Faith and Works

Hebrews 9 18-28

Keep in mind the purpose of Hebrews: It was written to the Hebrews, Jews, who were either returning to or being influenced to return to the old temple worship which was still taking place in Jerusalem. The author is proving the superiority of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ over what was established under Moses. “Why”, the author presses home, “would you turn from the new and better way back toward the old, empty way that is now an affront to the very God you claim to worship?” The Father settled the issue when he sent Rome to destroy the old Jewish nation and its apostate method of worship: 70 A.D.

This section of Hebrews refers to the covenant as made with the people of God in Exodus 24:1-8 and 34:10. It was a covenant, or agreement, between God and his people. The “book of the covenant” was read in the presence of all the people, and the people swore allegiance to all that was said.

Exodus 24:3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.

Moses read more than just the Ten Words.

Judgments, #04941: That is, various applications as to how the Commandments are to work out in society, or “case law”. Note how the Psalmist loves and praises God’s righteous judgments. That is, the practical applications of the Commandments into society.

Psalms 119:7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. Also, Psalms 119:13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 75, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120, 121l.

Did not our Lord warn us to seek righteous judgment according to his Word?

The first Testament or covenant was sealed with the blood of calves and of goats, half of which was sprinkled on the people, and half on the altar. This established the covenant-vow of both parties, God and the people of the covenant, who had promised to be faithful unto death to the covenant-law. (Exo 24:3)

A covenant is a treaty of law, and it is given by God’s grace to mankind as man’s freedom and liberty. It is the sinner who sees the law as a restraint. The guilty man fears the law. The godly man feels safe, for he understands the law is his protection---the law protects his family, life and property; it gives him freedom from the murderer, thief, and outlaws of all kinds. It gives him freedom to live and prosper under God, for the law protects good and punishes evil.

The Exodus covenant is called the first testament because it is the first agreement with the people as a whole; it was not restricted to a man and his family as it was with Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and others before Moses. V. 19, Moses spoke every precept of the law to all the people before sprinkling both the book, and all the people.

Precept: “3. In Hebrews the reference of entole is always to the law, e.g., the priestly law in #Heb 7:5, the institution of the covenant in #Heb 9:19; entole denotes the specific requirement and is always accompanied by nomos as the sum of the whole. The revelation in Christ has shown the old entole to be external and transitory. Since it cannot lead to fulfilment, its validity has been annulled. {#Heb 7:18?}” (TDNT, OLB)

The precepts concerning the priesthood were done away with in Christ, while the precepts concerning the moral laws of the covenant are written in the heart of the covenant-people.

“Ver. 19. For when Moses had spoken every precept, &c.] Contained in the decalogue, in the book of the covenant, everyone of the precepts in #Ex 22:1-23:33 for this is to be understood of the written law, and not of the oral law the Jews talk of, which they say Moses first delivered by word of mouth to Aaron, then to his two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, then to the seventy elders of Israel, and then to the whole congregation; so that Aaron heard it four times, his sons thrice, the seventy elders twice, and all Israel once {g?}: but this is the written law which he spoke audibly, and in a known language,…” (John Gill, OLB)

Accordingly, Exodus 22:1-23:33 are not “judicial” laws, but are “case” laws given by God to apply the commandments concerning man’s relationship to his neighbor. (Paul quoted a precept 1 Ti 5:18.) Far from being done away with as “judicial” laws, they are a key part of the Decalogue, having the authority of “Thou shalt not steal”, &c. The “precepts” explain how we “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

V. 19, both the book… Here we have the first reference to the covenant-law book. Though this is its first introduction to us, evidently what it contained was already well known when given to Moses on the mount. It was then sprinkled with the blood, signifying the confirmation of the agreement between God and his people.

“Thus Moses became in a general way a "mediator" between God and men in the giving of the law (#Ga 3:19). Thereby we are shown that there can be no covenant between God and sinful men, but in the hands of a Mediator, for man has neither meetness, merits, nor ability to be an undertaker of the terms of God’s covenant in his own person. Moses spake "every precept unto the people." This intimates the particular character of the Old Testament. It consisted primarily of commandments of obedience (#Eph 2:15), promising no assistance for the performance of them. The "new testament" is of another nature: it is one of promises, and although it also has precepts requiring obedience, yet is it (as a covenant) wholly founded in the promise, whereby strength and assistance for the performance of that obedience are given to us. Moses’ reading "every precept unto the people" emphasizes the fact that all the good things they were to receive by virtue of the covenant, depended on their observance of all that was commanded them; [the precepts, ed.] for a curse was denounced against every one that "continued not in all things written in the law to do them" (#De 27:26).
Obviously, such a "covenant" was never ordained for the saving of sinners:…” (Pink, OLB)

That is, the old covenant offered no promise of strength and assistance for the performance of obedience to the law of the covenant, and it clearly promised a curse for disobedience. The curse was literally and finally fulfilled in 70 A. D. The nation to whom that promise was made was completely destroyed, to be replaced by a new nation which was given the promise of divine strength to fulfill the law of the covenant. That new people of God can inherit the blessings attached to the law, for the Spirit of Sanctification works in them both to will and to do his good pleasure as revealed in his command-law: “Be ye holy even as I am holy”.

The old covenant promise was with a physical nation, and had definite physical promises attached to it. The new covenant promise is with a spiritual nation, and though there are physical promises attached, the promises are primarily spiritual. The new covenant promise also promised the seed of Abraham would be heir not just to a local land, Palestine, but the world. (Rom 4:13-16) By doing all things to the glory of God, the promise will be fulfilled. The lack of holy living has turned the world over to the Devil.

V. 19, For when… every precept … according to the law tells us that it was after he spoke to all the people when he ratified the testament with blood. The people did not enter into the covenant blind; that is, not knowing the terms of the covenant.

Note “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Ro 10:9) Did we realize what we were committing to when we confess the Lord Jesus?

Moses declared: “This is the blood of the Testament which God hath enjoined with you.” Our Lord used these words at the last supper: “This cup is the new Testament in my blood.” The meaning was obvious to the disciples. They knew that it referred to the Mosaic covenant now being fulfilled, but they did not really understand it until after the resurrection. (Lk 24:25)

This blood God hath enjoined unto you, or purposed for you. Moses sprinkled the book of the law, the people, the tabernacle and all the vessel of the ministry with blood as partly described in Exodus 40.

V. 22, Almost all things are by the law purged with blood. And without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Almost: Exodus 19:10 shows us that at times only purification was required.

V. 23, tells us of two sanctuaries, the one on earth and the one in heaven, and both required purification before men can access God. The earthly sanctuary was cleansed by means of the typical sacrifices, the blood of bulls and of goats. That cleansing was outward only.

“The counterparts of heavenly things were earthly, and therefore they were to be set forth with earthly things, as with the blood of beasts, wool and hyssop. But under Christ all things are heavenly, and therefore they could not be sanctified with the offering of his living blood.” (Geneva. “they”… that is, the earthly things of the temple which the wayward Hebrews were seeking after. The blood of Christ did not, nor could it cleanse the earthly things.)

But the heavenly sanctuary, which is the reality of the earthly, required much more before man could approach the Heavenly Father. The earthly required the sacrificial blood of bulls and goats before man could commune with the Heavenly Father. He was provided with outward cleansing, but not inward, leaving the conscience uncleansed. The heavenly tabernacle required the sacrificial blood of the Eternal Lamb of God, which provides heavenly access to the Heavenly Father. Moreover, the applied blood of the Lamb provides the cleansed conscience.

Purified: “The use of the word purified here applied to heaven, does not imply that heaven was before unholy, but it denotes that it is now made accessible to sinners; or that they may come and worship there in an acceptable manner. … The necessity for "better sacrifices" in regard to the latter was, that it was designed to make the conscience pure, and because the service in heaven is more holy than any rendered on earth.” (Barnes, OLB.)

Than these; that is, Christ’s sacrifice infinitely surpasses in value all that was required under the Jewish dispensation.

The earthly sanctuary only typified access to the Heavenly Father. Its reality is the heavenly sanctuary. Therefore, only Christ’s atoning sacrifice can provide for man the perfect access to the triune God. The penalty for sin is death. Jesus Christ as our representative and federal head provides himself as our vicarious substitute, to die for our sins. The author shows that the Levitical system is but a shadow of the reality, and cannot be given priority above Jesus Christ our great High Priest. Neither Jewish temple nor “Christian” church can make itself the door to the true access to God, as Rome has claimed to be over the years. (Joh 14:6.)

Interesting note:

“Christ’s atonement had the effect also of casting Satan out of heaven (#Lu 10:18 Joh 12:31, compare #Heb 2:14). Christ’s body, the true tabernacle (see JFB on "Heb 8:2"; see JFB on "Heb 9:11"), as bearing our imputed sin (#2Co 5:21), was consecrated (#Joh 17:17,19) and purified by the shedding of His blood to be the meeting place of God and man.” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown. OLB)

V. 24. The true cleansing power belongs to the blood of Jesus Christ. The earthly sanctuary was made with hands, and could only “cleanse” the outward; Christ did not enter into the holy of Holies in Jerusalem and cleanse it, but he entered into the heavenly sanctuary. It was there that he made the effectual atonement for us. It is there that he continually represents us in the very presence of the Thrice-Holy God. We are continually and constantly before God, and before his very face in the person of Jesus Christ so that we are never forgotten nor can we be.

Vv. 25-26. The Levitical priesthood had to make an annual atonement with the blood of animals. Repetition was required for both for himself and for the people because the Levitical High Priest’s offering for atonement was incapable of producing everlasting results. Not only did it require yearly repetition, but it only covered sin until the true atonement could be made.

Since the foundation of the world… In opposition of the many times the High Priest had to make atonement, Christ’s atonement was effectual from the foundation of the world for the Elect of both the Old and New Testament. (Eph 1:4, 1 Pe 1:20)

“Once in the end of the world"; the same with the last days; the last age of the world; the end of the Jewish economy; at the close of their civil and ecclesiastical state, according to #Hab 2:3 & so the Jews expect their Messiah ????? ???, "at the end of days" {n?}: and this appearance was but "once"; there were many appearances of him in an human form, under the Old Testament dispensation; and there were many after his resurrection; but this is said to be but once, in opposition to the many types and sacrifices under the law, and agrees with his one oblation, and once suffering: the end of his appearance was, to put away sin; the filth of it, by his blood; the guilt of it, by his atoning sacrifice; and the punishment of it, by his sufferings and death, the penalty of the law; and in consequence of all this, the dominion of it by the power of his grace, and the very being of it hereafter: and this putting it away is signified by his bearing, carrying, and taking it away; by removing it as far as the east is from the west; by finishing and making an end of it; by crucifying the old man, destroying the body of sin, and by an utter disannulling and abolishing it, as a debt, and as a law; and all this is done by the sacrifice of himself; by the offering up of his body and soul an offering for sin; as in #Heb 9:14. (Gill)

“the last age of the world; the end of the Jewish economy; at the close of their civil and ecclesiastical state” when their judicial laws expired. (V. 10, the time of reformation when Christ made all things new, Rev 21:5.) The final close was when everything of the old Jewish nation passed away in 70 A. D. It was replaced by the God’s new nation, his new creation of his people, the Gospel Church, the New Israel of God. Christ created a new human race, and laid the foundation for the new heavens and earth. Sin has been put away from us, and the power of death broken. Jesus Christ, the eternally existent one was from all eternity our appointed redeemer.

Vv. 27-28 tells us that it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this, the judgment. The Sinless One took the eternal judgment for his people, and has given and will give to them eternal life. The fullness of their salvation will be realized at the end of human history.

The goal of Christ’s first coming was atonement. Our sins are forgiven, and we are made His new human race, with a new command: Matthew 28:18-20. The command is to disciple all nations, and teach the nations all things which our Lord commands. All things are to be brought into captivity to Christ our King. The goal of Christ’s second coming is to bring in the fullness of His kingdom. The command is to preach the gospel with the intent of subduing all nations to King Jesus. (Luke 24:47, 48. Christ is speaking to his disciples who were very hesitant about going to the Gentile nations. In fact, Peter was called into question for going to a Gentile.)

