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Hebrews 10:19-39 (web)

Plea for Preserving Faith I

The Christian's Confident Faith

10:19 Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus,
10:20 by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way,
through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
10:21 and having a great priest over the house of God,
10:22 let's draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and
having our body washed with pure water,
10:23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope unyieldingly.
For he who promised is faithful.
10:24 Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works,
10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is,
but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.

Warning Against Nominalism

10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there remains no more a sacrifice for sins,
10:27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment,
and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.

10:28 A man who disregards Moses' law dies without compassion
on the word of two or three witnesses.
10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of,
who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant
with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

10:30 For we know him who said,
"Vengeance belongs to me," says the Lord, "I will repay." (Deut 32:35,36)
"The Lord will judge his people." (Ps 135:14)
10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Confidence and Endurance
in Persecution
a Measure of True Faith

10:32 But remember the former days, in which, after you were enlightened,
you endured a great struggle with sufferings;
10:33 partly, being exposed to both reproaches and oppressions;
and partly, becoming partakers with those who were treated so.
10:34 For you both had compassion on me in my chains,
and joyfully accepted the plundering of your possessions,
knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an enduring one in the heavens.
10:35 Therefore don't throw away your boldness, which has a great reward.
10:36 For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.
10:37 "In a very little while, He who comes will come, and will not wait.
10:38 But the righteous will live by faith.
If he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." (Hab 2:3,4 LXX)

10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction,
but of those who have faith to the saving of the soul.

Discussion Questions

What kind of outward characteristics would you expect of a Christian who is confident and fully assured of his faith as described in vs 19-23?

How would you know if you were not "holding unswervingly to the hope we profess"? (vs 23)

vs 25 What benefits do you get out of meet regularly with other Christians?

Does the warning of vs 26-31 mean you could lose your salvation?
If so, how can you possibly have confidence and full assurance of faith if it is based on your sub-standard performance? Or do you not reckon yourself to be a sinner?

vs 33-34 Why is this type of persecution not more common for Christians living in this society? Are there societies today in which this type of persecution is common?

vs 35, 38 Since confidence is rewarded and lack thereof is condemned, how can you practice being a confident Christian, and what does God want you to be confident about?


The Christian's Confident Faith 10:19-25

vs 19 Our confidence is in the blood of Christ. Some think that a person cannot be both confident and humble. But this is a misconception of Biblical humility. The humble Christian confidently approaches God because he reckons that Christ's atoning work was sufficient to deal with any deficiencies in his relationship with God. In fact to not be confident in approaching God in view of the blood of Christ, is an insult to God. For it devalues the blood of Christ.

vs 20 The tabernacle is of course symbolic. Between the holy place and the most holy place there was a curtain. It represents our separation from God. But you can also think of it as the body of Christ. When he died, his body being torn, we had direct access to God. When Christ died, this curtain miraculously was torn from top to bottom.

vs 22 Thus we approach God with full assurance of faith. Though we should have a healthy conscience, we need not feel guilty in God's presence. For we reckon ourselves to have been forgiven. Once again, to feel guilty is to not exercise faith in the atoning blood of Christ.

The "sprinkling" is not referring to baptism per se, but to the sprinkling of blood during the levitical sacrifices, which represents the atoning work of Christ. Washing was also common in the book of Leviticus. And both of these can be symbolized in water Baptism which itself symbolizes the washing away of sin by the blood of Christ.

vs 24-25 You can't live the Christian life apart from fellowship with other Christians. But as you minister to other Christians, you should help them to develop their ministry. "Meeting together" does not mean simply going to church on Sunday. The format in many churches disallows most of the congregation from making hardly any contribution other than financial and singing some songs, allowing the pastor to be the only speaker. Better if people can only attend one meeting a week is to have a small Bible study group. But I think most Christian should be able to attend at least two meetings a week. I would also recommend that if your church does not provoke you to love and good deeds or does not allow you to minister, either change it or find another one. Or start your own study group.

The Warning of 10:26-31?

vs 26 "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth"

"Knowledge" here is "epignosis" in the greek. And while "gnosis" is a relational knowledge, "epignosis" is only a surface knowledge. "epi" means "around". These people know about Christ, but they don't know him personally. And thus this is referring to nominal Christians.

One obvious question about this verse is: what sin is not deliberate? Since Christians have been set free from sin they have no excuse for committing any sin. A Christian cannot give the excuse "I just couldn't help myself", for in saying so, he admits he is still a slave of sin. (Rom 6:18). On the other hand, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1John 1:8. So Christians who don't reckon themselves to be sinners are believing a lie and, lacking the conviction of sin have not been born of the Spirit of God.

On the other hand, true believers do not sin in a lifestyle sense.

For example, What is emphasized in these lists are that these sins are characteristic of their lifestyle or profession, refusing to call sin for what it is, as opposed to Christians who, though sinners, call sin for what it is and repent. However, not all who claim to be Christians will escape God's judgment for some treat the blood of Christ with contempt by their behavior.

