Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:1-3 – The Nature Of Faith

Grace For The Journey

We talked yesterday about looking forward, enduring, persevering, by looking forward to the promises of God, knowing that we have a better and an enduring possession for ourselves in heaven.  It is looking forward that gets us through persecution, gives us the right perspective, and grants us what God has promised.  

The writer’s encouragement to us to endure reaches a pinnacle in the key verses of the book, Hebrews 12:1-2, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …”  In fact, if you look at the last verses of chapter 10 and the first couple verses there in chapter 12 you see the continuity of this teaching about endurance, about looking forward in the midst of persecution, hardships, and difficulties.

Right in the middle of that exhortation is what many refer to as the great roll call of faith, or the hall of faith, a number of examples in chapter 11 of believers in the Old Testament who endured, those who were blessed to “Look forward,” living by faith as they looked ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises.  They lived by faith.  What is faith?  What is the nature of faith?  We are going to talk about that today.

The opening verses of Chapter 11 describe for us the nature of faith, what it is, what it does, and what it knows.  This is helpful to us because of so many incorrect notions of faith.  Ask someone to define faith and you are likely to get a definition that does not line up with what the Bible teaches.

The secular literary world and pop culture define faith in ways that are incongruous with Scripture.  For example . . .

  • Samuel Clemens, writing under the pseudonym Mark Twain wrote, “Faith is believing something that you know ain’t so.”
  • Another says, “Faith is believing what you want to believe, yet cannot prove.”
  • In the Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” the lawyer defending Kris Kringle builds his defense on faith, arguing that “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”

Many think of faith as something you have in spite of the evidence, or faith is a view you hold in spite of evidence to the contrary.  The idea is that if you just somehow “really believe,” hoping against hope, that everything will work out – a kind of finger-crossing, nail-biting, leap in the dark “positive thinking” when the evidence is against us.  What this kind of thinking results in is, “Just be positive!  Have faith!”

I read about a father who was talking to his son, his son was doing poorly in school.   The boy said to his father, “Dad, I think I’m going to fail this math test.”  His dad said, “Now son, that’s not thinking positively.  You need to think positively.”  His son replied, “Okay, I’m positive I’m going to fail!”  Faith is not merely positive thinking, nor is faith merely a subjective experience, an inward direction. 

Faith is primarily objective,

Leading us upward and outward.

One of the best little books on faith is Francis Schaeffer’s book, The God Who is There.  In the book Schaeffer addresses this wrong notion of faith, that it is merely subjective, where people simply “have faith in faith.”  He writes: “Probably the best way to describe this concept of modern [thinking] is to say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.  Modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself.  So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its ‘size’ as it exists against all reason, but that is all.  Modern man’s faith turns inward.  In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed. It looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time. This makes Christian faith open to discussion and verification.”

Like Francis Schaeffer, I believe that . . .

Not only the Christian

Faith is objective,

But that it provides the

Only rational worldview.

My aim today is not to rush this chapter on faith, but to slow down and look into these opening verses on the nature of faith.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of understanding faith in the Christian life. 

The Bible talks about faith over 240

Times in the New Testament. 

That fact alone should give us

Pause as we consider the nature of faith.

The writer will say in verse 6 that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  That is pretty significant.  Lest we think that defining faith is merely an academic exercise with no practical benefit, let us think again – Without faith it is impossible to please God.

You may please others by being what you think is a good person, morally upright, fair, honest, and just in all your dealings.  Like the scout motto: “… I will do my best to do my duty to God an my country … to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”  That is all well and good, but if you do not please God you are in a heap of trouble.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  If you displease God it really does not matter who else you please.

It is vital that we better understand what faith is, the nature of faith, how it works, and what it does.  God teaches us three in these three verses . . .

1) Faith Defined – Verse 1.

An Explanation.

Verse 1 states, “Now faith is the substance (or realization) of things hoped for, the evidence (or confidence) of things not seen.”  The first part of this definition explains that faith is substantive.  This means that faith is concrete.  It is the “stuff” of “things hoped for” or “things we believe will happen” because God has said so.  Put another way – second part of the definition – faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”  This is speaking of something that is substantive and real, evidently really, about the things we believe.  There is an object about them.  They are there.  They are simply not seen with the physical eye.  They are seen, however, by what we may call “the spiritual eye.” 

Faith is the spiritual eye. 

Faith is what allows believers

To see that which is unseen.

We will read about Moses, for example, later in verse 27 where the Bible says, “who endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” 

Faith is the inward eye,

The spiritual eye that

God gives to us

As a gift that

We may see.

That is why we often describe salvation as a state in which, “I was blind, but now I see.” 

What we see is not the product of

Our own imaginary wishful thinking. 

What we see by faith is that

Which God has said will be.

We do not see it yet with our physical eyes, but one day we will.  It will transpire.  It will come to pass.  God will bring it about.

Faith is apprehending

Or taking hold of

That which is unseen.

A helpful parallel to Hebrews 11 is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The writer of Hebrews in verse 2, mentions the Old Testament believers, using them as an illustration of those who lived by faith, looking at the things with are not seen. 

His purpose in doing this is to

Teach believers today that we are

To live this same way,

To believe the same way,

By faith.

We move from faith defined, to . . .

2) Faith Demonstrated – Verse 2.

An Example.

Verse 2 is a summary verse of most of the chapter, “For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  The elders are understood here not as an office in the church, but in regard to age, the older believers.  We know that because of context, because verses 4 through 38 describe those elders in detail, Old Testament believers like Abel, Enoch,  Noah, and so on.  The record of their faith is found in verses 4-38, verses we will be studying in the days to come.

The writer says in verse 2: “For by it (by faith) the elders (the old-time believers in the Old Testament) obtained a good testimony.”  In other words, we look at their faith and see a great testimony – They are commended for their faith.

Mercifully, the writer does not remind us of all of their failings!  Anytime we are tempted to think of these men and women as spiritual super-heroes, we must remember that . . .

Even the best of men

Is a man at best. 


Every man is a sinner.

  • The writer does not say, “Look to Noah as the perfect example.” 

This is the Noah who shortly after exiting the ark gets drunk, passes out, and is found naked by his sons (Genesis 9:20-27).  Not the best example, right?!

  • The writer does not say, “Look to Abraham as the paragon of holiness.”

This is the Abraham who told lies more than once, lied outright about the identity of his wife and made her lie, as well (Genesis 12:1-20).

Speaking of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is also mentioned favorably in Chapter 11.  But just the good stuff.  The writer does not lift-up Sarah as the superior, virtuous woman.  Not only was she a liar with her husband, but like her husband she too initially laughed when told she would bear a son in her old age.  When the Lord called her out on it, she lied to Him and said she did not laugh! (Genesis 17:17-21; Genesis 18:11–15).

It is important that we remember not to place these so-called “heroes of the faith” up high upon an exalted platform and bow before them as the perfect exemplars of godly living.  They are common sinners; common sinners just like you and me.

At the same time, however,

They did some things well. 

And when they did things well,

That is when we follow their example.

It is not the writer’s point to lift-up these men and women as perfect examples, nor even as ideal men and women of God.  Rather . . .

He wants us to learn

From the times

They exercised true,


Biblical faith.

Look to them

As an example

Of what faith

Looks like

When it is

Exercised rightly.

Look to them when they are doing it right.  Because . . .

When you look to them when

They are doing it right,

Exercising biblical faith,

You will find there is

A whole host of them,

A great cloud of them,

And they surround us

Like a great cloud

Of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1),

Their examples are

An encouragement

To us as we

Endeavor to “look forward”

With our eyes on Jesus,

Captivated by Christ.

Faith defined (an explanation), faith demonstrated (an example).  Thirdly . . .

Faith Displayed – Verse 3.

An Application

In verse 3 we have an application of faith.  The writer shows us how faith is displayed, how faith works in our everyday world.  He does so by telling us what we know about the world by faith.  Verse 3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”  The phrase “the worlds” refers to all the physical material in space and time.  By faith we understand that God spoke and called everything into existence. 

In the latter part of verse the writer states, “So that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” meaning nothing that you see was made by equally visible material.  In the material world that you see, none of the material things was made from equally visible material things.  Rather . . .

Everything was made

By God’s Word. 

God spoke and

Things appeared.

Look at the following verses that state this truth . . .

  • Genesis 1:3, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.”
  • Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
  • Psalm 33:9, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.” 

And God brought everything into being from nothing.  This is the teaching of the familiar Latin phrase: “creatio ex nihilo,” or “creation out of nothing.”  God created all things, everything you see, He created out of nothing.  

I like the way the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 4 verse 17 where he refers to God as the one who “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”  This is the doctrine of creation. 

Let me just briefly address the theory of evolution, Darwinian evolution.  The Bible does not support modern notions of evolutionary theory, namely the evolving of one life form into another form in terms of taxonomy and the changing of species, like a bird becoming a dinosaur.  The Bible nowhere teaches such things and it is not our concern to address that theory right now.

I do, however, want to point out something at a greater level.  And that is that the doctrine of creation and secular scientific theory are not at odds on the matter of the origin of creation.  I am talking about the origin of the universe.  No one was there to witness the origin of the universe.  No human being was there to observe how everything came into being.  Science is based on empirical evidence, things that can be observed and tested.  No human being was present to observe the creation of things out of nothing.  Yet both science and the Bible affirm that it happened.  Obviously we are all here!

Christians are wrong to reject science out of hand.  Science is our friend.  It was Kepler who said his scientific study was merely a way of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”  The point I am making is that science alone cannot provide the answer for the origin of the universe.  No scientist was there when the world came into existence. 

Was anyone there?  The Bible says that God was there.  God says He did it.  Believers accept His Word by faith.  Secular, scientific theory, namely evolutionary theory, also says something happened, things came into being, but it is left to explain how something came into being, how something came out of nothing.  And the honest evolutionist will acknowledge that there is no provable explanation for the origin of things as even Dr. Richard Dawkins acknowledged when pressed on the issue by Ben Stein in his wonderful documentary.

The Bible provides the answer for the origin of the universe.  Now it cannot be tested in human laboratory, but it is an answer we accept by faith.  God spoke all things into existence. 

As Creator He is the

Witness of creation. 

He is the One

Who was there.

We may well expect God to address the modern skeptic as he addressed Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4)  God was there.  God is there and He is not silent.  God spoke all things into existence.

Believers accept this teaching by faith.  You are free to reject it.  You can reject it and say, “I’m not placing my faith in that teaching,” but the teaching remains.  It is still there.

While a popular skeptic may demand proof that there is a God, if he is honest he will also acknowledge that he cannot equally disprove there is a God.  Man is a finite creature wholly incapable of plotting infinity on a map.

A reflective person will struggle to call himself an atheist because of the term itself.  In using the term atheist (“a,” meaning “non” and“theist” meaning “god) the term supposes some notion of deity that one maintains does not exist.  But who is he to say?  Exactly what notion of God does he have in mind in his wholesale denial and rejection of deity?  How does one unequivocally reject something he also maintains does not exist?  And from where does he get his information about such deity?  Why should he be trusted regarding his information about the God he denies and on what basis can he prove absolutely that no such being is really there?

The refusal to believe in God

Is not for lack of reason,

But for lack of will. 

It is a moral problem,

Not an intellectual problem.

The Bible says in Psalm 14:1: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God …’”  The word “fool” means one who is morally lacking, not intellectually lacking.  Literally, the Psalm says, “The fool has said in his heart NO, God!”  It is a moral problem.  

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.  That is why children are more inclined to believe in God.  Not because belief is childish, but because it is part of our human fabric as those who bear God’s image. 

The reality of God is a truth

We suppress by nature;

By our sin nature. 

We suppress the truth

Within us and without us.

A child was raised in an atheistic family, taught from childhood there is no God.  All he heard was, “There is no God, there is no God.”  Finally, one day the little boy looked up into the face of his father and asked, “Daddy, do you think God knows that we don’t believe in Him?!”

Faith defined (an explanation), faith demonstrated (an example), and faith displayed (an application) – God spoke all things into existence.  There is power in His Word.  And when God speaks, we believe Him.  We trust Him.

