God's Provision to Come into His Presence

Jesus – God’s Confident Way to Enter His Presence

– Hebrews 10

 

In Hebrews 9 we saw a culminating statement of how the Old Covenant pointed to what God would do in a New Covenant centered on Christ. We were reminded of the imagery of the Tabernacle, its floor plan of a Holy Place where priests were trained and the Most Holy Place ("the Holiest of All") where God's presence was manifested. The symbolic furniture within the Tabernacle were mentioned, in particular the ark of the covenant and the Mercy Seat found in the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 9:1-5).  The limitations of the Old Testament sacrifices showed that the purpose of the sacrifices were to point to "the time of reformation" in Christ (Hebrews 9:6-10). The superiority and sufficiency of Jesus atoning work was contrasted with the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 9:11-15). The fact that a Testament to be enacted required the death of the "death of the testator" was pointed out (Hebrews 9:16-22). And we considered how the Day of Atonement under the Old Covenant symbolically paved the way for and pointed to the once for all totally sufficient atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself (Hebrews 9:23-28). Now in Hebrews 10 we will continue to look at the superiority of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and the benefits which come as a result.

 

Hebrews 10 (NKJV)

10 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these 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 worshipers, 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.

 A copy of a hundred dollar bill will tell you a lot about the bill, but if you try to pay for a meal at a restaurant with it you're going to be embarrassed. You'll need a genuine piece of currency to pay your bill. Similarly, the sacrifices offered under the Old system year after year "can never. . . make those who approach perfect." If they could, then they would only have needed to be offered once. Not only are those sacrifices not able to perfect people, but the continual offering of them serve as more of "a reminder of sins every year" that aggravate our "consciousness of sins." The blood of animals such as bulls and goats cannot take away sins. You can't buy forgiveness with Monopoly money. You need the precious blood of Jesus for that. The Old system only served to drudge up guilt for sin and had no perfecting or permanent effect which would result in gratitude.

There is a theology that teaches the continual sacrifice of Jesus. It is promoted through the doctrine of transubstantiation in what is called "the mass." Transubstantiation teaches that during the liturgy of the mass the elements of communion turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus. It is boasted that this serves to provide the actual presence of Jesus in the mass. But to hold such a view one must disregard the clear teachings of scripture such as we have in the letter to the Hebrews.

The idea of a perpetual or continual sacrifice of Jesus in the mass is a spirit killing, conscience polluting, frustrating and impotent view of the atoning work of Jesus. The idea of a continual sacrifice of Jesus is simply the Old Covenant mindset packaged in a New Covenant facsimile. It is not the authentic tender. It is not the genuine issue. It is not the truth of the New Covenant in Christ and His "once for all" sacrifice for the sins of humanity. This passage could not be clearer on this. The blood of bulls and goats are not offered in such liturgy, but in effect, the blood of Jesus is lowered to the blood of animals. The blood of animals had to be offered annually. The blood of Jesus had to be offered once for all. If you continually offer the "blood of Jesus" then you are seeing it as no better than the blood of animals. That is at worst a severe offense to God and at best shortsighted spiritually.  

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,

But a body You have prepared for Me.

6     In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin

You had no pleasure.

7     Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—

In the volume of the book it is written of Me—

To do Your will, O God.’ ”

These verses quoted from Psalm 40:6-8 appear to give us a perspective of the conversation between the Father and Jesus leading up to the incarnation. It's as though we are brought behind the veil to hear the conversation of the Trinity. And the enlightenment that comes from such a conversation helps us put things in the right perspective.

 

These words tell us that the offerings and sacrifices under the Old Covenant were not an end in themselves for God. God took no pleasure in offerings and sacrifices. No, all of these were to point to Jesus. "In the volume of the book it is written of Me - to do Your will, O God.'" All of the Old Testament (and we can now add the New Testament to that), all the laws and sacrifices all were revealed and given with the purpose of preparing the way for God in Christ to offer Himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity.[1] "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ , and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). To that we say "Praise the LORD!!!"

Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

God takes pleasure in ONE SACRIFICE; the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus. And with the sacrifice of Jesus the previous sacrificial system is "He takes away the first." The first sacrificial system points to and leads to the second in Christ. But once Jesus has sacrificed Himself on the cross, there is no need for further sacrifices.

Under the Old Covenant sacrificial system the worshipper was constantly reminded of their sin, its consequences and the cost of atoning for that sin which was the lifeblood of an animal. But under the New Covenant, with the completely and perfectly sufficient atoning sacrifice of Jesus accomplished at the cross and affirmed accepted by the Father in the resurrection, our focus can shift away from sin to the Savior. At the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the memorial Communion Table for His followers to continue performing until He returns He said, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). We need to focus on our Savior not our sin.

Our tendency is to focus on our sin, our failures, our shortcomings, our inadequacies. The devil and his demons are all too willing and eager to divert our attention from our Savior to our sin. When our focus is on our sin it leads to defeatism, discouragement, depression, and living outside the presence of God. The flesh and the enemy want us to feel inadequate and undeserving to enter the presence of God. And you know what, we are inadequate and undeserving and in our own strength disqualified to approach God's presence. But the blessed truth is that God as a gift of His grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ has given an invitation to live in His presence forever to those who would accept His outstretched hand of fellowship through faith in Jesus. When our flesh and the devil and his minions try to lure us to looking down into our well of sin, we simply need to  look up to Jesus, take His hand, and walk with Him.

Imputed sanctification. The phrase "have been sanctified" (Greek hagiadzo - Perfect/Middle/Participle) means having been made holy, having been purified, having been consecrated, having been sanctified, having been separated from the profane and dedicated to God, having been cleansed (from the guilt of sin). Sanctification here is something that, based on the grammar, the person who puts their faith in Jesus experiences. In other words, when a person puts their faith in Jesus, their sins are forgiven and a sanctifying state is imputed to them. There is a sanctification that is given to those who trust Jesus as Savior.

This sanctification is expressed in such verses as: "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). By virtue of accepting Jesus as Savior God declares us righteous or sanctified, set apart unto Him. That is why Paul refers to the members of the churches to which he writes as "saints" (Greek hagiois - e.g. Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2). The incredible transaction that occurs the moment a person turns from their sin and puts their faith in Jesus is that the effect of Jesus atoning work is credited to us; He paid for our sins; we get His righteousness put to our account. God imputes to us the righteousness of Jesus and a sanctification that sees us separated from the world and belonging to God.

The problem arises when a person does not avail themselves of what God has provided for them in Christ. The flesh wants the person to wallow in sin and defeat so it can manipulate the person. The devil and his hoards want the believer to live in defeat and discouragement. But the follower of Jesus needs to walk in faith with Jesus and the fullness of what is provided for us in Christ.

Under the New Covenant we don't focus on our sin, we focus on our Savior Jesus; we turn from our sin to our Savior Jesus. And when we do that it is the perfect picture of true repentance. This is the only way to cleanse our consciences of the guilt of sin. It is through this turning from sin and to Jesus that we see the sanctifying work mentioned in verse 10 - " By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Turn away from your sin and toward Jesus and experience cleansing from sin.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

I like what one commentator states: " If you feel like you’re in a rut, doing the same things every day to try to impress God, you’re under the old system. And like the priests of old, your work is never done."[2] Are you living to impress God? Are you trying to earn His favor? Are you wearing yourself out trying to measure up? If so, you're living with an Old Covenant mindset. You may have put your faith in Jesus, but you're still living with a religious Old Covenant mindset. And that can be very tiring and discouraging.

            Verses 11-18 summarize the arguments concerning the superiority of the Son's high             priestly sacrifice. The contrasts given in this passage have all been stated before either   directly or by implication. The priests of the Levitical order stood. Jesus is seated in             heaven. Their service was daily, but Jesus sacrificed only once. They repeatedly offered            the same kind of animal sacrifices which did not even possess the remotest possibility of taking away sin and its consequences.[3]

14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

That is an incredible statement. The one solitary offering of Jesus on the cross is so potent and powerful and effective that it perfects forever those who have put their faith in Jesus and are being sanctified. In this sense we are complete, finished in terms of the way God views us in Christ. It's as though when we trust Jesus as Savior God stamps us perfected forever.  

