PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Sin Put Away by Christ's Sacrifice||Animal Sacrifices Insufficient||Characteristics of the Sacrifice of Christ||Christ's Sacrifice Takes Away Sins||The Old Sacrifice Ineffective|
|Christ's Death Fulfills God's Will|
|Christ's Death Perfects the Sanctified||The Efficacy of Christ's Sacrifice|
|Exhortation and Warning||Hold Fast Your Confession||Exhortation and Warnings||Let Us Come Near to God||The Christian Opportunity|
|The Just Live by Faith||The Danger of Apostasy|
|Motives for Perseverence|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. The literary unit begins in chapter 8:1 and continues through 10:18.
B. This alludes to the three ways in which the ministry of Jesus is superior to the ministry of the Levitical priests.
1. Jesus' superior sacrifice (His own blood, cf. 9:12-14)
2. Jesus' once-for-all offering (see full note at 7:27)
3. Jesus' heavenly, not earthly, sanctuary (cf. 9:11)
C. The verb teleioō is used repeatedly in Hebrews.
1. 2:10, Jesus made perfect through suffering
2. 5:9, Jesus made perfect and became the source of eternal salvation
3. 7:19, Mosaic Law made nothing perfect
4. 7:28, Jesus made perfect
5. 9:9, Mosaic ritual not able to make worshipers' consciences perfect
6. 10:1, Mosaic ritual unable to make worshipers perfect
7. 10:1, Jesus' offering made believers perfect forever
8. 11:40, OT and NT saints perfected together
9. 12:23, spirits of righteous men made perfect
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:1-10
1For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
"Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
6in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
7"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come
(in the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Your will, O God.'"
8After saying above, "Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law),9 then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will." He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
10:1 "shadow" The Mosaic legislation ("The Law") and rituals were a type and foreshadow of Jesus' high priestly ministry in the heavenly tabernacle, not made with human hands (cf. 8:5; 9:23-28).
The Jerome Biblical Commentary has an interesting comment:
"Here the author is not using ‘shadow' as he does in 8:5, where the Platonic heavenly-earthly contrast is intended, but in the Pauline sense of a foreshadowing of that which is to come through Christ (cf. Col. 2:17). . .The annually repeated Day of Atonement sacrifices were not able to remove sin; they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus" (p. 399).
▣ "of the good things to come" In 9:11 this referred to the high priestly ministry of Christ.
NASB"not the very form of things"
NKJV"not the very image of the things"
NRSV"not the true form of these realities"
TEV"not a full and faithful model of the real things"
NJB"no true image of them"
This is the Greek term icon, which means a detailed reproduction that corresponds to reality (cf. II Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). Here it is negated and grammatically linked to "a shadow."
▣ "the same sacrifices they offer continually year by year" Jesus offers one effective sacrifice. Priests offer again and again.
▣ "make perfect" This term means "to bring to completion," "to fully accomplish." This word (teleioō and its other forms) has been a constant theme throughout the book. See Special Topic at 7:11.
The term telos
1. means "a consummation," "to reach a goal," or "end" (cf. 3:6,14; 6:11)
2. in Heb. 5:14 teleios is used of a mature person
3. in 6:1 teleiotes is a call to maturity
4. the terms are used in connection with the ministry of Melchizedek and the heavenly tabernacle in 7:11 and 9:11
▣ "those who draw near" In the OT this referred to priests approaching YHWH for worship or ministry. But here, under the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34), it refers to all believers (cf. James 4:8) who now have intimate access to God through Christ (cf. 4:16; 7:19,25; 10:1,22)
This is a second class conditional sentence, often called "contrary to fact." A false assertion is made to forcibly make a theological point (cf. 4:8; 7:11; 8:4,7; 10:2; 11:15).
Verse 2 can be translated as
1. a question expecting a "yes" answer, as in NASB, NRSV, NAB
2. a partial question, as in NKJV, NIV
3. a statement, as in TEV, NJB, REB
▣ "would they not have ceased to be offered" This may imply (cf. v. 11; 7:28) that the Temple was still functioning; therefore, Hebrews may have been written before a.d. 70, when the Temple (and Jerusalem) were totally destroyed by the Roman general (later Emperor) Titus.
▣ "because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins" This was the problem with the Mosaic ritual: it could not cleanse the heart and mind of guilt (cf. 9:9,14). The new covenant in Christ gives access to God with boldness (a clear conscience)!