Though the principle of Heb 10:26-31 can be generalized to any sinful behavior, in the context it seems to be applying it specifically to apostasy. Having received the knowledge of the truth and acknowledged that they have been sanctified by the blood of Christ and call themselves "Christians", they then depart from the Christian community and modify their beliefs so as to avoid persecution. In the case of those of the group of the circumcision whom Paul wrote a great deal as in Galatians, they added the Law of Moses to their Christian faith with the idea that faith + works save, not unlike many a modern "Christian".

Confidence and Endurance 10:32-39

It was not easy to be an early church Christian. They faced a good deal of persecution. But that's good. For it helped to ensure that their faith was genuine. Modern Christians don't face much persecution in the West. They may in Muslim and communist countries. But because of the lack of persecution, there tends to be a great deal of nominalism in much of modern Christianity.

Even in early Christianity, enduring through some persecution did not guarantee that your faith was genuine. "Shrinking back", even though faced with harsh persecution, would indicate that such faith was not of salvific value. But the author was confident that his readers would continue to endure in faith.

vs 37,38 And just as a minor point, the author is quoting from the Septuagint, as all the New Testament authors do, though most Bibles use the Masoretic text for the Old Testament. Notice the difference:

Habakkuk 2:3b,4

Masoretic: "Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—"

LXX (Septuagint): "though he should tarry, wait for him; for he will surely come, and will not tarry. If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: but the just shall live by my faith."

Thus if you're studying the New Testament, good to have the Septuagint handy for cross referencing, the New Testament authors often quote it word for word.

The Curtain, His Body

Heb 10:19-20 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,

Confidence of faith is one of the themes of Hebrews. Confidence but not presumption. Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Formerly one could not approach God with confidence.

The tabernacle was a shadow of that which was to come. It's fulfillment is found in Christ. The curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place represents the body of Christ. When his body was torn so was the curtain. "When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split." Mt 27:50,51

Formerly "your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Is 59:2 But the curtain having been torn for those who have put their faith in the blood of Christ there no longer exists a barrier, a separation between man and God.

Drawing Near to God

Heb 10:21,22 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Ever avoid coming to God because of feeling guilty? Or ever come to him pretentiously and not in sincerity overlooking your sinfulness? Well now that Christ has dealt with the guilt of our sin by his blood and become our mediator, we are free to come to God in sincerity of heart.

Here the Jews would most likely have understood "sprinkled" as an allusion to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifices as the Law commands. Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." Ex 24:8 Although while this sense is its predominant use in the Old Testament, there is one case in Ezekiel where it is used of water, but which may be relevant here, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Eze 36:25-27

Thus the washing likely refers to the effect of regeneration upon ones desires and behavior. "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:5b

Consider Fellowship

Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What is the "hope" which we profess but to enter into God's presence blameless with great joy. Thus while the world fears the coming of the Lord, the believer "wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1Th 1:10 To doubt the eternal security of the believer is to doubt the hope of which we profess.

Those who have been born of God continue in the faith as it is written, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 Thus, "By this gospel are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1Cor 15:2 Those who reject the hope never had the faith that saves to begin with. "And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." Heb 3:6 Otherwise we have shown ourselves to be false brethren.

The faith that saves is an application oriented faith. But unlike the Neo-Circumcision, believers don't put their faith in the applications of faith to save them, but rather put their confidence in Christ to save them. Love and good deeds are the applications of this faith. To be merely a Christian in one's theology apart from one's actions is again to show one's faith to be invalid. For "this is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10 and Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35 "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Gal 6:10

One way to practice holding fast to the hope is through regularly engaging in fellowship. And while some think that going to church on a weekly basis covers this, it says, "exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." Heb 3:13,14 So consider how you may apply this principle of fellowship on a daily basis.

Deliberate Sin

Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left

Concerning the category of sin he's referring to it is first of all deliberate, intentional, willful. But he's not talking about snapshot events, but rather a chosen lifestyle of deliberate sinning. The NIV is correctly interpreting the usage of the present tense as "keep on sinning", as opposed to if the aorist tense were used which would be referring to point in time events. Furthermore given the "willful" aspect, these are not sins of which one is reluctant to commit due to the weakness of the flesh, nor sins of which one is unaware, being blind spots, but those which one has consciously chooses to define one's lifestyle.

A further condition is not just deliberate sinning, but doing so in light of having received the knowledge of the truth. This is not to say that such people had come to know Christ personally. The word is "epignosis" - mere surface knowledge - to know "about" someone. Granted that one has to know about someone to know him personally. But one can know about someone without having a personal relationship with that person. These are at best nominal Christians, false brothers. For example Peter writes in 2Peter 2:20, "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." Here again "knowing" is actually "epignosis"  - knowing about something rather than knowing someone personally.

But in particular it would seem he's talking about the sin of apostasy. Note in verse 28 he makes a comparison with the rejection of the Law of Moses for those Israelites subject to the Law. In this case he is referring to those who had allegedly become "Christians", but later rejected Christ and the gospel of Christ.

