Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 6:4-8 – An Encouragement To Believers To Keep Growing In Christ

Grace For The Journey

  We are in a series of studies, verse-by-verse through the Book of Hebrews.  Our study is called, “Captured And Captivated by Christ.”  The writer encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  We are in chapter 6.  Yesterday, we left off at verse 3 of chapter 6.   Look at the context for a refresher.   Back up to verse 11 of chapter 5.  The writer of Hebrews was getting ready to talk about a high priest named Melchizedek.  You note that in chapter 5 and the last part of verse 10 he says, “… according to the order of Melchizedek,” and then he adds in verse 11, “of whom (or about whom) we have much to say and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”  The writer was going to talk about the priestly order of Melchizedek, but he pauses for a moment to draw attention to a problem among his readers.  He says in chapter 5, verse 11, “since you have become dull of hearing.” 

We talked about this in terms of three phrases: spiritual perception, spiritual progression, and spiritual permission.  Verse 11 in chapter 5 concerns spiritual perception.  Do not be dull of hearing.  Then, from verse 12 of chapter 5 forward is the word, Progression.  Spiritual Progression.  Every true believer progresses, grows, moves on from what he calls the “first principles” of the faith, the milk of the Word, progressing on to “solid food,” meatier teachings of the Word.  Progression.  Then the third phrase from verse 3 of chapter 6 is the word, Permission.  Spiritual Permission. Chapter 6, verse 3 says, “And this we will do (this growing) if God permits.”   We said that this verse points us upward to God who gives us grace to grow, He makes growth possible – but – not everyone will grow.  Why?  The author goes on to give the answer in verse 4 and following.  Some will not grow – some will fall away from Christ.  What a frightful thought!  What we have in verses 4 and following is one of the most alarming passages in the Bible that teaches about the real possibility of being close to the things of God, even experiencing something of the benefits of God, but ultimately falling away to doom and destruction. 

Most people use some kind of Global Positioning System when they drive to location that they are not familiar with, unless you are old school and you still carry around those hard-to-fold up paper maps in your glovebox.  Most people use some kind of navigation system or app on their phones that provides turn-by-turn instructions.  There is a new one I recently read about called WAZE.  What is cool about this app is that it provides real-time traffic and road information.  It is community-based.  Folks are continually adding to it in real-time.  You are traveling through Nashville and you get into awful traffic and it will say things like, “Traffic ahead.  Take the next exit to save time.”  It will reroute you and you will save time.  Or there are other warnings like: “Look out, car pulled over ahead.”  You will drive about a quarter mile and there it is, a car pulled over.  Or, one that a lot of people like, “Be careful. Police ahead!”  That is a warning a lot of people would especially appreciate.

This is the way believers in Christ should hear the warnings in the Book of Hebrews.  If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, then you are progressing on a journey, a pilgrimage, traveling along on your spiritual faith journey.  You know where you are headed and you know you are going to get there.  As we grow in our faith, God gives us information and directions, “turn-by-turn directions” from His Word.  These warnings help us move forward in our journey, in our spiritual growth, in our progressing forward.   

What I want to make clear is that

The warnings in the Book of Hebrews

Are not meant to unsettle true Christians. 

The writer of Hebrews is not trying to get

True believers to question their salvation. 

He is not trying to get Christians to doubt their salvation. 

He is giving these warnings as a means by which

To encourage true believers to keep moving forward.

Like the helpful voice from the WAZE app, Christians hear the passages say to them: “Don’t stop . . . Turn here . . . Look out.”

Now, if some are reading these passages, and you are not Christians, then you will hear these warning passages very differently.  And, in fact, remember the reason the writer is writing this letter to the Hebrews.  He knows that some of them have gone back to the Old Covenant ways of Judaism.  They have abandoned Christ and gone back to the Old Covenantal system of sacrifices, offerings, priests, and all the rest.  They had fallen away from Christ.  The writer is, in essence, saying: “Don’t you do that!  You believe in Christ.  Keep believing.  Keep moving forward.  Be careful.  Turn here.  Look out.  Keep moving.”

Before we look more closely at our passage this morning, let’s place this passage, this warning, into a grid that will help us see its position among the other warnings in Hebrews.  There are five warning passages in Hebrews.  This is a key concern of the writer, these warning passages.  We have already considered a couple of them.  Here is a helpful breakdown for further study . . . 

KEY CONCERN OF HEBREWS: THE WARNING PASSAGES

1. 2:1-4 – The first warning passage was back in chapter 2.  Key word: Drift.  You will remember chapter 2, verse 1, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”

2. 3:7 – 4:13 – The second warning passage from chapters 3 and 4.  Key word: Disobey.  And you will recall the writer’s concern about his hearers not being like those Old Testament believers in the wilderness who through lack of faith disobeyed God.  He says in chapter 4 verse 11 that believers are to be “diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” Do not disobey the Word of God. 

3. 5:11 – 6:12 – Today we are studying the third warning passage.  The key Word is Dull.  Chapter 5, verse 11 warns us to not become, “dull of hearing.”  

4. 10:19-39 – Despise.

5. 12:14-29 – Defy.

In time we will get to the other warnings in chapters 10 and 12.  This is a helpful guide to review these passages at a future time.  It may be something you would study for your own benefit, or with your husband, wife, or children, and take five weeks and look at one warning passage each week.

Today we will begin with chapter 6, verse 4 and following.  I want to give you a very simple outline, one-word points that describe the flow of the passage.  Three words . . .  

  1. A Warning (4-6)
  2. An Illustration (7-8)
  3. An Encouragement (9-12)

We will deal only with the first point today; we will deal with the warning itself.  We will not get to the illustration or the encouragement.  We will save verses 7-12 for a fuller treatment tomorrow, Lord willing.  

As we study these verses, I want to ask you, “Who do you think the writer is talking to here?”  Verse 4 through 6 say, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they (or when they) fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”  It sure sounds like he’s writing to saved people here.  Most scholars believe he is. 

There are those who believe that a person can be saved and then fall out of salvation.  Or get saved and then lose his salvation.  Now there are at least two problems with that view: 

1) For those who believe a person can lose his or her salvation and get saved again or, in some cases, over and over again, this passage teaches that there is no “again.”   Repentance again is impossible.  The writer says in verse 6 that “it is impossible” … “if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.”  There is no “getting saved again” here.  Here is someone who has fallen away from faith in the Lord and turned his back decisively and definitively on Christ.  2) Remember what we read before back in Hebrews 3.  Hebrews 3:14, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”  Those who are true partakers of Christ are those who “hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end,” – which suggests those who do not hold their “confidence steadfast to the end” are not, nor ever were, “partakers of Christ.”  To cite an old adage that Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed from the first.”  That is a memorable phrase, isn’t it?!  Put another way: True believers do not fizzle out, they finish.  They persevere in their faith to the end.

True believers remain believers.  They remain saved.  They persevere to the end of their days.  A basic Baptist refrain is: “Once saved always saved.”  Now that is true, but I like to say it more accurately as, “Once saved, always persevering” or, “Once saved, always progressing;” “Once saved, always growing; “Once saved forever following.”   True believers keep growing, keep following, remaining faithful to Christ, looking like Jesus, acting like Jesus, growing in their love for more Jesus.  That is the true believer.

All I am doing here is a laying down little bit of systematic theology.  We know this passage cannot be addressing true Christians because true Christians persevere in their faith, they “hold their confidence steadfast to the end.”  And this is the whole of the Bible’s teaching on this matter.  God does not contradict Himself.  His Word contains no contradictions.  Now there are difficulties in the Bible to be sure, but there are no contradictions.  If we turn elsewhere in the Bible for passages related to this matter of persevering in our faith, then we will find those passages to be in agreement with what we are studying here.  Elsewhere the Bible speaks encouragingly about the Christian’s salvation as that which is permanent. 

There are encouraging passages that provide strong assurance.  Jesus, for example, in John 5:24, “He who hears My Word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” and in John 10:28, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Once saved, forever following.  Romans 11:29 states, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  Once saved, always progressing.  Romans 8:38-39 declares, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Once saved, forever following.

If the writer is not addressing true Christians, then just who does he have in mind? Context is key.  That is a good memory phrase: context is key.  Want to know what a Bible passage means?  Know that context is the key to unlocking the meaning.  The immediate context and then the context of the Book.  We read the verses surrounding the passage to get at the context.  Then we take into consideration the greater context of the letter to the Hebrews.

The writer is addressing Christians who had come out of Judaism but were considering going back.  Going back for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to avoid persecution from family and friends in the Jewish community.  Like you and I, they were ridiculed at times for their faith in Christ.  They were thinking about going back to the old ways, turning away from Christianity.  Some already had gone back.  The word used to describe the action of falling away, or turning away from Jesus is the word “apostasy.”  A person who turns away from Christ is a person who has “apostatized,” they have abandoned Christ and renounced whatever they had previously believed.  

The Apostle John mentions this very thing in 1 John 2:19 where he refers to those who abandoned Christ.  He says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  And this very thing was happening in the congregation the writer of Hebrews is addressing.  Some had gone back to the old ways and the writer seeks to stop that regression.  

This is why the central or major theme of this letter is the idea of “better,” woven throughout the 13 chapters is a bundle of words and phrases: “better,” “greater,” “more,” – these words occurring for a combined total of 25 times in the letter.  We can sum up the Book of Hebrews in three words . . . Jesus is better.  And the writer means, “better than what you had before.  Better than what you left.  Better than what you are thinking of going back to.”   Like a navigation app he is saying, “Don’t do that.  Stop.  Turn here.  Get back on the route.  Jesus is better.”

Having considered the context, we then apply the simple rules of grammar to these word phrases in verses 4 through 6 and we are helped immensely.  Verse 4 refers to those who were “once enlightened.”  The word means to have light shine onto you. You are in a dark room and someone flips a switch, you are enlightened.  You sit in a small group and a Bible teacher explains what a passage means and you are enlightened to understand it. 

The next phrase in verse 4 refers to those who have – “tasted the heavenly gift.”  Tasted the basic principles of Christianity.  Got a taste of it, did not commit to it entirely, but tasted the heavenly gift. 

Also in verse 4 is the phrase – “have become partakers of the Holy Spirit.”  In the same way a non-Christian can taste the heavenly gift without committing to it entirely, so may an unbeliever become a “partaker of the Holy Spirit.”  This word “partaker” has a wide range of meaning.  It can convey both an intimate association or a more general and broader association, less familiar, less intimate.  Here that general sense is in view – the idea of being “associated with” or “influenced by.”  In verse 4, to be a “partaker of the Holy Spirit” is to be someone who has been in some sense associated with or influenced by the Spirit.

Of course, we know this is true from experience, don’t we?  A person can enter into a worship service, and sense there is something unusual about it.    You sense something special happening.  Preaching, music, teaching of the Bible – these are all the means by which the Holy Spirit is moving and working.  A person can receive spiritual benefit by the work of the Spirit in a general sense.  Influenced by the Spirit, a partaker of the Spirit, without yielding completely, committing entirely to the Spirit.

Then in verse 5 the writer describes those who have “tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.”  And again, the idea is merely tasting of something, experiencing something, without necessarily moving beyond that taste.  He gets a “taste” of blessing from the Bible or a “taste” of something of the work of almighty God.  It can happen.  Remember the warning from Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23?  Near the end of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about this very thing – how people can taste something of “the powers of the age to come” yet not be true believers, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (powers of the age to come!)  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

It is possible to get really close to the things of Christ and even enjoy something of the power and influence of the Word and work of God – but still not utterly commit to Jesus Christ.  Does this not explain the many people we know from Christian experience who once seemed to be “on fire” for the Lord, but have since fallen away.  Emotional fervor, a heightened sense of spiritual awareness, enlightenment as the Word is preached, but ultimately falling away.  They merely tasted the things of God.

Back in the mid80s, folks didn’t know anything about Chick-Fil-A.  One of the ways they got folks to try Chick-Fil-A was through “sampling.”  The majority of Chick-Fil-As were in shopping malls so what you did was cut up a couple filets into bite-sized chunks, put toothpicks in them, and walk out in front of the counter and offer free samples to anyone who came by.  It really was a stroke of genius on the part of whoever came up with this marketing strategy.  People would wander into the food court area of the mall and there they are giving out free samples of this good, godly chicken, amen?!  The Baptist Bird!  Hungry people – and not so hungry people – could hardly resist a free sample. And what happens to you when you get a taste of Chick-Fil-A?  Someone has said, you say, “Heaven” … “I am in heaven.”  Like a magnet you are pulled to the counter and order your meal.  

But . . . not everyone responded that way.  There were some who got a taste of Chick-Fil-A, but it was merely a taste.  They got a taste of “the heavenly gift,” but they did not commit to anything further.  They were blessed by “partaking” of the sample, but they did not continue on to further enjoyment of it.  They just walked away.

Far more important than sampling food in the mall, is our tasting of the “good Word of God” and going on to further commitment and enjoyment of the work, the Word, and way of God.  Perseverance.  Following.  Growing.  Progressing.

Those who persevere in their faith are those who do more than merely taste the Word.  They taste it and go on to further enjoyment of it.  But those who do no more than taste, those who walk away and forget about what they have sampled, are in danger of finally falling away from Jesus.

The writer puts it this way in verse 6: “If (or when) they fall away, (it is impossible) to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”  When people merely “taste” the Christian experience and then do not go on in the faith, but walk away, abandon Christ, they are in one sense “crucifying again the Son of God,” and “putting Him to an open shame.”  In other words, to get so close to Jesus as to experience spiritual benefit from being associated with Him and His people, tasting of the Word, partaking of the Spirit, enjoying these blessings that come from God, and then you walk away and abandon Christ, does not make sense!  You may as well have driven more nails into His hands and feet.  You may as well have stuck His side again with a sword.  You are crucifying Christ again by making Him a public spectacle of rejection.  

That utter rejection is illustrated in verses 7 and 8.  You will note the contrast in those two verses.  One a field that produces fruit.  The other a field that produces merely thorns and briers whose end is to be burned.  Those who persevere in their faith are fruitful and those who merely taste the Christian experience are fruitless.  One is supernaturally empowered to bear fruit.  The other remains in his natural state and produces nothing.  

But . . .

The writer is confident that those

Who hear him will go on from mere tasting

To full commitment, enjoyment, and surrender.

That is why he says in verse 9, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you.”  Yes, better than a fruitless land of thorns and briers, you will be blessed with “things that accompany salvation,” things that are better than merely tasting of the Christian experience, better in that you receive the “full meal,” the fulness of Jesus Christ and your inheritance of the promises.

Let me say that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you desire more of Him, to go on tasting of the things of God, then you are in good company.  There is a whole host of us who desire to go on believing, go on following, go on progressing.  

Some of you, however, may be hearing about Christ for the first time.  You are hearing that He lived a perfect life for you and died a substitutionary death for you, dying on the cross in your place, and rising from the dead that you may be saved.  What will you do?  Will you repent now?  Will you turn to Christ now?  Do not find yourself in that awful position where you will no longer be “renewed again to repentance.”  Turn to Him now.  Heed the Bible’s invitation, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”  Heed the warning.  Get on the right path.  Follow Jesus.  Be captivated by Christ.  And go on following Him.

God, help us.  Give us grace.  Grace to believe the gospel.  Grace to receive Christ.  Grace to go on living for Christ.  God help our family members, our loved ones.  Some of us have sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, and loved ones who are not progressing.  They are not growing spiritually.  They are not going on in faith.  Ask the Lord to give them grace to believe and to go on believing.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 5:11-6:3 – Guard Against Becoming Dull Of Hearing

Grace For The Journey

A friend of mine related to me an incident that vividly illustrates this truth.  A few years ago,  he and his wife were out shopping.  They went into this store called Shoe Carnival.  He said that the name of the store seemed appropriate, because it was a bit like a carnival.   The main thing that struck him while they were there was a guy wearing a headset microphone and he was always saying something.   He would speak and his voice was amplified throughout the store.  My friend said that the guy was in the central part of the store and elevated a bit on some kind of platform. There was music playing in the background and every once in a while this guy would start talking about various shoes and items they were selling.  They looked around and were in the checkout line to buy their items and my friend again hears this guy in the background with his voice amplified and he thought to himself, “Nobody’s really listening to this guy.  It’s just chatter and noise.”  He turned to his wife to say that to her, and as he turned he saw that she was standing very still, eyes fixed, head turned to one side, focused, and he said, “You’re listening to that guy!”  And she was – About the time she steps out of the line and runs over to an aisle – along with a number of other ladies who had also been listening – running to some sale going on at the moment.  And there he was thinking no one was listening!  

You might say that he had become “dull of hearing.”  He was not tuned-in.  he was not really listening.   He was aware there was someone speaking, but to him it was just noise.   It did not mean anything.  His wife, on the other hand, was actively listening.  You might say she had “ears to hear.”   What I heard as nothing more than noise, she an announcement about a bargin and a treasure.

Does that describe you.  How do you listen to the Word?  Do you listen actively, engaged, attentively believing God has something to say to You in His Word?   Will you receive God’s Word today as the writer will say later in chapter 6 – receive it like rain that falls upon the earth so it produces vegetation and growth – or will you hear it as just so much noise? 

In this passage the writer of Hebrews addresses the matter of spiritual growth.  He begins by writing about the need for . . .

  1. Spiritual Perception – Verse 11.

Readers of God’s Word and hearers of God’s Word require spiritual perception.  “Perception” meaning “the ability to see and hear something; to be engaged, actively aware of what they are reading and hearing.”  We see this in verse 11.   Remember that the writer has just been talking about Jesus Christ’s being a Great High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.”  We would expect the writer to flesh out what he means by that.   And he will – he has much to say about Melchizedek, but not just yet.   It will come later at the very end of chapter 6 and on into chapter 7.  The writer stops for a moment and issues a terse rebuke to the Hebrews, the Jewish Christians to whom he is writing, because word has apparently gotten back to him that there is a problem with their spiritual perception. 

He knows they have a hearing problem.  Verse 11 states, “Of whom(Melchizedek) we have much to say, and hard to explain,(note this!  Hard to explain why?)since you have become dull of hearing.”  It is really critical that we get this down.  The content concerning Melchizedek that the writer will eventually get around to writing about, the content itself is not beyond their ability to understand.  This was not an intellectual problem.  It was not that the Hebrews did not have the ability to understand what the writer was going to be teaching them.  This was not an intellectual problem.  Their problem was moral and spiritual.  They had become, “dull of hearing.”  The word “dull” means “sluggish, lazy, and indifferent.”  In fact, the same word is translated that way down in verse 11 where he says “since you have become dull of hearing.”  They were realizing the goal of biblical teaching for their lives, which the writer mentions in verse 14b, “Who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” 

It is not that they were unable

To understand the biblical teaching. 

It is that they were unwilling. 

They did not want to understand. 

They had become indifferent

To the teachings of Scripture.

Preaching is challenging enough to communicate when people are not so dull of hearing.  This is why preachers often “set the address” as John MacArthur calls it in his book on preaching. Preachers remind hearers where they are in the Bible.  We will use such phrases as, “The Bible says in Chapter 5, verse 11; Look at what the Bible says in this verse; We are in Hebrews, chapter; Do not miss what God says here; Look in your Bibles there at that verse.”  Sometimes just sitting in a congregation listening to the Word preached, our mind can quickly wander.  We think, “Oh no, it is raining outside, did we leave windows up in the house?”  “Did we put the dog out?”  “What was that noise, are the kids running in the church again?”  Communicators continue to call hearers back to the text and back to the message.  In addition, there are always external distractions that happen during preaching: A microphone is not working properly; The audio is too loud or too soft; a beautiful red fox saunters through the church yard (this actually happened at the country church I pastored at during college).   

These are external distractions are frustrating, largely because they are not immediately fixed.  They are often beyond our control as we are reading or hearing the Word.  The writer is talking about something that is not an external problem, but an internal problem. 

He is not talking about

A problem with the signal,

Or the sender of the signal,

But the problem the writer

Is talking about is with the receiver,

The one reading and hearing.

That is an important distinction.  The Word itself is by no means dull.  Having said that it, it is possible to be a dull teacher or preacher.  Arguably, some preaching may put some to sleep.  I always think of the minister who said he once dreamed he was preaching and then woke up to discover that he was!  But if in the preaching and teaching, the vast majority of the people are engaged and awake – and it is only a few who seem always to fall asleep as soon as they get still – then we may assume the problem is not with the preacher or teacher.  

The writer is talking about those

Who never really tune in to

The message because they

Really do not want to.

They may be awake.  They may even look engaged.  But they are really not listening.  The message is going out but there is no receiving it.  It is just some noise, maybe even pleasant noise, like music in the background while we are on hold on the phone.  But there is no real receiving or retaining.  

The writer is addressing those who do not want to think about what is being taught and have to work at really “getting it” and “living it.”  They are just present in the event, but not really interested in what they are reading or hearing.  The sad result is that the Word falls on deaf ears.

Now this is dangerous.  Very dangerous.  Lack of spiritual perception leads to lack of . . .  

II. Spiritual Progression – 5:12-6:2.

Progression refers to growth and maturity.  The writer addresses the hearers lack of growth and maturity resulting from their being “dull of hearing.”  Verse 12 states, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”  The writer is saying, “You’re not growing in your faith!  By now you ought to be teachers.”  He does not mean the entire congregation has the gift of teaching a group as in preaching to a congregation or even teaching a small group Bible Study class.  He is not talking about teaching in that sense, but . . .

Teaching in that you ought to be

Passing on to others what

You know about the faith

. . . Discipleship.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  Everyone is expected to grow in the faith, to progress, to mature, and to pass on to others what we have learned.  We disciple others when we pass on to them what we have learned ourselves.  Everyone can and must do this.  It is part of fulfilling our Lord’s Great Commission.  Living as His disciples and discipling others (Matthew 20:19-20). 

Our churches vision statement captures this commission.  Our church family exists to share the Gospel with the lost across the street and around the world and to develop generations of God-glorifying Disciples Who Make Disciples from our community to uttermost part of the world.  Are you discipling someone?  Are you teaching another believer?  Are you witnessing, sharing your faith, and helping another person grow?

The problem with the Hebrews is stated in verse verse 12, “for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again…!”  To teach you again “the first principles of the oracles of God,” that is, the “basics.”  The word “principles” is generally used in connection with the ABCs of something.  The basics of the faith.

And the writer adds, “and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”  This imagery is immediately understood by anyone who has raised a child or a grandchild.  A baby has a desire for milk.  And a baby needs milk in order to grow.  In time the baby partakes of solid food, moving or growing from milk to more substantive food.

Applied spiritually, the newborn Christian has a desire for spiritual milk, the milk of the Word.  In fact, the word “milk” in the original is the word from which we get “lactose” as in “lactose intolerant,” those whose bodies cannot tolerate milk.  Well, no true Christian is “lactose intolerant!”  True Christians “desire the pure milk of the Word that they may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).  We grow in our faith.  We progress in our life and ministry. 

Verse 13 says, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”  If Christians partake only of milk and never move on to solid food – heavier teachings, doctrines such as providence, election, the work of the Holy Spirit, and so on—then they are merely babies, “unskilled in the word of righteousness.”  Put another way, they are “unable to rightly apply the Word of God in their daily lives.”  That meaning is clear given the contrast in verse 14, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The writer is saying that if Christians progress, grow in their faith, and learn more and more of the teachings of the faith then they will be in a position to make right decisions and to live in greater way that will please and glorify God.  The way they live their lives flows out of a proper understanding of the Word of God.

Look at it again, verse 14, “But solid food belongs to those who are full of age (spiritually mature), that is, those who by reason of use (that is through constant use of the Word) have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The writer is saying, “Because of our spiritual maturity, we know intuitively what to do or how to react, even where the Bible does not address a specific concern.”  You know how sometimes people ask, “Well, what does the Bible say about this, or that” and the Bible does not address that issue particularly – Taking a certain job, can I do this, is it okay to do that, what if my boss wants me to do this or that?

The writer says that those who are in the habit of partaking of the solid food of the Word are those who know intuitively which decision to make, whether to respond this way or that, they are those who are able to “discern both good and evil” because they have been growing in the Word, growing beyond mere milk.  

A similar idea is taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able.”  In the Corinthian context, Paul teaches that spiritual immaturity leads to “carnal” or “fleshly” living.  Without a healthy diet of the Word and growth in the Word, we are more likely to live according to the flesh and fall into sin if we know only the basic principles of Scripture.  With spiritual growth, however, growing in theology and doctrine, comes spiritual maturity.

What is true of the physical is true of the spiritual: Grown adults are not sustained by mere milk.  We need more in our diet.  We need solid food.  There are no shortcuts to sanctification.  There is no quick way to grow up overnight.  Like someone waving a magic wand over a new Christian and that Christian suddenly and instantaneously matures!  It is just like the physical realm.  It requires work.

I would love if I could just walk into a gym and immediately have muscles strengthened and toned, walk through the door and your belly fat just disappears, and immediately I look trim, fit, and muscular.  But that only happens in dreams!  Same is true spiritually.  It does not happen overnight.  Growth from an acorn into a towering oak tree takes time.  Spiritual growth is a disciplined process.  

We take time for other things.  Think of the time you spend looking at the TV, computer, or cell phone.  Some of us are attached to our phones like it is an IV.  Connect yourself to the Word.  Let the milk of the Word get into that IV and let it feed you, nourish you, and strengthen you!  As you grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s Word you will come to enjoy the fulness of a developing, maturing, and progressing faith!  There is joy in sanctification, joy in growth!!

Chapter 6 verse 1 says, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection(maturity; that is the key phrase: let us go on to perfection or maturity), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”  This is spiritual progression.  The writer lists a total of six basic, elementary doctrines that the Hebrews were to move on from, to progress beyond, to not lay the foundation for them again and again.  There are six basics in three couplets here in verses 1 and 2 . . . 

The first couplet – Do not lay again the foundation “of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”

The second couplet – Do not lay again the foundation “of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands,

The third couplet – Do not lay again the foundation “of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” 

If you really study these three couplets you will discover that they are all things that were taught in Old Covenant Judaism.  There is nothing distinctly Christian about them.  Even in verse 2 where it reads “the doctrine of baptisms.”  The word refers to the “washings” of the priestly cleansing rites.  The writer is saying, “Look you Hebrews, we have shown you that Christianity – namely the New Covenant – builds on that foundation you had in the Old Covenant.  What you now enjoy it so much better.  All of those things basic to your faith in Judaism were building blocks to set you up for Jesus Christ who is better, more superior, than anyone or anything you’ve ever known.  So Let us go on to maturity.  Let us move on and not lay again the foundation upon which and from which you should be progressing, growing.

Spiritual perception . . . Spiritual progression . . . The third phrase . . .

III. Spiritual Permission – Verse 3).

Verse 3 says, “And this we will do if God permits.”  This verse directs our gaze upward to our loving, sovereign, grace-giving God.  God is the one who makes growth possible.   He is the one who brings life from death.   The verses will go on to describe – and we will look at this next time – the peril of not progressing, describing someone who does not move from the elementary principles of the milk to the advanced teachings of solid food.  Someone who has gotten close to the things of God, and even gotten some benefit out of them, but has not progressed forward.  

There’s an implicit warning here!  We must never presume upon the opportunities God gives us to grow.  If God graces you with a desire to grow, then grow.  Do not presume that you will wake up tomorrow with the same desire.  Feed that desire now.  It comes from God.  Honor God’s work in you by working that out in growth in the Lord.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:12-13, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” It is God who works in you the desire to do for His good pleasure.  Do not presume upon that work!  Do not presume upon God, that He is going to go on gracing you with these desires and opportunities for growth.  Feed them now and you will grow.

And as you go on growing, you will go on to maturity.  You will not fall away.  You will not regress, you will progress, upward and onward, your eyes fixed on Jesus.  I am praying with you toward that end.  I pray that God will give you grace so that: 1) You will I never become “dull of hearing” God’s Word; 2) You will always desire the sincere milk and solid meat of God’s Word; and 3) You will regularly feed myself and others God’s Word.

In Christ alone my hope is found;

  He is my light, my strength, my song;

This cornerstone, this solid ground,

  Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

  When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all—

  Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,

  Fullness of God in helpless babe!

This gift of love and righteousness,

  Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

  The wrath of God was satisfied;

For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—

  Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,

  Light of the world by darkness slain;

Then bursting forth in glorious day,

  Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory,

  Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;

For I am His and He is mine—

  Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—

  This is the pow’r of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath,

  Jesus commands my destiny.

No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,

  Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home—

  Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 5:1-10 – Author of Eternal Salvation

Grace For The Journey

The writer of Hebrews writes this letter to warn them not to do this.  The writer holds before them Christ as better, greater, and more superior to the Old Covenant.  Jesus Christ is better.  Better than things the Hebrews held in high regard.  Jesus is better. Better than better the angels and better than the law (chapters 1 and 2).  Better than Moses (Chapter 3).  Better than Joshua – He offers a better rest than Joshua offered in the wilderness (Chapter 4).  At the end of Chapter 4 we read that Jesus is a better than the high priests of the Old Covenant.

The high priest was the supreme religious leader of the Israelites.  The high priest was over all the other priests, Levitical priests and the ordinary priests who were served in the Old Covenant temple.  All other priests were subordinate to the high priest.

The writer continues to show that Jesus is better by mentioning Aaron, Moses’ brother.  Jesus is the greater high priest and therefore better than any other human high priest.

In verses 1-10 the writer engages in a “compare and contrast” exercise.  The writer does this as he compares and contrasts the human high priest system with the vastly superior High Priest Jesus Christ.  He writes first of the “high priest taken from among men,” in verses 1-4.  Then after verse 4 and beginning in verse 5 the writer presents Jesus Christ, the High Priest who is markedly different in many ways.  Look for this comparing and contrasting as we go through these verses.

Do Baptists believe in priests?  That is a simple question.  This is a good question.  I think a better question would be: “Do Protestants believe in priests?  Do evangelicals believe in priests?” What is the answer to that question if we interpret the teachings of the New Testament in a plain, straightforward manner?

Interpreting the Bible in this way, it is clear that the system of a human priesthood is over.  The Reformers taught this in their recovery of the true gospel from the church of their day.  This is the truth for which so many of our Protestant forebears died in the Reformation.  Among other things, they were showing that the New Testament is clear on this point: we have no need of human priests in order to approach God, worship God, live for God, serve God, or enter into the very presence of God.

On what basis, then, do we approach God?  That is the entire point of the New Testament, especially the Book of Hebrews.  We now have – not just a priest, not just a high priest – but we have a Great High Priest whose name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  And unlike the human high priest whose appointment ended when he died, Jesus goes on living, goes on making intercession on behalf of all His followers, Christians.

To participate, then, in a human priestly system of perpetual priests and perpetual sacrifices for sin is either to ignore or be ignorant of the plain teaching of the Bible.   Jesus Christ is the better, the greater, and the vastly superior High Priest.  He has offered the better, the greater, and the vastly superior sacrifice for sins.  On this basis Jesus Christ is the “Author of eternal salvation.”  That phrase is found near the end of our text, verse 9, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation.  That phrase is the anchor of this passage.  Everything else the writer does in these verses serves to prove this fact, that Jesus is the author, or source of, eternal salvation.  

Why Jesus Christ is Author of Eternal Salvation?  In what way is Jesus Christ the author of eternal salvation?  There are several answers to that question . . .

First, because of His identity, His unique identity as the only begotten, or unique one-of-a-kind, Son of God. His identity as Son of God.

I. Because Of His Identity – Verses 1-5.

This is really the first point the writer makes in this passage.  Before we see it revealed further down into the text, note that the writer opens chapter 5 by writing about the human high priest, the things that qualify him to be high priest under the Old Covenant.  By way of review from last time, recall that the priests are the one who served in and among the Temple.  They served as ministers and helpers, helping the people “in things pertaining to God,” offering prayers and sacrifices for sin.  The office of the priest in the Old Testament was limited to the tribe of Levi and limited further to just one family of the tribe of Levi, the family line of Aaron, Moses’ brother.  And it was from the family line of Aaron that the supreme leader or supreme priest of the Israelites came, the high priest.

Verse 1 says, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  The writer is talking about the human high priest.  He is appointed to this position by God.  And what does the high priest do?  The last part of verse 1 tells us, “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  The high priest is like a bridge or link between the people and God.  God is holy.  Man is sinful.  Man cannot approach God.  The priest is the holy, separated leader, who links men to God.  

The writer goes on to describe the human high priest in verse 2, “He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.”  The high priest can sympathize with those he serves.  He serves all people, both educated and uneducated, wise and foolish, informed and ignorant, as well as the faithful and those going astray.  He can sympathize with, identify with, and have compassion for other human beings he serves because he himself knows what it is like to be human, to be “subject to weakness.”

Verse 3 states, “Because of this (because he himself is a man subject to weakness) he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.”  The high priest is a holy man, but a man nonetheless.  He may be regarded as the best of men, but a man at best.  The high priest is a sinner.  He is required to do for himself what he does for the people.  He offers sacrifices for sins – not just their sins – but his own sins, too.

This fact underscores the need for humility.  Because of his special office, the high priest may be tempted to begin to think of himself as a special person – special as though he himself were incapable of the same sins as the sins of the people he represents.  Perhaps he becomes enamored with the special garments he wears as he serves as high priest and begins to think: “Well, I am so much better than these sinners!”  This verse destroys that prideful thought because he too is a human being with a sin nature, “he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.”  These sacrifices for sins were largely the animal sacrifices we read about in the Old Testament.

It may be helpful here to pause to answer a common question from those who are reading the Old Testament who wonder about these animal sacrifices, why they were given, and what is going on with them.  Let’s pause on our journey through this text and stop to consider at least 3 reasons for animal sacrifices.

Why animal sacrifices?  They were offered for at least 3 reasons . . .

1) To Show The Seriousness Of Sin (Requires Shedding Of Blood For Forgiveness).

Sin is not to be taken lightly.  Sin is an offense against God.  It is rebellion against our Creator.  Every sinful action is an affront to God.  Even those sins we do and we attempt to argue, “Well my actions are not hurting anyone else.”  Yes, they are.  Your sinful actions are primarily hurting God, grieving the Holy Spirit.

Sin is serious.  Sin has a penalty and the penalty is death.  An animal was sacrificed and it’s blood shed to illustrate the payment required for sin.  The writer of Hebrews will go on to say in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness of sin.”  Animals were sacrificed to show the seriousness of sin.

Secondly, animals were sacrificed . . .

2) To Provide A Temporary Covering For Sin (Like Living On Credit).

