by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
One of my favorite texts to preach is Hebrews 10:19-25. Its importance in the overall structure of Hebrews is difficult to overestimate. It is the opening paragraph of the third and final major section of the epistle: 1:1-4:13; 4:14-10:18; 10:19-13:25. On first blush, it appears to be somewhat involved in structure. But on further investigation, it turns out to be surprisingly simple and clear.
Hebrews 10:19-25 consists of two subparagraphs: verses 19-21 and verses 22-25. Verses 19-21 function as a summary introduction to verses 22-25 and also serve as a summary back reference of what the author has taught concerning the superiority of Christ as our High Priest. Two primary propositions are stated in 19-21: 1) We have boldness to enter the Holy Place by the blood of Jesus; 2) We have a Great Priest (Jesus) over the house of God. These two truths function as the grounds for the three commands that are given in 10:22-25.
Verses 22-25 comprise the second half of the paragraph and contain three parallel command forms (hortatory subjunctives in Greek): Draw near (22); Hold fast (23); Consider one another how we may stir up to love and good deeds (24). Each of these main verbs is modified by a number of other clauses.
Consider v. 22. We are exhorted to draw near and this verb is modified by four clauses in groups of two: 1) with a sincere heart; 2) with full confidence of faith; 3) having had our hearts cleansed; 4) having had our bodies washed. Though unstated, the one to whom we are to draw near is God. The primary focus is on corporate worship, but personal worship is not excluded. This “drawing near” has a subjective aspect and an objective aspect to it. Subjectively, the first two clauses indicate the attitude we as believers are to possess as we “draw near.” Objectively, the final two clauses indicate what God has already done for us to enable us to draw near (note the tense and voice in Greek): having had our hearts cleansed and having had our bodies washed with water (an OT metaphor of priestly cleansing and not a reference here to water baptism). On the basis of the objective truths we are able to draw near and should do so with the attitudes of sincerity and confidence.
In verse 23, we are exhorted to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” This proposition is further modified by the statement “for he who promised is faithful.”
In verse 24, we are exhorted to “consider one another how we may stir up to love and good deeds.” This is further modified by two participial clauses, one negative and one positive, in verse 25: 1) “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; 2) encouraging one another. This final clause is followed by the final proposition in the paragraph: we are to do these things (probably a reference to all three commands) “all the more as we see the day drawing near (probably a reference to the return of Christ and the judgment it brings on unbelievers along with the accountability it brings to believers).
From this analysis we may lay out the outline structure of the passage as follows:
I. Draw Near (22)
A. with sincerity
B. with confidence
C. having had our heart cleansed
D. having had our bodies washed
II. Hold Fast (23)
A. because of the promise of God
III. Consider one another to stir up to love and good deeds
A. not forsaking assembling together
B. encouraging one another
C. do this with an eye toward the return of Christ and our accountability to Him
From this structure, you are now prepared to create a preaching outline which may or may not make use of the actual terminology in the text. The sermon will have three main points because the text has three main points. Point one is modified by four clauses which need to be reflected somehow in the outline and sermon. Point two is modified by one clause, and point three is modified by a pair of clauses expressing negative and positive means to accomplish the imperative. The entire passage concludes with a statement concerning the return of Christ which motivates us to a serious attempt to obey these three commands.
From this structural outline, relate how you would state the three main points in the text in your preaching outline!