The attentive reader cannot but notice the thoroughness with which this subject is treated in these chapters. It is a matter of profound importance, basic as regards any true knowledge of God, and as to approaching the presence of God. Law could not give any such revelation. "For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." A shadow is simply an evidence of something substantial. Verse 34 of our chapter speaks of the "better and enduring substance." This of course is what the law foreshadowed: the two were certainly not one and the same, nor is the shadow of any strength whatever to the substance. The sacrifices provided under law were but part of the shadow: they could never accomplish the redemption of which they were typical; and those who approached on that basis could find no real purging of conscience, no standing in perfection before God. For it should be evident that the sacrifice must be perfection itself if it is to bring perfection of blessing. And if it has done so, then the recipients of it "have no more conscience of sins:" a perfect sacrifice is complete in reference to accomplishing the purging of guilt, and it makes perfect those who approach God on this basis.
"But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." The repetition of the offering only proved that the question of sins was not yet settled. Like a great debt owed, it was never reduced by the paying of the interest year by year. Each year thus only brought to remembrance the fact that sins had not yet actually been taken away. The blood of animals could not possibly accomplish such a result.
"Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I am come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Thy will, O God." This quotation is from Psalms 40:1-17, rightly called "the burnt offering Psalm." The Old Testament itself bore clearest witness to the fact that animal sacrifices were of no real value in the eves of God, and this Psalm is as the light breaking through the mist to declare that at least Someone would take the place of all such offerings. "A body hast Thou prepared Me" is the way in which the Spirit of God interprets His own expression in the Psalm, "ears hast Thou digged for Me." Does this not rightly imply that He would take the lowly place of the Servant, utterly obedient to the Father's will, ears opened to hear His Word? The same is implied in His body prepared for Him. Rather than in the form of God commanding and ordering all things according to His own will, He takes the form of a Servant, assuming the limitation of a human body, in complete subjection to the will of God. On earth, where not one had actually done the will of God, here was One Who came for that purpose, to accomplish that will in perfection. Blessed, wondrous sight! No doubt the "body prepared" is also an advance upon the thought of "ears digged," showing that the Psalmist's expression could be fulfilled only by means of incarnation.
But the apostle in verses 8 and 9 repeats this quotation with the object of showing that "the first" must be taken away. in order that "the second" be established. The law itself bore witness to the fact that its own terms were unsatisfactory, and therefore that it must be set aside in favor of One who would do the will of God.
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Sacrifices under law sanctified momentarily, that is outwardly; but of permanent value it gave none. The will of God accomplished by the offering of the Lord Jesus, brings with it a permanent sanctification, a setting apart to God of every redeemed soul, for eternity. This sanctification is positional, that is it sets the believer in a separated position, as having recognized that great public sacrifice which separates between believers and unbelievers publicly. "The sanctification of the Spirit" applies of course to all believers also. but this involves the Spirit's inward work in souls as separating them from those who have not the Spirit. This is internal, the former external.
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." The fact that the priests in Israel stood continually in performing an unending round of service, indicated that their work was never done. The tabernacle had no seat, except the mercyseat in the holiest of all, which could never be approached except by the high priest once each year, to sprinkle blood upon it. Is all this ritual not a designed lesson to mankind that the most unwearying labor could never accomplish the least iota of eternal blessing.
But the entire question is answered in marvelous fulness and perfection by the one sacrifice of our holy Lord, God's great High Priest. Having accomplished expiation for sins in this one great work, He sits down in perpetuity on the right hand of God, in the holiest of all, upon the very throne which He had propitiated, having perfectly done the will of God.
The perfection in verse 14 is explained for us clearly. It is certainly not perfection in a man's moral character of which the apostle speaks, but perfection of blessing accomplished on behalf of those who are sanctified, that is, every believer. The sacrifice being perfect, has perfect results, giving a position of perfection to the believer. The same work that sanctifies or sets apart, is the work that provides perfection for all who are sanctified.
"Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us, for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their mindswill I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." We have first seen the will of God, followed by the work of the Son, and now in close connection is the witness of the Spirit. Let us observe however that it is not the witness within the believer that is here spoken of. 1 John 5:10 does speak of the Spirit of God within the believer witnessing to his possession of eternal life. But here in Hebrews 10:1-39 the witness of the Spirit is rather the Old Testament Scripture (Jeremiah 31:1-40) which had been long before dictated by the Spirit of God and therefore of course a conclusive witness to the Jew. Under the terms of this covenant, the Spirit of God had pledged all inward work in men's hearts and minds (that of the new birth), but also a complete remission of sins. This being so, then the Old Testament itself indicated that offerings for sin would cease. This is inescapable. Had the Jews even considered so evident a fact laid down in their own Scriptures?
