Our beloved Mr. J. N. Darby pointed out the three outstanding subjects of the chapter as:
- “The Will of God” (Hebrews 10:1–10),
- “The Word of Christ” (Hebrews 10:11–14), and
- “The Witness of the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 10:15–18).
They all combine to prepare us for approach. There are three words in the first verse of the chapter that require consideration and will help to shew the great theme of this discourse.
They are: “Shadow,” “Image,” and “Perfection. “A shadow can only be caused by a substance. An image is a presentation. The word rendered “perfection” here really means “completion.” The whole “law” system was but a shadow, not the substance. Christ and the heavenly system of which He is the center form the substance. These heavenly spiritual things could not be presented in an earthly material order. Hence, completion could not be attained by an earthly material shadow. The weakness of the whole of the first order is demonstrated in the opening verse. If we keep these three things in mind, we will be prepared to transfer our thoughts from the shadow to the substance as seen in verse 7; from the material to the spiritual as seen in verse 9; and from imperfection to perfection as seen in verse 14.
Mention is made of the institution of animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood to deal with the question of sin. This, we are told, is a shadow. What then is the substance? It is the perfect work of Christ, counselled in eternity. This is clearly stated in verse 7: “In the volume of the book.” We must keep in mind that He did not die merely to fulfil the types. His death had been counselled in eternity, of this the various types were the shadow in time. If we think then that His death, counselled in eternity, was primary and as a result, in time, the offerings are brought in secondary, we can clearly understand why the whole law system was but a shadow! Then the imperfection of the first order is witnessed in this fact. Being repeated every year proved that those who approached (J.N. Darby Translation) had never by these sacrifices been made perfect. If once they had been perfected, no more need of an offering would have arisen. Hence the shadow carried its own witness of imperfection, in that the offerings were constantly repeated. Yea, instead of witnessing that sins were put away, they repeatedly called to mind that sins were not put away. They constantly called sins to mind as stated in verse 3. The reason for this is clearly stated in verse 4: “For the blood of bulls and goats (is) incapable of taking away sins.” Note the statement: “take away sins.” This involves the work of Propitiation by Christ Himself! To effect this, it was necessary that the One who was the substance of all the shadows should come into the world in manhood.
It appears now that all the offerings under the Law gave no pleasure to God (v. 6). The reason was, they could not make man fit to come into the presence of God. But when He comes into the world in the body prepared for Him (Luke 1:35), we read, “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of me) to do O God thy will” (v. 7). His coming into the world was the fruit of Eternal Counsel. Writing in Scripture carries the thought of what is unalterable (see Luke 3:4; Rev. 21:27). Nothing in that book can be altered. The word “roll” here too is interesting. It is kephalis (see footnote in J.N. Darby) and means “a heading up” or “summing up.” It would suggest that the subject matter of eternal Counsel is summed up in this, “Lo I come to do thy will, O God.” Every detail of the will of God was counselled in eternity and Christ comes into the world to carry it to fruition. “He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (v. 9). The shadow is removed that the substance may abide. In chapter 9 we had mention made of a first and a second place, but in this verse, it is more the first and second order. No doubt the first order allowed man into the first place, but the second order has fitted man for the second place (i.e., inside the veil).
How wonderful to read next, “by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” He took that body to accomplish the will of God, and here we are told God had willed our sanctification. So, in coming into the world to do the will of God, we read here that He has done this by sanctifying a priestly company who are thereby fitted to enter the presence of God. So perfect has that one work been, that it has never needed to be repeated. Having done the work, He “sat down in perpetuity” and as a result we are “perfected in perpetuity” (vv. 12–14). This perfection was never effected while the shadows were running their course, for sins were not put away. He has by one sacrifice settled the question forever. It has meant the sanctifying of a company, complete or fully furnished with all that they need, to fit them for the presence of God. It is to this perfect work, done once and for all, that the Holy Ghost bears witness. What a contrast in the two systems. The first brings sins to remembrance but the second says they are remembered no more. Brought to remembrance in the first because they had not been put away. Remembered no more in the second because they have been put away (v. 17). As year succeeded year under the old order, the total of sins would be increasing, for the past year’s sins had not been put away. Remembered afresh every year as the total increased, till at last the sum total was remembered for the last time, on the head of Christ at the Cross but this time, they were put away. Now, as a result, they will be remembered no more. It is to this fact that the Holy Spirit bears witness, following the perfect work of Christ on the Cross. It was the “will of God” that they should be put away. “The work of Christ” has put them away. “The witness of the Holy Spirit” to us would have in view, our acceptance of it by faith. Faith on our side is the first step to approach into the presence of God (v. 22).