10:3 "reminder of sins year by year" This seems to refer to the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16), since this was the focus of chapter 9, but it could refer to the entire sacrificial system. The fact that yearly sacrifices were needed to cleanse the tabernacle and the nation, continued to remind the Israelites of the seriousness and repetitiveness of human sin and guilt (cf. Galatians 3).
10:4 "for it is impossible" The word impossible is used several times in Hebrews (see full note at 6:6).
1. 6:4 (in Greek, but 6:6 in NASB's restructuring). It is impossible to renew them to repentance
2. 6:18, it is impossible for God to lie
3. 10:4, it is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin
4. 11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God
For the author of Hebrews the Greek term "impossible" cannot mean "difficult"!
NASB"when He comes into the world, He says"
NKJV"when He came into the world, He said"
NRSV"when Christ came into the world, He said"
TEV"when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God"
NJB"and that is why he said, on coming into the world"
This introduces a quote (cf. vv. 5-7) from Ps. 40:6-8, which shows YHWH's displeasure with the OT sacrifices because they were not accompanied by lifestyle faith. Our author uses Ps. 40:7 as an allusion to the coming Messiah who would perfectly please God.
This quote also implies the pre-existence of Christ (cf. John 1:1-2; 8:57-58; II Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-7; I John 1:1). There has never been a time when Christ did not exist! His one essence with the Father can be documented from John 5:18; 10:30; 14:9; 10:28.
▣ "a body you have prepared for me" This quote follows the Septuagint of Ps. 40:6. The Masoretic Text has "an ear you have dug for me." The specific mention of a physical body prepared for the Messiah would also function in the late first century to combat incipient Gnosticism. Jesus was truly human.
10:6 There are several passages like this in the OT (cf. I Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11-17; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-27; Micah 6:6-8). They must not be interpreted as God rejecting the sacrificial system, which was an act of His grace to deal with mankind's sin and fellowship problem for a limited time. But fallen humanity took advantage of the procedures and turned them into mechanical ritual and liturgy instead of heartfelt repentance and faith. God rejects the perfunctory performance of religious ritual and liturgy that does not reflect the heart and life of faith (cf. Isa. 1).
10:7 "In the scroll of the book it is written" This is a perfect passive, which refers to the Old Testament. Originally the OT was written in sections on leather scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 had a copy of Isaiah written on one twenty-nine foot leather scroll.
▣ "to do your will, o God" God's will was a new covenant with all humanity established by Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:9). When animals died in sacrificial offerings they had no choice. Jesus willingly laid down His own life (cf. John 10:17-18).
10:8 "sacrifices" This list of four terms in verse 8 seems to cover all types of sacrificial offerings (cf. Leviticus 1-7). The term "sacrifices" literally means a voluntary peace offering.
▣ "offerings" This refers to a voluntary "meal offering."
▣ "burnt offerings" These were completely voluntary ,wholly consumed sacrifices.
▣ "sacrifices for sin" This is another class of mandatory sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus chapters 4-5.
▣ "(which are offered according to the Law)" The author's purpose is to show the superiority of Jesus' sacrifice over the Levitical sacrifices. Even when OT sacrifices were performed with the appropriate attitude and procedures, they were only a foreshadowing of the work of Christ.
10:9 "He" This PRONOUN'S antecedent is ambiguous. It could refer to the Father as the One who inaugurates the covenant. Also the phrase "the body of Jesus Christ" in v. 10 implies He is not the subject. However, all the VERBS in the quote from Ps. 40:6-8 (vv. 5-7) have Christ as their subject.
▣ "the first" This refers to the Mosaic covenant (cf. Col. 2:14).
NASB, NKJV"takes away"
TEV"does away with"
This is a strong Greek term for "destroy" (anaireō). The question is how to understand this term in relation to the OT? As a revelation from God it is eternal (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). Paul often quotes the OT as an exhortation to believers. However, as a means of salvation or forgiveness of sin it was only a preliminary stage (cf. Gal. 3). It has been fulfilled and exceeded in the NT in Christ. Context must determine whether this term is to be translated "taken away" (fulfilled) or "abolished" (destroyed).
▣ "the second" This refers to the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-36) in Jesus.
