Grace For The Journey
In Hebrews chapter, verses 1-18, the writer wraps up a major section on the work of Jesus Christ – namely how Christ fulfills the New Covenant promises of forgiveness of all the believer’s sins through the cross at Calvary. The Old Covenant of Mosaic sacrifices are fulfilled in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners.
While believers living under the Old Covenant
Were expected to worship with sacrifices,
Believers living under the New Covenant
Are expected to worship without sacrifices.
That old system is over.
There is now a new and living way.
Today, we will be looking at verses 19-25. What the writer does in picking up in verse 19 and following is to say, “Therefore, here is how to live.” Before we look at the passage, let me invite you to be on the lookout for some things in this passage. It is just seven verses, 19 through 25, and I want to invite you to see the structure of the passage. There are four main points in these verses I want to talk about today.
You will notice in verses 19-21 the writer recalls the wonder and joy of the Christian’s being able to draw near to God, to boldly and confidently approach God, and to be in the very presence of God through Jesus Christ. Because of this confidence believers have in approaching God, there are three exhortations that follow. You note them in the passage; three of them, where the writer says, “Let us” in verses 22, 23, and 24. We will look at them as we go through these verses.
When I was in high school, I was one of those students who struggled with knowing the significance of what I was learning. I found myself continually asking, “How will this apply?” Whether it was algebraic formulas or geometric theorems, “What is the significance of all this? What is the practical value of this?” In chemistry, the periodic table of elements we were to memorize and then reproduce by filling in the squares with the their appropriate abbreviations (i.e. Na or CI). I did that, but the main question in my mind was, “What does it all mean?” Surely these isolated formulas, numbers, and symbols, these disparate bits of information all cohere in some meaningful way don’t they? How am I going to apply this in life?!”
The writer of Hebrews, having provided several chapters now on the relationship of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant, having provided a number of details and having taught much of the intricacies of the old worship system as compared to the new, seems to anticipate a similar question: “Yes, but what does it all mean?” How does it apply? How does the theology of so many chapters find application in my real-world life of today? The writer tells us today in this passage.
It is a passage on the significance
Of Christ’s work on our behalf.
Because of Christ’s Work Christians are . . .
1. Confident – Verses 19-21.
Confident in our approach to God.
Verse 19 states, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” The writer has been talking about how the earthly tabernacle used by Old Covenant believers was a shadow of good things to come, a symbol of the reality. “The Holiest” was that inner room of the tabernacle symbolizing the presence of God. The “Holiest” was where the high priest entered just once a year on the Day of Atonement. And only the high priest cold enter the holiest place. If anyone else tried to enter without permission, they died. No one was allowed to draw near to God except the high priest.
It is a bit like back in Exodus 19 when the people are gathering at the foot of Mount Sinai and God warns them through Moses not to approach. Do not even touch the base of the mountain or you will die! Because of God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness, only Moses was allowed to approach God.
The tabernacle had that inner room, “the Holiest” or “the Holy of Holies” where God’s presence was manifested on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, on the mercy seat. No one could go in there except the high priest and only after some serious preparation! He had to come carrying the blood of a sacrifice and so on. That was the Old Covenant, the old way. Things are different now!
Verses 20 and 21 say, “By a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God.” Believers have “a new and living way” to enter into the presence of God. Not through a mere human high priest, but through God Himself, Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest over the entire house of God! Jesus Christ is our way into the very presence of God.
Whereas before, only the Hight Priest could enter into the way made known through the veil; the curtain, now all may enter into the way made known through Christ Himself. Remember how the Gospel writers tell us the curtain tore when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The curtain tore when Christ’s flesh was torn. Christ’s body was torn so that His blood was shed, the blood of Jesus providing a new and living way, the way which Jesus Christ consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, the veil of His flesh.
John Phillips, his commentary on Hebrews, Exploring Hebrews, provides a good example that helps us to understand what the writer is talking about:
Imagine with me a Moabite of old gazing down upon the Tabernacle of Israel from some lofty hillside. This Moabite is attracted to what he sees so he descends the hill and makes his way toward the Tabernacle. He walks around this high wall of dazzling linen until he comes to a gate and at the gate, he sees a man. “May I go in there?” he asks, pointing to the gate where all the bustle of activity in the Tabernacle’s outer court can be seen. “Who are You?” demands the man suspiciously. “I’m from Moab,” the stranger replies. “Well, I’m very sorry, but you can’t go in there. You see, it’s not for you. The Law of Moses has barred the Moabite from any part in the worship of Israel until his tenth generation.”
