Provoke unto love and to good works

Hebrews 10:19-25

The author has developed the doctrine of Christ’s royal priesthood, and all that involves: assurance of Christ’s victory, clear conscience, the power and penalty of sin over us removed, his people exalted with him into heavenly places, free access into the presence of our Holy God, &c.

The Author continues on by pointing out that special privileges bring with those privileges special duties. Faith is not speculation about the glories of heaven; rather, faith must translate into action, or there is no faith. Faith requires service and duty to expand Christ’s Kingdom over the whole earth.

V. 19, tells us that through the atonement, we have boldness to enter into the very presence of God. Adam’s sin drove man from the presence of God, causing him to hide from God. Hebrews has shown that the Levitical priesthood could not restore Adam’s fellowship with the Holy God.

We are told that Christ’s atonement restored the free fellowship with God, even boldness, that was lost by Adam. Both Biblical and secular history has shown that when Christians realize the power and authority they have through Christ, they become as bold as a lion; they reform history toward godliness. (Pr 28:1)

The Levitical priest had access only once a year. However, through our high priest who ever liveth to make intersession for his people, we have free and continual access “into the holiest” where the God of heaven and earth dwells. We are to come boldly before his throne of grace for personal communion with the God of grace. (He 4:16)

V. 20, the Hebrews are told that they have a new and living way to the presence of God, and that is “through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

Which he hath consecrated for us. Marg. "or, new made." The word here used means, properly, to renew, and then to initiate, to consecrate, to sanction. The idea is, that he has dedicated this way for our use; as if a temple or house were set apart for our service. It is a path consecrated by him for the service and salvation of man; a way of access to the eternal sanctuary for the sinner which has been set apart by the Redeemer for this service alone. (Barnes)

In the past, man’s only path to God was through the temple sacrifices. However, now the Hebrews are told that Christ opened up a new and living way, and now no man can come to the Father except through the sacrifice of Christ; the “new and living way” voided the old way of Moses.

“So Christ's flesh shows us the Godhead as if it were under a veil, For otherwise we could not stand the brightness of it” (Geneva)

By the way which he dedicated for us (?? e?e?a???se? ?µ?? ?d??). This "new" (p??sfat??, freshly killed, newly made, from p??? and the root of fat??, in the papyri, only here in N.T.) and "living" (??sa?) Jesus opened ("dedicated") for us by his Incarnation and Death for us. Thus he fulfilled God’s promise of the "New Covenant" {#Heb 8:7-13?} in Jeremiah. The language is highly symbolic here and "through the veil" here is explained as meaning the flesh of Christ, his humanity, not the veil opening into heaven. {#Heb 6:20?} Some do take "veil" here as obscuring the deity of Christ rather than the revelation of God in the human body of Christ. {#Joh 1:18 14:9?} At any rate because of the coming of Christ in the flesh we have the new way opened for access to God. {#Heb 2:17 4:16?} (Emp added. RWP, Online Bible)

As the first Adam is the head of the fallen humanity, so the Second Adam, Christ is the head of a new humanity, into which a man must be born: “born again”. (See 1 Cor 15, Rom 5, Joh 5) We are members of His body, not of His deity. (Ro 5)

V. 21, He is the true high priest over the house of God; That is, over his people, his new humanity, his new nation, or the elect. (1 Cor 3:16, 17, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:22)

V. 22, The sprinkling refers to the blood of the covenant being sprinkled over his people to ratify the covenant. (See Exodus 24:8)

“our bodies washed with pure water”, is often used to promote infant baptism by those intent on connecting Old Testament circumcision with New Testament baptism.

