"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, 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. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:19-25, NKJV).
The faith-life is one of spiritual aggression. Those in Christ have been provided spiritual weaponry designed to pull down bastions of false thought, imaginations, and every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5-6). When it comes to the "flesh," or the Adamic nature, "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). With firmness of heart and purpose, grace has taught them to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts," and to live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit 2:11-12). Faith has aligned them against spiritual forces that are staggering. Their foes are not flesh and blood, but "principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness in high places, and the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph 6:12). Their life is a "race" that has been laid out before them. It leads through craggy mountains as well as across dreary deserts. It is a race that must be "run," and not casually walked as though there were no foes, or time was in abundance (Heb 12:1-2). From another perspective, living by faith is a "good fight," in which foes are opposed (1 Tim 6:12). Both defense and offence are required in this posture.
Because of the nature of salvation, believers "buffet," or pummel, their bodies, bringing them into subjection (1 Cor 9:27). They will not allow their natural appetites to dominate them, but "crucify the flesh, with its affection and lusts" (Gal 5:24). Acknowledging they are "strangers and pilgrims in the earth," they "abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul" (1 Pet 2:11). Make no mistake about this, Divine resources are required for the effort into which faith thrusts us. An aggressive spiritual posture is not possible without these resources, or graces.
Believers must "submit" themselves "to God," and "resist the devil," the shrewdness of all foes (James 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9). What they have been given, they must "keep," not allowing it to slip from their grasp, or be snatched from them by the devil (2 Tim 1:14; Heb 2:1; Matt 13:19). At all cost, the prize that is set before them must be obtained (Phil 3:14)! There is nothing about living by faith that will allow casualness--nothing at all!
The spiritual condition of the Western world requires a strong affirmation of the case. Any religion that allows spiritual casualness, apathy, or a lack of consistent involvement is not from God. Its claims are all spurious, it is not blessed by God, and it cannot facilitate the "great salvation" given to men through Christ Jesus. Wherever an assembly is found that creates a comfort zone for the uncommitted, the adversary of our souls is at work. The Spirit is being quenched in such an environment, regardless of a profession or theological position. Either the preaching and teaching are off-target, or the people have hard and calloused hearts. There is nothing--absolutely nothing--about the Gospel that encourages a disinterested spirit. The Holy Spirit never promotes or condones inconsistency or a lack of fervency. A quest for glory will not allow the individual to attempt a cyclical involvement with the Almighty. A lack of spiritual appetite, fervency of spirit, and awareness of the things of God, do not come from God. The Lord Jesus does not give them. The Holy Spirit does not encourage them. This is simply a statement of the case, and requires no further explanations.
This section of the book of Hebrews deals with these conditions. Here the Holy Spirit urges the redeemed to an aggressive spiritual posture. The nature of salvation requires this sort of comportment. Your own experience will confirm to you that a casual spirit causes a fog to engulf the things of God. When the way is clear, we "see through a glass darkly." But when our hearts are not involved in the matter, the things of God become more and more obscure, until finally, they will not be seen at all. There can be no spiritual illumination without walking in the light. There can be no fellowship with God's dear Son (1 Cor 1:9) without communion with Him. The leading of the Spirit in the mortifying of the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13) is not possible when He is "quenched" and "grieved" (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30). What we will now view is the opposite of quenching the Spirit. It is the only alternative to grieving the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to take the words seriously. They are not meant to intimidate or threaten, but to awaken the soul to the means through which the Lord Jesus is bringing us to glory.
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus." How refreshing to the soul! The people of God are addressed as those who HAVE boldness, or confidence, to enter into the very presence of God. Of this verse Robertson well says, "Boldness (parrhsian). This is the dominant note all through the Epistle (3:6; 4:16; 10:19,35). They were tempted to give up Christ, to be quitters. Boldness (courage) is the need of the hour." Through the years, I have observed a noticeable deficiency of spiritual boldness or courage in professed believers. It is a tragedy that is a source of great grief to me--chiefly because it does not need to be so!
The word "boldness" is a large word. It is an attitude of openness stemming from freedom and a lack of intimidating fear. It speaks of confidence and a joyful sense of freedom. Mind you, we are speaking of this quality in the very presence of God--"the holiest" place. This is the "liberty" wherewith Christ has "made us free" (Gal 5:1). It is freedom to draw close to God without fear of being consumed or rejected. It is liberty to resist the devil, deny ungodliness, and subordinate passions that keep us from the Lord. In Christ this freedom obtained. Now the Spirit urges us to live in an awareness of it--to believe what He declares to have been accomplished. If you are "in Christ," you can come to God. You can obtain His promises, enjoy His strength, and experience His guidance. In the Son of God, the promise of Isaiah is fulfilled to the believer: "See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD" (Isaiah 54:16-17). Unlike the Israelites of old, we are not shut out of the Holiest place. We have access to the "true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb 8:2). The veil between man and God has been removed--not to merely peer into the holiest, but to ENTER into it. This speaks of experiential involvement with God, participation in His purpose, and the enjoyment of His blessing.
