“A Consuming Fire” – Hebrews 12:14-29

February 24th, 2019

Hebrews 12:14-29

“A Consuming Fire”

Aux: Isaiah 6:1-7

Call to Worship: Psalm 99


Service Orientation: God is holy, righteous and perfect.  He desires for all of creation to be the same.  As sinners, we will either come broken, contrite and repent and allow the Consuming Fire to perfect us through Jesus or be burnt up in destruction.  There is no third option.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. — Hebrews 12:14


Background Information:

  • As we approach Heb 12:14-29, the author is assuming you will remember the theme that has been promoted since 1:1: Jesus is superior to anything the OT had to offer us. In fact, Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the OT promoted and stood for (Mt 5:17).
  • Chapter 11 focused on FAITH. Chapter 12 addresses HOPE.  Chapter 13 will describe how we love God and others.   But, we would have no hope if it were not for the superiority of Jesus and the holy forgiveness, grace, mercy and love of God.
  • The theme is now resumed of the definitive contrast between the old and the new which permeates this epistle–the contrast between the imperfect and the perfect, the temporary and the permanent, the law and the gospel (cf. 2:1-3; 3:5f.; 7:11ff.; 8:1ff.; 9:11ff.; 10:1ff., 11ff.). Throughout, also, our author emphasizes that the greater the privilege the greater too is the responsibility.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 542)
  • (v. 14) The word “make every effort” or “pursue” is an uniquely aggressive word. It is often used in the sense of “to chase after one’s enemies–to persecute.”  We must chase after peace!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 180-1)
  • (v. 14) The root meaning (of holy) is always difference and separation. Although he lives in the world, the man who is hagios (holy) must always in one sense be different from it and separate from it.  His standards are not the world’s standards, nor his conduct the world’s conduct.  His aim is not to stand well with men but to stand well with God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 181-2)
  • (v. 14) Hagiasmos (holiness), as Westcott finely put it, is “the preparation for the presence of God.” The life of the Christian is dominated by the constant memory that its greatest aim is to enter into the presence of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 182)
  • (v. 14) In the Greek there are no less than three negatives in this passage, as though it said, “No, never, no man shall see the Lord.” (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 413)
  • (v. 14)Without which no one will see the Lord.” The word used for “see” is opsetai–to see with perceptive insight, with an “aha!” sort of understanding.  Our author is not talking about the physical act of seeing (blepō), nor just a theorizing, academic sort of seeing (thēoreō).  Instead the meaning is that of thrilling perception.  This comes only to the eyes of the pure.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 230)
  • (v. 16) He never repented of his sin, but only of the consequences of it. He never sought pardon of God, but only sought to inherit the blessing.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 416)
  • (v. 16) There is no longer only one for each family. All believers are on the same level.  We are all heirs of God’s promise (Rom 8:17).  In Col 1:15 there is only one true firstborn (prototokos), referring to Christ, but in and through him we participate in his privileged position.  We become members of God’s family and can approach God our Father at any time.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 223)
  • (v. 17) The words he found no chance to repent could more literally be rendered “he did not find a place (topos) of repentance,” which could bear the meaning that there was no opportunity for him to change his circumstances. In this sense no chance to repent remained, but it is a NT principle that an opportunity for spiritual repentance is possible wherever there is a spiritual desire.  It is in this sense that the gospel can be said to be based on a call to repentance.  It may be wondered what possessed the writer to bring in the tragic history of Esau at this point of his discussion and the answer must be that Esau was regarded as one of the most striking examples of those who failed to appropriate “the grace of God.”  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 258-9)
  • (vss. 18-29) For his final comparison between Judaism and Christianity, our writer describes two scenes for us. First he takes us to the earthly description of what happened at Sinai, he wants us to sense two things: the inaccessible nature of God and His unapproachable holiness.  He wants us to feel the terror that kept men at a distance from God under the old covenant.  That way we will better appreciate the grace and gentleness that draws men to Him under the new covenant.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 312)
  • (v. 22) A stronger contrast is hardly conceivable. Like the peace after the storm is the calmer picture of the dwelling-place of God and of his people.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 261)
  • Some commentators wish to treat Zion and Jerusalem as two separate entities, but there is no doubt that they were so closely associated with each other in the Hebrew mind as to be to all intents and purposes synonymous. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 545)
  • (v. 22) Angels were commissioned to deliver the law at Mount Sinai (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; cf. Dt 33:2; Ps 68:17); by contrast, they constitute a joyful assembly at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (see Rv 5:11-13). In heaven angels rejoice when they see that one sinner repents (Lk 15:10).  They are sent out to serve all those who inherit salvation (Heb 1:14).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 393)
  • (v. 22) The word used for joyful assembly is panēguris which is the word for a joyful national assembly in honor of the gods. To the Greek it described a joyful holy day when all men rejoiced.  For the Christian, the joy of heaven is such that it makes even the angels break into rejoicing.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 186)
  • (v. 23) Now the characteristic of the firstborn son is that the inheritance and the honor are his. He says that they are those whose names are written in the registers of heaven.  In ancient days kings kept a register of their faithful citizens.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 186-7)
  • (v. 23) Being made perfect means that they have finished their race, are totally delivered from all sin, and enjoy the reward of God’s presence. (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 255)
  • (v. 24) For the last of twelve times in all, the author uses the word “better,” this time to describe the blessed gospel message of forgiveness spoken by Jesus’ blood. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 166)
  • (v. 25) The word that he uses (chrēmatizein) implies that Moses was only the transmitter of these oracles, the mouthpiece through which God spoke, and yet the man who broke these commandments did not escape punishment. On the other hand there is Jesus.  The word used of him (lalein) implies the direct speech of God.  He was not merely the transmitter of God’s voice, he was God’s voice.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 188)
  • Our author is untiring in his use of opportunities to contrast the old covenant of the law and the new covenant of the Gospel. Thus, in these final verses of chapter 12, he embarks on a stark comparison of the dread and fear associated with the giving of the first law and the joy and festive atmosphere of the giving of the Gospel.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 234)


The question to be answered is . . . Why is it important that we understand God to be holy . . . A Consuming Fire?


