Studies in Hebrews Part 15: The Forsaking of Assembly

The last time we looked at Hebrews, we talked about the will of God.  We saw in the text how it has always been God’s will from eternity that Jesus Christ save His elect by dying for their sins.

We saw in the text that Christ has accomplished God’s will; that is, He has saved His people.   And the way He did this was by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.

He offered Himself as a substitute for His people.  And as their substitute, He took to Himself the punishment for their sins and died in their place as the One made guilty for their sins.

His death, as punishment for their sins, has fully and forever satisfied God’s wrath that had stood against His people for their sins.

As a consequence of having satisfied God’s wrath on behalf of His elect, Christ did purchase for His elect their justification, their faith, their conversion, their new birth, and their resurrection.

In view of what Christ has accomplished for them, God now must impute them righteous, for His justice has been satisfied.  He must bring them to faith and He must justify them.  And at the last day He must raise them from the dead and clothe them with immortality.

Elsewhere in the text we also saw that by accomplishing God’s will, Christ has forever put away all the sacrifices and offerings required by the old Mosaic law.

We saw that these sacrifices and offerings could never accomplish God’s will.  They could never put away His people’s sins.   This is why they had to be continually repeated.  The best they could do was postpone for one more year that inevitable date with judgment, but they could never once and for all put away sins.

Christ however, has put away His people’s sins.  He has put away the punishment for them by suffering that punishment Himself.

And lastly, we saw that by His death, Christ did once and for all put away the old Mosaic covenant itself – including its law – and did in its place establish a new covenant which God had promised beforehand from eternity, and which comes with its own identifiable, written law, independent of the laws of all those old covenants, and which Christians are to obey today, but not for righteousness.

This is where we have been.  Today, we are going to look at the second half of chapter  10, which begins with verse 19, but we’re going to start with verse 11 instead of verse 19, because we need to pick up a few things before we head into verse 19.

So, Hebrews 10, starting with verse 11.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

I mentioned this a moment ago.  The first three verses of this chapter go into this.  The old covenant sacrifices could never take away sin.  This is why the priests of that covenant had to keep ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices.

Notice the text says the priest stands.  He was never allowed to sit.  And the reason why he could never sit was because atonement had not been accomplished, the work was not finished.

I think we mentioned before how in Matthew’s gospel we find the women approaching the tomb of Jesus only to find the stone that covered the entrance of the tomb rolled away and an angel seated upon it.

He was seated, see.  The work was finished.  Christ had accomplished God’s will.

It’s the same idea we find in the next verse where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and also in Ephesians 2 where we are told that the saints are even right now seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Verse 12.

12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

Seated at the right hand of God does not mean Christ spatially occupies a space on the right side of God’s throne versus the left side.

No, right hand is a Hebrewism.  It’s a turn of phrase, in other words.  It’s a Jewish way of saying He is seated upon the heavenly throne.  He is the King of the universe, the supreme authority over all power and dominion in heaven and on earth.  And keep in mind, He is seated there.  He is not standing.

As for Christ being seated “from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool”, this is a reference from Psalm 110.  The author has quoted from this Psalm several times already in his epistle.   He quoted from it in chapter 1, in chapter 5 and again in chapter 7.  And here again in chapter 10 he makes reference to it.

What is so important about this Psalm?  Well, in Psalm 110 we see Christ made a high priest by a promise.

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

We also overhear God the Father saying to God the Son, “Sit here until I make all Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

And lastly we also find God making His people willing in the day of His power.   What is the day of His power?  The day of His power is that day He converted you.  It’s the day He converts each of His elect.

The I in Tulip, irresistible grace, is a reference to this.  In that day He made us willing to believe His gospel.

We continue with our text, verse 14.

14 For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We talked about this phrase being sanctified last time.  Verse 10 tells us that, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  It’s a once and done act, it’s finished.  Verse 14 reiterates this, “He has perfected.”

We talked about how the phrase being sanctified here in verse 14 here is referring to effectual calling.  It’s referring to that day of His power.

Although all the elect have been redeemed 2000 years ago, they are still nevertheless born in need of being imputed righteous and effectually called.

Verse 15.
15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

The Holy Spirit also witnesses to us.  And how does the Holy Spirit witness to us?  By His written word.  That’s what the author is showing us here.

“But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us, for after He had SAID . . .”  and then the author quotes from the Old Testament.

These verses taken from the Old Testament is what the Holy Spirit said.  The Holy Spirit spoke the Old Testament and He spoke the New Testament.  His written word is His witness.

Moving on to verse 17.
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more”

This is the eternal promise of the new covenant.

Verse 18.
Where there is forgiveness of these there is no longer any offering for sin.

What’s the these?  The these are verse 17, “their sins and lawless deeds.”

Where there is forgiveness of their sins and lawless deeds, there is no longer any offering for sin. And the reason why there is no longer any offering for sin is because there is no need for any offering for sin.  Christ was the final sacrifice.  His sacrifice has once and for all put away all His people’s sins.

