International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Hebrews 10:19-31Lesson Title: Steadfast Determination
There is a lot being said about faith today and most of what we are hearing is not in harmony with God's Word. Sadly, the word faith is used rather loosely today and has as many different definitions as there are men preaching and teaching it. Do you know what genuine biblical faith is? Would you know how to recognize the real from the unreal? If you aren't sure what genuine faith is, then you are open to deception and disappointment. It is therefore important that we study afresh the nature of biblical faith. And there is no better starting point than studying about faith's steadfast determination.
For the next several weeks we will be studying about faith from the book of Hebrews. This New Testament epistle comes to us with no human writer identified. Although the title given in some Bible versions is "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews," the epistle itself, like the Fourth Gospel, is silent on the subject of authorship. While many have speculated concerning the author one thing we do know about the author is that he was inspired and led by the Holy Spirit to write this important epistle. There is also speculation concerning the date of writing. It seems most probable that Hebrews was written between A.D. 60 and A.D. 70. The doctrinal content of the epistle would fit that period.
Hebrews was written to a group of saved and unsaved Jews. The recipients of this epistle had probably never seen the risen Christ as had some of the Jews who lived in Jerusalem and were witnesses of Jesus' resurrection or heard the apostle's preaching and teaching first hand. This group had no Bible to read and study because the Bible had not yet been compiled. Therefore, the truth upon which these Jews were building their lives came directly from the mouths of the apostles. To believe what they were told and respond accordingly required genuine faith.
It is evident that the believing Jews had received the word of God through the apostles and had been given ample time to consider it and respond biblically. The Bible says, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat" (Hebrews 5:12). The "first principles" refer to the "beginning lessons" or "the basic elements." These Jews to whom Hebrews was written had been given the fundamental truths that Jesus Christ is superior to everything in the old Jewish religious system and it was now time for them to grasp the truth and grow spiritually. And faith is required for that to happen.
Steadfast Determination and Relationship in Christ (Hebrews 10:19-25)
The theme of Hebrews from chapter one to chapter ten is that everything the believer has in Jesus Christ is far better than anything before (Hebrews 1:4; 7:19; 8:6; 9:23). All of the sacrifices, offerings, and ritual of the Old Testament were just types and shadows of what was to come. Because Jesus Christ has come and made possible a saving relationship for sinners through the offering of Himself, the Hebrew writer can now write about what believers have available in Jesus Christ. Everything was limited under the old covenant but Christ "...taketh away the first, that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9).
a. The Divine Side of this Relationship (Hebrews 10:19-21)
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,"
The words "Having therefore" is speaking of a present possession that belongs to the believer right now. "Having therefore" refers to everything that has been said in the previous chapters regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ in bringing us a "new and living way" to God.
In the Old Testament and under the old covenant, the people were not allowed to approach God or be in His immediate presence. That truth was symbolized in relation to the tabernacle and especially in the holy of holies. The people were to stand off from the tabernacle, suggesting that even then God was not approachable except through another (Numbers 18:22). Through the Mediator of the new covenant, God's presence is personal and unlimited to those who "enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." The "holiest" is speaking of holy places such as the Tabernacle and special places in the Tabernacle that was off limits to sinful man. The believer now has "boldness" or freedom and confidence to be in God's presence because of the "blood of Jesus."
Believer's today do not go into God's presence through a literal physical place such as the Tabernacle and holy of holies or any earthly building. Believers have access to God through the person of Jesus Christ.
"By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;"
The "way" into the presence of God is "a new and living way." The word "new" means "freshly slaughtered." In the mind of the Jew those representing them before God could only do so when a sacrifice was freshly offered. Now, Jesus Christ is our "freshly slaughtered" sacrifice which opened the way to God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is forever regarded as having just been made. It will never lose its power. The old covenant and the old way to God were no longer beneficial. The sacrifices and offerings were temporal and could never provide or secure salvation. "Living" means "alive." The Old Testament sacrifices died and death was all around the holy places. Now, in Jesus Christ everything is about life. The "way" to God is a "living way."