Answer: Unless you understand Who God is, you will never be holy.  And, you will never see God.


The Word for the Day is . . . Holy


Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 31)


What is the basis of holiness?  The ancients, beginning with Jesus and Paul, agreed that holiness was not a question of purity overcoming passion but of transforming passion into purity’s service.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 66)


God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe.  Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this.  Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death.  The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, hal, meaning, “well, whole.” (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 106)


Holiness is the losing of self and being clothed upon with the spirit and likeness of Jesus.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 498)


What do we need to know about the holiness of God?:

I-  Because God’s love is holy, ours should be as well. (Heb 12:14 see also: Isa 9:6; Rom 12:18; 1 Cor 5:6; Eph 1:4; Col 3:15; 2 Pt 3:11)


In a perfect world, all people could live peacefully together.  Of course, this is impossible in our imperfect world.  However, believers should do their best to at least “pursue” peace and reconciliation.  Believers certainly should not cause dissension.  Christian fellowship should be characterized by peace and building up one another (see 1 Thess 5:11).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 217)


Peace is attained through close communion with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6; Col 3:15).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 384)


Christians must strive for peace with all men.  There is a direct parallel in Rom 12:18 which is equally comprehensive.  But that this does not mean peace at any price is clear from its close link with the pursuit of holiness.  Peace with all men is possible only within the limits of what is right.  There are in fact times when standing for just causes brings intense antagonism and peace is inevitably shattered.  But the meaning must be that every effort must be made to maintain peace if at all possible.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 257)


The preacher has linked the pursuit of peace with the pursuit of practical holiness (purity of soul) because he sees a logical association between them.  Significantly, Jesus made the same association between peace and purity by joining them in successive beatitudes.  “Blessed are the pure in heart” is followed by “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:8, 9).  Character and peace are woven together as a single garment of the soul.  Ultimately, it is holy people who finish the race, for it is they who “will see God” (Mt 5:8) at his glorious return or in the glory that comes with death.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 181)


Observe the sequence.  First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit).  Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn).  We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek).  So grateful are we for his presence that we yearn for more of him (we hunger and thirst).  As we grow closer to him, we become more like him.  We forgive others (we’re merciful).  We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart).  We love others (we’re peacemakers).  We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 10)


The only way you can become holy is to live from the Holy.  The only way to become pure is to live from the Pure.  The only way to become good is to live from the Good.  The only way to become loving is to live from Love.  The only way to become truly giving is to live from the Gift.  And the only way to become godly is to live from God.  You don’t attain heaven.  You let heaven, through your life, touch the earth, touch every part of your world. . . on earth as it is in heaven.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 136)


Peace is to be studied, but no such a peace as would lead us to violate holiness by conforming to the ways of unregenerate and impure men.  We are only so far to yield for peace’s sake as never to yield a principle.  We are to be peaceful so far as never to be at peace with sin: peaceful with men, but contending earnestly against evil principles.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 411)


Where disharmony and disaffection appear it is a sure sign of the presence of unholiness within the fraternity.  Our author is concerned that the integrity of the fellowship should be preserved, being well aware that bitterness even in one person can disrupt the harmony of all, and that unholiness in one can defile the whole group (cf. 1 Cor 5:6).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 538)


We cannot get around it.  Believers, as the salt and light in the world, must pursue peaceful relationships.  Verbs such as “pursue” and “seek” show us that it may not necessarily be easy to do, but God calls us to do it.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 216)


“Holiness,” when applied to God, means his moral perfection and the fact that he is totally separate from humanity in his holiness–his separateness.  “Holiness,” when applied to us, means devoted or consecrated to his service.  Of course, Christians are made holy once for all by the onetime sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We are perceived by God as holy because of what Christ has done on our behalf.  In a practical way, our holiness means honoring God in how we treat others–friends, neighbors, spouse, children, even enemies–and in how we run our businesses, finances, etc.  Holiness causes the behavior, thoughts, and attitudes of Christians to be different from unbelievers.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 217)


In our world rocked by constant conflict, lawsuits, divorce, protests, racism, terrorism, prejudice, and open warfare, the pursuit of peace seems like an impossible task.  Even at the interpersonal level in families, churches, schools, or workplaces, peaceful, harmonious relationships are hard to maintain in our dog-eat-dog world.  Worldliness says, “Kill or be killed.”  But God’s system says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18).  What a contrast!  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 203)


In the Beatitudes we have mercy and purity following each other: Blessed are the merciful–Blessed are the pure in heart.  The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable.  Where there is no peace with men, peace with God cannot be enjoyed.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 497)


