In the passage now before us both these contrasts reappear, but coupled with them is a third – the supreme glory of Him who became the sacrifice , as
contrasted with both priests and offerings of old. We see Him stepping
out of eternity that He might accomplish the will of God in the work
that He did. The passage starts with the reminder that the law with its
shadow sacrifices could NEVER make the worshippers perfect. It ends
with the glorious statement that the offering of Christ has perfected them FOR EVER.
It is not that the law sacrifices did not perfect anyone as to the conscience, but that they could not. Their
very repetition showed this. Could they have availed to cleanse the
conscience, so that the offerer got complete relief as to the whole
question of sin, they would have ceased to be offered; inasmuch as we
never go on doing what is done. In point of fact
their effect was in just the opposite direction. Instead of removing
sins from the conscience as no longer to be remembered, they were
formally brought to remembrance at least once every year. The blood of
sacrificial animals had no efficacy to take away sins. The thing was
impossible, as verse 4 says.
The statement of that verse is clear enough. Some of us,
however, remembering what is said as to the forgiveness of various
sins, or as to cleansing from sin, in Leviticus 4, 5 and 6 may feel
that there is apparently a contradiction, and that a further word of
explanation is needed. The solution of the difficulty is not far to
seek, and we may reply by way of an illustration.
Here is a trader hard pressed by a creditor. He is short of
cash in these hard times, though he knows well that in three months'
time he will have ample funds. What does he do? He offers his creditor
a three months' promissory note for £500, and his creditor well
satisfied with his integrity, gladly accepts it. Now our question is
this – What really has the creditor got?
That question may with equal truth be answered in two ways,
apparently contradictory. Thinking of it as regards its intrinsic
value, we should reply: – He has got a small piece of paper, whereon
certain words are traced in ink, and in the corner of which is embossed
a red government stamp, and the total value of the whole thing would be
less than a penny. Thinking of it in its relative value – that
is, of what it will be worth at its due date in view of the character
of the man who drew it, we should be quite right in replying, Five hundred pounds.
The sacrifices of old were like that promissory note. They had
value, but it lay in that to which they pointed. They were but paper;
the sacrifice of Christ alone is like fine gold. In Leviticus their
relative value is pointed out. In Hebrews we find that their value is
only relative and not intrinsic. They can never take away sins. Hence
in them God had no pleasure, and the coming of Christ was a necessity.
Hence in verses 5 to 9 we have the quotation from Psalm 40 and
its application. It is quoted as the very voice of the Son of God, as
He enters into the world. The Psalm mentions, “Sacrifice and offering …
burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin;” that is, offerings of four
kinds, just as there are four kinds of offerings mentioned in the early
chapters of Leviticus. There was no pleasure for God in any of them,
and when the Son of God came forth to do the will of God they were
supplanted and taken away. In the body He took, the whole will of God
was done, and by the offering of it up in sacrifice we have been set
apart for God once for all.
The thing being accomplished what further need is there of the
ineffectual shadows? The fine gold having appeared what use have we for
the scrap of paper? That great word, “He taketh away the first, that He
may establish the second,” might almost be taken as the whole drift of
the epistle to the Hebrews, stated in few words – put into a nutshell,
as we speak.
Once more are we brought face to face with the contrast in
verses 11 to 14. On the one hand, there are all the priests of Aaron's
race. On the other, “this Man” in His solitary dignity as the Son of
God. There, the daily ministering, and the constant offering of the
ineffectual sacrifices that can never take away sins. Here, the one
perfect offering, which is perfectly efficacious, and the Offerer
seated at the right hand of God. There, the priests were always
standing. No chair or seat of any kind was provided amongst the
furniture of the tabernacle. It was not needed for their work was never
done. Here, the Offerer has by His one offering perfected for ever the
sanctified ones, and consequently He has taken His seat for ever at
God's right hand.
The words, “for ever,” occur in verses 12 and 14. In both
cases they have the significance of, “as a perpetual thing,” or, more
briefly, “in perpetuity.” Those set apart for God having been perfected
as to their consciences in perpetuity, He has taken His seat at God's
right hand in perpetuity. For one thing only is He waiting, and that is
for His enemies to be made His footstool.
We would like to think that all our readers have entered into
the tremendous significance of all this. Oh, the blessing and
establishment of soul that comes when we really lay hold of it! Its
surpassing importance may be seen in the way that the Spirit of God
dwells upon the subject, and elaborates it in its details. Note too,
how again and again it is stated that the sacrifice of Christ is one,
and offered once and for ever. Six times over is this fact brought
before us, in the passage beginning with 9:12 , and ending with 10:14 .
