Have you ever had a child keep asking “why?” to you so many times, until you just got frustrated and just said, “Because”? How did that work out?
It’s a good thing for us that God’s patience is greater than ours, but the first three verses (Hebrews 10:19-21) in our text explain to us why we should do what the author is about to instruct us to do.
- We have confidence to approach God, thanks to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Only through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice can we be delivered from our debt and the penalty of sin that we deserve, and be restored into a relationship with a holy God.
- We also “have a great priest”. Jesus is someone who intercedes on our behalf, with the ability to relate both to the perfect, holy God, and to human beings like us (since Jesus was both God and man). Like the priests descended from Aaron, Jesus also made a sacrifice to atone for our sins, although – like Hebrews shows us at different places – Jesus’ sacrifice was better.
So, we have confidence to approach a holy God, and we have a priest (and we have Jesus to thank for both of those things). With that in mind, what should we do? After all, knowing the “why” might answer our question, but once we know the truth, we often have a responsibility to do something about it.
The next few verses identify three things that we should do, appearing in this translation with the repeated phrase, “Let us”.
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:22-25 NIV
First (verse 22), “let us draw near to God”. However, we should not do so casually or defiantly. Instead, we approach God with faith. Now, the holiness of God isn’t something that fallen human beings can just brazenly enter into. While the face-melting in the first Indiana Jones movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, was fictional, it does illustrate the fact that sin and God’s holiness aren’t compatible.
However, faith in salvation through Jesus gives us access to justification through “imputed righteousness” (that is, righteousness that Jesus earned, which is applied to us). Our consciences are clean.
As a result of this, we can have assurance as we approach God. Have you ever been afraid of God or afraid to talk with Him? For those who are lost in their sins, facing a holy God may very well be a fearful thing (see verse 31), but salvation through faith in Jesus restores us and allows us to approach God confidently (see Ephesians 3:12).
Next (verse 23), we should stick to – and live out – what we hope for, not because we just “wish” for something, nor because we are planning to do the work ourselves, but because we have confidence in God’s faithfulness.
It can be tiring to keep hoping for something when it takes a while to come to fruition. The path to God’s promises sometimes takes us through trials and suffering, and we might be tempted to just give up because we’re tired of waiting. We are called to keep our faith and hold to this hope to the end, though.
And (in verses 24-25), we should help others live out their faith and hope as well. I realize that some people like to quote verse 25 to emphasize that we should go to church (whatever church may look like, since not everyone around the world gets to gather in a formal church building). While I think that this is true (at least for those who are able to meet with other believers), this instruction means more to me when considered in context.
Meeting together is done in the context of how we should “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”, and for the reasons we looked at earlier: confidence to approach God, along with Jesus’ priesthood. We don’t just encourage each other and help each other to do good things simply because we are obligated to: we can do so because we have faith and hope, and because we know that these things are secure in Jesus because of God’s promises and faithfulness.
To borrow a line from “The Lego Movie”, it might sound like a cat poster, but we should be encouraging each other to “hang in there”. There will be valleys when we could use a reminder about the reason for our faith (Jesus), the certainty of our hope, and the confidence that God’s promises give us.
It is in these times when we need reminders and encouragement. Reminders bring us back to who we have put our faith in, and why followers of Jesus do what we do in the first place. Encouragement helps us know that we’re not in this alone. Not only do we have a living God, and Jesus as our priest, with the Holy Spirit within us, but we have others in the church to stand with us against evil, and who can walk with us through our trials.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for November 21, 2021
- The Lookout, September 5, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.