Sermon preached on Hebrews 10:19-25 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 9/30/2018 in Novato, CA.
“Therefore Brethren, Having…”
Hebrews has been giving us a lot of “meat” in terms of doctrine. For some Christians, a plate of meaty doctrine is their most favorite kind of Scripture passage. On the other hand, some Christians when faced with a lot of doctrine will ask the question of “so what”. In other words, they want to know what response and significance should come to us in light of such doctrines. Well, if you are that kind of person, we have a lot of “so what” spelled out here for you. Verse 19 starts out with that word “therefore”. It then summarizes in verses 19-20 a bunch of meaty doctrine that we’ve just been learning about in Hebrews. Then in verses 22-25 we see the “therefore” worked out. Three exhortations; three commands are given to us. The idea is that the meaty doctrine summarized in verses 19-20 are the summary of what we’ve been talking about, and the “therefore” is pointing us to these three commands. The commands are the “so what” about these meaty doctrines we’ve been studying.
So, today we’ll spend most of our time on the so called “so what”. We’ll consider in order each of the three exhortations. But first let’s be reminded about the meaty doctrine to set the stage for the exhortation. Basically, there are two closely related doctrines mentioned in verses 19-20. The first is about the access we now have to God because of Jesus’ sacrifice. The second is about how Jesus is the high priest over us who are God’s house. In terms of this access to God, we are reminded of how we can now boldly come into the true heavenly temple, into the very throne room of God. It refers to that heavenly place here as the Holiest, and says that we can enter into the place past the veil of Christ’s flesh. That veil language reminds us that what Hebrews is saying is that we have access to the true Holy of Holies. As the veil in the earthly tabernacle blocked access to the Holy of Holies, we have the right of entrance into the real holiest place. Remember that Hebrews 9:8 mentioned that the setup of access to the Holy of Holies under the old covenant only served to show how we really didn’t have access to God’s presence in the Holy of Holies. But here now, it reminds us that we do have free access to not the type and shadow of the earthly Holy of Holies, but to the reality in heaven of God’s holy presence. And it reminds us that we have such access to God’s presence and God’s true heavenly tabernacle because of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us and consecrates us so we can have such an access.
In terms of having this high priest over God’s house, we remember first that
Hebrews 3 said that we, God’s redeemed people, are his house. It also made the point there that Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house, but Jesus as a Son. But more recently in Hebrews, we’ve read over and over about Jesus as our Great High Priest in the heavens. These points are brought together when we are told that Jesus is the High Priest over God’s house. This is good to point out after reminding us that we have such access to God, because it means that though Christians are all priests now, Jesus is still our greater priest over us. That means he is there to help us in our times of need here and now, and that means there is the sympathy and mercy we surely need while we eagerly wait for his return.
So then, being reminded of these wonderful doctrines, we come to the three exhortations that flow from them. The first of these “so whats” is in verse 22. Let us draw near. This is the same exhortation mentioned all the way back in chapter 4, verse 16, to draw near boldly the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. In other words, this command is talking about making use of this access to God that we have. Since we have the right now to enter the holy tabernacle in heaven, we need to go inside! Regularly! As priests of God, we can and should serve our God in the sense of worship. We should serve God by drawing near to him in the various acts of worship given to us.
Hebrews then describes how our worship of God should be characterized with a true heart in full assurance of faith. On the one hand, this is reminding us that we should be approaching God in genuine faith, convinced and assured of God receiving us favorably. But Hebrews immediately turns to further explain how it is we can have such a true heart and such assurance of faith. It’s rooted in the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ. Christ has sprinkled our hearts with his blood. Christ has washed us clean. Such language should remind us of how by Christ’s blood we have been brought into the new covenant, have had our hearts changed, and enabled to have a true faith in Christ who assures us of our salvation. Such language should also remind us that the sprinkled waters of baptism signify this inner washing God does in our hearts. Baptized Christians can and should draw near to God in true faith as those washed clean of our sins and made holy to approach God in his heavenly tabernacle.