Search that passage and see for yourselves.
And then may the truth contained in that passage enter all our hearts in its soul-subduing, conscience-cleansing power!
It has often been pointed out that in the early part of
Hebrews 10 we have mention of, firstly, the will of God; secondly the
work of Christ; thirdly, the witness of the Holy Ghost. The work of
Christ for us has laid the basis for the accomplishment of the will of
God about us, and in order that we may have the assurance of both there is the witness of the Spirit to us. In verse 15 of our chapter this last is brought before us.
How may we know that, as believers who have been set apart for
God, we have been perfected in perpetuity? Only by relying upon an
unimpeachable witness. And where is such a witness to be found?
Suppose we put our feelings in the witness box, and subject them to a
little cross-examinnation on the point. Can we arrive at anything like
assurance? By no means, for they hardly tell the same story twice
running. If on certain occasions they would seem to testify to our
being right with God, on other occasions their witness would be in
exactly the opposite direction. We must dismiss them from the witness
box as utterly unreliable.
But the Holy Spirit condescends to take the place of Witness, and He is utterly reliable. It is not here His witness in us as in Romans 8:16. In our passage He is viewed as testifying from without to us, and
we are immediately referred to that which is written in Jeremiah 31.
The words of Jeremiah were the words of the Spirit; his writings the
writings of the Spirit. The witness of the Spirit to us is found in the
written Word of God. The burden of His witness in favour of the
believer is, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
Is there some reader of these lines who lacks assurance? Are
you a prey to doubts and fears as to your salvation? What you need is
to receive the witness of the Spirit in “full assurance of faith,” as
verse 22 puts it. Could more reliable witness be presented to you than
that of God, the Holy Ghost? No! Could His witness be presented to you
in a more stable or more satisfactory form than in the Scriptures of
truth, which He has inspired? We venture to say, it could not.
Supposing God dispatched an angel to you with tidings of your
forgiveness. Would that settle everything? For a short time perhaps.
Angels however appear for a moment and then they are gone, and you see
them no more. The memory of his visit would soon grow faint, and doubt
enter your mind as to what exactly he did say. If you were
granted a wonderful inrush of joyful feeling, would that do? It would
soon pass and be succeeded by a corresponding depression, for when
waves run high you cannot always ride upon their crests. Bring forward
any alternative you please, and our reply will be, that though more
spectacular than the Scriptures they cannot be compared with them for
reliability. If you cannot or will not receive the witness of the Holy
Ghost in that form, you would not receive it in any form whatsoever.
The witness of the Spirit to us is, then, that our sins are
completely remitted, and being forgiven there is no more offering for
sin. In verse 2 the question was asked, “Would they not have ceased to
be offered?” – that is, had the Jewish sacrifices been able to make the
worshippers perfect. In verse 18 we learn that Christ's one sacrifice
having perfected us, and the Holy Spirit bearing witness to it, there
is no further offering for sin. When these words were penned Jewish
sacrifices were still proceeding at Jerusalem but they were valueless
as offerings for sin, and very shortly they were all swept away. The
Roman armies under Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem and utterly scattered
the Jews, were really God's armies (see, Matt.22:7) used by Him in
judgment to make their sacrifices impossible any longer. And yet a very
large part of Christendom is continually bowing down before what they
call, “the sacrifice of the mass.” How great the sin of this! Worse
really than the sin of perpetuating the Jewish sacrifices, had that
Verse 19 brings before us the great result that follows from
the one perfect sacrifice of Christ. We have “boldness to enter into
the holiest.” No Jew, not even the high priest, had boldness to enter
the holiest made with hands: we have boldness to enter the holiest not
made with hands; in spirit now, and in actual presence when the Lord
comes. The converted Hebrew reading this would at once say to himself –
This must mean that we are constituted priests in a far higher sense
than ever Aaron's family were priests of old. He would be right! Though
in this epistle we are not told that we are priests in so many words,
the truth enunciated plainly infers it. In the first epistle of Peter,
chapter 2, the truth of Christian priesthood is plainly stated, and
that epistle is also addressed to converted Hebrews.