Okay, so you get what this first half of the chapter is getting at.  It’s done.  It’s finished.  No more sacrifices.  No more offerings.   No more seeking to put away sin.  No more seeking to atone for sin, to get our sins forgiven.  No, it’s done.  All of the sins of all of the elect have been once and for all put away.

Keeping all of this in mind, we now move to the second half of this chapter.

The first thing we should note about the second half of this chapter is that it follows a therefore.  This is how the passage begins.  It begins with the word, “therefore.”

Now, as you have probably already heard many times before, when you see the word “therefore” see what it’s there for.

The word therefore is like an imaginary equals line.   2 + 2 =.   It draws a conclusion from a previous passage.  It’s like saying, in the light of everything I’ve just said, now therefore.

This means that if you want to find out what he means by what he is going to say next, then you had better first make sure you understand what he has already said before, because whatever he is going to say next is going to be said within the light of what he has already said before.

What the author of Hebrews has said before is this: “that where there is forgiveness of lawless deeds, there is no longer any offering for sin.”  This is verse 18.  It summarizes everything he has said from verse 1 to verse 17.

Now that Christ has put away all His people’s lawless deeds, therefore, in the light of this.

What follows the therefore is an assertion.

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

Notice that.  HAVING BOLDNESS.  The ESV puts it, “SINCE we have confidence.”

This is not a suggestion.   He is not saying he thinks it would be a pretty good idea were we to try to be bold here about entering the holy places.   No.

Nor is he telling us this boldness is something for the mature Christian; that it’s something we grow into, a higher life kind of thing.  No, he is not saying that either.

What the author is telling us instead is that it is a foregone conclusion.  If you believe the gospel, then of course you have boldness to enter the holy places without fear of punishment.   There is no question you have confidence.   It’s absurd to even consider the idea of someone believing the gospel and yet not having boldness to enter the holy places without fear of punishment.

Why is it absurd?  Because listen to what the gospel says.

We went over it in the first half of this chapter.

The gospel tells us that it has always been God’s will that Jesus Christ save His elect by dying for their sins, and that Jesus Christ did indeed accomplish this.  That is, He has removed His people’s lawless deeds by offering His own body to God as a sacrifice for His peoples’ lawless deeds.  God no longer counts their lawless deeds against them, because He has counted them to Christ.  And having been counted with His people’s lawless deeds, He then satisfied God’s wrath that once stood against them for their lawless deeds by dying the death they had earned for their lawless deeds.

He has once and for all perfected them.  Not one of them will be lost, and He will bring every one of them to believe that this is true.

Now, how can someone who believes their lawless deeds are no longer counted to them NOT have boldness to enter into God’s presence?   The idea is absurd.

Contrast this with what the Catholic Church teaches.

Rome tells us that assurance is a sin, because we can never be certain we have done enough to atone for our sins.

Well do we dismiss right from the start, but don’t think for one moment Rome is alone in this.  No.   The fact is this nonsense has been creeping into Calvinist circles for some time now.

Consider the Puritans.  They were terrible for it.  Lots of Puritans taught that some Christians will never be assured of their salvation, and that even those who would be still had to struggle through years and sometimes even decades of doubt first.

Now yes, they didn’t say Christians wouldn’t have assurance because they had to atone for their sins, nor did they say it was a sin to have assurance; but nevertheless, they still treated assurance as if it were some near impossible to attain goal that God delights in keeping from His saints.

No, absolutely not.  This kind of nonsense has helped feed into heresies like Lordship Salvation and Federal Vision.

Lordship tells us that we can have assurance, all right, but not by faith alone.  No.  We have to look to what the Spirit is doing to our behavior instead.  More about that later.

For now though, have you ever heard someone say you can’t know whether you’re really saved or not until after Christ returns?   I have.  I’ve heard it a bunch of times, and let me tell you, it is garbage.

Imagine someone, they have just recently been brought to believe the gospel, and then one of the first things they hear after being brought to believe the gospel is some preacher or person on the internet telling them that they cannot really be certain they are saved.  What are these people saying?  They’re denying the gospel.  They are telling us that if we are certain God keeps His promises, then we are being presumptuous and that we mustn’t think this way.

Every gospel believer from the newest to the oldest has the right to enter boldly into God’s presence without fear of punishment.  He has the right to expect the Father to hear his prayers.  He has the right to expect to be raised at the last day and to be clothed with immortality.   It’s a foregone conclusion that he has the right to expect this, and that he will, in fact, expect this.

What about this Holiest though?  What is the Holiest?

If you were an Old Testament Jew the only place you would know as holy is the Temple itself, and by extension the various rooms within the Temple; the courtyards, the altar and so forth.

But more precisely, for an Old Testament Jew, the Holiest would refer specifically to the innermost room called The Most Holy Place and located in the Holy Place.

The Most Holy Place was where the ark of the covenant was kept.  It was said to be God’s throne and the place where His Presence dwelt.