 

Imparted sanctification. There is something very blessed to see in this verse. To see it involves a consideration of the grammar inspired by the Spirit here. Paul writes that "by one offering He has perfected forever" the believer. This reiterates the imputed sanctification mentioned in verse 10. The phrase "He has perfected" (Greek teteleioken Perfect/Active/Indicative verb of teleioo) speaks of something completed in the past with ongoing effects. By virtue of the onetime sacrifice of Jesus and a person having put their faith in Jesus they are seen by God as "perfected forever," or complete in Christ. God sees us as a finished work. This is why Paul could write elsewhere of his confidence that God would complete what He started in believers (e.g. Hebrews 6:9; Phil. 1:6). But even though we are "perfected forever" it doesn't mean we sit back and do nothing! The phrase "being sanctified" speaks of something imparted, something practical and to be lived out. It implies growth and development; life. Which raises a question for us.

 

If we are "perfected forever" why be concerned with how we live from that point on? Doesn't the idea of being perfected forever remove any incentive or motivation for living holy lives? If we're already perfected why care about any further perfecting work? In answer to that I would say that the idea of being "perfected forever" should lead to the greatest motivation for continuing in holy living. Let me illustrate.

 

I dated my wife Dee for three years before I finally asked her to marry me. I can remember our first date as well as my feelings during those three years of courting and how those feelings grew. We enjoyed each other's presence from the start. A friendship started. Then that friendship led to romance and a deep abiding love and trust that continues to this day. During that time I made sure to look my best, act my best and build our friendship. What I wore was important. Deodorant was a must. I was always appropriately groomed. I always made sure to be courteous and engaging toward Dee and just on my best behavior. I'm sure she did the same. Our relationship grew.

 

Finally the day came when I felt it was time to pop the question; Christmas Eve 1979. I like surprises so I hid an engagement ring under a cute small stuffed turtle stuffed into a Christmas stocking. I got Dee some other gifts; big boxes of clothes; a skirt; some gloves. We were opening them with her family (six siblings and her mom and dad). It was crowded. I was a little nervous and if she didn't say yes, well, it would be embarrassing.

 

One by one family members opened their presents. There's always anticipation and curiosity when you open presents on Christmas. Then it was Dee's turn. She began opening my presents. One by one expressing thanks as she opened them. I was getting a sense she was looking for something more. (That was a good sign for me - her apparent spirit of anticipation. Would this be the time he proposes?) Finally she got to the stocking. She couldn't imagine I had saved the best for last. She looked inside and saw a little stuffed turtle. She had a big deal look in response. I coaxed her on. Then she saw it, a small jewelry box; a ring size box. She was guarded. (It could be earrings you know.) But she opened the box, saw the ring, and just looked down. A hush came over the room. Her Mom screamed with delight and her sisters followed. She looked up with tears in her eyes. My eyes met hers and I said, "Well, will you marry me?" And she said "Yes." It seemed like there was a concerted  Well it's about time sigh of relief from her family and everyone was overjoyed. (And a bit of thankful relief from me too.)  I'm sure if you talked to my wife she'd fill in more details. More likely than not she'd  make some corrections in my account too. But that's how I remember it. All my prayers and preparations had led to a memorable event in our lives.

 

With my work done the fun really began. Those of you who have been married know how harrowing and frenetic planning for a wedding can be. For us in the Northeast of the United States a wedding is a HUGE deal with lots of planning. And my wife happens to be of Italian descent so this was a REALLY HUGE deal. Eight months later, after a lot of plans and pre-marital counseling, on August 9th, 1980, on a hot, hot day, Dee and are were married. I can still close my eyes and picture my bride coming down the aisle. I don't remember much of anything other than my beautiful bride on that day. It was a wonderful culmination of courting that concluded in a life commitment covenant of marriage. Wonderful.

