We live in a world of soundbites and tweets. There is no escaping that reality. But, if we want to have a relationship with the Lord that stands firm in the midst of storms and trials, we cannot be satisfied with a surface-level understanding of God’s Word. We all face trials, difficulty, pain, uncertainty, and loss. At times we are the subject of slander, gossip, and attack, even in our own local church. What do you do in the face of such things? Well, for one thing, the object of your eternal hope sits on a throne in heaven and he will one day vindicate you. If you are the one slandering, gossiping, or attacking the good name of one of your fellow believers, “Do not be deceived God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). In the meantime, be encouraged, the New Covenant provides you hope for today and for eternity. How do we know this is so?
The book of Hebrews encourages those in Christ with the hope of the New Covenant. Earlier in the letter, the author expounded on the Old Testament sacrificial system. The Levitical priests would stand to offer sacrifices daily to provide an outward, ceremonial cleansing for the Old Covenant people of God, the nation of Israel (Heb. 10:11). The daily sacrifices were required to cover the sins of the people, so they could approach God. The Old Covenant animal sacrifices were never able to provide inward cleansing or permanent heart change. They were commanded by God and offered by faith according to the Mosaic Law. As the people continually brought sacrifices, they were continually reminded of their sins (Heb. 10:2-5). They would need to return with more sacrifices.
The author of Hebrews exhorts believers to, “Draw near to the Lord with a sincere heart” (10:19-22). He begins by explaining why they can draw near (19-20). Jesus is the incarnate, sinless, Son of God. He came to do the Father’s will and the Father’s will was for Jesus to endure the wrath our sins deserved on the cross (Heb. 10:5-10). Jesus endured our punishment. Jesus died our death. By the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, we have been sanctified once for all (Heb. 10:10). Christ has provided inward cleansing and permanent change for those who repent and believe his gospel. Genuine believers have been set apart as God’s own possession (1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law, through his holy life and finished work on the cross. Furthermore, he established the New Covenant through his sacrifice, i.e. his blood (Heb. 10:9b; 1 Cor. 11:25b). Jesus’ sacrifice was offered once for all time and he has sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Heb. 10:12). By Jesus’ one offering he has, “Perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). There is no need for another sacrifice. It is finished (John 19:30). The Lord has judicially declared believers to be righteous, and positionally (our standing in Christ) before God we are holy. The Spirit of God is progressively sanctifying us so we are holy in our conduct. We are being transformed to be more like Christ (Rom. 8:28-30).
The New Covenant established by Jesus’ blood, includes the Lord putting his
Law on our hearts and minds (Heb. 10:16). The Old Covenant was written on
tablets of stone (Exod. 32:15-16). In addition, the New Covenant features
permanent forgiveness of sin. This hope was prophesied in the Old Testament,
which spoke of the New Covenant that would be established by God (Jer.
31:33-34; cf. Heb. 8:10-12).
- When someone repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, his or her
sins are forgiven. God remembers them no more (Heb. 10:17b).
- Since divine forgiveness has been granted through the finished work of
Christ, there is no longer any sacrifice offered (Heb. 10:18). The men of Israel would appear three times annually before the Lord in Jerusalem, where they would offer sacrifices (Exod. 23:14-17). Believers, you didn’t need to bring a blood-sacrifice to approach the Lord.
This brings us to verse 19 and drawing near to the Lord with a true/sincere heart
(19). We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. This was impossible prior to Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Jesus, our Passover has been sacrificed (1 Cor. 5:7b). Jesus’ shed blood which established the New Covenant, has made it possible for us to approach God in the heavenly holy places. The Jewish High Priest would bring blood from an animal sacrifice into the holy of holies, for his own sins and also the unintentional sins of the people, on the Day of Atonement (Heb. 9:7). This was done once per year.
We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way. Our access is new, in that it didn’t exist prior to Christ’s sacrifice. It is living, in that Christ provides new life through his sacrifice. Jesus opened a new and living way, through the curtain, that is, through his flesh (20). The Jewish High Priest would pass through the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies once per year to
appear before God. He represented the entire nation of Israel. Jesus has made it possible for us as believers to enter the heavenly holy of holies to approach the Father’s throne of grace, and he has done so through the sacrifice of his flesh on the cross. We pass through Christ alone to appear before God the Father. We enter the presence of God through Christ. His redemptive work has made it possible for us to be a part of the New
Covenant and have access to God.
We have confidence to draw near to God by the blood of Jesus. We have confidence to draw near to God because we have Jesus as our great priest (21). “Great priest “would be an alternate way of speaking of the Lord Jesus as our High Priest (cf. Heb. 4:14-16). Since Jesus is our High Priest we can, “Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The Jewish High Priest represented the Old Covenant people before God (Heb. 5:1-4). Jesus our great priest represents the New Covenant people before God (Heb. 4:14-5:10). Jesus represents every believer before the Father. He presented the offering, his own body, which has
provided forgiveness of all our sins and has sanctified us forever. He also intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 7:25), which provides us assurance of our salvation.
Jesus rules over God’s house (Heb. 3:4-6). We are God’s house, his redeemed, chosen people (Heb. 3:6). Since, Jesus is the one who redeemed us, represents us before God, and rules over us – we have confidence to approach the Father’s throne of grace.