A thick, heavy curtain hung between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.  The purpose of this curtain was to separate the sinful worshippers who were outside in the Holy Place from God’s presence within the Most Holy Place.

The reason why this curtain was needed was because of man’s sin.  Man, because of his lawless deeds, could not enter into God’s presence.

But now that Christ has removed His people’s lawless deeds by offering His own body to God as a sacrifice for His peoples’ lawless deeds, that curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place has been torn in two.  It’s been removed.  The way to the tree of life is now open to God’s elect.  They now have free and unfettered access into God’s presence without fear of punishment.

And so what the author means by Holies is simply the Presence of God.  Since we now have free and unfettered access into God’s presence, let us therefore approach Him with boldness . . .

. . . verse 20 . . .

20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Full assurance of faith.  Confidence.  Boldness.  That is, the full assurance that what they believe is true.

And what they believe is true is that they now have the right to enter into God’s presence without fear of punishment, because Christ has removed their lawless deeds by offering His body to God at the cross as punishment for their lawless deeds.

They are fully assured, certain, confident the Father will hear their prayers.   They are fully assured, certain, confident that Christ will raise them at the last day.

The next part of our passage echoes this confidence yet again.  Verse 23

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The reason why the elect have the right to enter into God’s presence is because Christ has redeemed them and has imputed them righteous.   And because they are convinced this is true, the elect also know and are convinced that their sins have been put away and so therefore their conscience is clean.

A true heart is a heart that is convinced this is true.  Convinced, assured, confident.  Therefore, let us hold fast our confession of hope then.

In the light of this, in light of the fact that we have the confidence to enter into God’s presence without fear of punishment, let us then consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some.

I have a question.  Why would a justified saint, made righteous by the cross of Christ  – NOT want to meet with their brothers and sisters in order to stir and be stirred up to love and good works?

That’s a good question.   But let put that on hold for a moment, because I think we will understand the answer better in light of the rest of the passage.

I will come back to it though, I promise.

Continuing with our passage.   Verse 26.

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

And here we come to what I think is the third most abused, misused, maligned  and misunderstood passage in all the Bible; third only to James chapter 2 and John 3:16.

Some of the interpretations I have heard concerning this passage just anger me.  The most self righteous, God dishonoring commentary that I have ever heard center around this passage.

I have heard preachers and theologians and people with Ph D’s after their name say everything about this verse from it teaches us that we can lose our salvation to it says we aren’t saved if we keep sinning willfully, or as the ESV puts it, deliberately.

Let me begin by saying that both of these “opinions” and just about everything in between is foolishness.  It’s foolishness.  It’s just garbage.

This verse is not teaching us that we can lose our salvation.   How could it be when in every single verse that preceded it has reminded us time and again that the work is finished and our sins have been put away?

For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  Hello?  Forever means forever, doesn’t it?  Forever does not mean such time only as until I sin.

Nor is this verse teaching us that we are not saved if we go on sinning willfully.   How could it be when in every single verse that precedes it we are reminded time and again that the work is finished and that our sins have been put away?   For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  Hullo?  What part of He has perfected does not include the sins we sin willfully?

His perfect sacrifice has put away all His people’s sins, including those sins which they sin willfully or deliberately.

The gospel does not say He took our sins done in ignorance, but He left us to atone on our own for the willful ones.

No, the Bible says He was made sin.  It does not say He was made accidental sin, but not willful sin.

Nor does the Bible teach that He was made accidental and willful sins in reference ONLY to that time before the elect are converted, but He was only made accidental sin for that time when after they are converted.

You see how absurd this gets?

Look at what James tell us about our sinning.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.

Sounds to me like he’s saying it’s all willful.

There is this idea found in false gospels that says the purpose of the cross, the reason why Christ came to die for His people, was to prepare His people for the Holy Spirit’s work of making them more obedient and less sinful, and that if you are not progressing towards becoming less sinful and more obedient, then you have not the Spirit of Christ and are not really a Christian.

Now think about that for a moment.  I want us to do a little thought exercise.  Suppose for a moment that this were true, just for a moment.   Suppose the purpose of the cross was indeed to prepare God’s people for the work of becoming better, more law obedient, less sinful people with the help of the Spirit.

If this was true, then wouldn’t we be in the process of becoming less needful of the cross?

If I am becoming less sinful, then the fact is I am needing less of His cross today than I did when He first converted me.  Right?  See that?

Do you think Christ is glorified by people having less need of His sacrifice?   I don’t think so.

You see, a man who is growing less sinful every year is also a man who is needing less of the cross every year.  He is needing less of that righteousness, because he is gaining a righteousness from his own obedience.

In addition to this foolishness though, there’s another problem, because if we are getting better about not sinning, then it is true our conscience remains polluted with the sin that we haven’t gotten better about yet.

How, in that case, with a polluted conscience, are we supposed to approach the throne of grace with confidence?  We couldn’t.

This nonsense is not only found among the Pentecostals, and Methodists, and Finney-Wesley circles of Arminianism either.  No, it is every bit as entrenched in Presbyterian and reformed circles, as well.

The purpose of the cross was not to prepare the elect for the process of becoming conformed in their obedience to Christ’s obedience.  No, we just read what the purpose of the cross was right here in the first half of chapter 10.

The purpose of the cross was to perfect the elect once and for all time.  In other words, to present them perfect and complete in righteousness.   The cross has done that, once and for all.  Once and for all is not progressive.  Once and for all is definite, done, finished. This is why there are no more sacrifices.

What then is this passage talking about if it’s not talking about a progressive holiness?

Let’s read the passage again to see what is happening here.  Verse 21

21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Verse 26 connects to verse 25.  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, BUT INSTEAD EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER.    In other words, let’s continue to meet in order to encourage one another.

To encourage one another about what though?  Verses 24 and 23.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope WITHOUT WAVERING.

Let’s exhort one another to not waver.  Waver about what?  Verse 21 and 22.

21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in FULL ASSURANCE of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water

In other words, let’s keep meeting with each other in order to keep exhorting one another to not waver in our faith in the great priest who is over the house of God and who has made us to draw near to God in full assurance of faith with a clean conscience.

Because if you do waver from this, if you willfully draw back from this high priest and His sacrifice, then there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sins.  Why?  Verse 18, remember that one?  Where there is forgiveness of lawless deeds, there is NO LONGER an offering for sin.

There is no more offering for sin, folks.  That’s it.  No more.  So if we draw back in doubt from this one, then we’re stuck, because there are no more sacrifices to be had.

Do you see that?

There is nothing in this passage about you’d better start shaping up and start sinning less if you don’t want to lose your salvation.  Good grief.

Listen, men who teach that kind of nonsense are spiritual perverts.  They really are.  They are spiritual perverts.

They pervert the gospel of God’s sovereign grace.  They are enemies of the cross of Christ, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame.  They are men who delight in perverting God’s word for the purpose of gathering disciples to themselves, and they are to be avoided.

Let me say again as I have said in times past, I am against the Zane Hodges’ tattoo version of Christianity in which you stroll up to an altar or repeat a prayer, and boom, you got your ticket punched.  You got your permanent Jesus tattoo. You can go home, never think of Christ again, you can even decide to become a Buddhist or an Atheist, it doesn’t matter, you’re still going to heaven no matter what you believe, because you got your ticket punched.

No, I am against that.  That is a false gospel, make no mistake about it.

But I am equally against this modern brand of Neonomianism called Lordship Salvation that says you aren’t really saved if you don’t have less sin to show for it.

These guys love to talk about “balance”.  This is their favorite word, “balance.”  I’ve heard them talk about the first half of this chapter as if it were just one side of a two-sided coin.

They’ll say yes, that first half, it’s all about the work being finished, it’s about what Christ has accomplished for His elect.  Yeah, that’s what it’s about.  But now we have to BALANCE that.

We have to “balance” all that grace and redemption with our responsibility.  We can’t just go out there start acting like that stuff is actually true.  No, we have to temper that grace with a big heaping helping of self righteous motivation.  It might be finished, but it ain’t finished until it’s finished in us.

I’ve said it before, let me say it again.  These guys, they stand outside the front door of their churches crying, “By grace alone, by grace alone, it’s all been finished by Christ.”  But the moment you cross the threshold and step inside, that’s when they demand you show them some works to prove you belong inside.  And if you can’t, then they escort you out  the backdoor while they continue to shout it’s all by grace alone at the front door.

Lordship Salvation is a false gospel.  It dishonors God and perverts the gospel into a morning makeover show.  But the gospel is no morning makeover show.  God is not Dr Phil, and there are no before and after photos.

But we do still have that question I asked a moment ago.  Why would a justified saint, made righteous by the cross of Christ, not want to meet with their brothers and sisters in order to stir and be stirred up to love and good works?

Certainly there are a number of different reasons why someone might get into the habit of not gathering regularly for fellowship.  Laziness is right at the top.  I’ve been prone to that myself.  Petty bickering, jealousies, is another one.

But consider who he is writing to.  These Hebrews were drawing back in doubt.  They kept laying new foundations of repentance every time they turned around.

Now let me quickly add here before I continue that I am NOT talking about those brothers and sisters who have no where to fellowship.   Not at all.  The tragedy is we have lots of brothers and sisters who are in a situation where they have nowhere to fellowship.  I am NOT referring to them.

Nor am I referring to the occasional emergency.  Truck breaks down, you get sick, someone in the family dies, whatever.  I’m not talking about that either.

No, what I’m talking about is the person who has somewhere to fellowship, they have a local body of solid gospel believers they can gather with, but they consistently refuse to do so.  Why?

I mean, consider our fellowship here.  We have had dozens and dozens of people in our fellowship here come and go over the years.   They’re no longer with us.  Some have come for a few weeks and then we never see them again.  Others have come and have stayed for a number of years before they disappear never to be seen or heard from again.

