Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 8:1-6 – Jesus Has A Better Covenant

Jesus is the “Better Priest” than any human priest in the history of the world.  In fact, chapter 8 divides rather nicely into two sections.  The first half of the chapter, roughly verses 1-6, “Better Priest,” and verses 7-13, “Better Covenant.”  The Lord willing we will study the “Better covenant” on Monday.  Today we will study about Jesus as our “Better Priest.”  That is really a summation of the entire book!  “Jesus is Better.”

The phrase “Jesus is Better” is not only

A summation of the entire Book of Hebrews,

But a summary of the entire Book of the Bible! 

This Book, as we often say, is a “Him” Book,

A Book about Him, about Jesus.

One Old Testament scholar has this great summary statement of the Bible:

  • The Old Testament is Jesus predicted;
  • The Gospels are Jesus revealed;
  • Acts is Jesus preached;
  • The Epistles (like Hebrews), are Jesus explained;
  • And the Revelation, Jesus expected.

It is all about Jesus.  In what way is Jesus better?  I am glad you asked because our text today tells us . . .

I.  Jesus Ministers From A Better Place – Verses 1-2.

He ministers or serves.  Jesus is the consummate server!  He serves.  He ministers – from a better place than the place where the priests of the Old Testament served.  They served on earth.  Verse 1 tells us, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”  Jesus serves from “the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”  There is not a single Old Testament Levitical priest or high priest who could say that!  They served on earth.  Jesus serves from heaven.  From the right-hand of the Father in heaven.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, “…Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of (or belonging to) Jesus every knee should bow … and tongue confess … that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  As Lord, Jesus is exalted to the right hand of the Father, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

In Bible times the right-hand was the most-favored position.  Kings surrounded by servants were especially blessed to have the superior servant at their right-hand.  We use the phrase still when we refer to someone as our “right-hand man,” the most important, the most valued.  Jesus at the right-hand of the Father.

Jesus is ministering now – right now – from this location in heaven.  He goes on ministering and mediating from the better place, the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”  The writer continues in verse 2, “A Minister of the sanctuary(literally, “holies”) and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”  Jesus does not minister from the location of an earthly tabernacle, one that is erected by man, but rather He ministers from the location of the “true tabernacle,” one built by the Lord, and not man; the “sanctuary” in heaven.  Jesus ministers from a better place.   Second . . .

II.  Jesus Ministers Through A Better Priesthood – Verses 3-5.

Recall from our last study that we discussed the Levitical priesthood.  This was a worship system set up by God to prepare His people for sacrifice.  The Levitical priesthood, however, was not an end in itself . . .

It was a system of animal sacrifice

Set up to point God’s people to

Jesus, the Supreme Sacrifice for sin.

In the Old Testament, not just any Israelite could be a priest.  You had to descend from the line of Levi.  Your mother had to be a Levite and your dad had to be a priest.  Then you could serve as a priest.  And these Levitical priests served for a number of years and then died.  So, many priests were required over the years.  

In our passage today the writer has in view primarily the high priest, the one who entered into the place in the Jewish tabernacle known as “the most holy place,” or the “holy of holies.”   And the high priest could enter that place only once a year.  Just once – To offer a sacrifice for his own sin and for the sins of the people.  Verses 3 and 4 tell us, “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer(talking about the role of the high priest, offering a sin offering for himself and for others).  For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law.” 

What the writer is doing is contrasting the human Levitical high priest with our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.  If our High Priest, a Priest from a different order – not the order of Levi; not from the tribe of Levi, but from the tribe of Judah; Revelation 5:5 speaks of Jesus as the “lion of the tribe of Judah;” and not of the order of Levi, but the order of Melchizedek, an order that is never-ending (we saw that in chapter 7) – if He were on earth, He would not be a priest like those human, earthly priests offering gifts and sacrifices according to the law of Moses. 

No, Jesus offered a different sacrifice – Jesus offered Himself.  No Levitical priest in all of history could even imagine offering his own self for the sins of God’s people.  But Jesus ministers through a better priesthood in that He offers His very self.  

The Old Testament sacrificial system prepared God’s people for the supreme sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our substitute for sin.  The Levitical priesthood pointed forward to a superior priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  The human Levitical priesthood set people up for Christ.  The priests of the Old Testament and the whole sacrificial system served as a “copy” and a “shadow” of something far better.

Verse 5 states, “Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’”  The writer is quoting from Exodus 25:40.  It is a direct quote from God’s speaking to Moses where He tells Moses how to set up the earthly Levitical priesthood.  God gave Moses instruction on how to “make the tabernacle” in which the Israelites worshiped as they traveled through the wilderness.

Specifically, God says to Moses, as we see in the last part of verse 5, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  The writer says that this pattern shown on the mountain, Mount Sinai was divinely ordained by God as a shadow of the real tabernacle, the true tabernacle in heaven.  You could say the actual tabernacle along with the holies of heaven – in all of its brightness and brilliance – casts a shadow on earth, a shadowy image in the form of the tabernacle.

The entire Levitical priesthood is a copy of the system God has in heaven.  The Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament is a copy, a shadow of the real thing in the glories of heaven!  Isn’t that fantastic?!  It is not as though God came up with the Levitical priesthood first, and then thought, “Hmm, what am I going to do next?”  The Levitical priesthood was always meant to be a copy or shadow of the true priesthood, the better priesthood of Jesus Christ.  It points to Him.  It is a picture of Him.

John Piper illustrates the significance of this shadow imagery by using the experience of a child’s getting separated from his mother while shopping.  Children will get caught up in all they are seeing and begin to wander around and, before you know it, they are lost in the store.  As they stand there wondering where their mom was and getting scared, they begin to look around not for a picture of their mom or her shadow, they want the real thing and when they look up and you see their mom and they run to embrace her.  This is how God intended to use the Levitical priesthood.  We are not to embrace the priesthood.  It is just a shadow, a copy of the real heavenly sacrifice, Jesus Christ!  We embrace Him. 

The priesthood, with all the sacrifices, and the tabernacle,

Is merely a means to prepare us for Jesus Christ. 

Jesus ministers from a better place and

Jesus ministers through a better priesthood.

Finally . . .

III.  Jesus Ministers Upon Better Promises – Verse 6.

We will study this in greater detail tomorrow, Lord willing, as the writer unfolds the wonderful teaching of the new covenant, a “better covenant” and we will be studying how the new covenant is vastly superior to the “old covenant.”  For now, note what the writer says in verse 6: “But now He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry (a better Priesthood), in as much as He is also Mediator of a better covenant …” 

Jesus did not serve as a priest during his earthly ministry.  He is now a priest as He has offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.  We often speak of the “finished work of Christ” and that is true, but there is a work that is ongoing. 

The finished work of Christ concerns His atonement for sin. 

But the ongoing ministry of Christ is His ongoing work

Of being our Mediator, the go-between,

The advocate, representing us to God. 

