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9 The New Worshippers
( Hebrews 10 )
The tenth chapter of the Epistle sets forth the way in which the believer has been fitted for heaven. His conscience is purged (verses 1-18), so that he can now enter into the holiest in spirit (verses 19-22), hold fast on his way through this world without wavering or turning back (verses 23-31), face persecution (verses 32-34), and tread the path of faith (verses 35-39).
The Purged Conscience
(Vv. 1-4). In Hebrews 9 we have learnt that a place in heaven is secured for every believer, not by anything the believer has done, but wholly through the work of Christ and the position He occupies before the face of God. In Hebrews 10 we learn how the same work is applied to the believer's conscience, in order that even now he may enjoy and, in spirit, enter this new place. To find our home with Christ in heaven itself, it is necessary to have a purged conscience. The first eighteen verses of Hebrews 10 plainly set forth how this purged conscience is secured.
In three passages, in Hebrews 9 and 10, the apostle speaks of a “perfect” or “purged” conscience. In Heb_9:9 he definitely states that the Jewish sacrifices could not make the offerer perfect as to the conscience. Again, in Heb_9:14 we read of the perfect offering of Christ purging the conscience from dead works so that the believer is set free to worship the living God. Lastly, in Heb_10:2 we are told that the worshipper who has a purged conscience is one that has no more conscience of sins. He who has a conscience of sins lives in the dread that God will one day bring him into judgment on account of his sins, and therefore cannot enjoy peace with God. To have no more conscience of sins implies that this dread of judgment is removed by seeing that God has dealt with all the sins of the believer.
Nevertheless, though God will never bring the believer into judgment for his sins, as a Father He may have to deal in chastening if, as children, we sin ( Heb_12:5-11 ). A purged conscience does not therefore imply that we never sin, or that we never have the consciousness of failure, either past or present, but it does imply that all dread of a future judgment on account of our sins is entirely removed. Thus a purged conscience is not to be confounded with what we speak of as a good conscience. If, by reason of careless walk, a true believer fails, his conscience will be surely troubled, and only by confession to God will he regain a good conscience. This, however, does not touch the question of the eternal forgiveness of his sins which gives him a purged conscience.
Under the law it was impossible to obtain a “perfect” or “purged” conscience. At most the sacrifices could only give temporary relief. Each fresh sin called for a fresh sacrifice. Had the sacrifices given a purged conscience they would not have been repeated, The law showed, indeed, that a sacrifice was needed to take away sins, but it was only a shadow of good things to come; it was not the substance. The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins.
How, then, is a purged conscience obtained? The following verses answer this question by bringing before us three great truths:
First, the will of God (verses 5-10);
Secondly, the work of Christ (verses 11-14);
Thirdly, the witness of the Spirit (verses 15-18).
(Vv. 5-7). The will of God was written in the volume of the book. This clearly is not the volume of Scripture, for this reference to the volume of the book forms part of the quotation from Psalm 40 . It would seem to be a figurative reference to the eternal counsels of God. Coming into the world, the Lord says, He has come to do the will of God. Sacrifice and offerings under the law could not carry out God's will. A body had to be prepared for the Lord, that in accord with the counsels of God He might accomplish the will of God.
(Vv. 8, 9). What the Lord said when He came into the world had already been said “above” in heaven. To carry out the will of God necessitated taking away the first covenant to establish the second.
(V. 10). In the tenth verse we are definitely told what the will of God is. There we read, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It is in vain and needless to look within in the endeavour to find in our faith, our repentance, our experiences or our feelings that which will bring relief or peace to the burdened conscience. This Scripture so blessedly takes our thoughts entirely away from ourselves and occupies us with the will of God and the work of Christ. God discovers to us the blessed secret of His counsels that it is His will to have us divested of every spot of sin, not through anything we have done or can do, but entirely through the work of another, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Vv. 11-14). These verses now bring before us in greater detail the work of Christ whereby the will of God is carried out. These verses are wholly concerned with Christ and His work. We have no part in this work except the sins which necessitated it. We must keep out our feelings and our experiences, and in simple faith stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
Verse 11 brings before us the utter hopelessness of Jewish sacrifices. This verse covers a period of fifteen hundred years and with one comprehensive sweep takes in every Jewish priest, all the days of their never-ending works, with the innumerable sacrifices that they offered. Then we are told that this vast parade of human energy, with the rivers of blood that flowed from Jewish altars, “can never take away sins.”
Having thus in one brief verse dismissed the whole Jewish system, the apostle in verse 12 presents in contrast the mighty work of Christ. “This Man”, Christ, in contrast with all the Jewish priests, “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins” - in contrast with all the Jewish sacrifices - “for ever sat down on the right hand of God”, in contrast with the priests who were ever standing, never having finished their work.
The blessedness of the truth of this verse is somewhat obscured by the faulty rendering of the Authorised Version. The comma, coming after the words “for ever”, links these words with the one sacrifice. Properly, the comma should come after the word “sin”, leaving the words “for ever” rightly connected with Christ having sat down at the right hand of God. Christ might have done one work for ever, meaning He would never undertake the work again, and yet that work would not be finished. If, however, He has sat down “for ever”, or “in perpetuity” (N.Tn.), it is the everlasting proof that His work is finished. So far as the work of atonement is concerned, He will never have to rise up. Moreover, as He has sat down at the right hand of God, we know that His work is an accepted work.
The two verses that follow set forth the result of Christ having sat down in perpetuity, both for His enemies and for believers. For His enemies it involves judgment; His work having been rejected, there is nothing more to be done to put away sins. “Henceforth” Christ is waiting “till His enemies be made His footstool”.
As to the sanctified, Christ, as risen and glorified, is perfected; and by His work He has perfected the believer. We wait to receive our glorified bodies, but our souls have been perfectly cleansed from sins in the sight of God by the work of Christ. As one has said, “The Father and the Son could do no more for our sins than is already accomplished in the sacrifice of Jesus, and revealed to our faith in the written Word.” Not only has Christ sat down for ever, but believers are sanctified for ever. If Christ has sat down in perpetuity, then believers are perfected in perpetuity.
(Vv. 15-18). The passage has presented the will of God as the source of our blessing, and the work of Christ as the efficacious means by which the blessing is secured. Now the apostle presents the witness of the Spirit as the One who brings to us the knowledge of the truth with divine authority, so that it may be possessed with divine certainty. In other Scriptures we read of the witness of the Spirit in us ( Rom_8:16 ); here it is the witness of the Spirit to us. The witness “to us” is what the Spirit has said in Scripture, as we read, “after that He had said before”. Then follows the quotation from Jer_31:34 , already quoted in Hebrews 8 , to present the terms of the new covenant. Here the quotation is repeated to prove that the efficacy of the work of Christ is such that God can say of believers, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” God does not say, “Their sins and iniquities I will not remember”, but “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” The simple statement that God would not remember our sins might imply that He passed them over. But when God says they will be remembered “no more”, it implies that they have all been remembered, confessed, borne and dealt with in judgment. As they have been dealt with, God can righteously say they will be remembered “no more”.
The New Worshippers
(Vv. 19-22). The truth of the purged conscience prepares the way for worship. Already the apostle has spoken of the new sacrifice and the new sanctuary; now he presents the new worshipper. In contrast with Judaism, in which the offerer had no access to the holiest, in Christianity the believer has “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus”. Provision has been made to remove all that would hinder our drawing nigh to God as worshippers. Sins have been met by the blood of Jesus. Christ, having taken flesh and become Man, has opened a living way for men to enter the holiest. Our infirmities are met by our High Priest. Neither the sins we have committed, the bodies we are in, nor the infirmities with which we are encompassed, can hinder the believer from entering in spirit within the veil, into heaven itself.
Let us then, says the apostle, draw near to God with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having the affections set free from a condemning conscience and our bodies set apart from every defiling practice.