So then this first command to draw near means we need to be coming before God in worship as our new covenant priestly service. There is both a public and private component to this. There is also a daily and weekly and even continual component to this. We worship and serve as priests to God moment by moment throughout our lives. We certainly should find regular times to commune with God in private devotion. Families and households should also daily engage in such worship. Each week the church assembles corporately for such worship. Naturally, when we talk of drawing near like this, we especially think of the grace of prayer. But certainly all aspects of Christian worship are ultimately a drawing near to God in his heavenly tabernacle: when we study his Word, when we praise him in song, when we partake of the sacraments, when we give offerings that express our thanksgiving, etc. All of these aspects of Christian worship are us drawing near to God in the heavens. This is the Christian life: we live our lives out here on earth, but we are also constantly in the heavens in some form of worship. Let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith.
The second exhortation, the second of these “so whats” is found in verse 23. Let us hold fast. What are we to hold fast to? Let us hold fast the confession of our hope. Christians are those who confess faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us. Christians are also those whose confession of faith includes the hope of eternal life in glory. Hebrews has referred to that hope as the world to come. It has also spoken of it as a promised eternal inheritance.
This exhortation is at the heart of this letter’s concern for its readers. Here it mentions the concern of wavering. Those who profess Christ will be tested and tempted to waver in their faith. More so, the letter has been concerned about people who profess faith falling away from the faith. Earlier in chapter 6 he warned against such apostasy. In the very next section, Hebrews will again return to that concern. This seems a primary reason the letter of Hebrews was written. Hebrews is encouraging us to stay the course, not to be tossed to and fro, but to be firmly holding onto our faith and hope amidst all the challenges we face in this life.
Of course, that’s what’s not stated here, but we can infer it. There are different things that would try to get someone who professes faith in Christ to turn away from that profession. We can think of how Jewish Christians at that time faced pressure to reject Christ and return to the ways of the old covenant and the Jewish synagogue. We can think of Gentile Christians being ostracized in society because they no longer acknowledge the pagan idols. We can think of how maybe some people were losing patience, thinking Jesus would have returned already. We can think of how life in this world is hard in general, because we live in a world cursed because of sin; that in general can test and try a Christian.
But this is why this exhortation to hold fast to our hope is rooted in these meaty doctrines. Faced with the troubles in this life, we have access to God in the heavens that we can get help from heaven for our life on earth. Faced with the heartaches of this life, we have a high priest who himself is also human who sympathizes with our weaknesses and is there and ready to help us in our times of need. Faced with the many frustrations of this world, this high priest is seated in the heavens, essentially seated in the world to come already. His being seated already there is to assure us that where he is already, he will bring us. As Jesus said, he left to prepare a place for us, and where he is, that’s where he will bring us, when he comes back to bring us to glory.
That is what Jesus promised, John 14:2. Many other Scriptures bear witness as well to God’s promise of that coming day of the Lord. God has promised repeatedly that for his saved people that will be a day of victory and reward and greatest blessing. That will be a day when he ushers us into that promised eternal inheritance. And so, we are not surprised to see this exhortation strengthened with this fact. Verse 23 ends with the encouragement, “For he who promised is faithful.” God in Christ Jesus has promised us many good things to come. If we waver and ultimately fall away from this faith, we will miss out, to say the least. But if we stay the course, that which we’ve begun to experience spiritually, we will taste in the full in glory. This is God’s promise, and he is faithful to that promise. So then, our current heavenly access to God and having Jesus as such a high priest, is supposed to encourage us to stay the course in the outcome of our faith.
The third exhortation here, the final “so what” in this passage, is found in verse 24. Let us consider. Consider what? Our fellow saints. This one goes on to describe how this consideration is done as we meet together regularly. But notice that first and foremost the exhortation is about considering one another. The word for “consider” here is about taking notice and thought of others. Are you observing your fellow saints, how they are doing and what their needs are? Verse 24 goes on to be more specific of in what sense are you watching out for them and considering them. It says that we are to consider them with the goal of stirring up within them love and good works.
This is not just some general point Hebrews is making here. This is again at the very heart of this letter. He’s been concerned that the brothers would not fall away into apostasy. Back in chapter 6 after sharing that concern, the author then said that he was confident of better things for them, things that accompany salvation, commending them for their works and labor of love. Works and labor of love: that’s similar language to what we see here that we are supposed to try to spur on in our brothers.