His work of atonement is finished, but

His work as our Advocate continues.

This leads to two great truths . . .

1) We can enjoy God’s Presence all the time!

Remember that the writer of Hebrews is encouraging his Jewish readers not to go back to the old ways of Judaism, the old covenant ways of worshiping.  He is saying, “That was a limited system of worship!”  You had to go through a Levitical priest and even then, the priest was never able to stand in the very presence of God.  He could enter into the shadow, the copy of the tabernacle and stand there in the shadowy place where God revealed something of Himself, but even then, that was just once a year and limited only to Levitical priests!

Because of Jesus Christ, because He is better, a better High Priest, we can enjoy God’s presence all the time.  There is no more tabernacle; now we go through Christ.  This truth is proclaimed in these words from a worship chorus . . .

Now I can go into the Holy of Holies. 

I can kneel and make my petition known.

I can go into the Holy of Holies 

Although I’m just a common man, 

because of God’s redemption plan, 

I can boldly approach the throne.

The tabernacle is no more.  The temple is no more.  Worship is no longer that which takes place in a manmade sanctuary.  Worship is a lifestyle of being in the very presence of God Himself through Jesus Christ.  Worship is not just an hour of ordered service on Sunday mornings.  We worship all the time no matter where we are.

If you are a Christian, you are never alone!  You can enjoy God’s presence all the time. 

That leads to a second great truth .. . .

2) We can enjoy God’s Forgiveness all the time!

Jesus lived and died so that we might have peace with God.  Our sin separates us from God.  But if we believe Jesus and repent – turn from our sin and turn to Christ – we can be saved and enjoy God’s forgiveness, not just His forgiveness of sin.  We can enjoy God’s forgiveness not just one time, but all the time!  

How can we say that?  Because of where is Jesus right now?  He is at the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” there doing His ongoing work of being our Advocate, our never-ending, ongoing priestly work of interceding for our sin!

The only way you can get in on this Good News is by being in Christ Jesus.  Remember what our life before Christ was like – we had turned to going our own way, we were separated from Christ, we were guilty and condemned in our sin.  What happened when we turned from going that way and accepted what Christ did upon the cross and through the empty tomb?  We are now “in Christ Jesus,” covered by His righteousness,  accepted by the Father, approved,  and forgiven!  If you are a Christian, you do not need to go to a priest.  You are “hidden in Christ,” hidden in the Great High Priest Jesus Himself!

These two truths come only through faith and repentance.  They are not automatically bestowed upon every person apart from faith and repentance.  You must turn from sin and turn to Christ.  Jesus is better.

Tim Keller, in his book, Gospel-Centered Ministry has beautifully summarized how Jesus is better in this overarching sweep of the Bible, the “Him” Book, the Book about Him, about Jesus and how He is better than anyone or anything . . .

  • Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
  • Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
  • Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the world to create a new people of God.
  • Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us.  And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking His son up the mountain and sacrificing Him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
  • Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
  • Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the King, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
  • Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
  • Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
  • Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who intercedes for and saves sinners.
  • Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes His people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
  • Jesus is the true and better Esther who did not just risk leaving an earthly palace but left the ultimate and heavenly one, and did not just risk His life, but gave His life to save his people.
  • Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
  • Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us.
  • Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really

Is Not about you –

It is about Him!

Do you really know Him?  Everyone reading this blog is either “hidden in Christ” (hands) or “without Christ.”  If you are “hidden in Christ” you can enjoy His presence and power all the time, and His forgiveness all the time.  Every day and throughout the day thank God for this and go on worshiping Him no matter where you are.  You are always living for Christ.  When you slip up and sin, go boldly to the throne and say, “God, forgive me for what I just did.  I am so sorry.  I love You and I want to feel Your presence again” and know that God indeed forgives (1 John 1:9) you because you are “in His Son, Jesus Christ,” forever accepted and approved by God.

If you are “not in Christ,” repent today.  Admit that you have sinned and you need forgiveness; that you are dead apart from Christ; that you will stand apart from Christ on the Day of Judgment.  Do not die and go to hell in your sin.  Turn now to Jesus, accept what He has done on the cross and through the empty tomb, believe in Him, and ask Him to be your Savor and Lord

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 7:11-28 – Completeness In Christ!

This passage is all about drawing near to God.  In a nutshell that is what chapter 7 is about – how sinful people can draw near to God, be with God, stand in God’s presence, be accepted by God, and be approved by God.  All that is being taught in chapter 7.

The original hearers of this letter – the Hebrews – were raised in a system that got people as close to God as possible but it was an incomplete system.  The system of human priests, all descending from the Jewish tribe of Levi, these Levite priests had the job of acting as intermediaries of the people.  The priest’s job was to help people draw near to God as best they could.  But they were merely sinful, human go-betweens.  They were imperfect people representing other imperfect people, doing their best to help them draw near to God.  There is a new work God has done that totally replaces that old covenant, Jewish religious way of these priests helping people draw near to God.  A better way.  A better covenant than the old covenant.  A better Priest.

Chapter 7 opens with the writer talking about a different kind of priest who comes from a different order of priesthood altogether.  He does not come from the tribe of Levi, as did all the human priests, one descending from another, working for some years and then either retiring at age 50 or dying before that time.  They served temporarily, one following another, in a long line of succession of priests and high priests.  

There is this other priest, an unusual priest who appears long before these Levitical priests, and this priest’s name is Melchizedek.  He comes from a different order or system altogether.  A better priesthood.  The interesting thing about Melchizedek is that the Bible nowhere mentions his genealogy, when he was born and when he died.  It is like he has no beginning and no ending.  It is like he is eternal.  It is not that the writer believes Melchizedek to be eternal, but he uses Melchizedek as a picture of someone else, as a foreshadowing, or a forecasting, or a preview, pointing to someone else who is even better.  And that person who is better is Jesus Christ, an eternal Priest who really has no beginning and no ending.  And Jesus is the better, greater high priest who succeeds at helping people draw near to God.

This chapter is about drawing near to God and why people need this better high priest to draw near.  The Mosaic law – the law of Moses – with all its teachings about human priests, was unable to make men perfect and complete because it was administered by sinful, mortal priests.  But God has made a better way, a perfect way, and a permanent way for men to be reconciled to God.

As we move forward through these verses, I want to encourage you to see two themes throughout the text.  Two themes:




Those two themes run like two threads through these verses.  We see the first one immediately there in verse 11, “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?”  The old covenant and the law could not provide access to God.  It could not bring anyone near God.  It was imperfect.  

The law programmed and

Prepared people for sacrifice.

The law could cover sin,


The could not atone for sins.

This passage is all about drawing near to God . . . no one can because of sin.  God is holy.  We may have the wrong idea of God the Father if we think of Him as an angry God who does not love us.  The idea of our drawing near to God is God’s idea!  He is the one who makes it possible by coming to us.  