NASB, NKJV"By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"
NRSV"And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"
TEV"Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that he made of his own body once and for all"
NJB"And the will was for us to be made holy by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ made once for all"
Does "the will" refer to Christ's will (cf. vv. 7,9 and NASB, NJB) or to the Father's will (NRSV, TEV)? Since Jesus is the one speaking in v. 5 (cf. v. 9), then the context suggests His will.
▣ "we have been sanctified" This is a periphrastic perfect passive participle. The goal of Christianity is a righteous people. This was the goal of the OT also. Holiness or sanctification basically is the removal of the curse and consequences of the Fall (cf. Gen. 3), the marring of the image of God in mankind. The new covenant addresses this need in two ways: (1) by a legal declaration, a given position (indicative) and (2) by a call to holiness (imperative). Believers are justified and sanctified by a repentant faith response to God's redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Once saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are motivated by an internal law, an internal desire (new heart and new spirit) to be Christlike (cf. Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4). Sanctification affects both our standing before God and our new family characteristics lived out in daily life. See Special Topic at 2:11.
▣ "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" Fallen mankind did not pursue God (cf. Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:10-18); God pursued them! He provided a way for all humans to return to fellowship with Him (cf. Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53).
▣ "once for all" This is a recurrent theme (cf. 7:27; 9:12,28; 10:10, see full note at 7:27). It shows the superiority of Jesus' sacrifice over the repeated sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant (cf. vv. 11-12). Everything that needs to be done for mankind's salvation has been provided. All we must do is respond to God's offer through faith in the finished work of Christ. "Whosoever will may come" (cf. Rom. 10).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:11-18
11And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
16"This is the covenant that I will make with them
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind I will write them,"
He then says, 17
"And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more."
18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
10:11 "every priest" The ancient Greek uncial manuscript A has "high priest." The author often uses both terms for Jesus.
▣ "stands" The priest stands every year to offer sacrifices, but Jesus "sits" (v. 12), His work done!
10:12 "one sacrifice for sins for all times" Jesus has dealt with the human sin problem. No one is lost because of "sin." The only barrier to all the world being saved is unbelief. God has provided a way for all, for all time.
The Greek term diēnekēs, translated "forever," or "for all time," occurs in Hebrews three times (cf. 7:3; 10:12,14). It is usually associated with the term or phrase that precedes it, which would relate it to "one sacrifice for sins." It is not part of the Ps. 110:1 quotation which follows.
▣ "sat down at the right hand of God" This is a recurring allusion to Ps. 110:1a (cf. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2). The "right hand" is an anthropomorphic metaphor to the place of royal power, authority, and preeminence. It is also the place of intercession (cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; I John 2:1).
Jesus is the Priest (cf. Ps. 110:4) and King (cf. Ps. 110:1-3), like Melchizedek (chapter 7) who has gone before us and provided everything that we need.
10:13 "until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet" This is another quote from Ps. 110:1b. The spiritual battle has been won (cf. Col. 2:15), but not yet consummated.
10:14 This verse shows the tension of the whole book in the area of security. Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice has permanently perfected (perfect active indicative) believers (see Special Topic at 7:11). The sacrifice is adequate and complete to accomplish its redemptive task (unlike the Mosaic covenant, cf. 7:11,19; 9:9).
Believers must continue in their faith response, which is sanctifying them (present passive participle). Continuing faith is the key to individual assurance of salvation. The new heart and new mind (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38) motivates believers to live godly lives in gratitude for a free, complete, and comprehensive salvation. In this book there is never a question about the adequacy of Jesus' sacrifice, but there is a question about individual response—one group's initial profession and a second group's continuing profession.
10:15 "the Holy Spirit" This shows the author's view of the inspiration of the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-19; II Tim. 3:16).
10:16-17 This is a quote from Jer. 31:33-34, but the order of the phrases is reversed. The author seems to have quoted from memory because this quote differs from the Masoretic Hebrew Text and the Septuagint, as does the same quote in 8:10-12 (unless it was a purposeful reversal).