Faith is acting like God is telling the truth. 

Now jot that down big and plain!

God says “Noah, you’ll need to build an ark because I’m going to send some serious rain.”  Noah goes gets a hammer and starts building.  Not a cloud in the sky.  It has not rained in weeks.  But Noah has faith.  He acts like God is telling the truth.  He can see it.  He can see the rain coming by the inner eye of faith.  

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “… We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 

Our learning should lead us

To live above “see” level!

Faith leads us to live with our eyes on Jesus . . . That will lead us to want to . . .

1. Know the Promises – Read.

2. Believe the Promises – Receive.

3. Remember the Promises – Recall.

If you are not a believer, remember: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Our relationship with God begins by faith in Jesus Christ, the objective real person who really came to us in space and time, to live and die for us, and to rise from the dead, conquering sin and death.  Sinners are saved by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ. 

If you are a believer, do you act like God is telling the truth?  Do you believe Him?  Do you trust Him?  Trust Him to take care of your children, trust Him with your money, trust Him with your worries, trust Him with your future?  

Can you really say: “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily life.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:32-39 – Look Forward

Grace For The Journey

True believers, however,

Do not fall away from Christ. 

If a person stops following Jesus

It is evidence that he or she

Was never a true believer

In the first place.

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  True believers continue following Christ, continue serving Him, and living for Him.

The writer of Hebrews, unable to know the precise spiritual condition of every single person who reads his letter warns all of them.  He warns of the danger of rejecting Christ.  We studied that last time and talked about the calamity of rejecting Christ, the severity of rejecting Christ, and the finality of rejecting Christ – it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  That was verse 31.  We pick up now at verse 32 with some encouraging words for true believers, true followers of Christ.  

From verse 32 to the end of the chapter is section, in a word, is about endurance, about enduring to the end, moving forward, and keeping our eyes on Jesus no matter what struggles we face in this word. 

This whole section – verses 32 to the end of chapter 10 – is about thinking forward.  In fact, contextually, the section continues into chapter 11, as we read about many people of God over the years who endured by “thinking forward,” living by faith, “looking ahead,” keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus, looking to Him and the final salvation that comes through Him.

This passage provides three benefits of thinking forward . . .

1) Looking Forward Gets You Through Persecution – Verses 32-33.

The writer reminds his hearers how they used to “look forward” back when they were first saved, when they experienced true conversion.  Verse 32 states, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.”  The word “illuminated” in this context describes those who are truly converted, having both received the light and living as the light of the world.  They began shining in the darkness.  They shined because they gloried in their salvation in Christ.  They kept their eyes on Jesus.  They were captured and captivated by Christ.   They knew – as verse 34 says – that they had “a better and enduring possession” in heaven that far surpassed whatever struggles they endured through persecution for their faith now. 

They did not allow their present

Problems to pull them down;

They endeavored to think forward.

The word for “struggle” there is a Greek word from which we get the English: “athletics.”   The writer is using the word metaphorically, describing persecution as a full-contact sport, as an action-packed struggle.  He says . . .

Remember your former days,

Not long after you were illuminated,

Converted, and how through God’s grace

And power you got through difficulties then?”

How about you?  Do you recall how you were right after you were “illuminated?”  Remember the early days of your Christian walk, right after you got saved?  Remember how you felt?  How evangelistic you were!  You were so glad just to be saved.  Whatever trials you faced as a believer in Christ, it was like, “Thank the Lord for His goodness and this opportunity to live for Him!  I know I’m saved!   I know I am going to heaven!  This world is short, but I have eternal life!”  You were so fired up.  The writer is saying, “Get back to that.  Get back to how you were, howe you felt.  Get back to thinking forward.”  Because of their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5) they endured a great struggle.

Verse 33 declares, “Partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.”

That phrase “made a spectacle” connotes the idea of being made a public target for persecution; persecution because of their faith in Jesus.  We must remember . . .

That persecution and suffering

Is a natural byproduct of being

A Christian, living in a world that

Goes against the things of Jesus.

Recall that Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I trust you did not miss that word “reproaches” there in verse 33?  That word is also used by the writer in Hebrews 11:26 to describe the abuse Moses endured as he regarded his suffering for the Lord as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.  And the writer adds, “for he looked to the reward.”  He looked ahead to the reward.  Looking forward gets you through persecution.

The writer commends his readers in verse 33 for their “(becoming) companions of those who were so treated.”  In other words . . .

When someone else was persecuted

For their Christian faith, Their fellow

Brothers and sisters stood with them.

For us it would be like, if we see a friend at school taking heat for loving Jesus, standing for Jesus, and talking about his or her faith openly; our friend is teased for this and reproached for his or her faith.  Rather than our remaining silent or walking away to avoid confrontation, we go up and stand next to him or her, and we let them know, if they are going to mock, ridicule, or make fun of him or her, they are going to have to do the same to us.  That is a part of believing in and following Jesus. 

This is what Donald Guthrie

Describes as

“Fellowship on the deepest level.”

Thinking forward gets you through persecution.  Next . . .  

2) Looking Forward Gives You The Right Perspective – Verse 34.

By this the writer means, keep your focused on things that matter, the true and lasting riches in Christ Jesus.  Look at verse 34, “For you had compassion on me in my chains.”  The writer is talking those, like himself, who were being put in jail because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  The believers unashamedly identified with those who were being persecuted by imprisonment; locked-up for being Christians.  These were fellow brothers and sisters who visited them in jail and brought food to them and so forth, not minding at all that their being so public about their faith meant that they too would suffer reproach and insult.  

Verse 34 continues, “And joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods [or possessions], knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”  The “plundering of your goods” was the result of their identifying with fellow believers.  It was the persecution they faced for standing with their persecuted brothers and sisters.    Roman authorities ransacked their houses as if to say, “You are going to stand with these Christians in jail?  Well, there is a price to pay for that!”  They were willing to lose their possessions, their houses, clothing, etc.  That would require genuine faith in Christ, wouldn’t it?  That would require great strength.  

The Bible says that it is not

Just that they endured this,

But the writer notes the way

In which they endured this –

He says that they “joyfully”

Accepted the plundering

Of their goods.

If the authorities broke into their homes and took every last item and then burned the house down, they could just smile.  How could they do that?!  Because of the truth of God’s Word, “knowing that they had a better and enduring possession for themselves,” their real treasure in heaven.

John Piper proposes this scenario: “Imagine after the worship service we all go out to the parking lot to get into our cars and find them all vandalized, smashed in, windows broken; someone has taken a can of spray paint and painted: Christians are bigots.  How would you handle that?”  That is a good question.  I would like to think that after an initial and profound disappointment, that we would be free enough . . .

To carry on in joy knowing that our hearts

Are not bound up with our stuff,

But that Jesus Christ –

And our glorious

Inheritance in Him –

Is far better than

Anyone or anything.

Our Lord spoke about this in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven …”

One of the reasons many Christians

Struggle to live a meaningful

Christ-Centered life is

Because they seek

Their reward here,

Instead of in heaven.

They clutch to their material wealth here, holding on to it as though life were found in money, stocks, bonds, investments, retirement homes, lake houses, and so on.  We are all susceptible to allowing money and material things to be life for us – whether we consider ourselves rich or poor.  Some of us may say, “Well, this is not a problem for me.  I do not have hardly anything.”  But possessions can pull us away from our “better and enduring possession” whether we have little or much. 

Think about the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is estimated to be over 500 billion dollars.  Someone broke that amount down and figured that he is earning $231,000 a minute.  Imagine earning $231,000 a minute!  It seems unfathomable, doesn’t it?  But what if it all goes away?  It could.  What if all your stuff goes away?  It could. Who really owns their stuff?  I read about a Christian who was away from home and someone came running to him, saying, “Your house has burned down!  Your house has burned down!”  He calmly replied, “No, it has not, because I do not own a house.  The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, so if it has burned down, then that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.”  Now, that is peace!

The word “enduring” there in verse 34, “you have a better and an enduring possession in heaven” reminds us that this possession in heaven lasts forever!  It abides and endures for all time.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Looking forward gives you the right perspective.

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  

Looking forward gets you through persecution.  Looking forward gives you the right perspective.  Finally . . .

3) Looking Forward Grants You What God Has Promised – Verses 35-39.

This is the fulness of our reward in Christ Jesus,

Our glorious eternal inheritance in heaven!

Verse 35 says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”  Do not miss structure of his sentence.  The word “has” is present tense.  As we live by faith then we actually experience something of your reward even now, though the fulness of the reward is still in the future.

True life is in Jesus Christ!!

Verse 36 states, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”  The next chapter is all about those who had faith to endure, those who lived to do “the will of God,” looking forward so that they would receive the promise of their glorious inheritance in Christ.

Sometimes it is the will of God for us to suffer and go through times of persecution.  It is good for Christians to know this; to have a healthy theology of suffering.  You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God – which often includes times of difficulty and challenge and suffering – you may receive the promise.  Look forward.  Do not focus on the problems and the suffering.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Looking forward grants you what God has promised.

Verse 37 says, “For yet a little while(this is a quote from Habakkuk), and He who [or that which] is coming will come and will not tarry [or delay].”  Looking forward to Christ’s return encourages us in the present.

Verses 38 and 39 declare, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.  But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

There is nothing more

Precious or valuable

Than Jesus Christ. 

Be captivated by Christ! 

Keep your eyes

Fixed on Jesus,

The author and

Finisher of your faith.

Do not allow your present problems, struggles, and difficulties to pull you away from Jesus.  Do not draw back, but go on believing “to the saving of your soul.”

Verse 39 is a powerful way to end chapter 10!  Keep your eyes on the promise He grants you in Christ, your glorious eternal inheritance, “a better and enduring possession.”  Look forward!

Have you heard about the Flying Wallendas?  Do you know them?  They are a famous tight-rope walking family who have performed of the high wire since the 1940s.  They are known for not using a safety net and several of the Wallenda family are still performing today.  Kent Hughes writes about the tragic death of their leader, Karl Wallenda, who died in 1978, again tragically as he fell 75 feet to his death in an attempted high-wire walk in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Not long after his death, Wallenda’s wife was interviewed and she talked about the events leading up to that day:

She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling.  It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”  Mrs. Wallenda added that her husband “even went so far as to personally supervise the installation of the tightrope, making certain the guy-wires were secure, something he had never even thought of doing before.”

Focusing on the challenge of the difficulties, he lost his focus and confidence.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (verse 35).”  Do not be overwhelmed by all the problems and challenges which you face.    Do not allow the struggles and difficulties of this present world concern you, engulf you, and pull you down.  Stay focused on what lies ahead.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Be captivated by Christ.  Look forward.

Some of you need to repent of the sin of clutching onto material things, money, stuff; the things that cause a failure to see that God is the true owner of your stuff.  Others of you need to repent of looking at your problems instead of looking at Jesus, repent of your failing to stand for Him while facing persecution.  Turn to Jesus today for forgiveness.

Some of you need to trust Christ as your Lord and Savior while there is time.  You may need to admit that you are a sinner, that you cannot saved yourself, accept what Jesus has done on the cross and the empty, and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.  Do it now so you can start looking forward to today and the future.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:26-31 – The Danger of Rejecting Christ

Grace For The Journey

The text for our study this morning is a text that underscores the need to get the Gospel out to folks who are lost.  There are lost people in every setting, even in a church setting.  I have a three-part prayer that I pray every day with the goal of sharing Jesus Christ at least once a day.  I encouraged you to use it as well.   I encourage you to incorporate it in your daily prayers.

1. Lord, give me an opportunity to share my faith today. 

2. Lord, enable me to recognize this opportunity when it comes. 

3. Lord, when it happens, give me the courage to proceed.

One of the encouraging things I have discovered as I avail myself to this prayer is that the task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

The writer of Hebrews acknowledges as much as he has provided in his letter five warning passages, warnings about not rejecting Jesus Christ.  We have studied three of these already back in chapters 2-6.  Today we find ourselves studying the fourth warning passage.  It begins in verse 26 because.  Verse 25 concluded with a reference to the coming judgment.  The writer says let us exhort one another “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Judgment Day.  It would seem the mention in verse 25 about “the Day” approaching, the Day of Judgment, leads the writer to think more upon that subject and to warn folks who may not be prepared for that day.  I wonder if you are?  If you are, then you are encouraged about that day.