Verse 12 says, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”  The law required a succession of human priests all descending from Levi.  But Jesus comes from a different tribe.  So, if the priesthood is changed, then the law concerning the Levitical system has changed – It is no longer in effect.  The Levites, then, are no longer necessary.  

Verse 13 declares, “For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.”  Jesus is from another tribe, not the tribe of Levi, but the tribe of Judah.  A different tribe from which no person from Judah ever officiated or served at the altar, or as a priest. 

Verse 14 states, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.”  Explain.  Different place.  Picture over here on a linear level, the human priestly system of the Levites.  You have to be from the tribe of Levi to serve as a priest.  But Jesus comes from a different place – The tribe of Judah.  The reason He qualifies as High Priest because he is also the Messiah who comes from this family line of David.  He is the long-awaited, much anticipated Davidic Messiah.  He is Lord, King, and Priest. 

Verses 15-16 say, “And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.”  Here the writer speaks of someone who comes in the likeness of Melchizedek.  Here comes another priest.  Not according to the “fleshly commandment,” a human legal system required of Levitical priests – mother a Levite, dad a priest before you, serve till 50 or die first – but “according to the power of an endless (or indestructible) life.”  Speaking of the permanence of His priestly function.

Verses 17 to 19 add, “He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’(A quote from Psalm 119:4).For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment(the law about human priests) because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing [al]perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” 

The Mosaic law was never given

As a means to make men perfect,

To put them in a position

To be right before God. 

The law was not able to save.

In that sense it is weak and unprofitable.

The writer says the law made nothing perfect.  On the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope – Jesus Christ – through which we draw near to God.  Jesus Christ’s work on the cross brings sinners to God.  His work as our great high priest allows us access to God, approval from God, fitness to stand before God, and fellowship with God.

Verses 20-22 state, “And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”  The writer’s quote of Psalm 110:4 underscores the unchangeable promise that the Lord makes.  What a glorious truth and comfort to know that God will not go back on His promise!

Verse 22 says, “By so much more Jesus has become a suretyof a better covenant.”  Jesus guarantees the success of a better covenant, the new covenant, namely the Gospel of our salvation – That we can be accepted by God and draw near to God because of Jesus Christ.

Verse 23 states, “Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.”  There were many, thousands of Levitical priests, and no fewer than 80 high priests, according to some tabulations, who served in the Temple.  They served from the time of Aaron until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.  They were prevented by death from continuing.  They died.  Even though they strived to be the most holy of men.  Another qualification required for continued service was that the priest be unblemished.  According to the literature of the time there were some 142 blemishes could disqualify a man from serving in the Levitical priesthood.  This reminds us of what was bad about their weak state – they were sinners and they died!

Verse 24 declares, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.”  The word “unchangeable” in verse 24 also translated “permanent, non-transferable.”  Jesus is perfect and the only one who has this record.  Perfection and Permanence.

Verse 25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  The phrase “to the uttermost” refers to both extent and time.  Through the redemptive work of our Great High Priest we are always completely and permanently saved.  He always lives to make intercession, acting as a go-between, and praying for those who come to God through Him.

Verse 26 goes on to say, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless (or innocent), undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.”  All these words describe the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.

Verse 27 states, “Who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”  When the Levitical High Priest entered into that model of the heavenly glories, the holy of holies in the Jewish temple, that sacred place behind the curtain, he was merely a human being and thus a sinner.  Before he went in that high priest had to offer up sacrifices for his own sins and then for the people.  But not Jesus! He had no sin.  Furthermore, He offered up Himself as the perfect spotless sacrifice.    Not an animal sacrifice, but the sacrifice of Himself for us.  Just once.  One sacrifice for all who believe.  One time for all time.  Once for all.  No need to repeat.  Done deal.

Verse 28 declares, “For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”  This is a summary statement of all the writer has been saying.  The old covenant law appointed human, sinful, and mortal men as high priests, “men who have weakness,” but the word of the oath, God’s promise, which came in Psalm 110:4, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Let’s consider three practical takeaways for us based on the themes of perfection and permanence we have learned about in these verses.  Because He is perfect, we are perfect in Him . . .

1. We Have Perfection In Him.

Because you are imperfect, you need someone who can help you draw near to God!  You need someone who can bring you before the One True and Living God, Who is all holy, all wise, and all perfect.  You need a strong Advocate who can represent you.  Some folks would be their own lawyer.  That would be disastrous!  It is common knowledge that you should never go before the judge alone!  You need an advocate!!  Your advocate will make or break you.  What your advocate does applies to you.

To be in union with Christ is to be IN Him!  The payment has been made.  Jesus paid it all.  And what He does, applies to us.

2. We Have Permanence In Him.

The Levitical system could never atone for sin.  It was just a temporary forgiveness.  It does not clear or cleanse our conscience (chapter 10).  It is always weighing us down.  It is just a temporary means of getting by.  Like paying the minimum balance due on our monthly credit card bill.  We enjoy benefits of the purchase, but we still owe on it and the debt is always weighing us down.  But the day will come when the balance is due.  Jesus pays it all.  We enjoy all the benefits and there is no longer a debt.

He always lives!  And He always lives to make intercession for us (verse 25).  He is always praying for us, always standing there as our great High Priest.  It is not like Jesus is begging the Father for mercy.  It is already granted once for all.  It is just a continual, “He’s with Me.”  He holds His children with one hand, and with the other hand he holds on to His Father and says, “Father, here I am, and the children you have given to me.” (cf Hebrews 2:13).

3. We Have Pleasure In Him.

The high priest was beautiful in his wardrobe and in his work.  Jesus is the Great High priest.  In Him we are beautiful!  When we know Him we have found life, meaning, confidence, worth, purpose, and satisfaction in Him, not in our job, our family, our boyfriend, our kids, our girlfriend, or our money.  17th-century Anglican Church leaders put John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, in prison for preaching the Gospel.  They said that when the fear of punishment was removed from preaching, people would go wild and do whatever they wanted.  Bunyan said to the contrary . . .

“If people really see that Christ has removed

The fear of punishment from them by

Taking it himself, they won’t do whatever

They want, they’ll do whatever He wants.”

O, to know that Jesus has removed the fear of punishment!  Remember that when Satan tries to discourage you.

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of 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

To look on Him—and pardon you.

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 7:1-10 – Seeing And Accepting Jesus As Savior And Lord.

In chapter 7 the author returns to the great theme of the Priesthood of Christ.  In chapter 5, we learned how Christ is qualified to be a High Priest.  He is both God and Man, and thus a perfect High Priest.  What better Mediator between God and man could we ever need than the God/Man, the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Chapter 7 reveals that Christ’s priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament.  Under Old Testament Law, God directed that the priests were to come exclusively from the tribe of Levi, and the line of Aaron.  But Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah!  This would obviously raise questions in the mind of the Jewish people to whom this letter was written.  So, the author showed that Christ’s Priesthood is of a different order than the priesthood of Aaron.  In fact, it is superior to the Aaronic priesthood, because it is a universal Priesthood.  It is not just for the Jews, as was the Old Testament priesthood.  Jesus Christ is a Priest for both Jews and Gentiles alike. And that is where the importance of Melchizedek comes in.

Who was Melchizedek? 

We first read of Melchizedek in Genesis 14.  Do you remember the occasion?  Along with the rest of the people of Sodom, Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family had been taken captive by an invading force from Mesopotamia.  But Abraham and his small army of servants went out and rescued Lot and the other captives.

As Abram was returning home, Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, met him along the way and encouraged him.   Genesis 14:18-20 tells us about it, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all.”  The author of Hebrews drew on this account in demonstrating that Christ’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s priesthood – a priesthood served Israel under the Mosaic Law.

Most of us would probably admit that we are not sitting on the edge of our seat to learn about Melchizedek.  You might be thinking, “If I cannot even spell a word; besides there is probably so much information about this guy that will it take the rest of my life to learn it.”  Actually, that’ is not the case with Melchizedek.  He is discussed in three places in the Bible (Genesis14, Psalm 110, and here in Hebrews 7).  This chapter is by far has the most information on him.

He was a high priest, and Jews knew they needed him to approach God.  But Melchizedek was not an ordinary high priest. He is a type of Jesus.  We need to know him so we can know the Messiah.  The author is picking up from chapter 5 verse 10 where he tells his readers that they were spiritually dull.  He wanted them to know Christ more through this man Melchizedek, but they were spiritually lazy.

Can I be honest for just a moment?  All of us have probably been in both positions in our lives.  We have probably had people say something like, “I don’t feel God at all; is He even real?  Where are you God?”  But the reason we do not hear Him is because we are not ready.  We do our own thing, live the life we want, and could care less about Christ.  Then we challenge Him to speak, and if He does not, then we blame Him. This is dangerous.  We must give effort and attention to truly knowing Him. When we do, we will be able to understand the deeper things of God.

1. Melchizedek’s priesthood is a “type” of Christ’s priesthood.

As the writer of Hebrews compares the priesthood of Melchizedek with that of Christ’s, Bible students would call this relationship of the priest in the past to Jesus, as a “type.”  An Old Testament “type” is a person, place, event, or other item that pictures, prefigures, foreshadows, or illustrates a New Testament truth.  We know for sure that Melchizedek was a “type” of Christ because of what we read in Psalm 110, a Messianic psalm.  Speaking of Christ, verse 4 says: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  In Hebrews 7, the author pointed out four ways in which Melchizedek prefigured, foreshadowed, or was a “type” of Christ.  The earlier Melchisedec gave the Jews of his era an idea of who the upcoming Jesus would be, and what He would do.

a. Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God – Verse 1.

As Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God, so Christ is Priest of the Most High God.

b. Melchizedek was a king as well as a priest – Verses 1-2.

Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.  Melchizedek was not only a priest – he was also the king of Salem.  Salem was the ancient name for Jerusalem.   His name, Melchizedek, means “king of righteousness” and king of Salem means “king of peace.”  What a picture of Jesus Christ!  Jesus Christ is King as well as High Priest.  He is the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace.

c. Melchizedek was not in the priestly line of Aaron – Verse 3a.

Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God, but he was not in Aaron’s lineage because Melchizedek lived before Aaron’s time. The verse tells us that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy.”  Obviously, therefore, he did not have a mother, or father, or genealogy in the line of Aaron.  In the same way, our Lord’s lineage was not from the line of Aaron.  Jesus Christ was not descended from the priestly line of Aaron.

d. Melchizedek had neither “beginning of days” or “end of life” – Verse 3b.

Does that mean that Melchizedek was not a real person?  No, that is not what it means! Melchizedek was a real person.  He was the king of ancient Jerusalem, but he appears on the pages of Scripture with no record of his birth or death.  He just appeared (Genesis 14).  In that way, Melchizedek is typical of our Lord’s eternal priesthood. That is what the end of verse 3 means: “…but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”  Melchizedek’s priesthood is typical of Christ’s priesthood.

2. Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s priesthood.

In verses 4-7, the author of Hebrews shows that being a priest after the order of Melchizedek is superior to being a priest after the order of Aaron.  He presented four ways in which Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s priesthood.

a. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek – Verses 4-6.

The verses state, “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.  And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.”

Under the Law, the people of Israel paid tithes for the support the priests and the Levites.  But Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, and Aaron and the priests, and all of the Levites descended from Abraham.  In that sense, Melchizedek’s priesthood was certainly greater than Aaron’s priesthood, because Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek – not the other way around.

b. Melchizedek blessed Abraham – Verses 6-7.

Melchizedek “blessed Abraham who had the promises.  Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.” The argument is obvious.  Melchizedek blessed Abraham – not the other way around.  The greater always blessed the lesser.

c. The Levites were mortal men – Verse 8.

This verse says, “Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.”  The Levites and priests of the Aaronic order were mortal men.  They were born and they died.  But Melchizedek came onto the pages of Scripture without being born and without dying.  Thus, in that sense, Melchizedek “continues to live” – as a type of Christ, he remains a priest continually (verse 3).  In that way, his priesthood is greater than the priesthood of Aaron.

d. The Levites paid tithes to Melchizedek – Verses 9-10.

As a descendant of Abraham, Levi was technically “in the loins of Abraham” at the time when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.  This means that, in that sense, “Levi” paid a tithe to Melchizedek.  That may seem like a far out argument – but it is really a sound argument!  In fact, it is scientifically correct.  Genetically speaking, as Levi and the priesthood descended from the “seed” of Abraham, Levi was in “Abraham’s loins.”  In that way, Levi and the Aaronic priesthood paid tithes to Melchizedek.

With these four points the author demonstrated that Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s priesthood.  And since Christ’s priesthood is “according to the order of Melchizedek,” then Christ as High Priest is superior to Aaron as high priest.

I want to conclude our study today by looking at and understanding from these verses how Melchizedek was a type of Christ.

Melchizedek Is A Type Of Christ In The . . .

Dignity of His person.

As I mentioned earlier, everything we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis 14:18-24 (the historical perspective), Psalm 110:4 (the prophetic perspective), and here in Hebrews 7 (the theological perspective).  In Genesis, Abraham’s nephew Lot & his family are held captive when they raided Sodom.  Abraham goes to rescue Lot and he defeats those kings.  As he is coming back, Melchizedek meets him and blesses him. His name is broken down into the following parts: “Melchi” (my king), “Zedek” (righteousness).  He was the King of Salem (shalom/peace).  The order is significant for us today: righteousness comes before peace.  If you do not have peace in your life, then it could be because you do not have a relationship with the Prince of Peace.

Descent and duration of His priesthood.

When it comes to descent, being a priest in Israel was totally dependent on your family lineage.  However, Melchizedek was without father and mother.  Some say he was superhuman because he had no beginning or end of days.  However, it should be more understood that Melchizedek was made like the Son of God, who has no beginning or end.  Jesus always has been and always will be.  So, both in descent and duration, Melchizedek is a type of Christ.

Dimension of His priesthood.

Melchizedek was greater than Abraham since he received tithes from him.  The same goes for Aaron and Levi.  When it came to Hebrew thought, an ancestor contained in him all of his descendants.  When Adam sinned at the beginning of time, who else sinned?  We did (Romans 5:12).  The point of the typology between Melchizedek and Jesus is that even though Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham and Levi, Jesus is greater still.  As our Great High Priest, He is not just worthy of our tithe; He is worthy of us totally because He bought us with His blood.  Is He great in your life today?  If so, then your natural response will be to give Him all your life.

Distributing of His priesthood.

Even though Abraham was God’s chosen servant, Melchizedek blessed the one who had the promises.  Without dispute, the lesser is blessed by the greater.  It is the same with us who are God’s children.  If Melchizedek could bless Abraham, how much more is Christ able to bless those who draw near to Him.

What do you need from God?  Forgiveness, peace, joy midst trials, or victory over sin? You get all those things if you are His child.  Jesus is the great high priest who gives His blessings to those who draw near to Him.  Will you draw near to Him today?

Jesus will one day be our King

Ruling from Jerusalem, and

He is our King of Peace.

The similarities between Melchisedec and Jesus are not a coincidence.  They show that God had planned for thousands of years to send Christ to this earth.  All throughout history He showed mankind what the Savior would do, say, and even where He would go, and where He would be born.  Some saw the similarities and quickly accepted Jesus as their Savior. Others did not.  Is He just a man to you, or is Jesus your High Priest?

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 6:13-20 – An Anchor of the Soul

We left off yesterday with the writer’s encouraging these believers to go on believing, to go on producing fruit, to lay hold of “the full assurance of hope until the end,” and to keep moving toward the promises of God.  He warns in verse 12 that they “do not become sluggish,” but rather to, “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” promises of God that culminate in our entering into the final state of heaven and our heavenly inheritance purchased by Jesus Christ, the one who is better than anyone or anything.  

He says again in last part of verse 12, “imitate those who through (their) faith and patience, inherit the promises” and the writer produces arguably the greatest example of one whose faith and patience is worthy of emulation, namely Abraham.  And that is verse 13 and following.  From verse 13 to the end of the chapter the writer blesses Christians with teaching about the “full assurance of hope until the end,” the fact that Christians can hold on throughout their journey of faith, come what may, they will go on believing, holding on, moving toward the complete fulfillment of all of God’s promises to them. 

In these verses that we are going to look at today the writer gives the basis for our ability to hold on, to lay hold of the hope set before us. 

Our holding on is possible

Because of God’s character,

Who He is, and what He

Has done for believers.

 God’s Word is such that we can trust Him, take Him at His Word, believe what He has said, that what He has said, will He do.  If we trust in Him, we can rest in Him.  Listen for that as I read the passage.

There is a phrase verse 19 that captures everything this passage is about.  It is the first part of verse 19 where the writer says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”  Before we talk about the anchor let’s review something about the hope.  We are taught in the previous verse, in the last part of verse 18, to “lay hold of the hope set before us.”   What is this hope?  We have look at this word “hope” before.  We have noted that the way the writer is using “hope” in passages such as this, is to write about something that is absolutely certain and therefor absolutely certain to come to pass.

In contemporary English, in the language of our day, the word “hope” generally conveys something different.  We often use the word “hope” to express something uncertain: “I hope it doesn’t snow today.”  We are wishing it does not snow, but we are uncertain about it.  We are closing our eyes or crossing our fingers that something will take place, but we are not really sure whether it will.  Despite the circumstances we are optimistic and hopeful.

That is not the way the Bible uses is using the word “hope” here.  In New Testament passages such as this, the writer is talking about more than mere optimism.  By the way, optimism in and of itself is not bad.  It is a good thing to be optimistic.  Nobody likes to be around pessimists, people who are always gloomy and can never look on the bright side.  Adrian Rogers used to say some people can brighten up a room by leaving it. 

The word “hope” here is not mere optimism or wishful thinking, a mere subjective feeling that something may or may not happen.  This word “hope” rather, indicates something substantive, something palpable, and something real. 

The word “hope” here stands for something. 

And the something is the reality of all

The things that will absolutely come to pass. 

The word “hope” here is the absolute

Certainty that God will fulfill

His purposes and promises. 

It is certain.  We look forward – in hope – in confident expectation that what God has said, that will He do.  Hope stands for something real.  It is not mere feelings, but the actualization of real facts. 

That is why the writer says in verse 19 “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”  Hope is something substantive, objective, factual, something that is so weighty in truth that it is, in a sense, an anchor of the soul.

Anchors are among of the earliest Christian symbols used among believers especially in the first four centuries of the church.  I was doing some research this week on the catacombs in Rome.  Catacombs are underground burial sites and there are 40 of them in Rome, Italy.  Just north of Rome is the Catacomb of Priscilla, a rock quarry that was used for Christian burials, including the burial of a number of Christian martyrs, people who died for their faith in Christ.  This catacomb is five miles wide and contains 40,000 tombs.  Christians were buried there from the early 2nd through the 4th century, so AD 100s to the 300s.  This is where the earliest Christians were buried.

Much of the walls and ceiling portray early Christian art, paintings, including frescoes of scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the oldest paintings of Mary.  If you are in Rome, you can tour catacombs like the Catacomb of Priscilla.  You can see some of the Christian art there.  While it is probably just legend that Christians hid in the catacombs, some Christians did in fact go to the catacombs for inspiration and even celebration on the anniversaries of the deaths of certain Christian martyrs.  Catacombs contained a number of Christian symbols, paintings and etchings like a fish, or a shepherd’s crook, and symbols of an anchor, a symbol of “the hope set before us.”  In this particular catacomb there are no fewer than 60 anchors inscribed on the walls.   That is a lot of anchors!  Why?  Because . . .

The early Christians understood that the anchor

Represented the hope we have in Christ. 

The anchor stood for the fact, the truth,

That all of God’s promises are fulfilled

In Christ and that this truth, anchors our very souls.

If you are a Christian, God anchors your soul in the truth of His Word.  Come what may, you will always be anchored by the truth of His Word, and your hope will hold.  

We will be looking further into this truth during our study today.  How we can be sure that our hope will hold – that we will hold on, that our hope is an anchor of the soul – leading us to have stability no matter how wind-tossed the ship of our faith may be.  No matter the storms of our lives, our hope will hold if two things are real in our lives . . .

I.          If We Trust in God’s Word – Verses 13-18.

We can trust what God says when He speaks.  The writer here uses Abraham as an example of someone who trusted God’s Word; believed what God said to him; believed that what God said He would do.  Verses 13-15 state, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’  And so, after he had patiently endured, he(Abraham) obtained the promise.”  The writer reminds us of God’s Word to Abraham back in Genesis and Abraham’s believing God’s Word, trusting in God’s Word, that God would do what He said, fulfilling His purposes and promises.  

If we had time we would go back and review chapters 12, 15, and 22 of Genesis.  It is Chapter 22 that the writer has in mind when he writes these verses here.  Several times God told Abraham: “I’m going to bless you and your descendants.  From your own offspring will come a people too numerous to count.  If you could count all the stars in the sky and all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world, you would be able to count how many descendants you will have, descendants who will be blessed as you are blessed, blessed to inherit the promises and purposes for each and every one – namely an intimate relationship that never ends, eternal life.” 

Remember that not everyone who descends from Abraham is automatically an heir of the promise.  Romans 4:16 speaks of the people of God as those who “share the faith of Abraham,” people who have faith like Abraham, people who believe, like many of us, who believe in Christ.  The Bible says in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed (Abraham’s offspring; children) and heirs according to the promise.”  The author’s point here in these verses is that Abraham believed God’s Word.  He took God at His Word.  He believed Him.  He trusted God’s Word.  That trust is seen time and again by Abraham.  He was not perfect by any stretch, but He accepted what God said and knew that He would fulfill His purposes and promises to bless him and all who came from him.  

Abraham stepped out in faith when God called him to go out to a land He would show him.  Abraham did not know where he was going, but he trusted God.  He had to look to God to guide Him and fulfill the promise.  God said, “Abraham, you and your wife Sarah are going to have a child.  Never mind the circumstances of you and your wife’s age – It will happen, not because of you or anything you can do but based on my faithfulness and power.”  Then God gives them the promised son, Isaac.  Abraham believed that God would give innumerable offspring through Isaac.  He trusted God’s Word.  He knew that he could rely on God so much that he obeyed God even when it did not make sense.  Then God said, “take your son, your only son, Isaac, and offer him up to me as a burnt offering.”  Remember that?  Genesis 22.  And Abraham set out to do just that.  God was testing Abraham to see if he really trusted Him.  In time, Abraham even lifts up the knife to offer his son Isaac as an offering and God speaks to him from heaven and stops him.  And God says, “Now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son to me.”  Abraham’s actions indicated that He loved God more than anyone or anything and that He trusted God to fulfill His purposes and promises.

The writer tells us later in Hebrews chapter 11 that Abraham so trusted God that he believed that if for some reason God allowed him to follow through in sacrificing his son Isaac that He would then raise him from the dead.  Such was Abraham’s trust in God’s Word.

Do you have that kind of trust in God’s Word?  The writer says that we are to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” those like Abraham.   

However difficult it may be for you right now,

Know that God will honor your faith in HIs Word,

Believing He will take care of you, fulfilling

His purposes and promises for you. 

Even when it does not make sense –

Especially when things do not

Make sense! Keep on trusting Him.

And the main reason you can trust God is because of His character.  He always does what is right.  There is no higher authority, no person above Him who is worthy of greater trust.  That is the author’s main point in verses 13 and following.  He says in verse 13, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”   You look up Genesis 22:16 later and you will read God saying, “By myself I have sworn…”  There is no one higher than God.  He swears by His own name because there is no other name greater than His own name. 

Contrast this with the words of men recorded in verse 16, “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.”  The writer is saying that unlike God men lie and so they will back up their word by appealing to a higher authority as if to say, “I’m telling you the truth!  I swear upon the Bible, or upon my mother’s grave, or God as my witness.”  Men are inveterate liars and so they seek to back up their word by appealing to a higher authority.

By the way, remember how Jesus was critical of those who backed up their word with oaths?  He said, “Just let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,’ (Matthew 5:37).”   Christians should not have to add to their word.  Just do what you say you will do.

Verse 17 says, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise(people like Christians)the immutability(the unchanging nature)of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath”  God makes a promise and backs up His promise with an oath.  So that, verse 18 declares, “That by two immutable things(an unchanging promise and an unchanging oath), in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

God is not like men in that He lies, so why is He swearing by Himself?  Why the oath?  Well, He swears by Himself, swearing by His name, not because His Word is inferior, but because our faith is inferior.  It is not that His Word is weak, it’s that our faith is weak.  That is what He says in the second half of verse 18.  God does this so that “we might have strong consolation,” that we may be encouraged.  That is why.  He accommodates Himself to man’s way of reasoning.

To encourage Christians, those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”  The writer is saying that for God to “swear by Himself” is equal to saying, “My own word is good enough.”  

Trust God’s Word.  Your hope will hold if you trust in His Word – not your feelings, not your circumstances, but His Word.  Secondly, your hope will hold . . .

If We Rest In God’s Work – Verses 19-20.

The writer takes us now to the work that God has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Look at verse 19 which says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.”  What a verse!  He is talking about the stability of our hope – and remember this hope is a certainty, an absolute certainty, a confident expectation that God will fulfill all His promises and purposes in and through Jesus Christ.  God’s work is what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.  This hope, then, that God will do as He has said is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”  This hope we have in Christ is sure, secure, steadfast, unshakable, unassailable, and inviolable. 

The writer describes Jesus as “the forerunner.”  We see that in verse 20, “Where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  We will be learning more about Melchizedek in the weeks to come, but note now how the writer describes Jesus.  He is the One who – verse 19 – has entered “behind the veil.”  That is where Jesus is.  He is not talking here about the earthly tabernacle or temple and the model of the holy of holies.  He is talking about the real thing, the heavenly reality.  Jesus is behind the veil in heaven, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, the very Presence of God Himself.  That is where Jesus is as our Great High Priest, forever working on our behalf – the work of His atonement for our sin continually being applied to us.

That is where Jesus is.  The word “forerunner” is a word used of the person who went ahead and did reconnaissance work, the person in the army who went first, went ahead, to make the way for others to come.  That is what Jesus did for us.  He went on a mission, living for us, dying for us, rising from the dead for us, and going behind the veil for us, the very presence of God, for us.  And where He has gone on His recon work, we will follow Him there.

Jesus Christ has entered into the very Presence behind the veil.  And every Christian, being anchored to Him, will follow Him there, inexorably drawn to Him because of our glorious union with Christ.  

See how the anchor is such an encouraging symbol of hope?  Every Christian is secure, stable, and steady.  Like sailors battling harsh winds and strong currents, the anchor holds them firmly to the ocean floor so they do not come apart.  And Christians battling the harsh winds of life and waves of trouble and tribulation – family struggles, marriage, job, school, sickness – no matter the winds, we are anchored firmly to Jesus Christ and therefore will not come apart.  

