The Transformative Triad: Unpacking The Tri-Perspectival Implications of Hebrews 10:19–25

By Steve Tillis    |    September 25, 2023


In the tapestry of effective biblical preaching, the Book of Hebrews stands as a masterpiece, artfully weaving the fabric of indicatives—the truths about believers—and imperatives—the call to action. Nowhere is this more evident than in Hebrews 10:19–25,1 a passage that unveils a tri-perspectival framework that highlights the church’s response to Christ in faith, hope, and love.2

Existential Perspective: The Inviting Embrace of Faith

The resonance of the call of Hebrews 10:22 to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” reverberates through time, beckoning believers to partake in intimate communion with the Lord, drawing near to him. This summons to draw near parallels the Israelites’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai. God called all of the Israelites to draw near to him in faith on the mountain (Ex. 19:10–11). Yet, in fear, they chose Moses to be their representative in the presence of God (Ex. 20:18–19). But in the incarnation, Christ has drawn near to us and made it possible for us to draw near to him. As the better Moses, Christ bore the judgment of our sin on Calvary (Heb. 3:1–6). As the better high priest, he entered once and for all into the holy place on our behalf (Heb. 9:24–26). As the better sacrifice, he atoned for our sins with his own blood (Heb. 10:1–14). As the better temple, who tabernacled among us (Heb. 8:1–6; 9:1–14; cf. John 1:14), he has made it possible for all who believe to draw near to God.

This existential dimension reveals the transformative power of faith. It invites believers, encouraging them to forge a bond of unbreakable communion with the Lord. Through the redemptive work of Christ, even those estranged from God can approach him with the confident humility that knows undeserved acceptance and forgiveness is waiting at the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14–16). For pastors, this means each sermon becomes both an invitation and a proclamation of the awe-inspiring privilege found in drawing near to God through the redemptive grace of Christ.

Normative Perspective: Navigating the Seas of Hope

Verse 10:23 anchors the normative dimension of our response to Christ,3 urging believers to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” The call to unwaveringly cling to our confession of faith forms a foundation within the faith community—that is, the church—offering moral stability amidst the storms of life’s uncertainty. This aspect reverberates with Christ’s teachings, anchoring believers in the timeless truths of the gospel.

Indeed, this confessed hope is no fleeting desire, no wish-dream, but a steadfast anchor firmly fixed in the future promises of God. Like the book of Hebrews itself (13:22), our sermons now bear the weight of fortifying this hope, infusing congregations with robust theology and biblical fidelity. In this vein, the theological depth of sermons becomes an avenue to reinforce the foundational confession that firmly roots souls in Christ’s own unwavering work.

Situational Perspective: Love in Action

Hebrews 10:24 highlights the situational dimension of our response to Christ, prompting us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” This outlook envisions the creation of a community that nurtures love and virtuous action. The emphasis on mutual encouragement also underlines the interactive nature of Christian living. Guided by Christ’s supremacy, as well as his own example of sacrificial love (John 13:35), believers are entrusted with the responsibility to engage one another to promote compassionate deeds and acts of service.

Within the realm of preaching, this situational perspective sees sermons as catalysts for congregational participation. It guards sermons from becoming purely theological discourses and compels pastors to preach with a view to motivating listeners to actively immerse themselves in their churches for advancing the Kingdom of God through holistic expressions of neighbor love.

The tri-perspectival approach to knowledge stands as a seamless symphony of interconnected dimensions.4 Drawing near to God acts as the wellspring from which believers more firmly grasp the confession of faith. This glorious confession then ignites the flames of love and good works. These dimensions intertwine, forging a harmonious and comprehensive response to Christ. Through drawing near, believers are empowered to uphold their confession, emboldening one another toward acts of love and goodness.

Eternal Wisdom Through the Ages: A Historical Lens

Tri-perspectival preaching—the kind modeled in Hebrews 10:19–25— is not a novel concept. Historical preachers like John Owen, a prominent theologian of the Puritan era, recognized and actively embraced the interconnectedness of faith, hope, and love.5 Within the tapestries of their sermons, Puritan ministers like Owen skillfully interwove these elements to benefit their congregations.

For example, John Owen highlighted that faith, hope, and love were not isolated virtues but rather interconnected strands that together formed a strong and unbreakable cord of Christian living. His sermons, filled with theological depth and pastoral insight, stand as a testament to the enduring relevance of the tri-perspectival approach modeled in Hebrews 10:19–25. Owen recognizes the inherent relationship between the call to draw near in faith, the call to hold on to our confession in hope, and the call to stir up one another in love. This awareness enabled him to craft messages that appealed to the intellect, stirred the heart, and prompted action among his listeners.