Conflict in the church brings glory to Satan and disgraces our God.  Few things will grieve God more and impede the great race more than conflict in the Body of Christ.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 180)


II-  Because God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy is holy, ours should be as well.  (Heb 12:15 see also:  Dt 29:18; Mt 6:12-15; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25; Lk 6:37; 17:3-4; Eph 4:31-32; Col 3:13;  Heb 3:12;  Jms 3:14)  


While some have interpreted this “bitter root” to refer to bitterness, it actually refers to unbelief, as seen in the Deuteronomy quotation.  Moses cautioned that the day the Hebrews chose to turn from God, a root would be planted that would produce bitter poison.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 218)


Bitterness is always wrong.  No matter how justified the cause of bitterness may be, to have a bitter attitude as a Christian is always wrong, for resentment, envy and bitterness are always of one flesh.  The trouble is, they are highly contagious diseases.  If one person is bitter and continues in an unforgiving, bitter spirit, others are infected by this and it spreads and defiles many.  This is the problem in many a church today.  So if you see someone around you that has this problem, help them to see that this is a terrible thing that will wreck their life and destroy the grace of God, thus making it impossible to grow as a Christian.

The other thing that will arrest grace is flippancy–taking the things of the Spirit lightly as Easu did.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 172)


If some incipient sin manifests itself in their midst, it must be eradicated at once; if it is tolerated, this is a sure way of falling short of God’s grace, for many, if not the whole community, will then be contaminated.  Such a sin is called a “root of bitterness,” in language borrowed from Dt 29:18, where Moses warns the Israelites against any inclination to fall into the idolatrous practices of Canaan, “lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (lit. “breeding gall and wormwood”).  Dt 29:18 with its context plays a similar admonitory role in the literature of the Qumran community; for example, in one of the Hymns of Thanksgiving it is said of the opponents of the community: “A root breeding gall and wormwood is in their thoughts; and in the stubbornness of their hearts they go astray, and inquire of thee amid their idols.”  But perhaps the best commentary on our author’s words here is his earlier warning in Heb 3:12: “See to it, brothers, that there is not in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, deserting the living God.”  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 349-50)


Nothing whatever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace.  — St. Augustine


Sinai symbolizes law and Zion symbolizes grace.  No man can be saved by the law, but any man can be saved by grace.  The law confronts us with commandments, judgment, and condemnation.  Grace presents us with forgiveness, atonement, and salvation.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 413)


III-  Because God’s character is holy ours should be as well.  (Heb 12:16-17 see also: Mt 18:15-18; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor ch 5; 16:22; 2 Cor 6:14-15; Gal 5:10-12; Eph 4:24; 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15; 4:7; 1 Tim 1:19-20; Tit 3:10-11; 2 Jn 1:10; Heb 13:14)  


Our daily needs and our daily food may be our destruction.  It was eating that lost Esau his birthright.  It was eating that lost Adam and his seed the kingdom of God.  It was in refusing to eat, when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, that Jesus won back heaven for us.  In our home, in our body, in our daily need, the temptations to ease and enjoyment, to sloth and standing still are ever around us and in us; let us take heed lest we fall short.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 503-4)


Because God is holy He hates all sin.  He loves everything which is in conformity to His law, and loathes everything which is contrary to it. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 43)


God forbids sexual sin because he knows its power to destroy us physically and spiritually.  No one should underestimate the power of sexual immorality.  It has devastated countless lives and destroyed families, churches, communities, and even nations.  God wants to protect his people from damaging themselves and others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 219)


He had despised the promises and forfeited the blessing.  Physical appetites had meant more to him than spiritual privileges.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 239)


Notice that it is not a question of forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness is always open to the penitent.  Esau could have come back to God.  But he could not undo his act.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 140)


He disregarded the covenant promises of God for him as worth no more than a meal of stew.  Esau becomes an example in the way that the Hebrew people became an example in Heb 3-4.  Esau rejected God’s plan and could not undo his actions.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 220)


Christians should not allow people who undermine faith to remain in the church.  Their influence may not be noticeable at first, but it will come (see also 2 Pt 2).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 219)


In Hebrew legend and in rabbinic elaboration Esau had come to be looked upon as the entirely sensual man, the man who put the needs of his body first.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 183)


Profane then are all they in whom the love of the world so reigns and prevails that they forget heaven: as is the case with those who are led away by ambition, or become fond of money or of wealth, or give themselves up to gluttony, or become entangled in any other pleasures; they allow in their thoughts and cares no place, or it may be the last place, to the spiritual kingdom of Christ.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 326)


Hebrew interpretation saw Esau as the sensual man, the man who saw no pleasures beyond the crude pleasures of this world.  Any man like that sells his birthright; for a man throws away his inheritance when he throws away eternity.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 184)


Esau was completely earthbound.  All his thoughts were on what he could touch, taste, and suck.  Instant gratification was his rule of thumb.  He was void of spiritual values.  Godless!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 184)


God’s message to all who are in the race is so clear: Sexual and physical appetites, given free rein, will ruin our race.  Sure, we can repent of any sin, but Esau-like sins will leave deficiencies that can never be regained.  How tragic, then, that so many today are selling a glorious finish for a cheap meal!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 184)


The greatest motivation for purity is one’s desire for God Himself.  Sexual sins and impure thoughts are impediments to intimacy with God.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 134)


“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.  For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever.  If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.”  (Dt 32:39-41).  A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness.  Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Ps 7:11).

…Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.  How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?  How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom 9:22) toward it? …The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is.  Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 83)


The writer to the Hebrews is warning against those who are a corrupting influence.  There are always those who think the Christian standards unnecessarily strict and punctilious; there are always those who do not see why they should not accept the world’s standards of life and conduct.  This was specially so in the early Church.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 182)


Gn 25:29-34 records an incident which clearly revealed Esau’s lack of appreciation for anything spiritual.  A dish of red stew for his hungry stomach was more real to him than his rights as the firstborn son and more valuable than the reception of the promise that the Savior would come from his line.  His sacred inheritance rights he treated as something common, to be bartered away.  Like all the godless, Esau lived for the immediate, not the ultimate.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 161)


He wanted to go back but found he could not.  Some take the second part of the verse to mean that he could not change Isaac’s mind, but this has to be read into the text.  Isaac is not mentioned.  The meaning is, rather, “he could not find a way to change what he had done” (TEV).  There is a finality about what we do.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 140)


Using the picture of sexual unfaithfulness to describe unfaithfulness to God, Jdg 2:17 said of Israel, “They prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them.”  Perhaps the author uses the same picture to describe Esau’s unfaithfulness to God and his promises.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 161)


Jacob inherited the blessing.  But don’t think that Esau suddenly became a spiritual man.  He didn’t.  It wasn’t God’s blessing he sought.  He wanted the double portion of his father’s wealth which went with the birthright.  Neither did he like the idea of having to serve his younger brother (Gn 27:33, 37-40).  Esau never cared for the spiritual promises that went with the blessing.  In later years when he became wealthy he remained indifferent to the Abrahamic promise.  The application of the Esau story is clear: when a person who knows the truth, comes to the place where he despises God’s offers, no second repentance is possible.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 311)


Old sweaty Red chose a cheap meal over the divine promise.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 184)


Whether our author had Esau in mind as a fornicator is not at all certain; it is certain, however, that he judged it necessary to warn his readers against harboring any such person, for he reverts to the subject again in Heb 13:4: “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 350-1)


Worship Point:  Worship the God Who is holy.  Worship Him acceptably with reverence and awe for He is both immanent and transcendent: a Consuming Fire.  Everything that is currently without holiness will one day be shaken and destroyed so that all that remains is holy, perfect, righteous, eternal and good.  (Heb 12:25-29 see also: Ex 19:10-12; 20:18-21;  Dt 4:23-24; 5:23-27; 29:18; Ps 68:8; 82:5;; 99:1; Isa 13:13; 33:14-16; Hag 2:6; Mt 24:29; Mk 13:25; 1 Cor 3:7-15; 1 Cor 7:30-31; Heb 13:14; 2 Pt 3:7-13; Rv 6:12-14; 21:1ff )


Fire will destroy what it cannot purify, but it purifies what it cannot destroy.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 177)


Under the NT, God is not an atom less severe than under the old; and under the covenant of grace the Lord is not a particle less righteous than under the law.  We are so saved by mercy that no sin goes unpunished: the law is as much honored under the gospel as under the law.  The substitution of Jesus as much displays the wrath of God against sin as even the flames of hell would do.  While the Lord is merciful, infinitely so, and His name is love, yet still our God is a consuming fire, and sin shall not live in His sight.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 440)


When we come to worship, we must keep both mountains in view–the approachable Zion with its consuming love, and the unapproachable Sinai with its consuming fire–and then come in reverent boldness.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 203)


To understand that God is holy and that one is a sinner is to stand at the threshold of grace.  Moreover, the giving of the Ten Commandments in this awesome context–and Israel’s failure to keep them–served to emphasize the people’s impotence and doom, which is a further grace, however negative the experience may be.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 189)


The purpose of this ultimate shaking is in order that what cannot be shaken may remain.  For the people of God, who belong to the order of things which are unshakable, the removal of all that is insecure and imperfect is something to be eagerly anticipated; for this final shaking of both heaven and earth is necessary for the purging and eradication from the universe of all that is hostile to God and his will, for the establishment of all that, being in harmony with the divine mind, is permanent, and for the inauguration of the new heaven and the new earth, that is, the renewed or “changed” creation, in which all God’s purposes in creation are brought to everlasting fulfillment at the consummation of the redemption procured in and by Christ (Rv 21:1ff.; 2 Pt 3:10-13); and this will take place with the return of Christ in glory and majesty (Rv 19:11ff.).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 558)


Eventually the world will crumble, and only God’s kingdom will last.  Those who follow Christ are part of this unshakable kingdom, and they will withstand the shaking, sifting, and burning.  When we feel unsure about the future, we can take confidence from these verses.  No matter what happens here, our future is built on a solid foundation that cannot be destroyed.  Don’t put your confidence in what will be destroyed; instead, build your life on Christ and his unshakable kingdom.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 225-6)


In this metaphor God is called a consuming fire, because fire burns every combustible thing it comes into contact with.  In the same way God will consume and destroy sinners who are guilty of the sin that is here forbidden.  Such sinners, namely, hypocrites and false-worshipers, realize that God is like this when they are convicted (Isa 33:14).  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 256)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) The prophet predicted a shaking of the heavens and the earth.  The writer transposes the terms heaven and earth to show the sequence of the effect of Christ’s work.  The earth shook when Jesus died and when he arose (Mt 27:51; 28:2), but more importantly the preaching of the gospel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit shook the entire world.  The heavens also experienced change: the angelic hosts sing Christ’s praises (Rv 5:12); angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Lk 15:10); angels are sent out to minister to the needs of the believers on earth (Heb 1:14); and angels long to look into the mystery of salvation (Eph 3:10; 1 Pt 1:12).  It is Christ, therefore, who is at the center of this upheaval on earth and in heaven.  He will cause heaven and earth to shake when he appears a second time (Mt 24:29; 2 Pt 3:10).  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 398-9)


It is as if the writer to the Hebrews was saying: “There is a choice before you.  Remain steadfastly true to God, and in the day when the universe is shaken into destruction your relationship with him will stand safe and secure.  Be false to him and that very God who might have been your salvation will be to you a consuming fire of destruction.”  It is a grim thought; but in it there is the eternal truth that, if a man is true to God, he gains everything and, if he is untrue to God, he loses everything.  In time and in eternity nothing really matters save loyalty to God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 189)


If one truly grasps the reality of biblical eschatology–that heaven breaks into earth and will one day consummate that inbreaking–it changes everything.  How I think and live will be changed in light of that transforming vision.  That knowledge of the coming shaking of the world, the End, can cause me to evaluate in what I am investing my life.  Thus the Christian lives now in light of the unseen then, when Christ will appear.  The Christian lives for what will be stable eternally.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 431)


Our worship services need to be relevant without being irreverent.  — Juli Yoder


All that will remain is that which cannot be shaken.  And what is that?  The new creation built upon the redemptive work of the Lord.  In other words, our spiritual SONSHIP cannot be shaken, neither can those treasures we’ve laid up in heaven.  These things are spiritual and eternal.  But everything else: Satan’s works, this world, our old natures, as well as all that we have done for ourselves–will pass away.  A day is coming, says the author, when the kingdom of heaven will be purged of everything displeasing to God.  When that day comes, the entire earthly system, having fulfilled its purpose will be dissolved.  It will pass away with a loud BANG, says Peter (2 Pt 3:10-13).  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 318)


It is easy in a day of grace and patience on God’s part for believers to invest their lives in the wrong things.  They occupy with jobs and houses, cars and clothes, children and comforts, but it’s so foolish.  It’s easy to think we’re getting away with “doing our own thing,” but the apostle Paul calls such things “wood, hay and stubble,” and you know what fire does to them (1 Cor 3:12-15).  As a result, those Christians who foolishly squander their lives in such a fashion, will find their works reduced to ashes.  In that day they’ll have nothing to show for their lives on earth.  Now that is frightening when you consider all the light and opportunity NT Christians have.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 319-20)


One day, God will shake this world, and it will come apart completely (Mk 13:31; 2 Pt 3:7).  At that time, all created things will be destroyed–the earth, the universe, animals, people, and everything else that can be seen.  Only what belongs to God’s kingdom will be unshakable.  These will remain, for they belong to the heavenly city.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 225)


The future, unseen world is actually more real than this present one.  This one can be shaken and destroyed, but believers are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  This kingdom exists now in the hearts of believers and will become a physical reality when the present world disappears.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 226)


This view separates what is real from what is unreal.  What is real is what will last.  Everything else, no matter how real it seems to us, is treated as insubstantial, hardly worth a snort.  That is why Scripture can seem at times so blithely and irritatingly out of touch with reality, brushing past huge philosophical problems and personal agony.  That is just how life is, when you are looking from the end.  Perspective changes everything.   (Tim Stafford, “The Age to Come,” Christianity Today, 05/17/85, 32)


If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)


Self-reliance is not the way to holiness, but the negation of it.  Self-confidence in the face of temptation and conflicting pressures is a sure guarantee that some sort of moral failure will follow.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 92)


Therefore we ought to be so disposed in mind and speech that we neither think nor say anything concerning God and his mysteries, without reverence and much soberness.  (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.8.22)


“Surely one of the reasons in these day for low moral standards is the lack of awareness of the majesty and holiness of God and of our accountability toward him.   To a certain degree the same deficiencies can be seen among professing Christians.  One of the marks of spiritual decline is that “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1).  Instead we fill ourselves with confidence in our own sufficiently.  This is the complete antithesis of holiness.” (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 21)


The effect of these physical signs was to display in no uncertain terms the absolute unapproachableness of God.  The mountain was so charged with the holiness of God that for a man to touch it meant certain death.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 189)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) Even though Christ has granted us unusual privileges, we must be aware of God’s awesomeness and holiness.  Therefore we worship him with reverence and awe.  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 401)


The Lord seemed ever to be saying to the whole of His people, with but a few exceptions, “Do not come near here.”  It was the dispensation of distance, as if the Lord in those early ages would teach man that sin was so utterly loathsome to Him that He must treat men as lepers put without the camp.  When He came nearest to them, He still made them feel the width of the separation between a holy God and the impure sinner.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 422-3)


Although it is true that the path to Mount Zion brushes past Mount Sinai–the holiness of God is a foundational aspect of the message of true grace–Zion must loom large in our vision and the vision of Christianity that we communicate to others.  It would be a shame if people never hear the music of the heavenly Jerusalem because the thunder of our Sinai drowns it out, if they never move past trembling Moses to meet Jesus, who stands with his outstretched hands.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 428)