There is an old gospel chorus by Henry L Gilmour.  I wonder if you remember it?  The Haven of Rest?

Sometimes Jesus takes us right into a storm, like He did with the disciples crossing lake.  But never fear!  He is the anchor of our soul!  When you go through life’s storms and you drop this anchor, it’s an anchor that does not go down so much as it goes up!  Upward to the Holy of Holies in heaven, upward to the Presence behind the veil!  The anchor is attached to Jesus Christ.  And where Jesus is, where Jesus has gone before you, so you will follow Him there.  It is as though the anchor pulls you upward to the One who provides your stability and security.  You can be sure your anchor will hold.

I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep o’er the wild, stormy deep, 

In Jesus I’m safe evermore.

I read about a little boy who was flying a kite.  And the kite got so far up into the sky that you could no longer see the kite.  Someone came by and said, “What are you doing?”  He said, “I’m flying a kite.”  “Well,” the man said, “Do you see a kite?”  The boy said, “No.”  The man said, “Well, I don’t either, so how do you know it’s there?”  The boy said, “Sir, I cannot see the kite up there but I know it is there, because I can feel it pull!”   

The greatest encouragement to you as a follower of Jesus Christ is to know that because He has gone on behind the veil, the very presence of God almighty, you are anchored to Him.  He pulls you upward each and every day.  And one day, you will be right there where He is.  Your hope always holds, Christian, because the anchor always holds.  Trust God’s Word.  Rest in God’s Work.

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  Verses 2 and 3 of this wonderful song and a real encouragement to us because of our union with Christ.  Look at this wonderful truth:

Do you have this hope in Christ?  Are you saved?  Turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus Christ as Savior.  Trust Him to be all your hope and stay. 

Are you living at a guilty distance from Jesus?  Repent.  Turn back to Him!

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 6:9-12 – What Are The Better Things We Have In Christ?

Grace For The Journey

The writer gives these warnings in the letter to the Hebrews for the purpose of encouraging his readers and hearers.  He wants to encourage them to move on, grow in their faith, move forward and upward, and persevere in the faith. 

The warnings are not given

To unsettle true believers,

But rather

To encourage them onward.

We noted last time the similarity of the writer’s use of these warnings to the navigation systems most of us use when we drive.  We have a GPS navigation system that guides us on our journey as we travel.  The final destination is “locked into” the device and the system guides us, turn-by-turn, as we make our way to the end: “Accident ahead, take exit next right” or “Stay on the current road for 25 miles,” etc.  The warnings are not given to unsettle us, but rather to encourage and guide us along the way.  We will get to that final destination.  That is how Christians should hear these warnings.

Non-Christians will hear the warnings in Hebrews differently.  And they should.  The writer realizes that there will be some reading his letter or hearing the letter read who are not on the right path.  They have not yet been saved. 

The non-Christian should hear the warning

As an alarming and unsettling statement

Warning of impending danger if they

Do not commit to Christ and

Follow Him in the way.

In fact, the writer indicates in Chapter 6 that there are some non-Christians who have gotten really close to the things of God, really close to Christ, really close to salvation, but never committed and, in time, turned their backs upon Christ in utterly rejecting Him as Savior.  So decisive and so final was their rejection that it was tantamount to re-crucifying Jesus.  These unbelievers who utterly fall away from Christ are described there in Chapter 6, verse 6 as they who “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”  Their public rejection of Christ was like driving fresh nails into the hands and feet of Christ, bringing open shame upon the name and work of Jesus Christ.

Let’s review our last study and recall these divisions in the passage.  The first point is  the warning itself.  That is verses 4-6.  This is where we read about those who do not go on following Christ, those unbelievers who finally fall away from Christ.  We studied the phrases the writer uses to describe them.  In verse 4 he describes they who know only the temporary blessings that come to people who get close to the things of God.  They were “once enlightened,” and “have tasted the heavenly gift,” sampled it, like one sampling food from a tray, but not committing to the full meal.  They are they who verse 4 tells us, “Have become partakers of the Holy Spirit” and so on.  But they not saved.  Close, but never committing to Christ.  

Second point is an illustration in verses 7-8 where the writer describes how two people respond differently to the same gospel message.  The first one, the saved one, is described in verse 7.  Verse 7 describes the way a Christian responds to the Word of God, to the gospel message, to Christ.  Verse 7 says, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God.”  Verse 7 recalls our Lord’s teachings in Matthew 13, the Parable of the sower.  Verse 7 is like the person who hears the word of the kingdom like seed falling on good ground.  He bears fruit.  Verse 8, however, describes the person who hears the word, but because of the hardness of the soil of his heart, or because of persecution or attraction to the things of the world, he endures only for a while and then stumbles, bearing no fruit.  Verse 8 says, “but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”  Verse 8 describes the person who produces no fruit in his or her life.  The ground of his life is left in its natural condition, bearing only thorns and briers.  As when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, the ground no longer produced fruit naturally, so man today . . .

Will bear no fruit apart

From supernatural empowering,

Apart from the gift of salvation by

Grace through faith in Christ. 

Apart from grace, all the natural man

Can produce through his own work

Are the works of thorns and briers. 

No spiritual or acceptable fruit.

The writer says in the next verse, verse 8, “But, beloved” (now, he is addressing those who are on the right path, the beloved, Christians) “we are confident of better things concerning you …” Here he provides the third point of our outline – “An encouragement.”  Which is what we will be looking at this morning.

Having taken time to review and get a sense of the context of what the writer has been saying, we are ready to study this encouragement in verses we will look at today.  You get something of the pastoral heart of the writer of this letter in verses 9-12.  He shows them that while he was describing what happens to those who utterly, decisively, and finally fall away from Christ, he does not believe this to be the case with those who read his letter.  He is writing to them about such things, but he is confident that this will not be the case with the majority who hear the letter being read in worship.

As John Owen puts it, the writer wrote “unto” them, but he did not write “of” them.  In writing to the Hebrews, the author described the actions of those who had fallen away from Christ, left Him, and rejected Him.  In verse 9, he declares, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you …”  The term “beloved” is used only here in Hebrews just this one time.  The writer seems to have given much thought to using the term since he uses it just here.  It is a word that speaks of being a part of the same family, like brothers and sisters.  He also says, “we are confident of better things concerning you.”  The word “better” occurs no fewer than 13 times in the letter.   Remember that the main theme of this letter to the Hebrews is the theme that Jesus is better than anyone or anything.  A summary of the book of Hebrews is captured in three words: Jesus is better.

Verse 9 goes on to say, “… Yes, things that accompany(or belong to) salvation, though we speak in this manner.”  This is yet another reason why we know that the people the writer describes up in verses 4-5 are not true believers.  In verse 4 he described those who know only temporary blessings that come to those who get close to the things of God.  These people were “once enlightened,” and “have tasted the heavenly gift,” sampled it, but not committing to it.  They are they who “have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,” but they not saved.  Close, but never committing to Christ.  

