Studies In Hebrews #11
by Alex D. Ogden

From Hebrews 1:1 thru 10:18 our writer has presented several arguments to convince his readers, Jewish Christians, that they should remain faithful to Christ instead of going back into Judaism. To do this he has shown the superiority of: 1> Christ to the angels (1:4-14); 2> Christ to Moses (3:1-6); 3> Christ's priesthood to Aaron's priesthood (7:1-10:18); 4> Christ's covenant to the covenant through Moses (chapter 8) and 5> Christ's sacrifice to animal sacrifices (9:1-10:18). Any Jewish Christian of the day reading this epistle surely was impressed with the importance of remaining faithful to their Lord, Jesus Christ.

In 10:19-25 our writer draws out the practical implications of the spiritual truths he has already established. These verses, as we shall show, lay a foundation for the remainder of the epistle.

A Threefold Exhortation

The author of Hebrews wants to exhort his readers to do three things: "draw near...hold fast...consider one another". Before considering these three points, however, he wishes to sum up some of the arguments he has been making.

He begins by saying we have, "boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus" (v.19). The "holy place" under consideration is heaven itself (see 9:8,24). This ability to enter into the heavenly sanctuary through Christ is contrasted with the restricted symbolic entry into the presence of God in Israel's earthly sanctuary. Access into what symbolized heaven was limited to the High Priest and even he was not permitted into the holy of holies but once in the year on the day of Atonement. We now have "boldness" to enter in. He has already issued an invitation to his readers to draw near with boldness: "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace" (4:16; see also Eph.3:12 & 1 Jn.5:14). We are able to enter in with boldness because of the "blood of Jesus". He has already told us in 9:12 that Jesus "through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption." Jesus has procured for His people equal right to enter in by means of that same blood. The child of God now has what was not available under the old law.

He continues by describing the way into the holy place. It is "the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way." The Latin word for priest is "pontifex", which means a bridge-builder. The priest of the Old Testament, and now Christ as our "great priest", is one who builds a bridge between man and God. Under the priesthood of Aaron the priest was limited in what he could do because there was only one way into the presence of God, through the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies, and God had strict regulations as to who could go in by that way; the high priest once a year. But Jesus, being a "great priest over the house of God" (v.21; see 3:6), has built a "new" bridge between man and God. It did not exist until He built it and entered Himself into the holy place by it.

It is not only new but "living". Christ Himself, being ever-living as His people's sacrifice and priest, is the way to God (see Eph.2:18). We remember the words of Jesus in John 14:6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me." Jesus is Himself the bridge between man and God. Our author himself makes this point when he said, "through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." When Jesus "gave up the ghost" (Mk.15:37) on the cross, the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies "was rent in two from the top to the bottom"(Mk.15:38). This rending of the temple veil symbolized the unveiled access man now has to God. The way into the holy place is through the veil of the body of Jesus Christ. His body was rent so the blood could be shed, which blood enables His people to enter in. Our author looked upon the veil as symbolizing our Lord's human life, presented to God when He "suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Pet.3:18).

The writer, having emphasized again the access we now have to God, now turns his attention to three exhortations. Remember that our author is attempting to convince his readers to remain faithful to the Lord rather than turning back to Judaism. These exhortations are designed to do just that. Also note that the writer does not demand something of them which he himself is not willing to participate in. In each exhortation he says, "Let US." These are, therefore, things which we should also strive to heed.

Let Us Draw Near

"Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water" (10:22).

Having now a way to enter in the holy place, our writer encourages us to "draw near" (see again 4:16). The "better hope" of Christ's new covenant is that "through which we draw nigh unto God"(7:19). We are able to draw near because of the sacrifice Jesus made of Himself, which sacrifice provides a better hope. Under the old law what drawing near was possible, the high priest once in the year, provided no real hope for the remission of sins. Now we can truly draw near unto God knowing our sins will be forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

How do we draw near? Through offering up "a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name" (13:15,16). In this process of drawing near there is prayer (1 Tim.2:8; Acts 2:42; Phil.4:6,7; 1 Thess.5:17); worship in song (Eph.5:19; Col.3:16); and the thanksgiving offered in other acts of worship such as the Lord's supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.11:23-29).

We are to draw near "with a true heart." Jesus said, "..true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23,24). The idea in both passages is a heart of sincerity; one which manifests the proper attitudes towards God. We are not merely to draw near unto God because it is on our list of things to do, but because we want to draw near. We should draw near because of a desire of our heart to have an intimate relationship with our creator.

Our drawing near must also be "in fulness of faith." The idea is of unwavering confidence; a fulness of faith in God and our High Priest which leaves no room for doubt (see also Col.2:2; 1 Thess.1:5; Rom.4:21; 14:5). We are to draw near unto our God fully persuaded that "he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him" (11:6). It is this unwavering confidence that our writer will address at length in chapter 11. We must draw near with faith which has no room for doubts.