The author does not seek to unsettle those who are true believers.  For true followers of Christ, the “Day approaching,” the return of Christ is a great encouragement.  That specific encouragement begins at verse 32 which we will address tomorrow, Lord willing.  It is good for us today, however, to stop short of that encouragement and spend time talking about the danger of rejecting Christ and the judgment to come to those who “draw back” (38-39) and turn away from Jesus.

Sometime back I was listening to a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the godly pastor of a previous generation at the Westminster Chapel in London England.  He was preaching one evening about the true Gospel and what it means to be a true Christian.  And he made this statement, “There are many people in the world tonight who are not Christians very largely because they think they are Christians.”  That is one of those statements that causes you to stop and sit up a bit.  What does that mean?

Among other things, it certainly means that one may think he or she is a Christian simply by virtue of being exposed to the external things of Christianity – worship attendance, small group Sunday school attendance, feeling good when in the presence of Christians, help from biblical teaching, a feeling of love and goodness through musical worship, a concern for fellow neighbors and society, good works to improve the state of others and the state of the community – but these are not themselves the Gospel.  These are things that accompany the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel itself.  They are not the things that make one a Christian.  

Becoming a Christian is about

Receiving, surrendering to,

Following, and expressing our

Love for Jesus in how we live.

True believers are they who have acknowledged their sin, confessed it, repented of it, and turned to Christ, believing Him, who died a substitutionary death in our place, rising from the dead, to be their only Savior, and living a surrendered life which will allow to grow in knowing and experiencing the resurrection power so that Christ is praised and honored.  True believers go on believing to the very end, they persevere in their faith.  True believers will not reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  They will go on believing Him.  

The writer, in verses 26-31, is addressing those who are not true believers.  He is addressing those who have turned their backs on Jesus and have rejected Christ.  Now the writer does not know who those people are.  But he knows they are in the congregation there because there had been some already who had walked away from the church for fear of persecution.  They turned away from Jesus and went back to their old ways of thinking and living.  The writer is writing about what happens to those who forsake Christ.  

In our present context, I do not know who the true believers are and neither do you.  We all listen to the warning considering ourselves, considering our friends, and considering our loved ones.

 What is the danger of rejecting Christ . . .

1) The Calamity Of It – Verses 26-27.

This is the utter peril of what it means to turn away from Jesus Christ.  Verse 26 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  The first time I read verse 26 I was alarmed because I said to myself, “Well, I am a sinner.  I have sinned willfully.  I have sinned with my eyes wide open.  I mean as a Christian who knows better, I have sinned willfully so what does this mean that there is no sacrifice for sins?”  Remembering the writer’s main concern is helpful to us.  He is addressing those who have rejected Christ and gone back to their old way of living.  He is not suggesting that Christians never sin.  He is addressing a state of mind and a state of living that leads to total abandonment of Christ and the Gospel.  If you turn from Christ and refuse to repent, refuse to turn back to Him, then you have rejected Him, and you will remain separated from Him forever.  

The writer is not talking here about Christians who “slip up” from time to time; battling the sin that remains, giving in to it at times when we know it is wrong, but then immediately confessing it, and getting back into the race.  No, he is not talking about that here.  The tense of the verb is present continuous action “sin willfully,” which means “to go on sinning deliberately,” to go on turning away from Jesus Christ, to go on rejecting Him.

The writer addresses those who have rejected Christ as Savior.  Thus, they were never true believers.  They had “received the knowledge of the truth” but did not trust Christ savingly.  They abandoned Christ as evidence that they were never true believers.  This is very similar to what the Apostle John writes about those who did not continue in the faith in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  True believers do not go on sinning, deliberately, willfully.  True believers are different.  God has changed our want to.  We do sin but when we do it bothers us and the Holy Spirit, who has “written God’s law in our hearts and minds, will not let us go on in it but will convict our hearts.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to live as those who delight in Christ.  

Some hearers had only “received the knowledge of the truth.”  They did not accept the truth and thus “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  That is, there is no sacrifice other than the “once-for-all” perfect sacrifice of the One they have rejected. 

Rejecting Christ means there

Is nowhere else to go. 

There no longer remains

A sacrifice for sins. 

Sins are not atoned for

In any way other than

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I can preach the Gospel today to you who are reading my blog; I can preach the truth, and everyone reading my blog can “receive the knowledge of the truth” inasmuch as they can understand it and even intellectual assent to its teaching.  But that does not mean every single person hearing the truth accepts the truth.  Receiving the knowledge of the truth does not mean that every single person actually believes the truth savingly, receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.  

You will recall from Hebrews 6 that there were some who merely “tasted” the good Word of God (Hebrews 6:5), tasting it but not digesting it.  As James teaches in his letter, it is one thing to “hear” the Word and another thing altogether to “do” the Word.  The message of the writer is, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.  Do not allow your heart to be as the hard soil in the parables of Jesus.  The Word tries to get down into that soil and bear fruit, but it never really takes.  Allow your heart to be the soft, fertile soil that receives the Word gladly and bears fruit, and goes on bearing fruit.

What calamity awaits those who reject Christ?  Verse 27 tells us, “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”  Verse 27 reminds us of verse 27 in chapter 9 that says, “… It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  There is a judgment day that awaits every man and woman, every boy and girl, every person of every race, tribe, tongue, and nation.  It is appointed unto man to die and after this the judgment.

The writer says that if we reject Christ, the day of judgment is bound up with “a certain fearful expectation” and “fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” devour those who reject Christ.  That is pretty plain, isn’t it?  The Bible can often be alarming to us.  This is God’s Word for our good.  It is good to read the Scriptures and pause and allow the teachings to get down inside us.  This is God’s Word.

The reading of the Scripture is not like the reading of the minutes in business meetings.  Unlike the reading of the minutes, “there are no corrections or additions; the Bible stands approved as read!”  This is God’s Word.

Those who reject Christ have only “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.”  That phrase intimates that those who refuse Christ have an inner sense of a judgment to come.  A person may suppress the truth of that judgment, trying to bury it down deeply within, cover it up, ignore it, or drowning out the sense of judgment with the noise of music, entertainment, drink, and drugs.  But it is there.  

The sense of judgment

Is a grace of God. 

He gives it to us

To awaken us, alarm us, and

Alert us to repent and trust Christ.

When we do not, when we reject Christ willfully after we have received the truth, all we have is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment,” – and – “and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” which will devour those who reject Christ.  The calamity of it. 

The second danger of rejecting Christ . . .

2. The Severity Of It – Verses 28-29.

In verses 28 and 29 the writer argues from the lesser to the greater.  It is one of those statements that goes like this: “If this is bad, then how much worse is this?!”  If this is bad – verse 28 – —then how much worse is verse 29?  He argues: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!”  Verse 28 says, “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  Under the old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, if an Israelite turned his back upon the One true and living God, he was to be killed by stoning.  The writer of Hebrews is referring to Deuteronomy 17:2-6, “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.  Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  That’s bad, isn’t it?  Aren’t you glad you are not under the old Covenant?  I am reminded of the preacher who was preaching from Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying.  The preacher said, “What if God did that today, struck people dead for lying?  If He did, where would I be?!”  And the congregation kind of snickered.  Then, the preacher said, “I’ll tell you where I’d be – I’d be preaching to an empty sanctuary!”  The severity of judgment under the old Covenant is great – however! – the severity of judgment under the new covenant is even greater. 

Verse 29 says, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”  Remember, the point is: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!”  The thinking is similar to what the writer wrote back in Hebrews 2:3, “… how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” 

Rejection of Christ is illustrated in three actions there in verse 29: 1) trampling the Son of God underfoot, 2) counting the blood of the covenant a common thing, and 3) insulting the Spirit of grace.

1) “Trampling the Son of God underfoot” is a vivid image of stepping on Christ as though He were nothing.  The same word “trample” is used by our Lord in Matthew 7 where He warns that we ought not cast our pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet.  Treating something pure, lovely, worthy, and infinitely valuable as a common thing to be trampled on.  It means to scorn Him; to besmirch His good name; to spit upon Him by refusing to be identified with Him through Christian faith and Christian baptism.  

2) “Counting the blood of the Covenant a common thing” is to treat Christ’s blood and Christ’s sacrifice as no big deal, just a common, ordinary, even mundane thing.  The phrase is literally: “counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing …”

The word “sanctified” is not theologically as we usually understand the term – “sanctified” with reference to salvation, but “sanctified” in the broadest sense of the word: being “set apart.”  These are people who had identified externally with those who were followers of Jesus.  They were numbered among them, visibly “set apart” in that sense.  But not true believers.  

3) “Insulting the Spirit of grace, insulting the Holy Spirit!”  Incidentally, this is the only time in all the Bible that the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of grace.”  That is a good term.  I encourage you to use that in your prayers.  Talk to God from time to time calling Him, “the Spirit of grace.”

If rejecting the law of Moses meant punishment, how much more severe is the judgment and punishment of the one who has rejected Christ, trampling His good sacrifice underfoot? 

It is Christ alone who saves! 

Apart from Christ we can never be saved!

We are sinners.  And since our sin is against a holy and infinite God, no amount of human works and good deeds will ever be enough to pay the penalty of our sin – because a holy infinite God requires a holy and infinite number of works of righteousness.  Only Christ can save us!  Christ who is holy and infinite and perfect and pure.  

The third danger of rejecting Christ . . .

3. The Finality Of It – Verses 30-31.

Verse 30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’”  These statements are from Deuteronomy 32.  Moses spoke these words just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.  It was a warning to them that God was watching and God would judge them.  And the Lord watches you and me and He will judge us. 

The solemn conclusion of the thought in verse 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  It is a fearful thing for those who are lost.  There is a finality to it.  God will treat us justly, just as our sins deserve.  If we have spurned the good name and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it will indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It was this truth that Jonathan Edwards preached in his famous message nearly 300 years ago.  I encourage you to Google it later: Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  It ought to cause us to think about what Jesus taught in Luke 12:4-5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

If you are saved, a true believer, then it is a good thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  2 Samuel 24 tells the story of David.  This passage tells us of his sin when he counted the fighting men, taking that census?  He was punished for that sin and was given the choice of punishments.  And he made the precious statement in verse 14, “Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great.”

Are you a true believer?  Have you received Christ?  There are just two categories of people in the world – Those who have received Him and those who have rejected Him.  If you are among those who have received Him savingly, then you will go on receiving Him, living for Him, and loving Him.  True believers persevere in their faith, go on living for Him.  The writer will press that truth in the following verses.  True believers will endure suffering and hardship and will go on living by faith.  They will not “draw back.”  

But if you are not a believer, then hear and heed the warnings in this, the Word of God.  Turn to Jesus today and be saved. 

Whether you are a believer, not a believer, or unsure, the answer is the same: turn your eyes upon Jesus.  His word shall not fail you.  “Believe Him and all will be well.  Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:19-25 – What Does it All Mean?

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




The Lord. 

It is

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!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:1-18 – The New and Living Way of Christ

Grace For The Journey

In Hebrews 10:1-10 he returns to the earthly work of Jesus as High Priest, and in Hebrews 10:11-18 he brings the sermon to its stirring conclusion, returning to the citation from Jeremiah where he began in chapter 8.  The contrast between shadow and reality takes a somewhat different turn.  It is not the earthly Tabernacle which is the shadow of the heavenly, it is the Old Covenant that is the shadow of the new.  The writer thus shifts from the vertical antithesis between earth and heaven that had dominated his exposition so far, and reads the contrast in terms of the horizontal, and temporal axis defined by the terms “new” and “old” in the quotation from Jeremiah.  What casts a “shadow” (verse 1) is no longer a heavenly reality, as in the heavenly model of the Tabernacle mentioned at 8:5, but the present “bodily” (verses 5 and 10) reality of Christ, “foreshadowed” in the rituals of old.  The uses a common image of a body and its shadow (as in Colossians 2:17) to point to the reality of Christ’s example.

