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

Grace For The Journey

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to learn

And

Something to live.

That will be out guide through these verses . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

God open your Word to us

And open us to Your word,

To hear it and receive it.

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

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

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

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

Their failure to enter into the Promised Land

Was a failure to enter into that which is part

Of a greater rest, a fuller rest, a resting

In all the promises, and providences,

And pleasures of the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a reminder that . . .

When God speaks, His Word

Searches the depths of our hearts,

Examining our true thoughts,

Our true motives,

The intentions of our hearts.

And God uses His Word

To get into us, to search us,

To show us our sin.

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

This is why it is important . . .

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

With an attitude of humility and submission.  

The Bible exposes our true condition and

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

It searches our hearts like a two-edged sword.

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

Enter into God’s rest

And

Live In God’s Rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in the Lord.

Be captured and

Captivated by Christ!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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

Grace For The Journey

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

Keeping our eyes

Fixed on Jesus.

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

The writer uses the failure

Of the Old Testament Hebrews

As a warning to these

New Testament Hebrews,

These new believers in Christ.

The warning is that . . .

Just as the believers in the Old Testament

Failed to go on believing God and trusting God,

So may these believers in the New Testament

Fail to go on believing Christ, trusting Jesus Christ.

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

As you open your heart to God . . .

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

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

Revealing to you what you need to change

In your thinking, your motives, and your intentions.

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

And point out for you what needs to change.

Allow God’s Word to do that work

And then respond rightly –

Respond rightly not by hardening your heart,

But by allowing it to remain soft and

By obeying what God’s Word says.

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

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

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

“Make the book live to me O Lord.

Show me Yourself within Your Word.

Show me myself and show me my Savior,

And make the book live to me.”

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

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

It is God’s Word.  

We read it and

We hear what God

Is saying to us.  

God wants us

To obey His Word.

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

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

I. God’s Word Examines Us: Verse 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What man

Cannot search out,

God’s Word can.

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

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

A critic may critique the Bible,

But because it is God’s Word,

It is the Bible that actually critiques us.

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

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

II. God’s Word Exposes Us – Verse 13.

God’s word reveals our condition.  

Nothing is hidden

From God’s searching gaze.

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

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

We may read other books,

But the Bible reads us.

We read other books,

But the Bible is

The book that reads us.”

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

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

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

In Your Walk

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

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

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

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

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

In Your Witness.

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

It is these things

Because

It is God’s Word. 

This is why we preach it,

Teach it, and share it.

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot argue someone into the Kingdom,

But you can use the Word of God.  

Trust God to do His work through His word.

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

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

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

Finally, use God’s Word in . . .

In Your Warfare.

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

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

God’s Word demands

The right response –

Namely that we

Obey His Word.

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

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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

Grace For The Journey

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

Demonstrate the superiority of Jesus Christ

Over the old system of the Old Covenant.

Jesus is better than anyone or anything –

Chapters 1 and 2: Jesus is better than the prophets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer writes these warnings

As the means by which Christians get

Back up and get back into the Christian race.

For those who are not believers . . .

These warning passages serve to illustrate

That no unbelievers will inherit the Promised Land

Of eternal rest apart from turning to

Jesus and following Him day by day.

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

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

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

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

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

The word of Christian living is “today.”

The word of the world is “tomorrow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is also . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

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

We need to hear from God so that we know

What He is like and what His purposes are

For the world and what he requires of us.

And we need a way to God because

To be cut off from God in death would be

Darkness and misery and torment forever.

We need revelation from God

And reconciliation with God.

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

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

This means that . . .

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

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

The hope of the heavenly calling

Does not Hang on our righteousness.

If it did, we would be hopeless.

Our hope and confidence hang on Jesus.

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

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

The danger is constantly in our way

That we will stop considering Jesus

And become more interested

In other things and drift away

From the Word and perhaps never return

And prove that we were never truly

Partakers of the heavenly calling.

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

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

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

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

Jesus is our Apostle,

And

Jesus is our High Priest.

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

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

Consider Jesus,

God’s Apostle –

The final word from God

– And God’s High Priest –

The final way to God.

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

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

What Are To Consider About Jesus?

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

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

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

There is a comparison

There is a comparison before there is a contrast.

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

There is a contrast.

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

Jesus Is Worthy of More Glory

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

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

He is the one who brought you a heavenly calling

From God and made you a way to God.  

On Him hangs all your hope of heaven.  

If you have any confidence this morning

That your sins are forgiven and that you

Will persevere in faith and attain your

Heavenly calling, this confidence depends on Jesus.

The greater and more glorious he is,

The greater our hope and confidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus this morning is our Maker, our Owner,

Our Ruler, and our Provider.