It may be remarked also that God in Divine government put an end to Israel's offerings perforce, following the sacrifice of Christ; for the Jews lost their city in A.D. 70, and have never had possession of the temple area of Jerusalem until very recently (June, 1967). They well know that this is the only place in which their sacrifices are allowed to be offered; and we may well wonder how soon the intensity of their desire to restore their worship of old will overcome their fear of Arab and world pressures, to such an extent as to replace the present "Dome of the Rock" with a Jewish temple. But such an attempt will be of short-lived duration: for idolatry will supplant the worship of Jehovah, and the Great tribulation fall in dreadful ferocity upon the unhappy nation. Later on, when they are restored to blessing in the millennium, through the gracious intervention of their own Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, God will order again the sacrificing of animals, as Ezekiel shows us, but not "for sins." They will be rather a remembrance of the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and of sins fully put away (Ezekiel 40:39; Ezekiel 40:43; Ezekiel 43:18-27).
The question of sin now settled, verse 19 proceeds to encourage the believer in those privileges proper to him. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." How infinitely marvelous a contrast to Judaism! For law sternly forbad entry into the holiest. God dwelt in thick darkness, and none dare approach. But the saint of God today is called to do so with calm, holy boldness, having fullest confidence in the blood of Jesus, which gives perfect title there, in the immediate presence of God.
The way into the holiest is both "new," accomplished by the death of Christ, and "living," that is not in any sense formal, but vital and eternal. Moreover, He has consecrated it: no service of consecration is left to man at all. The veil, separating between the two holy places is here interpreted for us, "that is to say, His flesh." His perfect Manhood was actually an absolute barrier to man's entrance into God's presence, for in that blessed Manhood of Christ God had demonstrated that only perfection was satisfactory to Him. But the death of Christ - the rending of the veil from the top to bottom - is the wondrous work that opens the way into God's presence for sinners.
But He is also a High Priest over the house of God, One Whose mediation is perfection itself, and because of Whom the believer is gladly welcomed. Thus we observe a threefold cord of assured blessing to the believer, all centered in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, - the blood, the rent veil, and the High Priest. We have before seen too that not only does He have authority over God's house: He is Son over His house.
Such being the case, it is but right that we should draw near, but certainly with a true heart. How could we dare stoop to deceit in connection with those things in which God's perfect truth and love have been so clearly manifested for our sake? "Full assurance of faith" too is to be our attitude in drawing near, - no unholy familiarity or unseemly forwardness, yet no terror or shrinking; rather a calm, holy decision of faith. The "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience" would speak of the Word of God having application to the heart and conscience by the new birth. It is the sprinkling spoken of in Ezekiel 36:25. "Our bodies washed with pure water" on the other hand would speak of the effects of that new birth in the outward character of the believer. The one therefore is the internal change, the other external, but by the power of the same water, the Word of God. This latter is the "bath" that every believer receives at new birth. Compare John 13:10. "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." This washing must he distinguished from cleansing by blood, which is cleansing from the guilt of sins; for the washing of water is cleansing morally from the power of sin, that is, the effect upon the soul, both internal and external.
The first (and most important) exhortation therefore is to draw near to God. But there is more to follow: "Let us hold fast the confession of our faith (or hope) without wavering: (for He is faithful that promised)." If we have been given a solid basis for drawing near to God, to give up such a position would be impossible. Hebrew professors of Christianity were however exposed to particularly serious tests of their reality, and if the false turned back, this could but be expected; but such exhortations as this verse would strengthen those who were true in heart yet possibly shaken on account of the apostasy of some. "For He is faithful that promised." Blessed rock of certainty for the believer!
But verse 24 proceeds to more posititve, active goodness. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Passive submission is one thing, and needful too, but we must not content ourselves with this. True, proper activity should stem from this, a genuine concern for the blessing of others with whom God has put us in contact. Such consideration for one another is the normal fruit of Christianity. Provoking unto love and good works is done by showing such character cheerfully in our own lives, and encouraging others in such things. But let us notice that good works are not considered until after the great work of the Lord Jesus is seen to be the only resting place of the soul, the only real foundation of blessing. Thereafter, good works have their true, real value, as a proper result of the knowledge of eternal salvation.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching." If there is decline in the fresh, honest energy of drawing near to God, a corresponding laxity will soon appear in the desire for the gathering together of the saints. How sad that this is such a tendency in a world that supplies every inducement to forget God. One may feel himself strong enough spiritually without the need of constant gathering in fellowship with the people of God: but this very feeling is a sad sign of spiritual weakness, for which he deeply needs such assembling to the Name of the Lord. Indeed, if he is strong, he should use his strength for the encouragement of others. Or if one should give in to his own feelings of discouragement because of lack of outward public blessing, he is only encouraging the discontent and selfishness of his own heart and of others. The Lord preserve us in His mercy, to hold fast that which He has given us, and not to give up because of the trial of faith. Indeed, let us go further, and diligently exhort one another in this regard, and more urgently as we see the Day approaching. How should we feel if the Lord should come immediately after we had decided to give up a wholehearted walk with Him in fellowship with saints?
The apostle here puts diligent faithfulness in contrast to apostasy. For verse 26 is the willful rejection of the Christ who was once acknowledged. "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite into the Spirit of grace?"
