Hebrews 10:19-25 – The exhortation of faith, hope, and love - Seeking Our God (2024)

The shift into 10:19-39 is a big one and the remainder of Hebrews 10 is hortatory. Also, not only do we shift here in a major section but this is the breaking point in the book. Many recognize this because there is a move in some sense from doctrine to duty, from explanation to exhortation, from principle to practice. The author has established doctrines up to this point, and now they are going to come out with these exhortations. These include: Now what should you do? How should you live in light of the superiority of Christ and all His work and this covenant? How does this affect your decisions? From now to the end of Hebrews, we basically deal with these questions.

That does not mean that in the first section there is no application; we know that there is. Also, it is not to say that there is no doctrine in the second section; we know that there is. But the emphasis is shifting now. Some commentaries put it this way, it is a move from the indicative to the imperative. Indicative chapters 1:1-10:18 and the imperative 10:19 through 13:25.

The paragraph comprised of verses 19-25 revolves around three exhortative subjunctives (cf. vv. 22, 23, 24). These consecutively deal with faith (v. 22), hope (v. 23), and love (v. 24).

19Therefore, brothersand sisters, since wehave confidence toenter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20bya new and living way which He inaugurated for us throughthe veil, that is,throughHis flesh,21and sincewe havea great priestover the house of God,22let’sapproachGodwith asincere heart infull assurance of faith, having our heartssprinkledcleanfrom an evil conscience and our bodieswashed with pure water.23Let’s hold firmly to theconfession of ourhope without wavering, forHe who promised is faithful;24and let’s consider howtoencourage one another in love andgood deeds,25not abandoning our ownmeeting together, as is the habit of some people, butencouragingone another; and all the more as you seethe day drawing near. (NASB)

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Since we have such a great High Priest, let us make the most of this and consistently be before God.
  • We can approach God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith. We in Christ may approach God’s throne with confidence. Perfect cleansing in Christ makes this possible.
  • Let us encourage one another daily and show them love

CLOSER LOOK:

Verses 19–22: The author turns to exhorting the readers and begins with the freedom of approach in 19-22. Verses 19-21 essentially serve as the foundation for what the author is about to say, which is this idea of “let us” in the following verses. The central assertion of these verses is in the words, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, (cf. 3:1, 12) … let’s approach God.” The intervening material, beginning with the word “since,” gives the basis for the author’s call to approach God. The readers are New Covenant people (“brothers and sisters”) who should “have confidence” (parrēsian; cf. 3:6; 4:16; 10:35) to come into the very presence of God. This idea is enriched by the use of Old Covenant imagery. We see here that we have this confidence and it is not a presumption. It is a confidence because of the person and work of Christ. The author talks about a new and living way which, if we think about it, means there is an old and dead way. As we have seen throughout Hebrews, it means there is nothing left to go back to.

God’s presence in the (most) “holy place” and “the veil” that once was a barrier to humanity is now no longer so. As you know, within the temple the holy place and the holy of holies was separated by this curtain called the veil. The author is saying that the veil has been altered. It has now become the flesh of Jesus. It symbolized Christ’s body or flesh, so the writer may have had in mind the rending of the temple curtain at the time of Christ’s death (Matt. 27:51). At any rate His death gave believers the needed access and route to God, fittingly described as “new” (prosphaton, “recent,” occurring only here in the NT) “and living,” that is, partaking of the fresh and vitalizing realities of the New Covenant.[1] Two things we see here are Jesus provides this access and we now have this great High Priest in Jesus Himself.

But in addition, the call to draw near is appropriate “since we have a great Priest over the house of God” with all that this entails in the light of the writer’s previous discussion. This phrase also serves as the foundation for what the author is about to talk about and this idea of “let us.” So the approach of believers should be with a “sincere” (alēthinēs, “true, dependable,” from aletheia, “truth”)[2] “heart in full assurance of faith.” There ought to be no wavering in regard to these superlative realities. Rather each New Covenant worshiper should approach God in the conscious enjoyment of freedom from guilt (“having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”) and with a sense of the personal holiness that Christ’s sacrifice makes possible (having “our bodies washed with pure water”). The writer’s words are probably an exhortation to lay hold consciously of the cleansing benefits of Christ’s Cross and to draw near to God in enjoying them, putting away inward guilt and outward impurity. These verses echo 1 John 1:9.

It appears verse 19 is anticipating the terror of the law described in Hebrews 12:18-21. Instead, the N.T. believer has confidence to enter the very dwelling place of God. The believer does this by the blood of Christ.

The question that many people face in verse 22 is the meaning of the clause “our bodies washed with pure water.” It can hardly refer to water baptism for several reasons. (1) Hearts (v. 22) are not literally sprinkled. (2) 1 Peter 3:21 says baptism is not the washing away of the “filth of the flesh.” (3) John 13:10 uses the same basic perfect passive participle of the same verb (louo; washed)[3] to describe spiritual cleansing. (4) Titus 3:5 refers to the bath accomplished by regeneration.

What then is the point of Hebrews 10:19-22? The paragraph looks back to Leviticus 16:2-6. The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement only after he had bathed and offered a sin offering. So we in Christ may approach God’s throne with confidence. Perfect cleansing in Christ makes this possible.

