If I Could Preach Only One Sermon: Hebrews 10:19-25
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a time machine? Who wouldn’t want to return as a spectator to the most significant moments in history? To witness bishop Leo face off with Attila the Hun outside the gates of Rome or Farel beseech Calvin to stay in Geneva or the Westminster Assembly debate ecclesiology would be thrilling to understate the matter. But what about taking a trip back to the time of Genesis 15? A strange sight indeed! We would watch Abram engage in the strange ritual of slaughtering animals and then dividing them in halves to form a path. But though bizarre to us it would have been familiar to him. He was preparing to enter a treaty with the Great King of heaven and earth.
In those days, kings and inferiors would engage in treaty covenants like the one in Genesis 15. The King would stipulate the conditions of the covenant and in walking through the halves the servant would be promising to keep the terms. Failure to fully comply would mean sharing a fate akin to the animals!
However, on the evening of Genesis 15 a wonder occurred. God appeared under a theophany and passed through the halves. In other words, God, the great King, substituted himself for Abram! God promised to walk before Himself and be blameless for Abram! This is the very idea we find in Isaiah 59:16. God saw that there was no one to intercede for the people and so “his own arm brought salvation.” How? The same verse goes on to say, “His righteousness upheld Him” in the face of His own righteous requirement on behalf of others.
Now, the passage to bring alongside of Genesis 15 is Hebrews 10:19-21. There we discover that we enter into the presence of God through the veil. Now, most people automatically think of the rending of the Temple curtain at the death of Christ. But that’s not what the text says. It says, “[he] opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” The torn curtain was the flesh of the Son. In other words, on the cross Christ’s flesh was torn asunder that we might have access to God. Let me put it another way. God, in His Son, took upon Himself the curse of being a covenant breaker. To say it differently, what was to happen to Abram for a breach of the covenant was happening to God in the Son.
Second, this way or path opened up for us by the Son is called “new and living.” It’s the word “new” that I find so intriguing. Various commentators give meanings like “lately slain” or “freshly killed” or “uncoagulated” and even “not decomposed.” Now, at what is the author driving? He is again taking us back to Genesis 15. Though the Son was torn asunder or freshly killed upon the cross to take upon himself the curse of the covenant for Abram and his posterity he is also living! In other words, death could not hold Him! He was the substitute that could take upon Himself the curse and provide us with the righteousness of an indestructible life.
Third, did you notice that in Genesis 15 Abram is in a deep sleep and a dreadful darkness surrounds him? However, did you also notice that Hebrews 10:22 says that believes should draw near to God with full assurance? What’s the difference? Well, covenant history for one. Abraham stands at the head of exfoliating revelation. His posterity had not yet gone into Egypt. But we stand at the climactic point of redemptive history. The Son, our Passover Lamb, has led us forth from the Egypt of sin and death that we might draw near.
Brothers and sisters, if I had only one sermon to preach I would preach on Hebrews 10:19-25 accompanied by Genesis 15 for context. I want people to know the God who stands in our stead. The God who secures our blessedness by the strength of His own arm and by the standard of His own righteousness all while we, like Abram, are able to contribute nothing. Salvation is of the Lord.
Jeffrey A. Stivason is the pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He holds a Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia) in systematic theology and is an adjunct professor at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary. Jeff is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and is the Senior Editor for Place for Truth.