This is no case of a weak believer giving way to sinful conduct, for in such a case there is a restoring remedy. Compare James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1; 1 John 2:1. But here there is no remedy. The greatness of the Person of Christ and the perfection of His sacrifices have been here discussed in wonderful fulness. The willful sin of verse 26 is therefore the cold, deliberate rejection of this marvelous revelation of God, in the very face of having been intellectually enlightened. Notice, it is after receiving the knowledge of the truth, - not receiving the truth itself, or "the love of the truth." as is expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. Some Jews who had professed Christianity were already revolting against it. In acknowledging it, they were admitting the necessity for a sacrifice to take away sins. Now in refusing it, they were choosing a position where there was no sacrifice for sins whatever. How dreadfully hopeless! Positive, certain judgment was the only alternative, fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries. For in such a stand they became the callous adversaries of the God of Israel.
Moses' law, with which the Jews were familiar, sternly demanded death in the case of any who rebelled against it, when the case was established by competent witness. But the revelation of God's glory in the Person of His Son infinitely transcends God's speaking by the law of Moses. If the judgment under law is so severe, then the far greater enormity of the crime against the Son of God demands a far greater judgment. Three solemn charges are brought against the apostate; first, his treading underfoot the Son of God. This is similar to Ch. 6:6. It is cold contempt for the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in flesh. How dreadful an insult to the Eternal God! Secondly, the blood of Christ he treats as unholy, despite the fact that God's covenants with Israel demanded shedding of blood. Thus if the Son of God Personally is cast aside, so is His great work of redemption. Such a man plainly has never been born again, yet is said to have been "sanctified" by the blood of the covenant. Taking a public stand with Christians, he had been publicly set apart by the acknowledgment of the virtue of the blood of Christ. But his heart had not actually been reached: all was merely on the surface.
Thirdly, "the Spirit of grace" is despised. The Spirit of God revealing the marvelous grace of God in the present dispensation, attending this with clearest demonstration for Israel, with miracles and signs, has been deliberately insulted with haughty contempt. This compares with the sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall never he forgiven (Mark 3:28-30).
In every nation under heaven, brazen contempt for a dignity is counted a grossly criminal offence, and the higher the dignity, the more grave the crime. Certainly then such daring insolence against the eternal God will reap a terrible punishment. "For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
But because God is patient, and no dire consequences of such evil are immediately seen, men are emboldened in rebellion. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus the test is complete. The patience of God allows time to prove fully the utter absence of faith in such painful cases; and when the judgment does at last come, it will be clearly seen to he absolutely and unquestionably just. Moreover, these things are so intensely serious that the judgment is not to be entrusted to human hands, nor even to angels: it is vengeance directly from the hand of the allwise and righteous God. Fearful indeed His vengeance at last manifested after years of patient grace so despised by man's proud unbelief!
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions: partly whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used." This exhortation would have true effect upon those souls who were real: they could not lightly overthrow the reality of what they had suffered for the Lord's sake in their first stand for Him, and for identifying themselves with the saints who were suffering. Only a callous, untrue heart could renounce all this.
For verse 33 we quote a more exact translation: "For ye sympathized with those in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better and an enduring substance" (Numerical Bible ). Such an attitude was fully true of those who had truly received Christ. It was no small matter to have linked themselves with prisoners who suffered for Christ, exposed to the ungodly persecutor who considered himself justified in plundering their possessions because they were commonly held in contempt. But faith could rise above grieving as to temporal loss: they had what was their own, a better and enduring substance. This had given them stedfast firmness, and certainly it was no less real now.
"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." If confidence in the living Cod is cast away, then its character is proven to be extremely deficient, for God Himself has not changed. Persecution tests it, no doubt, and the apostle would strengthen souls to stand by true, living faith. Patient endurance would gain its recompense, for the will of God in reference to any believer is that he should prove through hard experience that his trust is actually in the living God.
"For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Time may drag heavily and seem long when affliction and adversity try the soul, yet it is a mere moment in comparison to eternity; and the coming of the Lord is put before the soul as a constant source of encouragement, comfort, and confidence. Let the saints of God more wholeheartedly expect this and encourage one another in such blessed expectation.
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw hack unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." The quotation "the just shall live by faith" is from Habakkuk 2:4, quoted also in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. It is most interesting to observe the differences of emphasis in each case, however, as illustrating the blessed fact that Scripture indulges in no mere repetition. Romans dwells upon the truth of justification, and hence emphasizes "the just." Galatians deals with the subject of living a Christian life, not by works of law, but by faith, and therefore emphasizes "shall live." Now Hebrews emphasizes the means, - "by faith" and in ch. 11 illustrates this beautifully.
But if one should "draw back," that is, if he abandons faith. God can have no pleasure in him. How could God be pleased with one who refuses to trust Him, - a God of perfect truth and goodness.' But there is no possibility of this on the part of any true believer. Some drew back unto perdition, "but we are not of them," says the apostle. Believing to the saving of the soul is in fullest contrast to that type of belief that is merely an outward assent to the truth of Christianity.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany