Access to God through Christ's sacrifice. 10:19-25
Our passage for study reminds us of Christ's sacrifice and follows this truth up with three consequential exhortations for faith, hope and love.
v19. In our passage for study, our writer summarizes his argument so far and draws out a number of exhortations. The "therefore" is somewhat out of place. The argument is more like: "since we have confidence ..... and since we have a great high priest .... therefore let us draw near ....." The central point our writer makes in the preceding section, and which he summarizes in v19-21, is that a believer has free access into the throne-room of the living God through the sacrificial death of Jesus. We can confidently come into God's presence, free of condemnation, and this because of God's mercy in Christ.
v20. Jesus has provided a new way into God's presence, a new way to find life everlasting. The great curtain that hung before the Holy of Holies in the temple was a reminder that access into God's throne-room was all but impossible. Jesus ripped this curtain apart, providing free access into the presence of God. He did this by allowing his own life to be ripped from him; he gave his life for us.
v21. As well as Jesus' priestly offering of himself as a sacrifice for sin, we also benefit from his priestly reign over us, particularly his intercession for the believing community and his guidance as the great shepherd of the sheep.
v22. Because of Christ's priestly offering and reign, "let us ...." Our writer's first exhortation is that we put our faith in the promise of free access into the presence of the living God. Using sacrificial images from the Old Testament, we are given the image of Jesus sprinkling us with the blood of his perfect sacrifice and washing us clean with pure water. Seeing that we are now free from guilt, nothing more is required of us than to firmly rest in faith on this his mercy.
v23. The second exhortation is that we continue in our confession of hope. The Christian confession is summed up in the gospel as our eternal hope, and it is this we must continue to hold firmly. We worship a reliable God, so we can depend on his promises; our hope is not in vain.
v24-25. The third exhortation is that we be concerned for each other, encouraging each other toward brotherly love and "lovely living." One practical aspect of brotherly love is our regular participation in the worship of the Christian community. Our presence serves as an encouragement to one another as we pass through the shadows of an age fast passing away. So, in this passage we are reminded again of the three pillars of the Christian way: faith, hope and love.
1. The cross prompts faith, hope and love. Give practical examples of each response.
2. Given that regular attendance at church is no longer the norm, determine the relative importance of church attendance.
A Good Friday sacrifice|
Good Friday has generated some rather strange traditions. In some way or other they reflect Christ's sacrifice for us, along with our very compromised and limited response. The Stations of the Cross is one such example, an unusual exercise, but very worthwhile, certainly more useful than choosing to abstain from meat on Good Friday.
When I was a young teenager, our diocese would gather up all the members, servers, choir and the like, and, along with other congregations, we would process through the deserted city streets protesting the opening of the local agricultural show on Good Friday. It was all rather incongruous, including the rally that followed the procession. Of course, the agricultural show was miles away from where we were protesting, which was probably a very wise thing.
Our passage for study contains three exhortations which are based on Christ's sacrifice. In a sense, they define a proper response to the cross. Having a fish meal is one response, but the response outlined in Hebrews has a little more weight to it. Given that Jesus has shed his blood for us, "let us ........" Let us what?
Let us approach God in faith. Jesus has broken through the barrier that separates us from God and has opened a way for us to follow. There can be no greater act of devotion on our part than to follow Jesus through the curtain, to believe in him, to put our trust in him, to rest on his provision. Today, as we focus on the cross, let us again rest on it for our salvation.
Let us continue in our gospel hope. In the Good News, Jesus promises us forgiveness and an eternal right-standing in the sight of God, along with all the blessings that go hand-in-hand with God's gift of new life: a new friendship with God, a new lifestyle, a new freedom from guilt, self and fear, a new community to be part of, and a permanent place in God's new age. Today, as we focus on the cross, let us renew our hope for a better place where every tear will be wiped away, where death will be no more, and where there will be no more crying or pain.
Let us encourage each other toward mutual love. Our writer has in mind practical compassion, "lovely living." He even touches on one particular aspect of brotherly love, our willingness to regularly attend our local church for worship. Today, as we focus on the cross, let us renew our love for one another; let us consider the practical needs of our brothers and sisters, not just in this congregation, but our brothers and sisters scattered throughout the whole world; let us again learn lovely living.
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