In the first post of this series taken from Hebrews 10:19-25, I said that those of us who are in Christ have now been ordained as a priest with Jesus Christ as our great (better than high) priest. The first part of the passage, Hebrews 10:19-21, reminds us of what we have in Jesus Christ: 1) a way into the presence of God through Christ himself, and 2) Jesus Christ as our great priest.
Because we have these things, we should respond in three ways: 1) Draw near to God, 2) Hold fast to the confession, and 3) Consider one another. This post focuses on the first response (Draw near to God) taken from Hebrews 10:22.
The author of Hebrews writes this command in priestly language, to continue the discussion of the priesthood that he began a couple of chapters earlier. However, this time, instead of talking about the shadows of the priesthood and tabernacle/temple that we find in the OT (Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 10:1), the author is now talking about the priesthood of the new covenant and the temple of the new covenant.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22 ESV)
In the context of the previous few verses (Hebrews 10:19-20), it is clear that “draw near” refers to entering into the “holiest” place (the presence of God) through the “new and living way” that Jesus has provided for us.
But, we are not able to simply draw near to God. Instead, we are able to draw near to God with a true heart being full assured in our faith. Assured of what? Assured that God will accept us as we draw near to him. But, how can we be certain that God will accept us? Why do we have that full assurance or confidence?
Because we have been sanctified, just as the OT priests were sanctified (ordained, if you prefer) before they came near to God’s presence in the tabernacle/temple. The washing/sprinkling language is very similar to the descriptions used in the OT to describe how the levitical priests were set apart (i.e.., sanctified). For example, see Leviticus 8 where Moses carries out God’s instructions regarding setting apart Aaron, the altar, and the items related to offering sacrifices.
But, there is a major difference in the Hebrews passage. Moses’ sanctification of Aaron and the other priests was only outward. The author of Hebrews has already brought that out:
For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14 ESV)
As that passage intimates (Hebrews 9:13-14), the focus passage (Hebrews 10:22) spells out. We do not approach God with outward cleansing, but with complete cleansing which includes both the heart and the body. How does this cleansing happen? The clue is in the method of cleansing: pure water.
Ezekiel tells us what kind of “pure water” washes both the heart and the body:
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:24-27 ESV)
Notice the Ezekiel passage contains the ideal of sprinkling and washing with “clean/pure water” and combines it with the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us, sprinkles us, and washes us in a way that cleans our hearts and bodies and makes us eligible (able) to draw near to God.
We have confidence that we can draw near to God because of both the death/resurrection of Jesus (implied in Hebrews 10:19-21) and because the Spirit has washed us clean when he indwelled us (Hebrews 10:22). Notice that this is applicable to all followers of Jesus Christ, and thus all have confidently draw near to God as priests of the new covenant.