In some of those cases the people who left seemed to be confident in their assurance, but they are still no longer here with us.  How confident were they really then?

In other cases, some of the people who left us seemed never to be assured.  They were always struggling with doubt, never fixed and certain in their faith.

Let me say that if you are struggling with assurance, if you are uncertain of your salvation, then the last place you need to be avoiding is fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.   Because I’m going to warn you right now.  If you are struggling with assurance, then it’s only a matter of time before you start finding yourself tossed about by every wave and wind of doctrine.  It’s going to happen, because at the end of the day assurance is what you are looking for and you’ll chase anything and anyone who promises it.

If the good news of what Christ has accomplished for His people is not enough to assure you, then the only thing left to you is a fearful expectation of judgment.

You see, the irony here is that the person who doubts, he is still expectant of something.  We are all expectant of something, because there is no other sacrifice to be had.  Either we are expectant of our salvation, or we are expectant of our condemnation and death.  There is no other sacrifice to be had.

I’m not saying that the person who is struggling with assurance is not a Christian.  No, these very Hebrews here were drawing back in doubt.  The author doesn’t tell them they’re lost.  No, he tells them he feels confident about better things concerning them.

But keep in mind they were still gathering for fellowship, so he knew they were at least hearing him preach the gospel to them.  What can we say about those who are no longer gathering with us to fellowship?

Not a good situation they’ve put themselves in, is it?

I think in addition to this there are some Christians who honestly do not know and understand what the role of gathering for fellowship plays in the life of the believer.  We’re told right here what it is. To gather in order to encourage one another to not waver in our faith.

Listen, if you aren’t here to help encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ, then who is going to encourage them?   And if you aren’t here to be encouraged, then how are you being encouraged?

I mean, are you just giving up on ever doing any good works at all?  Is that it?  You have no intention of honoring God by presenting your bodies as living sacrifices?  You have no gratitude or thanksgiving to render to Him?

It reminds me of the ten lepers.  Christ healed all ten, but only one returned to give thanksgiving and praise.  Whatever the reason why you are not in the habit of fellowshipping, that’s between you and God, but I encourage you to examine yourself if you are one of these.

Let’s keep going so we can finish our passage. We’re almost done.

Verse 28.
28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

The author uses an example from the Old Testament to prove his point about not wavering in our faith.  He’s saying look here, if you want evidence that there no longer remains a sacrifice for people who willfully draw back in unbelief after having heard and understood the gospel of God’s sovereign grace, then consider this.  Anyone who sat aside the law of Moses died without mercy once it was proven by the testimony of two or three witnesses that he had set aside the law of Moses.

Your absence from regular fellowship, what do you think that witnesses of?  Not good.

Verse 29
29 How much worse punishment then, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

When he says “he was sanctified” he’s being hypothetical.   He’s saying look here, if a person under the old covenant died without mercy for setting aside the law of Moses, then imagine how much worse the punishment will be for anyone who draws back in unbelief?

I hope that some of those folks who have gone out from us, I hope they hear this message sometime this week.  And I hope God uses it to convict them, and to bring them back.  Whatever you are going through some of you, whatever issues you are struggling with, whatever doubt you might have, the last thing you need is to be isolated from fellowship with the people of God.


About David Bishop

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12 Responses to Studies in Hebrews Part 15: The Forsaking of Assembly

  1. markmcculley says:

    SOLA ECCLESIA: The Lost Reformation Doctrine
    by Michael J. Glodo
    With which of the following statements are you in greater agreement?

    1. “Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”

    2. “Away from [the church] one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.”

    For the average evangelical Christian the first statement may lack some balance, but the second sounds downright Romish. If this describes your reaction, then your ecclesiology is closer to the author of the first, Lenny Bruce, than to the author of the second, John Calvin (Institutes 4.1.1). Bruce, satirist of organized religion and nemesis to hypocrisy, a comedian notorious for his vulgarity and impiety, nevertheless expressed a common contemporary assessment of organized religion, while Calvin’s statement seemed to betray his role as one of the primary catalysts of the Protestant Reformation

    There is no invisible baptism,. The person who says, “I’m a member of the Kingdom of God, not organized religion” is inherently contradictory. How do we know that such a person is truly converted? For that matter, how does he or she know? They have refused Christ’s appointed administration of his Kingdom and, thus, stand apart from his kingship. For this reason, one cannot possess assurance of salvation indefinitely if he remains outside of the Church . He may have saving faith, but have none of Christ’s means of assuring him of it. Paul wrote, “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26, NASV). Hence, Cyprian wrote, “No one has God as his father without the Church as his mother.”
    Ridderbos described that view, “liberal theology asserted that, as a visible gathering of believers with a certain amount of organization, the Church lay entirely outside Jesus’ vision.”

    mark: like the fundy slippery slope from no head covering to evolution and same-sex marriage, the sacramentalists accuse all who disagree with them of being “liberals”

    • David Bishop says:

      Sounds like you skimmed again searching for buzzwords. If you read my article more carefully you will note that I use the word hypothetical in concern to verse 29 “. . .profaned the blood of the covenant BY WHICH HE WAS SANCTIFIED.” Do people who have been perfected by the cross profane the blood of the covenant? No. It is not even possible, for the Lord keeps who are His. This person then who has been sanctified by the blood and yet profanes that blood is indeed a hypothetical person. The only people who profane the blood are those who were never sanctified by the blood, though at one time they might have thought they had been.

