Jesus Enables Us to Worship, . . . but How?
“by the blood of Jesus” Hebrews 10
The Son as the Superior Sacrifice (10:5-25)
- 10:5-10 – These verses demonstrate the superior sacrifice of Christ. It is Jesus’ body that was prepared by the sovereign plan of God in order that sins may be decisively taken away & believers sanctified (having a relationship to God). The writer of Hebrews puts the words of Psalm 40 on the lips of Jesus (“but a body you have prepared for me” & “behold, I have come to do your will”).
10:11-14 – These verses demonstrate the contrast between the earthly priests and the superior priest, who is Christ. – It is this superior priest who is enthroned in heaven, not standing because there is more to offer; rather he is sitting because his sacrifice is finished. The key to this verse (futility – v. 11) is the cumulative effect of the futility that characterizes the Levitical priestly ministry. There is no decisive effect on those to be sanctified. (‘day by day;’ ‘the same sacrifices;’ ‘which can never take away sins.’). The key to these verses (finality – vv. 12-14) is that Jesus is seated in the presence of God, no priest of the line of Aaron, and as a matter of fact no angel (cf. 1:13), has ever sat down in the presence of God. Remember: sitting next to God indicates equality!
The contrasts are incredible = Jesus “offered” as opposed to the priests “offering;” Jesus’ one sacrifice as opposed to the priests multiple sacrifices; and finally Jesus sat down as opposed to the priests who stand daily. Lane comments, “Jesus sits because his sacrifice requires no repetition. His heavenly session attests that the benefits of his sacrificial death endure perpetually. The sacrificial phase of his priestly ministry is completed” (WBC, 267). Jesus has perfected believers forever, as opposed to the priests and their role that never takes away sins. We are wholly adequate for a relationship with God!
- 10:15-18 – These verses demonstrate the results of Christ’s definitive crosswork; that is, the New Covenant (NC) analogously benefits the believers’ redemption. Believers are now definitively & decisively forgiven, thus resulting in a personal relationship with God. The author of Hebrews concludes his argument with this section (vv. 15-18). His argument that began with 10:1 dealt with a problem; that is, the limited ability of the law to deal with sins. The answer to the problem came in the person of Christ by fulfilling God’s will submissively and obediently, Christ makes his people holy. Christ has perfected for all time those in the process of being made holy & transforms God’s people through a decisive forgiveness of sins.
“The sins of God’s people have been decisively put away; a sin offering is no longer necessary. The basis for speaking about a decisive putting away of sins is the efficacy of the sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross” (WBC, 269). Sins no longer provide an obstacle to a relationship with God; it is enduring and unending. Believers now enjoy unhindered access to God in worship. Now what is the believer to do? Jesus Christ makes a relationship with God possible; in fact, it makes worship to God not only possible, but necessary!
The task of the believer is to act upon these truths in obedience (vv. 22-25).
The author is using this section of exhortation (10:19-25) to address his readers. He is drawing upon the lengthy exposition section (5:1-10:18) of Christ’s high priestly office & sacrifice to motivate an urgency of loyalty to Jesus [connecting the truths concerning Christ & the implications of those truths for the Christian life]. Given the magnitude of Christ’s accomplishment, it is only logical that his readers are motivated to do the “let us,” (vv. 22-25) commands; basically the author is saying, “put their Christian profession into action!”
What is Christ’s accomplishment? What truths can we meditate on?
(1) 7:14-16 – Jesus Christ experienced death, His life was not destroyed and can never be destroyed; therefore 7:25 (we can be saved)
(2) 9:11-12b – Jesus Christ went ‘through’ heaven, into the presence of God ‘by the means of his own blood;’ therefore 9:12c & 9:24c (we can be in the presence of God & have eternal redemption)
(3) 9:26 – Jesus Christ put away sin; therefore 10:10 (we can be sanctified forever)
(4) 10:12-13 – Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice & he sat down; therefore 10:14 (we can be qualified to worship continually)
The Basis for the exhortations (10:19-21):
The address –
The initial phrase “therefore, brethren” = This is an intimate and pastoral admonition to validate one’s faith by acting upon it.
The phrase “having . . .” in verses 19 & 21 are both causal participles and ought to be translated as “since we have.”
Now, what is it that we have? There are two objects – “confidence [authorization]” & “a great priest [in charge of God’s household]”
The object #1 – ‘since we have . . .’
“confidence [authority, or boldness] to enter [have free access] the holy place [the heavenly sanctuary]” = It is possible to approach God in worship at the present time because the heavenly high priest has secured free access to the heavenly sanctuary. Christ’s definitive sacrifice (v. 12) provides the grounds for our entrance to God; that is, the emphasis in 4:14, 6:20, & 9:11 is Christ’s entering; but by contrast, the emphasis in 10:19-20 is our entrance!
The worshiper is emboldened by the work of Christ; that is, Jesus has won us confident entrance to the Divine Presence!
How do we have this ‘boldness’? – “by the blood of Jesus,” = ‘by the means of,’ this is the decisive factor in the authorization of Christians to approach God (cf. 9:12, 24).
What is the ‘new access’?
“by a new and living way” = It is ‘new’ because it replaces the ‘old sacrificial system’ (cf. 10:11-14). – Jesus has opened a path for us, a path unknown & inaccessible to people before the completion of his high priestly work. – It is ‘living’ because it leads to life (cf. 10:15-18).
How do we have this ‘access’? – “through the veil, his flesh” = ‘by the means of,’ This is Christ’s sacrificial death & his ‘going into God’s presence’ on our behalf, making possible our entrance to God’s presence.
The object #2 – ‘since we have . . .’