Our boldness is based upon the blood of Jesus, since through
His flesh, by means of death, He has opened up for us a new and living
way into God's presence; but then we also have Himself as High Priest
living in the presence of God. Verse 21 mentions this, but He is there
really called, not an High Priest, but a “Great Priest over
the house of God.” Earlier in the epistle we read of Him as both Priest
and Son, and then it added, “Whose house are we” (3:6). We are God's
house, God's priestly family, and over us is this Great Priest, the
Lord Jesus Christ, and we have full access to God. Verse 22 exhorts us
to avail ourselves of our great privilege and draw near.
We are to draw near, “with a true heart in full assurance of
faith.” These two things are what we may call the necessary moral
qualifications which we ought to have. Converted we may be,
but if there be not that simplicity of faith in the work of Christ, and
in the witness of the Holy Ghost as to the complete settlement of the
question of our sins, which produces full assurance in our minds, we
cannot enjoy the presence of God. Nor can we, except our hearts be
true; that is, marked by sincerity under the influence of the truth, and without guile.
The latter part of verse 22 reverts again to that which we have as
the fruit of the grace of God – and not to that which we ought to have.
We have boldness by the blood of Jesus: we have a Great Priest over the
house of God: we have hearts sprinkled and bodies washed, as verse 22
These two things may present a little difficulty to our minds,
but doubtless to the original Hebrew readers the allusions would have
been quite clear. Aaron and his sons had their bodies completely washed
with pure water, and they were also sprinkled with blood before they
took up their priestly office and duties. Now we have the realities
which were typified in this way. The truth of the death of Christ has
been applied to our hearts, giving us a purged conscience, which is the
opposite of an evil conscience. Also we have come under the cleansing
action of the Word of God, which has renewed us in the deepest springs
of our being. It was to this that the Lord Jesus alluded just before He
instituted His supper in the upper chamber, when He said, “He that is
washed (bathed) needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every
whit.” The word He used signifies to bathe all over, as the
priests were bathed at their consecration. But even so they needed to
wash hands and feet every time they entered the sanctuary.
We, thank God, have received that new birth which corresponds
to the bathing with pure water. The “true heart” spoken of earlier in
the verse would correspond pretty closely with the washing of hands and
feet which was needed every time the priest entered the holy place.
But, having all, let us draw near. Let us take up and use and
enjoy our great privilege of access to God. It is the great feature
that should characterize us. We are people put into this nearness,
having unrestricted liberty in approach to God, and that at all times;
though doubtless there are occasions when we may specially enjoy the
privilege, as for instance, when we gather in assembly for the Lord's
supper or for worship. Still it is by no means restricted to such
occasions, as is plain when we remember that this epistle is silent as
to the assembly and its functions; to find instruction as to that we
must turn to the first epistle to the Corinthians.
The presence of God should really be the home of our hearts,
the place to which in spirit we continually resort. The point here is
not that we resort there with our needs and present our prayers; that
came before us at the end of chapter 4. It is rather that we draw near
in the enjoyment of all that God is, as revealed to us in Jesus, in
communion with Him, and in the spirit of worship. We draw near not to
get any benefit out of Him, but because we find attraction in Himself.
The three exhortations of verses 22-25, are very closely connected. We are to hold fast the profession of our faith, (or, our hope, as
it really is), without wavering, since it hangs upon One who is wholly
faithful. We shall most certainly do this if we enter into our
privilege and draw near. We shall also find there is much practical
help in the companionship of our fellow-Christians, and in the
exhortation and encouragement they give. When believers begin to waver
and draw back, their failure is so frequently connected with these two
things. They neglect the twofold privilege of drawing near to God on
the one hand, and of drawing near to their fellow-believers on the
It is a sad fact that today there are thousands of dear
Christian folk attached to denominations in which the great truths we
have been considering are very little mentioned. How could they be
when things are so organized as to altogether obscure the truth in
question? Services are so conducted that the individual saint is put at
a distance, and he can only think of drawing near by proxy, as though
he were a Jewish worshipper. Or perhaps the case is that he finds all
the service conducted for him by a minister, and this of necessity
tends to divert his thoughts from the supreme importance of his drawing
near for himself, in the secret of his own soul.
Others of us have the inestimable privilege of gathering
together according to the Scriptural form prescribed in
1 Corinthians 11-14. This is indeed calculated to impress us with the
necessity of drawing near to God in our hearts. But let us watch lest
we lose our spiritual exercises and lapse into a frame of mind which
would take us listlessly to the meetings, expecting to have everything
done for us by “ministering brothers.” And perhaps we get quite annoyed
with them because they do not perform their part as well as we think
they ought to do! Then it is that, instead of holding fast, we begin to
let go; the first symptom of it being very probably, that we begin to
forsake the meetings and the society of our fellow-believers generally.