Note that missionaries go with the intent of “converting and saving individual souls”, rather than with the intent of obeying the Lord to “convert” the nations. The change in the gospel from converting nations to converting only individuals took place with George Müller, 1836:
“The then operating missionary societies “constantly put before their members” the hope of Christianizing the world before Christ’s return. That goal of Christianizing the world Müller found unscriptural. Lacunza’s “dispensational” view of Matthew twenty four, which became popular in his lifetime, caused Müller to abandon any hope that the gospel could change the world for Christ. It also caused him to say that those expecting the Gospel of Christ to Christianize the nations are not serving the Lord. Müller, therefore, led in changing the goal of missionary endeavors from Christianizing the world’s nations to simply “soul saving.” Accordingly, the missionaries trained by the Scriptural Knowledge Institution went over the world to “save souls,” yet they were convinced that it was unscriptural to hope that the gospel message could bring about godly social change. The expectations of their faithless gospel were met. Müller’s ideas united with Darby’s, who, echoing Irving’s words, condemned all who desired to convert the world to Christ. (J.N. Darby, Letters, I.257, 1858. Writings, II.185. Apparently, these men, Müller included, believed the gospel of Christ is powerless when it comes to bringing about godly social change through individual conversion. See 1 Cor. 1:18-2:5, Jude 3. Is the literal sword, which is expected forcefully to subdue sinner, stronger than the Spirit of God? Müller was a key figure in the death of victory.)” (Death of the Church Victorious, Ch 51)

Müller founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, which became the main-stay of Hudson Taylor’s China Inlands Mission. He founded it because all the missionary societies of his day taught the missionaries that the nations could and should be converted to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. We know what happened to China within 75 years as a result of changing the Lord’s command from Christianizing the nations to simply saving souls.

“A hearty desire for the conversion of sinners, and earnest prayer for it to the Lord, is quite scriptural; but it is unscriptural to expect the conversion of the whole world. Such an end we could not propose to ourselves in service of the Lord...” (Müller)

Hebrews gives the proper theology of salvation: Beginning in Chapter 10, Hebrews goes on to apply this salvation to our daily lives. The purpose of Jesus Christ, God the Son, was not to enhance the Levitical sacrifices, but to declare that atonement is the introduction to service.

Note that if the emphasis above all else is man’s salvation, then the emphasis is humanism---the emphasis is man. Certainly, basic to the Christian life is man’s salvation, but that is just the very basic of Christianity. The Lord said, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” We are saved not to concentrate on our salvation, but to do the will of the Heavenly Father. (10:5) His people have been commanded to Christianize their culture.

We see that Müller promoted a humanistic “Christianity”, as he denied the orthodox faith, and made man the center of God’s plan. Armenianism, “Christianized Humanism” took over the orthodox faith.

10:5. God therefore is not satisfied with the forms of sacrifice. Rather, we are told that our lives must reflect that of the Servant Son. He charges His people with these words: “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps 40:7, 8)


1. The modern applications of the precepts as found in Ex 22:1-23:33 are as binding today as any of the commandments.

2. We are given this strong statement and warning because like the Jewish temple synagogue, the new Christian Synagogue gets easily wrapped up in its own good works, programs and life, rather than a life in Christ.

We tend to put more emphasis on ritual that might point to the reality, than we do on the reality itself. In order to separate us from an institutional piety, i.e., all these religious works make me holy, unto faith at work in the world, chapters 11 & 12 strongly stresses the living faith of past saints.Р This is the goal of Hebrews, faith at work in the world. We are shown that faith is never offered separated from the context of works: facing and dealing with life and all its challenges and problems.

3. The salvation of souls is the basis of Christianity, but that is not the end of Christianity. The purpose of salvation is to “Do thy will O Lord.” Genuine conversion causes one to delight to do the will of God as revealed in his word. Is there conversion if there is no evidence of that new delight in the being of the “convert”?

4. Conversion carries with it the responsibility to teach all nations, baptize and teach them to observe all things as commanded by the Word of God.

5. Müller introduced “Christianized Humanism”, a man-centered gospel as found n Aremenianism which took over the orthodox faith.

6. The Lord promises to be with his people as they do his will.

Can we say to the Lord, “Lo I come to do Thy will, oh God, for thy law is written in my heart.” If there is no delight in doing “Thy will” as revealed in his commandments, there is no conversion.

Finally, notice the Divine order of these letters:

Hebrews, “Faith requires action.”
James, “Faith without works is dead.”
Peter, “Judgment must start in the house of God.”
John, “Love means fulfilling the law, and sin is lawlessness.”

Hebrews 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.