Having completed a doctrinal presentation of the Son of God, and His indispensable role in our salvation, the Spirit now deals with the effect the doctrine is to have upon us. You will quickly observe thethrust of His argument. He does not introduce a protracted dissertation about domestic life, political life, or other such involvements. He now associates our position with that of the high priest of old. The ordinary priests did not enter into the Holiest Place--only the high priest. What a remarkable parallel the saints of God with the high priest of the Old Covenant! Dare we contemplate the glories of what Jesus has accomplished? As a member of the body of Christ, you can come into the very presence of God, to "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need" (Heb 4:16).
All empty ceremony is obviated in Christ Jesus! Dependency upon a merely ceremonial approach to God is superfluous and useless. It is out of harmony with the very nature of the New Covenant, and subtly denies the effectiveness of Christ's substitutionary death. It is important to note the superiority of Old Testament types and shadows to parables and allegories. Jesus used parables (Matt 13:34-35), and Paul used allegories (Gal 4:24). However, neither of them was acknowledged as a superior form of teaching. Jesus used parables to obscure spiritual realities for which alien hearts were not suited (Matt 13:10-11,13-14). Paul used an allegory because of the carnality of the Galatians, who had lost a true sense of spiritual things (Gal 4:19-21). When the Spirit expounded the glorious ministry of Jesus, neither parable nor allegories were employed. Instead, He reaches into the God-ordained treasury of types and shadows. They are a reflection of heavenly realities. As such, they are most suitable for the exposition of Christ's ministry and saint's privileges. Oh, that there were a return to this type of ministry today!
The right to enter into the presence of the Lord is a God-granted privilege. Yet, we can do so boldly, courageously, and confidently. The boldness is reflected more in the entering itself than in an emotional state. You do not well to ponder for long periods whether or not you have courage to enter. "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise" (Psa 100:4). There is no magic in your thanksgiving and praise that guarantees the presence of the Lord. I fear this concept has been embraced by many, but it is a false notion. It is you yourself that enters, WITH, not in, thanksgiving and praise (Psa 95:2). Christ's death did not bring you the right to praise, but the right to ENTER! Jesus said "the stones" would cry out if humanity did not praise Him (Luke 19:40), but stones cannot ENTER into the holiest place!
To "ENTER" means to gain entrance into a place where we are welcome. Our entrance is attended by an acute awareness of our acceptance in the Beloved (Eph 1:6). No one will come approach the Lord with any degree of confidence that is not assured of the effectiveness of the blood of Christ. This is not an area for theological speculation! We are being urged by the Spirit of God come into God's presence, not speculate as to whether or not it is possible. He is not directing us to develop a position on the accessibility of the Living God, but to avail ourselves of the benefits of the New Covenant. Our entrance will find us acutely aware of the Lord, like Isaiah was when He saw the Lord "high and lifted up" (Isa 6:1-3). The world and its allurements will recede into the background, and the strength lust and pride will wither. Grace will be perceived as abundant and accessible, and the vileness of our bodies will be perceived with clarity. The purpose of God will supplant a self-will, pleasing the Lord will push sinful pleasure into the background, and fulfillment will be found in Christ alone.
Spiritual freedom is experienced in the Holiest place--freedom to draw near to God, appropriate covenantal blessings, and be loosed from the tyranny of sin. Here effective prayers, intercessions, and supplications are offered. The joy of the Lord is appropriated in His presence, and never at a distance (Psa 16:11). Here is where the "peace of God" rules our "hearts and minds" (Phil 4:6-7). As we come courageously and confidently into the Holiest Place, we are "filled with all joy and peace in believing," and we begin to "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). The things in "heavenly places" that we are admonished to "seek," are found in the Holiest (Col 3:1-3). All "spiritual blessings in heavenly places" are dispensed in the Holiest place--the presence of the Almighty. The admonition to "ENTER," is not an empty word. It is not a suggestion, or an option for those desiring to be super-spiritual. This is the ordained means of obtaining the effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice and the blessings of the New Covenant!
However, it takes spiritual energy and commitment to enter the Holiest--and that is the point of our text. Satan is resisting us as surely as he sought to resist Joshua the high priest of old (Zech 3:1). Our own flesh, or Adamic nature, works at keeping us out of the Holiest place. The world throws obstacles before our path, and delusions before our eyes, in its attempt to keep us from the place of blessing. Principalities and powers align against us to obscure the way into the Holiest. Without commitment and spiritual aggressiveness, there is no hope of entering into the Presence of the Lord. Grace to enter can only be appropriated by an entering power. Grace is never granted to the complacent, unfaithful, or fearful and unbelieving--NEVER! Grace is ALWAYS granted within the context of the activity of faith.