 

It's not hard for me to get carried away when I'm talking about my bride and our wedding. But what if when Dee and I were finally married our attitude became Well, I'm sure glad that's all over with. Now I can coast. What if we stopped caring how we acted and looked toward one another? What if we viewed the marriage certificate as a license to disregard and neglect our spouse? What if our "relationship" degenerated into one of selfishly taking advantage of the other? What if we lived on with a single mindset in a marriage relationship? What if our love for each other stagnated and died rather than grow and flourish? If that happened it would be evidence of a lack of real love as well as a very superficial relationship. Really our "relationship" would be exposed as really no relationship at all. And it's likely our marriage would end in divorce.  Sad to say that's exactly what happens in many marriages today. Thankfully Dee and I have never felt like that toward one another. If anything we have grown to appreciate and sacrifice more and more for each other over the years. Our love and life has grown inextricably intertwined with each other. We've reached and long passed a time where we've been together longer than we haven't been together. We are a part of each other like fraternal twins. We can look at each other and know what we're thinking. It's a wonderful thing our marriage.

 

"Now this is the main point of the things we are saying" (Hebrews 8:1). Jesus courts us until we finally say "Yes," to His proposal of marriage. He woos us and courts us by the Holy Spirit. Then finally the day of our conversion and salvation arrives. It's like a wedding. Jesus has proved His love to us on the cross. We surrender all and commit to trust our life to Him. "Forsaking all others," we give ourselves to Jesus. Such a rite of passage leads into an incredible life change. It leads to a kind of marriage. It is a change built on God's revelation light in Christ and His love for us in Christ. I like the way my wife Dee describes this; "You fall in love with Jesus." Our spiritual wedding to Jesus is one filled with light and love and holiness. But can you see how artificial and plastic of us it would be if once we received all the benefits and love of Christ we responded by selfishly and lazily going on from there with no concern for expressing our love or how we presented ourselves to our Lover? What would you think of a spouse who gives no love and cares little about his spouses love? How real would a love be and how true would a relationship be that led to less and dying love rather than more and growing love?

 

If marriage is viewed as merely a conquest achieved and a notch on our belt and something we don't have to care any further about, then we've totally missed the mark and totally failed to enter into what God intended for us. No, when two people marry they don't view their wedding day as an excuse to slack off and take license to care less about expressing their love for one another. Far from it! When people marry they enter a new phase of a life together, one of freedom to express love and build trust and friendship in ever increasing and ever deepening ways. It is a life commitment; a covenant of love. When wed Jesus we marry Him and it should be nothing less. Experiencing His perfection at our conversion wedding should lead to a marriage characterized by a greater desire to grow and know and love Him more and more each moment of all our remaining days.

 

A wedding is a time when two people impute through covenant vows to each other, a commitment "from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish." The marriage is where the that cherishing and love commitment is imparted in life. What's even better is that unlike an earthly marriage, with Jesus we never have to say "until death do us part"! When we marry Jesus, death leads to an even greater, fuller experience of the Bride with her Groom. We will forever be imputed perfect in Christ. We will forever be imparted perfection in a growing sanctifying relationship with Jesus.

At the end of verse 10 Paul stated those who have accepted Jesus "have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." In verse fourteen Paul also uses the phrase "He has perfected forever." This is imputed sanctification. But Paul then goes on to use the phrase "being sanctified" in verse fourteen. This speaks of an imparted sanctification. He speaks of a sanctification that is a process. This is the living out of what has been given to us by God's grace in Christ. The phrase "being sanctified" (Greek hagiadzomenous - Present/Middle/Participle verb of hagiadzo) speaks of an ongoing process.  So while we are viewed by God in Christ as having a sanctification imputed to us, there is also a practical impartation of sanctification which we live out. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This is our cooperation with the Spirit and growth in our walk with the Lord. This is why Paul now mentions the Holy Spirit.

 

15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

 

It is the Holy Spirit who communicates this great salvation to us. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and uses the Law to lead us to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and gives us spiritual life once we trust Jesus as Savior. It is the Holy Spirit who communicates the completeness of the imputed work of our redemption in Christ. And it is the Holy Spirit who works  the imparted sanctification process on through until the return of Christ.

