The New And Living Way
Key Verse 22
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
We have now come to the end of the first part of the letter to the Hebrews, which is the doctrinal part, and to the beginning of the last part of the book of Hebrews, which is the practical or application part. If Paul is the author of this letter, and there’s much evidence that he is, then this pattern of writing is common, that is a doctrinal part first and then a practical part to his letters. And this is where he begins this beautiful second part of his letter to the Hebrews, in verses 19-25. These verses are truly remarkable because in them the apostle summarizes in a few words everything he has been telling us so far, a sort of a climax to what he’s been saying, a summary to what we should have learned by now. Simply speaking, he tells us here are your privileges, the privileges you’ve gained through Christ. But he also tells us that based on these privileges, you also have responsibilities that come with them.
Read verse 19-25. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
He’s now concluded his arguments, and so he’s giving us a short summary of what’s going on. He tells us that we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way; and we have in the heavenly sanctuary a great priest over the house of God. Every difficulty has been removed, perfectly removed, and forever removed! Now we have unhindered access to God, and he who is the way has opened the way and continues to be the guide on the way. Even now he is our great priest who is interceding for us as our mediator providing us with every kind of help we need. And based on all this, the apostle gives us three exhortations or responsibilities. First, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance of faith. Second, let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. And third, let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds. Do you see that? Exhortations to Faith, Hope, and Love— the threefold result of our Lord Jesus entering heaven. And this is what happens to those who are bound to Christ in the New Covenant. Their hearts are steadfast in faith, their hope in his promises abounding, and their hearts grow in love for God and for each other as they live to serve God.
We must never forget that all our Christian privileges are given to us in and through Christ Jesus our Lord, and that they are inseparable from the duties that come with them. No genuine Christian enjoying these privileges would or should shrink back from the divine duties that accompany them. In fact for most genuine Christians who know and understand the scope and value of these privileges, the faith, the hope and the love expected of them come naturally as the fruit of these undeserved privileges. More than that, they are a joy to them who love God and know what he has done to bring them home to himself. So let’s look closely at the three privileges and three responsibilities we have in response to these privileges.
Read verses 19-22a. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God.” The great and wonderful truth the author relates here is that the child of God now has the privilege of drawing near to God as a worshipper accepted by God. In other words if you’re a Christian, you now have the great privilege to approach God in his holy sanctuary in order to offer him praise and worship— and God graciously accepts them from you. I don’t know how often it must told us or reminded us that to come before God and worship him acceptably is a privilege. But as often as needed it’s crucial that we remind each other of this wondrous privilege and honor that none but only the Christian has. The author has been thoroughly explaining, teaching, reminding us all along about this particular truth, and we can’t ignore it. He relates to us this privilege in three ways. First, in verse 19, we are told that we have the freedom and confidence to enter the presence of God. Second, in verse 20, he tells us that a way has been opened for us to do so. And third, in verse 21, he tells us that we have a guide to help us in that way. He tells us even more! He shows us the nature of our freedom— it is with confidence that we enter into God’s presence because we can do so by virtue of Jesus blood. He tells us about the way to enter into God’s presence. He describes the way as a new and living way— a way already open for us because Christ himself has opened it. Finally he tells us that we don’t have to do it by ourselves— but that God has provided us with a great priest who is more than ready and willing to guide us along the way— because he has all the authority to do so as the Head of God’s household.
Look at verse 19 again. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.” He’s already told us this before, that we can approach the throne of mercy and grace. (4:16) Now, he tells us that we should boldly enter with confidence. Earlier he had invited the Christian to come and receive mercy. But now he invites us to worship and commune with God. He wants us to enter into the most holy place by the blood of Jesus. What is this most holy place? It’s the presence of God, his dwelling place, otherwise known as heaven. That’s the most holy place of all where Jesus entered first, and now we too can enter through Jesus. No one else can enter except through Christ because as Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) And this confidence to enter heaven is certainly not limited to when you die, or when Jesus comes again. This confidence to enter is for here and now as well. It’s the access we have to God in spirit and in truth and by faith.
There was a time even God’s own people weren’t allowed to enter save for the high priest alone who was allowed only once a year and that, after being thoroughly purified and prepared to enter. This privilege was limited. But now the right had been given to anyone who shares in Christ. Those who are born again to Christ and sprinkled and washed in his blood can enjoy free access to God, drawing near to his throne to worship him and to sit at his table as his children. The parable of the prodigal son can shed some light on this glorious privilege. In a moment of divine grace, the young man came to his senses, realized his sin against his father, repented and cried out to return home to his Father. Where do we find him? Standing at the door? No! We find him inside the house washed and clothed and fully enjoying his father’s loving care and presence. And why not! He’s family! This is the kind of confidence that the apostle tells us we have because we are already washed in the Lord’s blood and clothed with his righteousness.