10:18 This is the climax of the believers' argument and our great hope (the first way has passed away, cf. 8:13).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:19-25
19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
NASB, NRSV"since we have confidence"
NJB"we have. . .complete confidence"
The term parrhēsia means "boldness" or "the freedom to speak" (cf. 3:6; 4:16; 10:19,35). This term expresses the believers' new sense of acceptance and intimacy with God. This is what the Law of Moses could not provide (cf. 9:9)! This confidence must be held fast by faith (cf. 3:6,14; 4:14). Confidence is based on the finished sacrificial work of Christ (cf. Eph. 2:8-9), not human performance! Confidence is maintained by godly living (cf. Eph. 2:10).
▣ "to enter the holy place" Remember, one of the key themes of the book is access to God by means of our forgiveness through Christ's life and death on our behalf. The high priests of the OT entered the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle twice on one day of the year (cf. 9:25), the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). But now through Christ's sacrifice all believers can have continual intimate access to God (another metaphor for access is the veil torn from top to bottom, cf. Matt. 27:51, cf. Mark 15:38).
▣ "by the blood of Jesus" This is not magical blood, but human blood. It represents Jesus' sacrificial death on behalf of sinful mankind (cf. Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:12,14; 12:24; 13:12; I Pet. 1:2,19; Rev. 1:5; 5:9).
10:20 "new" The term prosphatos means "freshly slain" and is only used here in the NT.
▣ "living way" This is an affirmation of the resurrection. He was slain, but now He is alive (cf. Rev. 5:6) forevermore!
NKJV"consecrated for us"
NRSV, TEV"he opened for us"
NJB"has opened for us"
This is an aorist active indicative. This "new and living way" is an accomplished, historical, spiritual reality.
The Greek-English Lexicon by Walter Bauer, updated by Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, lists two different translations for this term in this context.
1. to open a way (10:20)
2. inaugurate or dedicate with solemn rites (9:18) (p. 215).
The context suggests to me a closer link between these two occurrences of this rare NT term. Again, the comparison of the covenants is in view; by His blood Jesus has opened a far better way of approaching God and maintaining fellowship.
▣ "through the veil" This relates to the inner veil in the tabernacle between the holy place and the holy of holies (cf. Matt. 27:51). Here the veil was Jesus' "flesh." This then would refer to Jesus' body being broken for our sins, thus, providing access to God (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12). The author of Hebrews sees the outer part of the shrine (holy place) as representing the physical realm and the inner shrine (holy of holies) the spiritual realm. In this light the heavenly tabernacle contrasts the earthly pattern (cf. 6:19).
10:21 "a great priest" See Special Topic: Jesus As High Priest at 2:17.
▣ "the house of God" This refers to OT (cf. 3:5) and NT (cf. 3:6; I Tim. 3:15; I Pet. 4:17) believers (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). As Moses was a servant in God's house, Jesus is the High Priest and Son!
10:22 "let us draw near" This is a present middle (deponent) subjunctive. Believers' confidence is based on Jesus' finished work, but this benefit and privilege must be embraced! The "drawing near" is used of worshipers' approaching God. Notice the progression:
1. let us draw near with a sincere heart (v. 22)
2. let us hold fast the confession of our hope (v. 23)
3. let us consider how to stimulate one another (v. 24)
The new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) is a new heart and a new spirit; an internal love and an external law; a free gift in the finished work of Christ, but it also has requirements, expected fruit, observable consequences! Confidence of salvation issues in godly living! It is not primarily a creed to affirm, nor a theology to embrace, but a Christlikeness (not sinlessness) which is evident to all!
Notice the lists of requirements for "drawing near."
1. with a sincere heart
2. in full assurance of faith
3. having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
4. our bodies washed with pure water
▣ "sincere heart" An appropriate attitude is the key to the new faith covenant (positive, cf. Ezek. 36:22-36; negative, Isa. 29:13). See Special Topic at 3:8.
▣ "in full assurance of faith" Full assurance is linked to faith! Assurance is based on
1. a life of faith as the evidence of conversion (cf. James 2:14-26)
2. the finished work of Christ (cf. II Cor. 5:21)
3. the witness of the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:16)
Human effort cannot bring salvation or assurance. However, a changed and changing life of faith is the evidence that one has truly been redeemed. The normal result of meeting a Holy God is a holy life of service.
Biblical assurance was never meant to be turned into a doctrine to be affirmed, but a life to be lived! For those who claim to know Christ but live apathetic, indifferent, worldly, self-centered, unfruitful, non-productive, godless lives—there is no assurance! See Special Topic at 3:14.
