Hold Fast Your Confession
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)
In our last study we examined 10:1-18. The first four verses illustrated the truth that the Mosaic Covenant could not provide forgiveness of sins. Verse four said, 'For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.' This is true for us today as well. Every human system of religion and worship falls short of the standard set by God. There is no way we can work our way to Him.
How then, are we to have a relationship with God, and experience forgiveness of sins? The answer, in verses 5-10, is Jesus Christ. He became a man so that as the God-man He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
Finally, in verses 11-18, we were told that Jesus Christ, by providing His body for a one time sacrifice, He 'perfected for all time those who are sanctified' (vs 14). Christ provides forgiveness for everyone that believes in Him as Lord and Savior, and with faith in Him comes cleansing from sin, and the truth that we will become new creatures, changed from the inside out by the Spirit of the living God.
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since (we have) a great priest over the house of God, 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. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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.
Hebrews 10:19-31 is the fourth warning passage in the book of Hebrews. In verses 19-21, the writer summarizes what has just been said in the previous verses. Then, in verses 22-25, he will exhort the reader to live in light of the death of Christ on the cross.
In verse 19, the writer says, 'Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.' The phrase Since therefore...' ties this verse to what he has just said before in verses 1-18.
He calls the Hebrews 'brethren,' identifying the fact that he has a close relationship with them.
He continues, saying that they '...have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.' The writer declares that they have boldness to enter into the very presence of God. One will notice the contrast between this statement and the practice of the old covenant high priests. Remember, under the old covenant only the high priest could enter the Holy Of Holies, and only once per year. But now that the death of Christ has occurred, we have the privilege of coming into the presence of God ourselves. We do not need a priest, or an earthly Holy Of Holies. All we need to do is believe and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The writer said essentially the same thing in 4:16; 'Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.' As believers, we can have confidence that we can enter into the very presence of God.
The key factor in this verse is that we can enter into God's presence only '...by the blood of Jesus.' It is nothing we do, but the death of Christ, which provides access to the Father. And only those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior are allowed access to the presence of God.
The writer elaborates on this truth in verse 20. He says, 'by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.' The stress in this verse is that the death of Christ provided a 'new and living way' (literally 'freshly sacrificed') to the presence of God. It was not available in Moses' day. It was not available in Malachi's day. It is 'new.'
It is interesting to note that even though it is through the blood of Christ that we are given a new way into the presence of God, it is called a 'living way.' Why? Because He rose from the dead. We have already seen that His presence at the right hand of the Father guarantees us our continual access to the Father.
But before He could provide this 'living way,' He first had to die. The writer says that Christ provided the way 'through the veil, that is His flesh.' The 'veil' is a direct comparison to the veil in the Old Testament Holy Of Holies. Just as the high priest had to enter into the presence of God through the earthly veil in the Tabernacle, if we wish to come into the presence of God today, we have to enter through the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only way to God.
In verse 21, the writer emphasizes the second foundational point of his review. He says, 'and since we have a great priest over the house of God.' Not only do we have access to the living God, we also have a high priest. In fact, one cannot exist without the other. We saw this truth in Hebrews chapter four as well (vs 14-16). The stress in Hebrews 4 was that Jesus Christ is superior to any other high priest, and He is over the house of God. All those who truly belong to God are under Jesus Christ. Therefore, the choice is either Christ, or nothing. This truth was also touched upon in Hebrews 3 . As one will recall, the writer said, 'Now Moses was faithful in all His house...but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house...' (vs 5-6). In order to understand the basis of the writer's coming exhortation, we must understand these two facts: Christ is the superior high priest who is over the house of God.
The writer gives us his first exhortation in verse 22, underscoring the fact that as believers we must do more than study doctrine (the teaching of the Bible). Our study must be with the goal to have the Spirit transform our lives as a result of that teaching. The writer says, '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.' The writer is saying, Because we have such a high priest, 'let us draw near.' It is interesting to note how our position and practice are tied together. In verse 19 we learned that we have confidence to enter the Holy Of Holies. But, as the children of God, we are not to be coming into the presence of God every now and again, whenever times get tough. The writer is exhorting us to be continually 'drawing near' to Him, day after day.