One more thing about this verse can help us understand the kind of confidence the apostle is talking about. The confidence we have to enter into God’s presence is objective rather than subjective. What this means is that this confidence comes from something outside ourselves and not from inside, such as the condition of our hearts. We have a right to enter into God’s presence with confidence and boldness. It’s a privilege granted— a right— a legal right! And this confidence is not based on whether we were good that day or not, or whether we think we deserve to enter God’s presence or not. Christians who think this way are ill spiritually, still trying to gain favor through works. Rather it’s a confidence that is entirely based on the fact that we are allowed entrance by virtue of the blood of Jesus. This confidence is in his blood. How blessed are those who know this. They come and go freely. (John 10:19)
Read verse 20. “By a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” This is such an encouragement for us to make use of this glorious privilege which Christ has secured for us. Let me repeat something again. The highest privilege for a sinner whose very sin and corruption offends God, is to have access into the presence of God. So when we have access to God, the privilege is beyond description. The only way for us to approach God is through Christ. There is no other way. And the apostle here explains to us the way. Jesus once said: “I am the gate for the sheep”. (John 10:7). Indeed Jesus is the gate through which we can enter and return to God’s presence. After Adam sinned and was cast out from the presence of God, the gateway was bolted shut, and no one could enter. But look at the verse 20 again. Jesus is the new and living way into the presence of God through which we can now return. Jesus declared: “I am the say and the truth and the life”. (John 14:6) He is the way to God. He is the way to life eternal. He is the new way because his once for all sacrifice opened the door to heaven. He is also the living way because he rose from the dead and lives forever to guard the way in. Anyone who accepts Jesus’ body broken for him can now enter into God’s most holy presence to worship him.
Read verse 21. “And since we have a great priest over the house of God”. Here’s the third great privilege of a Christian, and at the same time, a faith to embrace and to hold firmly to. Someone might complain that although the door is open for me to enter God’s presence, I myself am too weak and powerless and sinful to take any steps in. So in order to remove any doubt that although I am like this, it doesn’t matter! Why? Because, as the author tells us, Christ has been established as a great priest over the household of God. It’s because we have a great priest whom God has entrusted to care for us. (5:1) What an amazing truth and encouragement this is for us. He is the living Savior and Mediator always and ever interceding for us, bringing every care and need we have before the Father.
Notice that the apostle doesn’t talk here about Christ’s sacrifice for us, but he mentions what he is and what he does now that he has been exalted above the heavens. Why is this significant? Because it involves the duties of a priest. His first duty is to sacrifice on behalf of the people. His second duty is to oversee the household of God. (Zechariah 3:6-7) Who belongs to the household of God? It’s God’s entire family, those in heaven but also those on earth— the redeemed of the Lord. And our Lord Christ is the steward of this family. But this stewardship is glorious because it recognizes the Lord Jesus as the Head, the Lord, the King and Supreme Ruler over this household. It is Jesus Christ’s full Divine Right. What then is his function as the great priest in charge of the house of God?
Jesus is the steward over all of us who are in his family. As a priest, he is in charge of us personally, in charge of our duties as well as in charge of our worship. Our acceptable worship to God is his responsibility. Because of that he helps the worshiper through his spirit to perform every duty we have before God. That’s our great priest Jesus’ responsibility as the Head over God’s household. But not only each of us personally, but his responsibility extends to the whole church. He directs the affairs of the church which functions in his name and for his glory. He ordains its elders and all who serve its purpose. He administers its directives. In all this, he makes its service acceptable to God. He protects its interests, blesses those who love it and overthrows its enemies. He adds to the church those who are newly born to it. And we who belong to it should know that our loyalty and allegiance, as well as our obedience is to him. It is to him and to him alone that we belong as an individual and as a church. There is no more faithful steward who stands before God us to help us better than our Lord. He is in charge of your life and actions, your discipline, your encouragement, and in all this making you and me acceptable worshipers before his throne in heaven.
Look at the words “since we have” in both verses 19 and 21. Since we have confidence to enter into the presence of God, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, here now are the responsibilities we have as a result of these great privileges. Now the apostle moves onward to our responsibilities before God. And he mentions three. Read verse 22a. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” After telling us about the threefold privilege we have in Christ, now he points out our threefold duty, the first of which is clearly here, too draw near to God as a joyful thankful worshipper. Let me tell you that drawing near to God is your priestly duty, a duty common to all those who have been made saints by the blood of Jesus. Here’s what revelation 1:6 says to us all and of us all: “And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father— to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Drawing near to God has within its meaning the complete operation of divine worship as we approach God to offer him praises and petitions. To draw near to God in worship is the action of your heart and mind, where your soul, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, yearns to return to God your father— in Christ— to find rest. Your soul finds comfort in the palm of the Savior’s hand as you kneel in prayer, and he lifts you up to heaven where you commune with your father by the new and living way provided by Jesus. And then your soul can honestly say with the psalmist: “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord my soul.” (Psalm 146:1) And if God is silent, you wait patiently because you know his unfailing love and you live in the certainty of his hope. And if the Lord answers by giving you peace of heart, you give all the glory to Christ. It’s a glorious privilege that in Christ we can draw near to God now and always.