John Gill:

having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience; which is blind, inactive, partial, stupid, or guilty; and it is the blood of Christ, which being sprinkled on it by the Spirit of God, purges it from dead works, cleanses it from all sin, and speaks peace and pardon to it; and such may draw near with freedom and boldness, with readiness and cheerfulness, and with reverence and godly fear:

and our bodies washed with pure water; not baptismal water, but the grace of the Spirit, which is often compared to water, in Scripture: the body, as well as soul, needs washing, and renewing; internal grace influences outward, actions, which adorn religion, and without which bodies cannot be presented holy to God. The allusion is to a custom of the Jews, who were obliged to wash their bodies, and make them clean, when they prayed. So Aben Ezra observes on Ge 35:2

``that every Israelite, when he went to pray at a fixed place, was obliged to have "his body pure", and his garments pure.''

So a priest might not enter into the court for service, though clean, until he had washed himself all over {z}; and it is to sacerdotal acts that the reference is here. (Gill)

That is, the blood of Christ cleanses the heart while the washing with pure water represents holy living---presenting our bodies, holy and acceptable unto God. (Rom 12:1)


The sprinkling of the heart from an evil conscience takes place, either when we are, by obtaining pardon, deemed pure before God, or when the heart, cleansed from all corrupt affections, is not stimulated by the goads of the flesh. I am disposed to include both these things. {2?} What follows, our bodies washed with pure water, is generally understood of baptism; but it seems to me more probable that the Apostle alludes to the ancient ceremonies of the Law; and so by water he designates the Spirit of God, according to what is said by Ezekiel, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you." (#Eze 36:25). The meaning is, that we are made partakers of Christ, if we come to him, sanctified in body and soul; and yet that this sanctification is not what consists in a visible parade of ceremonies, but that it is from faith, pure conscience, and that cleanness of soul and body which flows from, and is effected by, the Spirit of God. So Paul exhorts the faithful to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, since they had been adopted by God as his children. {3?} (#2Co 7:1).

Calvin is honest in holding to the context: “Washed with pure water” fulfills Ezekiel 36:25. The washing or sprinkling is the Spirit of God sanctifying the body and soul so that his people might have access to the God of all grace and mercy through Christ.

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. (Ez 36:25)

A.W. Pink:

"And our bodies washed with pure water." This figurative language is an allusion to the cleansing of the priests when they were consecrated to the service of God (#Ex 29:4). The antitypical fulfillment of this is defined in #Tit 3:5 as "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." But here the emphasis is thrown on the outward effects of regeneration upon the daily life of the believer. We need both an internal and an external purification; therefore are we exhorted, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (#2Co 7:1). The sanctity of the body is emphatically enjoined in Scripture: see #Ro 12:1; 1Co 6:16, 20.

The whole of this 22nd verse contains most important teaching on the practical side of communion with God. While the first reference in the cleansing of the conscience and the washing of the body be to the initial experience of the Christian at his new birth, yet they are by no means to be limited thereto. There is a constant cleansing needed, if we are to consciously draw near to the holy God. Daily do we need to confess our sins, that we may be daily pardoned and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" (#1Joh 1:9). An uneasy conscience is as real a barrier to fellowship with Jehovah, as ceremonial defilement was to a Jew. So too our walk needs to be incessantly washed with the water of the Word (#Joh 13$). The Levitical priests were not only washed at the time of induction into their holy office, but were required to wash their hands and feet every time they entered the sacred sanctuary (#Ex 30:19, 20).

It is just at this very point that there is so much sad failure today. There is so little exercise of heart before God; so feeble a realization of His high and holy requirements; so much attempting to rush into His presence without any previous preparation. "Due preparation, by fresh applications of our souls unto the efficacy of the blood of Christ for the purification of our hearts, that we may be meet to draw nigh to God, is required of us. This the apostle hath special respect to, and the want of it is the bane of public worship. Where this is not, there is no due reverence of God, no sanctification of His name, nor any benefit to be expected unto our own souls" (John Owen).” (Pink, OLB)

(Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, See also, 1 Cor 6:11, 2 Cor 7:1, Tit 3:5, Rev 1:5)

“Previous preparation”, is taken by many to mean reading some Scripture at the opening of the service or some good Christian music. But I believe “due reverence of God” and sanctification of his name is revealed in the outward appearance.