So, when it says we need to be concerned for our brothers, its with the knowledge that our brothers can either be growing as Christians or falling away from the faith. This third command here tells us that we need to be concerned then not only for our own growth and perseverance. We also need to be concerned with the growth and perseverance of our fellow church members. It’s kind of like when the Marines say they leave no man behind. May we care for our own to seek for every one of us to make it across the finish line of faith into glory.
Of course, the venue for such care for our brothers and sisters is especially in the assemblies of the church. That’s what verse 25 tells us. It connects the concern about not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves with this command to be considering one another. Grammatically, the call to not forsake is a subordinate clause to the main clause of “Let us consider one another”. We are to consider one another’s spiritual wellbeing, and that means that we need to be going to church. You know, there are many reasons to be faithful to the corporate assembling together with the church. We mentioned some of that already when talking about the first exhortation about drawing near to God in worship. Certainly, we are blessed and benefit from gathering together for worship. Certainly, it is our obligation due to God to worship him as God’s people. Certainly, it is a witness to a watching world that we gather each week for corporate worship as well as have other times of communal gatherings and fellowship. But this point reminds us that the reason of caring for other Christians is also why we are are obligated to not forsake our church attendance.
It may be helpful for a moment to think of what this might look like. When we gather as a church, there are different ways we can encourage and exhort one another toward love and good works. We spend time with each other learning about what’s going on in one another’s lives. We can point each other to meaningful and applicable Bible verses for their lives. We can lovingly call others to Christian living when it seems they are tempted to stray. We can pray for them amidst life’s various tests and temptations. And of course, there is a mutual blessing as we engage in worship together, singing together, praying together, taking the Supper together, confessing our faith together, receiving the Word together and afterwards talking about the text and sermon. In all these expressions of our fellowship, we should remember that God has given us all different spiritual gifts with the instruction to use them to build each other up. And so, there are so many wonderful ways we can live out this command to consider each out and look to spur one another on in their own Christian faith.
Sadly, this passage says that some were already in the habit of neglecting the corporate assembling of the church. We aren’t told why. We could think of what we know from that time from Scripture and understand why people might have been tempted to neglect the church services. Some of the reasons we mentioned before about why people might fall away from their previous profession of faith, might be the same here. Certainly, many people who fall away from the faith first began that road by neglecting regular church attendance. They get away from those means of grace God has given for our growth and our perseverance and the next thing you know you are denying the faith and recanting Christ. God has told us that we need the fellowship of the saints.
Hebrews ends by telling us that this is true in general, but it especially true all the more now that the day of Christ’s return is ever closer. That’s the “day” mentioned in verse 25. It’s the prophesied “Day of the Lord” when Christ will return and bring judgment to the nations and salvation to his people. That is the day when there will be a final separation between the sheep and the goats, using the language of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25. Hebrews had just reminded us of the certainty of both death and judgment. Thus, his message of persevering in the faith until this final day is of utmost importance. Thus, all the more we need to be at church. For our own wellbeing. And for our fellow Christians’ wellbeing. And, of course, for God’s great glory!
In conclusion brothers and sisters, this passage really fills us with so much practical application. I typically end my sermons with application so let me do so by summarizing together the three commands we’ve talked about, because they are closely related. In light of the great access we already have to God now in the new covenant, and in light of the great merciful high priest we have over the church now, let us press on. Let us press on in faith and hope until the return of Christ. Let us do so by especially living in public and private worship of our Lord. May we do that for our own good. And in our public times of worship, may we also look to encourage and build up our fellows Christians, so that we can all make it home!
As we live out these exhortations with the goal of finishing the race of faith, may we avoid the idea that our perseverance is all about our own works. It’s not that we get in by grace and stay in by works. No, that misses the indicative stated here in the opening verses. Because we have such access to grace from above, may we cling to that and make use of that until the day of Christ’s return. Look at these three commands today pointing you back to all the grace that is at our disposal. Cling again today to Christ and his tender mercies; mercies to forgive us of our sins; mercies to grow us in godly living; and mercies to finish and complete that work which he has already begun in us. Praise God for his great mercy and love and work toward us in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.