“an high priest over the house of God” = Christ rules over the household of God (his ministry was over the household of God, his enthronement, acclamation, and worship by angels places him as one who presides over its administration.); thus exercising administration over his own people. This informs us that we are in a sphere of Christ’s activity and he sustains his people (v. 14 & 7:25). It is these two objects that point to authorization and access. They summarize the benefits you and I have as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
The author assumes, therefore, that this basis or foundation is enough to then encourage us toward three exhortations:
Let us draw near (10:22):
The enactment of the New Covenant enables the believer to ‘continually,’ or ‘constantly’ approach God. This is a closeness to God that is unhindered (a significant expression of the new relationship between God and man, the NC). This ‘drawing near to God’ transcends time & space; for it is not just limited to a church worship service. Rather it is a cultivated daily practice of knowing him intimately (cf. prayer & reading of His word).
How do we ‘draw near’? – manner
(1) Sincerely – “with a sincere [real, genuine, loyal] heart” = Christ’s definitive sacrifice (v. 12) makes this possible. In other words, a direct result of Christ’s sacrifice enables us and stirs up in us the relationship of heart-obedience toward God; bringing a heart that is genuinely committed to him.
(2) Faithfully – “in full assurance of faith” = It describes, if you will, the certainty & stability that are created in Christians as a result of the work of Christ; thus making it possible to remain loyal and have a relationship to God. It suggests a firm trust placed in God, who has shown himself faithful in his dealings with his people.
How is our heart prepared? – means
“having our hearts sprinkled [clean]” & “our bodies washed” – These are figurative symbols that point to the greater & more perfect cleansing due to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. 9:13-14). We are clean.
Let us hold fast (10:23):
The author’s use of the present tense here demonstrates that the exhortation to ‘hold on’ is an ongoing call.
The phrase “hold fast,” means to ‘keep a tight grip on,’ ‘keep it from slipping away’ (cf. 2 Thess 2:15); “hold fast the confession of our hope,” means to maintain a firm confidence in the objective gift of salvation God has extended to us on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice (cf. 9:28 – Though Christ died once and dealt with the sins of the people, he will bring complete salvation at his second coming. This is our hope! There is no judgment, rather life with Christ!).
How do we ‘hold fast’? – manner
Unswervingly – “without wavering,” means swerving neither to one side or the other, fixed, stable, steadfast, that which does not bend. It calls believers to remain stable and to affirm its privileged status as the people who have been granted access to God through Christ. It calls believers “to hold onto the Christian hope, which is grounded in the person & work of Christ, without being moved by changing circumstances” (NIVappl, 344).
Let us consider one another (10:24-25):
This indicates a summons for believers to continue caring for one another, ‘pay close attention to,’ or ‘look closely at.’
This is fleshed-out through the stimulation of love, motivation of good works, and the mutual encouragement that the church expresses to one another wherever you are.
“to stimulate one another [εις indicating goal] love and good works,” means exhibiting a practical concern for one another.
The idea of stimulate here is ‘aggressively stirring up the flock to encourage one to good works.’ (it is the opposite of Acts 15:39). We must have a caring response toward others. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another are matters of critical urgency in the life of the Church, especially when exposed to testing and disappointment.
How do we ‘consider one another’? – manner
Not forsaking . . . but encouragement –
“not forsaking our own assembling together” – This means that the discontinuance of common fellowship & worship could be fatal for godliness lived out. The principle of the author here is *not related to church attendance every time the doors are open,* rather a consistent involvement in the life of the church (this is the people!). So the question is, “are you meaningfully engaged in the life of the body on a weekly basis?”
“but encouraging one another” – to ‘come alongside;’ It is important that the entire church body assumes responsibility to watch that no one grows weary! Encouragement & admonition on a daily basis.
Why do we ‘consider one another’? – reason/basis “and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” The author does not use ‘day’ in an eschatological setting (except for his use with the quoting of the NC from Jeremiah). The ‘day’ may simply be referring to the climax of the historical events confronting these believers; that is, the day they fear that they will stand before Nero and be asked to either affirm or renounce their profession. This understanding of ‘day’ probably more closely fits immediate context & context of book as a whole.
Here are some implications for all of us to consider:
(1) For what do I yearn? – Things ‘crowd-out’ God’s Word & love for him, especially this time of year. We yearn for the wrong things in life; so Do I ask myself daily, ‘for what am I yearning today?’ ‘To what are my energies & efforts being drawn?’ Am I like Moses, drawing near to God in a ‘face-to-face’ intimacy crying out to Him, “teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you!” Do I ask myself, ‘how does God fit into my day planner today?’ If we are not careful, such a lifestyle leaves little place for intimacy, for communication, for listening to God. – “We are called to draw near to God on the basis of the completed work of Christ!”
(2) To what am I committed? – When life throws obstacles, opinions, and storms at you, what is your anchor? To what do you tightly grip your hand, your emotions, or your heart? At the moment of temptation, at the moment of frustration, or at the moment of complete & utter loss; Do I find myself resting in God’s goodness, resolve, and faithfulness? Why you ask? For he has promised an inheritance to his children.
(3) With whom will I walk? – “Our associations in life can make a tremendous difference, for good or for ill, in our outlook & our endeavors. . . . Peers can wield heavy influence on our actions, our goals. Thus, for the believer who wishes to hold to the Christian hope, the community of the saints is vital, offering the needed mix of accountability and encouragement. . . . We need others spurring us on toward love and good deeds in a world so bent on self-centeredness and self-gratification” (NIVappl, 352).
Do I ask myself these questions:
To whom in the body of Christ am I giving encouragement this day, or this week by my presence, my actions, or my words? Am I remaining faithful to my association with the body of Christ?
I trust that these four lessons from the book of Hebrews have blessed you as the readers. It is a wonderful thing to meditate upon Jesus Christ; especially during the Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas to all.