Do you see what he is saying in verse 9?  He is talking about those of you who know the better things of salvation and what belongs to salvation, things such as the fruit of the Spirit, your love for the name of God, and so on.  Not just temporary blessings that can come upon any person, but better things that belong only to Christians, “better things that accompany salvation.”

It is in this context then, the context of true believers, true Christians, that the writer provides two main encouragements.  First . . .

I. Keep Ministering To God’s People – Verses 9-10.

True believers so love God that they love the people of God.  Remember how Jesus summed up the entire law of the Old Testament in Matthew 22:37-40?  He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The two go together.  The Apostle John is very clear on this as he writes in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.”

The writer in verse 10 draws the same connection.  Love for God’s name is a love that results in love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Love that is upward

Is connected to

Love that is outward. 

The two go together.

Verse 10 states, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 

Love for brothers and sisters is one evidence of a changed heart.  Love for God’s people is the fruit of one who is genuinely saved.  Verse 10 describes the person whose life is like “the earth which drinks in the rain that comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receiving blessing from God.”  They are fruitful.  They love and serve God by loving and serving others.

The writer encourages Christians, those whom he describes as they who have shown love “toward His name,” love toward God, to go on loving and ministering to the people of God.  Keep at it in this “work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints (to God’s people), and do minister.”   Keep ministering to God’s people.  And he says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love.”  God will not forget what you have done for Him and for His people.  Though the people may forget, God will not.  He remembers every selfless deed and work you do and will reward you.  Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but treasures in heaven. 

Keep ministering to God’s people.  Secondly . . .

II. Keep Moving Towards God’s Promises – Verses 11-12.

Verses 11 and 12 picture this movement, this progression forward of true Christians, their perseverance to the end, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end. that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

The writer is encouraging his readers to persevere in their faith.  Keep moving forward.  Keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  

Verses 10 and 11 go together.  To the same degree Christians love the name of God by ministering to the saints, so are they to apply the same diligence in grasping the assurance of their salvation.  The “full assurance of hope” is the absolute confidence that God will bring them along in their faith until their work on earth is done (Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  The point the author is making is his desire that every one of his readers would show a similar keenness in fully grasping the hope that is within them. 

Do you see how the writer wants Christians to have assurance?!  He does not want to unsettle true believers.  You can know you are saved.  You can have assurance that God accepts you.  Apparently, some of them did not have “the full assurance of the hope.”  Something was lacking.  They had watched as some from among them had become disenchanted with the Christian faith and had gone back to Judaism.  Perhaps this had a negative effect upon the others who remained.  They lacked assurance.  Would God really present them faultless at the last day?  Would they be fully and finally saved?  

Some of you may need to grow in your faith in this regard.  You feel you love others, but you have no assurance God loves you.  You are wondering whether God accepts you in Christ.  Show the same diligence that you have in your love for Christ, show the same diligence in truly believing God, taking Him at His Word, fully grasping the hope that is within you.  It is largely a matter of faith, of taking Him at His Word.  The diligence you have in loving God’s name by serving God’s people today – be just as diligent, or work just as hard at – fully grasping the hope that is within you through faith in Christ, believing who He is and what He has done for you. 

Do this, he says, so that, verse 12, “That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Do not become sluggish!  It is the same word translated as “dull” as in chapter 5, verse 11.  Do not become lazy in your Christian walk.  Do not pull over when your GPS is telling you to keep moving.  The road ahead may be difficult, and you have hit a bump on the way, but keep moving on.  And the writer provides a helpful motivation here in verse 12 when he says, “… but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Keep moving toward God’s promises.

Remember where you are headed!  Remember your final destination at the end of your route.  Keep moving till you hear, “You have arrived at your final destination.”  And when you arrive at your final destination – through patience, or perseverance – you will “inherit the promises.”  Then the writer provides Abraham as an example of someone who kept moving, kept going forward in faith, and moving towards the promises of God.  We will study this next time, Lord willing, verses 13 and following.  The writer is saying, be encouraged as you look to people like Abraham as an example of someone you can imitate, “imitating those who through faith and patience inherited the promise.”  Abraham was looking forward to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10).  Be like him in that sense.  Be inspired by Abraham.  And you too keep moving forward, moving towards God’s promises, namely the fulness of salvation in eternal life through Christ.

Here then is the key to moving on, the key to perseverance.  In a word it is “faith.”  The writer encourages his readers to not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith … inherit the promises.  Faith.  Believing.  Trusting not in yourself, or what you can do, but looking to God who said He will get you there.  Trusting God’s Word as in Ephesians 1:13-14, “… having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

I read about a lady who got on a train.  There were many trains at the station so she asked someone which was the correct train to get on.  She was told which train and she got on.  But she was nervous.  She was not exactly sure she was on the right train.  She was thinking about getting off.  She turned to someone next to her and said, “Is this the right train to St. Louis?”  The person next to her said, “Yes, this is it.”  So she sat there and, before long started thinking maybe the person next to her was on the wrong train himself so she turned to another person and said, “Sir, is this the train to St. Louis?”  He said, “Yes, ma’am.  This is the train to St. Louis.”  She felt a little better, but then doubt crept back in.  At about this moment the train’s conductor came by.  She said to him, “Sir, I’m going to St. Louis.  Am I on the right train?”  The conductor said, “Yes, ma’am.  You’re on the right train.  I will take you there because I am the one running the engine.”  Finally, the woman had the assurance she sought, assurance that she was on the right train.

Your assurance is not going to come so much from a family member, a friend, or even from a pastor.  Who knows, any one of these persons may be on the wrong train themselves.  They may lead you astray.  You want to be sure you are on the right path and that you will arrive at your final destination, then open the Word of God and hear directly from the Conductor Himself.

Be diligent to have full assurance of the hope till the end.  Imitate those who through faith inherit the promises.  Learn from God’s Word and live by it.  Look and stand on Christ, the One who runs the engine of your faith. 

As we close, I want us to consider what we’ve heard today.  Do you have genuine saving faith?  Are you experiencing the full and abundant life of Christ?  Or is your life like barren ground, bearing only thorns and briers?  Can you say that there is real fruit in your life, a love for God’s name and for God’s people?  Do you love Him?  Really love Him?  Are you living for Him – not for what you think you can get from Him: good health, a good job, a good marriage?  Is your life is bound up with Christ and your eyes are fixed upon Him.  Do you have “full assurance of your hope to the end” because of Him?

If you do not know Him, turn to Him today.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus. 

For those of us who are saved, we thank God for Jesus – the One who through death into life everlasting He passed, that we may follow Him there.  Ma God give you grace to follow on with Him, to live for Him, to bring glory and honor to Him.

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 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 . . . 


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


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.”