We now come to the exhortation to “draw near” (v. 22). Why should we stay away? all that would keep us from God has been removed by the death of Christ, in order that with holy boldness, we can approach the presence of God. On the one hand His blood has fitted us to go in, and on the other, it has met the claims of God. We are fit to go there, and God in His righteous and holy character can have us there. Christ has dedicated that way for us by going in, having become priest by His own blood. The way is said to be “through the veil, that is, His flesh,” referring to His Manhood. It is by becoming man He has opened the way for us into the presence of God. Both revelation and approach are complete in Him. God was revealed in Him and as a consequence, we go to God in the light of that revelation, in Him. He is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. God coming out in revelation in Him is seen typically in the rending of the veil of the Temple when He died. Our going in to God is seen more in the veil of the Tabernacle (Hebrews 9:3). That is the building before us in this epistle, not the Temple. We have no record of the veil of the Tabernacle being rent! It is Christ in manhood, whether coming from God as Apostle or going to God as High Priest. We must of course free our minds from the material and get the spiritual import as seen in Christ Himself. Entering the Holiest means that we are consciously in the presence of God in the faith of our souls—in the presence of the God who has been perfectly revealed in His Son. When we get there, we find ourselves in company with the Great Priest over the House of God. In answer to Aaron and his sons on the day of consecration, we have Christ and the Assembly in the blessing of the “Heavenly Calling” and in function as the new spiritual company, inside the veil. High or Chief Priest, would be relative to the company but Great Priest, would be absolute, because of Who He is. The first would tell us of His infinite grace in associating us with Himself but the second would preserve His Personal dignity for He is the “Son, perfected for evermore.”
Here then are the inducements we have to encourage us to draw near to God. The blood of Jesus has met the claims of God and put away our sins. He has opened up as a consequence a new and living way by going in to God. By becoming man, He has perfectly revealed God as the Apostle and, still in Manhood, He has gone into God as High Priest. Through that revelation we can know God, and now in Him as the fruit of His work we can go to God. Then when we approach in the faith of our souls, we are conscious of being in His company as the Great Priest over the House of God. We join Him there as the Minister of the Sanctuary and He sustains us and leads in the worship of God.
Now we have the exhortation, “Let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water.” In referring once again to Aaron and his sons, we learn that they were washed in water and then sprinkled with blood (Exodus 29:4, 29). The water for cleansing and the blood for expiation. The washing with water would give us a “true heart” as dealing with our state. The sprinkling with blood would give us “full assurance of faith” as dealing with our guilt. The word here translated “pure” is katharos, and really means clean. A concordance will show that the word for purge in Hebrews 9:14; 10:2, is the same as that used here for “pure.” In each case it means “clean.” The twofold result is that we have a clean heart and a clean conscience. The first would give us a new state as the result of the washing by water, that is, morally cleansed by the word. The second gives us a clean conscience as believing in the precious blood of Christ. The way has been opened up on the divine side by Christ making God known and going in to God. We are fitted on our side to lay hold of the privilege as having a clean heart and a clean conscience. Everything for God and for us has been done by Christ, who has thus accomplished the will of God in securing a company to approach the sanctuary to take up His praise and worship.
May we know what it is to join Christ as the Great Priest over the House of God and as the Minister of the Sanctuary, that under His direction, as associated with Him in the presence of God, He might lead out our hearts in praise and worship for the pleasure of His God and Father.