What is the implication of verses 19-21? It is verses 22 and on. Because all those things are true, in light of that let us draw near with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith. We do not have to come to the throne of grace as a beggar. Because these things are true, we can draw near with a sincere heart and in faith having been cleansed. Also, notice that “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Remember, the writer is assuming the sin problem has been dealt with. This underlies the whole point. We have been cleansed because Jesus has provided the ultimate cleansing.

Let’s go a bit further. You have unprecedented access to God the Father. Place yourself back in the first century Jewish person’s context and I am assuming this was written before the temple is destroyed (based on several data points within Hebrews). We would have absolutely no chance of walking into the holy of holies. It is not allowed or permitted. But now look, because of what Jesus has done, you and I can go into the presence of God Himself, which is better than the holy of holies. So, again we see the author’s logic here by saying that if you (the reader) have that, why would you want to go back to the old way? They (and us) have unprecedented access to God the Father because of the work of the Son. And that is much better than what you had in the Old Covenant.

This section gives us three reasons for our confidence: (1) because a new and living way has been inaugurated for us. (2) because we have a great high priest. (3) because our hearts have been cleansed from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Here is the thing that we have to wrestle with, maybe in your own life and/or maybe in your sphere of influence. But you will run into Christians that think, “I’m not worthy.” In a sense that is true, you and I are not worthy, but you and I have been made worthy. Our hearts have been cleansed from an evil conscience. We have been cleansed and made clean. What Christ has cleansed, we dare not call dirty. When we say or some Christian says “I am not worthy,” that says, in effect, that Christ’s work was insufficient. This is totally opposite of what the author of Hebrews is arguing for. What the writer is arguing for is that Christ work was and is totally, absolutely, positively, and completely sufficient. This sounds harsh but some will say our failure to draw near to God and take advantage of this access is in some sense a slap in the face to Christ’s work.

Now many people that are already struggling with this sense of worthiness, by saying this, it will probably makes them feel even worse. We do not go in presumptuously. We go in because of the finished work of Christ. Christ, and only Christ. He made us worthy to approach the Father. This is the freedom of approach.

Verses 23–25: This kind of confident access to God necessarily entails that believer’s “hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering” (meaning with full confidence) in the reliability of God’s promises. Once again the emphasis is on confession (cf. 3:6, 14; 4:14). The writer is very concerned about doctrine. Now what is in that confession? Within this context, the confession is the personal work of Christ that we have been discussing about. You hold onto that truth that Jesus is the ultimate answer for sin and He addresses this issue wholly, totally, completely, and absolutely. This is what you are confessing. Also, it is not just based on this idea of “hope so” but hope in confident expectation.

During the winter months in the States, we may pay attention to the forecast for snow and ice. Especially where I am at, ice gets really bad and the city does not handle it well. We will listen to forecasters and they will tell us it will happen here at this time and another may say it will happen later. We try to figure out when this ice will come because we don’t want to be driving during this ice storm or icy road condition. We hope that we will miss the ice, but we just don’t know. That is not how we understand the person and work of Christ. Our hope in Him is a hope that is established in certainty. It is not a question of if, but when. It is a certainty or confidence because He who promised is faithful and God does not lie.

The writer revealed in these verses that their concern for fidelity to the faith is not an abstraction, but a confrontation with real danger. There was an urgent need for mutual concern and exhortation (toward “love and good deeds”) within the church the author wrote to. Their readers were not to abandon meeting together, as some were doing (“as is the habit of some people”). Already there seemed to have been defections from their ranks, though the author’s words might have applied to other churches where such desertions had occurred. In any case their mutual efforts to spur one another on should increase as they “see the day drawing near” (cf. v. 37; a well-known NT trilogy is included in these vv.: faith, v. 22; hope, v. 23; love, v. 24). The noun translated “encourage” (may see “stimulate”) is a very strong one; it is the same word that is translated “sharp disagreement” in Acts 15:39 (cf. Prov. 27:5-6; 1 Cor. 13:5).[4]

Verse 25 makes it clear that failure to join with the assembly of believers indicates a spiritual problem. It could, in this case, be a manifestation of apostasy (cf. 1 John 2:19; Heb. 3:13). In referring again to the Second Advent, the writer left the impression they were concerned that genuine believers might cease to hope for the Lord’s coming and be tempted to defect from their professions of faith in Christ. They must treat their future expectations as certainties since they know and we do also that “He who promised is faithful.” If they would only lift up their eyes, they could “see the day drawing near.”

Final note: Some people think if you are a Christian, you do not need encouragement. They think the Christian does not struggle, they have it all together. They think we have this stained glass windows in our house and our faith is never in doubt. They never see or think we struggle. They assume we have it all together. And thus, we don’t need any encouragement. But you and I know better. We know the struggles we face with our identity, our sin, our doubts, our worries, our hardships, and to many the difficulties of being a Christian around the world in today’s society. So today, let us heed this verse and be an encourager. Hopefully that will be reciprocated and you will receive encouragement as well.

[1] Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 804.

[2] BDAG, “being in accord with what is true, trustworthy”

[3] BDAG, using water to cleanse the body of physical impurity; use water in a cultic manner for purification; or cause to be purified

[4] BDAG. Here it means rousing to activity, stirring up, provoking. In Acts, it is a “state of irritation expressed in argument, sharp disagreement”

Hebrews 10:19-25 – The exhortation of faith, hope, and love - Seeking Our God (2024)
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