A Living Way
When my sons Kyle and Trevor were in high school in upstate New York, they were both on the high school track team. I was working two and three jobs at the time, but I tried to attend every home meet that I could. This was a small high school, and so the track coach was always looking for help at meets, so he often drafted me to run one of the field events. (When my boys would run, I’d stop my event so I could watch them!) Usually I ran the long jump and triple jump, but at least once, I was in charge of the high jump. Perhaps you know how this works. When all contestants clear a given height or some are eliminated for failure to do so, the bar is raised higher for the next round, until finally one person clears a height above all the other competitors. The Holy Spirit is “raising the bar” in this section. Instead of wandering, as some of the original recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were doing, the Spirit wants Christ’s followers to move to a higher level. If we do not grow stronger, we will become weaker, and that is not an acceptable alternative. So let us listen to what the Lord the Spirit says. If we are to grow, there needs to be a sharpening of our understanding and practice of the doctrines of the Scriptures concerning Christ and what we have in Christ and how we are to live because God has richly blessed us in Christ.
First, we read of a basic possession of every true Christian: “confidence to enter the Most Holy Place”. This means you, whether you are a new believer, or in a severe struggle with sin, or very weak in body because of cancer treatments and hardly able to pray as you think you should. If we are to appreciate what the Holy Spirit is telling us, we must know what he means by entrance to the Most Holy Place. In a word, this means “God’s presence”, as a comparison of 9:11-12 with 9:24 shows. The writer has already talked about the old covenant shadow (9:1-10). At that time in the history of God’s people, the common people could never enter God’s presence. Neither could the priests, though they could go into the Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter, only he had that privilege. However, even the high priest could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and then only for a short time in a strictly regulated way. This was part of the bondage of being under the supervision of the old covenant law. God was present among the people, but no one could really draw near to God.
The writer of Hebrews has also discussed the new covenant reality. What we now have in Christ is better than anything the law offered or could do. Now every believer has liberty to enter God’s presence, as our text states. Since Jesus is our Great High Priest and he has sat down at the right hand of the Father and since we are in Christ, we possess this liberty. God encourages us to make full use of this liberty of unlimited access (Hebrews 4:16).
Second, focus on the proper attitude of new covenant worship. Under the old covenant all believers, even the best of believers, had to keep what Spurgeon called, “a reverent distance” from God (12:20-21). In contrast, the great call of the new covenant is “let us draw near to God” (10:22; cf. Ephesians 3:12)! The word confidence describes the state or frame of mind that all new covenant worshipers are intended to possess. We have the right, privilege, liberty and boldness of access to the Holy One. We can enter into the immediate presence of the living God in Christ Jesus. All that the old covenant pictures represented, we have a better reality in the new and better covenant. “This is the great fundamental privilege of the gospel, that all believers in all their holy worship have liberty, boldness, and confidence to enter into the gracious presence of God” (Owen).
To say this in a different way, this is the boldness of an adult son or daughter of God approaching their Father in heaven, clothed fully in the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus. Dear brothers and sisters, no law forbids you from coming to God, but infinite love invites you to draw near to God! Then why do you stand far off and tremble like a slave? Draw near in joyous faith.
As the high priest of the law came into the presence of God in the tabernacle or temple, so we truly come into his glorious presence in Jesus Christ. To paraphrase Spurgeon, do not live as if God were as far off from you as the east is from the west. Live not far below on the earth; but live on high, as if you were in heaven. In heaven, you will be with God; but on earth, he will be with you: is there much difference?
Let’s now explore the kind of entrance that is ours. We enter “by a new and living way”. It is a new way of entrance. Some matters are not intended by “new”. It was not a new invention of God, because it always was part of his eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 13:8). A growing Christian will investigate and rejoice in what the Bible says about God’s eternal purposes. Neither was it newly revealed. God had promised this way in the Old Testament Scriptures (Jeremiah 31; Isaiah 53).
Why is this entrance called “new”? “Because it comes after another [kind of entrance], as the apostle teaches us to argue, Hebrews 8:13” (Traill). This was the entrance of Jesus into heavenly majesty as our great high priest. The new covenant could not be put into effect until the Lord Jesus entered heaven for us. It is also new “because it is always new and never gives place to another”. Consider Hebrews 13:20.
It is a living way of entrance. [First four points are from Traill; last is from Hughes]
“In opposition of the old way of the law, which is not able to give life.” Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7
“In relation to Christ’s resurrection, who, though he were put to death, yet was he raised again, and ever lives, Romans 6:9.”
“In regard to the end of the way, which is life….” John 14:6; 1 John 5:12
“In reference to the effect of it. It puts life in us” and makes us alive. John 11:25; Galatians 2:20
In conformity with the fact that this way is a person—the person of “our risen, dynamic, ever living Redeemer.”
Our entry into God’s presence is based on his entry, and our entry “takes place only because by divine grace we are one with him.” [Hughes]
How do we exercise this blessing of entrance into God’s presence? We enter “by the blood of Jesus”. This requires us consciously to recognize Christ’s better sacrifice of himself as the only basis of our acceptance with God. We are not saying that we do this by a perfunctory or unthinking voicing of the words, “In Jesus name. Amen.” Those words can be very meaningful or totally mechanical and irreverent. You and I must always act reverently, whether in public or private prayer, or in prayer before meals, and during any other times of prayer! Instead, by the blood of Jesus we come thoughtfully and reverently into God’s presence, realizing that our access to God is only on account of Christ and his saving work.
Reflect on the hymn “Rock of Ages”: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling; naked, come to Thee for dress, helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly, wash me, Savior, or I die!
There is no alternative to this way. We cannot approach God except by the blood of Jesus. Many sing and pray and attend church, but they have never once drawn near to God in his appointed way, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). For example, sometimes you might read on a statement that payment must be made in US dollars. The only payment that the living God accepts is the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah on the cross. So then, you must answer this question: “What gives me the right to approach the living and holy God?” Are you relying on your works? Are you depending on your religious experiences? Do you trust in church membership? God will not receive you unless you rely only upon the Lord Jesus Christ and his shed blood.
Please note this. The existence of this new and living way “brings us nothing until we have boldness to enter in. Why stand we without [outside]? Jesus brings us near, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Let us not be slow to take up our freedom, and come boldly to the throne” (Spurgeon). If we entered a house as a thief, we would not enter boldly but would fear being caught. You and I might enter a stranger’s house, without invitation, but we would feel no boldness there. We might even enter as guests, but we would not feel sufficiently bold to walk to the host’s bathroom and look into their medicine cabinet. However, we do not enter the Most Holy Place as housebreakers or as trespassers or as guests on a visit. We come in obedience to God’s call to fulfill and to enjoy our calling. We come as righteous and as sons in Christ. When we trust in Jesus and his better sacrifice of Himself, we are immediately “at home” with God. “Where should a child be bold but in his father’s house?” [Spurgeon] Believer in Jesus, enjoy your entrance into God’s presence!
Grace and peace, David
“About David Frampton”
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit davidcframpton.com