The Full Assurance of Faith
Text: Hebrews 10:19-11:3
A new and living way
Jesus’ sacrifice gives us confidence to enter the holy of holies (Ephesians 2:18; 3:12). Under the Old Law, only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies once a year, but Jesus’ shed blood allows all Christians the freedom to approach God. The writer of Hebrews thus returns to the topic he introduced in Hebrews 3:6 - we must hold on to our confidence firm until the end. Now we learn that Jesus aids us in giving us the confidence that we need.
A new and living way before God was consecrated by Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross (John 14:6). It is new because Jesus’ sacrifice was not like the sacrifices under the Old Testament and the way into the kingdom is not like the way under the Old Testament. It is living because Jesus did not remain dead as did the animal sacrifices under the Old Testament. It is also living in the sense that Jesus’ sacrifice is ever giving, much like Jesus’ comments about “living water” in John 4:10-14.
The writer then explains what that way is:
- Faith - Drawing near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (vs 22). As we come to God to worship we must do so sincerely (John 4:23-24) and without doubt. There is no need for doubt given Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
- Repentance - Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (vs 22). The sacrifices of the Old Testament could not make the conscience perfect (Hebrews 9:9), but Jesus’ sacrifice does purify us. There is no more guilt because we know we have been forgiven.
- Baptism - Having our bodies washed with pure water (vs 22). Under the Old Law, the priest had to wash before coming before God (Leviticus 16:24). Christians, too, wash before serving God (I Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-7; Ephesians 5:25-27).
- Confession - Holding fast the confession of our hope without wavering (vs 23). Our confession of Jesus is not a one-time event but a manner of life (Romans 10:8-11). Because God keeps His promises faithfully, we too must remain loyal to God (I Thessalonians 5:23-24; II Thessalonians 3:3). Here the writer returns to the same topic mentioned in Hebrews 6:9-19.
- Obedience - Provoking one another unto love and good works (vs 24). Again, the writer brings up the topic he mentioned in Hebrews 6:9-11. God has shown His love toward us, so we must stir up the same love and desire to obey in each other (I Thessalonians 4:9; I Peter 1:22; I John 3:16-18).
- Fellowship - Not forsaking our own assembling together (vs 25). It is in the times we gather together to worship that we can encourage each other to greater service. It becomes increasingly urgent as we see Judgment Day approaching. Jesus’ death is proof that Judgment is coming (Acts 17:31).
Jesus is our High Priest who oversees those traveling that way (Hebrews 10:21; 3:6; I Timothy 3:15).
- Some see “the Day” in Hebrews 10:25 to refer to either:
- The day of our death
- The destruction of Jerusalem, which would shake the faith of Jewish Christians
- The Judgment Day when Jesus return
What are points in favor or against each view?
Hebrews 10:26 starts out with a "for," which means building on the point previously made. Therefore, to understand Hebrews 10:26, we first must be aware of the previous point covered in Hebrews 10:23-25.
The writer's emphasis throughout Hebrews is the need for Christians to remain stable. Look at each of the following verses and tell how we retain our stability:
- Hebrews 3:5-6
- Hebrews 3:14
- Hebrews 4:11
- Hebrews 4:14
- Hebrews 6:11-12
- Hebrews 10:24-25
Another aspect of stability comes from our growth in knowing God’s word (Hebrews 5:13-14). And that knowledge has to be applied if it is to be retained (James 1:21-25).
Willfully continuing to sin
So what happens to Christians who choose to be unfaithful and sin? The writer is not talking about those are deceived into sinning or who sin in a moment of weakness, but those, who know full well that it is wrong, purposely choose to sin and remain in it (Numbers 15:30). This person cannot claim to be ignorant of what God teaches, He has "received the knowledge of the truth."
It comes back to the question Paul once asked, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). A person cannot be saved while continuing to live in sin. Following Christ is about removing sin from our lives, not wallowing in it. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6).
When such a person chooses to return to sin, he has rejected the salvation offered to him by the Lord Jesus. There is no other way to be saved (John 14:6). There is nothing else to be offered to save him from his sins. It is the same state spoken of earlier in Hebrews 6:4-6.
It isn't that such a person cannot be saved, but that he cannot be saved while he remains in that state and there is nothing additional which will be offered by God to persuade him out of that state. It is impossible for Christians to encourage such a person to be faithful. Perhaps such a person will realize the error of his way and turn back to God, but it is unlikely since he has turned his back on the one available means of salvation.