We have seen similar things so far in Hebrews in chapters 3, 4 and 6. Note in particular the rhetoric the Heb 6 passage "if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Heb 6:6 Compare to Heb 10:29 So here he points out that those who essentially leave the faith by opting for a lifestyle of sin also leave behind the sacrifice which could have atoned for their sins. For there is no atonement for those who leave the faith. But let us also remember 1John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

 A Fearful Expectation

Heb 10:27-29  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Those who have come to trust Christ regarding their salvation are not only eternally securely, but they are also born again of the Spirit of God, becoming new creatures such that's it's natural to do what is right. (1John 3:9) As such, one's behavior, though not a cause, is an indicator of one's salvation status. (1John 3:10) Thus while those born of God can have a confident hope of their destiny, not so for apostates, the subject of all the warnings in Hebrews, who are merely "Christians" in name. (1John 2:19)

Paul writes, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 And "of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person— such a man is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient." Ephesians 5:5,6 And "the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21

Those who live a lifestyle of sin end up in hell. And how much more so for those who do so willfully knowing the gospel. (Apostates) Yet there is a misconception not uncommon among modern evangelicals (due to the influence of "Free Grace Theology") that one's behavior doesn't matter, that one can pray a prayer to "receive" Christ and then go on to live a lifestyle of sin. Such people have been deceived with empty words.

To deliberately live a lifestyle of sin as a "Christian" is to trample the Son of God underfoot. It is to treat his blood as unholy and insult the Spirit of grace. This is much like those of Hebrews 6 of whom it is impossible "if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Heb 6:6 It is furthermore an insult to the Spirit of grace to deny the regeneration he brings to those who are in the faith. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope— the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14

I Will Repay

Heb 10:30,31 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The quotes are from Deut 32:35,36 and Ps 135:14 concerning God's attitude towards straying Israel. The New Testament uses the same rhetoric with regards to Christians. "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. ..." 1Cor 10:1-5

And likewise in Jesus's teachings. For example he ends his parable of the unforgiving servant saying, "In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Mat 18:34,35

Many alleged Christians will be disillusioned on that day. Jesus said, "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Mt 7:22,23 Like concerning some woman in a church who called herself a prophetess yet led Christians into sexual immorality (not uncommon today) he says, "I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds." Rev 2:20-23 May those Christians today whose teaching leads God's servants into sexual immorality suffer a similar fate. "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." Mr 9:42 

Standing Among the Persecuted

Heb 10: 32-34 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Despite the fact that he's speaking to Christians who have stood on their convictions in the face of persecution he nonetheless speaks these warnings. They are not like those of whom Jesus characterized in his parable of the sower as "those on the rock who are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." Luke 8:13 Rather his concern was whether they would become like those among the thorns, as he states somewhat explicitly in Hebrews 6:7,8 "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.", which follows the warning of Heb 6:4-6

Many Christians today are distracted by the thorns of the worries, riches and pleasures in life without even having been subjected to the kinds of trials these Jewish Christians have suffered.
How do you measure up at this point? Realize that even if you have gone through these things, there's no guarantee you won't fall away. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." 1Cor 10:12 

You Need to Persevere

Heb 10:35,36 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Again with the imperatives. Whenever an imperative is given, there's an application in mind. "Richly Reward" speaks not of salvation itself (which is either/or and not a matter of degree), but rather rewards on top of salvation as 1Cor 3:11-15 also alludes to.

Confidence is revealed by one's response to persecution, be it verbal or otherwise and also by perseverance. Even Paul himself was concerned about being disqualified for rewards, and thus speaks of exercising self-control saying, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1Cor 9:27 

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Jas 1:12 But the reward for perseverance is not just rewards in heaven, a confident perseverance in the faith communicates conviction and consequently wins a hearing for the gospel, or otherwise provokes fellow Christians to do likewise. 

Of course what is implied in all this is the fact that we will be subjected to discouraging circumstances. But "consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." Heb 12:3

Believe or Shrink

Heb 10:37-39 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

The quote is from Hab 2:4 in LXX (the Septuagint), which Paul also quotes in Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11.

Rom 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Gal 3:11  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."

The righteous base their lifestyle on trusting in Jesus and thus relying upon the spirit of regeneration to empower them to live the Christian life. Those who don't do so are not saved regardless of what they may claim to believe. "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1John 2:6 To shrink back from applying one's faith to their life is akin to unbelief. To shrink back implies cowardice. And cowards are first on the list in Rev 21:8 to get thrown into the lake of fire, along with those who opt for a justification by some kind of law, a works-based salvation idea, who are under a curse according to Gal 3:10.

Note the confidence, indeed the presumption that he along with his audience are not going to shrink back but will certainly be saved. What is the basis of this presumption but the guarantee of Eternal Security and the effect of regeneration mentioned in 1John 3:9 and 1John 5:4. Those who shrink back from accepting eternal security reject the grace of God and don't trust in Christ to save them.

"And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." 1John 2:28,29

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jan 20,2022