 

The witness and work of the Holy Spirit. What follows is the nature of what the Holy Spirit "witnesses" (Greek martyreo) or testifies to, gives evidence of, charges, bears a record of, reports, witnesses to. And again, the grammar (Present/Active/Indicative) of this word conveys the idea of a constant action. The Holy Spirit constantly gives us evidence and communicates to us these truths. We are never alone; the Holy Spirit is always within us bringing His comfort and correction.

 

16 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,”

 

The Holy Spirit witnesses to the internal reality of God's covenant work in the believer. It is the Holy Spirit who brings God's word and law to mind and heart. He writes new chapters of life in us.

 

17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

 

The Holy Spirit witnesses to us that our sins and lawless deeds are not remembered by God. When your flesh, your weak mind or memory, or the devil try to remind you of your sin, it is the Holy Spirit that gently nudges you to remind you that the blood of Jesus offered on the cross for you has cancelled out your sin and God remembers them no more. Hallelujah!

 

18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

 

The Holy Spirit witnesses to the sufficiency of the atoning work of Jesus. The Holy Spirit convinces us of the truth that the onetime sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was and always will be sufficient to atone for our sins. It doesn't have to be repeated continually. We simply confess our sins and God is faithful to forgive our sins based on the completed work of Jesus (e.g. 1 John 1:7 and 9).

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

The Holy Spirit works to embolden us to come into His presence. "Boldness" (Greek parresia) is confidence, outspokenness, freely speaking. But it is not irreverence. By the blood of Jesus we can enter the presence of God with confidence.

20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

The Holy Spirit works to show us a new a living way of living. We can enter the presence of God "by a new and living way" as opposed to an old and dead way. We enter through the veil of Jesus body. When Jesus died on the cross the veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now through the effects of that work of Jesus we can enter into the presence of God.

21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,

The Holy Spirit works to reveal Jesus to us. We have a High Priest Jesus who is over the house of God. We know Him personally and He ushers us into the presence of God.

22 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.

The Holy Spirit works to assure us, build our faith and straighten out our mind and thinking. Notice the attitude of our heart here. He doesn't emphasize a pure heart, or even a cleansed heart. The emphasis is on a "true heart." What is a true heart? A true heart is one that is not pretentious or proud. A true heart acknowledges humbly one's sin but also trusts in the atoning work of the sacrifice of Jesus. Even though I may have messed up, even though I fall short, even though I'm weak and often fail, I come into God's presence with a true heart "in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." We enter the presence of God relying on the full effects of Jesus atoning work in our lives.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The Holy Spirit works to help us persevere. The only way we can enter the presence of God is by holding fast to the hope we have in Him. We do not rely on our faithfulness but on His faithfulness. Jesus is faithful to His Father (Hebrews 3:1-2). And because of that we trust that His faithfulness to the Father will overcome any aggravation we cause Him. He is faithful to keep those and shepherd those whom the Father has given Him (e.g. John17:12).

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 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.

The Holy Spirit works in and through our fellowship. Here we see the importance and value of fellowship. Fellowship is not optional. Fellowship is one of the four characteristics of the early church which made it so powerful (cf. Acts 2:42). Fellowship is where God makes His presence known through His people. We are HIs arms and feet, His heart and mind in that He moves us to act according to His will to receive from Him through others and to be used by Him to ministry to others. Fellowship is where we serve as part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). We find our spiritual gifts, learn to use them, and are directed where to use them as the Holy Spirit works through the fellowship of the church (1 Corinthians 12-14). It is in the fellowship of the church that we are equipped to serve our Lord (Ephesians 4:11-12).

There is a maverick loner spirit roaming around the church in our day. It is fueled by a critical spirit toward the church and the people of its fellowship. But just remember, even though it is clear the church had problems even by the end of the first century, Jesus continued to walk in the midst of His Bride the church and its fellowship. Jesus encouraged and commended the church and yes, corrected it too (cf. Revelation 2-3). But He never abandoned the church and its fellowship of believers. If we are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29), to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), then we should not abandon the church and its fellowship either. There is no such thing as private Christian religion. There is no basis in scripture for loner or individual oriented Christians. If you want to develop and grow in your walk with the Lord, if you want to b a disciple of Jesus, you need to be involved in fellowship.