Here we may well pause and ask ourselves, How much do we know of this drawing near, of entering within the veil? We may, indeed, know something of that other exhortation of which the apostle speaks in Hebrews 4 , when he says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”. That is fleeing to a refuge to escape the storms of life: this is turning to our home to bask in the sunshine of love. There is a vast difference between a refuge and a home. A refuge is a place to which we flee for a shelter in the time of storm. A home is a place where our affections find their rest. We all know Christ as a refuge to whom we flee in our troubles, but how little we know Him as the home of our affections. Christ is indeed “an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest . . . a great rock in a weary land” ( Isa_32:2 ). And blessed indeed, as we pass through this world with its withering blasts, its barrenness and weariness, to have One to whom we can turn for shelter and relief. Let us, however, remember that if we only flee to Christ as a shelter in the time of storm, when the storm is passed we shall be in danger of leaving Him. Alas! this is what happens too often with each one of us. We turn to Him in the storm; we neglect Him in the calm. But if our affections are drawn to Him where He is, if we see that His place is our place in heaven itself, then the place where He is will become the home of our affections, where we can have fellowship with Jesus in a scene on which no shadow of death will ever fall, and where all tears are wiped away.
The Path and its Dangers
(Vv. 23-25). The more we realise and use our privilege of drawing near to God within the veil, the better we shall be able to face the path through the wilderness with its dangers. Thus the exhortation, “Let us draw near”, is followed by the exhortation, “Let us hold fast the confession of the hope” (N.Tn.). There is a bright hope set before us, and He that has given the promise of the hope will be faithful to His word. But there is the danger of giving up “the confession” of the hope by settling down in this world. It is only as we look to Him who is faithful that we shall be able to hold fast without wavering.
Moreover, in the midst of sorrows, difficulties and dangers we shall need the mutual support of one another. We may at times be tested by isolation, but practical fellowship is God's way for His people. Let us then consider one another and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. The vanity and self-sufficiency of the flesh may esteem the help of others of little value; but a true sense of our own nothingness will lead us, not only to look first, and above all, to the One who is faithful, but also to value the support of our brethren. And those we value we shall consider, seeking to draw out the love we need and the practical help of their good works. Alas! how easily the flesh, carried away by a little bit of spite, can indulge its spleen to provoke a brother by deliberately and needlessly saying what is known to be offensive. Let us rather seek to provoke to love by showing love.
None can neglect the gathering together of God's people without loss. To forsake the gatherings of the saints is a sure sign of waning affection. Oftentimes a course of habitual neglect of the meetings precedes leaving an assembly to turn back to the world or worldly religion. As “the day” - the day of glory - approaches, the difficulties will increase, making it all the more needful that we should seek the support of one another and not neglect the assembling together of the saints.
(Vv. 26-31). The apostle has considered the danger of letting go our hope, slighting one another and forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. Now he warns us of the more serious danger of apostasy that assails the Christian profession. The wilful sin is apostatising from the Christian faith. The apostle is not speaking of a backslider who may go back into the world, like Demas, of whom we read in another epistle. Such an one can be recovered. The apostate not only gives up Christianity, but he takes up some human religion, after having professed Christianity. He practically says, “I have tried Christianity, but I find Judaism, or Buddhism, or some other religion, better.” For such there is no more sacrifice for sin, only a fearful looking for of judgment. Such an one treats with contempt the Son of God, despises the sacrifice of Christ and insults the Spirit of grace.
The apostate must be left to God. It is not for us to take vengeance. God cannot trust us with vengeance. We are definitely told that vengeance belongs to the Lord. The apostate will find that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(Vv. 32-34). Further, the apostle warns us not to be discouraged by sufferings, reproaches and afflictions. There is the ever present danger of shrinking from the path of faith because of the reproach and suffering entailed. These believers had begun well. Having been enlightened by the truth, they at once found themselves in conflict for the truth. But in that conflict they endured, and whole-heartedly associated with those who were suffering for Christ's Name. They even took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing they had in heaven a better and enduring substance.
(Vv. 35-39). Such confidence will have its bright reward, but in the meantime we need patience to submit to the will of God while waiting to receive the promise. The waiting time is but a little while, then “He that shall come will come and will not tarry.” Until He comes, the path of the believer is a path of faith. It ever has been, for in days of old it was as true as it is today that, according to the words of the prophet Habakkuk, “The just shall live by faith.”
God will have no pleasure in the one who draws back. The apostate draws back to perdition; but of those to whom the apostle is writing, he can with confidence say, “We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30