The Moabite looks so sad and said, “Well, what would I have to do to go in there?” “You would have to be born again,” the gatekeeper replies. “You would have to be born an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah, or of the tribe of Benjamin or Dan.” “Oh, I wish I had been born an Israelite,” the Moabite says and as he looks again, he sees one of the priests, having offered a sacrifice at the brazen altar and the priest cleansed himself at the brazen laver and then the Moabite sees the priest enter the Tabernacle’s interior. “What’s in there?” asks the Moabite. “Inside the main building, I mean.” “Oh,” the gatekeeper says, “That’s the Tabernacle itself. Inside it contains a lampstand, a table, and an altar of gold. The man you saw was a priest. He will trim the lamp, eat of the bread upon the table and burn incense to the living god upon the golden altar.” “Ah,” sighs the Moabite, “I wish I were an Israelite so that I could do that. I would so love to worship God in there and help to trim the lamp and offer Him incense and eat bread at that table.” “Oh, no,” the gatekeeper hastens to say, “even I could not do that. To worship in the holy place one must not only be born an Israelite, one must be born of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron.”
The man from Moab sighs again, “I wish that I had been born of Israel of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron,” and then, as he gazes wistfully at the closed Tabernacle door, he says, “What else is in there?” “Oh, there’s a veil. It’s a beautiful veil I’m told and it divides the Tabernacle in two. Beyond the veil is what we call ‘the Most Holy Place’… ‘the Holy of Holies.’” “What’s in the Holy of Holies?” the Moabite asks. “Well, there’s the sacred chest in there and it’s called the Ark of the Covenant. It contains holy memorials of our past. Its top is gold and we call that the mercy seat because God sits there between the golden cherubim. Do you see that pillar of cloud hovering over the Tabernacle? That’s the Shekinah glory cloud. It rests on the mercy,” said the gatekeeper.
Again, a look of longing comes over the face of the Moabite man. “Oh,” he said, “if only I were a priest! How I would love to go into the Holy of Holies and gaze upon the glory of God and worship Him there in the beauty of His holiness!’ “Oh no!” said the man at the gate. “You couldn’t do that even if you were a priest! Only the high priest can enter the Most Holy Place. Only he can go in there. Nobody else!” The heart of the man from Moab yearns once more. “Oh,” he cried. The gatekeeper looked at the man from Moab again and once more shook his head. “Oh no,” he said, “you couldn’t do that! Even the high priest of Israel can go in there only once a year, and then only after the most elaborate preparations and even then only for a little while.” Sadly, the Moabite turned away. He had no hope in all the world of ever entering there!
Apart from Christ we
Are like that Moabite.
Sinful Gentiles with no hope
Of approaching God.
But that is the old way!
That is what verses 19 and 20 declares – God accepts believing sinners!
He accepts us in Christ!
He accepts not on the basis
Of our religious performance,
But on the basis of Christ’s
Infinitely perfect righteousness
On our behalf –
His perfect life and His
Once-for-all sacrifice as
The spotless Lamb of God
Who takes away
The sin of the world.
If we believe in Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest, God accepts us, approves of us, forever.
In essence this is the first line of one of our favorite hymns:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
This is the new and living way open to believers. The word “brethren” in verse 19 is a word meaning believing men and women, brothers and sisters in Christ. You have got to believe. You have got to come the way of Christ. He is the only way. Because of Christ’s work, Christians have confidence, confidence to approach God. That is the first privilege. Now the three following “heads of let us!”
The second privilege . . . Because of Christ’s work Christians are . . .
2. Cleansed – Verse 22.
The writer makes a connection to the old Covenant practice of sprinkling people with blood as in the case of ratifying the old Covenant in Exodus 24 or in the consecration of Aaron and his sons in Exodus 29, sprinkling them with the blood of the sacrifice. These are washings, however, that were unable to cleanse from sin.
Christ’s blood, however, cleanses us from all sin. It purifies believers not just externally, but internally, too! If you want to have your “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience” – internal cleansing – and your body “washed with pure water,” – external cleansing – you will need to believe in Jesus Christ. He is the only way to be cleansed of all sin. And this is an ongoing cleansing. John says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us (continually cleanse us) of all unrighteousness.”
Christian baptism pictures this internal cleansing. Baptism is a beautiful picture of what happened to Christ and what happens to us in Christ. Jesus died for us and rose from the dead for us. Baptism pictures that. The believer goes down into the water, picturing death, and rises up out of the water, picturing life. Jesus died, was buried, arose. We who believe in Christ and are baptized are also picturing death, burial, and resurrection in our own lives. Believers die to self. We die to the old way of life, and are raised to walk in a new way of life. Baptism pictures the internal cleansing.
