We are at the turning point of the letter. The previous nearly ten chapters have been showing us the greatness of Jesus Christ. He is the One who has made cleansing for our sins and brings us into the presence of God.
Now the author makes an appeal…
So there are three things we have:
- We have a reason for boldness
- We have a way that is new and living
- We have a great high priest.
And five things we must do:
- So let us be drawing near
- Let us hold fast the confession
- Let us consider one another, to encourage one another
- Let us not be forsaking the times we gather together
- Let us encourage one another.
The boldness we have is difficult to translate from the original Greek, because the English word ‘boldness’ is a subjective word. It refers to a feeling, an emotion. But this is not what is meant. Our writer is not speaking of an emotion; he is speaking of a fact. Imagine a man who has been in prison for twenty years, and then is released. He now has his freedom. But he may not feel very free. He has been in prison for so long he does not know how to act like a free man. He ‘has’ freedom as a fact. But perhaps he does not feel very free. He acts as if he were still in prison. This is the point here in Hebrews 10:19. Our writer is not talking about whether we feel very bold; he is writing of what we have – whether we feel it or not! (Michael Eaton)
This is so much greater than the old covenant and modern religion! We have factual boldness because we have a person, not a system. Jesus has made it possible for us to know God personally and intimately. Not distantly; imminently!
One comment on the things we need to do – be at our Sunday gatherings, be at small group. It is there that we get to encourage one another and engage in building one another up. They are not times to sit back and consume, or not turn up if it’s a bit boring. Be there and be involved!
Then we come to the second strong warning passage from v.28. In the previous passage we have full assurance. And at the end of this section, assurance that we are not who the author is writing about. I’m a great fan of the late Michael Eaton who Terry Virgo invited to speak at Stoneleigh Bible Week. He has one view of this passage and John Piper whose teaching I also love has an opposite view!
So it’s not simple! I come from a theological perspective of eternal security – once saved always saved. That’s because Scripture teaches us that we are born again; the old has gone, the new has come; that conversion means that our spirit that was dead in sin is now alive in Christ; and that it is all a work of grace, not my works. I can’t work my way out of salvation if it was a free gift anyway! So I, and many others believe in eternal security – there can be no loss of salvation, but there can be loss of reward. The clearest passage on that is 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
Let’s dive into v.26…
For – means this is following the previous paragraph – ‘So let us be drawing near …’, he says, ‘for…’ the alternative is fearful judgement.
if we go on sinning – notice the we not you. The author is including himself here!
deliberately – we choose to sin. We are no longer ignorant, we know what sin is! (Acts 17:30)
after receiving the knowledge of truth – the author’s way of saying you are a Christian;
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins – This is similar to the phrase in Hebrews 10:18. There the writer means that the sacrifices of the Old Testament (which were allowable at first) now are no longer needed because the sacrifice of Christ has come. ‘No longer’ means ‘from this point on’. The sacrifice of Christ replaces the Levitical sacrifices so that they are ‘no longer’ needed.
We must notice what our writer does not say. He has said that the blood of Christ gives eternal redemption and that it sanctifies us for ever. He has not said redemption is withdrawn. Michael Eaton wrote “He says it is ‘no longer’ effective. It means it has achieved something up to this point, but in future it will fail to do what one might expect it to do. The point is not that God’s past salvation is in any way undone or reversed in our lives, but that the future blessings of the blood of Christ will not come into our lives. In Hebrews 9:12, 14, 15 the blood of Christ did three things. It gave eternal redemption (past tense); it will give daily cleansing of conscience (future tense referring to what is future day by day); and it may bring us to our inheritance (a ‘subjunctive’ referring to what may happen). It is the second two that are lost by a Christian’s sinning – temporarily or maybe permanently.
The point of Hebrews 10:26 is that persistence in sinning, by the Christian, stops the blood of Christ from having the further effects that it ought to have. The eternal redemption is not lost. The everlasting set apart-ness of the Christian is not lost, but the conscience is no longer being cleansed and there is danger that the inheritance of reward might be lost. Hebrews 9:14 fails to work! There was sacrifice for sins to give eternal redemption but then the blood ‘no longer’ goes on to give daily cleaning. The blood fails to lead the sinning believer towards his inheritance (9:15 fails to work also). There has been a sacrifice for sin giving eternal redemption – and that is not taken away – but it has no further effects.”
but there is a very fearful prospect of judgement and fiery indignation, which is about to devour the adversaries
God can be angry with our continued willful sinning. It is possible to love us and be angry at the same time! It is not balanced doctrine to say that when we are saved everything is settled for ever and the Christian’s reward is guaranteed. ‘Justification’ may be settled for ever. He who is justified is glorified. But living relationship with God depends on staying open to his voice. God does not withdraw his love from his elect. We won’t lose salvation, but we will suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3)
The reason for God’s displeasure of continued wilful sin is that it is spurning Jesus and what He achieved for us. So in v.32-39 the author then brings us back up! Remember what it was like when you were first saved – go back to that passion even when it, as it did for the first readers, means suffering and persecution.
Have compassion for others – those in prison, those persecuting you.
Verse 35 confirms this is not about losing salvation, but reward – Do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.
We need to have endurance – so we can receive what is promised.
Keep pressing on!