The Spirit leaves no question about the means through which we enter into the presence of the Lord: "by the blood of Jesus"! As vividly pictured in the Levitical Law, there must be the intervention of blood if we are to enter into the Holiest. And why so? Because, as God declared of old time, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Lev 17:11, NKJV). Although this is biologically true, it is a spiritual, not a biological, statement. In this case, biology reflects spiritual reality, and not vice versa. The blood is representative of the life itself. Thus Adam is referred to as the "one blood" from which all humanity came (Acts 17:26). When the conviction of his dastard deed burst upon Judas the betrayer, he cried out, "Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matt 27:4). The blood stands for the life. That is why the eating of blood was prohibited prior to the Old Covenant (Gen 9:4), during the Old Covenant (Lev 7:26-27), and the New Covenant era (Acts 15:20). The heart of men must not be drawn into practices that dull the conscience concerning the blood of the covenant--the blood of Christ.
As a practical consideration, when we remember the Lord Jesus at His table, it is imperative that no practices are admitted into our lives that will rob us of the gravity of the moment. When Jesus said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:25), He sanctified this feast of remembrance. While it may appear foolish to the carnal mind, the Divine prohibition against the eating of blood is intended to free our minds from all competing notions. The only blood we may ingest is Christ's blood. As it is written, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you," and again, "For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:53,55). Some will be prone to speculate in this area, but their speculations are not in order. The Lord has spoken.
The phrase "the blood of Jesus" denotes the willing forfeiture of His life in our behalf. Expressions that paint the picture for us include, "poured out His soul unto the death" (Isa 53:12), "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:8), and "He [God] hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21). Additional expressions are, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal 3:13), "He was crucified through weakness" (2 Cor 13:4), and "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18).
Think of the mighty affirmations of the Spirit concerning Christ's vicarious death. "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom 4:25). "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom 5:6). " . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10). "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3). "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Tit 2:14). When we come into the Holiest "by the blood of Jesus," we associate these glorious affirmations with ourselves. Faith grasps the truth that this was done for ME, and therefore confidently approaches the Lord in the merits of the "blood of Christ."
Think of the declared effectiveness of the blood of Christ. The presence of this effectiveness explains why we can boldly and confidently enter into the presence of the Lord. We are brought within the proximity of Deity--made nigh--"by the blood of Jesus Christ" (Eph 2:13).
This blood is so powerful, it can "purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb 9:14). Never has there been such a powerful spiritual effect upon the sons of men. No philosophy, regardless of its supposed superiority, has even been able to do that! No human effort, regardless how arduous, has ever been able to produce a conscience that is at ease in the presence of the Almighty!
We have been "redeemed" from empty and vain way of life received from our fathers by Christ's blood. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet 1:18-19). In further elaboration of this redemption, the Spirit testifies, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7).
The election of God, according to His foreknowledge has been implemented through the convicting and separating power of the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Jesus. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:2).
As we walk in the illumination provided through the Gospel, the blood of Christ continually cleanses us from all sin. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Faith in this blood produces a covering for sin. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom 3:25). This is nothing less that "being now justified by his blood" (Rom 5:9; Col 1:14).
Peace has been through "the blood of His cross" (Col 1:20), thereby allowing us to fellowship with God and with one another. It has provoked God to rip the veil in two that separated men from Him, and battered down the wall that stood between Jew and Gentile.
Truly, the blood Christ "speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb 12:24). Abel's blood "cried out" from ground, demanding vengeance against Cain, who slew him (Gen 4:10). Christ's blood shouts redemption, salvation, peace, justification, and reconciliation. There is no reason why you cannot enter into the "Holiest" through "the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet 1:19).
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter . . . by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh." What a marvelous expression! The way to God is "NEW"--of a new order, or a new kind of way. It is marked by stimulating freshness and invigorating newness. Everything about it makes for alertness, spiritual optimism, and spiritual awareness. A religion that is not pulsating with life and vitality is a false one, detrimental to spiritual progress, and opposed to the very nature of salvation in Christ Jesus. Yet, it is not at all uncommon for such traits to be found within the professed Christian community. People are tempted to live with dead religion--to settle for lifeless settlements of alleged believers. But men must not allow this to happen. Jesus will have nothing to do with such an approach to God. He came to deliver us from such things. Woe to the person or system that encourages such involvements!
The way to God has been "consecrated." Several of the more modern versions use the word "opened" instead of "consecrated" (RSV and NIV). This is, in my judgment, a very weak translation, not communicated the Spirit's meaning. It is true that the way has been "opened," making it accessible to all who come to God through Christ. However, that comes miserably short of the power of this text! Supposed scholars do us no favor by imposing their linguistic expertise upon the text of Scripture.