Continuing his interpretation of the Day of Atonement, he contrasts the penitential rituals of Israel’s high priest with the far more effective atonement accomplished by Christ (verses 1-4).  There are at least two ways in which the sacrifice of Jesus is superior to that of the former priests.  First, under the Old Covenant the Day of Atonement was celebrated every year, because the sacrifices performed by the high priest were not sufficient to accomplish real atonement.  God’s reconciling act toward mankind should not need an annual renewal.

Second, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant involved the blood of sacrificial animals. The sacrifice of the New Covenant was accomplished by the blood of Christ Himself.  We have hints here not only of the distinction between the inferior shadow and the superior reality, but of the traditional homiletical device: if the ancient sacrifices accomplished a little, how much more will the sacrifice of Christ achieve.

As he does so often our author turns again to Scripture in verses 5–7, where he cites Psalm 40:6-8, as we find it in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which differs dramatically from the Hebrew.  Instead of “you have given me an open ear” the Septuagint reads, “A body you have prepared for me.”  As he has with Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:5 and Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6, the writer applies the words of the psalm directly to Jesus, and those words provide him the warrant for the body-shadow image that structures this section.

The author uses the Psalm to indicate that Jesus’ sacrifice not only surpasses the former sacrifices, but it abolishes them.  In this way he prepares the way for the discussion later in Hebrews of the abrogation of the rituals of the Old Covenant in favor of participation in the New.

The affirmation of the Psalmist, that our Great High Priest has come to do God’s will, includes another important claim.  The previous chapter, with its play on what a “covenant” is, suggested that the members of a New Covenant were “heirs” to something.  One of the essential elements of that package of inheritance is the example of the “inaugurator and perfecter” (12:2).  It is his example, as a “new and living way” (10:20) that his followers “inherit.” The example is defined by the words of this Psalm, in which Jesus, in effect, answers the Father’s call to be a “priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:6; 6:20; 7:21).

Here our author for the first time uses the full formula for naming the Great High Priest “Jesus Christ.”  If “Jesus” in some fashion is the most appropriate way of referring to

His full humanity and “Christ” is the most appropriate way of referring to His exalted divine status, the two names together serve as a reminder that the earthly Jesus is also the Christ enthroned in the heavenly places, and conversely that the exalted heavenly being is who and what He is because of His very human act of obedience to God’s will. The heavenly ideal is incarnate.  The reminder that this happens once and for all (that the readers’ redemption is accomplished once and for all) echoes Hebrews 7:27 and 9:12.

Verses 11-18 serve as both the culmination and the summary of everything our author has said in this long exposition of Jeremiah 31, beginning with 8:1.  The New Covenant is superior to the old because it is accomplished once and for all, and was not renewed annually.  The New Covenant is ratified by the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God. The New Covenant is not written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of believers.  At the same time that the believers’ hearts are inscribed with righteousness, God’s memory is wiped clean of the believers’ former sins.  

There is also a foreshadowing here of a theme that will be more fully developed toward the end of Hebrews.  Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God, has yet one more triumph to accomplish: “Since (sitting at the right hand) He has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’”  Here Hebrews alludes again to Psalm 110, but points ahead to a consummation even beyond the consummation of the great Day of Atonement. (See 1 Corinthians 15.)

The author returns to the citation of Jeremiah, calling attention to two of its promises that have emerged as absolutely central to our homilist, the writing of God’s laws on the hearts of the people (verse 16), and the forgiveness of sins (verse 17).  It should be clear now how these two things are related.  The “sacrifice” of Christ, which combines actions resembling the Day of Atonement and the inauguration of the first covenant (Exodus 24), creates a new covenantal reality, promised by Jeremiah.  In that reality those who are marked by Christ’s blood/life have received the example of His obedience to God to guide their lives and have heard the assurance that God simply does not remember sin anymore.  The “sacrifice” is not one in which a ransom or a debt is paid, nor is it one in which one suffers for another.  The sacrifice simply marks the recipients of God’s gracious forgiveness.

The author of Hebrews has repeatedly pictured for us the insufficiency of the elements of the first Covenant.  This is all summarized in the first four verses of chapter 10, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the ver image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  The law was a shadow of the good things to come.  The law was never the reality.  

The first Covenant with its sacrifices and activities

Was only pointing to something greater to come.

It could not make perfect those who draw near as evidenced by the Tabernacle construction where no one entered into the presence of God, except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.  If the first Covenant and the Tabernacle did perfect people so that they could draw near to God, then the sacrifices would not have stopped, and this system would have continued.

The repetition of the sacrifices daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly only grounded into the hearts of the worshipers two things.

1) It Reminded The People Of Their Sins – Verses 2-3.

It is important to carefully read that the author does not say that God remembered the people’s sins every year.  Rather, the text says that worshipers have a reminder of sins of their consciences every year. The guilt of their sins come back into their minds and hearts with every sacrifice that was offered under that system.  It could never cleanse the guilty conscience.

2) It Revealed That They Would Never Permanently Take Away Sins – Verse 4.

Think about how often each day we would have needed to have a sacrifice made for the various sins we commit, in doing so we can quickly realize that we need a better system for our sins than the Old Covenant.  Our lives would be consumed with the daily sacrifices for our sins, the guilt would remain in our hearts, and the problem is not solved.

Before we read this next section, we realize that the author has made the point in chapter about how Jesus’ sacrifices is vastly superior to that of the animal sacrifices of the first Covenant.  He does not need to retrace that idea again until the conclusion.  He wants to see something more as we carefully read Hebrews 10:5-10, “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.’  Then I said, ‘Behold I have come – In the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.’  Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleaser in them’ (which are offered according to the law, the He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, I God.’  He takes away the first that May establish the second.  By that will we have been sacrificed through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

What the author does in verses 5-7 is amazing . . . 

1) We see that the author is quoting from Psalm 40:6-8.  We will look at the quote in just a moment.  But first observe who the author says is the speaker of those words.  In verse 5 we read, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said ….”  When we turn to Psalm 40, we notice that it is identified as a psalm of David.  There are many things in the psalm that show that those were David’s words, like in Psalm 40:12 where he says that his iniquities have overtaken him, and they are more than the hairs of his head.  Yet, the author of Hebrews also sees this psalm as a messianic psalm, predicting something about what Jesus would do.

The writer of Hebrews puts Psalm 40:6-8 in the mouth of Jesus, declaring that God does not desires these sacrifices and offerings.  God does not delight in sacrifice after sacrifice.  It is not what God wants.  What does God want?  

God wants a person to

Delight in doing His will.

2) Notice that this picture is applied to Jesus.  He is given a body and what does He do with it?  Jesus says, “I have come to do Your will, O God.”  The purpose of the Christ becoming human was so that He could do God’s will on earth in the body given to Him. But . . .

Understand what else God is teaching us.

The contrast is not that God does not desire

An animal sacrifice but needs a human sacrifice in Jesus.

The contrast is that God does not desire in an animal sacrifice

But desires the heart of the person who comes to do the will of God.

This is the message of Psalm 40 and that is the reason why it is quoted here in Hebrews 10.  

God does not take pleasure in the mere

Outward activities of worship and righteousness.  

God takes pleasure in the heart that

Is desiring to do His will

That leads to the activities

Of worship and righteousness.

We cannot and must not ever strip away from our actions the heart that God wants underneath those actions.  The Bible is filled with declarations that God wants your heart and mind to love, not for you to simply fill up a sheet of things you have done for God.  God is offended and expresses displeasure for the good actions done with the wrong heart (cf. Isaiah 1:11-13; 66:3-4; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 Samuel 15:22).  God hates hypocrisy.  God will not be treated like a god who can be appeased through certain heartless activities.  So often that is what we do.  But that is not what Jesus did.  The Son of God was given a body and He comes to do the will of God.

Now what is God’s will that Jesus came to do?  Verse 9 tells us, “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.”  As we have noted, this section is about the superior Covenant we need so that we can come near to the Father.  What Jesus does is He takes away the first Covenant that keeps us separated from God, remaining at a distance, and established the second Covenant that is able to bring us close to the Father.  

This is the point in verse 10.  By God’s will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.  

The perfect life of Jesus and His subsequent sacrifice

Are both critically important for bringing us to God.  

Jesus could not just come and die.  

He needed to live a life in complete submission to God,

Which the writer exposed for us back in Hebrews 7:26-28.

The weight of this act is fully declared in Hebrews 10:12-14, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  Jesus accomplishes God’s will, sits at the right hand of God, waiting for all His enemies to be subjected to Him.

We are not His enemies because by His single sacrifice He has perfected us for all time.  God’s laws were written on the heart of His Son (Psalm 40:8).  

He delighted to do God’s will

Which is the heart of

Submission that God desires.

Because of the Son’s submission to the Father, He has perfected those of us who are being made holy.  Did you catch what the writer said in verses 10 and 14?  We are made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice.  The holiness we need is pictured in our lives as the writer quotes Jeremiah 31 again, which we see in verses 15-17.  God promised to have a people who have His laws written on their hearts and minds.  Those are the people that God forgives of their sins and those are the people that God does not remember their sins any longer.  We have been made holy when we come into a relationship with Jesus.  We are made holy when we have the laws of the Lord written on your hearts and minds.  This means that God’s will controls our life.  We do not follow our desires but God’s desires.

Here is what God says to us: “I have made you clean.”  Now what should we do now that we have been made clean and forgiven?  To answer this question, I want us to think about what we do with our children.  There is one time when you do not want them to go play outside in the yard.  That time is when you have just gave them a shower and put nice, clean clothes on them.  You have made them clean and put them in their nice clothes that are not intended for rolling around in the dirt.  So, you tell them that cannot go play in the grass because they just took a shower and have been made clean.

God is telling each of us that He has made us clean through the offering of Jesus.  Now He does not want us to go back into the world of sin and roll around in it!  Do not look longingly at the filth that Jesus has cleansed us from?  Do not strain to run right back into the mess that the blood of Jesus washed us clean from!   How sad it is that God rescues us from the things in this world that destroy us, only for us to run headlong right back into those very things that will continue to destroy us!  Rather than hearts that love the Lord because He has made us clean, we have hearts of resentment, loving the world that we have been cleansed from.

This is our hope to not give up by going back into the world.  Jesus has made us holy. We are clean and stand acceptable in the sight of God.  We are not put ourselves back in the world.  We are to make a clean break from the world; we need to let God write His laws on your heart and enjoy a relationship of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 9:15-28 – The Promised Eternal Inheritance

Grace For The Journey

We are in Hebrews chapter 9 this morning as we are studying our way, verse-by-verse through marvelous Book.  Yesterday we studied the first half of chapter 9, verses 1 through 14 where the writer talks about the old Covenant system we read about in the Old Testament.   A few days ago we reviewed some of the Covenants which we read about in the Bible. 

A Covenant describes the way

God relates to His people

And the way His people

Are to relate to God.

God determines the terms and conditions of the covenant, not man.  God is the Creator and He is Sovereign and He sets the ground rules. 

The word “covenant” is often used interchangeably with the word “testament.”  We noted that the Old Testament is not itself the old Covenant, but that the Old Testament contains the old Covenant.  The old Covenant is the Covenant God handed down through Moses when God’s people gathered at Mount Sinai.  

There are other Covenants described in the Old Testament.  The very first one is generally described as “a Covenant of works.”  This Covenant was established in Genesis chapters 1-3, where we read of God’s creating Adam and Eve and, after creating them, God said, “Here is what you are to do and what you are not to do,” which included the command: “Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  If you eat of that tree, you will surely die.”  But Adam disobeyed and brought sin into the world.

By Genesis 3 mankind is in huge trouble.  How can man hope to be saved from the consequences of sin and have life?  This is where the next covenant comes in – from Genesis 3 all the way through Revelation.  This covenant is called “the Covenant of Grace.”  We need to think of this Covenant as an umbrella that encompasses all the other Covenants beneath it. 