The first thing that leads a person to repentance and dependence on God for deliverance is the awareness of his sinfulness.  Apart from seeing his sinfulness, a person has no reason to seek salvation.  Only seeing our sin can make us see our need for salvation from sin and from the judgment it brings.  This was the purpose of Sinai, to bring the people face to face with their own sinfulness, with no place to hide.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 412)


This physical creation can be shaken, and it is set in contrast to what cannot be shaken.  These are the things that really matter, the things that have the character of permanence.  The author does not go into detail about the precise nature of the ultimate rest.  But whatever it may be, it will separate the things that last forever from those that do not.  “So that” introduces a clause of purpose.  It is God’s will for this final differentiation to be made so that only what cannot be shaken will remain.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 144)


It is an unshakable kingdom because it is a purified kingdom from which every shakable thing, or, in other words, everything stained by defilement and corruption, has been excluded, and in which there is a perfect and unfailing unison of goodness and justice and joy.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 559)


When we truly worship God, we do it all the time–not just in a Sunday morning worship service that has a few hymns, an offering, a sermon, and a time of prayer.  True worship includes every action of every day.  By obeying God, our lives become living sacrifices of worship (see Rom 12:1-2).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 226)


Once more the Lord will do some shaking.  When Christ returns on the Last Day, not only the earth, but heavens around it will rock and reel.  The “created things” which seemed so permanent will perish.  All the shaken things will be removed.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 168)


Genesis says he created everything by his word as he spoke the universe into existence.  Therefore, one “little word” from him can and will fell creation!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 200)


Gospel Application: A knowledge of God’s holiness should make the hope we have greater because of His forgiveness, grace, mercy, and salvation.  We need to more vividly see the superior work of Jesus on the cross. (2 Cor 3:7-8; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Tit 3:5; Heb 2:10-11; 9:22; 10:10, 14, 22; 13:12; 1 Pt 1:2)


If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying!  —Tim Keller


Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness.  (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)


Whereas Sinai was forbidding and terrifying, Zion is inviting and gracious.  Sinai is closed to all, because no one is able to please God on Sinai’s terms–perfect fulfillment of the law.  Zion is open to all, because Jesus Christ has met those terms and will stand in the place of anyone who will come to God through Him.  Zion symbolizes the approachable God.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 413)


All approaches to God were made by blood.  There was no hope of a man drawing near to God, even in symbol, apart from the sprinkling of the blood.  And now today our only way to God is by the precious sacrifice of Christ.  The only hope for the success of our prayers, the acceptance of our praises, or the reception of our holy works, is through the ever-abiding merit of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Ghost bids us enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; there is no other way.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 428)


Let us not think that we are not to be reverent because we gather at the gospel’s call.  Let us not dream that God, who is a consuming fire on the top of Sinai, is less terrible under the gospel than under the law, for it is not so.  The God who gave the law on Sinai has never changed: the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of Moses, who overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea, and slew Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and the multitudes of murmurers, idolaters, and fornicators in the wilderness–“this is God our God forever and ever”.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 438-9)


The sprinkled blood sums up the sacrificial act of Jesus.  It recalls the sprinkled blood which ratified the old covenant (cf. 9:19), and at once establishes the superiority of Christ’s offering.  It has a voice, which speaks in totally different style from the voice at Sinai.  The blood speaks of deeper things than itself, for it proclaims a new way of approach to God.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 263)


Finally the writer to the Hebrews says that it was Jesus who initiated this new covenant and made this new relationship with God possible.  It was he, the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice, who made the unapproachable approachable and he did this at the cost of his blood.  So the section ends with a curious contrast between the blood of Abel and the blood of Jesus.  When Abel was slain, his blood upon the ground called for vengeance (Gn 4:10); but when Jesus was slain, his blood opened up the way of reconciliation. His sacrifice made it possible for man to be friends with God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 187)


Growth in holiness cannot continue where repenting from the heart has stopped.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 139)


Without this holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace has no point, for it is God’s holiness that gives to the one its definition and to the other its greatness.  Without the holiness of God, sin is merely human failure but not failure before God, in relation to God.  It is failure without the standard by which we know it to have fallen short.  It is failure without the presumption of guilt, failure without retribution, failure without any serious moral meaning.  And without the holiness of God, grace is no longer grace because it does not arise from the dark clouds of judgment that obscured the cross and exacted the damnation of the Son in our place.   Furthermore, without holiness, grace loses its meaning as grace, a free gift of the God who, despite his holiness and because of his holiness, has reconciled sinners to himself in the death of his Son.  And without holiness, faith is but a confidence in the benevolence of life, or perhaps merely confidence in ourselves.  Sin, grace, and faith are emptied of any but a passing meaning if they are severed from their roots in the holiness of God.  (David Wells; God in the Wasteland, 144-5)


The secret to a holy life is believing God.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 2, 676)


The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own.  I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate.  I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God.  But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.” Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.  In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 54)


We know of our need for a savior, for Christ alone to atone for our sin and to clothe us with His righteousness. But how little we know of the full ugliness of our sin, our utter unworthiness. How little we know of the holiness of God. How can we fully appreciate the words of those magnificent angelic beings as they circle the throne of heaven and cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts”? Throughout our Christian lives, we will continue to grow in our appreciation of the depth of our sin and the towering height of God’s holiness.  (Stephen J. Nichols, A Time for Confidence, 127)


