Studies in the Book of Hebrews—Chapter 10:23-39

Holding Fast to the Faith

ROUGHLY SPEAKING, the book of Hebrews is divided into three sections. The first six chapters are largely in the nature of exhortation, although they lay the groundwork for the doctrinal discussion (the second section) which begins with chapter seven. This doctrinal discussion, with occasional exhortations interspersed, continues until verse 22 of this tenth chapter. The third section begins here, and while still building upon the doctrinal foundation, the apostle exhorts the brethren to renew their faith and zeal lest they let these things “slip.”—Heb. 2:1

VERSE 23  “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

After the Apostle Paul has explained how Jesus opened a new and living way for those who would follow in his steps, he exhorts them to hold fast the profession of their faith as they walk in this new way. In the Greek text the word ‘hope’ is indicated, rather than ‘faith.’ The exhortation is, therefore, to hold fast the profession of our hope. It is this hope which is as an anchor to our souls, as it enters into and lays hold upon that which is within the veil. Thus if we are to have “boldness” to enter into the holiest of all, we must hold fast to our anchor of hope, the anchor which should be firmly fixed within the “veil.”—Heb. 10:19,20

Paul has already explained that the ‘veil’ represents Jesus’ flesh—his sacrificed flesh, of course. And if we are to enter into that which is beyond the veil, it means also the sacrifice of our flesh—being planted together in the likeness of his death. We are not sufficient for this of ourselves. It is only as we are “sprinkled” and “washed” that God will consider us worthy. (Heb. 10:22) These thoughts were illustrated by the sprinkling of the typical priests with blood, and by their washing at the laver in the court.

We are to hold fast ‘without wavering.’ The Hebrews were showing a tendency to waver, and the great effort of the apostle throughout his letter is to strengthen their determination to “go on unto perfection,” not to draw back. (Heb. 6:1) They apparently had endured considerable suffering on account of their faith in Christ, and possibly their wavering was due in part to their lack of understanding of the Christian’s share in the better sacrifices of the Gospel Age, hence Paul’s effort to show them that they were priests and, as such, must expect to offer sacrifice, not of animals, but themselves. In keeping with this Divine plan, God was faithful. If they expected him to deliver them from all trial, then it would appear that he was unfaithful, but with the proper vision of their place in the plan of God, they should be able to ‘hold fast’ and with ‘boldness’ seek to enter into the ‘holiest.’

VERSES 24,25  “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Paul wrote to the Philippian brethren, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Phil. 2:4) This is what it means to ‘consider one another.’ We are to give consideration to their needs, particularly along spiritual lines, and noting them, do all we can to help, to encourage, to ‘provoke’ particularly unto ‘love and to good works.’ Perhaps the most frequently recurring need of all Christians is thus to be provoked. The flesh shrinks from sacrifice, and it is so easy to become “weary in well doing” that we need the exhortation to faithfulness which we receive from one another.—Gal. 6:9

It is difficult to exhort those with whom we are not associated, so logically the apostle reminds us of the importance of meeting together for mutual encouragement, ‘and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.’ This epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the time of trouble which brought the Jewish Age to its final end. That trouble was in a measure typical of that which is upon the world today, which now betokens the near approach of the new day of kingdom blessings.

Possibly the conditions leading up to that trouble at the end of the Jewish Age were looked upon as signs that the kingdom was even then near. In any case, the Early Church did not expect that nearly twenty centuries would elapse before the kingdom would be established. Paul wrote that the night was far spent, and that the day was at hand. (Rom. 13:12) To the Early Church the time was short, and this was given as one reason they should assemble so much the more. With what great force this exhortation applies to the Lord’s people now, when the ‘day’ is not only approaching, but about ready to manifest itself in the blessing of the sin-cursed and dying world. Never before was it more important for the Lord’s people to meet together for mutual encouragement.

VERSES 26,27  “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

It is the willful sin of Adam, primarily, that is expiated by the blood of Christ. It is because there is ‘no more sacrifice for sins’ that those who now, after having come to a knowledge of the Truth, become willful sinners and, continuing their willfulness, will die the “second death.” (Rev. 21:8) Carelessness is not in itself necessarily willful sin although it can easily lead to a willful neglect of the grace of God. Perhaps this is why the apostle mentions the point of willfulness and its consequences directly after his admonition not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Certainly a failure to meet with the Lord’s people might be a first step toward losing all interest in the Truth and in the Lord.