How are we to draw near? The answer is '...with a sincere heart... ' The word 'sincere' means 'genuine.' When we draw near to God we must do it with a true, genuine heart. This presupposes what we have examined in the previous verses-the work of Christ. In other words, we cannot draw near to God with our sinful, deceitful hearts unless we have experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ and have been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God.
Next, we must draw near to God '...in full assurance of faith...,' or with the full assurance that faith gives. Hebrews 11 demonstrates the key place that faith has in the lives of believers. The writer says, '...without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.' The reason that it is impossible to please God without faith is because it is impossible to come to God without faith in the finished work of His Son and the revelation He has given in His Word. We must believe that His promises are true, and that He will reward those that seek after Him.
The writer elaborates on this at the end of verse 22; '...having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience....' The 'sprinkling' denotes the application of Christ's blood to our hearts-our consciences. Remember, according to chapter 9 this was the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. Christ's blood can cleanse our inner man the moment we believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, while old covenant sacrifices could not. As a result, we no longer have the evil conscience, the guilt that accompanies sin.
The popular movement today among unbelievers, particularly among those who study the 'psychological sciences' is to free ourselves of guilt. How do they try to do it? Usually they blame someone else for their sin. They claim, 'It's not my fault that I behave this way, it is my parents fault because they did not raise me right.' Or, 'If society was not so rough on me, I would have been a much better person.' What they are doing is dealing with the result instead of the cause. In other words, their goal is to take away all the 'guilty feelings' in hopes that the guilt will go away.
But the truth of the Word of God is that everyone is guilty because we 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23). We can deny it, we can suppress it, we can even try to blame it on someone else, but that does not change the truth. We are all guilty of sinning against a righteous and holy God, and the only way to be absolved of that guilt is to be cleansed in the inner man by the salvation provided by the blood of Christ.
The writer ends verse 22 saying, '...and our bodies washed with pure water.' This phrase refers to what we often call 'sanctification,' meaning 'external cleansing.' In other words, we are not cleansed in the inner man so that we can go on living in sin with our external body. This is the result of true salvation. When we are constantly drawing near to God with a conscience that has been cleansed through the blood of Christ, we will not be living in a way that defiles our outer body. The external cleansing becomes a result of the 'sprinkling' of our sinful hearts.
Again, the stress of verse 22 is that when we experience salvation in Christ, we are cleansed, and have the opportunity to draw near to God, Himself What a privilege! Often, we think that we are bothering God by bringing Him all our little, nitpicky problems. We think, 'I do not want to bother God today. I will wait until I have a major problem, then I will go to Him.' Is that what God commands us to do? No, He commands us to draw near to Him continually. We need to teach this truth to our children. It seems like we, as parents, often say things like 'We go to church because it is important to worship God in His house. Well, that is true, but what is of utmost importance is that we are teaching our children, by word and example, that we have the privilege to draw near to the One who died for us completely and continually.
The writer gives his second exhortation in verse 23; 'Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.' This is an important verse. The writer is addressing the responsibility we have to ourselves, as believers, to be the type of people that God wants us to be. If our lives our to remain stable and secure, we need to 'hold fast.' The picture is similar to that of a person caught in a stormy sea. If that person had something to hold on to that was set in a solid foundation, he would not get thrown around so much by the crashing waves.
In our lives as Christians, we are going to be tossed about by 'waves' time and again. But we are to be holding tight to the 'confession of our hope.' You may ask, 'How can I hold fast to a confession of hope? What is it anyway?' Our hope is the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are to hold fast to what we have agreed to concerning our faith in Him, and that includes His second coming.