The Covenant of Grace is God’s

Choosing to relate to His people

In a way they do not deserve.

That is what grace means; getting something you do not deserve. 

God’s Covenant of Grace is God’s fix

For the broken Covenant of works

By Adam in the Garden.

It puts believing sinners into right relationship with their Creator through faith in Jesus Christ.

I thought you might appreciate this from The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689.  A Confession of Faith is a summary of what people believe.  This Baptist Confession originated in London and eventually made its way across the Atlantic as the primary confession of Baptists whose roots are in English Puritanism.  Charles Spurgeon – the great Baptist preacher – had the confession reprinted in 1855 to give to members of his congregation.  From Section 7: “God’s Covenant,” the confession states: “… as man had brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace.  In this covenant He freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring from them faith in Him that they may be saved, and promising to give to all who are appointed to eternal life His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe.”

This covenant is revealed through the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by further steps until the full revelation of it became complete in the New Testament.  So God’s people – whether living in Old Testament times or New Testament times – are all saved the same way.  Whether God’s people lived before Jesus died on the cross or after Jesus died on the cross, God’s people are all saved the same way: not by works; not a covenant of works, but by a Covenant of Grace, the condition of which is faith – and even faith itself is a gracious gift from God.  Old Testament believers looked forward in faith to a Christ who would come.  Believers like us living in New Testament times look back by faith to a Christ who has come.  But all are saved by grace through faith.

The writer will go on in Chapter 11 and talk about all of God’s people who were saved by faith.  He will start with Adam and Eve’s son, Abel.  He will say in verse 4 of Chapter 11, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous …”  All of God’s people are all saved the same way, not by works, but by grace through faith in God’s provision for perfect atonement and forgiveness, Jesus Christ.

The writer’s main point in the first part of Chapter 9 here is that the old covenant given under Moses, that Covenantal system with the tabernacle, priests, and animal sacrifices was a way of worship that could not finally take away sin and give the worshiper a clean conscience.  He will go on to say very explicitly in the next chapter, Chapter 10, verse 4: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  Why then have all of those animal sacrifices?  Why were animals killed by the high priest who then took blood from the sacrifice and put it on the top of the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat?  Why did God set it up this way?

One of the main things God is teaching is that sin is costly.  Sin against a holy God requires a penalty.  And the penalty is death.  When an animal was killed it was a way of teaching that something costly is required for forgiveness, for atonement.  This teaching about the costliness of sin was reinforced every single time an animal’s blood was shed.  Leviticus 17:11 declares, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’”  The blood symbolized that death has occurred.  The death of the victim, the sacrifice, represents the yielding of life on behalf of others.

What we have been reading in the previous verses is that these animal sacrifices were a temporary means by which sinners were enabled to approach God.  They did not take away sin in any complete sense.  They were temporarily effective in enabling sinners to come to God.  Animal sacrifices could provide only external, ceremonial purity that lasted a short while – until the worshiper sinned again!  For this reason, under the old Covenant sinners could never be sure of God’s absolute forgiveness.  Believes in Old Testament times did not enjoy the fuller appreciation for Christ’s death on the cross that we enjoy today.

The Old Testament animal sacrifices and Levitical offerings were a foreshadowing of a greater, more complete sacrifice to come.  The old Covenant of yesterday anticipated the new Covenant of today.  Belief in Christ’s life and death on our behalf results not in mere external purity, but inward purity, too. 

The value of the animal sacrifices

Was that they pointed up the

Need for a perfect sacrifice.

Given the incomplete and imperfect nature of animals sacrifices and the need for continual animal sacrifices, it is not hard to imagine an Israelite saying to himself, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a perfect sacrifice – like a lamb who takes away the sin of the world?!”  Christ’s blood cleanses us both externally and internally, putting away sin and cleansing our conscience, removing the guilt and condemnation, allowing us to live and worship in freedom!

Verse 15 is the key verse to the entire passage. In fact, I have taken today lesson title from verse 15.  Get verse 15 down and you can pretty well understand the remainder of chapter 9.  Verse 15 declares, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

This phrase “the promise of the eternal inheritance” suggests all kinds of blessings and reward in heaven.  Interestingly, however, the writer of Hebrews is not concerned to enumerate all the many wonders and joys of heaven in this passage.  What he does, however, is . . .

Describe the greatest and most wondrous aspect

Of the Christian’s promised eternal inheritance,

What he describes in verse 15 as “the redemption

Of the transgressions under the first covenant”

And then again in verse 26 where he talks about

Christ’s “putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

This suggests that, of all the wonders and joys included in the Christian’s eternal inheritance – all the things we hope to have in heaven like mansions and streets of gold, and banquets and fellowship . . .

None are more wonderful

Nor more valuable than

The joy of knowing that

Our sins and transgressions

Have been “put away.”

 This is our greatest need . . .

Christ’s mediatory work on our behalf,

Christ’s saving work on the cross for

Our sins that we who believe may have eternal life.

Praise God for the Promised Eternal Inheritance!  Let’s look at why it is so valuable and necessary . . .

It Comes Through A Superior Covenant – Verse 15-22.

In verse 15, the writer starts off by saying, “And for this reason …”  This phrase points back to the work of Christ through the new Covenant.  The writer describes Jesus here as “the Mediator of the new covenant.”  He is not a mediator in the modern sense of the word as in heads of state getting together for a summit, someone mediating between the two parties, leading each side to compromise in one way or other to come to an agreement.  God is on one side and man is on the other. 

Man does not dictate the

Terms of the covenant!


God does not compromise!

But . . .

In the case of the new Covenant,

God takes up our slack by coming

To us and mediating a new covenant,

Making a way for us to be reconciled to Him!

The writer goes on to say the Covenant comes to us “by means of death,” Christ’s death on the cross “for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant.” 

Jesus’ work on the cross

Applies in two directions

– Both backward and forward –

Those living in our day

Look back to the cross,

And those living in

Old Testament times

looked forward. 

Those who lived before Christ

Needed to be redeemed

From the transgressions

Under the first covenant. 

They needed atonement,

They needed someone to

Pay the cost of their sin

And purchase them back

From what their sins deserved.

Christ’s death on the cross is for believers both looking forward in faith and backward in faith.  But the application of Christ’s redemption is to believers.  You have to believe.   That is why the writer refers to “those who are called” in verse 15.  Do you see that?  “Those who are called” are believers whom God has called to Himself.  Remember that . . .

In our salvation it is God

Who takes the initiative. 

We are spiritually dead and

Need to be made alive. 

God makes the first move,

Coming to us in the

Regenerating power

Of the Holy Spirit,

Calling us to Himself,

Convicting us of our sin,

Awakening faith in us

To believe in Christ. 

Praise God!

In verse 16, the writer illustrates how the new Covenant is like a last will and testament, “For where there is a testament(or, will), there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  The writer is illustrating how the new Covenant is like our understanding of a last will and testament.  Someone makes out a will.  It says who gets what.  It is authorized legally, but it is not in effect until the one who makes the will dies.  That is the testator.  When the testator dies, the executor of the will reads the will and says, “Okay, here is what the testator says about the inheritance.  Here is who gets what.”

Verse 17 says, “For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.”  The will is “in force” only “after men are dead …”  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  A person receiving an inheritance does not inherit it until the death of the testator.

Verse 18 states, “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.”  The first covenant is detailed in Exodus 24.  The Mosaic covenant was ratified by the sprinkling of blood.  This is the main point.   We do not want to get lost in the details, but the main point is that the Covenant was ratified with blood.

Verses 19 and 20 declares, “For when Moses had spoken every precept (or, command) to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people.  Saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.’”  Again the main point was that the covenant was ratified or sanctioned and authorized with blood.

Verses 21 and 22 state, “Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.  And according to the law almost all things are purified (or, cleansed)with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission(or, forgiveness)We noted earlier this statement from Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’”  The writer is making the point that the first Covenant, the old Covenant, the Covenant of Moses, was ratified or sanctioned with the blood of sacrifice.  Someone had to die. 

The shedding of blood

Points to the death of

The animal and the

Yielding of life on

Behalf of the believer.

And the writer is arguing that just as the old Covenant was not effective without the shedding of blood, so the new Covenant requires the shedding of blood.  Just as a last will and testament requires the death of the testator before it becomes effectual, so the death of Jesus Christ is necessary if anyone is to have any hope of an inheritance.

The inheritance that comes by way of the new Covenant is an eternal inheritance.   Unlike the old Covenant – which was temporary and incomplete – the new Covenant is the bequest of an eternal inheritance, praise God!  

Praise God the Christian’s promised eternal inheritance comes through a superior Covenant!   Secondly, the Christian’s promised eternal inheritance is of such value that . . .

2) It Cost The Sacrifice Of Christ – Verses 23-26.

Verse 23 says, “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified (or, cleansed)with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”  We looked yesterday at pictures of all the things having to do with the earthly tabernacle, all “copies of the things in the heavens.”  The writer is saying that all these copies required purification through blood in order to adequately mirror the blood Christ shed for us on the cross.  The one sacrifice of Christ was so grand and so effectual that it required a whole host of copies from an earthly perspective.

Verse 24 states, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies(or, representations) of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”  The word used for “presence” is literally, “face.”  This is a word that suggests something of communication with the Son of God in the face of God the Father.  Where no earthly priest could go, the Son of God goes – into the very presence of God face-to-face.  The effectiveness of His sacrifice right there before the Father’s face, right there before His eyes, for all eternity!

Verse 25 says, “Not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another.”  Remember the earthly high priest had to offer a sacrifice and take its blood into the earthly holy of holies.  He did this “often” entering repeatedly, “every year,” and he could enter only by himself “with blood of another.”  The writer says, “Not Jesus!”  He does not offer many sacrifices of Himself – which would be odd, wouldn’t it?!

Verse 26 declares, “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”  Jesus enters into the holy of holies – not the earthly copy, but the actual holy of holies in heaven – and He enters not with the blood of bulls and goats but with His own blood, offering Himself.  And He remains there right now.  But unlike the earthly high priest who went alone.  Jesus stands in the presence of the Father with those who are united with Him by faith.  

After Jesus said, “It is finished,” the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the worshipper, tore from top to bottom symbolizing access to God in the heavens, and Jesus went behind the veil, that heavenly veil and appeared in the presence of the Father, His Covenant work now ratified by the Father.  And Jesus stands there in the very presence of God and Hebrews 2:6 says, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

Remember that the writer’s main reason for writing this letter is to encourage the Hebrew Christians to stick with it.  Don’t go back to the old covenant!  It’s over!  If you’re trying to live according to the old covenant you’re living according to something that was meant to point you to real life in Christ.  Without Christ, you have no life!!

Going back to the old covenant would be like a man trying to have a relationship with a paper picture of his wife instead of with his real, living, breathing wife!  Without Christ, you’ve got nothing—nothing but shadows, copies, and pointers.

Someone says, “Well, that’s all fine and good for people raised in old covenant worship with Hebrew teachings and all that.  I’m not interested in any of that.”  

Fair enough, but do you understand the wider application of this truth?  There is no real life in anything other than Jesus Christ!  Without Christ, you’ve got nothing—whether you were raised in old covenant Judaism, 21st Century paganism, modern secular humanism, or any other “ism,” religion, cult, or philosophy.  In Christ alone our hope is found!

At the right time, now, at the end of the ages.  Like Galatians 4:4, “…in the fullness of time…God sent forth His Son…”

“…He has appeared to put away sin…”  To annul it.  To do away with it forever.  All who believe have their sins annulled, nullified, put away.

Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice assures us that all of our sins are forgiven.  All!  We have eternal security in Christ because the eternal Son purchased an eternal redemption.  Our inheritance is secure—eternally—in the eternal Christ.  

The sacrifice of Christ.  The cost of our promised eternal inheritance.  The blood of Christ shed for us.  Full atonement, full “putting away of sin” at the cost of Christ’s sacrificial death. 