It is quite distressing to see the “dressing down” of even the pastors who claim to love God, and are proclaiming His Word. Certainly, God looks not on outside but on the heart, but what is in the heart is revealed on the outside.

“Dressing Down” to enter into His presence shows there is little or no reverence of God, no desire for outward sanctification that would bring glory to his name; nor is there any realization that we are entering into the very presence of the Holy God of the Universe. It makes one wonder if the “worshipper” has been sanctified at all. They certainly have very little if any realization of whom they profess to be worshiping.

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. (Eze 11:26)

I realize the context above, but the text itself speaks loud and clear. God’s people have lowered the holy and pure name of the Lord to a profane level by their apparel, particularly in the “house of the Lord”.

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? (Mal 1:6)

Bodies that have been washed with the water of the Word will clearly reveal an outward appearance that God. Where is our honor and fear toward the Lord God our Master?

The nakedness of professed Christian women is especially appalling. Lots of skin showing, skin tight tights or jeans are not a mark of godliness.

Should there be a “dress code” for attending the public assembly like many big corporations have for their higher level employees? Certainly not! The dress code for the people can be established by the way the leadership dresses, as well as by preaching on the holiness of God.

According to the context, the Hebrews are being told that they cannot cling to the old Temple and expect to draw near to God in full assurance of faith with a true heart and a clear conscience. The application for us is that we cannot draw near to God while at the same time clinging to the ways of the world.

Vv. 26, 27 is addressed to those Hebrews who rejected Christ’s priesthood and returned to the now abolished Levitical priesthood. The author tells them that there can be “No more sacrifice for sin, but only judgement” for those who rejected Christ’s priesthood for the abolished Levitical priesthood. Many show their ignorance of Scripture when they take this passage to say that if you sin after you are saved, there is no more hope for you. The passage, according to its context, says no such thing. Rather, it is a unique warning to the Hebrews of that day who left or planed to leave Christ and return to the Levitical priesthood. The destruction of the Temple and the Levitical line put a permanent end to any remaining hope in the Levitical priesthood.

V. 23, “The profession of our faith”; that is, “It is a confession of hope, not of despair.” (RWP)

“Hope” is tied to the Christian “faith”. (Ro 8:24, 25) As the Christian faith has been Replaced by the humanistic faith, all hope for the future has been lost. Faith is now in man rather than in God, and hopelessness and despair reign.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Ps 42:11)

Hope anticipates that God will fulfill his promises both to us and to the wicked. Without faith there is no hope nor is there any future. How many times have we heard the expression “this is a hopeless mass”? Man without faith is without hope.

V. 24. And let us consider one another, &c.] Saints should consider one another as men, that they are but men, of like passions and infirmities; they should consider their different tempers, and make allowance for them, and their outward state and condition in the world: they should consider one another as saints, partakers of the same grace; as that they are all loved with the same love, all conceived and brought forth in the womb of God's eternal electing grace, interested in the same covenant, redeemed by the same blood, and have the same graces and privileges, and an equal right to glory; having one and the same Spirit, the same grace of faith, the same righteousness, the same fountain to wash in, the same fulness to partake of, the same throne of grace to go to, and the same inheritance to enjoy: they should consider one another as church members, the grace and gifts of the another, their different age and standing in the church, their relation to each other as brethren; they should consider them under suffering or sorrowful circumstances, under afflictions, temptations, desertions, declensions, and as attended with infirmities and sins: and the end of such consideration should be,...(Gill)

“Provoke” “...to sharpen, to stimulate, to incite. So here in good sense (for incitement to),... so Paul seeks to stir up the Corinthians by the example of the Macedonians (2Cor 8:1-7) (RWP)

“unto love and to good works.” We have a duty one to another to encourage each other in the faith, to love and to good works. But there are more than a few whose “gift” seems to be to provoke one another to strife and contention:

Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease. (Pr 22:10)

V. 24, we need to have excitement about our faith and the word of God. If we are not excited about our faith and our God, how can others be excited?