We become very critical of both meetings and people, and consider we
have very good grounds for our criticism!
If instead of holding fast we begin to let go, who can tell
whereunto our drawing back will take us? Who indeed, but God Himself!
He alone knows the heart. All too often this drawing back, which
commenced, as far as human eye can see, with forsaking Christian
company, never stops until utter apostasy is reached. This terrible sin
was much before the mind of the writer of this epistle, as we saw when
considering chapters 3 and 4. He greatly feared that some of the
Hebrews to whom he wrote might fall into it. Hence he again refers to
it here. The rest of our chapter is taken up with it. In verse 26 he
speaks of sinning “wilfully.” In the last verse he speaks of drawing
back “unto perdition.”
To “sin wilfully” is evidently to forsake the faith of Christ,
with one's eyes open. No true believer does this, but a professed
believer may do so, and it is just this fact, that we have reached
perfection and finality in Christ, which makes it so serious. There is
no more sacrifice for sins. This fact which seemed so unspeakably
blessed in verse 18, is seen in the light of verse 26, to have a side
to it which is unspeakably serious. There is beyond nothing but
judgment. And that judgment will be of a very fearful character, hot
Some of us might feel inclined to remark, that such judgment
seems to be rather inconsistent with the fact that we live in a day
when the glad tidings of the grace of God is being preached. So we do,
but it is just that fact that increases the severity of the judgment.
Verses 28 to 31 emphasize this. Grace makes known to us things of such
infinite magnitude that to despise them is a sin of infinite magnitude,
a sin far graver than that of despising the law of Moses with its holy
In the gospel there is presented to us, first, the Son of God;
second, His precious blood, as the blood of the new covenant; third,
the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of grace. Now what is it that the
apostate does – especially the Jew, who having professed Christianity,
abandons it, and reverts to Judaism. He treads under foot the first.
The second he counts an unholy thing. The third he utterly despises. He
treats with the utmost scorn and contempt the very things that bring
salvation. There is nothing beyond them, nothing but judgment. He will
deserve every bit of judgment he gets. All this, be it noted, is a
vastly different thing from a true believer growing cold and unwatchful
and consequently falling into sin.
In verse 32, we again see that, though for the sake of some
these warnings were uttered, yet the writer had every confidence that
the mass of those to whom he wrote were true believers. He remembered,
and he called on them to remember, the earlier days when they suffered
much persecution for their faith, and he appealed to them not to cast
away their confidence at this late hour in their history. An abundant
recompense was coming for any loss they had suffered here.
One thing only was necessary, that they should continue with
endurance doing the will of God. Then without fail all that had been
promised would be fulfilled to them. Their very position was that they
had “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,” ( 6:18
). That hope was abundantly sure, but its fulfilment can only be at
the coming of the Lord, as is indicated in verse 37.
For the third time in the New Testament that striking word
from Habakkuk 2 is quoted. That “the just shall live by faith,” is
quoted both in Romans 1 and in Galatians 3. But only here is the
preceding verse quoted. Take note of the alteration in the words made
by the Spirit of God. In Habbakuk we read, “IT will surely come IT will
not tarry;” the “it” referring to the vision. But in our days things
have become far clearer, and we have the definite knowledge of the
Person to whom the indefinite vision pointed. Hence here it is, “HE
that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”
It is a striking fact that the word faith only
occurs twice in the Old Testament. Once in Deuteronomy Moses uses the
word negatively, complaining of the people that they were “children in
whom is no faith.” In Habakkuk alone does the word occur, used in a
positive way. It is equally striking that the New Testament seizes upon
that one positive use of the word, and quotes it no less than three
times. How this emphasizes the fact that we have now left behind the
system of sight for the system of faith. Judaism is supplanted by
The point of the quotation here is, however, not that we are
justified by faith, but that by faith we LIVE. Faith is, as we may say,
the motive force for Christian living. We either go on to the
glorious recompense or we draw back to perdition. No middle ground is
Do not miss the contrast presented in the last verse of our
chapter. It lies between drawing back to perdition and believing to
soul-salvation. This furnishes additional proof, were it needed, that
the contrast in Hebrews is not between believers who do well and
believers who do ill, and who consequently (as is supposed) may perish;
but between those who really do believe unto salvation, and those, who
being mere professors, draw back to their eternal ruin.
Thanks be to God for that living faith which carries the soul forward with patience to the glorious recompense which awaits us!