"Which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" is a reference to the "veil" which separated the holy of holies from the outer tabernacle. The text infers that the "veil" here represents the "flesh" of Jesus. "Consecrated" means "set apart." The thought is that through the "setting apart" of His "flesh," or, the giving of Himself at Calvary, Jesus Christ made "a new and living way" to God possible. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, "...the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Matthew 27:51) and access to God was now available. Because the shed blood of Jesus Christ satisfied a holy God once and for all there is no longer a barrier to God's presence for the repentant sinner. What a thrill it must have been for the Jews receiving this epistle to hear that in Jesus Christ they now had access to God and freedom to enjoy things formerly forbidden. This truth should also thrill the New Testament believer and is likewise the basis for the believer's steadfast determination.
True born again believers can come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not a place or religious procedure that secures our acceptance in His presence. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are confident of our standing before God.
"And having an high priest over the house of God;"
Jesus Christ not only opened up "a new and living way" to God but He also became "an high priest over the house of God." The Old Testament high priest was one who went into the presence of God to minister and represent God's people before God. In describing Jesus as the "high priest over the house of God," the author is not saying that Jesus is over a physical building, such as the temple in Jerusalem. Rather, the "house of God" is a reference to the spiritual "house of God" which consists of all believers, Jew and Gentile, who make up the church (Ephesians 2:21-22).
Jesus Christ our "high priest" is this very moment in the presence of God and is our access to God and is thereby securing our place in the presence of God. And because He is there "over" or ruling the church, we have the wonderful privileges described in the following verses.
b. The Human Side of this Relationship (Hebrews 10:22-25)
It is clear in Hebrews 10:19-21 that God has fulfilled His side and kept His promises. Now the Hebrew writer exhorts the Jewish believers and others who have heard the truth of God's Word to respond faithfully. He does this in a threefold exhortation to faithfulness that begins with the words, "Let us" (verses 22, 23, 24).
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
First, the exhortation "Let us draw near" is given. Because Christ has provided access to the presence of God, the Jews were to take advantage of it. The Hebrew writer is speaking in language a Jew would easily recognize. When he wrote, "Let us draw near..." he is drawing a picture of the Jewish pilgrim making their way to the temple for worship. When he wrote, "with a true heart in full assurance of faith" he means they are to come "honestly, genuinely, no pretence or selfish motives." That is the meaning of "true heart." The phrase "in full assurance of faith" emphasizes that as they come into God's presence they believe without any doubt that they will be received and that God's presence shall be realized. "Faith" is the Greek word pistis, meaning "conviction of truth, belief." Men must approach God based on truth and firmly convicted of that truth. Unbelief and doubt always keep man at a distance from God.
"Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" are figures associated with the consecration of the Levitical priests. In the Old Testament there were required washings and preparations that had to be performed before the individual could come to worship (Exodus 24:6-8; 29:16-21; Hebrews 9:18-22). For the believer today the "sprinkling" and "bodies washed with pure water" speaks of our redemption through faith in the crucified and risen Savior. The "washing" refers to the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), and therefore the incoming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The sprinkling and washing are essential to the worship of God and standing confidently in God's presence.
To come into God's presence is a matter of a prepared heart. The heart must be "true." That is the opposite of a hypocritical or false heart. Believers must come into God's presence in prayer and worship with sincerity and certainty. Believers have every reason for this confident approach to God for whatever we need as we bow in His presence and worship Him.
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)"
Second, the exhortation, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith" may have been spoken primarily to those Jews who had accepted the gospel message but possibly could have been tempted to return to Judaism. The "profession of faith" is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Acceptance of the gospel message preached by the apostles was their "profession of faith." The word "faith" in this verse is a different Greek word from "faith" in verse 22. Here, it is the Greek word elpis, meaning "hope" or "expectation."
