What does it look like to live by faith? The answer to that question will help us understand what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Understanding this question begins just before and just after Hebrews 11. When we consider the context of this chapter (often referred to as the Hall of Faith), we gain a better understanding of what it means for the just to walk by faith.
What we find just before Hebrews 11 is an encouragement to not “cast away your confidence…” (Hebrews 10:35) followed by an exhortation to endure and believe (10:36-39). Likewise, just after Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to “run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
And in Hebrews 11, we read of men and women who clung to their confidence in the Lord and ran the race in the faith they received as a gift. Running as we should run—looking to Jesus and living in faith and by faith. Their examples of endurance give us encouragement as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
In a couple of chapters, the writer of Hebrews will encourage us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It’s a concept that we can consider sooner in light of the warning we read in Hebrews 10:26-31.
The race we are running with Christ is far more important than anything else that we could possibly compare it to. What is ahead of us is the most glorious, wonderful, amazing, and eternal. What is behind us is the most horrendous, awful, torturous, and also eternal. So be encouraged and exhorted to keep running the race with Christ—no matter what! If not for the glory of what’s ahead, then for the terror and holy fear of what is behind.
Here’s the hard truth in the warning of Hebrews 10—you can’t quit the race and return to ritual based religion. The Old Covenant sacrificial system is over. There are no more sacrifices for sin now that the lamb of God has come. There is nothing left to return to. So it’s not just quitting—it’s not just turning around and returning to the selfishness of sin or the sleepiness of a ritual based religion. It’s much worse—it’s trampling the Son of God underfoot and counting the blood of the covenant a common thing (Hebrews 10:29).
If at some point you feel like quitting and slow down or even stop and start to turn around, there is Someone there saying, “Over my dead body!” Why? Because of His great love for you! So in order to turn your back on Heaven and walk the other way, you have to trample the Son of God underfoot as He tries to do all that He can do to stop you.
Brothers and sister, we are almost home! Keep running the race! If nothing else, you have Jesus and we have each other—we will run this race together, pressing on for the prize.
O happy band of pilgrims,
If onward you will tread
With Jesus as your fellow
To Jesus as your Head!
O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize!
When we began our study in Hebrews, we said this book would be full of worship and warnings. Worship that encourages us to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. Worship that results in us being transformed by His Holy Spirit. This book has certainly encouraged us to view Jesus and the glory of God in Jesus in a way that we aren’t used to.
But it is also a book of warnings. We need those warnings because there is no middle ground in following God–there is either hot or cold. Throughout the book so far, we have read a series of warnings that caution us against falling short of God’s best for us. The first warning we read in Hebrews 2:1-3 is repeated in various ways and intensity throughout the book—but none with more intensity than the warning we considered this past Sunday.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our message as we carefully considered this important warning in the book of Hebrews.
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. The best that the sacrifices in the Old Covenant could ever do is cover sin. And yet, those sacrifices were a constant reminder of the existence of sin (Hebrews 10:3)! Remember—the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point us to the fulfillment of the reality in the New Covenant. Only The Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Millions of sacrifices in and under the Old Covenant could never cleanse the conscience—only cover sin until Christ came.
So why would we retreat back to religion when a relationship with God has been made possible through Jesus? Why would we settle for rules and rituals that can only remind us that our sin still remains? Now that Christ has come and offered one sacrifice once for all time, the ceremony of the rules and rituals of religion have lost significance.
God never wanted just ceremony without significance. God never wants just your obedience or your compliance. God always wanted you—just you! He wants a relationship with you. That was what all the significant ceremonies and meaningful models were to lead you to—a relationship with Him! And once you are in a relationship with Him, all the significant ceremonies and all the meaningful models need to go. He doesn’t want you to cling to the things that remind you of Him—He wants you to cling to Him.
In Him and through Him, your sins are removed, not just covered: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) And because of that, you have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…” So be bold, brothers and sisters, to enter into an intimate relationship with God—not by anything you have done or could do but simply by the blood of Jesus.
Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last,
Till safe in glory my anchor is cast;
Through endless ages, ever to be
Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to thee.
As we continue our study in the book of Hebrews, we need to remember that this text was a letter to the Hebrews. The writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was writing to Hebrew Christians—those who grew up under the rules and rituals of the Old Covenant. At some point, these individuals were born again—saved by grace through faith.