In the tapestry of effective biblical preaching, the Book of Hebrews stands as a masterpiece, artfully weaving the fabric of indicatives—the truths about believers—and imperatives—the call to action.”

—Steve Tillis

By embracing this historical lens, preachers honor the legacy of Christian thought and practice. They participate in a conversation that spans centuries, drawing insights from the past to illuminate the present and guide the future. By grafting the teachings of historical pastors onto the contemporary preaching landscape, preachers are exhorted to craft messages that are not only impactful but also timeless, fostering a sense of unity and continuity within the broader Christian narrative.

Navigating Contemporary Challenges: A Call to Adaptation

In an era marked by unprecedented calls for diversity (not all of which are good) and ever-evolving technological advances (not all of which are good either), the art of preaching faces contemporary challenges that require thoughtful approaches. The existential response of drawing near to God takes on even greater significance in a digital age where virtual connections increasingly replace physical ones. Congregants seek solace and connection through screens, yearning for an authentic encounter with others and even the Lord (e.g., online church). Preachers, recognizing this tragic shift, must be vigilant to “live, die and be raised” in the biblical text each week, drawing near to God himself before inviting others to do the same.

Normative teachings, amidst the rapid flux of cultural norms, remain steadfast beacons in our lives. In a world where moral values seem fluid, preachers thus bear the responsibility of anchoring their congregations in unchanging truths. The normative perspective, which entails holding fast to our confession, becomes a stabilizing force that provides unwavering truths that traverse any cultural shifts. By weaving faithful exposition and contemporary application into their sermons, preachers can instill confessional wisdom in those who are facing uncertain times. This will allow the Scriptures to remain our moral compass in morally challenging situations. By weaving contemporary examples and relatable narratives into their sermons, preachers can bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern challenges, reinforcing the timeless relevance of God’s Word.

Situational perspectives call the church to proactive engagement. As society grapples with questions about social justice, resource stewardship, and human rights, the call to spur one another toward love and good deeds gains renewed urgency. For good preaching not only helps congregations to think biblically on these issues but also to act concretely for the wellbeing of their communities. Our love and good deeds begin with gospel proclamation and extend to the needs of our neighbors. By addressing current societal challenges through the lens of faith, hope, and love, preachers empower congregations to be catalysts for real and lasting transformation, fostering a tangible impact beyond the sanctuary walls.

In navigating these contemporary challenges, preachers find themselves at the crossroads of a challenge: they must preserve the unchanging principles of the faith while navigating the ever-changing dynamics of the world. It is in this tension that preaching thrives, becoming a resilient force that brings the timeless truths of Scripture to bear on the pressing needs of the present. By skillfully interweaving the existential, normative, and situational perspectives, preachers create a comprehensive ministry that navigates the complexities of the modern age while remaining grounded in the enduring Word of the Lord.

Conclusion: A Journey Unveiled

A tri-perspectival analysis of Hebrews 10:19–25 underscores the comprehensive and dynamic nature of the church’s response to Christ. Specifically, the existential, normative, and situational dimensions converge to form a multifaceted approach to Christian living. Through drawing near, embracing the hopeful confession of our faith, and nurturing love and good works, believers embark on a personally transformative journey that mirrors the unparalleled excellence of Christ himself (1 Cor. 11:1; Rom. 8:29). Furthermore, by embracing these perspectives, the church fulfills its divine mandate, becoming a Christ-centered community set apart to proclaim the gospel and extend God’s love to a world in need (Matt. 5:13–16).

  1. The genesis of this tri-perspectival of Hebrews 10:19–25 arose from a conversation with my friend, Doug Ponder.
  2. John Frame and Vern Poythress have argued that human knowledge contains three aspects or “perspectives” that correspond to the attributes of God’s lordship. God’s Word is the authoritative norm that guides the content of our knowledge. The ‘thing’ that is known is some aspect of creation as God’s sovereign control has created and sustained it. The subject who does the knowing is a person made in the image of God to live in the presence of the Lord forever. Frame calls these the “normative perspective,” which concerns the truths and commands of God’s Word; the “situational perspective” which concerns the application of God’s Word in specific times and places; and the “existential perspective,” which focuses on the subject’s inner satisfaction in the presence of God. See John Frame, “What Is Tri-Perspectivalism?” Nov. 28, 2011.
  3. See footnote 2 for a discussion of the normative, situational, and existential dimensions of knowledge.
  4. Once again, or any who still have missed the memo: See footnote 2 for a discussion of tri-perspectivalism.
  5. Although John Owen does not explicitly use the language of tri-perspectivalism, his use of the triad of faith, hope, and love runs throughout his works. Owen’s Communion with God and his commentary on Hebrews are excellent works to examine this approach.
Steve Tillis

Steve Tillis is pastor of Briarlake Church in Decatur, Ga.

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