The Greek word for "hold fast" comes from the idea of a warrior who fearlessly carries the banner of his army into the thick of the battle. Such a picture should excite believers to stand fearlessly for the truth of Jesus Christ in a wicked and hostile world. Cost what it will, we must defend and declare our "hope" both among our brothers and sisters in Christ and before a lost world. And this must be done "without wavering." The words "without wavering" is used only once in the New Testament and it signifies "a steadfastness which keeps us from being weary in well doing."
It is important to remember that some of the Jews receiving this epistle were truly saved and living for Christ. However, there was a great pull of tradition and influence to go back into Judaism and the Old Testament rituals that was so familiar to them. All of us, Jew or Gentile need to be encouraged and exhorted to "hold fast...without wavering." And one of the most encouraging truths to motivate us to "hold fast" is the fact that "he is faithful that promised." God is "faithful." Sometimes I'm unfaithful. Sometimes you are unfaithful. But the glorious truth is that there is never a time when the Lord is not faithful! The basic truth about perseverance and "holding fast" is not that we hold onto the Lord, but that He holds onto us!
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
Third, the exhortation to "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" and "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" is a reminder that believers are not isolated individuals, but members one of another. If there is anything that is absolutely fatal to steadfast determination it is the idea that we are in this Christian journey alone.
"Consider" means "to fix one's eye or mind." These Jewish believers have already been urged to "consider Jesus" (Hebrew 3:1). Now they are to "consider one another." When God's people pay attention to the needs of other brothers and sisters in Christ we recognize that we have a responsibility to help each other. As we "consider one another" we are able "to provoke unto love and to good works." That means we stimulate Christian love and "good works" or Christian deeds among God's people. Christians should have a real passion and enthusiasm, not only to love one another, but to act toward one another in a practical and sacrificial manner. This is what John the Apostle meant when he wrote, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18).
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" means Christians should challenge one another in steadfast determination and faithfulness. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" refers to the gathering of believers here on earth in local churches. It was essential that these young Jewish Christians realize the importance of being together for worship and Christian service. The word "assembling" is the same word as "gathering together" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 used by Paul to describe the coming of the Jesus when believers are gathered together in the air.
Do you think the coming of Christ is exciting? I do! I think it is a thrilling thought that all God's children will be "caught up together in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and go to be with the Lord forever. I also believe that every time you and I go to that local assembly, the local church that we are painting a picture of that great day in the future when we will all be assembled together. It should be just as exciting to go to church and gather together in our Sunday school classes, and prayer rooms, and choirs and small groups as it is to think about our final gathering together. God has so ordered the church to be a place of encouragement, fellowship, restfulness, worship, and instruction that we just can't "forsake" it. "Forsake" means "to abandon." It's a sad day when professing Christians won't be faithful to God's house and the family of God.
For those of you who think you are too spiritual to need a local church, I want to remind you that you are wrong. If you read the New Testament you will learn that your loss or gain at the judgment seat of Christ is closely related to your faithfulness to the church. The preaching of the cross, the teaching of sound doctrine, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the giving of our tithes and offerings, the care of widows, and the spread of the gospel is all directly connected to the local church and the Bible says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." In fact, the closer we get to the coming of the Lord, or "as ye see the day approaching," the more important it is to be with God's people.
Question: Have you ever wondered why some professing Christians never "hold fast" and never commit to being faithful? What about those who come to church sporadically or just on religious occasions and holy days or holidays? And then what about those who come regularly but never "provoke" or "exhort" their fellow believers? I don't have the answers because only God knows the heart of man. But think about this, is it every consistent to professes that "faith" is in your heart if you have no desire to be in God's house? Is it consistent to say, "That's my family and never want to be with them?" Think about it in light of the nearness of the coming of the Lord.
Steadfast Determination and Rejection of Christ (Hebrews 10:26-31)
It is no mistake that our text moves from the thought of faithfulness in light of the coming of Christ to the consequences of rejecting Christ and living in willful sin. Some people have the idea that once you profess to be saved it really doesn't matter how you live. Hebrews 10:26-31 teaches us differently.
