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Hebrews

Confidence

Hebrews  10

Note: for reasons of space the first section of Hebrews 10 is omitted. It is essentially a continuation of the previous section, and the reader is referred to that lesson.

Paul now comes to the point of his lesson – and gives us an outline of what we should be doing.

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”£ and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”£ 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.

38 But my righteous one£ will live by faith.

And if he shrinks back,

I will not be pleased with him.ӣ

39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

The Open Door

It is often said among Christians that “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” It is usually said when the opportunities in life seem to have vanished. It can also be said of this passage – except in this instance God has closed the window and thrown the door wide open.

The Way is open

“I am the way, the truth, the life,” said Jesus. Paul portrays that idea here as he pictures Christ’s body as being a veil. Remember the Christmas carol words: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity?” In that body was God veiled from us; by the sacrifice of that body the veil was split open – just as the symbolic version, the veil in the Temple, was split too. Such a split could only have been made (remember our symbolism from the last lesson) with the blood of the perfect sacrifice. It is therefore clear (I hope) how Jesus can say that unless you eat his body and drink his blood, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. By this he refers to the Lord’s Supper, of course. As the Old Testament had its symbolism, so does the New Testament.

Remember the old way: the High Priest alone goes behind that veil. But our High Priest goes through the veil, splitting it. We can now see what God had behind that veil. We see the mercy seat beneath the glory of God. Because we can see ahead, we have confidence to go ahead. (When lost in the wilderness it is extremely helpful to have a compass, a topographic map of the area and a pair of binoculars.)

This all sounds rather symbolic and fuzzy. Let me give you an example. Suppose you need a new car. You go down to the dealership, hesitant and worried about being cheated. How do you know if you got a good deal? Would the sales manager have signed on your first offer? It’s a nervous thing, because of what you don’t know.

But now suppose your rich uncle tells you, “Order whatever car you want. I’ll pay for it.” Now your fears subside! Christ has removed the uncertainty, the fear of what you don’t know. So, then, what should we do about it?

Draw near to God

Have you ever wanted to get closer to God – and wondered why it isn’t happening? Paul gives us four keys to drawing nearer to God:

  • A sincere heart is first. If you are in church either to profit monetarily or to cover you bets in the world, God knows – and you will be far from him.
  • True faith is next. We often say that we walk by faith – but do we? Do we stick our necks out and act like God will provide, or do we just wait until he does provide?
  • Cleanliness – in the spiritual sense – is next. On the outside this is shown by baptism. On the inside, it’s a clear conscience, purified by the forgiveness that only God can give.
  • Finally, there is hope. Is life just a parade ending in a cemetery? Or is it a procession to heaven? Your attitude; your altitude.
Draw near to each other

As often as we stress time of prayer, time of being alone with God – the world hates the time we give to him in solitude – we must also stress the time with each other. Why does Paul tell us to do this?

  • First, so we can spur each other on. See the inner and outer lives of Christians here. We are to spur each other on to love (inner) and then to good deeds (outer). Some think it begging when we ask the congregation to support some great project for Christ. Isn’t it also encouraging us to do what we should be doing?
  • To do this, we must meet together! Even in this electronic age, face to face is still the preference of real human beings.
  • Finally, we must encourage each other. When times get tough, when things are sad, we need our Christian brothers and sisters with us.

Serious Business

Does it sound strange that Paul next breaks into warning? It is not. There will always be those who decide that since grace covers sin it would be a good thing to have more sin in their lives. Here is a cogent answer to that argument.

Greater knowledge, greater responsibility

Look at it this way. Suppose you are hired to look after a very sick, elderly lady. She cannot get out of bed; her eyes do not permit her to read the labels on the prescription bottles. The doctor leaves you with a bottle of pain killer for her. This particular day she is in a great deal of pain. You decide (without asking the doctor) to give her twice the usual dosage. Unfortunately, that kills her.

Here’s the first question: did you just commit murder? Well, in some degree or other, you did. But the circumstances make it clear that this action, while you knew better, does not rise to first degree murder.

But suppose the doctor is there, and he gives her twice the dose. Now, do you suppose the legal system will charge him the same way? I think not. They would argue that his greater knowledge means that his act is much more heinous. This might indeed be first degree murder.

The same is true in our dealing with the new covenant. The argument goes something like this:

  • Look, in the old covenant, if two or three people saw you do it, you got stoned to death.
  • But now, with the coming of Christ, our knowledge of what God wants is greatly increased.
  • Therefore, because of our greater knowledge, the punishment we deserve for deliberately flouting his word is all the greater.

Note the criterion given: “deliberately keeps on sinning.”

How God sees it

Sometimes it helps to know just what God might be upset about. We think of him so often as a cosmic grandfather who loves his grandchildren that we forget about the righteous Jehovah.

  • It says those who do this trample the Son of God underfoot. The expression is an old one; it means to throw out something as junk, work it into the ground and walk on it. It means to treat the Cross as if it were nothing of importance.
  • Also, these people treat the blood of Christ as unholy. The phrase means to treat Christ’s blood as commonplace, of no more value than anything else around.
  • Finally, they insult the Holy Spirit. If you disdain a gift, you insult the giver, don’t you?

These are the ones who have taken the name of Christ, consider themselves saved, and then act as if nothing had changed. They deliberately continue to sin.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you are living with your girl friend, enjoying life. You become a Christian, but decide that God couldn’t really mean anything by condemning fornication. You go on just as you did before. That’s the kind of person we’re talking about.[1]

God’s response

OK, God doesn’t like it. What’s he going to do about it?

  • Remember who you’re dealing with. He is completely righteous, and therefore is able to judge with justice. You cannot plead with him (as you would with me) that he is a sinner too.
  • Remember also that God judges his people first. Indeed, the Old Testament has a regulation that if your adult children blaspheme God by their conduct, you must bring them to justice – and have them stoned to death.
  • Paul reminds us: God is merciful to those who are obedient – but you really don’t want him angry at you.

What to do

Having told us of the greatness of the new way, and warned us about despising the sacrifice of Christ, Paul now tells us what we should do about it.

Remember

You did not get to your present state all in one day. Therefore, you have memories which may help:

  • Remember that you have a lot invested in this – spiritually. It seemed good to you at the time; what’s changed? Not God!
  • Remember that you sympathized with others who are Christians. You’ve made it public – you believe, and you’re willing to pay the price.
  • Remember also that your faith cost you in material things – and that you gladly paid the price, for you thought it grand that you were considered worthy to suffer for the name.

Let your memories refresh your thinking.

Persevere in confidence

Why?

  • First, because God will reward your confidence in him. He is seeking people to trust him.
  • This is an active perseverance, not a passive waiting. While you’re here, do the work you are called to do. Let God worry about the results.
  • If you do the will of God, you will receive what God has promised. No one else can deliver such great things.
The just shall live by faith

It is a phrase that Paul uses frequently. What does it mean?

  • First, it means there is no sense trying to live by law – Old Testament or that of our own creation. That’s not the way to life.
  • Consider, too, that the law is a cold thing, full of if and but. Faith is a living thing, full of the Spirit.
  • It is also Paul’s way of bringing up his next topic – faith. Which we shall approach in the next lesson.

[1] Of course, in this day, how such a person would know that this was a sin is indeed problematic. The point is occasionally mentioned in youth groups, but I have not heard it from the pulpit in years. It would seem to me reasonable to assume that God would be a little more gracious to the ignorant in such a case.

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