The Epistle To the Hebrews, Part 7
Along with Hebrews 6, the chapter we're about to
study is a favorite of the conditional security folks, even though within the
chapter itself the writer clearly asserts that by His one sacrifice, the Lord
has made us perfect forever.
Man's way is to write conditional clauses into contracts that give him an “out”
if things go wrong. Among themselves
people who deal with legal documents call these
“weasel clauses” based on the idea that it's OK to “weasel” out of a deal
that goes bad or that you change your mind about.
So it's natural that man should look for God's weasel clauses, even
taking verses out of context here and there in his attempt to prove that he's
found them. We all remember being warned that a deal that looks too good to be
true probably is, and let's face it, being saved by grace just for believing
that Jesus died for our sins looks too good to be true.
We forget that the Lord already knows how His contract with
us will go, so He doesn't need any weasel clauses.
And He didn't put a performance condition on us anyway, asking only that
we accept by faith that He's done this for us.
And since He can't lie, if His word says that we're saved unconditionally
even once then that's the way it is, and anything that seems to us to contradict
or modify it has to be a misunderstanding on our part.
This bears repeating.
If we find a verse that seems to contradict or modify God's promise that
we're saved unconditionally, it means that we've misunderstood that verse.
It doesn't mean that God changed His mind about it, or clarified it, or
explained it in greater detail. It
means that we've misunderstood.
Period. Otherwise His word can't be
trusted, and we'd have to go through it verse by verse, looking for weasel
clauses on all His other promises, too.
So if the writer of Hebrews wasn't contradicting Jesus, or
Paul or even himself when he wrote the part we call chapter 10, then what does
it mean? Let's find out.
Hebrews Chapter 10
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are
coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same
sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near
to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the
worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt
guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
After all the sacrifices that had been made, it stands to
reason that if they were going to do away with sin, they would have.
But instead they became a reminder every year that God still viewed His
people as sinners, unfit for habitation with Him. Though required, those
sacrifices got them no closer to heaven
than they had previously been, but only kept them from falling into an
even worse state, and then only if they performed them with humble and contrite
hearts. Any hint in the people's
minds that these sacrifices were actually making them righteous canceled even
the limited effect of performing them. (Isaiah 66:2-4)
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you
prepared for me; with burnt offerings and
sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come
to do your will, O God.' " [Psalm 40:6-8]
First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings
and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although
the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do
your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will,
we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all. (Hebr. 10:5-10)
Knowing the plight of His people the Father prepared a body
for the Son, allowing Him to become human so He could fulfill the Scriptures
concerning the sacrifice for sin. It's the only thing that can save us.
The Hebrew word translated “will” gives us a special insight into this.
It appears 15 times and means “a voluntary favor” It comes from a root
that means “to satisfy a debt.” The
Son volunteered to die for us in order to satisfy the debt that we owed.
Notice the past perfect tense.
We have been made Holy. It's
an accomplished fact. Finished.
(Remember that word.)
Day after day every priest stands and performs his
religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never
take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for
sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his
enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect
forever those who are being made holy. (Hebr. 10:11-14)
Here's the comparison between the priesthoods of Levi and
Melchizedek again. With Levitical
priests it was an endless stream of insufficient sacrifices that never saved
anyone, not even for a moment. But
the Lord's single sacrifice was sufficient to make us perfect forever, though
we're still being made Holy. The word translated perfect is also used in
Matt; 5:48. There the Lord said, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is
perfect.” And then He made it so.
And in John 19:30 when Jesus said, “It is finished” He used a form of the
same word, as if He meant, “There. I've made you perfect, as your Father in
Heaven is perfect.”
The word translated “forever” also means continuously, without
ceasing. Once we accept His death as
payment for our sins there's never a moment in God's eyes when we're any less
perfect than He is. How can this be?
