Notes on Hebrews
The doctrinal section of the Epistle ends at chapter 10:18 while the practical section begins at chapter 10:19. In the first, we are inside the veil accepted in Christ. In the second, we are outside the camp rejected with Him. As the old covenant gave place to the new (ch. 8), and the earthly sanctuary gave place to the heavenly (ch. 9), so in chapter 10 the variety of sacrifices under Jewish law gives way to the one sacrifice of Christ. Repetition and remembrance of sins stamped the old law of the offerings; permanacy and finality mark the blessings of the atonement of Christ. The people of God now have the enjoyment of an eternal sanctification (v. 10), an eternal perfection (v. 14-perfection as to the conscience; compare 9:9) and an eternal forgiveness (v. 17).
The possessions of the saints in the new dispensation are seen in the three occurences of the participal “having” in verses 19, 21, 22. We have a sanctuary in Heaven, there we have a great High Priest who ministers on our behalf. We have a double fitness to draw near and worship in the beauty of holiness: the sprinkling by the blood that answers for the guilt of sin, the washing by the Spirit of the Word that cleanses for the defilement of sin.
This is followed by a threefold exhortation indicated by the three occurances of the word “Let” in verses 19-24. It is an appeal to the three virtues of the “new man.” Let us draw near in faith; let us hold fast in hope (v. 23 J.N.D. Trans.); let us consider one another in love. These three refer to the collective gatherings of the assembly according to verse 25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Not only does it refer to our coming together in assembly capacity, but it is a warning not to forsake the ground of our gathering—the divine principles that are to be operative when the saints meet. These three appeals have their illustrations in the following three chapters: faith in chapter 11, hope in chapter 12 and love in chapter 13.
The first eighteen verses could be summarized as follows: the weakness of the law (1-4), the will of God (5-10), the work of Christ (11-14), the witness of the Spirit (15-18).
In his vivid description of the weakness of the law, the writer uses two extremely descriptive Greek words. The first is skia, translated “shadow” (v.1), and means a pale shadow, a nebulous reflection, a mere outline, a silhouette. It is always used to describe that which is unreal. The other word is eikon, translated “real image” (v.1), and means a complete representation, a detailed reproduction. If there had been photographs in the days when this Epistle was written, this would be the word for photograph. The writer in choosing this word indicates that the ceremonial law is not even a representation of the real substance and hence will never be able to lead us into reality.
The writer goes on to say that each year the law by the very ceremonies it demanded brought sin to remembrance. “Instead of erasing the sin, the law underlined it” (Barclay).
In the illustration of the will of God the writer quotes from Psalm 40:6-9. Here is one of the occasions when the writer quotes from the Septuagant, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, rather than from the Hebrew. From the Hebrew Psalm 40 reads, “Mine ears hast Thou opened;” whereas, the writer here says, “a body hast Thou prepared Me.” In essence the meaning is the same. The Psalmist is saying that he has so responded to the will of his God that he obeys implicitly all that he hears. The underlying principle in the passage is that the only valid sacrifice in God’s sight is obedience to His will. The writer then points out that these virtues were exemplified in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; His life was the full expression of what He Himself said in the garden, “Not My will but Thine be done.” Ultimately, when He made an offering for sin it was really an offering to God (9:14) and was therefore consistent with the will of God.
In verse 11 the writer turns to the subject of the sacrifice of Christ. He first mentions the several offerings under Jewish law in verse 8. In these we see the variety of need in fallen man. The sin-offering had to do with the corruption of his nature, the trespass-offering with the deeds of that nature, the peace-offering had to do with the enmity of his mind against God and our need for reconciliation. The burnt-offering was linked with the sins of omission. The one sacrifice of Christ has all the virtue to meet the varied needs in fallen man. We have noted that the nation of Israel had been longing for a better solution for the problem of sin. The law, a mere shadow, could not lead them into reality. For centuries they had been waiting. The writer uses a phrase which would have caused a Jew to weep for joy. “One sacrifice for sins.” No more are the daily sacrifices necessary. This one sacrifice was the culmination and the completion of all the ceremonial law. In that law no seat was ever provided for the priests of Israel. They stood day after day offering (v. 11). But the Lord Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for sins and forever sat down. The standing priest of Israel indicated that his work was never finished. The Sitting Priest at God’s right hand tells of a work that will need no repetition.
