Moving forward or shrinking back
Here in Hebrews chapter 10, we find yet another warning (the fourth of five) that strongly admonishes the Jewish recipients to NOT "draw back" from the faith.
I. A Tremendous Word of Welcome (10:19-25)
The author begins by reminding his "brethren" of the wonderful privilege they have because of the New Covenant. He extends a tremendous word of welcome by explaining…
Hold Fast Your Confession
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
1. Access to God (v.19-20)
Under the New Covenant, believers can essentially enter into the Holy of Holies! This Holy place is no longer found in the temple, it is the very presence of God in heaven! We learned last week that Christ is a better Priest because He ministers for us, not in some ornate earthly tabernacle or in some modern state-of-the-art worship facility, but IN HEAVEN. We can therefore, "by the blood of Jesus", enter through the veil into the holy presence of God! The great reality of the New Covenant is that we are not only allowed to come into God's presence, but we are also welcome there!
This great privilege of access into this holy place did not come without a great price.
Jesus had to shed His blood and die to open that door for us. Jesus Himself said, "I am the WAY the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except THROUGH ME" (John 14:6). The good news of the New Covenant is that Jesus did not remain dead, but He rose again so that we now have a "LIVING way". Christ is no longer on the cross; and Christ is no longer in the grave. He "always lives to make intercession" for us!
2. An advocate with God (v.21)
We now have a "High Priest over the house of God". Jesus has entered the Holy place of heaven; and because He is there we can be there. He does what no other priest of Israel even dared to do. He takes others with Him into the Holy of Holies! That is the great reality of the Christian faith, we OURSELVES have access to Almighty God! It is a reality that Judaism, at its brightest and best never dreamed of. The great reality of the New Covenant is that we no longer need a man to mediate for us. Jesus Himself stands to make intercession for us!
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled 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. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
This great reality comes with a great responsibility. If we have learned anything about God in studying the Old Testament Tabernacle it is this – He is HOLY. We have a great responsibility to God, to ourselves, and to our fellow man under the New Covenant.
1. To God (v.22)
"…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
We must draw near with a "TRUE" heart. Not with an empty profession, but in genuine possession of faith in Jesus Christ.
There must be no natural hesitation about approaching God. He has invited us to come. We must approach His presence in reverence without reservation.
Our hearts must be "sprinkled from an evil conscience". The reference to "bodies washed with pure water" speaks of the same truth. We should be spiritually clean. In other words, come to God confessing, not professing (1 John 1:9).
2. To Self (v.23)
We are not only responsible to God, but we are also responsible to ourselves. The writer of Hebrews says that we should, "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering". "Faith" here is a forward-looking word. The Hebrews were in constant danger of going back to Judaism because of all the pressures brought to bear from religion, society, and family. In light of all that the New Covenant offers in Christ, they are admonished to "hold fast…without wavering". Jesus, Who promises us New Covenant blessings, is also faithful to provide them.
3. To Man (v.24-25)
"Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works". One believer will encourage, help, and stimulate another believer to evidence the fruit of a saved life. It is no part of the Christian life to willingly "go it alone". We need people around us encouraging us to be fruitful in our faith. This encouragement is found in fellowship, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching". We are to get together and stir one another up to keep the fires of the Spirit burning brightly in each other's lives.
It seems these days that even Christians only come to church when there's nothing else to do. In these last days, we must come together and resist every pressure that would draw us away from the assembling of God's people. Business pressures, family pressures, social pressures, economic pressures, entertainment pressures, and physical pressures all seem to declare war on going to church Sunday morning. Let us face our great responsibility head on. Having been invited to come into God's presence, we must resist ANYTHING that would draw us away.
The Just Live by Faith
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
This is very similar to the language of Hebrews 6, but in context you can see different circumstances. In Hebrews 6 it was immature Christians who strayed from the path, then defiled the blood of Jesus by turning back to the blood of animals, and so deny the better sacrifice and priesthood of the New Covenant. Here they turn back to willful sin, and so deny the better circumcision of the heart, and the commandments written on our hearts and minds.
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This "willful sin" that the author talks about here is a life altering choice of one who knows the right thing, but prefers the wrong. He goes on to explain this heinous kind of sin in verse 29, "…who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace".
This willful, habitual, and knowledgeable disobedience and refusal to repent is called - apostasy.
We get the word APOSTASY from the Greek word translated "draw back" in verse 38 & 39. It has the meaning of shrinking back from a challenge. A soldier who suits up for battle then abandons the battle line to hide in the brush. This is different from the word translated "fall away" or stray from the path in Hebrews 6:6, but the end result is the same; destruction.
III. A Timely Word of Wisdom (10:32-39)
32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
The author encourages these Hebrews to remember the "great struggle of sufferings" that they faithfully endured for Christ when they first believed. They were made a "spectacle" which has a theatrical application. It's as if these Jewish Christians were put on stage before a jeering crowd because of their faith in Christ. In the midst of this terrible treatment they ministered and shared with the author who was in chains (this is an argument for Pauline authorship). He wants them to remember the passion for Christ that had initially bolstered them to endure severe persecution. "Don't quit now! Just look at what you've been through! Hang in there! The gospel is true, Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God; you have found the Substance of the shadows of your former faith! "
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
This sounds a lot like verse 23 where he admonishes them to "hold fast the confession of your hope without wavering". The author is about to launch into an entire chapter highlighting Old Testament saints who dared to believe in God despite their circumstances and who triumphed gloriously. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, on and on he will tell of men and women whose genuine faith was fruitful even in the face of great tribulation and opposition. The author is saying, "You held on in the past, hang on in the present, and hold on for a glorious future!"
37 "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith, But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." (Habakkuk 2:3, 4) 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
The context of Habakkuk 2 is a soldier standing watch on the rampart of a city. If such a man shrank back and hid the destruction could be for the whole city. In Hebrews 6 we had immature Jewish Christians who turned back from following to their own destruction. In Hebrews 10 the key is verse 25, these are apostates who have forsaken the assembly of Christians, and exhorting, or watching after, and encouraging one another. Verses 32 – 34 recalls a time when they were courageous and endured sufferings, reproaches, and tribulations, both for themselves and for others. How will the Lord find us when he returns, standing on the rampart, or hiding in the brush?
"A little while" for God seems so long for us! Centuries have come and gone since this promise was initially given. But the Spirit says, "Just a little while". In light of eternity, what's a couple of thousand years? And, if the promise of Christ's coming was just "a little while" in the first century, how much closer to that glorious moment are we today? JESUS IS COMING SOON!
The faith that saves us is the same faith keeps us watching and waiting for the Lord's return. And until He returns, we also watch for one another.
The author concludes this section by stating his absolute confidence in his Hebrew brethren, "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition or destruction, but of those who BELIEVE TO THE SAVING OF THE SOUL". This last part is a little misleading being interpreted "saving of the soul", but it is the preserving or possessing what you already have, and distinct from the word used for the redemption of eternal salvation ("SOZO"). But it is also true that others are saved when our continuing faithfulness, gives them evidence of a truly converted life.
So which of these cases is true of us; are we moving forward in the boldness of verse 19, or shrinking back to the destruction of verse 39? The difference is in how dearly we hold to our faith living in it every day, and how faithfully we hold onto each other in the church. The solution for us was in verse 22 and 23; draw near to God and the brethren and you will hold fast to your hope. The just shall live by faith.