VERSES 28,29  “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

Some Christians might interpret the ‘sorer punishment’ here mentioned as being eternal torture. But this is not the thought. The wages of sin is death. Those who sinned willfully against Moses’ Law died, but their death is not eternal. That was the typical age, and the death penalty then inflicted was merely illustrative of the ‘second death,’ a death from which the Scriptures promise no resurrection. This latter punishment is therefore ‘sorer’ because it will last forever.

Paul suggests that the sin which ultimately results in the second death is treading under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. But notice the expression—‘wherewith he was sanctified.’ This indicates that only those who have accepted the blood, and have been sanctified by it, can do ‘despite unto the Spirit of grace,’ and receive the punishment of the second death.

VERSES 30,31  “We know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The statement by the Lord, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will recompense,’ is frequently quoted in exhortations to brethren not to judge one another, but to leave all judgment with the Lord. But here the apostle is using it to emphasize that the Lord will, indeed, punish the willful sinner—‘I will recompense.’ So serious is this for those who reject the provisions of the blood of Christ after having been ‘sprinkled’ and sanctified by that blood, that he adds, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’

For such as do despite to the grace of God through Christ, it is indeed a fearful thing. To them nothing remains but a ‘fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries,’ of which they are a part. Falling into the hands of God as here indicated means to be dealt with according to the terms of his strict justice, and without benefit of the atoning merit of the blood of Christ.

VERSES 32-34  “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.”

In these verses again is revealed the practical purpose of the epistle; namely, to reestablish the faith and zeal of the Hebrew brethren. The ‘former days’ were ones of zeal and self-sacrifice, days in which they took ‘joyfully the spoiling of your goods.’ But evidently there had been a change. Their “first love” had somewhat cooled. (Rev. 2:4) Paul’s evident object in asking them to recall those former days was in order that they might endeavor to recapture their spirit of love and joy and self-sacrifice.

In this admonition there are revealed two ways in which we may suffer with Christ. The first is that of being at the front of the battle, and thus of coming in actual contact with the trials and persecutions which result from such active participation in the work of the Gospel. The other is in being the ‘companions’ of those who are ‘so used.’ Paul suffered much under the first category, but many in the Early Church, including the Hebrews, suffered with him by letting it be known that they were his friends and supporters. In one, or both, of these ways it is still the privilege of the brethren to suffer for righteousness’ sake and, by faithfulness, prove worthy of joint-heirship with Christ in the kingdom.

VERSES 35,36  “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Again is indicated the evident tendency of the Hebrews to let go their hold on ‘these things.’ Sometimes the sheer weight of trials tends temporarily to discourage. This is understandable but Paul was warning against casting away, or throwing away, their confidence. This might be very close to a willful sin.

‘Ye have need of patience,’ Paul wrote. The Hebrews ran well for a time, but they needed patience in order to continue. They had done the ‘will of God’ in presenting themselves in consecration, but this was not enough, for that alone would not result in their receiving what the Lord had promised. Only those “that shall endure unto the end” receive the “crown of life.”—Matt. 24:13; Rev. 2:10

VERSE 37  “Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”

The time element in the plan of God has always been a test of faith to his people. The apostle here alludes to the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:2,3, where the Lord gives us the assurance that the great vision of his plan will not tarry. Paul thus applies this prophecy to the end of the age and to the return and presence of Christ. This great event in the plan of God was the inspiration of the Early Church. Paul’s reference to it here emphasizes that all he had said concerning the hope of both the church and the world must await fulfillment until ‘he that shall come will come.’ And now that he is here, how faithful we should be! How we should hold fast without wavering!

VERSES 38,39  “The just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

The apostle again quotes from the prophecy of Habakkuk (chapter 2, vs. 4)—“The just shall live by his faith.” But the loss of faith means a drawing back. How firmly, yet lovingly, the apostle endeavored to take hold of these Hebrews and lift them up to more solid ground. ‘We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.’ Evidently they had let these things slip to some extent, but they had not yet sinned willfully. They needed to be taught again the “first principles of the oracles of God,” (Heb. 5:12) but Paul believed this possible, and that they were ‘not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.’ Doubtless Paul was right.

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