Opinion differs concerning who is being addressed in Hebrews 10:26-31. Is the writer speaking to people who have never been saved but are on the verge of trusting Christ or is he speaking to those who have already been saved but are willfully sinning? While evidence can be given to support both views we will approach the text from the interpretation that those being addressed are people who have received the truth about Jesus Christ, but not Christ himself.
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,"
The double use of the word "we" in this verse would seem to indicate that the writer is speaking to the same group as "us" in verses 22-24. If that be true then he would be addressing believers. However, in light of the total context it seems more fitting to interpret the "we" as those who have publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ but are now proving otherwise by their "willfull" sin.
The Greek verb here translated "sin" is in the present, continuous tense, indicating not a series of of acts or the practicing of different types of sin, but rather a condition. The "sin" referred to here is the sin of willful abandoning of their professed faith in Jesus Christ. Some who had embraced Christianity, turned their backs on Judaism and all the sacrificial system to embrace Christ, were now walking away from Christianity to return to Judaism. For these people "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." In other words, there is no other sacrifice for sin save the One sacrifice Jesus Christ made of Himself at Calvary.
"Wilful" means "deliberate." Those who had been brought face to face with the truth concerning Jesus Christ and were now returning to Judaism had not made their decision on the spur of the moment or in some emotional downfall. They had thought it through, weighed it out, and it was settled in their mind.
"Received the knowledge of the truth" doesn't mean these people were saved. Receiving the truth is quite different from believing and accepting the truth. The word "knowledge" used in this verse is speaking about all the necessary information needed to be saved. "Truth" is the gospel. These individuals addressed in this verse has been given all the information necessary to be saved and has by his own deliberate choice "sinned" or remained in his condition of trusting something other than Jesus Christ for salvation. In this case, they trusted Judaism.
There cannot be two sacrifices for sin. There cannot be two ways to heaven. Salvation cannot be by works and by grace. There cannot be two heads of the church. Mary and Jesus cannot both be mediators (1 Timothy 2:5). And for those who deliberately "sin" in turning away from the cross of Jesus Christ, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." No man will ever enter into the presence of God without having his sins forgiven. There must be a sacrifice for sin and Jesus Christ, not Judaism, not Catholicism, not Mormonism, not even old time religion can sacrifice for sins! Only Jesus can!
"But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
Here is the alternative to trusting Jesus Christ as the only sacrifice for sin. There is nothing left for those who have all the information needed to be saved and then deliberately choose to stay in their denomination or belief system that contradicts biblical salvation. What remains for them is "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation..." The word "judgment" is the Greek word krisis, signifying "a punishment following a judicial condemnation." The words "judgment" and "fiery indignation" speak of God's wrath that will fall upon those who deliberately reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. The one who walks away from the truth becomes an "adversary" an enemy of grace and God's judgment "shall devour" or "consume" that individual.
A powerful example of this type of judgment is recorded in Leviticus 10 in the incident of Nadab and Abihu. The Bible says, "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." While there are many things that could be said about the story of Nadab and Abihu, two things that relate to our lesson today is: One, these men were not outsiders; they were priests who had seen God on the mountain (Exodus 24:1-11). Second, what they were doing was about them and not about God. Religion, tradition, denominational loyalty and a host of other things in our churches has become more about us than Jesus Christ. And the danger of that is that it when men hear the true gospel it so contradicts what they think is God's way that they very rarely are willing to reject tradition and trust Christ (Matthew 7:14).