The author now urges New Covenant Christians to draw near with a true/sincere heart
in full assurance of faith (22). Jesus redeemed us for the Father. Jesus represents us
before the Father. Jesus rules over us on behalf of the Father. Our hearts have been sprinkled clean and our bodies washed (22b). This is clearly New Covenant prophecy fulfilled. In Ezekiel 36 the Lord promises,
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:25–27). In this prophecy the Lord promised divine cleaning of his people via clean water, which would result in being made clean from all uncleannesses. The Spirit of
God would indwell his people and they would receive a new spirit (born again)
and a new heart. Hebrews 10:22 details the fulfillment of these New Covenant
Moses sprinkled Israel with the blood of an animal sacrifice to ratify the Old Covenant (Exod. 24:3-8; cf. Heb. 9:18-22). When you and I placed our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ our hearts were sprinkled clean and our bodies were washed with pure water. The Holy Spirit affected this total cleansing (inward and outward), which is permanent. This is what Paul was speaking of in Ephesians 5:25-27,
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” When you believed the gospel, the Holy Spirit cleansed you (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11).
Notice the author of Hebrews doesn’t list who we should draw near to. But, the One we are to draw near to was made clear in the letter itself (Heb. 4:16; 7:25; 11:6). We are to draw to the Father with sincere hearts because been given new hearts, not of stone but of flesh (Ezek. 36:25-27; Jer. 31:33) through Christ and the New Covenant he has established in his blood (1 Cor. 11:25). We are to approach in full assurance of faith because of what Christ’s finished redemptive work has accomplished for us.
- Brothers and sisters, you have a new heart sprinkled clean from an evil
conscience and you have been washed clean of your sin. You have a
new spirit and the Holy Spirit dwelling within you.
- You may approach the Lord at any moment because Jesus has opened a
new and living way for you through his sacrifice.
- When you feel as though you are unworthy to pray to God or as though
he doesn’t want to be bothered with you, Christian, you are a part of
the New Covenant and the grand, precious promises found in it.
The author of Hebrews urges believers to, “Hold fast to the confession of your hope without wavering” (23).Every believer will face trouble in this earthly life. The Lord Jesus has told the disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). He is omniscient. The Lord knows what we will face. But, hear the rest of verse 33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This world system that is operating under the authority of Satan is opposed to God and to his people. There are continual attempts to discourage God’s people from obeying his commands and to malign them through direct and indirect attacks. God’s Word exhorts us as believers to hold fast to our faith in the gospel, which we confessed publicly before the church (Rom. 10:9; Col. 1:21-23; Matt. 28:19-20). True believers will hold fast to the confession of their hope in Christ, even in the face of troubles in this earthly life. In fact, God uses those things to produce Christ-like virtues and character in our lives (Rom. 5:1-5).
False teaching seeks to lead believers away from their confession of hope in Christ. Pastors are given the responsibility to exercise oversight in the church God has given
them to shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-3; Acts 20:26-32). They are to protect the flock from false teachers/teaching and also to exhort their local church with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). Believers are to know sound doctrine from God’s Word and reject false doctrine (Jude 3-4; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Temptation to sin and immorality will also challenge a believer’s faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an inward and outward battle. The sin nature that still resides within us craves what is contrary to God’s Word and will (Rom. 7:15-8:1). There are also the outward temptations found in the world (Eph. 2:1-3). We are to resist those temptations (Eph. 6:13-14; Jas. 4:7-8).
The author of Hebrews urges believers to, “Consider how to stir one another up to love and good works” (24-25). How do we encourage love and good works among our brothers and sisters in our local church (24)? The Greek word translated here, “Let us consider” has the sense according to BDAG, “to look at in a reflective manner, consider, contemplate.” This is another way of saying that we are to encourage biblical obedience and growth in Christian maturity (2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Thess. 1:2-7). How can we accomplish this? Prayer. Biblical accountability. Correction and rebuke.
- Exhortation to biblical obedience. Notes of encouragement (email, texts, written
notes/cards). You may wonder why I emphasized encouraging your brothers
and sisters in your local church. Look at verse 25, “Do not neglect the assembling of yourselves together as some are in the habit of doing” (25).
- Contextually and grammatically, not forsaking the assembling (a participle; NMP PAPtcp) of yourselves together supports the main idea of considering (main verb; 1P PAS) how to stir one another up to love and good works. You don’t forsake gathering together with your own local church because that is the body of believers you have covenanted together with to carry out the one-another commands of the New Testament. Your local church is who you are to consider how to stir up to love and good works.
- You can’t consider how to stir up your fellow believers in your local church if you aren’t there consistently and they can’t do the same for you if you aren’t there consistently. Even in the first century AD, less than 60 years after the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), believers were neglecting the spiritually essential role of local church involvement. It was detrimental to them as it is to us. This is why he exhorts them:
- Draw near to the Lord with a true/sincere heart.
- Hold fast the confession of your hope.
- Consider how to stir one another up to love and good works (cf. Heb.
- In fact, as the return of Christ for his Church approaches, believers should meet together as a local church to encourage one another all the more (25b). Jesus is going to return (Heb. 9:28). His return is imminent; meaning there is no prophetic event that must occur prior to the return of Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; John 14:1-3).
So, don’t neglect the importance of consistent involvement in your local church. It is necessary for your spiritual well-being and theirs. Your local church is one of the primary means of God growing you spiritually. The body was created with members whose presence and ministry is necessary for the well-being of the rest of the body (Eph.