HEBREWS: A New Way

Hebrews10:19—25

As we approach this section of Hebrews chapter 10, the first thing we notice is that the feeling of the letter changes. The author has effectively completed his teaching of doctrine and now he begins his exhortations on the basis of the doctrine. Like any good Bible teacher, he realized that his readers simply being given information wasn’t enoughthey needed to be shown practical ways to apply the things they just learned. If this second part of chapter ten speaks of anything, it must surely speak of privilege and responsibility. Christians are the recipients of manifold blessings they neither deserve nor have earned. Because of that, they have a heavy responsibility to the One who blessed them in His  grace.

1.  A new way, 10:1922

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God …  (verses1922a)

The main predicate in these four verses islet us draw near.Every thing else is secondary to the thought that believers can nowdraw nearto God. This great privilege afforded Christians is a result of the actions of Jesus Christ.

Thanks to the shed blood of Jesus, believers are now able to approach God with confidence. Thisconfidenceis a holy boldness, which is a result of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is not arrogance or pride in action. Recall the words of the prophet:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy  and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

According to the teacher, we are able toenter the Most Holy Place,” which he uses symbolically as the presence of God. All believers are now able to do something that was at one time limited only to members of the priesthood! All believers can enter into the very presence of Almighty God! This great privilege is made possible, not by the shed blood of animals, but by the shed of blood of our Lord and Savior.

This way of approaching God is described as a “new and living way,” as opposed to the old way, which involved the death of animals. This revolutionary way of approaching God was “opened for us through the curtain, that is his body.” This is a very interesting phrase that needs to be looked at and understood.

When our Lord was on the cross, we read this:

...for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:45)

As Jesus hung bleeding and dying on the Cross, somehow the heavy curtain or veil of the Temple was ripped in two, indicating that the way to God was now open. The word for “veil” is katapetasmatos, meaning “curtain,” but coming from the Greek katapetannumi, meaning “expand.” So this veil was a kind of spiritual “iron curtain” that not only served to separate God from man, but “expanded,” emphasizing the great gulf that exists (and is always growing) between God and man apart from Jesus Christ.

The phrase “that is, his body” is hotly debated. What does it refer to? The natural way to interpret it in the Greek is to associate “his body” with “the veil.” If we take it to mean that, then how do we explain how the body of Jesus separated God from man? Haldman offers this helpful observation:

So long as Christ walked the earth in His beautiful and perfect humanity, He shut men out from God.

Jesus, as the perfect example of how to live, brought only condemnation of sinful man; He demonstrated, while in the flesh, how far from God sinful man really was. His life was a stark and living contrast to life of sinful man. If the “veil” was to become the “way” to God, then it had to destroyed. When the physical body of Jesus was destroyed on the Cross, the way was cleared for sinful man to approach God. His body was destroyed in place of sinful man’s body. The flesh of Jesus was taken out of the way, just like the veil to the Temple was, and offered as a sacrifice so that we could approach God.

The other way to read “that is, his body” is to continue associating “his body” with “the veil,” but to interpret “the veil” with man’s sinfulness, not Christ’s physical body. It is, after all, man’s sin that separates him from God. When Jesus took upon Himself the flesh of man, He eventually bore in that same body, the sins of the world. While He Himself remained sinless, He carried our sins with Him to the Cross. The broken and bleeding Body on the Cross released a power that ripped man’s sinfulness from himself. Because Jesus’ body was destroyed, ours would be saved. He was punished, opening the door for us and we are now free to walk through that door and approach God.

No matter how you interpret this phrase, the point is the same. The thing that once separated us from God has been removed and we therefore have full access into the most holy place.

2. The right way, 10:2225

Thanks to the continued work of Jesus, our Great High Priest, we can approach God. But there is a right way to enter the new way. We are give a series of exhortations to help us do this right.

Let us draw near (vs. 22). We are to come near to God “with a sincere heart,” which is way of saying that the inner life of man must be right with God. Outward gyrations are not what’s important in approaching God; it’s what’s on the inside of man that counts.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

If we would approach God, it must be done sincerely, with a complete dedication to fulfilling the will of God in our lives. A divided or lukewarm heart can never approach God.

Let us hold unswervingly (vs. 23). The great foundational truths of the Word of God must be held and believed so deeply and with such conviction that our entrance into the presence of God will be with absolute confidence. This was the problem with these Hebrew Christians—faith and confidence in the Gospel message had given way to doubt and disbelief. When a Christian gives second place to the Word of God you can be sure they are not spending time in God’s presence because they cannot.

Let us consider, (vs. 24). The final exhortation is to consider others in the Body of Christ. This is a mutual activity in which believers are supposed to be encouraging one another. The word translated “spur” comes from the Greek paroxysmos, which means, oddly enough, “to irritate” or to “to exasperate.” Usually those are negative things, but in the context of this passage, “spur” is a positive thing.

Christians, instead of gossiping and nitpicking each other to death, should be provoking each other to love and good deeds. In other words, we need to take notice of fellow believers, find ways to encourage them and help them where needed. But also, we need be aware of their gifts and talents and find creative ways for them to use those gifts and talents in the performance of “good deeds.”

Verse 25 sounds like another exhortation, but it actually isn’t.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching.

“Meeting together” is the most effective way to fulfil our calling as Christians; we perform the previous exhortations within the local church—in the context of “meeting together.” It seems as though some of these Hebrew Christians were not attending services any longer; they had given up meeting with other believers. The fact is, the practice of meeting together is not dispensable but indispensable to our growth in holiness as Christians.

The modern church is plagued with this problem; individuals who call themselves Christians who join a local church then for some reason seldom if ever show up for services. But apparently this is not a modern problem, even the early church suffered with it. However, this is not just a frustrating problem, it’s a very dangerous practice. Moffatt wrote:

Any early Christian who attempted to live like a pious particle without the support of the community ran serious risks in an age when there was no public opinion to support him.

Or to put it another way, where will a Christian find encouragement if not in his church? Christianity is a belief system that reaches out to people, drawing them together. Other events may draw a crowd—sporting events, concerts, movies—but only Christianity brings people together for a distinct purpose: participation in worship, praise, and work. Christianity is not supposed to be a spectator sport! In a culture that sometimes stresses individualism a little too much, we need to understand that believers need each other to strengthen the spiritual bond they share with Jesus Christ. And you cannot do that by yourself or with your family alone or with your circle of Christian friends alone. You need the local church, and the local church needs you. In a sense, the most selfish thing a Christian can do is to stop attending services at their church.

Going to church is not like going to your local garden club meeting or scout meeting. When you go to church, you are being obedient to teachings of Scripture and you are showing your love for Christ. Jesus is the Head of the Church. He is present at church when you are there. Jesus is not the president of your local scout troop or garden club. Jesus is the Head of your church and he wants to have fellowship with you in that context. Naturally you can fellowship with your Lord any time of the night or day; but He wants to fellowship with you in context of fellowship with other believers. The Head of church cannot function without the body. The believer is part of the Body of Christ, which Christ presents to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.(Ephesians 5:27)

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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