It’s important to realize that the first part of chapter 10 culminates a lengthy discussion going back to chapter 7 regarding the “once for all” and “perfect forever” nature of our salvation.
Beginning in Heb 8, the author also offers a midrash (commentary) on Jer 31:31ff, in which Jeremiah explains how the new covenant will be superior to the Mosaic covenant. Therefore, chapter 10 begins in exultation for the wonders of the salvation we have.
We begin at the end of this section of chapter 10 —
(Heb 10:15-18) The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Verses 15-17 refer back to the portion of Jer 31 quoted back in chapter 8. God promises to write his laws on our hearts and minds in the new covenant and to no longer remember our sins and lawlessness. God promises the Spirit and grace.
The author concludes that because our sins “have been forgiven,” the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient to forgive all our sins — and we need no other sacrifice and no repeat of Jesus’ sacrifice. You see,
(Heb 10:13-14) Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Because we are “being made made holy” — that is, not fully holy but growing in holiness — we have been “made perfect forever.” The forgiveness we received at baptism establishes a continuing state of forgiveness that extends until we die. We need no further sacrifice for our sins besides the death of Jesus, which we participated in through our baptism.
(Heb 10:19-22) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
The result is confidence and assurance — a confidence built on the sacrifice of Jesus, the superiority of Jesus as our great high priest, and our baptism.
(Heb 10:23-25) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
God, of course, is faithful. We, however, need to be careful not to swerve. The word translated “unswervingly” or “unwavering” (KJV) has as its root “lean” — the beginning of a fall.
To avoid wavering (leaning and so risking a fall), we need to encourage one another and spur one another toward love and good deeds. As in chapter 3, the writer sees the “one another” relationships we enjoy in church as essential to persevering to the end. We should help each other, and that means we need to meet so we can do that.
The idea of the assembly, thus, is not mere obedience to a prescribed ritual, but a place we go to encourage beloved brothers and sisters to push on to the end.
Now, the verb is active. We don’t go to be encouraged. He tells us to attend so we can encourage others. And, of course, there is nothing more encouraging than being an encourager — and nothing less encouraging than being an emotional sponge, demanding attention rather than giving attention.
But the encouragement he urges is not encouragement to obey the rules. Rather, it’s encouragement to love and good works. You see, one of the essentials of Christian living is servanthood — and servants serve. We grow in Jesus, not by being emotionally catered to, but by rolling up our sleeves and serving others. (I don’t know why we so rarely teach this.)
Now, why is it that the author is concerned that we not swerve and that we spur and encourage each other? Well, he answers that in the next passage —
(Heb 10:26-31) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We must immediately note that he is only speaking of those Christians who deliberately keep on sinning. We all continue to sin. We all sometimes sin deliberately. But only a few deliberately keep on sinning. You see, to deliberately keep on sinning means you’ve rejected the Lordship of Jesus. You no longer even try to obey him. Rather, you are no longer concerned with what Jesus wants.
He is plainly not speaking about the weakness common to us all. And he’s not talking about a moment of weakness. Rather, the warning is for those who are no longer penitent
— who are no longer even trying to be obedient.
Who is he talking about?
As in 6:4-6, we have to consider whether he’s really talking about Christians and whether he’s really talking about damnation. Well, consider the context. This passage follows the instructions not to waver and to encourage each other. Those exhortations are plainly directed at Christians. So is this one.
He is speaking to those who —
* Have received the knowledge of the truth
* Been sanctified by the blood of the covenant.
“Sanctified” is the same word used in 10:10 and 10:14 to refer to the saved. He’s talking about saved people, not those pretending to be saved.