The term "consecrated" comes from evnekainisen, and has a unique meaning. It can mean "open," but not in the ordinary sense. Literally, it means "to make new, as opening a way not there before" (Thayer's). More precisely, it means "to put into force, or inaugurate." It is language instituted during the Old Covenant. Before anything could be used in Divine service, it had to be dedicated for use--set apart for association with the Living God. The high priestly robes of Aaron were dedicated, or consecrated (Ex 23:3; 29:29). The high priest himself was consecrated to wear these garments, and perform the service of God (Ex 28:41; Lev 21:10; Num 3:3). The system related to this consecration was called "the service of the sanctuary" (Ex 36:1), or "divine service" (Heb 9:1). It was the appointed and solely accepted way of approaching Him safely. To draw near to the Lord apart from this dedicated way, or without following the ordained procedure, death was sure. Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron's sons, were consumed by fire because they offered "strange fire" to God--fire not ordained in the consecrated approach (Lev 10:1-2). When king Uzziah took upon himself to offer incense to the Lord, a function to be performed by the sons of Aaron alone, he was stricken with leprosy (2 Chron 26:19). The consecrated way was the ONLY way, and could not be violated. Under the Law this concept was taught with great effectiveness.
In Christ Jesus a new way has been "consecrated"--a way of access to God. It is Jesus Himself that has opened and dedicated this way. Thus it is written, "a new and living way which He inaugurated . . . " It is a way that enables and maintains spiritual life, and therefore it called a way that is "living." This is the "way" that leads to refreshment, renewal, and spiritual vitality. Apart from this "way" it is not possible to sustain our life in Christ Jesus. Just as men live "by every Word of God" (Luke 4:4), so they are sustained by means of this "way"--this access to God. Those who do not come to God by this ordained means cannot live before Him! They cannot be saved! It simply is not possible.
The "way" has not only been "consecrated," or "inaugurated" by Jesus, it has been dedicated "FOR US." It is adapted to our needs, and can be fully accessed by us. It is not for angels, but for the redeemed of the Lord. Those in Christ can take this "way" into the very presence of God. Through it, they can "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need." It is for us! No conscientious effort to come to God by this means will be in vain. A person's past cannot disqualify him/her, if they will take this way! Their weakness cannot prohibit their use of this way, if they will use it. They may be "unlearned and ignorant," but they can take the way--it is for the one journeying to glory. It is, as Isaiah put it, for "wayfaring men"-- those who are strangers and pilgrims in the earth (Isa 35:8; 1 Pet 2:11). How good and pleasant to remember, it has been "consecrated for US!"
The consecration was "through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." The tabernacle veil covered the Holies, forbidding entrance to it, yet was what man passed through to get into the Holiest. From one point of view, it kept men from entering the presence of the Lord, concealing the glory of the Lord. It was an appointed division between the holy and the most holy (Ex 26:33). It was appropriately called "the veil of COVERING" (Ex 35:12; 39:34; 40:21). Yet, when entrance was made into the Holiest, it was through that very veil (Lev 16:12,15).
Christ's "flesh" is like that tabernacle veil. First, it prohibited men's entrance into the presence of the Lord, because it hid His Divine nature. Those Who saw Him as a man could not behold the Lord as He is. His humanity obscured His Deity, veiling it from the perception of men. That is why, after over three years of extensive exposure, "Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us'" (John 14:8). After all that time, He had not seen Jesus as possessing the "fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9). Christ answered him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). Why had Philip and the rest not seen the Father in Jesus? It was because of His flesh--His appearance as a man. They knew Him "after the flesh," something strictly forbidden now that He has ascended to the Father's right hand (2 Cor 5:16).
But this is not the end of the matter. Now we enter into the presence of the Lord through the veil, "that is to say, His flesh." What once obscured His Person now inducts us into the Lord's presence. Why is the case? And what does this mean? It is Christ's HUMANITY that is the basis for our coming to God. His identity with US has enabled US to come to God! Now we do not see Him as simply a man, but "THE Man, Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:5). The Holy Spirit has been making this point throughout the book of Hebrews, showing us the relevance of the Word's incarnation. God brought His "First begotten into the world" (1:6). He was "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death" (2:9). He was made "perfect through suffering" (2:10). Because those He came to save were "flesh and blood," He "partook of the same" (2:14). He did not take upon Himself "the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham" (2:16). In "all things" He was made like unto those He came to save, suffering temptation in all points, like them (2:15).
This is not a sentimental view, designed to merely tug at our hearts. Rather, in His humanity, God was making provision for us to come to Him--to enter into His presence. We come to God because of Christ's accomplishments as a Man. We do not come upon the basis of our merits. God cannot be approached because you have done enough, or done it right, or performed it frequently enough. I understand that moral purity is a requisite, from one point of view; i.e., "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Psa 24:3-4). That, however, is a condition realized only by coming to God through Christ in the first place. No person can cleanse their own hands--no person! Of ourselves, we cannot avoid lifting up our souls to vanity. We must enter the Presence of the Lord through Christ's flesh--His humanity, or His identity with us. That is another way of saying we enter through the substitutionary death of Christ, which was the reason for Him becoming one of us. He was "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death"!
Because Christ both died and was glorified as a Man, we can now come before the Lord. We can obtain what He has to give us, all of which is embodied in the term "great salvation." But you must enter through the "flesh" of Christ--through the merits of His death! Only He has done enough to justify you from your sins, and enable you to come to God. This is the truth to which Jesus referred when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6).
If Jesus were not at the right of God--as a glorified Man--we could not come into God's presence. We could not obtain mercy, or find grace to help in the time of need. We would be locked into a lifeless procedure that brought no real benefit to us--neither forgiveness of sins nor eternal life. God be praised for Christ's effective work and our glorious deliverance from such things! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the power of the enemy! We have been blessed! Let us live in that blessing.
Now we come to the exhortation--the summons to act upon the marvelous knowledge we have obtained. " . . . and having a High Priest over the house of God, 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." It is not enough to give intellectual assent to the correct things. We must act upon them. It is good and necessary to have the correct theological position on revealed matters, but it is of no lasting value unless we act upon that knowledge. The blessing will not be ours until we avail ourselves of what has been provided for us. The Holy Spirit will now show us the reasonableness of coming to God. There is no reason for not coming, and God will not allow any to be concocted by men. If men do not "come to the Father," it is because they are unreasonable and deceived.
We presently have a High Priest "over the house of God," or those who are in Christ Jesus in this world, as well as "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23). It is not that we HAD a High Priest, a historical One. Nor, indeed, is it that we SHALL have a High Priest, a prophetic One. Our High Priest is in the "NOW"! "NOW," when "faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things hoped for" (Heb 11:1), we have a High Priest! "NOW," when it is "a time accepted" and "the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2), we have a High Priest! "NOW," when there is "no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1), we have a High Priest! "NOW," when we are admonished to "be filled with the Spirit," (Eph 5:19) we have a High Priest! Now! Today! At this very hour!
WE are the ones that have a High Priest, and therefore WE are the ones that are to come. The High Priest will ensure we will arrive in the Presence of the Lord--by faith now, and "face to face" in the day of the Lord. The High priest guarantees our welcome by the Father if we will come through Him. We have a High Priest NOW, so let us come NOW, without delay, and with our whole heart. There we will find healing balm for our ills. There, we will find strength, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Let us come to God because we have a High Priest!
Here is an absolute requisite for coming to the Father--"a true heart." The NIV and NASB use the term "sincere heart." A "true"or "sincere" heart is a genuine and dependable heart. There is no pretension or guile in such a heart. The mind, desires, and intentions of such an individual are pure and undefiled by wickedness. Here is a heart that is "perfect with the Lord," like that of David (1 Kgs 15:3). Like the men of war from Zebulun, these are "not of double heart" (1 Chron 12:33). Those with a "true heart," have a "perfect heart and with a willing mind" (1 Chron 28:9). Such are those who come to God with their "whole heart," withholding nothing (Psa 9:1). This is nothing less than a "clean heart," undevoted to the things of this world Psa 51:10). Ephesians 6:5 refers to this condition as "singleness of heart."
Let it be clear that this is an absolute prerequisite for coming to God. Admittedly, this is not evident in the Christian community, but it is still a Divine requirement. It is a personal matter, and not one in which we can judge other people--but we must judge ourselves in this area, and do so strictly. We cannot come to the Lord with divided interests--with a "double mind," attempting to serve "two masters" (James 1:18; Matt 6:24).
Under the Law, high priests drew near to God bodily. Their attire was precisely specified. The time of their approach was limited to "once a year." Theirs was a liturgical approach, requiring fear more than faith, and protocol more than heart. But it is not so in Christ Jesus. Only those with a "true heart" may come confidently into His Presence! This is the "new heart" of which Ezekiel prophesied (Ezek 36:26) a "heart of flesh" upon which is written God's laws (Heb 8:10; 10:16). This is a "pure heart," devoted to the Lord and the apprehension of His promises (1 Tim 1:15; 2 Tim 2:22). Let is be clear, God cannot be boldly or confidently approached without a "true heart."
Those with defiled hearts can still come to obtain forgiveness, and are urged to do so. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). That cleansing will purify the heart, making it "true," and enabling the individual to come confidently into His Presence. However, it is imperative that this condition be maintained by those coming to the Lord. Without the confidence generated by a "true heart," eventually the individual will cease coming, and condemnation will be sure.
Boldly coming to the Lord also requires "the full assurance of faith." Here, the Apostle points out the nature of faith. At the same time, he reminds us salvational benefits cannot be received unless we have a fixed and unhesitating conviction. The phrase "in full assurance of faith" (en plhroforia| pistewj), is a most powerful one. "Full assurance" means full conviction of certainty. It is the absence of doubt--a circumstance in which the reality of God, Christ, and salvation is embraced wholeheartedly. This is NOT an assurance generated by human logic, but by faith, which comes from God (1 Tim 1:14; Phil 1:29). It is the "full assurance OF faith." It occurs when one believes "the record God has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10-12).
Faith will produce a persuasion that "what God has promised, He is also able to perform" (Rom 4:21). It brings a one to the solid conclusion that God "cannot lie," and therefore is to be implicitly trusted (Tit 1:2). Let us be bold to embrace this fact. Those who come to God boldly must have a settled conviction that "He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). This occurs only in those who believe. When this is perceived and embraced, the individual will seek to strengthen his faith. He will subject himself to hearing the Word of the Lord, for "faith comes by hearing . . . the Word of Christ" (Rom 10:17, NASB). The grace of God will be sought with great spiritual energy, for it is "exceeding abundant with faith . . . " Until faith is strong, assurance will not exist; and until assurance is presence, men will not boldly approach the Lord. What is even more, until we boldly approach Him, we will not obtain the benefits procured for us by Christ Jesus.
Adam was afraid to approach God with a defiled conscience! A condemning conscience will have the same effect upon you. Your heart must be "sprinkled clean from an evil conscience" (NASB) by the blood of Jesus Christ. That is another way of saying you must be aware you have been forgiven. Under the Law, only the outward man was sprinkled, or a garment, vessel, or other tabernacle accessories. However, in Christ, the heart is "sprinkled" with the sanctifying, purifying blood of Jesus. Out faith brings this benefit, convincing us we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6).
Do not doubt the reality of the sprinkled heart! The Spirit earlier introduced the Divine logic in this matter. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:13-14). Observe, the objective of the cleansing is that we might "serve the living God," being in His employ, and laboring in His vineyard. Coupling with our text, we learn service to God is not possible without coming into the presence of God. He cannot be served by those remaining aloof from Him. A lack of consciousness of God makes purported service pretentious and unacceptable to God. God will not recognize labors that were performed in ignorement of His Person! Tragically, this eliminates a great deal of what is said to be done for Him.
We come to the Father as those whose bodies have been "washed with pure water." Before coming into the presence of the Lord, the priests of old had to be washed (Ex 29:4; 40:12). With them, the act was ceremonial. With us, it is in actuality. Our "bodies" have been "washed with pure water." The water itself was "pure," sanctified by the Lord for an intended purpose. It is not purifying water, but "pure water," meaning this is a means used by God to accomplish an acceptable cleansing in His sight. This is a reference to our baptism into Christ. Peter alludes to our baptism in the same manner. " . . . eight souls [Noah and family], were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" ), NKJV. The "good conscience" is appropriated in this "washing of regeneration" (Tit 3:5), thereby enabling us to approach the Father confidently.
Those who deprecate baptism, an ordinance given by God, adversely effect the confidence with which their hearers approach the Lord. The knowledge that our bodies have been "washed" in a sanctifying sense by "pure" or Divinely approved and instituted water, has a great bearing on how we approach the Lord. In our baptism, whether we knew it or not, we "put on Christ" (Gal 3:28), which qualifies us to come to God. If men remonstrate, saying this has no reference to our baptism, let them tell us in what sense, then, our bodies are "washed with pure water." The one unacceptable part of us, our "vile bodies" (Phil 3:20) have been set apart to God, and are even now "the members of Christ" (1 Cor 6:15). Who, in this knowledge can hesitate to come to the Father through Jesus Christ?
Here, then, is the means by which we come boldly and confidently to God. It is in an acute awareness that we have a great High Priest over the house of God, Who has paved the way for us. A true, sincere, and whole heart enables us to approach Him, for He values such a heart. The assurance generated by unfeigned faith impels us to run swiftly to Him., while the absence of a condemning conscience enables to come with joy and great expectation. Even our bodies have been sanctified, washed with pure water. God's great salvation is gloriously effective to accomplish His purpose! As we rely implicitly upon that effectiveness, we will be kept by the power of God, and be effective and adequate in our own ministries. It all depends upon us coming to God.
We are not in heaven yet! We remain in a war-zone, with a fierce adversary seeking to devour us, and a world alluring us with its corruptible baubles. This is not the time or place for instability, which is an enemy of the soul. Therefore, the Spirit speaks to our hearts. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised." The NASB and NKJV say "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope," while the NIV says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess." But there is no contradiction in the statements. Hope is faith in its forward posture. The word from which faith is here translated is evlpidoj, which means an expected and awaited good hope, expectation, or prospect. Those who have "received" Christ (John 1:13), and are walking "by faith" (2 Cor 5:7) confess they are not of this world. They are being oriented for "the world to come."
When we came to Christ (Matt 11:28; John 5:40; 6:37,40), we acknowledged the fundamental deficiency of "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). We set out on a course that is preparing us for the end of this world, the day of judgment, and a presence "forever with the Lord." Regardless of the theological confusion that exists within the professed church, you will not be able to maintain that status without effort. If you to not "hold fast" your confession, or profession, it will get away from you. We do not live in a spiritual vacuum, and woe be to those conducting themselves as though they did. To "hold fast" our confession involves determination as well as action. Those who "hold fast their confession" set their faces like a flint to go to heaven. They refuse to be distracted by anything--anything at all. Without this level of determination, they simply will not be able to finish the race. That is why Paul forgot "those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," pressed "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13-14).
Lest we forget the seriousness of this exhortation, remember the facts that undergird. We HAVE a great High Priest. By faith we have a TRUE HEART, a CLEANSED CONSCIENCE, and BODIES that have been washed with pure water. A way has been opened to us by Christ, by which we can come into the very presence of the Almighty. Our sins are remitted, we are justified and sanctified, and possess the Holy Spirit of God. All of these advantages are to no avail, however, if we do not "hold fast" the confession of our faith and hope. We are in a highly tenuous circumstance. This is not intended to produce doubt, but diligence. It does not provoke complacency, but faithfulness. Those who determine to "hold fast the confession of their hope" will strengthened by God to complete their course.
Exhortation is the practical aspect of sound theology. Therein, men are urged to bring their lives into comportment with the revealed purpose of God. In this particular exhortation we learn even more of the nature of our salvation. Not only is it based upon the accomplishments and present work of Jesus, it also requires our complete involvement. But that is not all--we also need the influence of the people of God, and they need ours. God considers His people (Psa 34:15,17). It is certainly in order that we do so. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another."
Our consideration of one another is not on a fleshly level. While we do minister to the temporal needs of our brethren as required, our consideration of them is much broader, extending into the realm of the spirit. Our good deeds toward them, as well as our words and personal actions, are to "stir up love and good works" within them. It is true, some believe they do not require this sort of stimulation or motivation, but they are wrong. The Spirit has spoken, and it is our obligation to hear what he is saying to the churches.
The fact that saints need to be "stirred up" confirms they are in a warfare. The "good fight of faith" tends to deplete our resources and diminish our efforts. This condition is not a sin, but is rather a fact with which we must contend. God has made provision for our strength to be renewed, and our love and good works to be stirred up. The means requires a personal identity with the Lord Himself, which involves coming to Him. It also necessitates exposure to other pilgrims en route to the promised land.
How is it that this consideration is to manifested? "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together!" When you are tempted to do so, obey the word of the Lord, and do NOT forsake gathering with the people of God. One of my favorite texts on this subject is found in the book of Malachi. His prophecy was given during a very difficult time. The priests were negligent of their duties, the prophets prophesied falsely, and the people were robbing God. In every way, the state of the nation lay in shambles, with abuse and neglect dominating nearly every aspect of life. It was NOT a time conducive to growth in things pertaining to God. Still, even at that time, there was a group of people that held their profession fast, as it were. It is said of them, "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another." They did not allow the depravity of the times to deprive them of the godly influence of one another. As corruption increased, these people grew closer together. They did not speak once in a while to one another but "often" (KJV). Other versions say they "talked with each other," but there is no conflict. The idea is one of constant, continual, or regular communication. They did NOT forsake the assembling of themselves together!
This admonition is not confined to one person communing with another. In fact, that is not its intent at all. The word used here is evpisunagwghn, and means assembling together . . . a congregation increased by additions-- to gather together, assembly, gathering, meeting. There is no substitute for the assembly of God's people. It is an event with which men must not tamper.
God Himself reacted to their faithfulness. He had the prophet record His reaction for our edification. It is clear from His statement that these people were not engaged in casual conversation, but is group communication. "And the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 'They will be mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves Him'" (Mal 3:16,17, NIV). If this were the only verse in the Scriptures on the subject, it would still provoke frequent gathering of the faithful. The Lord Himself "listened" to the words these faithful spoke to one another. But it was not a casual listening, He "heard" what they said, giving particular attention their words, and finding delight in them. The gatherings were noted in heaven, and a book of remembrance was written "concerning" them! They were the subjects of Divine recollection-- blessed thought! He viewed their communication as honoring His Name! And what will He do with this book of remembrance--the recollection of their gatherings? He affirms these very people will be exclusively His. The identity will take place when He makes up His "treasured possession" (jewels, KJV). He will also spare them, having compassion upon them as a man who spares a serving son. When men speak with one another concerning the things of God, it does have a blessed effect upon Him!
Legion is the name of those who do not take this admonition seriously. Such people have always been around, subjects of Divine rebuke. In a sense, staying in the race involves frequent communication with fellow pilgrims. It requires the beneficial provocation that comes from the words and demeanor of faithful men and women. It is of interest to note that great spiritual awakenings have always been marked by frequent gatherings of believers. It started in the book of Acts, and it has not ceased to this day (Acts 2:46; 5:42). I have personally participated in such awakenings, and have witnessed a remarkable increase in both appetite and capacity among those whose hearts were touched by the Gospel. One such awakening occurred in Western Illinois, where I was ministering in 1956. During that time, I held a revival for fifteen consecutive weeks--105 days. There was an unparalleled thirst for living water that could not be assuaged. Again, in 1960, we started a fellowship in Northwest Indiana. The people insisted upon meeting two times during the week, as well as two lengthy periods on the Lord's day. We also had four week-end preaching festivals a year, which were anticipated by all. I sorely miss these type of gatherings, and pray our own are will soon be so effected by the Gospel of Christ.