▣ "having our hearts sprinkled clean" This is a perfect passive participle which is an allusion to the ritual inauguration of the first covenant (cf. Exod. 24:8; I Pet. 1:2). The sprinkling of the blood of the new covenant is much more effective in cleansing fallen mankind's guilt (cf. 9:9,14).
▣ "from an evil conscience" This is what the OT could not remove (cf. 9:9; 10:2). However, I Pet. 3:21 draws a similar connection between baptism and a clear conscience.
▣ "our bodies washed with pure water" This is a present passive participle. It is possible this is another allusion to the actions of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, a historical analogy to OT washing by sprinkling (cf. Lev. 8:6; 16:4; Exod.29:4; 30:17-21; Num. 19:7-8). This does not refer to Christian baptism.
This is another OT allusion to ceremonial washings. It clearly shows that the ritual use of water can refer to (1) death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:1-11 and Col. 2:12) and (2) a washing away of sin (cf. Acts 22:16; I Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5; and I Pet. 3:21). The water is not the mechanism, but a metaphor. Since the early church had no buildings, people did not come to the front to publicly trust Christ as they do in many churches today. Their public confession and profession was their baptism. It was the occasion for and illustration of the forgiveness of sins and receiving the Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38) not the means.
10:23 "let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" This is a present active subjunctive used as an imperative. This is the second of three present subjunctives that show an expected faith (but contingent) response.
▣ "hope" The KJV has "faith," but it has no Greek manuscript support. The term "hope" often refers to our glorification at the Second Coming (cf. 3:6; 6:11,18; 7:19; I John 3:2).
NASB"for He who promised is faithful"
NKJV"for He who promised is faithful"
NRSV"for he who has promised is faithful"
TEV"because we can trust God to keep his promise"
NJB"because the one who made the promise is trustworthy"
The only verb is an aorist middle (deponent) participle, "promised." This is the theological balance to the three "let us. . ." statements of vv. 22-24. This paradox of a free salvation, provided, produced, and protected by God, must produce an appropriate covenantal human response! God's sovereignty and mankind's free will are both biblical truths and must be held in tension.
The trustworthiness of God is the believers' strongest confidence (cf. 11:11). God's promises are sure; God's Word is true!
10:24 "let us consider" This is a present active subjunctive. The author uses several different words related to our thinking about theological issues.
1. consider, katanoeō, 1:1; 10:24 (cf. Luke 12:24,27)
2. observe, theōreō, 7:4
3. consider, analogizomai, 12:3
4. considering, anatheōreō, 13:7
Believers must think through their faith.
1. why it is true
2. how to apply it
3. how to help others
4. what is the main purpose
▣ "how to stimulate one another" This is a strong Greek term usually with a negative connotation. It is used only twice in the NT. The other place is Paul and Barnabas' argument in Acts 15:39. This may reflect tension between believing and unbelieving Jews worshiping in a synagogue, which best explains the groups ("us," "you," and "them") of Hebrews 6.
▣ "to love and good deeds" These are the true fruits of Christianity!
10:25 Verses 24-25 list three things that believers should do.
1. stimulate one another to love and good deeds
2. assemble together (root meaning of "synagogue," used only here in the NT)
3. encourage one another because the Second Coming is approaching
This is the only text in the NT which encourages believers to gather for worship. This may reflect the historical setting of Roman persecution directed toward Christianity (a non-approved religion) versus the relative acceptance of Judaism (an approved religion). It may also reflect different worship days. Very early after the Church began to spread within Judaism, the rabbis (i.e., revival of pharisaic Judaism at Jamnia around a.d. 90) developed a "curse" oath required of every member of the synagogue, which involved rejecting Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. At this point most believers left the synagogue with its Sabbath schedule but continued in their Sunday worship with the Church. James 2:2 uses the term "synagogue" to refer to the Christian place of worship, as does Heb. 10:25.
▣ "the day" This refers to the Second Coming. In light of the following verses, it also relates to Judgment Day.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:26-31
26For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
10:26 "if we" This is not a typical conditional sentence. Possibly the genitive absolute (hamartanontōn hēmōn) is functioning as the protasis (if clause).
Surprisingly the author grammatically identifies himself with the wilfully sinning group, but this may be a literary technique (editorial plural) similar to 2:3. The first person does not automatically identify him with the group spoken of in vv. 26-29. This same type of literary technique using the first person can be found in I Cor. 13:1-3.
