Ever heard someone say that they don’t need to go to church? That they can just read the Bible at home, or watch sermons online? While there may be some good reasons why people might temporarily need to be away from church, or even for longer periods, it is important we push hard to find ways to not neglect meeting with one another, around God and his word. We learn about this vital teaching from Hebrews 10. The writer lays out his logic for why we are to draw near to God andeach other, and how that might play itself out.
The writer begins this argument by using the Old Testament system as the basis for understanding the New Testament. He gives us the comparison between the shadow and the substance, and then shows us why Jesus is the substance, the real deal (Heb 10:1-10). And I love the reason the writer gives for why Jesus is so much greater than the Old Testament sacrificial system: Jesus sat down (v .12)!
Do you know why priests and high priests never sit down? Because they always need to sacrifice. They needed to sacrifice to cleanse their own sin and the sins of the people. But Christ Jesus, as the perfect and sinless one, offers the one sacrifice for sins, one time for all—his own body on the cross. And then he is raised back to life and sits down at the right hand of God in heaven. Nothing more needs to be done.
But what does this have to do with drawing near to God and each other? Well, the next word we see is “therefore” (v. 19), which means it is connected to what has come before it. And after telling us about the move from shadow to substance, the writer now exhorts us to make a move.
You see, Jesus is the basis of our coming, the forerunner in heaven, the one who takes us to God. God draws us to himself by means of his Son. And so, the very fact that we have a great priest is our encouragement to come near to God. In Jesus we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s very own possession (1 Pet 2:9).
And yet, the writer here makes a bigger challenge. He exhorts us to draw near (v. 22). Why? Because we are so easily distracted, led astray, bored and accustomed to solid teaching, which means we become theoretical Christians. But a follower of Jesus is not someone with just head knowledge but someone who has been transformed and therefore keeps drawing near to God. Drawing near is our whole response to Jesus.
How? To draw near is to hold fast to our confession, to witness about the gospel (v. 23). However, there is a problem. It is terribly difficult to keep having hope. It is hard when being a Christian means suffering, mockery, societal pressure. And this is where we need reminders. We have Jesus, who sacrificed himself for us. We have the Holy Spirit who is in us if we are Christian. And we have each other—God’s family that we are adopted in to. And so, we must not neglect to meet together (v. 25). Because we must continue to remember that Jesus has washed us clean, that we must draw near to the hope because of our faith, and that we must stir one another up to be zealots for good works (v. 24). And the writer explains why this is such a big deal.
In the Old Testament system, if you move away from Moses and it is proven by 2 or 3 witnesses, you die without mercy(vv. 26-31). How much worse then, if you move away from Jesus! If you move away from Jesus, there is nothing else left. To put it plainly, it is Jesus or hell. You either take refuge in the loving arms of the King and are happy, or you rebel against the King and are smashed like pottery (see Psalm 2). If you move away from Jesus, there is no sacrifice for sins left. Rather, you are left to the vengeance of the Lord Jesus, the Judge who is seated at God’s right hand. Judgement under the law of Moses was bad. How much worse is judgement in the hands of Jesus, the living and resurrected God (v. 29).
But in this, listen to the writer’s pastorally sensitive encouragement to be willing to suffer for the gospel (vv. 32-29). This is how he ends this section: persevering is worth it! And that is what they have already been doing. So—like the Hebrew Christians—let us also keep at it, dear brothers and sisters.