.

Hebrews, Leon Morris, EBC, Zondervan.