Hebrews is packed with glorious truth about what God has done for us in Christ, but what does he want us to do in response? This passage begins to answer that question more explicitly.


Hebrews 10:1-25

Hebrews 9-13 (WBC)William Lane

Hebrews: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary, Thomas Schreiner

Hebrews, John Owen

Sermon Transcript

There’s a conference in Baltimore on the first Saturday in March. Baltimore’s only a 2-hour drive from Philly. The church hosting it believes a lot of the same things we believe about the church, but they’ve been around longer than we have, and they are seeking to apply the same biblical principles to a more economically distressed community. I feel like we could learn a lot from them, enjoy some good time connecting with one another on the way there and back, and even grab some pit beef in Baltimore all before getting home in time to put the kids to bed on Saturday night. I told all this to some folks in our church recently, and if I were to say all that to you, what might you wonder next? Or what might you expect me to say? So far I’ve just given you a lot of information about the conference and my take on it, but wouldn’t you expect me to follow that up with some statement on what I’d like us to therefore do? “Therefore, let’s register, carpool, and go!”


There are passages of the Bible that can feel sort of like that. You read them and they are filled with fascinating truth about who God is, what he’s done in Christ, and what he promises he will do in the future. As we continue our series in Hebrews this morning, we encounter a similar passage in the first 18 verses. Stretching back all the way to chapter 5, most of Hebrews 5-10:18 has been giving us glorious truths about what God has done in Christ. But maybe you’ve been wondering, “Ok; so what should we do with all that?” It’s a good and necessary question. It’s a question people will sometimes ask in the context of church. Sometimes church members get antsy and wonder, “What are we even doing here? What should we be doing?” Well, once we hit verse 19 of our passage, our author finally begins to give us an answer. What should we do with all the glorious truths of chapter 5-10:18? What should we as a church do? Three things this passage covers: Let us draw near to God, hold fast our confession, and encourage one another. The passage begins in the first 20 verses by showing us why we should do those things, and then it explains what those things are that we should do. So we’ll look at the “Why?” and the “What?”




The basic answer for why we should draw near to God, hold fast our confession, and encourage one another is given in verse 19: There we read therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near, and so on. Why draw near to God? Because we have confidence now to enter his presence by the blood of Jesus, and we a have a great priest over the house of God. Verses 19-20 really summarize Hebrews 5-10:18. That we have a great priest over the house of God was established in chapters 5-8, but that we now have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus is something we need the first 18 verses of this chapter to understand. So let’s look at those verses now.


Verse 1 actually doesn’t begin with the blood of Jesus, but with the blood sacrifices offered under the law, the law given to God’s people through Moses before the time of Jesus. There our author says that law was merely a shadow of the good things to come rather than the true form of those realities, and therefore, the sacrifices offered under it cannot make perfect those who draw near to God through them. And our author clarifies for us in the first 4 verses what he means by “making perfect”: It means taking away sins, so that the worshiper is no longer conscious of sin. Of course, that does not mean the worshiper literally loses all knowledge of sin, any more than God ceases to be aware of our sins when verse 17 says he “remembers their sins” no more. The word translated “consciousness” in verse 2 is the same root word that was translated “conscience” in chapter 9, where we read that the blood of Christ cleanses the conscience of those who draw near to God through him. When we sin, it stains our conscience; we are aware of it deep down and recognize not only that we are guilty, but that we deserve to be punished for that sin.


And what did the sacrifices offered under the law do? Rather than purify the consciences of those who drew near through them, they actually sustained that sense of condemnation upon the conscience. Look at verse 3: It says there that in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. Here the author is thinking of the day of atonement, narrated in Leviticus 16, on which the high priest before the coming of Christ would go into the holy of holies with the blood of a sacrifice. What did the fact that that sacrifice had to be repeated every year communicate to the consciences of the people? It was like a reminder every year: “You’re still guilty. Atonement is not yet complete.” Now, of course, when it was over, everyone could breathe a sigh of relief: The sacrifice was offered, and their sins were atoned for…sort of. But what about the next day when they sin again? And what about next year when the sacrifice had to be offered again? If last year’s sacrifice really “worked”, why the need for next year’s?


