Today we return to our exposition of Hebrews, resuming our study at 10:19. Verse 18 concluded a lengthy discourse on the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood and sacrifice to the old covenant priestly system, setting the stage for more exhortation. Apostasy, the denial of Christ after once professing faith in Him, was a real possibility for many members of the original audience of Hebrews, but it was not yet a reality. However, it would occur if they did not rightly apply the truths about Jesus’ effectual atonement.
How are these truths rightly applied? By drawing near to God through Christ, not abandoning the Savior (vv. 19–22). It was a mistake for anyone in the original audience to think that they might be able to have the God of Israel—the only true God—without Jesus. Unlike the original audience, not everyone will be tempted to think that they can still have God if they leave Jesus for the practice of old covenant Judaism. Yet, people around the world are convinced that they can have the one true God apart from faith in Jesus alone. At present, most of the world’s population thinks there is a path to the Almighty through religious systems that do not worship the Son of God. These people are mistaken, and we must support the work of the church in telling them the truth about Jesus.
We can enter fellowship with our Creator in the holy places, “by the new and living way that [Jesus] opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (vv. 19–20). Here the author is reminding us of the old covenant tabernacle and temple, where the Most Holy Place was cut off to the people of Israel with a closed curtain or veil (Ex. 26:31–35). On account of the rending of His flesh on Calvary, Jesus is the open curtain, as it were, that gives us access to the Lord God Almighty (Mark 15:37–38; John 14:6).
Drawing near to God through Jesus entails trusting Christ with “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb. 10:21–22). This reminds us of our need for sanctification—cleansing from sin and growth in holiness—by the Holy Spirit, which follows our faith in Christ. If we have trusted in Jesus alone, we are sanctified by the Lord. John Calvin comments, “We are made partakers of Christ, if we come to him, sanctified in body and soul; and yet that this sanctification is not what consists in a visible parade of ceremonies, but that it is from faith, pure conscience, and that cleanness of soul and body which flows from, and is effected by, the Spirit of God.”