"He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witness: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
As a witness to what he is saying the writer of Hebrews uses Moses and an Old Testament example most likely taken from Deuteronomy 17:2-7. If one was found within the camp of Israel who had transgressed against the Lord's covenant and worshipped strange gods or idols, and "two or three witnesses" confirmed that, then they were punished by being stoned to death "without mercy." God takes sin serious. And then the writer's warning to his Jewish audience, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
God took all sin serious. Something as insignificant to us as gathering sticks on the Sabbath was serious to God (Numbers 15:32-36). Adultery was a serious sin (Leviticus 20:10). So the writer's point is this. If God required a man's life because he gathered sticks on the Sabbath and because he committed adultery, "how much sorer punishment" do you think God will pour out on those who have "trodden under foot the Son of God?" To trample upon a person or an object is a deliberate act of wrath and shows utter contempt, perhaps even hatred, for that which is trampled upon. Most men will pick up a dirty penny lying in the street but will walk right over the message of the cross. And when they do, they aren't rejecting the preacher or the church, they are rejecting the "Son of God.
If you are reading this lesson and you know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ but have never been saved, stop right now and ask the Lord to save you. Don't walk away and keep trusting in your own works or your denominational ties or tradition. It is serious "to count the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing" and walk away from the grace of God.
The first "he" in verse 29 is a reference to man. The second "he" is verse 29 is a reference to Christ. "He," Jesus Christ "was sanctified" means Christ Himself was set apart unto God, to be an eternal High Priest through the blood of the covenant offered unto God. Those who walk over Christ's work of salvation do so because they see it as "an unholy thing." That means the shed blood of Jesus is not sacred to those who reject the gospel. Christ's atoning and saving work is "an unholy thing" to those who trust themselves or their religious traditions for salvation. And in doing so, they have "done despite unto the Spirit of grace."A person having been exposed to the Gospel of the grace of God and then walked away from that gospel has shamefully treated the Holy Spirit who is called the "Spirit of grace." When you reject Jesus Christ you never reject a denomination, a system, a religion. Jesus Christ is a person. The Holy Spirit is a person. To know the truth and walk away from is to eternally insult the Holy Spirit.
"For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people."
The first part of this verse, "For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me..." is taken from Deuteronomy 32:35-36. The second part, "The Lord shall judge his people" is taken from Psalm 135:14. "Vengeance" from God is different than man's vengeance toward others. Out vengeance means we repay because we are hurt and want to make others hurt. The "vengeance" of God is righteous and holy, free from any element of self gratification or wanting to get even (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 2:14). When God "recompenses" or "gives retribution" for man's rejection of the gospel, it is holy, fair, and just.
The words, "The Lord shall judge his people" means God will settle and solve every case involving His people. This is a promise relating to God's chosen people, the Jews and the nation of Israel and it is also applicable to all men. For God's redeemed people the judgment of sin has already taken place at Calvary. Salvation is settled but we must give account of ourselves to God for how we have obeyed and followed His will.
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
The Hebrew writer leaves the terrible thought of those who have rejected the gospel having to be in "the hands of the living God." "Fall" is a word meaning "to be under the power of." In this case it is a terrifying things to think about being without Christ and being under the power of God's hands. To be lost and be in "the hands of the living God" means God alone has control of your eternal destiny and He alone assigns men to their eternal abode. There will be no lawyer's hands that can plead your case when you stand before God. There will be no doctor's hand to heal your sin sick soul when you stand before God. And there will be no preacher's hand to shake in hopes of securing a favorable standing with God.
Those of us who are saved know what a blessing it is to be in God's hands. It is a place of provision and protection (John 10:27-29). But to only know the "hands of the living God" in judgment is a "fearful thing."
Steadfast faith in Jesus Christ is a serious matter. Because we have trusted in the finished work of Christ we have so many blessings and privileges to enjoy. Our faith, our church family, and our fellowship around the word of God and each other provide strength to stay the course in these troubling and unsettling times. But to those who seem to never get settled and are never able to be faithful, the warning has been sounded.
If you know the truth of the gospel and have all the information needed to trust Christ and yet you deliberately walk away, there is no other gospel and no other way to be saved. Remember, God takes sin seriously. And there is no greater sin that to treat the work of God's Son on the cross as trivial. If you are truly His child today, "hold fast the profession of your faith." If you are thinking about walking away from the truth, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
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