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Combining Doctrine with Faith

Hebrews 10:19-39

Jim Davis

The major theme of Hebrews is "God has spoken--how are you responding to his Word?" The Old Testament writers insisted on relating their teaching to the social, political and economic problems of their day. The New Testament writers were like the Old Testament writers in that they insist on combing doctrine with faith. Too often, we love studying the great doctrinal themes of the Bible without relating doctrine to our personal lives. In Hebrews, the writer understands that the supremacy of Christ will not achieve anything until it relates to everyday living. This is why from Hebrews 10:19 to the closing of the book the writer of Hebrews exhorts Christians to apply the doctrine of Christ to their everyday lives.

What purpose is there in acknowledging Christ's supremacy with our lips if it is not evident in our lives? Correct doctrine has no value if it does not produce consistent behavior. Jesus insisted upon correct doctrine as well as consistent behavior. There is no way that we can understand the need for Christ's sacrifice for our sins without seeking to rid our lives of sin. If you refuse to rid your life of sin, you don't understand the gravity of your sin, and you can't understand the supremacy of Christian living.

These verses record the fourth warning issued to the Hebrews. They were warned about drifting from the word (2:1-4), which led them to doubting the word (3:17-4:13). Doubting the word led to dullness in hearing the word (5:11-6:20), which led them to despising the word (10:26-39).

So much has been done for the readers of the Hebrew letter. However, the writer presses his point home as he exhorts and encourages, illustrates and warns them of the need to appropriate their blessings in Christ. There are certain things they must do if they wish to avail themselves of the supremacy of Christ's sacrifice.

They Must Enter Into God's Presence (10:19-22)

The doctrine of Christ's supremacy must translate into a living confidence that draws us near to God.

Hebrews 10:19-22
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (NIV)

We must enter God's presence with full assurance of the blessings we seek. Otherwise, a double minded person will become unstable in all his/her ways (James 1:5-8) We can enter God's presence with confidence knowing that Christ has cleansed us from our sins. The tabernacle encouraged the worshippers to keep their distance, but Christ encourages us to draw near. Their faith was tentative and fearful, but ours is to be confident and joyous.

Hebrews 9:13-14
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (NIV)

1 Peter 1:2
" . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance." (NIV)

It will do us little good to know that Christ is in God's presence, if we refuse to sincerely follow him into God's presence. The curtain was torn in two when Christ died upon the cross for the purpose of letting us into God's presence. The only way to avail yourself of the blessings Christ appropriated for you is for you to enter into God's presence. The writer says, "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (10:22)

Assurance is the only thing that can create a real desire to live in God's presence. It is the one thing we need to motivate us to living righteous lives. A desire to draw near to God will cleanse our lives from sin.

James 4:8-10
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)

They Must Live Unswervingly (10:23-25)

Hebrews 10:23-25
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. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you (NIV)

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (10:23).Professing our faith is the only sure way to hold on to our hope in Christ. The Hebrews were in the process of drifting away because they were afraid to profess their faith in their daily lives. They were beginning to miss the assemblies because they despised the persecution it brought. The assembly was a means of professing their faith. They had stopped professing their faith as they neglected the assemblies for the purpose of escaping persecution. If they missed the assembly of the saints, they would not be identified with Christ.

I have preached funerals where the families tell me that the deceased faith was a personal faith and he really never discussed what he believed. If we are not discussing what we believe with others we are not professing our faith. We must profess our faith by what we say and do.

I found a man's wallet in the parking lot of Best Buy a few days ago. I found a phone number in the wallet, so I called the man's home on my cell phone as soon as I found it. He wasn't there so I left a message. He called me while I was doing my shopping and we agreed to meet in front of the store so that I could give him his wallet back. He came within about 15 minutes. As I talked to him, he related that he had found a ladies wallet sometime ago. He couldn't find a phone number in it, but he did find her address. She lived in South St. Petersburg. So he took the wallet to her. I wondered if God wasn't blessing that man through me because he had found a wallet and returned it. He wanted to give me some money for finding his wallet, but I refused. I told him I wouldn't feel right if I did that. I never told him who I was and we never talked about our belief system, but when he left, he said, "May God bless you." It was then that I knew that this man was seeking to allow God to guide his life. Both of us were professing our faith in God through our actions, although we never discussed our doctrines.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (10:24).This is the kind of profession the Hebrew writer is concerned about. In a society where Christ is not loved and his standards are not honored, Christians must hold unswervingly to the hope they profess. When we are determined to live righteous lives the world will take note and God will reward us, for his promises are sure.

Although I didn't know that man I met in that parking lot personally, he encouraged me to continue to do what was right. His gratitude and his life encouraged me. I saw him living by the same values we embrace.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you the Day approaching" (10:25). Mutual encouragement is absolutely essential to professing our faith to a lost world. Christianity is not lived in solitary confinement. The Hebrew writer is not just encouraging us to fellowship, he is encouraging us exercise compassion as we actively live for Christ. This compassion must begin in the fellowship of the saints before it can effectively radiate out into a dark world. The world must observe that we are unswervingly holding on to what we believe. It is essential that we hold on, but it is also essential that we encourage others to hold on through the lifestyle we embrace.