Observe, the Spirit declares some people were marked by a "manner" most grievous. "Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some" (NASB). Ah, there have always been the "some," who find it easy to maintain earthly relationships at the expense of spiritual ones. There may be a hundred reasons these forsakers give for their action. They will range from a contempt for their brethren to fear of being reproached, the imagination that they are adequate without the influence of kindred spirits, or for an dominating love for the world. Whatever the reason adduced, it is unacceptable. God has no children that can stand without His other children! There are none so strong and consistent that they no longer require to be stirred up to love and good works. I have long observed that the most productive people in the Kingdom frequently communicate with those of like precious faith. Neglecting assembling together has been, and remains, a perilous habit, against which the Spirit solemnly warns us! No one can ignore this warning without being thrust into danger. Satan, principalities and powers, and the world, will NOT relax their relentless pursuit of your soul! You do not live in a vacuum, and dare not conduct your life as though you were. Give heed to the Spirit.
Exhorting one another is to increase in its intensity and content. " . . . and so much the more as you see the day approaching." What is approaching "day" in reference. As one might suppose, there are a variety of views on this subject. Some believe it was the coming destruction of Jerusalem. In this case, believers were to strengthen one another for that Divine judgment. Others believe it is the second appearing of Christ, which is drawing closer all the time, being "nearer:" now than "when we first believed" (Rom 13:11). It is best to understand this text in view of the "eternal purpose of God," which will make provision for both of the circumstances mentioned, but not be limited to them. First, to confine this to a warning of the destruction of Jerusalem limits its effectiveness to all generations. It is true, there were warnings issued in view of the "present distress" (1 Cor 9:26), but such warnings were never spoken in the tones of this text. There were options open to the Corinthians under a "present distress" (1 Cor 9:26-40) but no such flavor can be found in the Hebrews text. There are no options open to us, only a most solemn warning in the next verse. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." I emphatically deny that such language can be applied to a warning about Jerusalem's destruction! There is nothing in this Epistle that indicates the Jews to which it was written were located in or around Jerusalem. An exhortation of this magnitude, attending by such a solemn warning, cannot be confined to a certain place and time.
Secondly, the view that the approaching day is the "appearing of Christ" is true in general, but not in specifics. The point is that the approaching day is SEEN approaching, not merely that IS approaching. To be sure, there is a sense in which this is true. However, that does not appear to be the sense of the text. In my judgment, this is referring to the time of assembly itself. Jesus had spoken of such assemblies, and the saints took His words quite seriously. Do you recall them? "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt 18:19-20). If God honored the assembly of those under the first covenant in Malachi's day (Mal 3:16-17), what will be said of assemblies that convene in Christ's name? They meet because of Him, to honor Him, and to hear of and from Him. They gather as the redeemed, the justified, and the sanctified. They meet because they are in quest for glory, and need to have their strength strengthened, their joy refreshed, and their hope renewed. The time of the gathering is appropriated called "the day." It is a day they can SEE approaching, in which profit and growth can be experienced. It is a time when they will meet with Jesus around His table, and declare His death until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26).
Of this "day," Spurgeon well said the following. "The presence of Jesus is the fixed center of the assembly, the warrant for its coming together, and the power with which it acts. The church, however small, is gathered in his name. Jesus is there first I am in the midst of them We are gathered together by the holy impulses of Christian brotherhood, and our meeting is in the name of Jesus, and therefore there he is; near, not only to the leader, or to the minister, but in the midst, and therefore near to each worshiper. We meet to do him honor, to hear his Word, to stir each other up to obey his will; and he is there to aid us. However small the number, we make a quorum; and what is done according to the laws of Christ is done with his authority. Hence it is that there is great power in united prayer from such persons: it is Jesus pleading in his saints. This should prevent Christian men from giving or taking offense; for if Jesus be in our midst, our peace must not be broken by strife."
Our consideration of one another includes exhortation concerning our common gatherings. They are times when the Lord Jesus meets with us. If He honors the gatherings of His people, what will be said of those who refuse to do so. This places a solemn obligation on every assembly to make their gatherings a place where the Lord Jesus is welcome. Let them be meetings where saints are stirred up to love and good works--places where the people of God are fed, nourished, and assisted in the good fight of faith. Cursed be the assembly that is a handicap to the people God, were they are maligned, discouraged, and even neglected. If there be such, they are a contradiction of the very purpose of gathering together. But, blessed be those saints who meet to speak to one another of the Lord. Blessed are those who a strengthen the hands of their brethren, encouraging them to press in to the Father through Jesus' blood, availing themselves of the benefits of the New Covenant! Blessed be those sacred gatherings where the faith of God's people becomes more effective, where their peace becomes more pervasive, and their hope abounds. They will be remembered by God!