A Bible Lesson on Hebrews 10:19-39

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

The writer says, “Therefore.” On the basis of the doctrine he has laid down, on the basis of the work of Christ, he urges his readers to take advantage of what has been won for them. He states as fact that believers have an amazing wonderful blood-bought confidence to approach God. Adam and Eve hid from God after the fall. Outside the work of Christ, we are still in the bushes hiding, but by virtue of what Jesus has done, we can come to God without shrinking back. It would be blasphemy if it wasn’t true that in Jesus there is privilege to approach God always in a way no high priest of Israel was allowed to come near even once a year (on the Day of Atonement). Christians come into His very presence in confidence.

20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The way opened by Christ is “new” and “living.” It didn’t exist before the sacrifice of Jesus and it is truly effective and enduring. It lives because Jesus lives. It is provided by His real flesh-and-blood sacrifice on our behalf. He is both perfect Sacrifice for our guilt and perfect Priest.

21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

The sprinkling and washing are both perfect participles. They are done/complete once-for-all and unrepeatable things. They were foreshadowed beautifully in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:25 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.

26 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.

27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Believers are to come with “true”/whole-and-not-mechanical and not-in-pretense-only heart. Only wholly relying on Jesus can our consciences be clear. We’re really guilty and no game-playing with our only Hope could possibly make any sense. He really does cleanse us if we really do throw ourselves wholly and gratefully on Him. The washing of the body is usually understood as a reference to Christian baptism.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hold fast. We don’t save ourselves, He does that. But you and I must persevere to the end in taking Him at His word. The “without wavering” is a phrase describing an upright object not varying at any time from being perfectly vertical. Come what may, real Christian people cannot be blown off vertical. Thankfully, we’re not alone in this.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

The word rendered “stir up” here is an interesting one. It is one usually employed in a bad sense, meaning to provoke or irritate. It means to incite. Its use here suggests that love and good works don’t somehow just happen. They must be vigorously encouraged. The perseverance that is necessary is nurtured in the fellowship of the church, where Christian people quite purposely spur one another on to love and good works.

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

It’s a logical impossibility to stir up each other to love and evident good works if one separates oneself from the church. This has two sides when one fails to participate in this mutual inciting to love and good works. One fails his or her fellow believers, and simultaneously puts oneself into mortal danger. The soldier who walks away from his unit harms both his unit and himself.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

What’s under discussion here is the case of one who deliberately walks away. He’s been part of a redeemed, sheltered and blessed people, and in cold blood decides to walk away. For these Jewish Christian believers, hard times might cause some to think that maybe it would be OK to just go back to the way things were. But the writer wants his readers to understand clearly that to do that is high treason. There is only one hope for our souls, and to walk away is death.

27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

It’s not a choice between the best and a state that is maybe suboptimal but not unacceptable. It’s the choice between life and death. The writer makes that point by an argument from the lesser to the greater.

28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

If the difference between paying attention to the law of Moses and not doing so was deadly, how in the world could it be acceptable to just sort of wander off from the very center of God’s revelation and provision for humanity? It’s not some small thing. Look at the language! To walk away is to trample underfoot the Son of God. This is to treat Him with contempt, to act as He were nothing more than some insect to be stepped on. It is to profane His blood, that is, to treat it as ordinary. The blood of the cross is infinitely precious, being effective for your salvation and my own. It’s the height of insensitivity and arrogance to count that as worthless. To walk away is to “outrage” the Spirit. This is the Spirit who struck dead Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about their property sale and its disposal. Perhaps high treason might be more dangerous?

30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

We know Him. There is no playing dumb here. The readers can’t claim ignorance of the nature of God, they cannot expect Him to ignore apostasy.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

God has mercy on us in Christ. But in the words the Narnia Chronicles, Aslan is no tame domesticated lion. No human being with any sense turns his or her back on mercy. It’s no light thing, in fact it’s “terrible” in the most profound sense of the word. It’s a fearful thing.

The writer has warned his readers. He’s a good pastor and turns now to encourage them. They need both warning and encouragement.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,

These Hebrew Christians have already been through the fire. If they were able to bear that, they can bear what they face now.

33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

They suffered and were publicly mocked. And it seems that some of them have had the experience of voluntarily standing with mistreated brethren.

34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

Stand with people under persecution, and chances are you’ll get the same. But in the words of Saint Boniface some 600 years later, these people had “run towards the roar of the battle.” At that time, they had joy in it. But it seems like they have since been worn down. The writer reminds them of how they had earlier correctly counted their temporal misery of no account compared to the reality of eternity. They need to return to/hold onto that earlier opinion.

35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

There is no comparison: a bit of hardship now followed by eternal blessing or a bit of relief now and eternal misery. Don’t throw away the good! Keep on!

36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;

Relative to eternity, Christ’s return is yet a little while.

38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

This is no time to wander off. There is mercy in throwing oneself on the mercy of Christ and persevering to the end of life. And there is no partial credit here. Live by faith. Carry on. And again, like the good pastor he is, the writer balances warning and exhortation with expression of his confidence in his readers.

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

We have faith, will remain steady, and thereby preserve our souls.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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