Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (10:22)
Sincere (alēthinos) means genuine, without superficiality, hypocrisy, or ulterior motive. Coming to God with full assurance requires commitment that is genuine.
The nation of Judah, like many individuals, often had come to God with anything but a sincere heart. “ ‘Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 3:10). But a day was to come when His people would change. “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).
Simon the magician made a profession of faith in Christ, but his heart became corrupt. He tried to use Christ’s name and power for his own glory and benefit, and was harshly rebuked by Peter. “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:21–22). Paul counseled slaves to be obedient to their masters, “in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5). From the earliest days of the Old Covenant, God had demanded a sincere heart. “You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deut. 4:29). The people who find God are those who seek Him with their whole heart, with total genuineness.
A certain type of faith is built into human nature. Even on the purely human, earthly level, we could not operate without it. We eat food taken from a can or box that we buy in the store, with perfect confidence that it will not harm us. We turn on the faucet, pour a glass of water, and drink it without question. We accept payment in printed paper because we have faith that the government will back its money. Without faith, society could not operate.
But saving faith not only requires faith in a different object, it requires faith from a different source. We can trust in food, water, and money by our own will, our own decision. Faith in Jesus Christ must include our own decision, but it must proceed from God’s decision. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is a gift of God, and part of that gift is saving faith itself. God plants in the heart the desire and the ability to believe, and the ability to receive the gift of salvation.
When we come to God in faith, our hearts should not only be sincere but also sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. This figure, as we might expect, is taken from the sacrificial ceremonies of the Old Covenant. The priests were continually washing themselves and the sacred vessels in the basins of clear water, and blood was continually being sprinkled as a sign of cleansing. But all the cleansing, whether with water or blood, was external. Only Jesus can cleanse a man’s heart. By His Spirit He cleanses the innermost thoughts and desires.
In Christ our sins are covered in the blood and our lives are transformed. There must be both; together they make up salvation. We might say the first is positional satisfaction and the second is practical sanctification. God is satisfied with the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and sin is removed and our consciences are free. We are changed on the inside as we are washed by the Word and born again.
Having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience is a beautiful picture of deliverance, already mentioned in 9:14. Conscience condemns us and reminds us of our guilt; and the guilt cannot be removed until the sin is removed. When Jesus died, His blood removed our sins, and when we embrace Him by faith, our conscience becomes free from guilt—we are cleansed from an evil conscience. We do not condemn ourselves anymore.
Cleansing of our hearts refers to satisfaction of God’s justice, the expiation of our sins, which is required before we can be acceptable to Him.
The other part of the cleansing, having our bodies washed with pure water, does not refer to baptism, but has to do with our living, with how the Holy Spirit changes our lives. It is the same cleansing mentioned by Paul in Titus 3:5 (“the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”) and in Ephesians 5:26 (“the washing of water with the word”).
These two aspects of cleansing are inseparable. When a man comes to Christ, they both take place. Christ’s death pays the penalty of sin for us and God is satisfied; and the cleansing act of the Holy Spirit begins to change us on the inside and He is satisfied. God’s justice and righteousness are both satisfied; and because of this, a believer can come into God’s presence with confidence.
The Three Requirements of Faith
The faith that God honors, the faith that is from a sincere heart, requires three things: felt need, content, and commitment.
Faith cannot begin until a person realizes his need for salvation. If he is without Christ, he needs salvation whether he recognizes it or not. But he will not have reason to believe until his need is felt, until it is recognized. When Saul was persecuting the church, he had a great need for salvation, but he certainly felt no need of it. He was thoroughly convinced he was doing God’s will. Only when the Lord confronted him dramatically on the Damascus road did his need become known and felt—in Saul’s case, very deeply. The need may not, at first, be clearly understood. On the Damascus road, Saul could not have explained his spiritual need in the way that he was able to do some years later when he wrote the book of Romans. He simply knew that something was desperately wrong in his life and that the answer was in God. He knew he needed something from the Lord.
Often a person’s felt need is only partial. The first feeling of need may only be for a purpose in life or for someone to love us and care for us. Or it may be a sense of need for forgiveness and removal of guilt, for inner peace. The most important thing is that a person realize that the answer to his need is in God. People came to Jesus for many reasons, some of them rather superficial. But when they came, Jesus met all their needs. They may have felt only a need for physical healing, but He also offered spiritual healing. Felt need does not require theological understanding of the doctrine of salvation, only a sincere heart that knows it needs salvation. On the other hand, a person who does not feel a need for salvation, no matter how good his theology, is far from faith in God. Felt need is essential, but inadequate on its own.
A person does not have to comprehend the full knowledge and understanding of the doctrine of salvation before he can be saved, but he does need the gospel truth (1 Cor. 15:1–5) that he is lost in sin and needs the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He must know the gospel. The idea of “blind faith” sounds spiritual, but it is not biblical. Even great persons of faith will not know many of the things about God until they see their Lord face to face in heaven. But God does not demand faith without giving reason for faith. The writer of Hebrews, for example, piles up truth upon truth and presents Jesus as the Jews’ promised Messiah. He also shows that the New Covenant is far superior to the Old, that the old sacrifices were ineffective, and that only the new sacrifice can bring a person to God—and so on and on.