▣ "sinning willfully" "Wilfully" is placed first in Greek for emphasis. The word is possibly analogous to the "high handed" sin of the OT (cf. note on 5:2). The grammatical form of the verb (present active participle genitive masculine first person plural) has been used by some to suggest that this refers to believers who continue in sin. If they would cease sinning they would avoid the judgment. However, this does not fit the ominous context of chapter 6 and 10:26-29. This is a life or death warning, a once out, always out warning! Rejection of Jesus in the presence of the clear light of revelation produces the darkest possible spiritual night.
▣ "after receiving the knowledge of the truth" The verb in English, "receiving," is an aorist active infinitive. This is the crux of the interpretive problem. If they once received the full experiential knowledge (epignōskō) of the (definite article) truth; this sounds like believers! This is the same theological issue as 6:4-6.
It must be admitted there is no easy, clear, obvious interpretation. My personal fear is that my own biases may dominate a very clear text. I must resist a systematic, denominational agenda which silences this powerful, inspired text. The issue is not sinning believers. The issue is believers who cease to believe! I cannot accept a theology that (1) makes salvation dependant on human performance or (2) turns assurance into a dogmatic pronouncement totally unrelated to the Christian life. I reject a theology of lost, saved, lost, saved, lost, saved! I also reject a theology of "once saved, always saved" which is unrelated to the continuing belief and lifestyle faith. Therefore, what do I do? I exegete the text: in its historical setting, in its literary context, in its grammatical expression, in its choice of terms, in its genre, and its parallel passages. I must admit that if all I had to work with was 6:4-6 and 10:26-29, there would be little option but that believers fall away from grace. However,
1. the historical setting, the Jewishness of the book, and the presence of persecution are major issues
2. the literary context (cf. 5:11-6:12) and the three groups (cf. "us," "you," and "those who") seem to reveal a Jewish setting of "believing Jews" and "unbelieving Jews" worshiping and fellowshipping in a synagogue setting
3. the use of so many OT quotes related to the tabernacle, the use of the term synagogue (cf. 10:25), and the roll call of faith, all point toward a reader familiar with the OT
Therefore, after exegeting the text I think the best overall explanation (not without its own problems and assumptions) is the supposed historical reconstruction of R. E. Glaze, Jr. in No Easy Salvation, published by Insight Press, 1966.
Hebrews seems to be a specialized book, to a select group. Does that mean it has no message for today? The warnings of this inspired author (along with James, Peter, and the writer of I and II John) should motivate believers to continue to run the race (see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 124-125)! The answer does not lie in an easy believism, nor in a fear-generated legalism, but in a godly life of faith, a striving toward holiness, produced by an attitude of gratitude in a full, finished, and final salvation (cf. 10:14) through Christ by faith.
10:27 "judgment" The author has emphasized again and again the wonderful hope that believers have in Christ, but the negative side is as compelling; judgment is coming, and all will stand before a holy God (cf. 9:27; Gal. 6:7).
▣ "the fury of a fire will consume the adversaries" This is an allusion to Isa. 26:11. Fire is often associated with holiness or cleansing. God is an ethical being; His creation is an ethical reality. Humans do not break His laws, they break themselves on His laws.
NASB"anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses"
NKJV"anyone who has rejected Moses' law"
NRSV"anyone who has violated the law of Moses"
TEV"anyone who disobeys the Law of Moses"
NJB"anyone who disregards the Law of Moses"
This is a strong word of wilful rejection. In A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, Ellingworth and Nida say:
"The word fordisobeys is a strong word, used not of incidental sins, but of breaking the whole covenant (Ezek. 22:26), for example, by idolatry (Deut. 17:2-7), false prophecy (Deut. 18:20), or blasphemy (Lev. 24.13-16)" (p. 236).
▣ "dies without mercy. . .two or three witnesses" In the OT a capital trial always required two witnesses (cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15). There are consequences to disobedience!
10:29 "How much severer" This is an argument from the lesser (Moses' covenant) to the greater (Jesus' covenant). This comparison is the theme of Hebrews.
▣ "trampled under foot" This imagery means to treat contemptuously (cf. 6:6). This is an aorist active participle, which implies a completed act, as does the next participle.