This is what inspired the hymn-writer who marveled:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

“Full atonement!” can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Praise God the Christian’s promised eternal inheritance comes through a superior covenant, a covenant made possible by the sacrifice of Christ.  It comes through a superior covenant, it cost the sacrifice of Christ, thirdly:

  1. It Culminates in the Second Coming (27-28)

The last two verses of chapter 9, verses 27 and 28 both look forward beyond our present history, looking forward to the day of man’s reckoning and the day of Christ’s return.  Verse 27: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment?”

Why does man “die once?”  Why is it appointed?  It goes back to that first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  When Adam sinned, we sinned.  Just as a believer is “in Christ,” so we once were “in Adam.”  We are united in Adam, the head of all humanity.  When he sinned, we sinned with him in and fell with him in that first transgression.  That’s why we die. 

It is appointed for men to die once, and then after this “the judgment,” man’s day of reckoning.  The day of judgment comes sometime after we die.  The writer does not say exactly when.  His point is simply to say that the day will come when we die and stand before God to given an accounting for our lives.  The only way we can hope to stand before God without fear is to be standing in Christ!  Knowing that we have been forgiven of all sin, that it really has been “put away.”

Incidentally here, you will note that this verse obliterates any notion of reincarnation.  We don’t die and come back again to live another life.  It is appointed for men to die once.  The emphasis is on once.  Just as Christ—verse 28—“was offered once,” not repeatedly.  Once.  The Bible does not teach reincarnation.

Nor does the Bible offer any hope of a so-called “second chance” to believe in Christ after death; as though a person could die without Christ, but then after death he or she is given a “second-chance” to believe in Jesus and be saved.  No, the Bible does not teach this.  It is appointed for men to die once, “but after this the judgment.”  Note the sequence: Death, then judgment.

If you don’t know Christ now, trust in Him now.  Believe in Him now.  As the writer of Hebrews says on numerous occasions: “Today if you here His voice, don’t harden your heart.”  Repent!  Turn from your sin and turn to Him.  Believe in Him!

Believe in the One who “was offered to bear the sins of many,” to as many who believe in His name.  He died once.  But He will appear a second time.  He will come again as verse 28 says, “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

The writer is talking about salvation in the fullest sense, the future tense of salvation.  Remember we can speak of salvation in three tenses: past, present, and future.  Christians can say “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”  I have been saved from sin’s penalty, I am being saved from sin’s power, and I will be saved one day when Christ returns and I enter into the final state of salvation, glorification, I will be saved on that day from sin’s very presence. 

He’s coming again.  He’s coming “to those who eagerly wait for Him.”  What does a person look like who is “eagerly waiting for Him to appear a second time?”  What does that look like?  Do you look like that?  We will see Christ—every one of us.  We will either see Him in joy or we will stand before Him in shame.  Are you ready?

Nearly every time I preach a funeral I’ll say something like this: “You know, one day there will be a service much like this for every one of us.”  That’s essentially what verse 27 is saying.  It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.  Are you ready for that day?

RESPONSE: “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

“Man of Sorrows!” what a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

“Full atonement!” can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;

“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in Heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,

All His ransomed home to bring,

Then anew His song we’ll sing:

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 9:1-14 – The Joy of a Clean Conscience

Grace For The Journey

Remember that the old covenant is not the Old Testament, the first part of the Bible with 39 books in it.  The Old Testament contains the old covenant.  The old covenant is specifically the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with His people through Moses on Mount Sinai.  The old covenant includes all the instructions for how God’s people were to worship God – all the stuff we have been reading about, things about Levitical priests and the priesthood, animal sacrifices, the tabernacle, and so on.

In chapter 9 the writer continues to compare and contrast the old covenant with the new covenant.  When we read in verse 1 of chapter 9 about the “first covenant,” the author is writing about the old covenant; “first” in relation to the new covenant.  He is contrasting the old Mosaic covenant with the new covenant that comes through Jesus Christ.  The first is now being replaced by the new covenant, the “second” one.

We will be reading about the old covenant worship system here – the tabernacle and its furnishings.  Details about gold, veils, lamp stands, and so on.  The writer is calling attention to the glory of it all – Remember . . .

Where he is going.  He will be going on to say that

As glorious as that first covenant is, it is nowhere

Near the glory of the covenant that replaces it,

The second covenant, the new covenant.

When I studied the passage, Edgar Allan Poe’s classic work, The Tell-Tale Heart kept coming to mind.  It is a book where the author artfully treats the matter of the guilt-ridden conscience.   Poe’s book is especially poignant in this regard with the main character – a guy who murdered an older man and hid the body under the very floor where he is later questioned by the police – certain that he can hear his victim’s heart continuing to beat, even though he knows he is dead.  All the while he is being questioned, his conscience is at work and the man continues to hear the victim’s heart beating again and again, ringing in his ears, until at last he confesses to the murder.

The conscience, deep within every person, is that part of us that knows the true us.  We may dress up ourselves nicely, even clean ourselves up nicely on the outside but it is the conscience on the inside that reveals who we really are, pointing up our guilt and shame.  How can the conscience be treated?  How can the conscience be cleansed?

It may not seem like it at first reading, but this is precisely what the writer has in mind here in chapter 9 –

The cleansing of the inner man, the

Cleansing of the guilt-ridden conscience. 

What he does is in our passage is to say that

– While the old covenant worship system with

All of its glittering gold and the accompanying

Trappings of so much religious ritual is a

Glorious sight to behold – it is insufficient

To cleanse the conscience.

All of the ceremonial washings cannot wash away the deep-seated sin and guilt that plagues our conscience.  It is hard not to think of another classic here, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, the murderer who continues to rub her hands together in a futile effort to remove an imaginary spot of blood she is certain all can see on her hands. 

The writer of Hebrews is dealing with all of that here in chapter 9.  Remember . . .

That his overarching theme is to

Demonstrate how Jesus is better

Than the old covenant system.

The words “better” “more” and “greater” occur 25 times in this letter. 

Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant than the old. 

His sacrifice accomplishes what all the old covenant sacrifices

Could never accomplish – the cleansing of the conscience.

Let’s see how we can be forgiven and enjoy a free conscience . . .   

Verses 1-5 state, “Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.  For a tabernacle was prepared the first part, I which was the lampstand and, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; a behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”  These opening verses

The Tabernacle; was what the Israelites took with them wherever they traveled.  The Tabernacle in the wilderness became the Temple in Jerusalem, set up the same way.  This is what the writer is talking about in verses 1-5; the first part of the Tabernacle contained the lamp-stand, table of showbread, and altar of incense which would lead into the second room separated by the curtain there; in the second part of the Tabernacle, behind the second veil was the Holy of Holies in which was found the ark of the covenant – a chest containing the 10 Commandments, the golden pot with manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.  The writer says “of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”  By saying this he is saying that his main point is not to go into detail here.  You can do that later if you wish – going back to the latter chapters of Exodus and you can read all about those things.  Right now, the writer has more pressing matters to teach.

One of the things he is been teaching is . . .

The limitation of this system. 

It was a religious system that

Was restricted to a select few.

The outer courtyard of the Tabernacle prevented anyone from seeing all of this glory of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  Only the Levitical priests and High Priest could enter these rooms.  And only the High Priest was able to go into the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the second room.  Only one, the high priest could enter, and then only once a year.  Everyone else excluded.

It would be like having a clearance card you wear around your neck like a lanyard.  At the very outside of the temple, the court of the Gentiles you swipe your card or hold it up to the scanner and you are given clearance into the court of Gentiles.  But if you hoped your card would get you into the tabernacle – let alone the inner sanctum, when you swiped your card to enter those two rooms the machine would flash “Access Denied!”

Verse 6 declares, “Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.”  Only the Levitical priests were allowed into the first section where they “performed the services” such as changing out the bread of the presence, the lamp oil, and trimming and lighting the lamps.  They also burned incense and offered daily offerings.

Verse 7 declares, “But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.”

The words, “the second part,” are speaking of the second and final room within the tabernacle, known as the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies, Holiest of All).  It is the room where the items of verses 4 and 5 are described.  No one was allowed to enter this room, under sentence of death, with the exception of the consecrated high priest.  And even he could only enter “alone once a year.”  This was on the Day of Atonement.  Even then, there were set restrictions on his entry into this inner room.  He was never to come “without blood.” 

The shed blood signified that something

Had died in a substitutionary manner

In place of the sin-filled offender.

In this case, it was inclusive of all of the people in Israel, of whom he was not exempt.  As it says, “which he offered for himself.”

The high priest of Israel was a sinner.  He was born in sin, and he sinned in his life throughout the year.   If he came into this room without blood, he would die.  This is not because the blood of an animal could actually cover over his sins, but because of the typology which was pointing to Christ’s perfect substitutionary blood, which alone can truly take away sin. And so the high priest first “offered for himself,” and then also “for the people’s sins.”

No person was exempted from this.  Leviticus 23, verses 28-32 provides instructions concerning this day are given, “And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.  For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.  And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.  It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

It can be seen that these instructions come down to a single word for each person in Israel, which is “faith.”  A person who did not have faith in what was occurring in the temple in Jerusalem would simply seek other ways to please God and satisfy His righteousness demands.  But a person who truly understood his deserved penalty for violating God’s law would be obedient to these precepts on this holiest day of the year. In this, the people acknowledges that their sins were “committed in ignorance.”

In other words, and as an example, King David committed adultery with another man’s wife.  He further, then, had that man killed.  He knew the law and he knew the penalty for it.  But his sin, though understood as such, was regarded as a sin of ignorance because of his heart first having gone astray, and then his remorse over his actions when he was confronted with them.  Any person who failed to have this attitude on this most holy of days would not receive atonement, because he failed to acknowledge that his sin was deserving of death.  Thus, the blood of the substitute was without meaning to him.

This symbolism follows throughout the Bible.  There must be a substitution for the sins people commit.  Jesus is that Substitution.  It is His blood, and His blood alone, which all of these ordinances and rituals foreshadowed.  Without His life in exchange for an individual’s sin, that individual’s life is still under condemnation of that sin and eternal condemnation awaits.  Think on this and understand . . .

That you will face God either

On your own merits, or

On those of Jesus Christ.  

You will fail on your own;

Or you will prevail in Him.

The phrase, “for the people’s sins committed in ignorance” . . .

Illustrates the depth of

Our sinful depravity.

We often speak of sins of commission and omission (things we know are wrong and we do them anyway and not doing the things we should).  We have omitted doing what God has said do.  This may seem bad enough but . . .

Our sin is so deep and so pervasive

That we even sin in ignorance. 

We do things we do not even

Realize are wrong or that our actions

Note what the writer says in verse about all the glory and  majesty of the old covenant, verse 8, “The Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.”  The phrase, “the Holy Spirit indicating this…” is one of those golden phrases full of theology.  The writer is saying something a powerful truth here about the inspiration of Scripture.  All the stuff he has been writing about regarding the temple and service in the temple and all of the teachings of the old covenant in the Old Testament – he is saying that the Holy Spirit is presently indicating what all of that means.  Put another way . . .

The Old Testament writings about

The Mosaic Covenant are true

And the Holy Spirit is even now

Showing us what it all means.

Isn’t that great?!   What the writer stresses here in verse 8 is this phrase, “that the way into the Holiest of All (or the holy of holies) was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.”  What is He saying?   

So long as the old

Covenant Tabernacle –

And later Temple –

Is standing,

There is no way

Anyone was getting

Into the very

Presence of God.

Remember that all of the details of the Jewish Levitical religious system were but copies and shadows of the true reality in heaven.   So, if we live only with the copies and shadows, then no one has access to God’s very presence – even the high priest could only enter into the holy of holies just once a year, and that was simply the place where God made His presence known, but it was not a permanent thing!  This was all richly symbolic.

Verse 9 states, “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience.”  The gifts and sacrifices were temporarily effective in enabling the priest to come before God and act as a mediator, but that was it.  They did not have power to cleanse anyone’s conscience.  They offered only outward, ceremonial purity. 

