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Let us Draw Near

J. T. Mawson

Notes of a Bible Reading in Melbourne on Hebrews 10:1-25

This chapter gives us the climax of the epistle—our entrance into the holiest as sanctified and consecrated priests.

Question. What is the holiest?

It is the presence of God, the place of our worship. The holiest in the tabernacle in the wilderness was where God dwelt, and in it there was nothing visible to the eye but gold, and the sprinkled blood of the sin offering. The gold spoke typically of the shining of God’s own glory, and the sprinkled blood spoke of the blood of Jesus which was shed for us, when He offered upon the cross one sacrifice for sins. That blood meets all the claims of God’s glory—it is equal in its value to every claim that God could have against us, and because of it we can appear in the presence of God without any fear.

Question. What is the difference between “the throne of grace” (chap. 4:16) and “the holiest”? I notice we have boldness for both, and the great High Priest is mentioned in connection with both.

The throne of grace is the place of prayer and supplication; the holiest is our place of worship.

The throne of grace is where we obtain grace for our needs in the wilderness; the holiest is where we behold the glory of God. In connection with these two great things we have the two sides of the Lord’s priestly service. Notice how He is introduced in Hebrews 4. He is a great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, but He is JESUS; He has carried into the glory the same tender, compassionate heart that was His when here, and so He is able to sympathize with us in all our infirmities and sorrows, for He was tempted in all points as we, apart from sin. He is also the Son of God; along with His sympathy there is Divine power in Him, and in consequence He is able to succour and sustain His saints in every weakness and difficulty. We have but to look up to the glory into which He has gone to secure heavenly grace and mercy in the time of need. He ever liveth in this character to make intercession for us, so that we can say, “If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). This is present, every-day salvation, so that in spite of difficulties and opposition and every trial of our faith we may be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” The death of Christ has given us an undeniable title to heaven; the life, of Christ ensures our safe conduct there.

But that is all on the side of our need. There is the other side to the Lord’s priesthood: He is “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man” (chap. 8:2), and it is in this way that He is presented in chapter 10:21, “An high priest over the house of God.” He controls that house, all the ordering of it is in His hands, and He is there to bring us into it suitably to the holiness and glory of it, so that there, being one with Christ, God might have delight in us, and that we might delight in God and bring the incense of our worship to Him. All the grace of the High Priest flows out to us with this end in view.

Question. What is it that gives us boldness to enter into the holiest?

That is what comes out in the chapter. There are three things clearly indicated, the will of God, the work of Christ, and the witness of the Holy Ghost. The Godhead is engaged to give us a title, and fitness and confidence to draw near.

Remark. That shows how great is God’s desire to have His saints near to Him for His own joy. Ephesians 1 says “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love according to the good pleasure of His will.”

Yes, the will of God lies behind all the blessing, and that will is our sanctification, i.e., that we should be separated from every evil unto Himself. This is very little understood. Christians are glad to know that their sins are forgiven and that they are saved from hell, but they do not seem very keen on drawing nigh to God. But this is the will of God, and for this Christ suffered. The end in view was to bring us to God.

Remark. That was the purpose that God had in view before ever sin came in, according to verse 7.

Yes, before the works of creation the Son was with the Father, as Proverbs 8 tells us. But God could not delight in us when we were far from Him, submerged by sin, and in Satan’s power. We had to be brought out of that condition to Himself. It was His will that this should be done, but who could do it? The answer is given to us here. Anticipating all the curse and ruin that sin would bring in, the Lord said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” What that will involved for Him we can see when His sweat was as it were great drops of blood in Gethsemane, and He cried, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.”

Question. Why do the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will O God,” occur twice in this chapter?

Probably in the seventh verse we hear what took place in heaven’s counsels long before the world was. “In the volume of the book it is written of Me” would I think confirm this. In the ninth verse it would seem to present the Lord’s actual coming into the world; I should connect this with “A body hast Thou prepared Me” in verse 5. It was when the sacrifices and offerings under the old dispensation had proved to be of no avail to put away sin and bring men to God that He came to take away the first—the whole system to which those sacrifices belonged—that He might establish the second.

Question. The one offering of Christ has accomplished what all the old sacrifices could not accomplish. Was that offering the fulfilment of the will of God?

It was necessary in order that God’s will might be fulfilled, His will was our sanctification, this has been effected by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once. Under the law the sacrifices were perpetual; now the sanctification is permanent. The priests of old could never rest in the tabernacle, there were no seats amongst its furniture, but this Man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God. The one offering has met every claim of the throne of God, it has made a full and eternally effectual atonement, and by it He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Question. Who are the sanctified?

The fourteenth verse should answer the question. They are all those who are identified with that one offering. The sons of Aaron at their consecration had to lay their hands upon the head of their offering, indicating by that act that it was their only hope; their sins were transferred to it, and it became a sin offering for them; it stood for them, and its value was put down to their account, for it suffered in their stead (Ex. 29). This sets forth typically what Christ is for us.

We know that we have no merit to offer to God; not by our works could we be saved or sanctified, so we have put our whole confidence in Christ, we placed our hands in faith upon Him, and we know that He was made sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, our judgment passed upon Him. Is that offering that He made enough? Well, the answer to that is that He has sat down at the right hand of God in the very throne that must otherwise have judged us for our sins. Nothing could bear clearer witness to the fact that God is satisfied with that one offering. We stand in perfect acceptance on the ground of its value in God’s sight. And we learn from another scripture that righteousness is now ministered to us from the very throne whence we could have expected nothing but judgment.

Question. What does it mean when it says that He has perfected us for for ever? I do not think any of us feel perfect.

It is not a question of perfection in the sense of sinlessness, or of self-satisfaction. If a man says he has no sin, he deceives himself, but nobody else, and the truth is not in him (1 John 1:8); but we are perfected as to our standing and acceptance before God. We learn the perfection of the offering made for us by the fact that Christ has sat down at the right hand of God; we are accepted on the ground of that offering. If any flaw can be found in it, then a flaw can be found in the righteousness that is ours as a result of it, but as it is perfect, by it we are perfected. He was made “sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Car. 5:21). When this truth is brought home to our souls, all fear is gone, our consciences are set at rest, we can feel at home in God’s very presence. We have no more conscience of sins, and so need no other offering, in contrast to the worshippers under the old dispensation who had to bring offerings continually.

Question. Is the witness of the Holy Ghost in verse 15 the same as the witness in Romans 8:16?

No, in Romans 8 it is a subjective witness, something that goes on within us. Here the Holy Ghost bears witness to something outside of us, to something done for us. He bears witness to the work and glory of Christ by the Word of God, by what God has spoken, part of which is, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” This witness is as indispensable as the will of God and the work of Christ if we are to draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith. Apart from it we should shrink from God’s presence, but when we believe the witness of the Holy Ghost we can sing

“Assured by faith we enter now

    Thy presence, where, most blessed God,

Thy glory rests upon His brow,

    Who brought us nigh to Thee by blood.”

Question. Is it the witness of 1 John 5:6, where it is said, “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth,” and verse 8, “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one”?

It is more on that line. Take the hymn from which I have just quoted

“’Tis Jesus fills that holy place

    Where glory dwells, and Thy deep love

In all its fulness (known through grace)

    Rests where He lives, in heaven above.

“Yet, midst Thine own the Spirit still

    Bears witness of His glory there,

And from the sphere which He doth fill

    Brings knowledge of His fulness here.”

The Holy Ghost bears witness to us of the love of God and of the glory of Christ. He has come forth from the glory to make it attractive to us. He first bears witness to the fact that all our own sinfulness and unfitness for the presence of God has been fully met by one perfect offering, then teaches us that God’s own love is the source of all that He has done in order to bring us near, and that Jesus is both the perfect offering and the measure of God’s love to us. If our hearts are affected by the witness of the Holy Ghost as to these great facts, we should like to be in God’s presence, and that is the holiest.

Remark. And God’s perfect love has cast out all fear of being there from our hearts.

Quite so. We are not now like Adam and Eve who hid away from God’s presence because they were conscious of guilt, and knew that they had no covering before Him; our guilt has been purged away and we are clothed with righteousness and salvation (Ps. 132:9, 16), just as the sons of Aaron were clothed in their linen garments at their consecration, for we are God’s priests. David said, “O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me to Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God, my God” (Ps. 43:3-4).

I do not suppose David knew how marvellously God would answer his cry; that the only-begotten Son would be sent forth as the light and the truth as we see Him in John’s Gospel, and that the Holy Ghost would come to make that light and truth real and precious to us, so that God Himself has become infinitely attractive, and hence we can only be satisfied when near to Him. It is this that makes the holiest a place to be desired and draws us into it. And while we should be there with the deepest reverence, we should be in happy liberty.

Question. Is the entrance to the holiest individual or collective?

It is collective. By that I do not mean that we may not be worshippers as individuals. I am sure that John worshipped in Patmos, but God’s delight is to have His saints together, and as gathered the Lord Jesus is the great Priest over God’s house to lead their praises in the presence of God and offer up their worship according to His own perfection. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is (v. 25); we shall miss the holiest if we do.

Question. What is worship?

Worship is the result of the heart being absorbed with an object greater than itself. It is the overflowing of the heart in the presence of the love and glory of God as revealed to us in Jesus. We do not think of self, or our sins, or even our blessings. God and Christ entrance our souls.

Question. Would you say that if we are thinking merely of sins forgiven we are not in the holiest?

Well, in the holiest sins are remembered no more. But the blood is there. Where the blood is the sins could not be, but the blood is the eternal witness to what it cost to put them away. We can never forget that. We dwell upon the love of God in the holiest, but “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to he the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). We are not occupied with our relief from the burden of sins in the holiest, we have something greater, and that is the love that devised the relief, and the glory of God which took occasion of the sin to manifest itself in all its fulness. We cannot worship God apart from the death of Christ. The Old Testament types make this clear. The blood in the holiest emphasizes it. It would be presumption on our part to attempt it. For we do not know God apart from the death of Christ.

The consecrated priests had to have their hands filled with what spoke of Christ and His sacrifice. So that it is in the holiest that we remember the Lord in His death. We have Him in death in remembrance before God.

Question. Some say that the remembrance of the Lord in His death is preparatory to our entrance into the holiest. What do you say to that?

If the blood were not in the holiest, they might have some ground for such a notion, but since it is there, they have none. Does not the blood speak of Christ’s death? And was it not there upon the golden mercy seat? Then its value is as great as the gold; God has put the gold and the blood together—His glory and the death of Christ. His glory would never have been fully known by any intelligent creature in the universe, certainly not by sinners, but for the death of Christ. Then do not let us put asunder what God has joined together. The place to remember the Lord in death is the presence of God—the holy of holies—and when we do, it will be sweet incense to Him.

Question. But if God forgets our sins, we may do the same?

It does not say that God forgets them, it says He remembers them no more, and the difference is important. I might owe a heavy bill to a tradesman, and he might forget all about it and not present it for payment. That does not cancel the debt. But if he presents it and I pay it, it is done with. He does not send it to me again. He remembers it against me no more. The sins were not forgotten, the full account of them was rendered for payment at the cross, and the blood of Jesus has obliterated the dreadful score. Justice is satisfied, and the question will never arise again. Our sins and iniquities are remembered no more.

Question. What was the significance of the rending of the veil of the temple?

Simply that the system to which it belonged was done with; it had served its purpose and God set it aside. God rent it as you might rend a worn-out garment for which you had no more use.

Question. You do not think then that the veil was rent for God to come out to us or for us to go in to Him?

No. God was not in the temple to come out. The Lord had already said, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Christ Himself was the true temple. God was in Christ, but Christ was not so recognized by the Jews. He was not in the temple but on the cross, cast out and rejected by those who boasted in the temple. The true veil was His flesh, and that was rent in death. Then God came out to us in the fulness of His love, and we can go in to Him by this new and living way—the death of Christ. The rending of the veil of the temple was the removal of the first that He might establish the second.

Now we have “a true heart,” i.e., a heart that has one object, “We love Him because He first loved us” would give us the meaning of that; and “full assurance of faith” is the confidence that the witness of the Holy Ghost has given us. “Our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,” has been brought to pass by the blood; and “our bodies washed with pure water” has in view the washing of the priests at the time of their consecration.

Question. Is that the once for all washing or is it the washing of the feet of John 13?

It is the once for all washing. “He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet,” and “now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken to you.” It is really the new birth, we have been separated and cleansed from the old life and evil nature. It all passed under God’s judgment at the cross, and by the Word of God this has been brought home to our souls, we are clear of it morally, for we have got a new “I” that delights in God.

Question. But we need to have our feet washed constantly, do we not?

Yes, the priests had to wash their hands and feet at the brazen layer before going into the tabernacle, so we according to John 13 need to have the defilement that we are always contracting in the world removed from us. In connection with the Lord’s Supper we are told, “Let a man examine himself and so let him eat.” We have to judge ourselves. We cannot enter into and enjoy the holiest apart from this. We should be exercised as to how far we are answering to God’s will for us in this respect. His will is perfect, good and acceptable, and if He has revealed it to us, it is that we should delight in it. If He delights to have us near Him, it ought to be our delight to draw near and enjoy this great privilege. The dignity of it is past all understanding. People look upon it as a great honour to be commanded to appear at Court to meet the King, but here God invites us to draw near and take up our place in His Court, and that not as temporary guests who pass in and out for one brief hour, but He has made His presence our home, and at so great a cost. And on our side there has been given to us the Spirit in whom we have the capacity for the place.

Question. Is there any special time in the meeting for entering the holiest?

I do not think so. There must be a suitable condition of soul for it. Not all who are at the meeting are conscious of the presence of God. How spiritually alert we should all be if we were, and what rapture would be ours. What would happen to us, do you think, if we actually saw the Lord in our midst?

Remark. We should be filled with adoration and worship.

We should, and if we came together in true condition of soul and in faith that would characterize our meetings. If we bring the burdens of the week to the meeting and our minds are filled with our own concerns, our domestic or business trials, we miss it, and hinder others.

Question. How can we escape these burdens?

The Lord is our great High Priest to raise us above them. Aaron wore upon His shoulders the names of the twelve tribes of Israel when he went into the presence of God. That typifies for us the fact that the Lord, as the great Priest over God’s house, is able to bear us up above all pressure when by faith we are associated with Him as sons of God in His house. We want more faith, faith must be in exercise. Hebrews is the great epistle of faith. If we commit ourselves to our great Priest, His grace and power will support us inside as worshippers, and then we shall be able to come outside as witnesses, bearing His reproach.

Question. If a Christian sins, he is unfitted for the holiest. What must he do?

For an answer to that question we must go out of Hebrews to 1 John. The Lord’s service as High Priest is for those who are going right, to preserve them from going wrong. But if any man does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. The result of His advocacy is that we are made conscious of our wanderings. Then, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). There would be no confession without the advocacy of Christ, and there can be no forgiveness for restoration to communion and the enjoyment of our privileges without confession.

Finally, let us remember that if we have been sanctified for sanctuary service by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, we are one with the Sanctifier. “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). That is a wonderful statement of truth that calls for special consideration.