You ever apply for something and go to check your application status? What’s it often say? “In process”. Every year the day of atonement was like an “In process” status update to the people of Israel. Is my conscience pure yet? “In process”. And so, our author concludes in verse 4: It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Those sacrifices could never move the needle from “in process” to “complete”.


And look, none of us here today were born under the law of Moses. But if you try to purify your conscience by the observance of any law, you will never get beyond “in process”. You may have moments when you feel clean, but then you’ll fall short of that law again, and the reminder will come: “In process”. There’s a religious way of trying that: “Ok; I’m going to go to church, I’m going to read the Bible, I’m going to pray, I’m going to fast, I’m going to give money to the homeless people who ask” and so on, but then what happens when you miss a Sunday? What happens when you realize you didn’t pray like you said you would? And there are non-religious ways of trying to purify the conscience by the law. For example, “I’m going to exercise and diet rigorously”, but then what happens when you skip the gym or give in and eat those cookies you’ve been craving? There’s nothing in those laws that can purify your conscience. All there is is a reminder of sins.


Consequently, verse 5, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.” Now stop and think about that. God is the one who instituted the burnt offerings and sin offerings; we saw that earlier this year when we preached through a few chapters of Leviticus. But here Jesus sees what the offerings were intended by God to show us: They weren’t ultimate! The very fact that they had to be offered every year communicated their own insufficiency. To take away human sin, nothing less than a human body would have to be offered to God, not the bodies of bulls and goats, and so Christ said, “a body you have prepared for me” and communicates his willingness to obey God’s will and offer his body. Verse 10 summarizes: And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The offering of the body of Christ has accomplished what the offering of the bodies of the bulls and goats could not: We have been sanctified.


To say that we have been sanctified is just another way of describing the act of purification. To sanctify something means to make it holy, to set it apart for God’s exclusive use. When Moses sprinkled the instruments for worship in the tent with blood, he was purifying them, but he was also, in that same act, setting them apart for God’s exclusive use. That’s what the offering of the body of Jesus Christ has done for us: It has purified our consciences, and in that same act, it has set us apart from sin for God’s exclusive use.


On the other hand, verse 11: Every priest stands daily at his service. Not only was theirs an annual sacrifice, but the burnt offering was required by God to be offered daily (Num 28). And why do they have to keep going back day after day? Because the sacrifices they offer cannot move the status of our purification from “in process” to “complete”. Their work is never done. In the first section of the temple, into which they enter daily, there was an altar for incense, a lampstand, and a table for bread. You know what piece of furniture was not there? A chair. They could never sit down. Their work was never complete. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God verse 12 says, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For, verse 14 summarizes: By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. There is our word “perfected”, and there we see that by this offering, that single offering of the body of Christ, he has perfected for all time those who are now set apart for God’s exclusive use, and all who will be so set apart in the future.


When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, the status of our purification went from “in process” to “complete”. When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, our redemption was fully accomplished. Verse 14 does not say that by a single offering he made people perfectable, but that by the single offering he has perfected for all time. Nor does it say that this offering perfected all people without exception, but that it perfected those who are being sanctified, those who are being set apart for God’s exclusive use. So when I use those first person plural pronouns, “Christ’s offering perfected us,” “the status of our purification went from ‘in process’ to ‘complete’”, “Let us draw near, let us hold fast, let us encourage one another,” I am thinking primarily of the members of this church, just because they are the ones in the room I know well enough to treat them as those who have been sanctified. I recognize not all of you here today are members of this church, and please don’t take anything I’m saying here to imply that you are somehow less welcome here. We are thrilled to have you with us, whether you are a member of another church just visiting, a Christian looking for a church, or a non-Christian willing to at least consider the claims of Christ. I want you to know the peace and joy of having your conscience purified also, and so I do want to make clear to you that the only way for that to happen, the only way you for you to know that by Jesus’ offering you have been perfected is for you to personally turn from your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation, and the door is wide open for you today to do that, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.