▣ "Son of God"
▣ "regarded" This means a deliberation of facts resulting in a choice.
▣ "unclean" This refers to something that is ceremonially unclean, not fit for its assigned purpose.
▣ "the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified" The question here relates to the verb (aorist passive indicative). Is this referring to the initial rejection of the new covenant or is this a turning away from the new covenant? The aorist participles in the previous phrase and the aorist passive participle in the following phrase imply an initial rejection.
The problem with this interpretation is that every place in Hebrews that "sanctified" is used it refers to believers (cf. 2:11; 9:13; 10:10,14; 13:12). For me the issue is one of covenant-keeping. The sovereign God has produced a covenant relating to salvation. It is free; it is for all, but it must be received (human free will), not just in an emotional response (cf. Matt. 13:20-22), nor in a uniting with a church (cf. I John 2:19). Believing is the key. Those who believe/faith/trust (all possible translations of pisteuō) are saved and have assurance. The dual warning of Hebrews is to (1) receive the gospel offer and (2) walk in it. If one fails to receive—judgment; if one ceases to believe—judgment!
▣ "and has insulted the Spirit of grace" He convicts of sin, brings us to Christ, baptizes us into Christ and forms Christ in us as believers (cf. John 16:8-11). The Spirit is insulted or outraged when unbelievers reject His wooing and convicting. Some of the recipients of this book were rejecting Christ in the presence of clear revelation from other members of the synagogue (see Introduction, Recipients).
10:30 "vengeance" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Deut. 32:35a and 36a. This is not anger, but full justice handed out to all involved.
▣ "the Lord will judge His people" This is a further quote from the Septuagint of Deut. 32:36a. The Hebrew text has "vindicate" instead of "judge." Does this phrase imply that the ones wilfully sinning were once God's people? Usually only one aspect of the OT quote is intended. It is probably "judge" that is the focal point of the quote, not that in its original context it referred to idolatrous Israel. The author has been using God's rejection of His own people in judgment as a warning throughout the book.
10:31 "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God" This phrase (cf. 3:12) reflects the covenant name of God, "YHWH" (cf. Exod.3:14), from Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Matt. 16:16). See Special Topic at 2:7. Unbelief reaps an eternal consequence!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:32-39
32But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
37For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
10:32 "remember the former days" This is a present middle imperative, possibly referring to 5:12.
▣ "after being enlightened" This was used of the unbelieving group in 6:4. I do believe there are two groups being addressed.
1. those Jews who have seen the power of God in the lives and testimonies of their believing friends
2. the believing Jews still worshiping in a synagogue setting.
The "you" of vv. 32-36 is contrasted with vv. 26-31 (as is 6:9-12 with 6:4-8).
▣ "endured" This is a metaphor from an athletic contest (cf. 12:1,2,3,7).
▣ "great conflict of suffering" This probably refers to the persecution which befell the Church, but not the synagogue, because Judaism was a legal religion under Rome, but Christianity was not. This paragraph seems to imply they helped others who went through the persecution and thereby shared some of the reproach (cf. vv. 33-34; 6:10).
10:34 "to the prisoners" Some Christians had been imprisoned, but not the recipients of the letter. They were believers, but not fully identified with the church. This may corroborate the view that they were Jewish believers still attending a synagogue (see Introduction, Recipients).
The KJV has "in my bonds," which many commentators have used as evidence to establish Paul's authorship. However, there are several possible manuscript variations: (1) "in bonds" (P13, A, D*, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations); (2) "on the bond" (P46, Ψ, and the Greek text used by Origen); and (3) "on my bonds" א, D2, K, L, P and the Greek text used by Clement of Alexandria).
▣ "accepted joyfully the seizure of your property" This is a sure evidence of our hope in Christ and our inheritance in Him (cf. 9:15; 11:16; 13:14; Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:22-23; Rom. 5:3; 8:17).
▣ "better" See full note at 7:7.
10:35-36 These verses document the need of the believing group (1) not to throw away their confidence (cf. 3:6; 4:16; 10:19) and (2) to endure (cf. 12:1-3). In many ways this sounds like the message to the seven churches of Rev. 2-3 (cf. 2:3,5,7,10,11,13,16,17,19,25,26; 3:2,3,5,10,11,12,20). True faith is a persevering faith (cf. I John 2:19). God's covenant promises must be received and held. See Special Topic at 4:14.