Because of Christ’s work Christians have confidence and because of Christ’s work Christians are cleansed. Thirdly, because of Christ’s work Christians are . . .
3. Committed – Verse 23.
Verse 23 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” It is a call for commitment, faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. The writer has said something like this before. Hebrews 3:6, he said, “Let us” … “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” It is a call to persevere. It is a call for endurance. Remember this is one of the main themes of the Book of Hebrews. Keep your eyes on Jesus! Be captivated by Christ. All these warnings to stay committed to Christ in the face of persecution and suffering. Do not go back to the old way! Stay committed.
We will see something of in tomorrow’s study, Lord willing, in yet another warning from the writer of Hebrews. H will go on to say – down in verses 35 and 36, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
In verse 23, the writer says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” He did not want them to give in to temptation to compromise. He exhorts them to hold onto Christ “without wavering.” The motivation is set forth when he goes on to say, “for He who promised is faithful.”
The reason you can be faithfully committed to Him
Is because He is faithfully committed to you.
Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” You can be faithfully committed to Him because He is faithfully committed to you.
Because of Christ’s work Christians are confident, cleansed, committed, and fourthly . . .
4. Considerate – Verses 24-25.
That is, be considerate of one another. We see that in verse 24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” Consider one another. The Christian faith is a “one another” faith. This truth comes right out of the New Testament where we read of the “one anothers.”
“Love one another” – John 15:17
“Serve one another” – Galatians 5:13
“Bear one another’s burdens” – Galatians 6:2
“Encourage one another” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Admonish one another” – Colossians 3:16
“Pray for one another” – James 5:16
Christians come together for worship and fellowship in order to show love for one another and stir up that love and good works in others. The writer seems to suggest that the practice of love and good works does not just happen. It needs to be stirred up. It requires work. In this sense “love” is a verb. It requires action.
It is like in a troubled marriage someone says, “Well, I do not love her anymore.” Well, when was the last time you “stirred up love” in her and for her? Love is not just a feeling. Love often requires work. Love often requires effort. Same in the church.
Verse 25 states, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Here is a verse that teaches us that worshiping the Lord is not to be simply an isolated event with just us and the Lord. It is that, to be sure. That is, we can worship the Lord alone. There is a sense in which we are always worshiping the Lord insofar as believers are always in the presence of God. The approach to God through the veil of Christ’s flesh is an open invitation, ongoing, forever!
But . . .
Christian worship is not
Just us and the Lord.
It is us
A one another faith,
A one another worship.
Look at the verse again. It says “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some …” We are not to be like “some,” who do not assemble together in Christian fellowship and worship.
Adrian Rogers used to say some people go to church just three times in their lives: the first time, when they are born – as in their christening; the second time, when they are married; and the third time, when they are buried. To use his own words, “When they’re hatched, when they’re matched, and when they’re dispatched!” The first time they throw water on them, the second time they throw rice on them, and the third time they throw dirt on them.
The Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.” We are not the “some” who regard church attendance an optional event – because we don’t gather merely for ourselves. We gather to “exhort one another,” to encourage one another…” Such encouragement to continue on in the Christian faith happens both in big group and small group – in fact, even more so in the smaller group setting where there are a greater number of people encouraging one another during the meeting. Are you in a small group Sunday Bible Study class? It is biblical and right to meet together regularly. In a small group or a large group setting you have an opportunity to stir up love and good works, to use your gifts, your spiritual gifts for God’s glory through the church.
The writer says we are to meet with one another and encourage one another “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” The closer the Day of Christ’s return, the greater the need for assembling ourselves together, the greater the need for meeting with one another. And we should live always as though the Day were today. In fact, the last word there of verse 25, “approaching,” is in the indicative mood, indicating that the Day is indeed approaching; drawing near, imminent; right now. It could be translated “exhorting one another, and so much the more as you now see the Day drawing near; Christ’s return, He’s coming. It could well be today.” Though centuries have passed, Christians are always exhorted to live in the reality that Christ may well come today. We are closer now to that day than ever before and Christian must always live such as we see the Day approaching.
Are you ready for that Day? Are you ready to stand in the presence of God? This is similar to what the writer has said earlier in Hebrews 3:13, “… but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Do not let the deceitfulness of sin take your eyes off Jesus. Stay captivated by Christ! If you need to repent of sin, do so right now. In your spirit say, “God forgive me for becoming hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Lord, you know what I looked at, Lord you know what I said, Lord you know what I thought. God forgive me through Christ Jesus, my Great High Priest!”
Can I encourage you as we see the Day approaching? Rejoice in the pleasures and promises of Jesus Christ. He is the Great High Priest whose name is Love, whoever lives and pleads for you.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”