And as if the words of Christ alone were not enough, our author goes on to add the Holy Spirit’s testimony, again quoting scripture written before his time as the very words of God, just as he quoted another scripture written before his time as the very words of Christ earlier, and here he shows how after promising a new covenant in verse 16, he adds that part of that new covenant, verse 17 is that God will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more. Where the Old Covenant brought with its sacrifices a constant reminder of sins, in the New Covenant God promised to remember our sins no more! And, the conclusion: Verse 18 – Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, he didn’t get up again the next day to go offer himself again. When the next year rolled around, he didn’t get up again to go through the day of atonement ritual. His sacrifice actually perfected all those for whom it was intended, and therefore it need never be offered again, nor can it be offered again. If you are in Christ today by faith, you are legally perfect in God’s sight. You say, “well but there’s still so much sin in my life,” or at least you should feel that way; I know I do. But Christ bore those very sins on the cross and paid for them with his own blood. They can no longer condemn you, and no further sacrifice is necessary. God’s word is clear in verse 18: “There is no longer any offering for sin.”


That is why, verse 19, we now have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. We don’t enter because we are righteous in ourselves. We enter because we know our sins have been paid for by the blood of Jesus, and therefore in the presence of God we will not be condemned. So what then should we do? Let’s look at the three “let us” sentences beginning in verse 22 for that answer as we move into the second point: What? What should we do, given the confidence we now have to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus? Let us draw near to God, let us hold fast our confession, and let us encourage one another.




First, let us draw near, verse 22 says, with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. What does it mean to draw near to God? The image is obviously of moving toward someone. If we were to say that one person drew near to another, we may literally mean one moved his or her body closer to another. There was a sense in which it meant that before the coming of Christ: In verse 1 of our chapter today, it speaks of those who “draw near” under the law. In verse 2, it calls them “the worshipers”. Under the law, there was an earthly place of worship, the tent. And those who wanted to worship God would draw near to that location. Though they couldn’t enter the tent, they would come into the tabernacle complex and in front of the tent they would slaughter their animal and give it to the priest who would then place it on the altar. But these chapters of Hebrews have been clear that under the New Covenant, the location of our worship is not on earth, but in the heavenly tent, where Christ has entered on our behalf. How do we draw near to him there?


Well, even in the case of a person drawing near to another, we can imagine something broader than the movement of bodies. When a husband asks his wife questions and listens to the answers, when he speaks to her and lets her in on his inner life, those are some ways a husband draws near to his wife. What’s that look like with God under the New Covenant? Well, we get all kinds of indications of that throughout the New Testament. When we meet together, as verse 25 mentions, and listen to God’s Word, that’s a way we draw near to him. When we meet together and sing to him, we’re drawing near. When we meet together and pray to him, we’re drawing near. When we meet together and take the Lord’s Supper, we’re drawing near. When we meet together and confess what we believe about him, we’re drawing near. And then also privately, when we meditate on his word and pray to him in secret, we’re drawing near. Sometimes we may fast together or individually to aid in that drawing near.


Of course, there is a way to do those things mechanically such that we honor him with our lips, while our hearts remain far from him, just like I can mechanically talk business with my wife without drawing near to her. That’s why verse 22 adds that we are to draw near with a true heart. On a simple level, that just means drawing near to God with sincerity. Let’s draw near to him, not to get something from him, not to give the appearance to others that we are drawing near to him, but simply to get him, to know him, to enjoy communion with him! God is not a system of abstract beliefs or a moral code; he is a being who exists eternally in three persons, and thus we draw near to him in personal communion. The phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus” can be easily trivialized, but there is an important truth within it: God made us for a personal relationship not only with Jesus, but with the Father and the Spirit, the tri-personal God, in which we draw near to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, have you let your heart get distant from God? When was the last time you devoted private, extended time to meditating on his word and responding in prayer? Have these meetings become optional or perfunctory to you? Whatever your answer to those questions, let’s draw near today and this week, with a true heart.


And let’s draw near in full assurance of faith. The assurance of faith is the assurance that springs from faith. Sometimes we draw near to people with uncertainty. Imagine you get to meet someone you really respect, to whom you look up. For me that’s often other pastors, and there have been a few occasions where I’ve gotten to meet pastors whose books I’ve read and whose sermons I’ve listened to and benefited greatly from. Each time, I thought ahead about what I was going to say, and I approached them unsure whether they would accept my initiation. I mean, what if they think I’m a dweeb, right?! And then afterwards I often find myself overanalyzing our interactions: “I can’t believe I said that. He’s totally going to think this of me. No way I’m getting invited to that event again.” What’s happening there? Well, part of it is just fear of man and part of it is understandable respect, but at least what we can say is that I did not draw near to these men with full assurance of faith. And many of us assume that God wants us to approach him similarly: I shouldn’t come to him assuming he’ll be pleased with my worship; that’s arrogant, isn’t it? But notice here, God himself, in his inspired word, says he wants us to draw near to him with full assurance, not in our own worthiness, but in the full assurance of faith, an assurance that comes from trust in Christ and in God’s promise to accept the worship of those who draw near to him through Christ, the great priest he himself provided. We do not glorify God by doubting his word. We glorify God by taking him at his word and drawing near to him with full assurance. Here’s how the great hymn writer Charles Wesley said it:

“No condemnation, now I dread.

Jesus, and all in him, is mine.

Alive in him, my living head,

And clothed in righteousness divine.

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”


So first, let us draw near. Second, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised it is faithful. A confession is a declaration made with words. We often talk about confessing our sins, whereby we declare that we are guilty. That’s certainly a legitimate use of the word, but that’s not what our author is talking about here. Here he’s talking about a declaration of what we believe: the confession of our hope, which basically refers to our faith in Christ, our declaration that we believe we will be saved and finally enter the heavenly tent through him. We confess him to be our great priest, we confess his blood to have cleansed us from our sins. And our author has been showing us how that confession is rooted in something that really happened: Jesus really did bear our sins, offer his body as our sacrifice, rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and sits now at the Father’s right hand. We do now have confidence to enter the holy places by his blood. Therefore, let us hold fast the confession of that hope without wavering.


That addition of “without wavering” serves as a warning to us: Unless you come to faith in Christ for the first time on your deathbed, there will be some time between when you first confess faith in Christ and when you pass from this life into the heavenly tent. And there is a lot we can say about that time; more of it will be said as Hebrews progresses. But one thing to say about it from this verse is that you will face the temptation to waver from your confession. In other words, you will face the temptation to renounce your faith in Christ and say, “I no longer believe”. Granted, the strength of that temptation in our lives varies. Some of you in the room today would say, “Nope; never really even thought about leaving Christ” and praise God if that’s the case; keep holding fast your confession without wavering. But to lay my cards on the table, I’ve had my moments where I’ve thought, “What if this all is not true? What if I just left it all behind? What would I do?” and have even played that out a bit in my mind. I’ve confessed that to God as sin and he’s graciously kept me, but I tell you that so that you won’t be shocked or unduly discouraged if you do face the temptation to waver. There are plenty of other gods who want your allegiance, and there are plenty of people around you or online who will cheer you on if you leave the true God.


But don’t fall for it. Why? Because he who promised is faithful. God’s promise is that whoever believes in Christ is forgiven of their sins and will be with him forever in heaven after they die. To turn from Christ, then, is to turn from that promise, and why would you do that if he who promised is faithful? We’ve been reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress with our kids, the children’s book version of John Bunyan’s classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress. In it, the main character, aptly named Christian, is told by Evangelist that the city in which he lives is going to be destroyed, but that if he follows the straight path of the king, he will enter the Celestial City, symbolic of heaven. Along the way he faces all kinds of trials and temptations to turn back or stray from the path, and sometimes he does stray, but he never turns back, and always ends up back on the path after straying. Why? What would keep anyone on such a path? They would have to trust that the one who promised it would keep his promise. They would have to trust that if the king promised entry into the celestial city to those who stay on the path, then despite all appearances, if I stay on this path, I will enter that celestial city.


Brother and sisters, God has promised to save all those who come to him through faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who promised it, God himself, is a faithful God, who will not fail to keep his promises! Whatever trials you face following Christ, however hard it feels to keep going, however attractive it begins to appear to turn from him, let us hold fast the confession of our hope, because the one who promised is faithful.


And, finally, verse 24: Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Verse 24 more literally reads: “Let us consider one another, unto encouragement of love and good works.” If we all have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, if we are all drawing near to God together, if we all confess the same hope, if we are all pilgrims on the way to our heavenly home, let’s think about one another! If you are a member of this church, think about the other 98 members. How are they doing? How is their soul? Are they wandering from the path? Are they weary on the path? Of course, in a church of this size it’s hard to do that with all 98 other members at once, and that’s part of why we have Citygroups, to give you a space to get started considering one another! Such consideration is not unto the end of comparison, but unto the end of encouraging them toward love and good works, because love and good works, while not the things that merit our salvation, are the path from the time of our initial salvation to our final salvation and entrance into heaven.


How can we give such encouragement? Verse 25 says the first way is to not neglect to meet together. In the New Testament there is one invisible church of Jesus Christ made up all those he perfected by that single offering on the cross. But then there are also many visible churches, such as the church in Ephesus, the church in Corinth, the church in Antioch, and so on. In the New Testament there are no Christians who are not members of one of those churches, or who are not sent out by such churches in order to start new ones. These particular churches are distinguished from one another by the fact that they meet together. The church in Corinth is not the church in Antioch because the members of the church in Corinth meet with one another, and not with the members of the church in Antioch. We are Citylight Church Center City because the members of this church meet with one another, but we do not meet with the members of Redemption City Church, or Citylight Manayunk or Delco even. We love them and view them as our brothers and sisters; we just don’t meet together.


And yet, another temptation we face on this pilgrimage is to give up meeting together. We see in this very verse that it was already the habit of some. It is inconvenient after all, isn’t it? You might have to wake up earlier than expected, your kids may not want to come, you have to wait for SEPTA, find parking, or walk in the cold, you have to interact with a bunch of people which can be less exciting for the more introverted types among us, the preacher does often preach pretty long sermons, and, you know, some weeks it may just feel like you aren’t getting much out of it. It’s not like being here makes you more justified in God’s sight, so why not give it up? I mean, at first you probably won’t stop going entirely, but maybe just plan a few more weekend trips, then come on the weeks you are scheduled to serve. From there, maybe you start blocking out a bit more, and once per month turns into once every other month, and so on, until you finally just give it up. I mean, maybe you’ll still listen to some Christian podcasts that fit your schedule and tastes, and maybe you’ll still meet with 2-3 Christian friends you hand select, but make no mistake about it: That’s neglecting to meet together.


And as I consulted older pastors and theologians on this passage, three of them pointed out that the next stage in that progression of neglecting to meet together is typically letting go of the confession of our hope. Neglecting the meetings of Jesus’ church is one of the first visible signs that someone is on their way to neglecting Jesus himself. Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s prioritize these meetings so that we might encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day drawing near. When you consider one another, consider one another in light of that coming Day, when each one of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and only those who are found in Christ in that day, having lived a life of love and good works, will be saved. When you get out your members’ directory and pray for one another, consider: This person will one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and that day is drawing near.


Some of you I know have run races together; some have even done triathlons together. When you do, you may each go at your own pace, but what do you find yourself doing in those races? You find yourself considering one another: “How’s Tom doing? How’s Caleb doing? How’s Shannon doing?” and if you found yourself next to one another in that race, what would you want to do? Wouldn’t you want to encourage one another to keep going? Well the path set before us toward our heavenly home is one of faith working through love and good works. We gather in this meeting to encourage one another on that path. When we sing to one another, “We will feast in the house of zion, we will sing with our hearts restored, he has done great things, we will say together, we will feast and weep no more” we are encouraging one another to keep going. When we pray together in these services, we pray for God to give us what we need to keep going. When one of us stands up and preaches a sermon from the Bible, he does so to encourage us all toward love and good works as the coming day draws near. And even in the conversations that take place before and after the service when we are together, I often hear encouraging words being spoken toward love and good works.


By the final, once-for-all time sacrifice of Christ, never to be repeated, all the sins of all who draw near to God through him have been forgiven. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence now to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God both together and privately, let us hold fast our confession without wavering, and let us consider one another, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another toward love and good works as we see the final Day drawing near.