Throughout the era of law, separateness had been a feature of God’s dealing with his people, as the holy of holies showed.  This build-up of awesomeness was calculated to set out in greater relief the approachableness of God under the gospel, as verses 22-24 show.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 260)


Once men were under the terror of the law; the relationship between them and God was one of unbridgeable distance and shuddering fear.  But after Jesus came and lived and died, the God who was far distant was brought near and the way opened to his presence.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 187)


Every good thing is enhanced in value by its opposite.  Light is all the brighter to eyes that have wept in darkness; food is all the sweeter after you have known hunger; and Zion is all the fairer because of Sinai.  The contrast between free grace and law makes grace appear the more precious to minds that have known the rigor of the commandment.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 423-4)


Before Jesus came, God seemed distant and threatening.  Now God welcomes us through Christ into his presence.  As Christians, we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem right now.  Because Christ rules our lives, the Holy Spirit is always with us, and we experience close fellowship with other believers.  The full and ultimate rewards and reality of the heavenly Jerusalem are depicted in Rv 21.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 222)


The law with its thunder and trumpets can provide no pardon for sin-troubled hearts or peace for sin-torn consciences.  All it offers is the awesome revelation of God’s righteous requirements and the horrible fear of his just punishment over infractions.  All it can do is point out the impassable and impossible distance sin puts between man and God, but the law can offer nothing to bridge the gap.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 163-4)


Sprinkled blood signified forgiveness of sin, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).  Jesus inaugurated the new covenant by shedding his blood once for all at Golgotha.  Because of that sprinkled blood, believers enter the presence of God as forgiven sinners (Heb 10:22; 1 Pt 1:2).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 395)


All this is a symbol of what the law does; it works wrath and fear and death.  It comes with demands we cannot fulfill; with its threats it rouses to effort and performance, but gives neither the love of God’s will nor the power to do it.  It only discovers and condemns sin; the sense of self-reproach and self-condemnation is all it can bring.  Read Rom 7 and see there, where the law alone, and not the Spirit, is mentioned, the impotence and the wretchedness which it reveals.  Read Rom 8 and see there what the liberty and the peace, the life and the love, the joy and the strength is which comes with the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 506-7)


Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to be holy as God is holy.  Live in light of God’s holiness.  Live in light of His holy grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.  Make every effort to live in peace with everybody.


Trying to pursue holiness in the flesh is like fighting in quicksand. The more you try, the worse shape you end up in.  —Brad Shaw


Awareness of God’s holiness and the depth of our sin is the precondition of personal renewal.  (Richard Lovelace; Renewal As a Way of Life, 10)


If they had the proper fear of God by honoring His holiness and obeying His law, they had no reason to fear His wrath.  God intended that His people have a reverential fear of Him “so that [they] may not sin.”  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 411)


Both mountains–Sinai and Zion–reveal the true God.  Neither can be separated from the other.  God is not the God of one hill but of both.  Both visions must be held in blessed tension within our souls–consuming fire and consuming love.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 199)


“We do not keep ourselves virtuous by our own power,” Pascal wrote, “but by the counterbalance of two opposing vices, just as we stay upright between two contrary winds.  Take one of these vices away and we fall into the other.”

What did Pascal mean by this?  A man or woman who works very hard may simply be avoiding the sin of laziness by being filled with selfish ambition or greed.  Remove his or her hunger for more money, and this person will immediately become as lazy as any of us.

Others might be very disciplined around food.  They would be the last persons on earth you would label as gluttons.  Yet they are disciplined around food because they want to have a physique that will draw attention to themselves, not because they don’t want food to have a hold on their hearts and steal their affection for God.  They may be free from gluttony only because they are slaves to vanity.

Do you see how we play vice against vice–using vanity to destroy gluttony, for instance–and are upheld by the struggle of two sins?  This is a much different holiness than the ancients’ view of a transforming passion that gives birth to virtue.  On and on we could go, showing how 90 percent of our virtue is a sham, a vice wearing a coat and tie.  That’s why Jesus constantly pointed us to the heart, the one battlefield that really matters.  The state of our heart is the true state of our virtue.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 68-9)


For today, by and large, Christians no longer live for heaven, and therefore no longer understand, let alone practice, detachment from the world. . . Does the world around us seek profit, pleasure and privilege?  So do we.  We have no readiness or strength to renounce these objectives, for we have recast Christianity into a mold that stresses happiness above holiness, blessings here above blessing hereafter, health and wealth as God’s best gifts, and death, especially early death, not as thankworthy deliverance from the miseries of a sinful world, but as the supreme disaster. . . Is our Christianity out of shape?  Yes it is, and the basic reason is that we have lost the NT’s two-world perspective that views the next life as more important than this one and understands life here as essentially preparation and training for life hereafter. —J. I. Packer  (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 5-6)


Do we live joyfully in our covenant with God?  From the picture of the Mount Zion festivities, especially seen in the angelic assembly, we are terribly out of place or out of step with eternity if we do not.  Furthermore, if we do not live joyfully, reflecting the reality of the heavenly Jerusalem, how can we invite people to that reality?  If our lives reflect the gloom of Sinai more than the excitement of Zion, we do the kingdom poor publicity.  This does not mean, of course, that we always are thrilled with our situations; but are we characterized by joy?  That is a key question.  If we are not, then the reality of Zion is not invading our lives.  Perhaps we need a clearer view of that mountain and must hear again the song of the angels and the message of the sprinkled blood.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 430)


Those who claim to be Christian but show no pursuit of holiness in life have not seen the Lord.  Nor will they see him!  Like James in 2:20, the author is saying, “Faith without deeds is useless.”  Jesus Christ is the only ticket to heaven, but our pursuit of holiness is proof that we have been given this ticket by a gracious God.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 160)


If you feel the call of the spirit, then be holy with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.  If, however, because of human weakness, you cannot be holy, then be perfect with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.