      • markmcculley says:

        When I talk about the number of sinners who will be saved by works in Romans 2, I don’t use the word “hypothetical” but rather “empty set”. Why speculate about sinners being saved by their works when no sinner will be saved by works. But the number of people who will become apostate from a profession of faith in the gospel is not hypothetical. We don’t need to deny the reality of the warning in Hebrews in order to deny that those who go back to the Jewish economy were ever in the new covenant.

        .Brandon Adams on Hebrews 10— The repetitive sacrifices of the old covenant have been done away with by the establishment of Christ’s once for all sacrifice

        v11-17 This one sacrifice has perfected for all time those who received the blessings of the new covenant.

        v18 There remains no more sacrifices in the new covenant.

        v19-25 Therefore draw near to God with full assurance, holding fast our confession of faith.

        v26 For if we neglect this confession of faith and go on sinning willingly, there are no more repetitive sacrifices to repeatedly forgive your sin, like in the old covenant.

        v27 Only judgement remains for ADVERSARIES.

        v28 Reminding these Jews who felt secure in the Old Covenant of the punishments under the Old Covenant. Despite old covenant sacrifices, there were still some deliberate, high-handed sins that were punished without mercy (thus don’t test God’s mercy).

        v29 How much worse will your punishment be if you hear but do not believe the gospel.

        John Owen: “In Deuteronomy it is applied unto such a judgment of them as tends unto their deliverance. But the general truth of the words is, that God is the supreme judge… This the apostle makes use of, concluding that the righteousness of God, as the supreme judge of all obligates God unto this severe destruction of apostates: for “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” This is precisely how Paul applies the same verse (to those outside of covenant) in Romans 12:19.

        v31 Fear the living God (who is judge over all).

        Brandon Adams—Nothing in this passage requires us to believe that apostates were once members of the New Covenant but have been cut off or that this judgment and punishment is a New Covenant curse. Quite the contrary, it is clearly referring to the final judgment. The apostates discussed here are specifically referred to as “adversaries” (v27) not as God’s covenant people.

        Brandon Adams– Reformed paedobaptists have been challenged in their interpretation by the Federal Vision (a false gospel), which claims to be reformed, yet denies perseverance of the saints and says that one may lose their covenantal union with Christ (arguing from Hebrews 10:29 and other texts). R. Fowler White participated in the Knox Colloquium on Auburn Avenue Theology. White wrote that Leithart “does ascribe to apostates blessings that literally belong uniquely to the elect, and he does so on the basis of their confessed faith.” White stated his commitment to the paedobaptist two-sided (inner/outer), dual-sanction New Covenant, but White also argued that this not the best way to explain Hebrews 10:29. “My contention is that we should take our cue from the rhetoric of rebuke and reproach elsewhere in the Bible and interpret the biblical writer’s attribution of sanctification in Heb 10:29 as an example of reproachful irony (sarcasm).”

      • David Bishop says:

        You need to look at the text.

        Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

        If you are going to insist this example which the author uses to prove his point is not hypothetical, they you have a very big problem. How can one who has been sanctified by the blood of the covenant profane that same blood if it is true that all who have been sanctified by that blood have been perfected forever once and for all?

        No one said apostasy is hypothetical. What I said instead is the author’s EXAMPLE is hypothetical. The man in his example who profanes the blood of the covenant is also a man who has been once and for all sanctified by that same blood. Is this possible? No. Therefore, the example is hypothetical. He is arguing that if this is how bad it will be for someone who has been hypothetically sanctified by the blood and yet then profanes the blood, then imagine how much worse it will be for those who have heard the gospel and yet reject it?

        You’re overthinking it.

  2. markmcculley says:

    in principle, the Hebrew warnings are no different from those found in places like Galatians and Philippians. It’s not a warning about immorality, but about going back to another gospel, about not trusting Christ, but instead trusting Christ and also your “covenantal nomism” (for which nomists as non-Pelagians thank their god!).

    Because if you trust Christ and your Spirit enabled obedience, then you don’t trust Christ! Galatians 2: 21–”If justification were through the law, then Christ died for NO purpose. (not for some purpose, not to provide a “plan” to get started!). Galatians 5:2–If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of NO advantage to you. (Of course, Nanos and Doug Wilson think this only applies to gentiles) So this is a serious real, life or death warning. Although Paul does not tell the Galatians that he thinks most of them are lost judiasers, he does not discount the possibility that some who profess to trust Christ are in reality still in their sins, without grace, without propitiation.