But when the ropes of religion were removed, only grace was left. This was scary for some of them, who chose to retreat back into the ritual of religion under the Old Covenant. Out of fear and uncertainty, they were turning their backs on the New Covenant (and even on Christ Himself). So the writer of Hebrews is addressing them and calling them back to Christ. He does this by constantly comparing the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we considered how the rules, regulations, and rituals of the Old Covenant pale in comparison to the righteousness and relationship we have by grace through faith.
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In Hebrews, we see how the Old Covenant is obsolete. It was a meaningful model, but it was not the real deal. Jesus is the real deal! He is everything the meaningful model was pointing to. He is the all-sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all. That is why the New Covenant tabernacle is superior to the Old.
What’s more—the New Covenant tabernacle is in the will of God for you. Hebrews 9:16-17 says “Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.” God gave the meaningful model while still living. But God died to give you the real deal—because the real deal was in His will for you!
The only way He could give it to you was to give His life for you—to save you from your sin. Jesus died to give you the real deal—an all sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all time. A sacrifice that completely cleanses the conscience. A sacrifice that provides eternal security with full access to God the Father.
And because of what He accomplished, and because it is finished, and because in Him you have forgiveness from your sin, you can now boldly and eternally enter into the Holy of Holies—full and complete access to God and full and complete fellowship with God…forever!
Not all the blood of beasts
on Jewish altars slain,
could give the guilty conscience peace,
or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
takes all our sins away,
a sacrifice of nobler name
and richer blood than they.
The value of a model, no matter how detailed or how intricate, can ever reach the value of the genuine article. That is the point the writer of Hebrews makes in chapter 9. The Old Covenant—specifically the tabernacle—was merely a model of the real tabernacle of the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant tabernacle was meaningful and valuable because it was given by God in incredible detail. But its purpose was to point to the real tabernacle that God was going to give one day. So now that we have the genuine article—the real deal—why would we continue to meddle with the model?
This past Sunday, we worked out way through Hebrews 9. Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we reviewed the reasons why the real deal is superior to the meaningful model.
The apex of all that we have studied this far is found in Hebrews 8:1—“We have such a High Priest…” This High Priest is none other than Jesus. He is a reality to be realized; a Savior to be received; the Heavenly High Priest.
Gracious and compassionate, He serves sinners better than the angels, better than Moses, Joshua, or Aaron; and better than the collective ministry of over 300 High Priests over the span of hundreds of years. He did not come to condemn but came to save by substituting Himself. And once He had offered Himself as the single sacrifice for sins forever, He sat down at the right hand of God. There He remains—seated and serving as our Advocate forever by the power of an indestructible life!
Where Jesus sits is significant—“the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). The Jewish Supreme Court at the time when Hebrews was written was the Sanhedrin—70 elders who would hear accusations and make acquittals. Among the 70 was a primary judge who sat and heard the arguments. Seated to his right would be someone who would write down all the acquittals—judgements rendered not guilty.
It paints the picture of a courtroom scene where we find the accuser (Satan) making his argument, recounting every sinful action and word and thought we have ever committed. Under the Old Covenant, a High Priest could only cover our sin. But in the New Covenant, the High Priest takes away our sin. If you have such a High Priest, God the Father looks to His right, where our High Priest sits with the scars of His sacrifice still on his hands and renders His judgement—not guilty! And then Jesus has the joy of writing your name in His book of life—you are acquitted!
Once this security is settled in your heart and mind, you will cease from trying to serve God just to earn His favor. You will cease from seeking God just for what you can get. You will simply stand in awe of the Lord, beholding His glory, and worship Him. And as we behold the Glory of God in the face of Christ, God promises that the Holy Spirit will transform us and lead us on from strength to strength.
Jesus, my great High Priest,
offered his blood and died;
my guilty conscience seeks
no sacrifice beside.
His powerful blood did once atone,
and now it pleads before the throne.
Under the Old Covenant, over 300 High Priests serve in succession, offering millions of sacrifices over and over and over—the same sacrifices again and again and again which could never cleanse the sinner, but only cover their sin.
Until…one High Priest under a New Covenant offered one sacrifice—Himself. This sacrifice was unlike any other before—perfect, sufficient, and substitutionary. And then…He sat down, because it was finished.
And now, this High Priest sits and serves as High Priest forever. “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
If you’ve been studying the book of Hebrews with us, you know by now that this High Priest is Jesus. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we behold His glory as our Great High Priest!
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends