But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 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 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 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. (NKJV)
In our last posts, we have seen that the First Covenant was a two-fold preparation for the New Covenant.
1. with reference to the people – to show them that sinful men and women cannot come into the presence of a holy God on the basis of their own merit or works. The OT sacrifices were designed to teach the truth of salvation by substitution and sacrifice. The animal substitute took the place of the Israelite sinner. The animal was physically perfect, the Israelite spiritually blemished and imperfect. The animal died, the Israelite lived.
2. with reference to God – the OT period was a time in which God prepared the effectual sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices pointed – the physical body of the Lord Jesus. His is the only sacrifice which could – and did – take away sins.
As we look at the text for this post, we see three things:
1. the liberty we have to approach God, vs. 15-21.
2. the life we are to lead before God, vs. 22-25.
3. the lesson we must pay attention to about God, v. 26.
1. Liberty, 10:15-21.
Since we’ve already dealt with these at length, we’ll only mention a couple of things.
God’s covenant, vs. 15-18. This is God’s promise to do a work in His people, v. 16, as well as for them, vs. 17, 18.
Jesus’ person and work, v. 19-21. This with particular reference to His sacrifice for sin, vs. 19, 20, and His priesthood “over the house of God,” v. 21. Only by the grace of God and never by human initiative, merit or effort do we ever have an audience with or blessing from God, vs. 19, 20.
2. Life, 10:22-25.
“Let us draw near,” v. 22. Let us use and enjoy that inestimable privilege of coming into God’s presence, a privilege not given to any other people under heaven. There are, however, certain requirements which come with the exercise of this privilege:
1. “a true heart” – a heart in which God has worked, v. 16. A heart God has cleansed. A heart in which God’s word is preeminent. A heart (and mind) in which God has written His word, according to the promises of the New Covenant. A heart not taken with the things of this world, but living with eternity in view.
It’s often charged that the view espoused by this blog and those who agree with it, that we are guilty of “antinomianism,” that is, we teach that one can live like they want to, without regard for what God says. Unfortunately, there are those who live like that as a result of what they call “salvation by grace.” However, this isn’t what is meant at all. As we’ve mentioned before, the OT Law was an external code, though it did deal with such things as envy and covetousness, and our relationships with others. And if you want to include the entire code as expressed in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and not just a few verses in Exodus – may I just say that there is a great deal more “justice” – how we’re to deal with and treat others – in those pages that in most of what passes for it today in our legal system. But that’s probably another series of posts.
The New Covenant deals with what we are. The Old Covenant dealt mostly with what Israel did. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant had no provision of “assistance” in obeying it, Deuteronomy 29:4. The New Covenant says that believers are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10, and we are given the Holy Spirit to make sure there’s some evidence of that.
2. “full assurance of faith.” This is not the same thing as “assurance of salvation,” the current way of putting things. The Puritans understood this, as well, that if a person has faith, he is saved. They were concerned with the “assurance of faith.” Faith is the means of salvation. Too often, we think of “being saved” as something else.
For example, a couple from a local church visited us. The lady in particular was interested in witnessing to us. My side of the conversation echoed what I post on this blog, that the focus of our being saved isn’t about what we do, but about what the Lord Jesus did for sinners on the Cross. I appreciate her concern and her effort, but I might as well have been talking to the chair she sat on. Before they left, she was very concerned about whether or not I had “prayed the prayer.” Her entire focus was on what I had done, not on the Lord Jesus. But I suppose that’s to be expected in a culture in which it’s believed that “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”
According to the writer, what exactly is “full assurance of faith”? He lists a couple of things:
1. our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. During various OT rituals, “the water of purification” was sprinkled over people and things. This cleansed them ceremonially, but really did nothing about their sins or their sinfulness. But the OT also prophesies of a time when God will cleanse Israel of her filthiness and her idols and put a new heart and spirit within her, Ezekiel 36:25, 26. This will be as a result of the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Believers enter into this by grace, knowing that our sins were once and forever taken care of on the Cross, and that we ourselves have been “born again.”
2. our bodies washed with pure water. In other words, obedience in baptism. And apparently more is required than just a drop or two of water on an unknowing infant’s forehead: bodies washed with pure water. The Lord commanded believer’s baptism in Matthew 28:18-20. The apostles and disciples baptized only believers. Even in “household” baptisms, it’s evident that the word was first preached and then those who believed were baptized. There’s a lot of assumption that in some of these households, there must have been infants – and the assumption is that these were baptized along with the rest of the household. I’ve dealt with all this before in my series on infant baptism – if you’re interested, you can go there: https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/infant-baptism-a-study-in-three-parts-the-great-commission-and-apostolic-practice/ (This will take you to the first of the three studies.)
We grant that historically, and even in many places today, to be baptized was and is an invitation to persecution and even death. But our Lord has something to say about those who don’t love their life even to the extent of being willing to die, Mark 8:35; Revelation 12:11. Hebrews was written to a people for whom the ordinance of baptism was a clear break with everything in their past.
Baptism was never meant simply to be the subject of debate. It was meant to be the first step of obedience in a believer’s life. It was the first step in a changed life.
“Let us hold fast“, v. 23. Wait a minute! Doesn’t this verse contradict v. 22? How can we have “full assurance” if we have to “hold fast”? After all, aren’t we just supposed to “let go and let God”?
Not at all. That heart and life in which God has worked, v. 16, will hold onto God, cf. John 6:66-68. See also 1 Timothy 6:12. V. 23 draws our attention to the faithfulness of God. Our “assurance” is not that we’ll be saved if we’re “faithful to the end.” Our assurance, based on vs. 16-18, is that if God has worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Jesus Christ and has made His word real and precious to us – our assurance in such a case is that we will be saved because God is faithful. We couldn’t keep ourselves saved for five minutes! Hold fast our profession of faith in God, not in ourselves!
“Let us consider one another“, vs. 24. The problem with having to “hold on faithful to the end” is that we’re always thinking about ourselves. Have we been “good enough”? Have we “done” enough? But this verse shows us that we’re not to be “self-centered,” but “saint-centered”.
Vs. 24, 25 give a good description of Christian love. It’s not a “hands-off, pat-you-on-the back” regardless of how you live or what you believe. True love cares enough to confront those things which are not in line with Scripture. In the culture in which we live, this has become vitally important. Today it’s all about “inter-faith” dialogue and cooperation. This is simply the fruition of the “ecumenical movement” begun decades ago. Paul addressed this situation in a church which prided itself on its “tolerance:” Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship [interests-in-common] has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15. How can those who say they believe in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus “cooperate” with those which deny Him or teach that the Cross is a “monstrous falsehood”?
3. Pursuit, v. 26.
Without wishing to lapse into the heresy that salvation can be lost, let us at the same time strongly emphasize the Biblical teaching that grave responsibilities are entered into by those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus. We are dealing with eternal issues in Christianity, issues which will save or damn men’s souls. It is never just a matter of opinion: “That’s what you believe,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.” Nor is it simply a matter of opportunity: “Well, yes, I believe in Jesus, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.” Christianity is a matter of “orthodoxy,” which is not what the church or scholars or theologians say it is, but what God says it is. It’s not about this or that “church” or this or that denomination.
And “orthodoxy” contains serious warnings. There is one in v. 26.
Verse 26 follows v. 25 and shows that “forsaking the assembly” isn’t about an occasional absence from church. It refers to a habitual and deliberate turning away from the church. However, this is more than just about church “attendance.” The warnings in Hebrews are connected and cumulative. The first warning deals with “drifting” with regard to the Word of God. Hebrews warns against a casual and complacent attitude toward the truths of Scripture, something which even “churches” are capable of, and guilty of. Too many are concerned more with personalities or programs than they are with the proclamation of the truths of God Word. The danger of such “drifting” is that it leads to damnation, as we see here. We’re not talking about the loss of salvation. The person or church which develops a “take-it-or-leave-it ” attitude with reference to the teachings of God’s Word gives evidence that they were never His to begin with.