Another counterproductive development in the modern church is the advent of television, radio or online access to ministry. Those who try to satisfy their need for fellowship through the distant telecommunications of media in its various forms when they could be in actual physical fellowship  are going to be malnourished spiritually. Christians need fellowship to be spiritual healthy. A visual or audio presentation of a message is very limited. For some, this may be the only means to touch some kind of fellowship. And when such media means are the only avenue of contact with other Christians God will use such means to effectively feed the believer. But when visual and audio services are used as substitutes for the actual interaction in the physical presence of fellowship, well, you can't hug a television, radio, computer, phone, I Pad or other device. Such technology are good in a pinch or when they are the only means of contact with others, but they should never be seen as a substitute for going to church or participating in actual fellowship with people. Technology, as incredible as it has become, facilitates distance and impersonal contact as acceptable. But texts, tweets and emails don't communicate warmly and oftentimes lend themselves to miscommunications rather than relaying truth in love. There's no way around it, the Christian needs to be in fellowship face to face with actual people.

Those who would excuse themselves from fellowship because of anxiety, depression, discouragement or some other personal life issue are shortsightedly avoiding the very place where Jesus would offer them help. It is in the church where truth is spoken in love, where we get to encourage others and be encouraged, where we get to edify others and we get edified through others all as the Spirit moves us. There is a very good reason Paul exhorts these Hebrews to not neglect fellowship here. It is in fellowship that they will find the motivation and energy to stay true to Jesus. It is in fellowship that Jesus will reveal His presence and put His arms around them and hold them close and He does that through the arms of His people in fellowship. Don't forsake or neglect gathering together in fellowship, particularly the fellowship found in church. We are a part of the Body of Christ. Show up, be blessed and let the Spirit use you to bless others.

Fellowship is the consideration of other believers. This is an exhortation to first "consider one another" (Greek katanoomen) meaning to observe carefully, perceive one another, observe one another carefully. Paul is telling the Hebrews to have each other's back; to look out for one another. The grammar of this word (Present/Active/Subjunctive) conveys the idea that this is something you should do but may possibly neglect.

What is it we should do? We should "stir up" (Greek paroxysmos) or incite to good, contend, even irritate or exasperate in order to urge someone to act. To stir up is to roust a person from lethargy or neglect. It is to fire people up, to get them moving  and doing what they should be doing. What should we be stirring people up to do?

First, stir up fellow believers to love. Sometimes Christians let the flame of their love flicker and die out. When this happens Christian fall into sloppy agape or passionless, powerless or impure love for others. We need to encourage others to love. When we see hate spewed we need to encourage truth spoken in love. When we see the works of the flesh rearing their angry heads, we need to intervene with the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). We need to be active agents and ambassadors of the love Jesus said His disciples would be known by (John 13:35). We need to be walking, talking, living examples of 1 Corinthians 13 love. We need to live in and overflow with the love of the Spirit (Romans 5:5). We need to stir up love.

Second stir up fellow believers to do good works. Faith without works is dead (James 2). In Hebrews 11 we will see some incredible example of faith in action. But we should be stir up a fire in the church to do good to others; especially those who don't deserve it. Good works can be aimed at fellow believers in the church or unbelievers outside the church. When the church is getting lazy we should stir up and stoke the fire of good works by getting to work.

Third, stir up fellow believers to not forsake or neglect the gathering together of the fellowship.  In our technologically advanced age where church services are broadcast live on radio, TV or Internet, it's tempting to sleep a little late, maybe stay in your pajamas and neglect going to church and experiencing real fellowship. There are many excuses people use to neglect going to church for face to face fellowship. But there is really no substitute for actual hand to hand, hug to hug, holy kiss to holy kiss, and the holy  conversation that takes place when Christians gather together for fellowship.