The blood of the animals themselves was not sufficient to atone for our sin.  As the writer says later in Hebrews 10:4, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  Animal sacrifices do not take away sin.  Animal sacrifices served as a temporary covering for sins, the blood shed as a reminder of the seriousness of sin, that payment was required, namely the payment of death.  But the animals themselves could not provide atonement and forgiveness for our sin.  No animal has a perfect record of righteousness, perfectly obeying all of God’s laws.  Nor does an animal share man’s human nature and human flesh.

Animal sacrifices were something of a place holder until a greater more perfect sacrifice would come.  Until that day, the forgiveness that came through animal sacrifices was like “living on credit” until the payment came due.  

This takes us to the third and final reason for animal sacrifices . . .

3) To Point Us To The Greatest Sacrifice For Sin (The Lamb Who Takes Away The Sins Of The World)

Jesus Christ is the greater sacrifice – the greatest sacrifice.  He is the spotless Lamb of God who takes away all sin.  Jesus Christ lived a perfect life of obedience and then died a perfect death as our substitute.  Every animal sacrifice pointed forward to the greater sacrifice to come when Jesus died on the cross, Jesus who paid it all.

The entire Levitical system of priests and sacrifices was a shadow, a symbol, a picture, and a pointer pointing to Jesus.  The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to love Christ more than the pointer.  Love Jesus more than the picture of Jesus, love Him more than the things that point to Him.

We will return now to learning why Jesus is the Author of Eternal Salvation.  We are still on the first point, which is, because of His identity.  Remember that the writer is talking about the human high priest in verses 1-4.  He writes now in verse 4, “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”  No Israelite sought the office of high priest.  It was an appointed position.  It was not a position someone was elected to or voted on.  God Himself calls the high priest to the position.

Now, look at verse 5.  See the first few words?  “So also Christ?” The writer says, “Now let me compare and contrast the human high priest with Jesus Christ”. He writes in verse 5, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’”  The immediate point is that Jesus Christ did not seek out this position of High Priest Himself in a grab for power and self-exaltation.  Jesus was always submissive to His Father.  Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest.  It was His Heavenly Father who appointed Him.  The writer says, “But it was He (God, the Father) who said to Him (said to Jesus): ‘You are My Son …’”  When you look at verse 5 carefully and you read the first part, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest,” you might expect the writer to go on saying, “But it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My High Priest.’”  But that is not what the Father says. He says, “You are My Son.”  There it is!  The Son’s unique identity – He is the Son of God.  Jesus is greater – The Son of God.

Then He quotes from Psalm 2 in verse 5. “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”

The word “begotten” here does not mean “made.”  The idea is, “I have declared and demonstrated You to be My unique one-of-a-kind Son.”  The Father often declared Jesus to be His unique Son.  He said at the baptism of Jesus and on the mount of transfiguration, “This is my Son.”

Given what the writer has said about Jesus in the last few verses of chapter 4, especially verse 14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,” we understand why the Father is saying, “Today I have begotten You.”  Jesus has lived, died, been resurrected, ascended to the right hand of the Father, passed through the heavens up to glory, and His Father says, “Today I have begotten you.  I declare and demonstrated that You yet again My Son, My unique, one-of-a-kind Son.”

Praise the Lord for His Identity.  His identity as Son of God.  Jesus Christ is the Author of Eternal Salvation because of His identity.  Here is the second truth: Jesus Christ is Author of Eternal Salvation . . .

II. Because Of His Eternity – Verse 6.

Verse 6 says, “As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”  Unlike the human priests whose term of service ended with their death, Jesus Christ goes on living.  He is “a priest forever.”  The Son of God’s nature is eternal.  He is without beginning or end.  He is forever.

The writer uses this phrase, “according to the order of Melchizedek” to underscore the eternal nature of the Son of God.  We will read about Melchizedek later in Chapter 7. For now, it is sufficient to know that Melchizedek did not come from the line of Aaron. He was not a Levite.  In fact, little is known about Melchizedek.  He is mentioned only in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110.  Melchizedek did not come from the family line of Aaron.  In fact, the Scriptures never provide the genealogy of Melchizedek.  There is no record of either his birth or death.

The writer is using Melchizedek as a symbol or a type, a foreshadowing of Christ.   Because he has no beginning or end – insofar as there is no genealogy recorded in Scripture – he is like Christ who has no beginning or end.  He symbolizes the eternal nature of the Son of God, Jesus a priest forever.

Praise the Lord Jesus for His Identity and His Eternity!  But there is more.  Jesus is the Author of Salvation because of His Fidelity. His faithfulness to the Father.

III. Because Of His Faithfulness – Verses 7-10.

A) Faithful Reverence To The Father.

We see this in verse 7, “Who, in the days of His flesh (His entire earthly ministry), when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.”  We have noted before that Jesus’ perfection did not limit His ability to feel the full extent of temptation and suffering.  In fact, because of His perfection, He was able to experience temptation perfectly and completely in ways none of us can withstand.  Ligon Duncan says, “It’s not that Jesus can’t relate to our temptation, it’s that we cannot relate to His.” He suffered in ways none of us could withstand.

He was heard “because of godly fear.”  He totally submitted to the will of the Father. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Not my will but Thine be done.”  Do you submit your will to the Heavenly Father’s?  Seriously.  Do you? Are you often peevishly irritated because God’s will isn’t your will?  Faithful reverence.

B) Faithful Obedience To The Father.

Jesus obeyed the Father perfectly. Verse 8 states, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father in every temptation and every trial, enabling Him to complete God’s perfect plan of total obedience.  As each day unfolded, Jesus Christ experienced greater trials, tests, and sufferings.  His sufferings enabled Him to demonstrate total submission to the will of His Father.

Verse 9 goes on to say, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  This is similar to Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him…[to be made] perfect through sufferings.”  Perfected through sufferings, culminating with the final suffering of the cross, His sufferings brought to completion.  The point that Jesus did not seek Himself the honor and glory of High Priest, but He was, “Called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (verse 10).

Praise the Lord Jesus for His Identity, for His Eternity, and for His Faithfulness.  There is no longer any need for a human system of priesthood.  No need for ceremonial symbols.  No need for sounds, smells, sites, signs, and symbols.  We do not need these things nor are we to long for these things.  They are all pictures, pointing toward something and Someone far greater.  We are long for and love Jesus more than the picture of Jesus.  A soldier on the battlefield may take tremendous comfort in a picture of his wife.  He pulls that picture out and gazes upon it daily, he clings to it.  It helps him get through.  But he is looking forward to a better day.  When that day comes, when the war is over and he returns home, he no longer clings to the picture.  The picture was merely a symbol, a pointer, to his wife.  Love Jesus more than the pointer.

If you love Jesus and live for Jesus you share in His identity; you share in His faithfulness, and you share in His eternity … if you obey.  Note this in verse 9 . . .

  • It does not say, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who prayed a formulaic prayer one day in the past.”
  • It doesn’t say, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who joined the church.”

What does it say?  “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Obey Him.  Live for Him.  Go on living for Him, go on submitting to Him, go on worshiping Him, go on loving Him.  Each and every day.  The true believers are the ones who obey Him.  True believers live each day for Him.  True believers are known as obedient Christ followers.  They want what their Lord wants.  They obey Him.   He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

Do you obey Him?  Do you believe in Him, believe He died for your sins?  Some of you need to trust Jesus this morning. Do that. Believe. Confess. Repent. Say to Him: “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.  I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness.  I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 4:14-16 – Help in Time of Need

Grace For The Journey

Our church is committed to develop generations of God-glorifying disciples who make disciples in our community and around the world.   An integral to the disciple-making process is the teaching of the Word of God.  In our last study we talked about the importance of using the Word in our walk, our witness, and our warfare.  I pray you are seeing greater growth greater blessing from the Lord’s Word in your life.  It is this same Word you use as a disciple-maker to disciple others, showing others specifically how to use the Word in their walk, in their witness, and in their warfare, helping others see how the Word of God bears upon their daily lives.   Using a “Growth Guide” will be helpful to you this evening as you meet with someone to do some disciple-making. These are available in the church office and at the Connection Center.

Our Sunday small group Bible Study Ministry is but one aspect of discipleship.  Making disciples is more than teaching a Sunday school lesson.  You should resist the temptation to do all the teaching or being the professional Bible-answer man or woman.  Make sure your class members are in the Word themselves throughout the week and develop folks in your group to teach or take on greater roles each week.  Show them how they can “feed themselves” from the Word of God.  Meet with them individually.  Encourage them.  Pray with them.  Model disciple-making and teach them how to disciple others.

As we turn to the Word of God in Hebrews, we see again that one of the major themes in this letter is the theme of our Lord’s being our High Priest.  If that is a new term for you, what it means will become clearer as we study.  For now, I just want you to see that as early as the opening verses of Hebrews the writer has hinted at the High Priest theme.  We noted this when we read in Chapter 1 verse 3 where, referencing Jesus the writer says that, “when He had by Himself purged our sins [He], sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).  There is a priestly imagery there.  The writer expounds this theme of High Priest in Chapter 2, verse 17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” and, continuing into Chapter 3 and verse 1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1).  After the interlude we have been studying the past two days, most of chapters 3 and 4, are about the importance of hearing and heeding the Word of God, the writer returns to this theme of our Lord’s being a High Priest.

I really like the imagery in verse 13 where we read last time, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked one open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  We talked about how that word “open” is something of a wrestling term.  It means “to bend back the neck.”  We talked about how God’s Word examines us and exposes us.  God’s Word has seized us, flipped us over, and bent back our necks as we look up into the all-seeing eyes of God.  We are on the mat, needing someone to rescue us, someone to show us the way to safety.  Someone who can mediate for us.  Beginning in verse 14, the writer presents Jesus as our great High Priest.

We have noted previously that the central motif or thread that runs through Hebrews is the notion of “better.” The words “better,” “more,” or “greater” occur 25 times in this letter.  In verse 14 the writer uses the word “great,” “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest …”  Jesus is the great High Priest.  Jesus is the great High Priest because Jesus is the final High Priest.  In the Old Testament, and under the Old Covenantal system of worship, God’s people were led by a number of priests.  The Levites served as servants of the tabernacle and it was the family line of Aaron from which the priests came.  The priest served as the go-between, the intercessor, or the mediator between the people and their God.  The priests prayed for the people and offered daily sacrifices for the people as required by the law.

From those priests of the line of Aaron, one priest in particular was the High Priest.  The High Priest was the one who entered into the most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, each year on the Day of Atonement.  Only the High Priest could enter into that most Holy Place bringing the blood of the sacrifice as the means by which to have his sins and the peoples’ sins forgiven.  It was there in the presence of God at the Ark of the Covenant that sins of God’s people would find forgiveness until a greater High Priest would come bearing a greater sacrifice.

The writer of Hebrews is teaching that the greater High Priest has come.  And unlike the earthly High Priests of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is still living.  The earthly high priests were simply men, sinners; they lived, offered sacrifices, and died.  Each earthly high priest was replaced by another.  But after Jesus sacrificed Himself, as the writer says in Hebrews 7:25, “He ever lives – or always lives – to make intercession for us.” That is why the entire Old Testament system of the priesthood is over.  It is no longer necessary for the people of God because we have a great High Priest who is still at it! Still living!  Still interceding on our behalf!!

This is largely the point of the writer in the first verse of our study this morning.  In these three verses there are three truths about our Lord Jesus.  Because Jesus is our great High Priest . . .

I. He Shows The True Way – Verse 14.

How does man get to where God is?  God is Holy.  Man is sinful.  How can man get to God?  In a word: Jesus.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Recall the hymn lyric: “Through death into life everlasting He passed and we followed Him there.”  Jesus shows the way because Jesus is Himself the way.  Verse 14 says, Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”  See what the writer is doing here in defining Jesus as not just a High Priest but the greater High Priest?  He does not simply go to God in the way the earthly High Priests went to God in the earthly tabernacle.  He goes a better way.  He shows the true way.

Remember that the earthly tabernacle – and years later the Temple – was merely a shadow or model of the true tabernacle in heaven.  The earthly priests of the Aaronic order of priesthood could only pass through the earthly veil, the veiled curtain that led to the holy of Holies, the presence of the Lord.  But this earthly veil and presence there above the ark of the covenant was merely a shadow of the actual real heavenly presence of the Lord in the heavens.  It is these heavens the writer says our great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God “has passed through.”

Our great High Priest,

Jesus the Son of God,

Is not limited to an earthly tabernacle,

Restricted by an earthly veil.  

He pierces through into

The very presence of God!  

Nothing limits Him,

Suppresses Him, or

Otherwise obstructs His path.

The writer provides a similar teaching in Chapter 10 which we could think of as something of a “bookend” to the High Priest theme.  Think of our passage this morning here in Chapter 4 as a prologue and Chapter 10 as the epilogue.  Hear these similar words in Chapter 10:19-23, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  There is that phrase again in verse 23, same as in Hebrews 4:14, “Let us hold fast our confession.”  The word suggests “clinging to,” especially in light of who Jesus Christ is as our great High Priest.  Verse 20 declares that Jesus is, the “new and living way, having passed through the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14), having entered not just an earthly veil, but the heavenly veil that obscures man’s way to God.  Jesus Christ is Himself the way.

You will recall Jesus’ using similar language in talking with His disciples in John 14:3, “I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” And Thomas replied in verse 5, “… Lord, we do not know here You are going, and how can we know the way?”   Jesus replies in verse6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Because He is the great High Priest,

Jesus is the way, the only way to the Father.

He shows the true way.  Secondly, because Jesus is our great High Priest . . .

II. He Sympathizes In True Love – Verse 15.

He is our sympathetic High Priest.  Verse 15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus is without sin.  He never sinned, not once.  It is unthinkable that He would sin since He is the Son of God incarnate, God wrapped in human flesh.  His deity as Holy God means He does not sin.  That does not mean He was not tempted to sin, nor that He did not feel and experience the angst of genuine temptation.

The word “tempted” can mean either “temptations” or “trials.”  More than likely, both definitions are in view.  He suffered temptation.  He was afflicted through trials.  He was “in all points tempted as we are.”  And so, he can “sympathize” with our temptations and trials.  The word “sympathize” literally means “to suffer along with.”  Jesus suffered for us.  It is important to the writer of Hebrews to stress this truth about Jesus.  Perhaps he is concerned that someone reasons that since Jesus is the Son of God, He is too remote to be of any practical help.  He is “up there” having passed through the heavens. He cannot really know what I am going through, can He?  Does He understand?  Does He “get” me?  Have you ever wondered whether anyone “gets” you?

Sometimes well-meaning people say, “I know exactly how you feel,” but do they really? The guy whose always been slim as a rail because of a high metabolism is not really capable of understanding the person who has fought hard to lose weight, counting every calorie, and slowly over time maybe shedding a pound in a week.  When the skinny guy with the high metabolism says, “I know how you feel,” the words seem kind of hollow don’t they?  If an expectant mother tells me she is not looking forward to the pain and trial of childbirth, it would seem rather inappropriate for me to say, “I feel your pain!”  I do not know that pain, thank the Lord.  But Jesus never gave birth either, right? In what sense can He really know that pain?  Let’s think about it.

There are a couple things that are important for us to remember.  First, the idea of Jesus’ bearing up perfectly under every trial and temptation is crucial to understanding verse 15.  Remember that temptation is not itself sin.  Jesus was tempted but He did not sin.  You can be tempted without sinning.  If I am tempted to lie because I know I may succeed in covering up something that would embarrass me I am not sinning as I consider the benefit of lying.  That temptation is not itself sin.  As God graces me with Holy Spirit conviction, I am relieved from the temptation when I walk in the Spirit. Remember Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  Temptation in and of itself is not sin.  God’s grace can prevent me from sinning as I recall the importance of walking in truth.

Jesus bore the full weight and measure of temptation every single time yet did not sin. He never once crossed the line from temptation and over to sin.  He always resisted fully and completely.  Think of that!  If Jesus never once “gave-in” to temptation, even when He suffered every ounce of Satan’s tempting work.  He resisted fully and completely. By comparison, when we are tempted “give-in” to temptation at some point or other.  Two people facing the same temptation may respond differently.  Just to illustrate, imagine Person A gives in to the temptation after 5 minutes of tempting whereas Person B – facing the same temptation – does not give in until 50 minutes of tempting.  In fact, we may argue that Person B suffered more than Person A in that he resisted the temptation for a longer period of time.  The point I am trying to make is that Jesus did not give in at 5 minutes or 50 minutes.  He bore the full extent of every second and every ounce of every temptation however long He was tempted.  You might say – you must say – He suffered more.  He suffered more than anyone.

There’s an understanding, a sympathetic understanding, that comes with Jesus’ bearing up under every trial and temptation . . .   

Because He did that,

He knows what it is like

To go through every kind

Of pain imaginable

In human experience.

Including – remarkably – every seemingly unanswered prayer.  Remember how He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane?  Facing the temptation and trial of the cross He prayed, “Father, if it be possible, remove this.”  If it be possible and it wasn’t.   The answer was, “No.”  The Father had a perfect will that meant Jesus would continue to suffer.  Jesus was prepared for that suffering as He had even prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.”  He prayed and got a “No” answer so He knows what that is like when it happens to you.

We have a High Priest who can, verse 15, “sympathize with our weaknesses.”  “Weaknesses” a word that covers any and every need we may feel.  Recall from Chapter 2 and verse 18, “For in that He Himself is suffered, being tempted (or tested), He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  You might say Jesus “gets” you.  He really gets you.  He does not grow weary of your constant weaknesses.  He sympathizes with your weaknesses.  Hear what that means!  There is love in that word!  He truly knows what it is like to battle with Satan.  He knows how you feel.  We are quick to jump over the blessing we are meant to derive from verse 15.  What I mean is we conclude hastily, “Well, that’s all fine and good that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses.  I suppose He knows what it is like to be tempted – but HE did not sin,” we argue.  In other words, “It does not really matter, does it?!”  But don’t you see?  Of course He didn’t sin.  He is the Son of God.  The writer is not writing verse 15 to chasten us as if to argue snidely, “What’s the matter with you?!  Can’t you see how easy it really is to battle temptation and never sin?!  Just do what Jesus did!  He battled victoriously!  He was ‘in all points tempted as we are’ yet – YET! – He did not sin, and YOU don’t need to sin, either!”  You know, “Don’t be so weak!!”

The writer knows Christians are weak.  That is why he is writing this letter.  He knows they are tempted to abandon Christ and go back to Judaism.  That is why he says: “Don’t neglect your great salvation” and, “Hold fast to your confession.”  The writer wants his readers to keep believing Christ!

In verse 16 he will write, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  He knows we need grace and mercy.  He knows we are sinners.  When he writes in verse 15 that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin,” he is writing to encourage us.  He is writing to say, “Jesus really knows what you are going through when you are tempted.”  No matter how frequently you are tempted, He knows what you are going through.  The greater point of verse 15 is that Jesus sympathizes in true love.

Because Jesus has a lot of experience in going through trial and temptation, He knows precisely what you are feeling.  In His love for you, He willingly suffered.  This is a High Priest unlike any human priest who cannot really sympathize with you.  The human priest may be a caring and compassionate man, but he will never understand like Jesus understands.  Every human priest is a sinner.  He does not know exactly how you feel. Jesus is God.  He knows.  He suffers for you out of love.  He did not have to suffer, but He did.  He wanted to because He loves you.

Here is a marvelous truth: Jesus “gets’ you.  Like no one else can get you, He gets you.  He will always get you.   He will always understand you.  And the most amazing thing is – in spite of you, that is, in spite of your sin – He still loves you.  When you sin again before the hour is over, He will love you no less.

Because Jesus is our great High Priest . . . He shows the true way . . . He sympathizes in true love . . .  and . . .

III. He Supplies Our True Need – Verse 16.

What is our true need, our greatest need?  Grace.  Verse 16 declares, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Our great High Priest gives us help in time of need.  We do not deserve God’s help.  We are all sinners.  We do not deserve God’s help.  Who does?  But this is so wonderful!  

God in His love

Has made a way

For us to

“Obtain mercy and

Find grace to help

In time of need.”

When we are tempted, when we undergo trials, we can be helped in our time of need. We can “come boldly to the throne of grace” to receive help, the help of God’s mercy and grace. 

Not just anyone may draw near in such boldness.  The writer says, “Let us,” implying those who are “in Christ,” those who are “holding fast their confession,” those for whom Christ is their great High Priest.

He is the basis

For our being able

To receive things

We do not deserve.

It is because of Christ that God gives us grace (God’s unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath getting what we do not deserve) and mercy (not getting what we do deserve.  We do not deserve these things apart from Christ.  Yet, because we know Him we can approach God.

I read about a young man who was sitting on a park bench crying.  A little boy saw him crying and asked what was wrong.  And the man shared that his brother was in prison on death row.  He was scheduled to be executed in the next few days.  The young man so wanted to see the president – at that time Abraham Lincoln – to get help for his brother, to pardon him.  But not just anyone can walk into the president’s office.  So, the man felt hopeless.  The little boy asked the man to follow him and the little boy took him by the hand and led him into the president’s office.  He walked right by men at the doors, right by the secretary, and right into the office.  As the boy entered into the room, President Lincoln stood up and said to the boy, “How can I help you, son?”  The reason that man could get into the president’s office is because he had met the son of Abraham Lincoln.  As the son passed through every obstacle, so the man passed through every obstacle as well.

The only way we can get

Into the presence of a Holy God

Is to be personally escorted

By the Son of God.

God in His love made a way for us to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

What is your need?  

  • Forgiveness for sin?  He can help you.  
  • Removing your shame and guilt?  He can help.
  • Are you worried for a family member?  He can help.
  • Beaten down and feeling defeated because of a string of utter defeats and discouragements?  He can help.
  • Not sure how you are going to get by if the money does not come through?  He can help.

Christian, you need not shrink back in fear when approaching God’s throne.  You can approach with confidence and boldness because you have been made right for God’s presence, fit for heaven, faultless to stand before the throne, and are dressed in Christ’s righteousness alone.

Worldly people talk sometimes about heaven as if they know what it is!  Unbelievers assume they will go to heaven if they are not as bad as another person.  As though heaven were some kind of worldly amusement, a place for anyone and everyone to do whatever they please.  Heaven is for lovers of Christ Jesus!  Make no mistake: You will not love heaven if you do not love heaven’s King!  Why on earth would anyone think that heaven would be some wonderful place if they have no love for the Creator of it?  It is HIS place.  It is where HE abides.  It is the location of HIS throne and HIS home.  The only people who are fit for heaven are those who have been adopted into the family of heaven’s creator.  It is a family business.  It is a family refuge.  Someone has said, “There may well be a sign on the door that says, ‘Home of Christians.’”

It was to His followers, to His disciples, that Jesus said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if a go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself that where I am you may be also.”  Heaven is a place that is heaven because of a person, Jesus Christ.  He is what makes heaven heavenly.

For those who are outside the family the throne of God is a terrible place, a horrible place.  But the ineffable beauty and loveliness of Jesus and the matchless power of the Gospel is that if you are not a Christian, and you are “standing outside” as it were, you too may boldly approach the throne of grace if you come in repentance and faith.  You too may “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” if you come trusting Jesus.

Every one of us can come boldly to the throne of grace this morning if we will come by Christ, the One who shows us the way because He is the way, the only way.

Have you sinned and wonder whether God “gets you?”  He does.  And He has made a way for you to be forgiven.  He lived a perfect life for you and died a death for your sin, dying in your place, and He arose from the dead.  He lives even now as the one who intercedes for you.

Before the throne of God above, you have a strong, a great High Priest Who ever lives and pleads for you.

If you have sinned, you can repent by letting go of your sin and believing in Christ. Follow Jesus.  Believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

I invite you to respond to God’s Word . . . respond by turning to Christ.  You can respond right where you are in repentance and faith, and by asking Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 4:12-The Book That Reads Us

Grace For The Journey

Keeping our eyes

Fixed on Jesus.

I really like verses 12 and 13 in chapter 4, and I want to look at them again today.  Verse 12 is especially familiar to many of us, this a verse we use to talk about the nature of God’s Word.  God’s Word as taught in the Bible is, “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”  We noted yesterday how this verse relates to the context of chapter 4.  In Chapters 3 and 4 the writer is essentially saying, “Do not be like the hard-hearted Israelites we read about in the first five books of the Old Testament.  They hardened their hearts in unbelief and failed to obey God’s Word to enter into the land of Canaan, the promised land.  They died in the wilderness as a people who failed to trust God, failed to heed the word of God.”  

The writer uses the failure

Of the Old Testament Hebrews

As a warning to these

New Testament Hebrews,

These new believers in Christ.

The warning is that . . .

Just as the believers in the Old Testament

Failed to go on believing God and trusting God,

So may these believers in the New Testament

Fail to go on believing Christ, trusting Jesus Christ.

And the writer is saying, “Do not let that happen to you!”  The writer warns them, saying to the Hebrews – and also saying to us – “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

As you open your heart to God . . .

God’s Word will show you what needs to change in you.

God’s Word will get down deep into your hearts,

Revealing to you what you need to change

In your thinking, your motives, and your intentions.

God’s Word will pierce your heart, reveal what is wrong inside,

And point out for you what needs to change.

Allow God’s Word to do that work

And then respond rightly –

Respond rightly not by hardening your heart,

But by allowing it to remain soft and

By obeying what God’s Word says.

I want us to look at these two verses again and study them in greater detail this today.

Verses 12 And 13 say, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

As we study these verses, may these words from an old hymn about the Bible be our prayer this morning:

“Make the book live to me O Lord.

Show me Yourself within Your Word.

Show me myself and show me my Savior,

And make the book live to me.”

When we read the Bible, we read the very word of God.  We note an interesting comparison in chapter 3 verse 7 and chapter 4 verse 7.  In verse 7 of chapter 4 the writer of Hebrews introduces a reference to Psalm 95 by saying, “Again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today . . .,’” quoting Psalm 95, a Psalm he references by mentioning David wrote Psalm 95.  Compare that reference to Psalm 95 with the writer’s previous reference to the same Psalm in verse 7 of chapter 3, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice . . .’”  In one place the writer says, in essence, David wrote Psalm 95 and in another place, the Holy Spirit – God – wrote Psalm 95.  And that leads us to ask, “Who is it then?  Is it God who writes Scripture or is it man who writes Scripture?”  The answer is that both God and man are involved in the writing of Scripture.  The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 1:21, “for prophecy never came by the will of man (as though man alone decides), but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (or borne along) by the Holy Spirit.”

God, by way of the Holy Spirit, moved, “picked up and carried along” holy men as they wrote, superintending their writings such that He used their varying personalities, thoughts, backgrounds, and experiences, working in and through them, while they freely did their writing, yet overseeing it in such a way that ultimately what was written down was exactly what God wanted written down.

It is God’s Word.  

We read it and

We hear what God

Is saying to us.  

God wants us

To obey His Word.

This is what connects verse 12 to what immediately precede it in verse 11.  Verse 11 says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest (follow Jesus Christ into the eternal Promised Land of salvation), lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”  If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts; if you hear God’s voice, God’s Word, then obey.  Verse 12 begins by declaring, “The word of God is living and powerful …”  Any parent knows what it is like to speak a word of authority to his or her children.  We command through our word.  We say, “Do as I say,” and, “Pick up your room,” and “Quit teasing your younger sister or brother.”  These are commands that are to be obeyed.  If children do not obey the command of their parents’ there will be consequences, punishment.  This is what God does in His word, the Bible.  We read the Bible and God speaks to us.  And the writer of Hebrews acknowledges that authority, so he is saying, “Do what God says, obey His Word.”

These verses show us two characteristics of God’s Word . . .

I. God’s Word Examines Us: Verse 12.

God’s Word searches us, discloses our condition, and reveals our inner thoughts and motives, our actions and attitudes.  The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and powerful …”  You may wish to underline the word “living” in your Bible.  The Word of God is alive!  Grammatically, the word “living” is a present active participle, conveying present ongoing activity.  Living . . . Continuously living.  It is the same word used adjectivally to describe God in verse 12 of the previous chapter.  Hebrews 3:12 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  God’s living Word reflects the character of the living God.  God’s Word is alive!  The Bible, the inscriptured record of God’s Word, is not a dead book, it is living.  Charles Spurgeon said, “the gospel is such a living gospel that, if it were cut into a thousand shreds, every particle of it would live and grow.”  It is alive!  Because it is God’s Word and God is living, so is His Word lives.  Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

The writer adds in verse 12, “… and powerful…”  The Word of God is also powerful, or active.  It has power to change us.  It really works on us because it is alive.  It continually speaks.  It is continually relevant and applicable to our situation.

Then, says the writer in verse 12: God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword …” This sword metaphor is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe God’s Word.  

  • The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 49:2, “And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword…”
  • Revelation 1:16 says, “…out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…”

And the Apostle Paul uses this same sword imagery to encourage Christians to use the Word of God to engage in the daily battle of Christian living.  In Ephesians 6:17 he writes, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The word of God is sharp, like a two-edged sword, sharper than any two-edges sword.  The writer goes on to says in verse 12, “… piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…”  God’s Word pierces, penetrating the whole person, examining the reader deep down in the innermost parts of his being.  You might say God’s Word is like a surgeon’s scalpel and that the Good Doctor is performing exploratory surgery on our hearts, getting down into the depths of our thinking and motives.  This is described in verse 12 as “the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow…”

These words are not meant to be picked apart as though the soul described one part of man and the spirit described another, nor that the joint describes one thing and the marrow another.  The point the author is making is that God’s Word cuts deeply down inside us to examine our condition and God does that examination with His Word, going all the way down inside the heart, the seat of our emotions, will, and intellect.

As I was studying this passage, I recalled a line from the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  If you have seen it, maybe you will remember the exchange between John Turturro’s character, Pete, and George Clooney’s talkative character, the ever voluble Ulysses Everett McGill.  Pete discovers that Everett stole a pocket watch from his brother and he is angry with Everett.  Everett downplays his own thievery, defending himself with the offhanded comment: “Pete, it’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”  Clooney’s character actually thinks a bit like the early church fathers, many of whom likened the human heart to a labyrinth, an intricate maze of perplexity.  But . . .

What man

Cannot search out,

God’s Word can.

God’s Word pierces the tightly-woven, sinuous ways of the human heart, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow.

The writer goes on to state, “… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  The word “discern” in the original is the Greek word from which we get our English “critic” or “critique.”  

A critic may critique the Bible,

But because it is God’s Word,

It is the Bible that actually critiques us.

God’s Word examines us.  It is sharp; sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner (critiques; judges) of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  There is no thought hidden from Him. His Word searches us, examines us, and exposes us.  

This takes us, then, to the second characteristic . . .

II. God’s Word Exposes Us – Verse 13.

God’s word reveals our condition.  

Nothing is hidden

From God’s searching gaze.

Verse 13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  This truth is described well by a great text written years ago by John Newton: “O Lord from whom there’s naught concealed.  The One who sees my inward frame, to Thee I always stand revealed exactly as I am.  Since I at times can hardly bear what in myself I see, how vile and foul must I appear most Holy God to Thee.”

God searches us, examines us, and exposes us.  Verse 13 follows verse 12 as an extension of the living power of God’s Word.  God’s Word gets down deep into our inner hearts, examining us, and then exposing what is there.  Verse 13 states, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  This is why we say of the Bible that . . .

We may read other books,

But the Bible reads us.

We read other books,

But the Bible is

The book that reads us.”

The Greek word that is translated here as “open” is a picturesque word, used only here in the entire New Testament.  It is an alarming word that means to seize and “bend back the neck” as in wrestling when a person seizes his opponent, turns him round and bends back his neck so all the other person can do is lay helpless and look up into the face of the one who has mastered him.  The idea seems to be that the all-penetrating Word of God spoken by the all-seeing God seizes us, “flips us over” if you like, and exposes us such that no person can hide His face, from the penetrating gaze of the all-searching powerful and living God.  He grabs us, makes us look at Him, and sees right into us.

This verse prepares us and helps us see our need for someone who can intercede for us, help us, rescue us, and be there for us when we are sprawled out on the mat and we need to call upon a great high priest to represent us.  

Where is the application of these two verses in our lives?  I suggest three areas where we may use God’s Word this week . . .

In Your Walk

The New Testament word Walk is a reference to the Christian’s daily life.  We need the Word every day of our walk of our Christian life. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3).  Just as we need physical food, so we need spiritual food.  We do not live by bread alone.  We need bread, yes, but physical nutrition alone is not life.  Many think so.  Many think that this world is all there is. They live by the motto, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you will die.”  This world is not all there is.  There is an eternity to live.  Every one of us will spend eternity in one of two locations – either heaven because we are saved, or hell because we remain lost.

Spiritual food, the daily bread of God’s Word, feeds our souls.  The Gospel feeds us, saves us, and gives us life.  We must continue to feast upon God’s Word in our daily walk.  You must read the Bible daily if you hope to grow.

The writer of Hebrews is very much concerned with the ongoing growth of God’s people.  We will see this especially when we get to Chapter 5, verses 12 through 14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The most effective way for Christians to grow in spiritual maturity is by feasting upon God’s Word, reading it daily.

The more you get to know God the more you trust God.  Just like with other relationships.  The more you get to know someone the more likely you are to trust that person.  You are not going to leave your wallet with just anyone, right?  You trust people you know.  So it is with God.  The more you get to know Him – by reading & studying His Word – the more you will trust Him: the more you will truly believe that He will take care of you, provide for you, and know that He always does what is right.

If you are not presently in the habit of reading God’s Word, begin today.  Read a chapter today.  Then read a chapter tomorrow, and so on.  You may wish to start in the New Testament with the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John, and the Book of Romans.  If you find a chapter a day is too much, then slow down to a pace that is better – the goal is not how much you read but how much you retain and live by.  The exciting thing is that you will then be able to watch God grow you as you hear and live by His living Word. Read it daily.  Use God’s Word in your walk. Secondly, use God’s Word . . .

In Your Witness.

Use God’s Word as you share Christ with others what you are learning about your new life in Christ and why you are living the way you are.  Why?  Because it is “living and powerful! Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit!”  

It is these things

Because

It is God’s Word. 

This is why we preach it,

Teach it, and share it.

Adrian Rogers used to say that when God’s Word is preached, one of three things happens, one of three things necessarily follows the preaching of the word.  People get mad, sad, or glad.  Think about that!  It is true.  God’s Word cuts us one way or other.

  • There are times we hear it and we get mad.  We do not like what that preacher said. Well, was it the preacher, or the Word He preached?  
  • Or we hear God’s Word and it makes us sad, we recognize our sin, that we have hurt God.  And it leads us to change the way we live not just to please Him but to bring the honor to Him that He deserves. 
  • Or we hear the preaching of God’s Word and it makes us glad.  We hear the Gospel as a believer and we say, “Thank you God for accepting me and forgiving me!”

Mad, sad, or glad – because the word is sharp! It cuts like a double-edged sword.  Peter learned this.  Remember when Peter was in the Garden with Jesus.  They came to arrest Jesus and what did Peter do?  He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  The servant’s name was Malchus.  Peter cut Malchus’ ear right off with his sword.  Jesus healed him.  Good thing, too!  It would have ruined Peter’s testimony. “Hey Malchus what happened to your ear?  Oh, some Christian cut it off!”  Later after Christ’s resurrection, Peter learns how to use a different sword with greater effect. Remember on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2?  Peter preached the Word!  And what happened?  What happened when Peter used the Word in his witness?

You can read it later in Acts 2, but the Bible says that 3,000 souls were saved.  How did that happen?  When Peter took up the sword of the Word and wielded that sword, preaching with that sword, witnessing with that sword, it powerfully brought change to the hearers.  Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this (Peter’s preaching), they were cut to the heart …”  You can find a similar response where Stephen uses the Word in Acts 7:54, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart …”

When you are witnessing this week in school, or at work, or in your neighborhood, or Wal-Mart, or wherever you are, use the Word.  The Word is living and powerful.  

You cannot argue someone into the Kingdom,

But you can use the Word of God.  

Trust God to do His work through His word.

Watch what happens when you open your Bible and say, “The Bible says in John 3:16 whoever believes in Him, in Christ, will not die, but have everlasting life.”  Use the word.

That does not mean everyone will always respond the way we hope – remember, some will get only mad or sad.  But the Word will accomplish whatever God intends it to accomplish.  God says in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that I please, and it shall prosers in the thing for which I sent it.”  

Stand on the Word.  Share the Word.  Use it in your witness.  

Finally, use God’s Word in . . .

In Your Warfare.

When we battle the enemy, Satan, who desires that we sin, stumble, and lose the joy of God’s salvation, we must battle him and fight off temptation with what Paul described in Ephesians 6:17 as the “sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God.  Follow the example of Jesus.  When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, three different temptations, Jesus responded to each one, three times, Jesus responded by quoting the Word of God. Check it out later in Matthew 4::4; Matthew 4:7; and Matthew 4:10.  Each time Jesus says, “It is written …” 

God’s Word demands a response.  And if the writer of Hebrews has taught us anything in chapters 3 and 4 it is that . . .

God’s Word demands

The right response –

Namely that we

Obey His Word.

We must not respond in the wrong way with disobedience.  That is the point the writer is making in contrasting our hearing the Word with the way the hard-hearted Israelites of the wilderness generation.  He wrote in chapter 4, verse 2, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them (those who died in the wilderness); but the word which they heard did not profit them (why not?), not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”  They did not believe the Word they heard.  They did not believe the good news of the Gospel.  They died in the wilderness as God’s judgment upon their unbelief. Do you want to die in a worse wilderness?  A wilderness of eternal separation?  If not, believe the Word of God.  Believe the Word of the One to whom we must give account.

If you are not a Christian – and if you are a Christian – hear again those final words in verse 13.  God is the One “to whom we must give account.”  Whether you believe in Him or not, He is the one to whom you must give account.  You will.  There will be a day of reckoning.  You will stand before Him and give an accounting of your behavior on that day, the Day of Judgment.  Jesus says in John 12:48, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”

You may feel self-satisfied, smug, or safe at the present.  Death seems a long way away.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But make no mistake: you will give an account to Him.  And at that Judgment your words frankly will not matter much.  You may think that you will open your mouth and begin a defense and talk about how you were not as bad as your neighbor and try to justify your behavior – but He will speak.  And as Luther wrote in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” God is the One from whom “one little word” causes the devil to fall down.  Better take care of business with God now while there is time.  Better to surrender to Him this morning, than be forced to surrender when it is too late. Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.

Turn away from your sin.  Let go of it.  Admit your sin and look to Christ.  See Jesus. See His great love for you. Be captured and captivated by Christ!  When God’s Word strips away all the exterior coverings of our own fabrications, we feel as open and exposed as our Father Adam when he sinned in the Garden.  We know our own coverings will not make us right in His sight.  Only the covering that Christ has provided for us properly clothes us.  We are justified in God’s sight, made right in His sight, only by being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  All to him, Jesus, we must surrender.  All to Him we freely give. 

As we surrender to God’s Word, some of you will want to repent right where you are; others may wish to respond by talking to someone about how to follow Christ.  May we respond rightly now to His very Word.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 4:1-13 – Rest for the People of God

Grace For The Journey

 

We are in a series of studies on the Book of Hebrews.  The Book of Hebrews is actually a letter, a letter written to Jewish Christians, to Hebrews, believers who had been raised in the Old Covenantal system.  Because of persecution for their newfound faith, many of them were tempted to go back to the old ways of thinking and abandon their Christianity for the old way of Judaism.  The writer is saying: “Do not do that!  Do not neglect this great salvation found in this great Person, Jesus Christ.” Jesus is better.  In chapters 1 and 2, the writer shows how Jesus is better than the prophets, better than the angels, and better than the law; in chapter 3 he shows how Jesus is better than Moses.

Much of chapters 3 and 4 is a sermon on Psalm 95.  Knowing that is immensely helpful to understanding Hebrews 3 and 4.  The writer of Hebrews is quoting word-for-word the second half of Psalm 95.  In fact, the very last word of Psalm 95 is the word “rest.”  It is like the writer of Hebrews has been meditating on that word “rest” (which is what you do, right, when you read the Word of God?  God gives you a verse, or a phrase, or a word and you begin to mediate upon it and it leads to all kinds of wonderful spiritual benefits). The writer of Hebrews, it seems, has been meditating upon the word “rest” in Psalm 95 and what comes out of this reflection is found in chapters 3 and 4.

The writer is using this illustration of the promised land in Canaan as a foreshadowing of a greater promised land in Christ.  That is helpful to remember throughout this passage. The promised land in Canaan is a foretaste of a greater promised land, a fuller promised land in Christ.

In essence, he is saying, “Look, do not be like the Israelites you read about in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.  Do not be like them when they failed to believe that God would provide for them and care for them and bless them by bringing them across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey – a place of abundance, a place of joy and peace, and rest, rest from all the bad stuff they had encountered and a rest in the provision and promises of God.”  What the writer does is he uses those who failed to enter into that rest of the Promised Land as a bad example to us.  You know we are all setting examples all the time, aren’t we?   We are either a good example for others or a bad example for others.  The disobedient, disbelieving Israelites were a bad example.  The writer is saying, “Do not follow their bad example.”  It cost them entrance into the Promised Land, a place of great rest from turmoil and strife.  They blew it.  They lost their chance.

The writer uses that Exodus event and the wilderness wandering of the Israelites back then as an example of what could happen spiritually to the Hebrews today.  The hearers of this letter, as they heard this letter being read to them 2000 years ago in the context of worship, the hearers were warned not to follow that bad example.  If they did not remain faithful to God and believe that He has provided for them everything they need, and every spiritual blessing through Christ Jesus, the writer says that they are no better than the Israelites of old, in fact, worse off, because the writer is talking about a fuller Promised Land, a fuller and complete rest, a rest in God’s promises; something to be enjoyed both now and in the future in heaven forever.  Failure to enter into this rest has horrible and eternal consequences, separation from God forever, and like dying in a spiritual wilderness.

If we can remember all of this, then our study will be fruitful.  If you could sum up this entire passage into one action phrase to which the writer calls all readers, it is: “Enter that rest.”

The message to the Hebrews is the same message to the all of us: “Enter that rest.”  What is this rest about which he speaks?  We all know something of the word rest.  Most of us know we do not get enough of it.  Most of us know what it is to be “restless.” There is a general restlessness pervasive in our culture.  In the midst of all our running around and rushing around we are a restless people.  We have even diagnosed some people with a peculiar kind of restlessness – I remember some years ago seeing a commercial to address those who have what is called “Restless Leg Syndrome.” You have this? Know anybody with it?  Some people are always moving their leg around in a never-ending motion of restless energy.   

Much of our need for rest arises from a culture that suggests work is the supreme good of all things.  Many people in our day work every day, never taking a day off.  In his book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, Dr. Matthew Sleeth argues for the importance of taking one day off – sound familiar?! (Exodus 20:9-10) – noting a link between overworking and depression.  Americans tend to work more hours than any other country in the world; Japan coming in second.  Citing a study of The World Health Organization, Sleeth reports that roughly 1 out of every 10 Americans is being treated for depression.

The writer of Hebrews writes about rest and in this passage he essentially gives us something to know, and something to do. Or, more pointedly . . .

Something to learn

And

Something to live.

That will be out guide through these verses . . .

I. Learn about God’s Rest – Verses 1-10.

These verses tells what the writer is teaching here about this word “rest.”  Recall that he has just said in the end of Chapter 3 that – because of the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in the Old Testament, because they refused to believe in God’s promises and provision – they died in the wilderness and were not able to enter the Promised Land. The writer, citing Psalm 95, quotes God as saying, “They shall not enter My rest.”  The writer concludes in verse 19, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”  Verse 1, chapter 4 says, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.”  This is the writer’s greater concern.  Just as there were those in the Old Testament who failed to enter the rest of the Promised Land because they did not believe, the writer says, “Now do not you be like them!  Do not you fail to go on believing and come short of entering the fuller, richer, Promised Land of God’s rest in Christ.”

Verse 2 states, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it (or not having faith, not believing).”  Did you know the Gospel is in the Old Testament? We usually think of the Gospel as a New Testament term, but the Gospel is in the Old Testament too, because the Bible is a unit – There is continuity from Old to New Testament.

The word Gospel means “Good News.”  And the Good News of the Gospel is largely that man is made right with God – or forgiven and justified – not by something he must do, but by someone he must believe, namely the One True and Living God, and His promises to us.  In the New Testament, we have a fuller revelation of the One True and Living God in the doctrine of the Trinity and especially in the eternal Son of God made flesh in Jesus Christ.  We know that the foundation of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose for us.

The Good News of the Gospel is always that which is received by faith.  Remember when the Apostle Paul was making his case for the doctrine of justification by faith in the letter to the Galatians?  Remember how he did that?  He went back to the Old Testament.  He went back to Father Abraham in Genesis 15.  And the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3 verses 6 and following writes about how “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  The just shall live by their faith.”  Paul goes on to say in Galatians 3:8, “And the Scripture (from Genesis 15), foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”

The writer says that the Gospel was preached to us as well as to the Israelites in in the wilderness, but, in verse 2 he says, “but the word which they heard did not profit them (fell on deaf ears).”  Here is a reminder to us that we must have, as our Lord Jesus says, “ears to hear” the proclamation of the Word of God.  Sometimes I pray, “Lord, help me preach or teach as never sure to preach another message or lesson.”  And I pray that those who are listening would hear the word as never sure to hear another message.  Give us spiritual ears, ears to hear.

God open your Word to us

And open us to Your word,

To hear it and receive it.

The word that went out to the Israelites did not profit them becasue they hardened their hearts. They would not believe.

Verse 3 says, “For we who have believed (we Christians) do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”  Verse 3 is a bit tricky.  To paraphrase, the writer is saying that the Promised Land is a picture, a foreshadowing of a greater rest in Christ.  The unbelieving, hard-hearted Israelites failed to enter into that picture of rest across the Jordan because they did not believe.  But that rest across the Jordan River was part and parcel of a greater rest promised by God – a rest that is available to all who believe in Him, a rest that has been available, and remains available to all who believe.

This greater rest in the Lord has been available since the Lord finished creating the world.  Look at the last part of verse 3, “… the works were finished from the foundation of the world,” and then verse 4, “For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works;’” (that is a quote from Genesis 2 and the 7th day, following the six days of creation, God rested.)

This rest the writer wants us to learn about, to examine, is a rest that has been around for a really long time.  Since the 7th day, following God’s creation.  This rest did not begin in Joshua’s time with the Israelites in the wilderness.

Their failure to enter into the Promised Land

Was a failure to enter into that which is part

Of a greater rest, a fuller rest, a resting

In all the promises, and providences,

And pleasures of the Lord.

The point of the writer is to stress that the geographical sense of the Promised Land is but a part of, a picture of, a greater Promised Land of true rest in Christ.  And that fuller, greater, rest has been available and remains available to all who will believe.

Verses 6 and 7 say, “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it (this rest remains available), and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He (God) designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.’”  The writer is saying, “This rest remains.  This true rest is still available to all who believe.”  God was not merely concerned with the Promised Land of Canaan. He has a greater rest in view.  That is why King David – who was alive some 500 years after Joshua – could speak of this same rest in Psalm 95.  

The writer explains more fully in verse 8, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.”  The writer is pointing out that Joshua lived a long time before David.  If the rest is understood to be only that rest that the Israelites could receive by entering the Promised Land, then David would not have spoken of another day, some 500 years later; saying “Today,” you can enter this rest. David, the Psalms, were written some 500 years after Joshua.

We see that the writer of Hebrews has a fuller “rest” in view here, a better rest than the rest that awaited the Israelites in the Promised Land of Canaan.  Remember: Jesus is better – better than the prophets, better than the angels, better than the law, better than Moses, and now better than Joshua.  Jesus offers a better rest.

Before we move on, I do want to call attention to something the writer appeals to Psalm 95 again.  In chapter 3 and verse 7, the writer introduces Psalm 95 by writing, “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says,” and we talked about God’s being the ultimate author of Scripture.  Now in chapter 4, introducing Psalm 95 again, the writer this time writes in verse 7 of chapter 4, “again He designates a certain day, saying in David.”  Yesterday I asked the question, “Who wrote Psalm 95?”  Was it the Holy Spirit or David?  And I said the answer is, “Yes!”  Both. This is what is referred to as “the confluent nature of Scripture.”  God the Holy Spirit inspires, breathes His Word into and through human writers.  This is what Peter taught in 2 Peter 1:21, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  God moved through men to write His Word.  The Holy Spirit moved them, using their distinct backgrounds, personalities, and literary styles so that, ultimately, what God wanted written down was exactly what was written down.

With that reminder stated, let’s get back to today’s study.  The land of Canaan was a picture of a better rest to come.  The Promised Land across the Jordan was a foretaste, a foreshadow of a brighter land, a better land, a heavenly land found in Christ Jesus! That is why the writer says in verse 9, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”  Not a rest found merely in the geographical land of Canaan well over 3,000 years ago, but a fuller rest, a rest that remains, a rest that is eternal, a rest that lasts forever – a rest you can now enter into and begin enjoying something of it before it is more fully known and experienced in the ultimate fullest rest to come.

Verse 10 says, “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”  Those who enter into God’s rest really enjoy that rest!  I think there is also here a suggestion that we do nothing to merit this rest.  We cannot earn it.  We do not work our way into heaven.  We rest in the promises and pleasures and provision of rest in Christ.  We enjoy the rest that God the Father Himself enjoys.

This takes us to the second point. We have said there is something to learn and something to live.  Something to examine, something to enter.  Learn about God’s rest. Secondly . . .

II. Live in God’s Rest – Verses 11-13.

This is the writer’s main concern in verse 11, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest (that fuller rest), lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”  Remember the context: the Hebrews were undergoing problems and persecutions. They were tempted to go back to the Old Covenantal system of Levitical priests, the Law, the sacrifices – essentially going back to Judaism.  And the writer of Hebrews is saying: “No!  There’s no ‘rest’ in that!”  Do not be like the unbelieving, hard-hearted Israelites of old!  Do not fail to enter into the greater rest that is found in Christ, a fuller rest, a complete rest.  Do not ‘fall according to the same example of disobedience’ by failing to believe in the promises of God and settle for a world outside the Promised Land.”

Many people mistakenly seek rest in this world alone.  There is no real rest in this fallen, broken world apart from Christ.  Yet. so many people are seeking rest here.  Even the rest we enjoy here as Christians is but a glimpse of the greater rest to come.  What did Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15? “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Verse 12 declares, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  What is the connection of verse 12 to what precedes it?  When the Israelites heard God’s Word in the wilderness, they hardened their hearts.  They did not allow the Word of God to bring them into the Promised Land.  The writer has said more than once: “Today, if you hear His Word, do not harden your heart.”  The Israelites heard God’s Word and the Word examined the depths of their hearts, revealing what they needed to do – but they chose to ignore God’s Word.  They hardened their hearts to God’s Word.

Here is a reminder that . . .

When God speaks, His Word

Searches the depths of our hearts,

Examining our true thoughts,

Our true motives,

The intentions of our hearts.

And God uses His Word

To get into us, to search us,

To show us our sin.

Verse 13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  God’s Word exposes our unbelief, our pride, and our inner rebellion.  God’s Word cuts through every veneer of play acting or feigned agreement or tacit acceptance of what God says.  But God knows.  His Word cuts deeply.  His Word exposes our true feelings, our true thoughts, our true actions – in a word, our true sin.  We must hear and heed God’s Word.

This is why it is important . . .

To hear Gods Word, to read God’s Word,

With an attitude of humility and submission.  

The Bible exposes our true condition and

Calls for change for our good and for God’s glory.

It searches our hearts like a two-edged sword.

We may read a lot of books, but the Bible is a book that reads us.  It is God’s Word.  I want to talk more about that tomorrow.  Lord willing, tomorrow, we will look closer at verses 12 and 13, but for now . . .

Enter into God’s rest

And

Live In God’s Rest.

That really is the main point of the text.  The writer, preaching from Psalm 95, has one main point: Live in God’s rest.  Let us be diligent to enter that rest – the fuller rest found in the promises, pleasures, and provision of God, namely what He has provided us through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Are you living in God’s rest?  Have you entered into it through faith in Christ?  Are you enjoying a foretaste of that rest now – a forecast of a greater rest to come in our future, final, heavenly rest?

When I read this passage as I began this study, I got to verse 9 and just stopped for a moment and I asked God to allowed His Word to speak to me and for God to allow me to get the full grasp of what verse 9 is saying, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”

If I were to memorize just one verse from this passage it would be verse 9, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”  There is a rest for God’s people – a rest from sickness, strife, and sin.  A rest for the people of God. Are you facing a difficult week?  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  Enter into that rest afresh and anew each and every day of your Christian life this week.  Regularly throughout the day – as it is ‘today.’  The Christian life is a life that is lived today.  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  Live in that rest.  Enter into it.

  • Do you have a rebellious child and you’ve been praying for that child day after day, night after night?  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  Enter into that rest. 
  • Are you battling a sin, a sin that so easily ensnares you?  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  Let go of that sin and take hold of Christ and enter into that rest found in Christ. 
  • Is the devil accusing you, telling you that you are too great a sinner to enjoy the promises, pleasures, and providences of God?  Well, there remains therefore a rest of the people of God.  Sink your sin into the wounded side of Christ and find rest in His work on your behalf.  Rest in what He has provided for you.

After all, it is Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest in the Lord.

Be captured and

Captivated by Christ!

We have heard from God’s Word this morning.  And we hear the writer say, “Today, if you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your heart.”  One simple question for every one of us: Have you entered into the rest of Jesus Christ?  Are you living in Him and for Him?

If you’re a Christian, are you truly resting in Christ, finding joy and peace and life in Him?  It is awful easy to slip into worldly notions of rest – the worldly rest found in a sinful escape of some kind, worldly rest found in a recreational weekend, aspirations for some kind of worldly retirement where we focus on self.  True rest is found in Christ alone.  Stay with Christ this morning and enter into that true rest.

If you are not a believer, today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.  This rest we are talking about is a rest “for the people of God.”  Not everyone will enter into this rest.  Only believers.  The writer says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” That is something all of can and need to do – Believe.  Do not die in the spiritual wilderness.  Come to Christ and be saved.

I run to Christ when chased by fear
  And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
  His words and wounds secure.
I run to Christ when torn by grief
  And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
  Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
  And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
  Fatigue gives way to rest.
I run to Christ when vexed by hell
  And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
  He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
  And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
  Temptation yields to grace.
I run to Christ when plagued by shame
  And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
  My Advocate and Friend.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 4:12-13 – The Book That Reads Us

Grace For The Journey

We are in a series of studies through the Book of Hebrews, entitled “Captured And Captivated By Christ.”  This letter is about . . .

Keeping our eyes

Fixed on Jesus.

I really like verses 12 and 13 in chapter 4, and I want to look at them again today.  Verse 12 is especially familiar to many of us, this a verse we use to talk about the nature of God’s Word.  God’s Word as taught in the Bible is, “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”  We noted yesterday how this verse relates to the context of chapter 4.  In Chapters 3 and 4 the writer is essentially saying, “Do not be like the hard-hearted Israelites we read about in the first five books of the Old Testament.  They hardened their hearts in unbelief and failed to obey God’s Word to enter into the land of Canaan, the promised land.  They died in the wilderness as a people who failed to trust God, failed to heed the word of God.”  

The writer uses the failure

Of the Old Testament Hebrews

As a warning to these

New Testament Hebrews,

These new believers in Christ.

The warning is that . . .

Just as the believers in the Old Testament

Failed to go on believing God and trusting God,

So may these believers in the New Testament

Fail to go on believing Christ, trusting Jesus Christ.

And the writer is saying, “Do not let that happen to you!”  The writer warns them, saying to the Hebrews – and also saying to us – “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

As you open your heart to God . . .

God’s Word will show you what needs to change in you.

God’s Word will get down deep into your hearts,

Revealing to you what you need to change

In your thinking, your motives, and your intentions.

God’s Word will pierce your heart, reveal what is wrong inside,

And point out for you what needs to change.

Allow God’s Word to do that work

And then respond rightly –

Respond rightly not by hardening your heart,

But by allowing it to remain soft and

By obeying what God’s Word says.

I want us to look at these two verses again and study them in greater detail this today.

Verses 12 And 13 say, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

As we study these verses, may these words from an old hymn about the Bible be our prayer this morning:

“Make the book live to me O Lord.

Show me Yourself within Your Word.

Show me myself and show me my Savior,

And make the book live to me.”

When we read the Bible, we read the very word of God.  We note an interesting comparison in chapter 3 verse 7 and chapter 4 verse 7.  In verse 7 of chapter 4 the writer of Hebrews introduces a reference to Psalm 95 by saying, “Again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today . . .,’” quoting Psalm 95, a Psalm he references by mentioning David wrote Psalm 95.  Compare that reference to Psalm 95 with the writer’s previous reference to the same Psalm in verse 7 of chapter 3, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice . . .’”  In one place the writer says, in essence, David wrote Psalm 95 and in another place, the Holy Spirit – God – wrote Psalm 95.  And that leads us to ask, “Who is it then?  Is it God who writes Scripture or is it man who writes Scripture?”  The answer is that both God and man are involved in the writing of Scripture.  The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 1:21, “for prophecy never came by the will of man (as though man alone decides), but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (or borne along) by the Holy Spirit.”

God, by way of the Holy Spirit, moved, “picked up and carried along” holy men as they wrote, superintending their writings such that He used their varying personalities, thoughts, backgrounds, and experiences, working in and through them, while they freely did their writing, yet overseeing it in such a way that ultimately what was written down was exactly what God wanted written down.

It is God’s Word.  

We read it and

We hear what God

Is saying to us.  

God wants us

To obey His Word.

This is what connects verse 12 to what immediately precede it in verse 11.  Verse 11 says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest (follow Jesus Christ into the eternal Promised Land of salvation), lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”  If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts; if you hear God’s voice, God’s Word, then obey.  Verse 12 begins by declaring, “The word of God is living and powerful …”  Any parent knows what it is like to speak a word of authority to his or her children.  We command through our word.  We say, “Do as I say,” and, “Pick up your room,” and “Quit teasing your younger sister or brother.”  These are commands that are to be obeyed.  If children do not obey the command of their parents’ there will be consequences, punishment.  This is what God does in His word, the Bible.  We read the Bible and God speaks to us.  And the writer of Hebrews acknowledges that authority, so he is saying, “Do what God says, obey His Word.”

These verses show us two characteristics of God’s Word . . .

I. God’s Word Examines Us: Verse 12.

God’s Word searches us, discloses our condition, and reveals our inner thoughts and motives, our actions and attitudes.  The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and powerful …”  You may wish to underline the word “living” in your Bible.  The Word of God is alive!  Grammatically, the word “living” is a present active participle, conveying present ongoing activity.  Living . . . Continuously living.  It is the same word used adjectivally to describe God in verse 12 of the previous chapter.  Hebrews 3:12 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  God’s living Word reflects the character of the living God.  God’s Word is alive!  The Bible, the inscriptured record of God’s Word, is not a dead book, it is living.  Charles Spurgeon said, “the gospel is such a living gospel that, if it were cut into a thousand shreds, every particle of it would live and grow.”  It is alive!  Because it is God’s Word and God is living, so is His Word lives.  Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

The writer adds in verse 12, “… and powerful…”  The Word of God is also powerful, or active.  It has power to change us.  It really works on us because it is alive.  It continually speaks.  It is continually relevant and applicable to our situation.

Then, says the writer in verse 12: God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword …” This sword metaphor is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe God’s Word.  

  • The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 49:2, “And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword…”
  • Revelation 1:16 says, “…out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…”

And the Apostle Paul uses this same sword imagery to encourage Christians to use the Word of God to engage in the daily battle of Christian living.  In Ephesians 6:17 he writes, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The word of God is sharp, like a two-edged sword, sharper than any two-edges sword.  The writer goes on to says in verse 12, “… piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…”  God’s Word pierces, penetrating the whole person, examining the reader deep down in the innermost parts of his being.  You might say God’s Word is like a surgeon’s scalpel and that the Good Doctor is performing exploratory surgery on our hearts, getting down into the depths of our thinking and motives.  This is described in verse 12 as “the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow…”

These words are not meant to be picked apart as though the soul described one part of man and the spirit described another, nor that the joint describes one thing and the marrow another.  The point the author is making is that God’s Word cuts deeply down inside us to examine our condition and God does that examination with His Word, going all the way down inside the heart, the seat of our emotions, will, and intellect.

As I was studying this passage, I recalled a line from the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  If you have seen it, maybe you will remember the exchange between John Turturro’s character, Pete, and George Clooney’s talkative character, the ever voluble Ulysses Everett McGill.  Pete discovers that Everett stole a pocket watch from his brother and he is angry with Everett.  Everett downplays his own thievery, defending himself with the offhanded comment: “Pete, it’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”  Clooney’s character actually thinks a bit like the early church fathers, many of whom likened the human heart to a labyrinth, an intricate maze of perplexity.  But . . .

What man

Cannot search out,

God’s Word can.

God’s Word pierces the tightly-woven, sinuous ways of the human heart, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow.

The writer goes on to state, “… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  The word “discern” in the original is the Greek word from which we get our English “critic” or “critique.”  

A critic may critique the Bible,

But because it is God’s Word,

It is the Bible that actually critiques us.

God’s Word examines us.  It is sharp; sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner (critiques; judges) of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  There is no thought hidden from Him. His Word searches us, examines us, and exposes us.  

This takes us, then, to the second characteristic . . .

II. God’s Word Exposes Us – Verse 13.

God’s word reveals our condition.  

Nothing is hidden

From God’s searching gaze.

Verse 13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  This truth is described well by a great text written years ago by John Newton: “O Lord from whom there’s naught concealed.  The One who sees my inward frame, to Thee I always stand revealed exactly as I am.  Since I at times can hardly bear what in myself I see, how vile and foul must I appear most Holy God to Thee.”

God searches us, examines us, and exposes us.  Verse 13 follows verse 12 as an extension of the living power of God’s Word.  God’s Word gets down deep into our inner hearts, examining us, and then exposing what is there.  Verse 13 states, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  This is why we say of the Bible that . . .

We may read other books,

But the Bible reads us.

We read other books,

But the Bible is

The book that reads us.”

The Greek word that is translated here as “open” is a picturesque word, used only here in the entire New Testament.  It is an alarming word that means to seize and “bend back the neck” as in wrestling when a person seizes his opponent, turns him round and bends back his neck so all the other person can do is lay helpless and look up into the face of the one who has mastered him.  The idea seems to be that the all-penetrating Word of God spoken by the all-seeing God seizes us, “flips us over” if you like, and exposes us such that no person can hide His face, from the penetrating gaze of the all-searching powerful and living God.  He grabs us, makes us look at Him, and sees right into us.

This verse prepares us and helps us see our need for someone who can intercede for us, help us, rescue us, and be there for us when we are sprawled out on the mat and we need to call upon a great high priest to represent us.  

Where is the application of these two verses in our lives?  I suggest three areas where we may use God’s Word this week . . .

In Your Walk

The New Testament word Walk is a reference to the Christian’s daily life.  We need the Word every day of our walk of our Christian life. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3).  Just as we need physical food, so we need spiritual food.  We do not live by bread alone.  We need bread, yes, but physical nutrition alone is not life.  Many think so.  Many think that this world is all there is. They live by the motto, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you will die.”  This world is not all there is.  There is an eternity to live.  Every one of us will spend eternity in one of two locations – either heaven because we are saved, or hell because we remain lost.

Spiritual food, the daily bread of God’s Word, feeds our souls.  The Gospel feeds us, saves us, and gives us life.  We must continue to feast upon God’s Word in our daily walk.  You must read the Bible daily if you hope to grow.

The writer of Hebrews is very much concerned with the ongoing growth of God’s people.  We will see this especially when we get to Chapter 5, verses 12 through 14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The most effective way for Christians to grow in spiritual maturity is by feasting upon God’s Word, reading it daily.

The more you get to know God the more you trust God.  Just like with other relationships.  The more you get to know someone the more likely you are to trust that person.  You are not going to leave your wallet with just anyone, right?  You trust people you know.  So it is with God.  The more you get to know Him – by reading & studying His Word – the more you will trust Him: the more you will truly believe that He will take care of you, provide for you, and know that He always does what is right.

If you are not presently in the habit of reading God’s Word, begin today.  Read a chapter today.  Then read a chapter tomorrow, and so on.  You may wish to start in the New Testament with the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John, and the Book of Romans.  If you find a chapter a day is too much, then slow down to a pace that is better – the goal is not how much you read but how much you retain and live by.  The exciting thing is that you will then be able to watch God grow you as you hear and live by His living Word. Read it daily.  Use God’s Word in your walk. Secondly, use God’s Word . . .

In Your Witness.

Use God’s Word as you share Christ with others what you are learning about your new life in Christ and why you are living the way you are.  Why?  Because it is “living and powerful! Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit!”  

It is these things

Because

It is God’s Word. 

This is why we preach it,

Teach it, and share it.

Adrian Rogers used to say that when God’s Word is preached, one of three things happens, one of three things necessarily follows the preaching of the word.  People get mad, sad, or glad.  Think about that!  It is true.  God’s Word cuts us one way or other.

  • There are times we hear it and we get mad.  We do not like what that preacher said. Well, was it the preacher, or the Word He preached?  
  • Or we hear God’s Word and it makes us sad, we recognize our sin, that we have hurt God.  And it leads us to change the way we live not just to please Him but to bring the honor to Him that He deserves. 
  • Or we hear the preaching of God’s Word and it makes us glad.  We hear the Gospel as a believer and we say, “Thank you God for accepting me and forgiving me!”

Mad, sad, or glad – because the word is sharp! It cuts like a double-edged sword.  Peter learned this.  Remember when Peter was in the Garden with Jesus.  They came to arrest Jesus and what did Peter do?  He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  The servant’s name was Malchus.  Peter cut Malchus’ ear right off with his sword.  Jesus healed him.  Good thing, too!  It would have ruined Peter’s testimony. “Hey Malchus what happened to your ear?  Oh, some Christian cut it off!”  Later after Christ’s resurrection, Peter learns how to use a different sword with greater effect. Remember on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2?  Peter preached the Word!  And what happened?  What happened when Peter used the Word in his witness?

You can read it later in Acts 2, but the Bible says that 3,000 souls were saved.  How did that happen?  When Peter took up the sword of the Word and wielded that sword, preaching with that sword, witnessing with that sword, it powerfully brought change to the hearers.  Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this (Peter’s preaching), they were cut to the heart …”  You can find a similar response where Stephen uses the Word in Acts 7:54, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart …”

When you are witnessing this week in school, or at work, or in your neighborhood, or Wal-Mart, or wherever you are, use the Word.  The Word is living and powerful.  

You cannot argue someone into the Kingdom,

But you can use the Word of God.  

Trust God to do His work through His word.

Watch what happens when you open your Bible and say, “The Bible says in John 3:16 whoever believes in Him, in Christ, will not die, but have everlasting life.”  Use the word.

That does not mean everyone will always respond the way we hope – remember, some will get only mad or sad.  But the Word will accomplish whatever God intends it to accomplish.  God says in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that I please, and it shall prosers in the thing for which I sent it.”  

Stand on the Word.  Share the Word.  Use it in your witness.  

Finally, use God’s Word in . . .

In Your Warfare.

When we battle the enemy, Satan, who desires that we sin, stumble, and lose the joy of God’s salvation, we must battle him and fight off temptation with what Paul described in Ephesians 6:17 as the “sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God.  Follow the example of Jesus.  When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, three different temptations, Jesus responded to each one, three times, Jesus responded by quoting the Word of God. Check it out later in Matthew 4::4; Matthew 4:7; and Matthew 4:10.  Each time Jesus says, “It is written …” 

God’s Word demands a response.  And if the writer of Hebrews has taught us anything in chapters 3 and 4 it is that . . .

God’s Word demands

The right response –

Namely that we

Obey His Word.

We must not respond in the wrong way with disobedience.  That is the point the writer is making in contrasting our hearing the Word with the way the hard-hearted Israelites of the wilderness generation.  He wrote in chapter 4, verse 2, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them (those who died in the wilderness); but the word which they heard did not profit them (why not?), not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”  They did not believe the Word they heard.  They did not believe the good news of the Gospel.  They died in the wilderness as God’s judgment upon their unbelief. Do you want to die in a worse wilderness?  A wilderness of eternal separation?  If not, believe the Word of God.  Believe the Word of the One to whom we must give account.

If you are not a Christian – and if you are a Christian – hear again those final words in verse 13.  God is the One “to whom we must give account.”  Whether you believe in Him or not, He is the one to whom you must give account.  You will.  There will be a day of reckoning.  You will stand before Him and give an accounting of your behavior on that day, the Day of Judgment.  Jesus says in John 12:48, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”

You may feel self-satisfied, smug, or safe at the present.  Death seems a long way away.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But make no mistake: you will give an account to Him.  And at that Judgment your words frankly will not matter much.  You may think that you will open your mouth and begin a defense and talk about how you were not as bad as your neighbor and try to justify your behavior – but He will speak.  And as Luther wrote in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” God is the One from whom “one little word” causes the devil to fall down.  Better take care of business with God now while there is time.  Better to surrender to Him this morning, than be forced to surrender when it is too late. Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.

Turn away from your sin.  Let go of it.  Admit your sin and look to Christ.  See Jesus. See His great love for you. Be captured and captivated by Christ!  When God’s Word strips away all the exterior coverings of our own fabrications, we feel as open and exposed as our Father Adam when he sinned in the Garden.  We know our own coverings will not make us right in His sight.  Only the covering that Christ has provided for us properly clothes us.  We are justified in God’s sight, made right in His sight, only by being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  All to him, Jesus, we must surrender.  All to Him we freely give. 

As we surrender to God’s Word, some of you will want to repent right where you are; others may wish to respond by talking to someone about how to follow Christ.  May we respond rightly now to His very Word.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ – Hebrews 3:7-19 – Unbelieving Hearts Among God’s People

Grace For The Journey

Because of persecution and difficulties they were facing as new Christians, they were tempted to turn their backs upon Christ and go back to the old ways of the Old Covenant – essentially leaving Christianity and going back to Judaism.  The writer of Hebrews is warning them not to do this, not to neglect their great salvation.  What the writer does is to . . .

Demonstrate the superiority of Jesus Christ

Over the old system of the Old Covenant.

Jesus is better than anyone or anything –

Chapters 1 and 2: Jesus is better than the prophets

. . . Better than the angels . . . Better than the Law.

Yesterday we looked at the first six verses in chapter 3, and saw that we are to “consider Jesus” who is better than Moses, “the man” of Judaism.  We saw in that passage that Jesus is worthy of more glory because the Messiah is better than Moses as the Builder is better than the Building, and as the Son is better than the Servant. Moses was a faithful servant in the house of God’s people, but Jesus is the faithful Son over the house of God’s people.

This reflection upon Moses and God’s people in the Old Testament leads the writer to write about the unfaithfulness of God’s people who came out of the wilderness, Moses having led them out of Egyptian bondage.  God’s people in slavery for 400 years and finally Moses leads God’s people out of Egypt to take them into the Promised Land of Canaan, but the people lacked faith to enter the land and rebelled against Moses and murmured about Moses and so God punished them by causing them to wander 40 years in the wilderness until the unfaithful generation died out.  The writer reflects upon this tragedy and, quoting from Psalm 95, applies the Exodus narrative to the Hebrew people to whom he is writing.

Look for this as we go through verses 7 through 11.  The teaching about the unfaithfulness of God’s people is a direct quote of Psalm 95:7-11!  Chapter 3:7-11 is from Psalm 95:7-11.  The writer uses the teaching of the unfaithful, unbelieving, and hard-heartedness of God’s people in the Old Testament Exodus story and then applies that wandering in the wilderness event to the Hebrews – lest what happened to those who died in the physical wilderness be true of the Hebrews and they die in the spiritual wilderness of unbelief.  That is verses 12 and following.  You will note that in verse 12, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you and evil heart of unbelief,” and what he teaches after this statement.

Our study is entitled, “Unbelieving Hearts Among God’s People.”  The title suggests that while there is a group of people known as Christ-followers, the church, there may be many among the congregation, many among God’s people, who are not believers, who are actually unbelievers – just as there were many among God’s people in the Old Testament who failed to believe God, failed to remain faithful to God, who consequently died in the wilderness, failing to enter the Promised Land.  What happened to those who died in the physical wilderness is a picture of what happens to those who die in the spiritual wilderness.

If Hebrews teaches us anything it teaches us that only those who remain faithful to God, who go on believing in God, will be those who enter into the Eternal Land of Promise, the Kingdom of God, and the heavenly rest of Jesus Christ.  Only those who are faithful followers of Christ – those who are faithful to the end.  We see that there in verse 14, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”  This is a similar statement to that which the writer made back up in verse 6 where the writer says that Jesus is the Son over His own house – the people of God – “Whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope,” our hope in Christ firm to the end.”  There is this theme of going on to continue to demonstrate that we are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (verse 1) and “partakers of Christ” (verse 14), because “we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”  Christianity is being captured by Christ . . . Christianity is continuing to be captivated by Christ . . . Christianity is about one surrendering to the Savior; beginning as a true believer, and continuing on as a true believers.

This now the second warning in Hebrews.  In issuing these warnings, the writer does not mean to unsettle true Christians.  He is not attempting to discourage those who have surrendered and are seeking to live in the power of the Holy Spirit as true sons of God.  He is not seeking to rattle true Christians, true believers, who are following Christ day by day.  On the contrary, he is encouraging them to keep their eyes on Jesus.  It is like he’s saying, “Don’t stop!  You can do this!  Keep moving on and growing in your faith!”  That is the way true Christians should read and hear these warnings.

Having said that, the warnings here about continuing after Christ, to not stop believing, to not harden our hearts, do grab our attention, don’t they?  We know all too well how easy it is to fall into sin.  For those are believers . . .

The writer writes these warnings

As the means by which Christians get

Back up and get back into the Christian race.

For those who are not believers . . .

These warning passages serve to illustrate

That no unbelievers will inherit the Promised Land

Of eternal rest apart from turning to

Jesus and following Him day by day.

Before we go any further, note something really cool here.  The writer says in verse 7, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says” and then he quotes from Psalm 95.  What may we learn here?  We learn that the Holy Spirit speaks today!  The phrase, “as the Holy Spirit says,” is present tense.   The Holy Spirit speaks in ways consistent with His Word. The writer teaches the divine authorship of the Old Testament.  He states, “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says,” and then quotes from Psalm 95, “Today if you will hear His voice.” This is an illustration of the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and comes from God.  All of it – the Old Testament, the direct teaching of 2 Timothy, and the New Testament, as well.  The entire Bible is God’s Word.

That is the teaching of verses 7-11, quoting from the Old Testament, Psalm 95.  The application is in verses 12 and following, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  See the application?  Do not be like the unbelieving, hard-hearted people of the Old Testament who wandered in the wilderness.  See to it that you not have “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God!”  Do not depart!  Do not drift away!  Do not neglect your great salvation in Christ!

It is a straightforward, “in your face” kind of warning.  I find the bluntness refreshing Dr. Chuck Lawless, is dean and one of the vice presidents of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Dr. Lawless once told about how a young Christian classmate in elementary school witnessed to him every morning.  Dr. Lawless said when he arrived at the school in the morning, this young classmate would be there at the front door and would greet him every single morning by saying, “Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t die last night or you would have gone to hell.”  He did that every school day for the entire school year.  Dr. Chuck shared that the young man’s approach may not have been the most winsome evangelistic strategy, but he said it definitely got him to thinking and was one of those things that led to his internalizing the Gospel message, “It’s a good thing you didn’t die last night or you would have gone to hell.” 

The writer of Hebrews wants us to do some hard thinking, too.  He wants us to examine ourselves and check out our hearts, “lest there be in any of us and evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”

Verse 13 says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  Exhort one another! Encourage one another daily!  Daily, “while it is called ‘Today.’” When is today?  Today!  Several times in this passage the writer of Hebrews uses this word “today.”  You see it twice here in verse 13; it is also in verse 7, verse 15, and in chapter 4 and verse 7.  Following Christ is about following Him today.  We continue to follow as long as it is called today.  Every day we live, that day is called today.  

The word of Christian living is “today.”

The word of the world is “tomorrow.”

Satan tempts you to put off Christ till tomorrow.  To not think of Jesus until tomorrow. We know the danger of putting off for tomorrow things we should do today, don’t we? Even in the general sense of procrastination.  I think of this poem about tomorrow written by Edgar Albert Guest.  It is about the danger of allowing the opportunities of today to slip away by putting them off till tomorrow . . .

He was going to be all that a mortal should be Tomorrow.
  No one should be kinder or braver than he Tomorrow.
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
  Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do Tomorrow.

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write Tomorrow.
  And thought of the folks he would fill with delight Tomorrow.
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
  And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say Tomorrow.

The greatest of workers this man would have been Tomorrow.
  The world would have known him, had he ever seen Tomorrow.
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
  And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do Tomorrow.

The writer says here in verse 13: “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  Verses 14 and 15 declare, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said (and again here a quote from Psalm 95): “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Then the application again of Psalm 95 upon the Hebrews in verses 16 to the end of the chapter, by use of rhetorical questions, “For who, having heard, rebelled?  Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? (and the answer is yes) Now with whom was He angry forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? (yes, that’s right; several hundred thousand corpses fell in the wilderness)
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? (No one else, just those who did not obey, who did not believe) So (or therefore) we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”  The warning is: “Do not be like them!”  Do not harden your heart.  Do not fail to believe God.  Do not turn your back on God by turning your back on Christ.  Stay faithful, faithful to the end.  Keep running for Christ!

Let me give you two main actions and then a number of warnings about hardening our hearts.

First the two main actions to take that come right out of verses 12 and 13 . . .

1) Personal Responsibility—Take Care of Your Own Heart – Verse 12.

Verse 12 states, “Beware (see to it; be careful), brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  More in a moment about how to guard our hearts from becoming “evil hearts of unbelief.”  For now, note that this is a matter of personal responsibility.  Each Christian must take care of his own heart and see that he “not depart from the living God.”  Remember, Christianity is about continuing, keeping on, and moving forward in our walk with Christ.

A story came out recently about Scott Hamilton, the TV voice of figure skating for  decades.  He won the gold medal in 1984 in a memorable performance in Sarajevo. Since then, he has fought off cancer and a number of brain tumors, but he was always the guy in the Broadcast Booth providing commentary on the Olympic skaters.

At the last Olympics for the first time Hamilton was put in a “back seat” sort of role, no longer the main voice, demoted to an entirely different role, and no longer in the Broadcast Booth providing commentary.  The producers thanked him for his years of service and said it was time for a change.  The article was about Hamilton’s response, highlighting his ability to persevere and “bounce back” from challenges over the years and overcoming the odds.  I was particularly struck by his statement, “I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career – 41,600 times.  But here’s the funny thing, I got up 41,600 times.  That’s the muscle you have to build in your psyche—the one that reminds you to just get up.”  Interestingly, the article’s headline read: “Fall Down. Get Back Up. Repeat.”

In many ways that describes the Christian life of perseverance.  There are those times we fall down.  What will we do?  We will get back up.  When we fall down again, what will we do again?  Get back up.  Fall Down.  Get Back Up.  Repeat.  Personal responsibility.

But there is also . . .

2) Corporate Accountability – Take Care of the Hearts of Others – Verse 13.

The Christian faith is a “one-another” faith.  We are disciples who make disciples of others.  That is inherent in mission – We are disciples who make disciples.  That means we care about the hearts of our brothers and sisters.  That means we love each other and encourage one another.  Recall verse 13, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  Encourage one another.  Live for one another in the body of Christ such that you say, “Hey, keep moving!  Keep going!  Do not stop!”  Like a support crew encourages a runner to keep running, making sure the runner is hydrated and stays physically and mentally strong.

There was a really neat documentary on Youtube about the Badwater 135 ultra marathon.  A marathon is 26 miles. This ultra-marathon is 135 miles.  Can you believe it?!  The Badwater 135 ultra-marathon is a journey through the Badwater Basin in California’s Death Valley.  The race is held in mid-July with temperatures reaching upwards of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the movie, there is one runner, Gabriel Flores, whose support crew consists of his two brothers.  It is neat to watch his brothers encourage Gabriel to keep running.  One of them comes up alongside him from time to time and says, “Gabriel, you are my hero!”  And I kept thinking of that as I read this portion of the passage.  I could picture Christians coming alongside one another and saying, “Don’t stop, keep moving, you are my hero!”  That is the idea here.

I want to conclude with an application of the last part of verse 13, “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” I was listening to a sermon by Alistair Begg where he applied to this passage the classic book on the Christian life by John Bunyan, the book Pilgrim’s Progress.  John Bunyan in the 17th Century, wrote the entire book, an allegory, during his 12-year imprisonment in England, put in prison for preaching the gospel without a license – hard to even imagine.  Bunyan was a master storyteller who conveyed numerous Christian truths through conversations between characters in the story, characters who are persevering, moving forward in the Christian faith, enduring to the end.  There is a section where the main character, Christian, is having a conversation with Hopeful and they are talking about a fella named Temporary.  As his name suggests, Temporary, was a man who followed Christ – temporarily – and fell back to old ways and sin.  From their reflections on backsliding, Christian offers nine reasons professing Christians fall into sin.  Of course, Bunyan, is behind the writing and – applied to our passage here in Hebrews – you could call these “Nine Warning Signs We May Be Hardening our Hearts.”  Note the progression here . . .

1.   They turn their thoughts away from any reminder of God, death, and judgment to come.

2.   Then they gradually cease their private duties, such as devotional prayer, curbing their lusts, being vigilant, being repentant for sin, and the like.

3.   Then they shun the company of lively and sincere Christians.

4.   After that they grow indifferent to public duties such as hearing and reading the Word, gathering together for worship, and the like.

5.   Then they begin to find fault with some of the godly, and the devilish purpose behind this is to find some alleged reason for turning away from religion.

6.   Then they begin to associate with worldly, immoral, and sensual men.

7.   Then they secretly indulge in worldly and lewd conversations; and they are happy if they can find any who are considered honest doing the same, so they may use their example as an excuse to indulge more boldly.

8.   After this they begin to play with little sins openly.

9.   And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they really are. Launched again into the gulf of misery, they are lost forever in their own deception, unless a miracle of grace prevents it. —Bunyan, John. The New Pilgrim’s Progress (1989, Discovery House Publishers)

I share the list with you as a warning to each and every one of us – including myself.  I do this in keeping with verses 12 and 13, that we “exhort one another – lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

Has sin got a hold of you?  Do not be deceived by it.  Do not allow a flirtation with sin de-sensitize your heart.  Do not harden your heart.  As we respond to this teaching, we respond as either believers or unbelievers.  But the application is the same to both: “Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.”

Some of us need to repent this morning.  If you are not a Christian, if you are not following Jesus, not following after Christ, today – let go of your sin and embrace Christ. I encourage you to repent from your sin, turn to Christ, and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.  

Those of us who are Christians, are you guilty of allowing your heart to be captured or captivated by something other than Jesus?  Let go of those sins you have been playing with.  Confess to Christ and receive the pardon that is yours through the grace of Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ . . . Hebrews 3:1-7 – Consider Jesus: Worthy of More Glory Than Moses

Grace For The Journey

  The writer of Hebrews has been steadily developing his argument that Jesus is supremely great . . .

  • He is greater than the angels,
  • He is the author of a great salvation,
  • He is great enough to become man to accomplish it.

In our passage that we will look at today, the author turns his attention to Moses, regarded by the Jews as the greatest of men.  The writer does nothing to belittle Moses. Nor does he criticize him. He accepts Moses’ greatness but shows that as great as he was, Jesus was greater by far.  It was important to convince the Jewish readers that Jesus Christ is greater than Moses, because the entire Jewish religion came through Moses.  Christianity came through Christ.

Someone has said, “Human beings need two things: we need to hear from God and we need to go to God. We need a word from God and we need a way to God.”  That is exactly what the Bible teaches. 

We need to hear from God so that we know

What He is like and what His purposes are

For the world and what he requires of us.

And we need a way to God because

To be cut off from God in death would be

Darkness and misery and torment forever.

We need revelation from God

And reconciliation with God.

We are looking today at Hebrews 3:1-7.  Verse one addresses this issue.  It says to the Christians, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” 

  • Christians are people who have heard and believed a heavenly calling, and are therefore partakers of it, sharers in it.  It is a “heavenly” calling because it comes from heaven – from God; and it is a heavenly “calling” because it invites us and shows us the way home to God.
  • Christians are people who have been gripped by this calling.  The Word of God broke through our resistance, took hold of us with the truth and love of Christ, and reconciled us to God and is now leading us home to heaven. 

This means that . . .

  • Christians are people of great hope.  God has spoken from heaven, made a way to heaven, and we have believed and our hope and confidence are firm.

The reason our hope and confidence are firm is not because of ourselves.  There are sinners of every kind reading this blog this morning – lying sinners, stealing sinners, killing sinners, parent-disobeying sinners, etc. 

The hope of the heavenly calling

Does not Hang on our righteousness.

If it did, we would be hopeless.

Our hope and confidence hang on Jesus.

This is why verse 1 continues: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus.”  This is what this blog is all about; this is what Bible Study is all about – Considering Jesus.

We often think that considering Jesus is something that unbelievers should do.  We do instruct the seeker and the perplexed to “consider Jesus,” as we absolutely should.  But the book of Hebrews is devoted to helping Christians consider Jesus. “Holy brethren, . . . consider Jesus.” Why does the writer say that?  Don’t holy brethren automatically consider Jesus?  The answer is “No.”  That is what the warning in Hebrews 2 verse 1 reminds us about, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  

The danger is constantly in our way

That we will stop considering Jesus

And become more interested

In other things and drift away

From the Word and perhaps never return

And prove that we were never truly

Partakers of the heavenly calling.

Hebrews calls Christians and non-Christian again and again to “Consider Jesus.”

Jesus Is The Word OF God And The Way To God.

We need a word from God and way to God.  We need revelation from God and we need reconciliation with God.  And the point of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is both.  This is why verse 1 ends with two descriptions of Jesus: “. . . the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”

These two descriptions of Jesus correspond to our two great needs:

Jesus is our Apostle,

And

Jesus is our High Priest.

The word “apostle” means “one who is sent.”  The Bible teaches that Jesus is the one sent from God to earth with the revelation of His heavenly calling.  The phrase “High priest” means “one who is a go-between, who offers a sacrifice so that there can be reconciliation.”  Jesus is our high priest.  Hebrews 2:17 helps us to clearly see this, “He [Jesus] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”     The phrase “make propitiation” means “make a sacrifice for our sins that brings God’s anger at us to an end.”

What the writer is saying is: Christians, who share in the calling of God from heaven to heaven, have great confidence that we have heard from God (through our prophets and apostles) and have great hope that we are going to God, loved ,and reconciled and secure; we should consider Jesus, think about Jesus, meditate on Jesus, and listen to Jesus.  Why?  Because he is the Apostle from heaven who brought us our calling.  And He is the final, once for all High Priest of God whose sacrifice of himself reconciled you to God and guarantees your homecoming to heaven.  

Consider Jesus,

God’s Apostle –

The final word from God

– And God’s High Priest –

The final way to God.

This whole book of Hebrews is written to help us consider Jesus.  There is more to consider about Jesus than you could ever exhaust in this life.  In chapter 1, the writer declares that Jesus is superior to angels.  Jesus made and sustains the world (1:1–2, 10), but the angels run errands in it (1:14).  In chapter 2 the writer states that Jesus took on human flesh and fulfilled the hope of Psalm 8 for all His people (2:7–8), “You O God have made Him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned Him with glory and honor, and have appointed Him over the works of your hands; you have put all things in subjection under His feet.”

At every stage of the book the writer is asking us to consider Jesus, ponder Who He is, and fix our eyes on Him.  Like a compass moving through a world of magnets, making it spin this way and that, we need to make Jesus the North Pole of our life that our heart comes back to again and again through the day.

What Are To Consider About Jesus?

The writer of this book, and the God who inspired it, want us to consider His superiority over Moses.  Why?  Because in considering this, our confidence in our heavenly calling will be made stronger and our hope will be more bold.

There are two ways that Jesus is superior to Moses mentioned in verses 2–6.  What strengthens our confidence and our hope is not just the raw fact of Jesus’ superiority over Moses; it is what we see about Jesus that makes Him superior.  Seeing Jesus in a fresh way in this text is what helps us “hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (3:6b).

Let’s look at these two ways Jesus is superior to Moses.  Verse 2 introduces the comparison and shows that both Jesus and Moses were faithful in God’s house, which is a picture of God’s people.  Verse 2 says, “He [Jesus] was faithful to Him [God the Father] who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.”   

There is a comparison

There is a comparison before there is a contrast.

The writer is not putting Moses down.  That is not the point.  Moses was faithful in the household of God.  The writer is quoting from Numbers 12:6-8 where God says, “Hear now My words: if there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with my servant Moses, he is faithful in all my household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord.”

There is a contrast.

This contrast between Jesus and Moses is significant because Moses was one of a kind in his day – with a more intimate relation to God than any other prophet.  But . . .

Jesus Is Worthy of More Glory

Verse 3 states, “For He [Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.”  Verse 3 says that Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses in relation to God’s house . . . and he gives an astonishing reason . . . Because Jesus is the builder of the house and Moses is a part of the house.  Let’s take a closer look at what the writer is saying.  He says, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses.”  In what way?  Because the builder of the house has more honor than the house.  In other words, he is saying: Jesus is to the people of God as a builder is to a house. Moses is to the people of God as one of the people of God is to God’s household.  Therefore, Jesus is Moses’ builder.  In short, Jesus made Moses.

Now let this sink in.  “Consider” this!  Jesus is our Apostle and High Priest . . .

He is the one who brought you a heavenly calling

From God and made you a way to God.  

On Him hangs all your hope of heaven.  

If you have any confidence this morning

That your sins are forgiven and that you

Will persevere in faith and attain your

Heavenly calling, this confidence depends on Jesus.

The greater and more glorious he is,

The greater our hope and confidence.

Verse 3 declares that Jesus is worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house is worthy of more glory than the house.  He made the house.  He made Moses.  So . . . Jesus is the greatest.

Verse 4 makes it clear just how great He is, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”  Verse 3 says that Jesus made the house of God.  Verse 4 says that the maker of all things is God.  There can be only one conclusion . . . The same as chapter 1 . . .  Jesus, the Son of God, is God.  That is how great He is!

The word of our Apostle is a sure word because it is a word carried by God himself.  The atoning work of our High Priest on the cross is a finished and all-sufficient work, because it has infinite value as the work of God Himself.  Consider this about Jesus: He made Moses . . . and He made you.

One other superiority of Jesus over Moses is mentioned in verses 5–6a: “Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house.” Moses was a servant in the house of God. Jesus is a Son over the house of God.  The difference between a servant and a son is that the son, by inheritance, owns the house, and is Lord over the house, and provides for those in the house out of his wealth.  But the servants do not own anything in the house, and they follow the word of the owner.  The servants receive their provision from the owner.

The Bible teaches that Jesus, as a Son, is superior to Moses in these three ways: He owns the house of God; He rules the house of God; and He provides for the house of God.  By comparison Moses is just a servant in the house.  He does not own it; he does not rule it; and he does not provide for it from his wealth.     And the striking thing here in verse 6 is that the writer wants you immediately to apply this superiority of Jesus to yourself.  Do you see how verse 6 ends?  It says, “Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”

The church of Jesus Christ is the house of God today.  Which means that . . .

Jesus this morning is our Maker, our Owner,

Our Ruler, and our Provider.

He is the Son; we are the servants.

We are the household of God.  Moses is one with us in this household, and he is our fellow servant through his prophetic ministry.  But . . . Jesus is our Maker, our Owner, our Ruler, and our Provider.  The text concludes by saying we are his house – we are His people, we are partakers of a heavenly calling – “if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”  The evidence that we are part of the household of God is that we do not throw away our hope.  Hebrews 10:35 says, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”  We do not drift into indifference and unbelief.  

Becoming a Christian and being a Christian

Happen in the same way:

By hoping in Jesus –

A hope that produces

Confidence and boasting in Jesus.

What are you hoping in this morning?  Where are you looking for confidence? 

  • In yourself?  
  • In shrewd investing?
  • In physical fitness programs?
  • In hard work?
  • In luck?

The Word of God to you this morning is, “consider Jesus,” and hope in him.  Then you will be part of His house and He will be your Maker, your Owner, your Ruler, and your Provider.   

As we “consider Jesus” it will strengthen our faith and we will be able to persevere faithfully through God’s salvation power.  The question is, “Why does the writer issue all these exhortations and warnings in the first part of his letter?  To drive home the point that our salvation does not depend on faithful perseverance but on the justification that God grants the believing sinner when he or she trusts in Christ (Romans 8:1).  Our assurance of salvation does not depend on our faithfulness but God’s faithfulness to His promise to glorify all those whom He has justified (Romans 8:30).

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured and Captivated By Christ . . . Hebrews 2:10-18 – Salvation’s Trailblazer

Grace For The Journey

We are in a new series of studies through the Book of Hebrews, a series entitled, “Captured And Captivated By Christ.”  Christianity is about Christ; cherishing Christ, following Christ, being captured and captivated by Christ, because He is better than anyone or anything.  

  • Jesus Christ is better than the prophets, better than the angels – Chapter 1.
  • Therefore, Christians should not neglect their great salvation – Chapter 2.

We have acknowledged how easy it is to drift by getting our eyes off Jesus.  Maybe you drifted a bit in the last few days, and you are realize the need to make recorrect your focus and to re-center your faith and life.  When you drift from Jesus by yielding to temptation to sin or drift by failing to grow in Christ, the best way back is a direct line, a 180 degree turn just as when you drift away from the shore while swimming in the ocean.  The wisest thing to do when you realize you have drifted away from where you need to be in your walk with Christ, is to turn back at once – turn back to Jesus.

We left off yesterday in Chapter 2 and verse 9 where the Bible says that Jesus Christ “tasted death for everyone.”  The writer expands upon this truth, providing more encouragement to help us not neglect our great salvation.  In the verses that follow we read about what Jesus has done on behalf of those who believe in Him.

This study is entitled, “Salvation’s Trailblazer.”  A trailblazer is the lead person who goes out ahead of others as the first one to make a way forward on a trail.  He is the pioneer, the groundbreaker, the captain, and the leader who makes a way that others may come.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ

Is salvation’s trailblazer.

Because of Christ there

Is a way for us to go.

This truth is seen in verse 10, a verse where we read that Jesus is the trailblazer, “bringing many sons to glory.”  He went ahead to blaze the trail.  I quoted briefly last time from the hymn:

Through death into life everlasting

He passed and we follow Him there

He blazed the trail.  He is salvation’s trailblazer. This teaching continues in the verses that follow.  They continue to underscore what Jesus has done for those who believe in Him.  Great blessings come to the one who believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Because Of Jesus Christ . . .

1. We Enjoy A Spiritual Family – Verses 10-13.

The statement about Jesus Christ’s “bringing many sons to glory” is one of those sublime and succinct summaries of the Gospel.  What has Jesus done for us?  Because He blazed the trail ahead of us, He made possible our adoption into a new family, a spiritual family of sons and daughters in Christ.

Verse 10 declares about Jesus, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  It is the word “captain” there that gives us the idea of the trailblazer.  Jesus Christ is the founder, the pioneer, the preeminent and perfect leader of our salvation.  He brings many sons to glory – many children of God – as the “captain of their salvation,” the one who blazed the trail – How?  Last part of verse 10 tells us, “through sufferings,” namely the cross.  That is the meaning of the word “perfect;” it means, “to bring to completion.”  That Christ is made “perfect” here is not meant in terms of His nature, as though He lacked something.  Clearly that is not the case.  That Christ is to be made “perfect,” rather is meant in terms of “completion” and “fulfillment” and is connected to the phrase “through sufferings.”  Jesus Christ’s being the captain, the leader, the trailblazer is evidenced in and through His sufferings.

The sufferings of Christ are necessary

In order for Jesus to be our Savior.

If anyone is going to be saved,

It will not be possible

Without a suffering Christ.

That may seem obvious to many of us raised in Christianity, but the fact that the Messiah would suffer is something the Jews had a hard time getting their head around. They thought of the Messiah as a conquering King, not a suffering Messiah whose flesh was crucified.  The writer of Hebrews is helping these early Jewish believers understand the need for Christ’s suffering in order to make a way for us to be saved and adopted into a new spiritual family.

Verse 11 says, “For both He who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are being sanctified (us) are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (another family term; brethren).”  The word “sanctified” here is understood as being “set apart.” Jesus Christ sets apart others as the trailblazer, by leading them to experience the salvation that He Himself has made possible.  Through death into life everlasting, He passed, and we follow Him there.  The writer says of us that we “are all of one,” that is of one origin, a reference to God Himself and “for this reason He is not ashamed to call (us) brethren,” brothers and sisters.  We enjoy a spiritual family.

The closeness of this family, the close relationship between Christ and those who are saved in Christ, is further indicated in verses 12 and 13 where the writer includes three references to the Old Testament, the first from Psalm 22:12 saying, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”  This phrase is found in near the end of Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm – remember that term, Messianic, of the Messiah – that opens with the familiar words Jesus quotes from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  And the psalm ends with a victory cry in the latter verses.  It moves from a cry of desolation to a cry of praise.  

Here is a reminder to us of the ongoing importance and relevance of the Old Testament for Christians.  Our Lord and Savior loved the Old Testament and quoted frequently from it.  He mediated upon the psalms and quoted the psalms even from the cross.  Sinclair Ferguson says, “You cannot know the inner life of the Lord Jesus without being profoundly familiar with the Psalms.”

The Old Testament

Is about Jesus Christ,

Points to Christ,

Finds ultimate fulfillment

In Jesus Christ.

The last part of verse 12 shows Jesus singing.  Having suffered for us as our trailblazer – living, dying, resurrecting, and ascending – He now joins His brothers and sisters to worship with Him “in the midst of the assembly,” He says, “I will sing praise to You.” Jesus sings!  

When we worship,

We sing praise with Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate

Worship leader of our churches.

Verse 13 continues highlighting this new spiritual family we enjoy in Christ.  The writer continues to quote the Old Testament, this time from Isaiah, “I will put My trust in Him” and: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”  Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus associates Himself with the children of God, brothers and sisters of a spiritual family. The writer has Jesus saying, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

We are included in His family.  Here is Jesus and the children God has given Him. That is you and I who believe in Christ.  We are brothers and sisters, family of God.

You know that Gospel chorus: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.”  We are glad to be part of the family of God, aren’t we?  In fact, we may be amazed to be part of the family of God, given our tendency to drift or get our eyes off Jesus.  We look around at one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we wonder how we all made it, were included in the family?!

Someone has suggested rather than singing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,” we may look at one another and say, “I’m surprised you’re a part of the family of God!”  But we are a spiritual family.  We have been adopted through Christ.  We were once outside and now we are inside.  How?  Through Jesus Christ.  He blazed the trail for us, made a way for us to be included in this great spiritual family that means we are accepted by God, approved by God, inspite of our religious performance, inspite of last week’s actions – we are never kicked out of the family.  God accepts us always and forever in Christ.

This love of God for His children

Is the foundation for our love for

One another, our brothers and sisters.

That God graciously accepts us, forgives us, even when we fail Him is the basis of our graciously accepting our brothers and sisters, forgiving our spiritual siblings, when they fail us.  

We enjoy a spiritual family.  Second thing we enjoy because of Jesus Christ . . .

II. We Enjoy Salvation’s Freedom – Verses 14-15.

Verse 14 teaches the incarnation, Christ’s taking on human flesh to accomplish our salvation , “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood (that is, God’s children have flesh and blood, human skin), He Himself likewise shared in the same (He took on flesh becoming the God-Man – why? So that …), through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”

Salvation’s freedom is . . .

A) Freedom From The Power Of Death – Verse 14.

Through death, through Jesus’ dying on the cross for our sins, He “destroyed him who had the power of death,” and who is that?  The Bible tells us, “that is, the devil.”  The devil “had the power of death.”  Adam was created to have dominion over the world.  But his sin brought sin into the world and death through sin (Romans 5:12). The devil, then, has “the power of death” over all those who are in Adam.  But something marvelous has happened!

Jesus Christ has come and “through death,”

His death—a death caused by other men’s sins

Jesus regains the dominion lost through Adam,

Regains it legally and righteously by dying on the cross.

And when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He dealt a blow to Satan that robbed Satan of his power over death.  It was a major blow!  It is true that devil continues to prowl about as Peter said in 1 Peter 5:8, “seeking whom he may devour,” but as one theologian rightly puts it: “he prowls with a limp).”

His power has been taken away for all those who are in Christ.  Christians enjoy salvation’s freedom from the power of death.  And that means Christians enjoy . . .

B) Freedom From The Fear Of Death – Verse 15.

Do you fear death?  Christians need not fear death.  Verse 15 continues to highlight the spiritual benefit of Christ’s dying for our sins.  Christ “releases” Christians from the fear of death, “And release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  I like the way one writer paraphrases verse 15 – He says Jesus “freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.”  Are you “scared to death of death?” Our actions often betray our true feelings.  How frequently is death avoided in conversation?  No one wants to talk about death.  You go to a gathering of some kind and everyone talks rather freely about the weather, the stock market, basketball, the Chiefs football or the latest popular show on Netflix.  You interject the subject of death into the conversation and you can expect – the death of that conversation!

Man inherently fears death.  But the Christian need not fear death.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ has blazed the trail before us.  Through death into life everlasting He passed and we follow Him there.

Christians enjoy a Spiritual Family and Christians enjoy Salvation’s Freedom.  Thirdly . . .

III. We Enjoy A Sympathetic Friend – Verses 16-18.

You know that song, “What a friend we have in Jesus?” That song came to me as I read verses 16 through 18, where the writer refers to the blessings we enjoy from our sympathetic High Priest, Jesus Christ.  Verse 16 states, “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.”  The writer is saying that Jesus helps His children.  He will flesh this out in a moment, but for now note that Jesus – the one who is better than the angels – gives aid, or helps, not to angels, but us, those who are the “seed of Abraham.”  Christians share Abraham’s faith and are sons of Abraham.  He helps us.

Verse 17 says, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren (taking on flesh like us), that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”  Some bristle at the word “propitiation,” picturing in their minds the pagan religions where human sacrifices are offered to appease an angry God.  But the joy and wonder of the truthfulness of Christianity is that God “makes propitiation” by providing Himself as the sacrifice. Romans 3:24 and 25 refers to Christ Jesus as the one “whom God set forth as a propitiation by HIs blood…”  Why?  Because of His love for sinners.  Romans 5:8 states, “God commends His love toward us in this – while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  The Son became what He was not, taking on human nature.  To quote CS Lewis: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

The writer says in verse 17 that Jesus Christ is our “merciful and faithful High Priest,” our sympathetic High Priest, something the writer will expound in more detail in chapters to come.  But he gives a foretaste of our sympathetic high priest here. Verse 18 says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  Christ’s temptations were largely those that came to Him in fulfilling His Messianic role as Savior.  The point is that He is supremely helpful to us in overcoming our temptations.  But we must turn to Him.  We must turn to Him if we hope to overcome temptation when temptation comes.  To quote the hymn again: “Have we trials and temptations … what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear – all because we do not carry everything to Him in prayer.”

How do you respond to what God has said here in His Word?  Every time God speaks we respond to His Word.  Do you know Him?  Are you connected to Him in the family of God?  If you are, praise Him and thank Him for His love and life.

Or are you “scared to death of death?”  Let go of that sin to which you have been clinging and receive Christ.  Some of you are Christians and you need to repent, need to confess before God and turn from that besetting, recurring sin.

Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, in either case, the answer is the same: Turn to Christ. Look to Him. Be captivated by Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”