He is the Son; we are the servants.

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

Becoming a Christian and being a Christian

Happen in the same way:

By hoping in Jesus –

A hope that produces

Confidence and boasting in Jesus.

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ

Is salvation’s trailblazer.

Because of Christ there

Is a way for us to go.

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

Through death into life everlasting

He passed and we follow Him there

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

Because Of Jesus Christ . . .

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

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

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

The sufferings of Christ are necessary

In order for Jesus to be our Savior.

If anyone is going to be saved,

It will not be possible

Without a suffering Christ.

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

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

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

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

The Old Testament

Is about Jesus Christ,

Points to Christ,

Finds ultimate fulfillment

In Jesus Christ.

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

When we worship,

We sing praise with Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate

Worship leader of our churches.

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

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

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

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

This love of God for His children

Is the foundation for our love for

One another, our brothers and sisters.

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

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

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

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

Salvation’s freedom is . . .

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

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

Jesus Christ has come and “through death,”

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

Jesus regains the dominion lost through Adam,

Regains it legally and righteously by dying on the cross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Captured And Captivated By Christ … Hebrews 2:5-9 – Now and Not Yet

Grace For The Journey

Continuing to write about our great salvation, the writer turns now to the future of that great salvation.  It is a time he refers to in verse 5 as, “the world to come.”  And the question is: “Who is it who rules over the world to come?”  Is it angels?  Is it something else?  Someone else?  Is anyone ruling?”

The answer to those questions gives encouragement to Christians to stay faithful to Christ, to not neglect our great salvation, but to “give the more earnest heed to it;” to paying close attention to the things we have heard; to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; to be captivated by Christ.

A poem came to mind as I studied this passage.  It is called “He Maketh No Mistake.” It is a poem about trusting in the loving, sovereign, and providence work of God who is in control of everything and always does what is right.  It was written by a pastor who lost his wife and fourth child as she was giving birth.  Both mother and child died and this man, a pastor who trusted in God’s goodness, wrote the poem and the verse that came to mind was where he said:

There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake. (A.M. Overton)

That poem is not the wishful thinking or empty musings of a simple man.  It reflects, rather, the truth of the Gospel as embraced by a grieving Christian who knew his Bible.

It reflects the truth that while we may now live

In a world that often does not make sense,

God is there, and He is working out a

Plan with precision and order.

We trust Him, knowing He makes not one mistake,

As we follow Him into the future,

As we await the “not yet” of our

Great salvation to come, the day

When “plain it all He’ll make.”

In some sense that is what the writer of Hebrews is encouraging in this passage. Remember he is saying, “Don’t neglect this great salvation!”  You will neglect it if you stop listening to the Lord, stop reading and listening to His Word and you will drift away, drift away from Jesus, and drift into spiritual danger.  That is something of a negative motivation, “Don’t drift, or else!”

The writer now gives some positive motivation as to why we won’t want to drift, won’t want to neglect our great salvation.  It is a bit harder to see at the first but, in essence, he will say in verses 5-9 that while things seem to look awry at the present . . .

There is actually a plan God is unfolding

By which He is working through

All of the fallenness of this world

In order to bring us to a

Beautiful final state of salvation.

It is as though He says, “You are living in the now, but I want you to look forward to the not yet, the world to come, the ultimate and final installment of your great salvation!”  He begins by reminding them of the greatness of their salvation.  He begins with a . . .

I. Reminder of our Salvation – Verse 5.

Verse 5 continues the argument of the supremacy of the Son over all the angels. Remember: Jesus Christ, Son of God, better than the prophets, better than the angels. Verse 5 declares, For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.”  He is exhorting them to not neglect their great salvation, do not drift, because God has not put the world to come in subjection to mere angels.  That is, the future world to come when you are in that final state of glorification, that wondrous world to come is a world that will be free from all sin.  It is the “not yet” of our Christian experience.

The writer is saying here in verse 5, “For God has not put the world to come, of which we speak, that blessed wonderful world of perfection in the final stage of our great salvation; God has not put the world to come, in subjection to angels.”  It is not angels who are ruling and reigning over all creation.  Not mere angels.  Then, what the writer does next, is to pull from the Old Testament one of the Psalms.  And it is Psalm 8. Now he doesn’t say that it is Psalm 8, but we know that it is because of what he says.

Incidentally, I find it a bit amusing that the writer does not mention the psalm or the psalmist by name or reference.  He simply writes in verse 6, “But one testified in a certain place.”  I smile when I read that because I wonder if the reason the writer speaks so vaguely and generally is because he does not recall exactly where in the Bible the phrase occurs. The older I get, the harder it seems to be to call up the exact references.  Our memories become increasingly fleeting as we age.