In conclusion it is important to note that the writer ends the doctrinal section of the Epistle by repeating four times the phrase, “No More.” On Christ’s part there will be no more offering for sin (v. 18). On God’s part there will be no more remembrance of sins (v. 17); and on our part there will be no more conscience of sins (v.2). Upon these rest the security and hope of every Christian; we grasp the truth and make it our very own.
In verse 19 the writer becomes intensly practical. There is always a practical application to every doctrine. One of the dangers that confronts us today is to be wrapped up in doctrine that finds no expression in practical Christian living.
He begins by underlining three important facts regarding the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that in the mind of the writer he is basing his whole practical ministry on them. First of all, he says that the Lord Jesus is the living way into the presence of God (vv. 19-20). In so saying he uses a very interesting expression, “Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” What did he mean? In the Tabernacle there were two sections, the holy place and the holiest of all. These two sections were divided by a veil. In the holiest of all was the ark of the covenant, the cherubim and the mercy seat. The Shekinah glory of God rested on the mercy seat. In the holy place the daily ceremonies took place when the priests acted on behalf of the people. Hence the priests and the people were separated from the glory of God by the veil. The only way by which the glory of God could be seen was for the veil to be rent. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Eternal Son of God. In Him was resident the very glory of God, but that glory was veiled in His flesh, that is to say His body. The only way for man to behold that glory was for the veil, that is to say His flesh, to be rent. This took place at the cross. The Holy Spirit is careful to add in the account of His death that the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. Through the newly consecrated way, the entrance into the holiest is open to God’s people. “Why stand ye then without in fear, the blood of Christ invites us near.” Now we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; that glory is beheld that it might be reflected (2 Cor. 3:18).
The writer says that the Lord Jesus Christ is the High Priest over the House of God. As the Mediator He introduces us to the Father and as our Great High Priest He maintains us in fellowship with God.
Then he reminds us of the double fitness for fellowship with God: the sprinkled blood that removes the guilt of sin and the cleansing of regeneration that saves from the defilement of sin.
Having described the priceless possessions of the saints, he now begins to touch the practical part of the Christian life. In view of all this, he says, “Let us,” Let us,”
First, “Let us draw near,” the writer uses a peculiar word translated “with full assurance of faith.” It is the word Plerophoria. This comes from two Greek words, Pleros which means “full” and Phero which means “to carry.” It is the picture of a full vessel being carried. The vessel is our lives. That which should characterize the Christian life is certainty and fortitude. There is no room for doubts. The new birth imparts the capacity “to be filled with all the fulness of God.”
Second, “Let us hold fast.” The word translated “hold fast” is the Greek word Katecho. This comes from two words, Kata which means “down” and Echo which means to hold or have. This particular word is used in Romans 1:18 to describe those who hold down the truth in unrighteousness. When the writer uses it in this context, he is suggesting that we should so take hold of the precious truths revealed to us that we should never let them go. By using the prefix Kate the writer is making the verb a very intense one.
Third, “Let us consider one another.” He cites two ways in which we can carry out this injunction. We should be present at every assembly gathering whenever possible. The church is a body of many members all of which are to work in harmony one with the other.
Then he says we are to consider one another by means of exhortation. Eliphaz, the comforter of Job, paid him tribute by saying, “Your words have kept men on their feet” (4:3). There is a type of criticism that is destructive. Our coming together is for the mutual building up of one another.
All this is in view of the Lord’s coming (vv. 35-37). These words are definitely linked with Habakkuk 2. We too have seen the vision, and in the light of it, we are to run the race (Ch. 11).