Purposely remaining in sin brings us back to the points made earlier. Such a person has trampled the Son of God (Hebrews 9:11-12), regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant (Hebrews 9:15) by which he was sanctified and insulted the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
Thus, all that remains is an expectation of hell because he will have no adequate excuse to offer God in Judgment (Zephaniah 1:18). If the Old Law took a firm stand against sinners where men were judges and you needed several witnesses to prove the facts (Deuteronomy 13:6-10; 17:2-13), what would a person expect facing the all-knowing God in Judgment with the Book of Life opened to show the record of all things he ever did. And then to be charged with purposely defying the Judge and Creator's own Son! God promised judgment and retribution (Deuteronomy 32:35-36). As the writer concludes: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).
- You are talking to someone involved in sin and he tells you: "I know it is wrong, but I'm sure God would want me to be happy and He will overlook this." How would you respond?
- What is the significance of bringing up willfully continuing in sin after discussing the need to encourage each other in our assemblies? Is there a connection?
You need endurance
Those who are returning to sin ought to remember their early days as Christians. When the church first started, there was a great deal of persecution taking place (Acts 8:1-3; Romans 8:18; II Corinthians 1:6-8; II Timothy 1:8; I Peter 5:9). Even if they personally did not face the persecution, they knew people who did endure them (II Corinthians 11:25-26).
The point about being made public spectacles indicates that the writer is not just talking about the Jewish persecution of the church (Matthew 10:17-18), but also some later Roman persecutions who often used public humiliation a part of their punishments (I Corinthians 4:9; I Thessalonians 2:14).
It was the knowledge of the reward that they got them through the persecution (II Thessalonians 1:4-5; I Peter 1:3-4). After demonstrating such strength and enduring so much hardship, it is sad that some give up before receiving a reward for what they have gone through (Matthew 5:10-12).
There is a variation in the text of Hebrews 10:34 regarding whether they showed compassion on those in bonds in general or had compassion on the writer while he was in bonds. The weight of the textual evidence leans toward the latter. The chief argument for the former tends to be that it sounds too much like Paul’s description of his bondage, which is a very weak reason. Regardless, the writer is reminding those who are returning to sin that at one time they had sided with fellow Christians who had been imprisoned and had faced the ceasing of their own property with joy.
Endurance is needed in continuing to do God’s will (James 1:3-4; Luke 21:19; I Timothy 4:8). Quoting Habakkuk 2:3-4, the writer points out that the amount of time we need to endure is relatively short. The quote is from the Septuagint translation, though inverting the order of the phrases, as the last phrase is “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him” in the Hebrew text instead of “If he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” It is also an allusion to Jesus’ statement to the disciples in John 16:16. The coming here is likely referring to coming in judgment to punish the persecutors (Luke 21:8). The passage quoted from Habakkuk 2:5-20 dealt with the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and could have a similar application here with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. However, it could also apply to Jesus’ second coming (Luke 18:8).
Hebrews 10:38-39 forms a short chiasm:
But My righteous one shall live
And if he shrinks back,
My soul has not pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction,
But of those who have faith
to the preserving of the soul.
Thus, because we do not wish to displease God, we will not give up our faith and confidence and shrink back into the world of sin.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for
Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The word "substance" comes from the Greek word hupostasis, which refers to an object that is underneath and supports the object above it. In other words, faith is the foundation for hope. It is also called the "evidence." The word "evidence" comes from the Greek word elegchos, which refers to something proved to the point of conviction. Of this word, Adam Clarke stated, that elegchos "signifies such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain, because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be; and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, and is proved to be."
Thus, faith is
- the foundation of the things we hope are true and
- the evidence of things we have not experienced.
Faith, then, is the foundation on which the rest of Christianity is built. It allows us to act as if these things are so. You may have never been to Sidney, Australia, but you could plan a trip there, confident that such a place exists. In a similar way, without seeing God, angels, or heaven, we can act in confidence that such exist.
Faith is also the confidence in a convincing argument of what you have not witnessed. When all the evidence is weighed and you conclude that it cannot be anything else but that conclusion, then you have faith that you made the right decision. A jury, after listening to the evidence, draws a conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the one charged with a crime. They did not witness the crime, but their confidence in the resulting conclusion allows them to give a sentence.
When we talk about the faith of people mentioned in the Bible, we are not talking about people convinced of things that cannot be true or beyond reason.
It is by faith that we know that God created the universe by His Word and that the universe was created from nothing. No one was there when God did these things. Instead, we examine the evidence and conclude that there is no other conclusion than that the universe was designed and made by the God spoken of in the Bible.