I have mentioned this many times: Christians get more excited over secular events, such as sports or hunting, than they do over the “deeper” things of the word of God. They can stand around talking for hours about these things, and the serious theological issues of the day are never mentioned. We live in a sad day of almost total indifference concerning God’s word to man. We have forgotten him, and now we wonder why he has forgotten us.

Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Ho 4:6)

We need to have a confident excitement and confidence in the faith. Our happy excitement can stimulate the faith of others. We get excited over things that are important to us.

Parents need to build an excitement in their children about the word of God. I read of a Christian school that taught the preschoolers, 3 through 5, the 10 Commandments. They were taught to shout them out in excitement. One child went home and went through the house shouting “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. The husband jumped up from his easy chair believing that his wife had put the daughter up shouting that commandment.

The modern church has brought in many worldly means trying to build excitement, such as using “Woodstock” type music with Christian word, “worship teams”, “interpretive dancing”, female ushers, secular entertainers and big-name speakers.

Certainly these things can produce a fleshly excitement, but it is a stretch of the fallen imagination to think that these things produce a Godly excitement over His Word that is pleasing to our most Holy God. Fleshly excitement does not promote godly faith, love and good works.

What can we do within the bounds of Scripture to provoke or produce excitement about the word of God and our faith in others

V. 25 follows the context of v. 24, which encourages his people to encourage one another in faith and good works through the word of God.

“forsaking the assembling”. Because this letter was to the Hebrews who were seeking to return to the Temple, the problem may have been that many Hebrews stopped attending the Christian assembly because the Gentiles were now allowed into the church. For 1500 years, the heathen Gentiles had been anathema to the Hebrews, as they had been forbidden to have any such associations. Though the Old Testament prophets told of opening the Kingdom to the Gentiles, Peter’s vision showed that the Gentiles were welcome, and the church council at Jerusalem approved the uniting of the Hebrews and Gentiles, this old wall of partition was not easily broken down in the Hebrew mind. This Gentile presence now in the church may have motivated some Hebrews to return to the Temple where the Gentiles were forbidden. The destruction of Jerusalem finally removed this partition.

“It is an evil which prevails everywhere among mankind, that every one sets himself above others, and especially that those who seem in anything to excel cannot well endure their inferiors to be on an equality with themselves. And then there is so much morosity (Latin: gloomily or sullenly ill-humored, as a person or mood.) almost in all, that individuals would gladly make churches for themselves if they could; for they find it so difficult to accommodate themselves to the ways and habits of others.” (Calvin)

Evidently, this was a common evil of the day, as it is in our day, for all the New Testament authors, especially James, deal very harshly with this attitude of superiority in the church.

“the day approaching”: the day of death, the day of the last judgment, or the day of Jerusalem’s destruction (which was very close at hand). The context must also include the day of Christ’s judgment upon his enemies, the vindication of His people (And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Re 6:10), the triumph of Christ’s Kingdom over all his enemies, and much, much more.

To the Hebrew readers who believed Christ’s words in Matthew 24, the “approaching” day was the day that Jerusalem was going to be judged and fall. It also contained the promise that Rome would be judged and it also would fall. The “approaching” day for all his people means the day that he will judge evil oppressors, and deliver his saints.

The purpose of the Christian assembly is not only to hear the word of God taught in order to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, but it is also that His people might be able to encourage one another in faith and good works. The importance of the Christian assembly must not be minimized.

In light of all the author of Hebrews has told us about Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, we certainly should stand fast to our Christian faith without wavering.

“Christ’s Priesthood of necessity gives His people a forward look, a substitution for a sin-bound past, by a grace empowered future.”

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (V. 36) And