I. God has provided for us a new and living way. (10:19-21)
Verses 19-21 are a summary of the previous nine chapters. These chapters explain to the Jewish believers why the covenant of Christ was superior to the covenant God made with Moses. In these three verses we are given three descriptions and benefits of the new and living way God has provided through Jesus Christ: we have a new family, we have direct access to God, and we have a Great Priest in Jesus Christ.
A. We now have a new family. Looking at verse 19, the reader is instantly confronted with the idea that, as believers, we are family. The writer addresses his audience as “brethren,” or brothers. As family, as members of the house of God, the writer tells his audience that they can enter the holy place of God. To first century Jews, this idea was completely foreign. In the Jewish sacrificial system described in the Old Testament, only the High Priest was allowed into the presence of God, the part of the temple called the Holy of Holies. The law allowed him to enter the Holy of Holies only once a year to offer sacrifice for the sins of Israel.
In Ephesians 1:5-8, the apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus that, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” The new and living way that is spoken of in this passage is the way of the new covenant that is made possible by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In his Gospel, John the Apostle tells us in 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.”
My parents were foster parents when I was growing up. The last foster child we had, Brittany, came to live with us when she was six weeks old. After she had lived with us for three years, the state began looking for a permanent adoptive home for Brittany. Three years later, no home had been found and she had lived with us for all six years of her life. She was family. My parents filed the appropriate paperwork, made appointments with lawyers, and went before a judge to declare their intentions to adopt Brittany as an official member of the Mason family.
Once those papers were signed, Brittany became a member of our family just as if my mom had physically given birth to her. By us choosing her, she was given the right to become a Mason, and once she was a Mason, she had access to all of the legal privileges of being a member of our family that I had as a biologically born member of the family. But not only is Brittany now recognized as a legal member of our family, she is also loved and accepted as a member of our family, and is confident in the fact that she will be treated just like my biological brothers and me in matters of love, protection, and provision. Just like Brittany was chosen to be a member of the Mason family, those who have been chosen as children of God also have rights that accompany that adoption. One of those rights is direct access to God.
B. We now have direct access to God. For the Hebrew believers hearing this for the first time, the notion of entering the holy place of God only brought thoughts of death and condemnation, for no one but the high priest was allowed to enter the holy place in the temple. But here the writer tells us that Jesus made a way for us to confidently approach God. When a young child is confident of the love and acceptance of her father, she has no worries about approaching her father with any request. The writer is telling us here in verse 20 that because of the work of Christ on the cross, the veil that previously separated us from God was torn open and we now have the right to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.
The idea that Jesus is superior to both Moses and to the line of levitical priests is key to understanding what is meant here when the author says that Christ is the new and living way. The old covenant, which is also called the covenant of Moses and the law, was designed to show the Israelites their sinful inability to save themselves. Paul declared in chapter three, verse twenty of his letter to the church in Rome that, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” This verse tells us the law brings awareness of sin and death. Jesus Christ, through His willing sacrifice, brings a new and living way of salvation for all who repent of their sins and believe on His name.
This new and living way is now the only way to gain access to God. In the original language, the word we translate as “new” has a meaning of freshly slaughtered and not previously available. It seems odd to consider something as both freshly slaughtered and living at the same time, but this is just the point the author is trying to make. John MacArthur observed in his commentary on Hebrews, “The blood of animals allowed only the high priest to enter the veil briefly. Jesus’ blood allows everyone who believes in Him to enter the veil permanently.”
C. We now have a Great Priest in Jesus. Not only are believers now members of the family of God who have permanent access to the Father, we can see in the passage above that we also have a mediator in our Great Priest, Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews explained this in chapter 9:11-14 when he wrote:
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
So it is only through the sacrifice of Christ, our Great Priest, that we are able to confidently gain access to God as his children. Paul further explains this in Galatians 3:22-26:
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
We are told in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are also told that this sin separates us from God because He is perfect and holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. But to show His glory and His merciful love, God made a way for our sins to be forgiven by sacrificing his son, Jesus, who took our punishment for sin and gave his blood for us. He took our punishment and died in our place. That is why Jesus is referred to in this passage as the new and living way. Jesus himself declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”
The only way that you can be forgiven of your sins and become a part of the family of God is to recognize two things about yourself. First you must realize that your sin separates you from God. Second, you must acknowledge that there is nothing you can do on your own to connect you to God. Only by turning from your sin and believing that Jesus died as a sacrifice for your sins and then rose from the dead three days later, proving his victory over death, can you be called a child of God. Have you ever done that? Have you ever realized that because you are a sinner separated from God, you will spend eternity separated from Him unless you turn from your sin and believe in Christ as your Savior? Only that will allow you to be a part of God’s new and living way. If you have never had that moment in your life, I pray that you will consider your position in the family of God and will make the decision today to turn from your sins and believe that Jesus, our Great Priest, is the way God provided for you to be His child.