The author also tells us to draw near to God with a “Sincere heart in full assurance of faith”. What is he talking about? He’s talking about the necessary manner and attitude by which we draw near to God. It’s not enough to bow the Head in reverent submission, nor is it right to pray with our lips only; and certainly God isn’t honored when we pray in doubt or unbelief. A sincere heart doesn’t doubt nor does it distrust God when it bows its head to worship God. We must give up double mindedness and hypocrisy if we are to draw near to him with a sincere heart and with the full assurance of faith. God tells us “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26) Nothing but this will satisfy him. And in giving him our heart and keeping to his ways, we sincerely determine to also give him everything that is due him, honor, love, and a holy desire to walk in his ways, with the assurance of faith in which I know and believe that he is my God and I am his beloved child.
There’s another dimension to the full assurance of faith as well. It says: “Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience”. The full assurance of faith speaks of a heart fully resting and relying on what Jesus blood stands for. You simply trust the blood of Christ which was shed for your sins and which enables you to now stand before God. This assurance of faith looks away from the self and sees only the great priest who takes my weak feeble praises and petitions and purified them and sweetens them with his own, and makes them accessible to my God in worship
“Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” This also describes the character of those who are qualified to enter into the holy presence of God. The Old Testament rites of blood sprinkling couldn’t make the conscience perfect, couldn’t cleanse it nor purify it from guilt. But Jesus’ sacrifice and the sprinkling of his blood on our hearts and minds not only cleanses our conscience but also gives us peace of mind and the confidence we need to approach God. As the apostle said elsewhere, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). He also said: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. (Romans 8:1) We are completely freed from the sense of condemnation that non believers have to constantly bear, and our hearts are at rest in Christ, because he is our rest and peace. But the author does not stop with the cleansing of a guilty conscience. He also says: “Having our bodies washed with pure water”. This looks back on the priests who purified themselves in their consecration to God. (Exodus 29:4) But what does it mean for us? It shows the outward effects of our daily Christian lives. Christians are not only purified inwardly, but outwardly as well. This is the practical side of what the author is teaching in these verses. After the initial cleansing of conscience, the cleansing continues as we discover our sins and actions and bring them for the washing of the Lord. (1 John 1:9) This means that our lives, inward or outward must be purified as we daily approach God. We must examine our selves daily and have a sense of honor and respect for the holiness of God when we approach him. This is where so many Christians fail today, as they come to him unprepared, stained with the day’s sins, and with the attitude of “it doesn’t matter because God and I are friends”, They enter as they are. You and I must prepare our hearts— we must understand who he is whom we are approaching— and we must come with the humility and purity of a priest called to worship.
Read verse 23. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” As we said before, the first exhortation deals with our relationship with God. In other words we must maintain a good conscience and separate ourselves from all that pollutes our body and soul in this world. Now the second exhortation or responsibility we have (23) deals with our eternal hope, the same faith we profess and the hope that is associated with it. He calls us not to be polluted by the worldly hopes that have a way to enter our hearts and make the godly hope distant and ineffective. What is our confession of faith and especially the hope to which we must hold to unswervingly? It is the faith in the Christ that we profess openly which makes us Christians. It is that faith and hope that made me renounce the world, and the desires of the flesh, and all that the devil tempts me with, all for Christ and for the love of Christ. It is also the faith and hope that I have no wisdom of my own, no righteousness of my own, but that I have received all that from Christ, who is my Prophet, my Priest and my King.
As my prophet, Jesus is my teacher and instructor in the way of holiness. As my Priest, Jesus is my guide and helper who helps me draw near to God and helps me to fulfill all my duties before God. As my King Jesus is my sovereign, the one I have given my full allegiance to and who deserves my loyalty in service. This is our faith and the hope we profess. For Christ, you and I have vowed to deny ourselves, take up our cross of mission, and to follow him all the days of our lives, until he returns to take us to be with him forever. Living in this hope is not an option. It is a responsibility we have to uphold this hope at any cost. “Hold unswervingly”, the apostle tells us. Many begin with a profession of faith and hope, and in time lose them to the desires and snares of this world. We must often meditate on the hope we profess to have, so that we might not lose sight of it. It is our responsibility to do so. It comes with the privilege. “Otherwise”, as the apostle says: “You have believed in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:2)
Read verses 24-25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The third responsibility of course deals with our relationship with one another. And what a beautiful command to follow and obey. Spurring one another on towards love and good deeds. This was Jesus’ own command to his disciples. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Our chief responsibility comes in two ways. We are called to spur one another on towards love, loving one another, and helping one another to love one another, encouraging one another to love each other, and sometimes making every effort to promote love among each other in the fellowship of the Lord. The second chief responsibility we have is that we have spur one another on towards good deeds. In other words we have to encourage one another to do the Lord’s work because only the Lord’s works are good works in the sight of God. How can we do that? There are many ways we can encourage each other towards love and good deeds. But he also encourages to meet regularly with one another and not avoid getting together as often as possible. It is in fellowship, through the word of God and prayer that we can best be encouraged to do what we are responsible to do, which is love and good deeds. And we must love and serve the Lord not one or two days a week, but until he returns because our hearts are set on his second coming.