The real issue in security is not struggling believers, but the multitude of modern western church members who have no evidence of faith in their lives. Easy believism, coupled with an overemphasis on security, has filled our churches with baby Christians at best and lost people in Christian clothing at worst! Discipleship and the call for radical holiness are missing in a materialistic, capitalistic, decadent, modern western culture. Salvation has been turned into a product (a ticket to heaven at the end of a self-centered life or a fire insurance policy against ongoing sin) instead of a daily, growing, personal relationship with God. The goal of Christianity is not only heaven when we die (product), but Christlikeness now!! God wants to restore His image in mankind so that He can reach fallen humanity with His free offer of salvation in Christ. We are saved to serve! Security is a by-product of a life of service and discipleship.
10:36 This verse is stated with a contingency!
▣ "the will of God" See Special Topic at 13:21.
▣ "you may receive what was promised" This refers to the promises of the new covenant in Christ (i.e., 9:15)!
10:37-38 This is a quote from the Septuagint of Hab. 2:3-4, but with the last two clauses reversed for emphasis.
▣ "He who is coming" The Hebrew Masoretic Text has "it," but the Greek Septuagint makes it personal, which implies the Messiah.
10:38 "shall live by faith"
▣ "my" There is Greek manuscript confusion as to the antecedent of this personal pronoun. It is related to either "righteousness" or "faith." Our author uses the ambiguity of MT and LXX translations to emphasize (1) the Messiah's coming and (2) the need for believers' faithfulness.
In the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts A & C, "my" relates to righteousness. In the LXX, Peshitta, and ms D*, "my" relates to faith. In P13, Dc, Hc, K, P and the Textus Receptus "my" is omitted (following Paul's omission in his quote from Hab. 2:4 in Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11).
The "if" in the second part of the verse is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.
10:39 The author summarizes his confidence in his readers' perseverance (cf. 6:9-12)!
▣ "of those who shrink back" This is an allusion to Habakkuk 2:4 in the LXX "if he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him." The issue in Hebrews for believers is faithfulness to the end. The great danger is "shrinking back."
The interpretive question in this verse is to whom does the phrase "those who shrink back" refer.
1. Israelites in Habakkuk's day
2. the two groups of Heb. 6:1-12, one Jewish and the other believing Jews; the unbelieving group have shrunk back from clear gospel witness to destruction
3. believers in general who do not hold out to the end in faithfulness
The context of the book as a whole and 6:9-12 supports #2.
▣ "destruction" This term is often used of those who do not have eternal life (cf. Matt. 7:13; Phil. 1:28; 3:19; II Thess. 2:3; I Tim. 6:9; II Pet. 2:1,3; 3:7). This is not to be understood as ultimate annihilation of the unbeliever, but the loss of physical life. The same metaphorical use is abundant in the OT. One of the mysteries and pain of Hell is its eternal aspect (cf. Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46).
NASB"but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul"
NKJV"but of those who believe to the saving of the soul"
NRSV"but among those who have faith and so are saved"
TEV"Instead, we have faith and are saved"
NJB"we are the sort who keep faith until our souls are saved"
The opposite of "shrink back" is faithfulness. This quote from Habakkuk is used in a different way than Paul uses it in emphasizing the need for initial faith apart from works (cf. Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11), while Hebrews uses it for continuing faith. This statement sets the stage for the role call of faithful in chapter 11. This role call shows that faith often causes persecution, even death. It emphasizes that these OT believers, even amidst great difficulties (cf. vv. 32-33) continued in faith! The author of Hebrews asserts his confidence that his believing readers will also continue in faith to the end.
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. Why is it so important that Christ offered Himself "once for all"?
2. When and what is ultimate, final salvation?
3. Define the NT word "perfect" (telos).
4. What was the purpose of the Day of Atonement? How are the OT sacrifices related to 10:8?
5. Why does our author attribute OT passages to Jesus and the Spirit?
6. Is sanctification a once and for all act (v. 10) or a process (v. 14)?
7. Why is 10:18 so significant?
8. List the practical things we are encouraged to implement in our lives because of our access to God through Christ.
9. Do verses 26-29 teach apostasy?
10. Why was "assembling together" such a problem for the recipients of this letter?
11. Is suffering God's will? (cf. vv. 32-36).
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