We have noted before that the offering of animal sacrifices was like paying the minimum monthly payment on a huge credit card debt.  The debt gets rolled over each time, but the debt is still there and still requires ultimate payment.  Old Testament believers were, in a manner of speaking, living on credit.  They were saved by grace through faith just as we are today, but they knew nothing of the satisfaction Jesus Christ would earn through the new covenant such that their hearts could be changed and their conscience cleansed.  They lived with an ongoing weight of guilt and conflicted conscience until the next ceremonial cleansing. 

Verse 10 says, “Concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings(literally baptisms),and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”  I like that word “reformation!”  He is not talking about the Protestant Reformation there.  He is talking about the time or the age of the New Covenant.  He is simply saying that all of these things in the tabernacle were things that prepared the people for the ultimate washing and cleansing to come through Jesus Christ.  Without Christ, the Old Covenant is insufficient and incomplete.  But now, the earthly sanctuary is replaced with the heavenly sanctuary.

Verse 11 declares, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.”  Not of this creation – not a human copy, an earthly copy – but the real thing.  Christ comes as the greater High Priest, from a greater and more perfect Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of heaven itself! 

Verse 12 states, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”  As the Great High Priest Jesus Christ enters behind the veil, behind the curtain, and offers a sacrifice not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood.  He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained an eternal redemption.

We read something of this before back in Chapter 6 and verses 19 and 20, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  When Jesus died on the cross, He offered Himself as an eternal sacrifice for our sin.  The Bible tells us that when that happened something happened to that second veil, the second curtain separating the holy place from the Most Holy Place.  What happened that curtain?  It was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51a) indicating that God has made a way for full access into His very presence – through Christ Jesus.  The holiness of God now available to all who come through Christ.  Isn’t that amazing?  God makes a way for us to enter into His presence through Jesus Christ. 

Verses 13 and 14 declare, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies(sets apart)for the purifying(cleansing)of the flesh (just the outward flesh, not the inner man, the conscience)how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot(blemish)to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”  Note the powerful theological truth here, especially when compared with verse 12 where we read of Christ’s obtaining “eternal redemption:”  When the writer says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit” – that is, with reference to His very nature as eternal spirit – how much more shall the shedding of His blood then bring about an eternal cleansing, an eternal redemption.  In other words . . .

Because Christ is eternal,

His one sacrificial act

Has the power to accomplish

An eternal redemption.

This truth provides the basis for understanding of the doctrine of eternal security.  A Christian’s redemption is eternal because Christ Himself is eternal.  Since the redemption to be secured is eternal, then it requires an offering of one who is Himself, by nature, eternal spirit.

That also means that when we read in verse 14 that Jesus “offered Himself” that we know His death on our behalf is part of an eternal plan.  His death was not a mistake, not an accident, but an eternal plan that exists permanently and inseparably in His eternal nature.  What a mind-blowing truth!

The last phrase of our text tells us that Christ’s blood is that which can “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”  The phrase, “dead works” is evident in the ongoing need of animal sacrifice.  The high priest does his work in the holy of holies and no sooner than he completes his work and passes back through the curtain does he find himself sinning and all the people sinning, too.

Religious works are “dead works” because they cannot cleanse the conscience from the guilt and stain of sin.  And this impedes our joy.  We have no joy in worship because we have guilt-ridden consciences.  We know our sin.  We know our guilt.  And it affects everything.  We cannot sing to the Lord and we have no joy as long as we are plagued by guilt.  We have hurt the one who loves us.  When you are guilty of doing wrong against someone, you cannot celebrate or rejoice.  A guilty conscience leads to guilty feet.  Sin affects your whole body.  When the conscience is overburdened with guilt, worship is impossible. 

It is like washing your car.  You know you can’t keep your car clean, right?  It gets dirty so quickly.  You may run in through the car wash and dry it.  And on the way home you drive through a puddle, or it begins to rain, or you drive through a construction site.  It gets dirty again really quickly.  You have got to keep going back to the car wash.  It never ends.

The writer of Hebrews is saying that if you are relying on the Old Covenant as a means of perfection, completion, and cleansing your conscience, it never ends.  You have got to keep going back again and again and again to wash away the dirt of sin.  To carry the analogy a bit further, what you really need is a car wash that can so wash your car that it not only makes it look shiny and new on the outside – but shiny and new on the inside!  That’s the new covenant.  It changes the heart, you see.  It provides and inner, spiritual cleansing and the cleansing of the conscience. 

The Mosaic system could never cleanse the conscience, could never grant the peace and joy of a clean conscience.   What can wash away my sin?  The blood of animal sacrifices?  No.  What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  That’s right!  The blood of Jesus.  Blood, which indicates the death of the victim, also symbolically represents the giving of life on behalf of another. 

That is where the mercy seat, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant comes in.  The word for mercy seat means something that propitiates or atones.  There was theological significance in that the mercy seat was the part of the Ark that was sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.  In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul applies the word to the death of Christ.  He writes in Romans 3:25, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood …”  This is why Jesus speaks as He does during that last supper in the Gospels.  He takes the cup and says, “This cup is the new covenant (new!) in My blood which is shed for you,” shed for the forgiveness of sin.  The hymn’s refrain is the believer’s rejoicing, “What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  

How is your conscience?  What did you do last night?  What did you see?  What thoughts were going on in your head?  Is your conscience clean?  What of that recurring sin that robs you of joy – you cannot even look at your spouse without feeling the pang of guilt inside.  Ah, the beauty of the wonderful truth: “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 8:6-13 – Explaining The New Covenant

Grace For The Journey

We are in Hebrews today.   There is a lot of ground to cover this morning and I am looking forward to our study today on the important matter of “a better covenant.”  Do you know what is the longest Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament?  It is this one in Hebrews 8, verses 8-12.  The writer is quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34.  We are going to be studying these verses and talking about how they find fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  We noted yesterday that the entire Bible is a “Him” Book, a book that is all about Him.  I do not remember where I got this but, the following is an excellent summary statement about the Bible . . .

Old Testament = Jesus Predicted

Gospels = Jesus Revealed

Acts = Jesus Preached

Epistles (like Hebrews) = Jesus Explained

Revelation = Jesus Expected

The Bible is all about Jesus.  Hebrews Chapter 8 presents Jesus as the true and better priest, the greater priest, the Great High Priest.  In verses 6-13 the writer presents the  Better Covenant.  We will learn about that wonderful truth today.

The first two thirds of the Bible is called the “Old Testament” and the remaining third is called the “New Testament.”  The word “testament” is a synonym of “covenant.”  Even the very structure of our Bibles attests to at least in a very general way in which the old and new covenants can be seen or structured.  At the same time, however, it would be wrong to think of the old covenant as the Old Testament entirely.  Or, put another way . . .

The Old Testament contains the old covenant,

But the Old Testament is not Itself the old covenant. 

What is the old covenant?  Before we talk specifically about what the old covenant is, let’s back up a bit and talk about other covenants in the Bible.  I think this will be helpful because many Christians stumble at questions about these covenants.  

Someone asks, for example, the following questions: “Are people saved by keeping the old covenant?”  “If not, then under what covenant were Old Testament believers saved?  “Did they have to wait for Jesus to come?”  “And in what sense is the new covenant better than the old, as the writer of Hebrews says it is?”  I want to slow down a bit today and talk about some of these covenants.

What Is A Covenant In The Bible? 

What does that word “covenant” even mean? 

A covenant describes the way

In which God relates to His people.

The way God chooses to relate to His people is by virtue of a covenant. 

A covenant is God’s word that

He will relate and interact with

His people in a certain way. 

Since God is the creator,

He alone sets the terms of the covenant.

Man is not asked to weigh in on covenants.  God speaks and says, “Here’s the way it’s going to be between you and Me” and the covenants include promises about what God says He will do.

And if you think about it . . .

If there were no covenants,

How would man know

How to relate to God?

God is a God of love, purpose, and plan.  He loves the people He has created and seeks a relationship with them. 

He does not just leave man to himself,

Leaving him to try and figure things out. 

He creates and says, “Here’s how to know Me

And how to live in this world I created.” 

That is a covenant; a description of

How God relates to His people.

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember vividly of our being told to put on our thinking caps; imaginary hats we were to put on when we set our minds to really study and focus.  The teacher would say, “Alright class, put on your thinking caps” and that meant, “Get ready, we’re going to need to think hard about some stuff.”  I want to encourage you to put on your thinking cap.  These truths we’ are talking about is not hard, really.  We just do not usually think about it as much as we should. 

Got your thinking caps on??  Let’s get started.  What is the first covenant in the Bible?  The first one is found where you would expect to find in in Genesis chapter 1, where we read about God’s having created the world and created man, Adam and Eve.  God entered into a covenant with them.  He told them how to obey.  He said, “You can do this, and you can do that and, by the way, do not do this – do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  So “do this” and “don’t do that.”  This is a Covenant of Works.  Adam and Eve are to obey God’s commands.  Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.  But what happened very quickly by Genesis 3?  They disobeyed.  Adam broke the covenant by sinning and brought sin into the world.  Adam disobeyed God.  That is talked about in Romans 5, through one man’s sin, through one man’s act of disobedience, sin came into the world and all were made sinners. 

In Genesis 3 mankind is in huge trouble!  He has failed to keep the covenant and has brought sin and death into the world.  How can he hope to be saved?  God addresses that with His next covenant – and think of this covenant as a huge umbrella that goes from Genesis 3 all the way over to Revelation. 

This wide sweeping covenant

Is a wonderful covenant,

A covenant that encompasses

All the other covenants beneath it. 

This overarching covenant

From Genesis 3 to Revelation

Is called the Covenant of Grace.

The Covenant of Grace is God’s choosing to relate to His people in a way they do not deserve and can never earn.  That is what grace means; getting something you do not deserve and cannot earn.  God’s Covenant of Grace is God’s fix for the broken covenant of works by Adam in the Garden.  The Covenant of Grace is the fix that brings God’s people into right relationship to Him.  

Now before we go on and talk about these other covenants, namely the Abraham or Abrahamic Covenant and the Moses or Mosaic Covenant, or the Davidic  Covenant, let’s be sure to understand this:

God’s people –

Whether living in

 Old Testament times

Or New Testament times;

Whether living before

Jesus died on the cross

Or after Jesus

Died on the cross –

God’s people are all

Saved the same way. 

All God’s people are

All saved the same way.

And how is that? 

Not by works;


A covenant of works,


By a Covenant of Grace,

The condition of which is faith –

And even faith is a gift from God Himself.

Old Testament believers are saved by grace through faith, believing in the promises of God, including the promise of God’s sending Messiah, the Anointed One.  Old Testament believers took God at His Word and believed Him.  Abel, Enoch, Noah – they believed God and looked forward to the fulfillment of His promises.  Saved by grace, through faith – faith in a Messiah or Christ to come. 

When we are in the Old Testament

We look back to the coming

Christ who is promised;

When we are in the New Testament

We look at the promised Christ

Who has come.

And both the Old Testament and New Testament teach that, according to the Covenant of Grace, all of God’s people are saved the same way; by grace alone, in Christ alone, and through the instrument of faith alone.  No one is saved by the merit or effort, and no one is just saved automatically.  You have to believe God and believe His Word.  

The Covenant of Grace is the big umbrella covenant for God’s people from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22.  Underneath this awesome and wonderful Covenant of Grace are the other covenants – and we are going to look at all of them, but I do want to talk about the ones that especially concern us this today; namely the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant.  

In the Abrahamic Covenant, roughly 2,000 years before Christ, God made a covenant with Abraham.  The Abrahamic Covenant – given in Genesis 12, Genesis 15, and Genesis 17 – is God’s promise to bless Abraham and his sons, who will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shores.  Men and women believers blessed through the Abrahamic Covenant.  This is especially significant because this includes all of us who are Christians.  If you are a believer, you are one of the many sons of Father Abraham, as the song goes: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham.  I am one of those and so are you…”  That is biblical by the way.  The Bible says in Galatians 3:7 and 8, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.”