We must also have "our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." Our author has already contrasted the lack of conscience cleansing under the old law with the cleansing of the conscience available through the blood of Christ (9:9,13,14). Aaron and his sons were ceremonially cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood of animals (see Exod.29:15-21). New Testament priests (Christians-1 Pet.2:5,9) were and are actually cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 Jn.1:7). This cleansing with the blood takes place when the individual first becomes a N.T. priest, which takes place when the individual is baptized into Christ Jesus. It is, in fact, in baptism where we come into contact with the shed blood of Jesus (Rom.6:3-11).

We are also told to have "our body washed with pure water." Priests under the law were consecrated to the priesthood by a complete washing of their bodies before donning their priestly garments (Exod.29:4). Penitent believers are inducted into Christ; hence, become N.T. priests, by baptism (Gal.3:26,27; Rom.6:3,4). Other N.T. passages speak of baptism in similar terms: Tit.3:5--"washing of regeneration" and Acts 22:16--Ananias told Saul, "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (see 1 Pet.3:21).

A Jewish Christian who heeds this exhortation will surely remain faithful to Lord.

Let Us Hold Fast

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised"(10:23).

The Hebrew writer has already encouraged his readers to hold fast to their confession: 3:14--"for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end" and 4:14--"...let us hold fast our confession."

When we obeyed the gospel of Christ we confessed our faith in Jesus as the Son of God (see Lk.12:8,9; Rom.10:9,10; Heb.13:15; Mt.10:32). By confessing Jesus to be God's Son and our Lord, we confessed that we were putting all our hope in Him. The Jewish convert was confessing that they were no longer putting their hope in the works of the law, but in the sacrifice Jesus made of Himself on the cross.

Our writer encourages them to "hold fast" to that confession. They are to "keep secure, keep firm possession of" (Thayer) that which they had confessed to be the basis of their new hope in Christ. How would they do that? By continually reminding themselves of the promises made by their Lord. They had put all their trust and hope in Jesus based upon the promises He had made. They needed to remind themselves of those promises and remember that "he is faithful that promised."The writer has already stressed the encouragement that should be found in the promises of God. He said God's faithfulness to fulfill His promises gives us encouragement, "who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us: which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and stedfast and entering into that which is within the veil" (6::13-20). God's faithfulness to fulfill His promises gives us the encouragement to "hold fast" our hope that it "waver not".

If the recipients of Hebrews would remember the promise of salvation, and the lack of such under the old law, and remember the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises, they would have the encouragement necessary to remain faithful to Christ.

Let Us Consider One Another

"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh" (10:24,25).

After encouraging his readers to "draw near" and "hold fast", both of which deals with things they needed to do on their own, he now encourages them to think of each other. They would be more apt to "draw near" and "hold fast" if they would encourage each other in these endeavors.

The word "consider" here comes from an original expression which meant "to diligently inspect." The writer had already used the word to encourage his readers to "diligently inspect" "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus" (3:1). Here he is telling us to "diligently inspect" each other so we will be in a position to provoke them unto "love and good works."

The idea of provoking is to "stimulate." We are not to stimulate to things evil, such as provoking to wrath (Eph.6:4), but to things which are good; namely, "love and good works." The things we say and do with our brethren should be such that they will be stimulated to a greater degree of love. We are to incite one another to love God, Christ, the faith, and fellow-Christians. And we are to stimulate one another unto good works. In other words, the things we say and do with our brethren should be such to incite them to greater service in the Lord's kingdom. In our considering one another we may note an area where they are not as active as they ought to be. We should strive to say or do something to stimulate them to activity in that area. We are to "diligently inspect" one another to see where we need to encourage one another.

The writer then considers one particular opportunity where they, as brethren, would be able to "consider" and "provoke" one another: their worship assembly. We are told not to forsake "our own assembling together." Undoubtedly our author has in mind the frequent assemblies the early saints had. Notice these assemblies, in this context, were to be for the purpose of "exhorting one another." They are intended to help us fulfill the admonition of verse 24. When we choose to do something else of this world rather than assembling with our saints to encourage them and be encouraged by them, then we forsake an important work. Every child of God should desire to attend every service, knowing that there they will have the opportunity to fulfill a host of Christian obligations.

If the Jewish Christians reading this epistle would seek to "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works", they would be able to encourage other Christians to remain faithful to Christ and be encouraged to do the same themselves.

What else does the writer of Hebrews need to say to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ? We will see that in the remainder of the book he expands upon various things found in this paragraph to further stress these convincing points.

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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.