All of this is a work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. If we want to live and walk and grow in the Spirit, fellowship is indispensible for this to happen. And as we draw closer and closer to "the Day" we are going to need each other more and more. No doubt there is persecution in the near future of the church. We will need each other then and it would be best that we are not estranged or strangers to one another when that time comes.

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 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? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Since all of this, (this chapter and all of Hebrews thus far, especially concerning the sufficiency of the atoning work of Jesus), is the witness and work of the Holy Spirit, to reject it is really to reject Him. But understand who is being addressed here. These words are not directed at those who fall into sin. This is speaking about the person who "willfully" (Greek hekousios) meaning voluntarily, of one's own accord, by choice choose to reject what they "have received the knowledge of the truth" concerning the "sacrifice for sins" laid out in Hebrews. Those who reject the sufficiency and solitary acceptability of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross are guilty of apostasy.  That is what is being spoken of here.

 

One commentary states:

            This verse has been misused to buttress the teaching that there is no forgiveness of             deliberate sins committed after one has become a Christian. The writer is dealing with     apostasy, not backsliding. In the context it was addressed to Hebrew Christians who were    in danger of apostatizing from their profession of Jesus as Messiah. The inspired writer assured them that if they turned aside from Calvary's atoning sacrifice and returned to         Judaism, they would not be able to procure forgiveness of sins and have free access to         heaven. Christ's sacrifice is the only one that removes sin and secures access to the             Throne of Grace. Through Him we may come to the Father in prayer.[4]


If you want to anger Almighty God then just reject the incredible atoning work of His only Son Jesus. Reject the sacrifice of Jesus as the sole solitary sufficient means of atoning for sin and you are headed for " a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries." Under Moses law of the lesser Old Covenant those who rejected the Law died "without mercy on the testimony of two or three witness." If that was the case under the lesser law, " 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?" To insult the "Spirit of grace" is to reject God's gracious free offer of salvation in Jesus. This is akin to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; the one unforgiveable sin (Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:22-27; Luke 11:17-23).

 

Those who reject the gracious provision of God in Christ find themselves on the wrong side of God: " For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." That's not a side you want to be found on.

            Some people find it difficult to believe a loving God would send judgment. But the One     who is the very essence of love is also holy and righteous. When the limits of His mercy have been exceeded, nothing is left but to receive His just judgment. His hands of             blessing are beyond description, but when His hands are used in judgment, the expression       "fearful thing" is most appropriate.[5]


32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

 

Evidently there had been a time when the Hebrews written to here had been persecuted. They had risked everything and suffered for the sake of Jesus. They were companions in persecution with Paul. It would be foolish to go back on what you had once valued more than life and possessions themselves.

 

35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37   “For yet a little while,

And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

38   Now the just shall live by faith;

But if anyone draws back,

My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

Don't leave a living life in the Spirit in Christ for a dead religious system. Here is Paul's exhortation not to give in to peer pressure. Don't throw away "your confidence, which has great reward." "Confidence" (Greek parresia) is the same word translated "boldness" in verse 19  where it states, "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus." In other words, don't throw away God's precious provision in Christ to enter into and live in His presence. Instead we need to have "endurance" (Greek hypomone) or constancy, patience, continuance, consistency, endurance. Like a bricklayer who lays brick and does so until the thousands of bricks make up the finished product of the building they are constructing. We need to keep laying brick. We need to live in the Spirit.

Paul again encourages and affirms his confidence in the faith of the Hebrew Christians. He says, " But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Paul identifies with the Hebrew believers in Jesus.

The promise from God is that He is coming soon. And while we wait we should wait in faith (Habakkuk 2:3-4). These are the classic verses of faith upon which Paul based much of his doctrine in Romans and upon which great movements of the church throughout history have been based. "The just shall live by faith." This is the perfect transitional verse to the next chapter. Get ready to walk through the Hall of Faith.

 

 

 



[1] One of the most important questions to ask in Bible Study is "What does this passage tell me about Jesus?" Jesus should be the focal point of all Bible Study.

[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1489). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.

 

[4] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.

[5] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.