The Abrahamic Covenant finds a home beneath the larger umbrella of God’s Covenant of Grace which goes from Genesis 3 through Revelation.  The essential components of God’s Covenant of Grace are found within the Abrahamic Covenant.  This is the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 where he writes that Abraham believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6).  Paul’s point is that all of God’s people are all saved the same way . . .

By grace through faith,

By believing God and

Receiving His righteousness.

Now 430 years later in time, so roughly 1430 BC, here comes the Mosaic Covenant, God’s covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai.  Now remember: this covenant also finds a home beneath the larger umbrella of God’s Covenant of Grace which goes from where?  Genesis 3 through Revelation 22.  All of God’s people are all saved the same way – by grace through faith. 

But what is this covenant with Moses, the Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant?  It is here that God gives very specific rules and laws for His people; rules indicating how they are to live.  There are many laws, all of them essentially summarized in the 10 Commandments written in stone, kept in “the Ark of the Covenant.”  There were as many as 613 laws given by God through Moses on Mount Sinai, laws governing foods whether clean or unclean, certain clothing whether approved or forbidden, animal sacrifices through Levitical priests as a means by which to show the need for forgiveness for sin, and so on.  Much of these laws were to indicate the “separate” way in which God’s people were to live among the world; holy, set apart.  

The Davidic Covenant, which came about 600 years later, about 1,000 BC.  The Davidic Covenant was God’s promise to David that He would establish a kingdom that would reign forever, finding ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah, who comes from the line of David.  

That leads us to this question: “Of all these covenants, which one is the “old covenant?” In answering this question, it is helpful for us to note that the New Testament never refers to the Abrahamic Covenant as the old covenant.  Nor does the New Testament ever refer to the Davidic Covenant as the old covenant.  The New Testament, however, does refer to the Mosaic Covenant as the old covenant.  When we read in Hebrews about the old covenant becoming “obsolete” or “growing old” and being “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13), we understand the writer to be referring to the Mosaic Covenant with all of its dietary laws and system of Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifice.  

Remember . . .

That the Mosaic Covenant, the old covenant,

Is not the means by which

God’s people were saved from sin.

Remember . . .

That all of God’s people are all saved

The same way; by grace through faith.

The Mosaic Covenant finds a home underneath the umbrella of God’s Covenant of Grace.  I am not suggesting that all Old Testament believers fully understood God’s Covenant of Grace as we do today, but true believers were those who believed God.  That leads us to a second question, “Why does the writer of Hebrews teach that the old covenant needs to be replaced?  Why does he describe the old covenant here in Hebrews 8 as “obsolete” and “growing old” and “ready to vanish away?”

It is important to remember the context of this letter to the Hebrews.  These Jewish Christians, believers who had been raised under the Mosaic Covenant with all these priests and sacrifices and the temple.  They came to know Messiah, Jesus Christ, and received Him as Lord.  For this reason, many of them – if not most of them – were undergoing persecution for their faith, persecution largely from family and friends who remained under the old covenant and had not received Christ.  These family members and associates excommunicated the Hebrews to whom the writer is addressing.  These folks had been cut off from family, from the temple, and from their whole world as they knew it.  For this reason, many of them were tempted to go back to the old ways.

The letter to the Hebrews is about why they should not go back.  And why?  In a word?  Better.  Jesus is better.  Better than the angels, better than Moses, better than Joshua, better than Aaron, better than anyone or anything.  To this point in our study we have noted how the writer has done just that, most recently in showing how Jesus Christ is a better, truer High Priest than any human priest throughout history.  

And he says in Hebrews chapter and verse 6 he states, “But now He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.”  What the writer is doing now is telling these believers: “Don’t go back to the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant.  It is now ‘obsolete … growing old … and vanishing away.’  It has been replaced by such a better covenant, the new covenant.”

And then, the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, which is a prophetic promise of God through the Prophet Jeremiah some 600 years before Christ.  And he writes about this new covenant.  Before he does, he says something about it in verse 7, “For if that first covenant (the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant) had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.”  If all we had were verse 7 we might conclude that the first covenant was not faultless because there was something wrong with the covenant itself.  The writer says the first covenant was not “faultless,” suggesting fault of some kind.  In fact, had it been without fault, he says there would be no need for a second covenant.

But . . .

Verse 8 shows that the problem with

The first covenant was not the covenant itself,

But the people who failed to keep the covenant.

Verse 8 says, “Because finding fault with them (not “it,” not the covenant, but “them”), He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” 

The fault lies not

With the covenant,

But with the people.

The fault of the first covenant was “with them.” 

It was not that God gave

The people bad laws,

It was that the people

Had bad hearts! 

Hard hearts,

Unbelieving hearts.

Remember all we studied back in Chapters 3 and 4?  How many times did we read about the people hardening their hearts through unbelief and dying out in the wilderness, failing to enter God’s rest?  It was not bad laws on the part of God, but bad hearts on the part of His people.  

When the people stood with Moses there at Mount Sinai after he read all the law, they replied: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8; 24:7), but they did not do that!  They did not continue in the covenant, but they broke the covenant time and again.  Therefore, God promises a new covenant.  Jeremiah prophesies God saying: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”  Then verse 9 declares, “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt(the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai); because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them(or turned His back on them), says the Lord.”   

The laws God gave His people were good laws, commands given out of love, but the people broke them routinely.  One reason why the people broke them was because their obedience to those commands was largely an external obedience.  It was an outer obedience driven by mere human will.  Outer conformity that masked an inner, hard-heartedness.  These good laws of God were not getting down into them, inside them, not getting into their heads and hearts.  In fact, Moses says as much at the end of some 40 years of rebellion in the wilderness. Moses says in Deuteronomy 29, verse 4, “… the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.”

In other words . . .

The people in the wilderness

Were rebelling largely

Because God’s commandments

Were not getting

Down inside them. 

They needed

The divine enabling

Of God’s power.

Now look at verse 10 which says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Unlike the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant of external laws, God promises to bring moral transformation to God’s people by writing His laws not on stone like the 10 Commandments, but by writing on their very hearts.  And how does God do this? 

By writing His law on our hearts

By way of the Holy Spirit.

This truth about the new covenant is connected to Ezekiel 11 and Ezekiel 36 which describes God’s supernatural power in overcoming our stony heard hearts.  Ezekiel 11:19-20 declares, “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

This is divine enabling of God’s people

To overcome their rebellion and enable

Them to walk in obedience to His commands.

Are you beginning to see how the new covenant is “better” than the old? 

There is another way it is better.  Verse 11 states, “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.’”  Here is yet another reason the new covenant is better than the old Mosaic covenant.  Old covenant teachers taught people about God so knowing God was all about learning information, external knowledge.  In the new covenant, knowing God is something that is both external and internal.  You can know God personally and more fully by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord.  God indwells you with His Spirit such that you know Him on the inside.  Is not that awesome! 

Verse 12 says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sinsand their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  The new covenant is also a better covenant than the old covenant in that the old Mosaic Covenant could not actually remove sin. The blood of bulls and goats through animal sacrifices could never provide actual atonement and remove completely all the guilt and stain of sin.  

As we have noted before, animal sacrifice just allowed the people to “get by” for awhile, much like paying the minimum balance due on our credit card allows us to “get by” until the next debt is owed.  When Jesus died as the better sacrifice, the more complete and perfect sacrifice, Jesus paid it all.  So God says in verse 12, “I will remember their sins no more.”  That is a better covenant! 

Then the writer concludes with the summary statement in verse 13, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  His point is that the very notion of a new covenant supersedes the previous covenant.  The very mention of something “new” suggests that the “old” must go.  It is becoming “obsolete” … “growing old” … “ready to vanish away.”

As we yesterday in the opening verses of chapter 8, all of the things bound up with the old covenant, the Mosaic covenant, are but copies and shadows of the better, the real.  All of the Levitical priests who served as mediators between God and the people were but copies of the true and better Great High Priest and Mediator Jesus Christ.  All of the animal sacrifices were given by God to illustrate the importance of sacrifice.  Sin brought death so death was required as sacrifice and substitute for man’s offense.  When an animal was killed by a priest and its blood shed and placed upon the altar and among the people, the people were taught to understand the seriousness of sin, that sin required sacrifice.  This sacrificial system pointed up their need for an ultimate perfect sacrifice, the Perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This is what our Lord Jesus promised His followers in that Last Supper at the conclusion of His earthly ministry.  In the upper room Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:20), “poured out for you for forgiveness of sin” (Matthew 26:28).  Now that the Perfect Lamb has come in Jesus Christ through the new covenant then the old has “become obsolete and growing old” and “is ready to vanish away.”  The writer is saying, “Don’t go back to the shadows and copies!  Embrace the real thing.”

If I had not seen my wife for a week or so and then she comes home and walks through the door, what am I going to do?  Am I going to stop and say, “Wait, let’s FaceTime with each other?!”  No, that is a copy of her.  I am going to embrace the real thing!  I am going to embrace her!  The writer is saying, “Don’t go back to the shadows and copies!  Embrace the real thing, embrace Jesus Christ, the whole who has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).”

To wrap up this marvelous truth, you can write down these two truths for later reflection . . . In What Way is the New Covenant Better than the Old Covenant?  Two main ways . . .

1) Better Spiritual Experience For God’s People.

Too often we think of the believers in the Old Testament times as having it somehow better than us, witnessing all those miracles of the exodus, for example.  But the Old Testament believers did not live with the same knowledge of God and experience of God as believers today.  They knew God only from a distance.  They used priests, mediators, who stood for them in the presence of God.  

New covenant believers have a richer, fuller understanding and experience of God.  They have a clearer viewer of Christ and His redemption. They are in His presence all the time through their Great High Priest Jesus Christ.  They have a richer sense of His presence by way of the Spirit.  They know God personally in a way no old covenant believer could know God!

New covenant believers also enjoy a better spiritual experience in that they have the guilt of sin removed.  Even though they lived under the umbrella of God’s Covenant of Grace, old covenant believers did not understand the fuller application of that grace and therefore were always looking to the next animal sacrifice in the hopes that their ongoing sin and accompanying guilt would be removed.  But it was always there.  This is why the writer will encourage them in the next two chapters to enjoy a cleansed conscience and to “…draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…” (Hebrews 10:22).  And how is all this possible? 

That leads us to the second truth.  Better experience for God’s people and a better empowering of God’s people.

2) Better Spiritual Empowering Of God’s People.

Apart from the divine enabling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit, we remain unable to believe God, to live by faith in Him.  So, God does two things: (1) Jesus Christ comes and fulfills all the commands of the old covenant for us so that we can be forgiven; and (2) God grants us the grace to believe by empowering us to rest in faith in Him, taking out our hearts of stone and giving us hearts of flesh, writing His very law upon our hearts. 

Recall what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 29:4, “… the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.”

Laws themselves do not change people.  A person who has a drinking problem knows there is a law that says, “Do not drive drunk.”  That ss a law and breaking it has consequences.  But the law itself changes no one.  Laws themselves are powerless to change a single person.  But, what happens when that alcoholic turns to Jesus in faith and repentance and the Holy Spirit indwells him now, getting down on the inside, and God writes His laws on that man’s heart?  He now has the ability to change.  Moral transformation takes place.  He now wants to live a life pleasing to the Lord.  God has given Him the “want to!”  He no longer wants to drink alcohol, he wants to drink from the well of Living Water, Jesus Christ Himself!

True life change and salvation is

Possible for every single one of us. 

We need only embrace the Lord Jesus Christ,

To be our Savior, who comes to us in

Fulfillment of God’s new covenant,

His new way of relating to His people.

If you are a Christian, you can enjoy assurance of your salvation.  You have a desire within you to do God’s will.  You have His laws written on your hearts, giving you the “want to,” you want to do what is right, praise God!  Thank God for that.  Grow in your obedience to God’s laws on your hearts by doing what His Word teaches.  Your heart will grow in greater love for Jesus and delighting in Jesus.

If you are not a believer, you will never be saved by trying to do good.  That is like trying to find peace through the old covenant of laws and religious works.  Repent today.  Turn from your sin and embrace Jesus!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”