The following story is told of Channing Pollock, a well-known playwright. Mr. Pollock was collaborating with another author in writing a play. As they were working late one night in Pollock’s New York apartment, something in the work they were doing caused the friend to say to Pollock, “Have you ever read the New Testament?” Pollock said he had not, and they continued working until early morning, when they parted. Pollock went to bed, but could not sleep. He was bothered by his friend’s question, simple and casual though it seemed. He finally got out of bed and searched the apartment until he found a New Testament. After reading the gospel of Mark through, he got dressed and walked the streets until dawn. Later, telling the story to the friend, he said, “When I returned home, I found myself on my knees, passionately in love with Jesus Christ.” Beginning with a felt need, vague as it was, he then looked at the truth and its evidence—and believed.
The climax of faith is commitment. Professing Christ, without commitment to Christ, is not saving faith.
My father often told the story of a tightrope walker who liked to walk a wire across Niagara Falls—preferably with someone on his back. Many people on the bank expressed complete confidence in his ability to do it, but he always had a difficult time getting a volunteer to climb up on him.
Many people express complete confidence in Christ but never trust themselves to Him.
As a missionary translator in the New Hebrides, John Paton was frustrated in his work for a long time because the people had no word for faith. One day a man who was working for him came into the house and flopped down into a big chair. The missionary asked him what the word would be for what he had just done. The word the man gave in reply was the one Paton used for faith in his translation of the New Testament. Without hesitation or reservation, the man had totally committed his body to the chair. He had felt his need for rest, he was convinced that the chair provided a place for rest, and he committed himself to the chair for rest. A believer must, in the same way, totally commit his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then is faith, saving faith.
22 For “drawing near” to God as the ultimate goal of our salvation, see on 7:25 (cf. 4:16; 10:1). Just as Psalm 15 spells out the qualifications of those who may live on God’s “holy hill” (cf. Ps 24:3–6), so here four phrases set out the features that should characterize those who are privileged to come to God. The first two, “a sincere heart” and “full assurance of faith,” speak of an open, transparent genuineness toward God and a robust trust in his promises. We shall hear much more of what “faith” implies in ch. 11, but linked with plērophoria, “full assurance” (GK 4443; rendered in 6:11 as the “making sure” of hope), it indicates a confident reliance on God that is a far more sturdy quality than “faith” conveys to some today. For such faith as an essential qualification for approaching God, cf. 11:6.
The second pair of phrases balances one another, both speaking of cleansing but focused respectively on the heart and the body. The author has spoken of “sprinkling” to achieve ritual purity with blood (9:19, 21) and with the “water of cleansing” containing the ashes of the red heifer (9:13), and in 12:24 he will extend the imagery to “sprinkling” with the blood of Jesus. Here he does not specify what is sprinkled, but probably the same idea is in mind. The effect of this sprinkling is to provide purification from a “guilty [lit., just “bad”] conscience,” which we were told in v. 2 could not be cleansed by the old sacrifices (cf. also 9:9, 14, all using the same term syneidēsis, “conscience,” GK 5287). It is no surprise to see such cleansing of the “heart” through the sacrifice of Christ among the qualifications for drawing near to God, but there is also a balancing phrase—“our bodies washed with pure water.” The balancing construction setting “bodies” over against “hearts” makes it unlikely this washing with water is intended in a purely metaphorical sense, as in Ezekiel 36:25, though that passage may well be in the author’s mind. In the light of 6:2 (see comments there), it is possible he is speaking of regular ritual ablution as still appropriate for those who worship God (as it was under the old covenant [Ex 29:4; Lev 16:4]), but it is more likely he is referring to Christian baptism as the outward counterpart of the inward “sprinkling” of the heart. The outward and inward aspects of baptism are explicitly contrasted in 1 Peter 3:21, but our author regards them as complementary, with no indication that the physical is of less importance. (Both John the Baptist and Jesus linked baptism in water and in spirit [Mk 1:8; Jn 1:33; 3:5].)
10:22 / The author has thus summarized what has been accomplished through Christ’s work, and he now exhorts his readers to take advantage of it. The first exhortation is let us draw near (niv adds to God). This is the spiritualized language of the temple cultus, meaning now to come into God’s presence through things such as worship and prayer. This is to be done with a sincere heart and in the full assurance of faith. And we are reminded that our acceptability, as we know from the preceding chapters, depends fully upon the priestly work of Christ. We have been cleansed internally (having our hearts sprinkled; cf. Ezek. 36:25, in the context of reference to the new covenant), so that we no longer have the guilty conscience (cf. 9:9, 14) from which the old, sacrificial ritual could not free us. Again the language of the cultus is deliberately used to show how it finds its true fulfillment in the internal cleansing made possible by Christ. Bodies washed with pure water refers not to Jewish lustrations (ceremonial washings for purification [e.g., 6:2]), but almost certainly to Christian baptism, which is the outward sign of the true, internal cleansing to which reference has just been made (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21; Eph. 5:26). It is this new cleansed state enjoyed by Christians, as well as the open way to God’s presence, that results from the sacrifice of Christ.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 262–265). Chicago: Moody Press.
 France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 135–136). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 164–165). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.