For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 14, 2007
This chapter ends the discussion of Christ as the High Priest and goes on to different things.
"For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, "Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book."’”
When he said above,
'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings'
(these are offered according to the law), then he added, 'Behold, I have come to do your will.' He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (10:4-10)
This is kind of a summary of the last several chapters. Jesus took away the all of the Old Testament Law, including the system of sacrifices, and established a new covenant with all mankind.
Now the writer explains what we need to do now that we understand what Jesus did for us: "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean 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 how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (10:19-25)
There are three things we are to do: draw near to God, hold fast to our faith and edify one another for good works. And that is what church is all about, which is why it is mentioned here that we need to go. The church, of course, is not a building, but it is a group of people. By worshiping with fellow believers we draw near to God, we learn more about our faith so we can keep it, and we can gain encouragement from fellow believers.
But of course, the question always arises, "What does it mean to 'neglect?'" There are some people who think this means that you should never miss a service. Obviously I don't think this is the case. The word "neglect" means to abandon or forsake. Does missing a single church service for practically any reason mean you have abandoned the church? Of course not.
"For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (10:26-31)
Once again we come to one of those verses that if taken out of context seems to say that we can lose our salvation. Remember Hebrews was written to both Christian and non-Christian Jews attending the same synagogues. All of them had "knowledge of the truth." They knew enough about Jesus to know His claims, and the proof behind those claims. But not all of them believed. The writer implies in the rest of this passage that the final judgment will be more severe for people like that.
"But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
'Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." (10:32-39, ESV)
Notice that the writer says "we" are not those that are going to hell because of drawing back. This passage is addressing the believers in the audience. They had already endured hardship because of their faith, and it appears some of them were discouraged. The writer is telling them that God will reward their faithfulness, and he gives examples in the chapter that follows.
It is an incredible thing to see God's grace at work in people whom He chooses to send through trials. I have seen it a few times, and the writer had seen it in the lives of the people who received this letter. He says they rejoiced when they lost their homes and possessions. Only a truly born again person full of the Holy Spirit could do that.