How are we to hold onto our hope? The writer instructs us to hold on '...without wavering.' Literally, we are to hold onto our hope, 'without bending.' As we are bashed by the pressures of the world, they try to bend us away from Jesus Christ, and if we are bent away from Him, we loose our stability that we have when we are holding onto Him. Picture a child who can not swim very well holding onto his father's neck as they walk through a crowded swimming pool. As long as the child holds onto his father, everything is fine, but as soon as he lets go, he begins to thrash around and sink. What happened? The child lost the stability that he had when he held onto his father. It is the same for us as believers. We hear things like 'Jesus Christ has not come back yet, so what makes you think He is ever coming?' Or, 'How can you put your trust into someone you can not even see or touch?' These types of remarks may start to bend us, and soon we are like the child who let go of his father's neck--we begin to thrash around and sink.
The reason we hold on is because of what God has promised, and because He is faithful. He has promised that He will completely forgive anyone who believes in the person and work of His Son, and He is completely faithful to fulfill every one of His promises to us. But it is our responsibility to 'hold fast' to the promises of God in His Word. If we do not, we will be bashed, and thrashed around by false doctrine all the days of our lives.
The third area of responsibility we have is to other believers. The writer says, 'and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.' Is it not amazing how complete doctrine is? It affects my relationship with God, it affects my own life, and it affects my relationship with other believers. The writer is saying, 'you should be giving thoughtful consideration to something. How are you going to stimulate other believers?' The writer uses a play on words to encourage the Hebrews. He uses the word 'stimulate,' which, if taken literally means, to 'aggravate, provoke, or irritate.' The reason he does this is because the Hebrews were already stimulating one another to do the wrong things. So the writer is basically saying 'If you are going to stimulate one another, stimulate one another to 'love and good deeds.'
As believers, we are not to be giving thought to the short comings of other believers. We are not to be sitting around thinking and saying things like, 'I think Bill is coming up short in this particular area of his walk. What a failure.' We are to be giving thoughtful consideration to how we can encourage and stimulate Bill 'to love and good deeds.' Often, I have heard comments such as, 'There just isn't enough love among this body of believers.' That is more a reflection on the person who said it than on the body itself. Why? We are to be stimulating others to love. A lack of love and good deeds indicates that we, as believers, are not stimulating one another.
You may say, 'Wait a minute. Galatians 5 says that love is a fruit of the Spirit. How can you tell me to do the Spirit's ministry?' All I know is that the same Spirit who wrote Galatians 5 wrote Hebrews 10. If we do not see love produced in the life of a believer, we need to willingly be used by the Spirit to stimulate that believer to love and good deeds. The Spirit uses believers to encourage one another to submit to the Himself.
In verse 25, the writer contrasts what the Hebrews were doing with what they should be doing. He says, 'not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some... .' One may recall our earlier lesson when we learned that it was not important in what building one worshipped God. Sometimes people use that as an argument against going to church. They say, 'Hebrews tells us that we do not have to go to church because the new covenant is written on our hearts.' It is true that the Law of God is now written on our hearts, but Hebrews does not say we do not have to gather as believers to worship God. Verse 25 communicates the truth that we do need to come together and interact together. If we do not come together, how are we to stimulate one another to good deeds and love?
The Spirit works in our lives in two ways. First, the Spirit works through the Word of God. Secondly, the Spirit works through other believers in our lives. This is why it is important to come together. When we study the Word of God together, the Spirit works in us. Then, when we are done studying, the Spirit works in us when we interact with one another. When someone refuses to interact with other believers, he is actually 'forsaking' his brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the situation that faced the Hebrews. They were turning their backs on each other, and were in danger of returning to the worship systems of their past.
The writer then exhorts the Hebrews to be '...encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.' We do not need to be involved with every single person at the church, but we do need to be involved with a group of believers in a close way, so that we can encourage, and be encouraged. The ultimate motivation is that the 'day' is drawing nearer. What is the day? It is the second coming of Christ. That is to be the focal point of our lives. We are to live in light of the fact that Christ is going to return, realizing that we have a responsibility to draw near to Him, holding fast to what He has given us, and stimulating other believers to love and good works.
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