    5. It was not hypothetical then, and the danger is not hypothetical now. “Legal preaching” does not mean not preaching the law and the seriousness of sin and the wrath of God. It means confusing the law of God with the gospel of God which is about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect. Christ preached this gospel in John 5: 24. “As many as hear my word and believe him who sent me has eternal (lasting quality) life! HE DOES NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT

    And this warning to trust this gospel and not going back into “works and ceremonies” is not at all hypothetical. Let me give you an example from my personal experience, which is NOT from the “federal visionists”, to show that I know that they are not the only legalist heretics in town. This was in a rather large “Reformed Baptist” congregation, quite some time ago. The clergyman took this Hebrews 10 text and attempted to put us all in the “sweat-box” for about 50 minutes one night before the Lord’s Supper. I suppose the idea was to prepare us for the gospel by smiting the sheep with the law. (What else could a shepherd do with his stick?)

  3. markmcculley says:

    David Gordon—“The Sinai covenant itself, as it was delivered by the hand of Moses ….was characteristically legal, Gentile-excluding, non-justifying because characterized by works, therefore cursing its recipients and bearing children for slavery. If this doesn’t sound like any bargain, recall that the original Israelites did not consider it a bargain either, and they resisted Moses’s efforts to engage them in it. All things considered, many of the first-generation Israelites, who received this covenant while trembling at the foot of a quaking mountain and then wandered in the wilderness, preferred to return to Egypt rather than to enter covenant with a frightening deity who threatened curse sanctions upon them if they disobeyed. I don’t blame them; their assessment of the matter was
    judicious and well-considered, albeit rebellious. The Sinai covenant-administration was no bargain for sinners, and I pity the poor Israelites who suffered under its administration, just as I understand perfectly well why 73 (nearly half) of their psalms were laments. I would have resisted this covenant also, had I been there, because such a legal covenant, whose conditions require strict obedience (and threaten severe curse-sanctions), is bound to fail if one of the parties to it is a sinful people.”

    David Gordon–When Sinai comes along, the point is not that there aren’t conditional blessings associated with it; the point is that what is new and distinctive is the threat of curse-sanctions….And Paul, knowing (as any first century Jew would have known) Israel’s actual history under those conditions, knew perfectly well that the prophets were right for pronouncing judgment on a people who rather consistently failed to remain obedient to their covenant duties. So, even though in theory Sinai proffered either blessing or cursing, in plain historical fact it rarely brought anything but cursing. The Israelites were constantly harassed by the indigenous nations during the period of conquest; their first monarch was removed from office in disobedience and shame; their second monarch was not permitted to build the house of God because he was a violent (and adulterous) man; their third could not even teach his own sons to heed the counsel of their elders (though his Proverbs constantly encouraged such); after which the Israelites were
    divided into two nations, weakened, and increasingly battered by (and once captured by) their enemies.”

    Charles Hodge—“Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it
    was a legal covenant. It said, “Do this and live.”

  4. markmcculley says:

    I could be wrong, but it’s not because I am overthinking or skimming. I have alwasy been open to more than one view. To skim is not to think enough, but there is no such thing as “overthinking”

    James White gives a summary of interpretation of the text offered by the mature John Owen.
    “The exegesis that we have offered, together with the compelling argumentation (that reaches its climax in Heb. 10:10-18) regarding the perfection that flows from the singular, completed sacrifice of the New Covenant, provides a very strong ground on which to argue that the writer would hardly turn around and vitiate the central core of his apologetic argument within a matter of only a few sentences by robbing the New Covenant of its intrinsically perfect soteriological content. We would actually be in very good company to assert that the depth of the sin of apostasy here noted is magnified by recognition that the one who is sanctified by the blood treated as common or unclean (koino.n) by the apostate through returning to the sacrifice of goats and bulls is actually Christ, the very Son of God who has set himself apart as high priest as well as offering. Owen expressed it forcefully:

    The last aggravation of this sin with respect unto the blood of Christ, is the nature, use, and efficacy of it; it is that “wherewith he was sanctified.” It is not real or internal sanctification that is here intended, but it is a separation and dedication unto God; in which sense the word is often used. And all the disputes concerning the total and final apostasy from the faith of them who have been really and internally sanctified, from this place, are altogether vain; though that may be said of a man, in aggravation of his sin, which he professeth concerning himself. But the difficulty of this text is, concerning whom these words are spoken: for they may be referred unto the person that is guilty of the sin insisted on; he counts the blood of the covenant, wherewith he himself was sanctified, an unholy thing. For as at the giving of the law, or the establishing of the covenant at Sinai, the people being sprinkled with the blood of the beasts that were offered in sacrifice, were sanctified, or dedicated unto God in a peculiar manner; so those who by baptism, and confession of faith in the church of Christ, were separated from all others, were peculiarly dedicated to God thereby. And therefore in this case apostates are said to “deny the Lord that bought them,” or vindicated them from their slavery unto the law by his word and truth for a season, 2 Peter 2:1. But the design of the apostle in the context leads plainly to another application of these words. It is Christ himself that is spoken of, who was sanctified and dedicated unto God to be an eternal high priest, by the blood of the covenant which he offered unto God, as I have showed before. The priests of old were dedicated and sanctified unto their office by another, and the sacrifices which he offered for them; they could not sanctify themselves: so were Aaron and his sons sanctified by Moses, antecedently unto their offering any sacrifice themselves. But no outward act of men or angels could unto this purpose pass on the Son of God. He was to be the priest himself, the sacrificer himself, — to dedicate, consecrate, and sanctify himself, by his own sacrifice, in concurrence with the actings of God the Father in his suffering. See John 17:19; Hebrews 2:10, 5:7, 9, 9:11, 12. That precious blood of Christ, wherein or whereby he was sanctified, and dedicated unto God as the eternal high priest of the church, this they esteemed “an unholy thing;” that is, such as would have no such effect as to consecrate him unto God and his office. (Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 6:545-46.)

    White, The Newness of the New Covenant, in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage

  5. markmcculley says:

    Owen’s exegesis is only strengthened by the considerations raised in our own study of the text. It should be noted that some might be unaware that Owen took this viewpoint, in light of the fact that in the more popular work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,[3] he did not even mention this exegetical possibility, but took the phrase to refer to the apostate. Why this inconsistency? The answer is easy to ascertain: Owen wrote The Death of Death as a young man; it was his second work, and his first widely received polemic effort. But his massive commentary on Hebrews came many years later, and is the work of a mature exegete. It is clear that he had not even considered the possibility in his younger days.

    In light of this exegesis and its consistency with the apologetic argument of the epistle, it is interesting to note that though a number of the authors featured in The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism cite Hebrews 10:29 as evidence of apostasy from the New Covenant with accompanying New Covenant curses, only two even note this other interpretation, and then only in footnotes, and none make any note of Owen’s words. Gregg Strawbridge writes:

    A minority of interpreters take the implied “he” in “the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified (hegiasthe [third person singular]” as referring to Christ. However, the grammar certainly does not necessitate that interpretation. Such a view seems to be an ad hoc response to the theological difficulties of a baptistic Calvinism, which are alleviated in the general Reformed view of the covenant with its internal and legal dimensions.[4]

    Surely Owen would not be guilty of coming up with an ad hoc response due to his holding a baptistic Calvinism, so perhaps it is better to see this view as flowing from a contextual exegesis that is driven by maintaining the apologetic thrust and argument of the epistle to the Hebrews while likewise refusing to allow an external tradition or practice to become an over-riding consideration in our interpretation. Likewise, Randy Booth provides a footnote to his use of Hebrews 10:29:

    Some contend that the words “by which he was sanctified” refer to Jesus (see John 17:19). Such an interpretation cannot be sufficiently supported. Moreover, even if they did refer to Jesus, it must be admitted that the word “sanctify” is used in a different way than it is earlier in Heb. 10:14. Surely the sanctification experience of Jesus is far different from that which we experience.[5]

    One cannot respond to the assertion that “such an interpretation cannot be sufficiently supported” since the author does not expand upon the statement. In light of the above provision of what seems to be more than sufficient support for the position, we cannot accept the assertion. And while the “self-sanctifying” of Christ by his sacrifice must, by nature, be “far different from that which we experience,” it is hard to see how this is relevant to the point at issue, i.e., who is “sanctified” by the blood of the covenant and how this relates to the great guilt of the apostate. It is our firm conviction that this understanding of the text not only comports better with the context, but it has not at all been allowed to have a sufficient voice in the use of the text by paedobaptist authors seeking to establish the case for apostasy from the New Covenant. Further, in reference to Pastor Niell’s thesis, and the centrality of an over-arching concept of apostasy to his entire reading (Heb. 10:29 figuring prominently in the listing of passages supporting his view as he sees it), these considerations seriously undermine the position, especially in light of the positive exegetical thrust of the passage established in the first part of this study.

  6. Gdwood says:

    Needed this Thanks

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. markmcculley says:

    Those who willfully absent themselves from the true visible, institutional church (see Belgic Confession Art 29) have placed themselves in jeopardy. Think of it thus: if a man is willfully and impenitently committing murder and tells me “I am a Christian” I think I have a right to doubt his claim. Why? Because he’s an impenitent murderer! If a man tells me, “I don’t go to church, I belong to no church, I don’t need church. I have Jesus in my heart” and, if after instruction, he continues to persist in his abandonment of Christ’s church, then I doubt his claim to be a Christian.

    There is the strongest possible moral necessity for those who profess the Christian faith to join themselves to the true visible, institutional church. It’s not a second blessing for the illuminati. It’s not just a “good thing” to do. It’s not optional. It’s necessary

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