There is no way you can read these verses and justify fellowships that continue to splinter. If splintered groups say anything, they tell us about the lack of compassion within the fellowship. In light of God's coming, we need to consider how to provoke each other to love and good works. The world is already seeking to provoke us to anger. We certainly don't need more of that when we come to church.

They must Understand that God Will Judge His People (10:26-35)

The incentive for encouraging one another is because "the Day is approaching." They were encouraged in light of God's judgment. In whatever way we suffer on earth as we seek to draw near to God, it will be nothing in comparison with the suffering we will experience if we are lost.

Hebrews 10:26-35
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. (NIV)

The writer is not dealing with the weak backslider or the penitent offender. He is speaking of those who have deserted their faith. There is a vast difference between individual lapses through weakness and total abandonment of faith. However, abandoning one's faith begins with drifting away (2:1-4), which may initially begin subtly.

We must remember where sin leads. "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." (10:26-27) The Hebrews seek to return to Judaism, and in so doing " . . . they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" (6:6).

In refusing the sacrifice of Christ the Hebrews were " . . . insulting the Spirit of grace . . . " (10:29) When the Galatians sought to return to Judaism, Paul said they had fallen from grace.

Galatians 5:1-6
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (NIV)

Those seeking to return to Judaism were rejecting the very thing they sought to return to, for it was Judaism that had brought them to the supreme sacrifice of Christ. To reject Christ was to reject the very purpose for which Judaism was established. The fulfillment of Judaism was found in Christ. If you go back to Judaism, you not only reject Christ but you reject every sacrifice ever made for sin under Judaism, for every animal sacrifice pointed to the cross. It is easy to understand how one could fall from grace. There is little wonder why there are no sacrifices offered in Jerusalem today; when the Jews rejected Christ, God destroyed their means of making any sacrifice through the destruction of Jerusalem.

What would be the purpose of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem today, since Christ died to take away the old system of worship? To rebuild the temple would be to deny that we are the temple of God. To seek to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem today would be to destroy God's true temple today. It would be to reject the indwelling of God today.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 6:16
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (NIV)

The tone of Hebrews to those who have insulted the Spirit of grace is heart rending. The writer knows how serious it is but he is "persuaded better things" of them (6:9). He knows that they may reach a point of no return (6:1-6), but he pleads with them to renew their faith. They are reminded that God will not forget the Christian love they had extended to others before they began to drift.

Hebrews 6:10-12
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)

The Hebrews are reminded of God's judgment if they fail. "For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (10:29-31)

As you listen to the tone of the letter, you begin to realize that the writer is seeking to remind them of the severity and the goodness of God's love. "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded" (10:32-35).

Paul reminded the Romans who were seeking to go back to the Old Covenant of the goodness and severity of God. Paul wrote, "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22 NIV)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God for judgment, but it is a wonderful thing to fall into the hands of God for cleansing and restoration.

1 Chronicles 21:10-13
"Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.'" So Gad went to David and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD-- days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me." David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." (NIV)

We Must Hold on to Our Faith (10:36-39)

Hebrews 10:35-39
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (NIV)

Holding on to our faith in difficult times requires endurance. It is no accident that the writer reminds us of those who faithfully endured in chapter 11. In our day of instant gratification, it is easy to lose the patience essential to endurance. We must remember that God is not slack in his promises, but he is working his plan to save in an effort to save all.

2 Peter 3:8-13
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (NIV)

The only true motivation for patience endurance is an appreciation of what we already have. The Hebrew writer has already reminded the readers of the supremacy of their blessings in Christ in an effort to get them to respond out of gratitude. When we lose an appreciation for what we have, the blessings we have become a curse. When we only see what we haven't accomplished, what is wrong and what we lack, we will fail to praise God for the blessings we have in his Son. This is where we find the Hebrews.

Conclusion:

Someone said, "Patience is the ability to stand something as long as it happens to the other fellow." However, true patience is when our personal suffering turns us to God through our willingness to endure. Returning to God in times of suffering reveals that we are indeed his children. In human life there are many ways to establish paternity: "blood types, hospital records. But the simplest and most eloquent testimony comes from the children themselves. They have been told their entire lives that they belong to us. We have shown them that we love them. They respond, 'Daddy! Mommy!'" So it is with us and God through our willingness to call him our Father by accepting his Son.

Writing for Time magazine, Harrison E. Salisbury suggested that every major revolution seems to need a symbol of great hardship that is endured and overcome. For the Americans of two centuries ago, that symbol was George Washington and what he and his men endured at Valley Forge. For the Chinese Red Army, that symbol was The Long March of 1934-35. An army of 80,000 men endured enormous hardship on a 6,000-mile march. The army was reduced to 4,000, but the survivors developed a toughness and courage that later enabled them to conquer all of China.

Salisbury's principle has a parallel in the Bible. For the revolution of New Testament faith, the Christian has a real-life symbol of suffering and triumph in the person of Christ Himself. So the author of Hebrews wrote, "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (12:3).

 

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