But if you cannot be perfect because of the vanity of your life, then be good with all your soul…Yet, if you cannot be good because of the trickery of the Evil One, then be wise with all your soul…

If, in the end, you can neither be holy, nor perfect, nor good, nor wise because of the weight of your sins, then carry this weight before God and surrender your life to his divine mercy.

If you do this, without bitterness, with all humility, and with a joyous spirit due to the tenderness of a God who loves the sinful and ungrateful, then you will begin to feel what it is to be wise, you will learn what it is to be good, you will slowly aspire to be perfect, and finally you will long to be holy.  (Peter van Breeman, Let All God’s Glory Through, 134)


So What?: Did you not hear what the writer of Hebrews said?   “. . . without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  Do I need to spell out for you the significance of that statement?  That is why the writer of Hebrews has gone to great lengths to point out the superiority of having faith in Jesus.  So God might make us holy and give us hope because of our faith in Jesus.  (Dt 31;17-18; Ps 24:3-4; Isa 59:2; 64:7; Mt 5:8; 7:23; 25:41; Lk 13:27; Rom 8:7)


A holy God can have communion only with those who are at peace with him (Rom 5:1) and those who have been made holy through the work of Christ (Heb 2:10; 10:10, 14; 13:12).  God’s holy wrath is directed against those who are unholy (Heb 10:29).  The unrighteous person cannot stand the sight of Christ’s appearance, for his wrath is terrible (Rv 6:15-17).  Isaiah says that angels cover their faces in the presence of God (6:2); how then could an unholy person see God?  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 385)


18-19 Our author reverts to the contrast already pointed in 2:2-4 between the giving of the law and the reception of the gospel.  Awesome as were the circumstances of the giving of the law in Moses’ day, more awesome by far are the privileges associated with the gospel, if they are despised or refused.  Those who wholeheartedly believe the gospel and gladly embrace its privileges need have no fear; they are urged to enter the heavenly sanctuary with full confidence through the blood of Jesus.  The stern note of warning is for those who, having begun to make an approach, fall back.  They are reminded that the consequences of despising the gospel are even more dreadful than were the consequences of despising the law.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 353-4)


The readers were familiar with the ceremonial cleansing ritual that prepared them for worship, and they knew that they had to be holy or clean in order to enter the temple.  Sin always blocks our vision of God; so if we want to see God, we must renounce sin and obey him (see Ps 24:3-4).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 217)


Those who possess the unshakable kingdom have no business dallying around or dividing their loyalty.  It is all or nothing for God, who has given us all and promised us even more.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 169)


No Israelite who disobeyed God’s earthly word survived the desert, and how much more will be the case with those who disobey the heavenly word through Christ.  God’s word is effectual–it never fails.  And God’s word is final.  It started the universe, and it will stop it!  So the command to all us pilgrims in verse 25 comes with great force: “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 201)


There could hardly be a more startling conclusion to this letter for these Jewish Christian readers who were considering turning away from the faith.  Failure to listen to God, refusing to accept all that he has done, will bring catastrophe.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 227)


“The holiness of God is traumatic to unholy people”. (R.C. Sproul series, “Holiness of God,” message 2)


As there is no true religion without holiness, we ought to make progress continually in the fear of God, in the mortifying of the flesh, and in the whole practice of piety; for as we are profane until we separate from the world, so if we roll again in its filth we renounce holiness.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 326)


To see the Lord is the highest and most glorious blessing mortals can enjoy, but the beautific vision is reserved for those who are holy in heart and life.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 349)


Once again he puts forward the Word of God as a reality with which one must reckon.  The Word must be received or rejected; there is no middle ground.  For those who reject the Word, there exists no escape from God’s judgment.  At the end a person either resides as a citizen of God’s unshakable kingdom or perishes with the rest of the universe.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 425)


Without this readiness to belong to God, this being separated to God, no one will see God.  Jesus said that the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8), and no one has a right to expect that vision without that qualification.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 139)


For the third time (see 2:2; 10:26) he urges the Hebrews to remember how much more terrible the punishment of sin will be under the New than under the Old.  The certainty and the sureness of the punishment under the law give us terrible warning of the danger we incur.  Greater privileges bring greater responsibility; the neglect of these, greater punishment.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 513)


Jesus grew up and spent his ministry among the most religious Jews in the world.   Galileans were known for their great reverence for Scripture and their passionate desire to be faithful to it in every aspect of daily life.  The people of Galilee knew Scripture by memory, debated its application with enthusiasm, loved God with all their heart, soul and strength (Dt 6:5), and trained their children to do the same.  Their great desire to follow God translated into vibrant religious communities whose synagogues echoed with debates and discussions about keeping the Torah.  As a result, Galilee produced more famous rabbis than any other region in the world. (Ray VanderLaan, The Dust of the Rabbi: Discovery Guide, 63)


Fire will destroy what it cannot purify, but it purifies what it cannot destroy.

— Ray C. Stedman






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