Because the Lord's one sacrifice was sufficient to cover all the sins of our
life, past, present and future. And
seeing the end from the beginning, God has chosen to only see us as we'll be
then, when we stand before Him and become in fact that which we now are in
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that
time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them
on their minds." [Jere. 31:33]
Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer
any sacrifice for sin. (Hebr. 10:15-18)
The writer is showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of
Jeremiah 31:31-34 quoted in full in chapter 8.
His sacrifice was the offer of a New Covenant.
It allows the Father to “forget” we ever sinned at all.
There's no longer any need for the daily sacrifice for sin, or any other
work intended to maintain our standing.
Now we need only ask in order to receive immediate forgiveness and
purification (1 John 1:9).
And as he's said before, continuing to do those things relegates the Lord's
sacrifice to the same status as bulls and goats, and the believers doing them to
the same status as their ancestors, still God's people but consigned to the
wilderness. Out of fellowship.
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 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. 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. (Hebr. 10:19-25)
This a powerful exhortation to rest in the “full assurance
of our faith”. Our great High Priest has gone before us and opened the way to
the Throne of God. Where before we
would have died upon stepping into the presence of God, we can now draw near to
Him in confidence. No more religious
work, no more uncertainty, no more depending on a sinful priest performing an
imperfect ritual. Trusting in God to
do what He's promised, and helping others in the body to do the same, we rejoice
in the fact that we're always welcome in our Father's house. No appointment
necessary, no waiting in line.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have
received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 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? For we know him
who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[Deut. 32:35] and again,
"The Lord will judge his people." [Deut. 32:36] It is a dreadful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebr. 10:26-31)
How this passage ever gained traction as applying to our
salvation is beyond me. Has there
ever been a Christian who stopped sinning after being saved? Even if they hadn't
read the rest of the letter, a rational person would have to conclude that there
are only two options in interpreting it.
Either we're all hopelessly lost or the passage refers to something other
than salvation. Try if you can to imagine someone who after being saved never
had an angry, or lustful or envious thought, who never fudged on the truth or
said something unkind about another person.
And I don't mean just once, although that would have been enough, but
more often than they even know.
Remember, in Psalm 19:12-13 King David asked the Lord to forgive him for
sins he wasn't even aware of committing, not just for those he knew about. And
just because we don't remember sinning doesn't mean it wasn't deliberate.
Sinning is as natural to us as breathing, and while we don't think about
breathing, we still do it deliberately.
Refusing to take our Sabbath Rest and laboring on to earn
or maintain our salvation is an insult to the Spirit of grace. The judgment and
fire refer to 1 Cor. 3:12-15 where each believer's work will be judged
according to the hidden motives of his heart.
Going back to the Law of Moses after Jesus had come to fulfill it was a
worse insult to God than disobeying it before He came and would result in all
his work being destroyed in the flames..
The sinning that's been referred to all through the letter
is relying on the Old Covenant sacrifices to maintain that which has been freely
given under the New. No sacrifice
will end the interruption in our relationship with God that our ongoing sin
causes. Only confession and
forgiveness can do that. Why?
Because we confess when we expect to be forgiven.
It's an act of faith and what the Lord wants more than anything is for us
to live by faith. That's why He made it the only condition attached to our
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.
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. 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.
2:3-4] 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. (Hebr. 10:32-39)
The writer closes this chapter with a reminder of all the
victories they've won by faith alone.
Why would they now back down and settle for less.
They need to do the will of God to receive the blessing He promised.
And what is the will of God?
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall
lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my
Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall
have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John
6:39-40) Believe and be saved.
The Lord has promised never to lose you.
Both are God's will.
The reference to shrinking back and being
destroyed is the opposite of believing and being saved.
His readers will not be destroyed because they've become believers and
are saved. Now the goal is to rest in the
full assurance of faith, and not be tempted beck into religious works. Next time
we'll visit that spectacular display of victorious living, Hebrews 11,
the Hall of Faith. See you then. 12-15-07