Maybe you heard about the two elderly ladies who had been friends for many decades. Over the years they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures.  Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.  One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, “Now don’t get mad at me.” She said, “I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but I just can’t think of your name!” She added, “I’ve thought and thought, but I can’t remember it.  Please tell me what your name is.”  Her friend glared at her for what seemed an eternity.  Finally she said, “How soon do you need to know?”

We do not know for certain why the writer speaks this way, but I ca not help but wonder if it’s not for that same reason.  I have done it.  Ca not remember a specific reference and I will just say, “The Bible says,” or, “Paul writes somewhere.”

So . . . the writer here reviews the Scripture for us and that is the second point . . .

II. Review of the Scripture – Verses 6-8.

Again, he is quoting from Psalm 8.   Verse 6 says, “But one testified in a certain place, saying: ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him?”  Let’s stop right here.  Since the writer is using Psalm 8 to make an argument, it is essential that we understand what Psalm 8 is teaching as originally given in the Old Testament.  What we have noted previously in our study of Hebrews is that the writer often appeals to Old Testament Scriptures, revealing to us how many of the Old Testament writings or prophecies find a dual-fulfillment in the future.  That is, much of the Old Testament can be seen as finding fulfillment in both human persons as well as in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  That is the case here in the writer’s inspired use of Psalm 8.

In the original context of the Psalms, were we to turn back and read Psalm 8, we would hear the psalmist speak to the heart of man.  Psalm 8 contrasts the glory of God and the heavens with the glory of man.  This is David’s psalm that begins, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth; who has set Your glory above the heavens!” And the psalmist goes on to say, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You should visit him, or pay attention to, or care for him?!”  The psalmist is contrasting the glories of the exalted God and His heavens with the lowly nature of mankind.  David shook his head wonder that the Lord – the One True and Living God – would even bother with man!

We look then at verse 6 in Hebrews 2 and this is what we read, a quoting from the psalmist, verses 6 and 7, “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him?  You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands.”

The writer of Hebrews is simply quoting from Psalm 8 verses that would have been familiar to his Jewish Christian audience.  The Hebrews were raised hearing the psalms, reading the psalms, and knowing the psalms.  He refers in verse 7 to God’s creation of man as the pinnacle of His creative work, “You have made him a little lower than the angels.”  That is, in terms of glory and dignity, this is an exalted position, higher in dignity than any other created thing, any animal, o  any anything, “crowned with glory and honor,” in an esteemed place just “a little lower than the angels.”

So much for the Darwinian evolutionary theory that posits the development of man, the evolutionary hypothesis – not fact; hypothesis – suggesting that man evolves from one stage to the next.  The Bible says that God “made him a little lower than the angels” . . .

A way of referring to God’s special creation

Of mankind not as a lower life form

That evolved, but rather at the highest life form

In dignity, just under the glory of the angels.

And then, first part of verse 8 states, You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”  The psalmist back in Psalm 8 to describe how mankind – beginning, of course, with Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 – was to have dominion over all things, over sheep and oxen and the beasts of the field, and so on.  This is how it was to be in the beginning.  In the very first book of the Bible, the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”

Think of that – All things were to be “put in subjection under his feet,” all things in the created realm submissive to the higher power of man, controlled, dominated, and subjected to a lowly place under the feet of man.  Man rules in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 – but then, something happened in Genesis 3.  Genesis 3 changed everything.

Here is the problem acknowledged by the writer of Hebrews – We see it in verse 8 where the writer stops with that phrase, “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”  The writer stops quoting Psalm 8 and acknowledges that something has gone awry.  He carefully explains the difficulty in the second part of verse 8, For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him.  But now we do not yet see all things put under him.”  Do you notice that change?  “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”  . . . “But now we do not yet see all things put under him.”

We know that is true.  Here is man, the pinnacle of God’s creative handiwork, the crown of His creation.  God created him such as to put all in subjection to him.  Everything.  All things would bow before man, all things under his control, all things under man’s foot, as it were.  But that’s not the way it is now, is it?  No.  At times it seems the very opposite is true.  The earth of creation shakes man, the winds of tornados blow upon man, the water of hurricanes rise and fall upon man with wave after wave of rage and fury.  Animal chases animal to death, lions devour lambs, and vipers bite the hands of children.  “We do not yet see all things put under him.”  Buildings fall, towers crumble, houses burn down.  They do not seem to be in subjection to man. 

Human sickness prevails. Deadly flu viruses spread.  Cancer strikes.  Bodily injuries occur.  “We do not yet see all things put under him.”  If man is destined to rule all creation under God then there is a huge problem: we don’t see that happening!  “We do not yet see all things put under him.” We do not see man ruling.  In fact, we may not want to admit it, but there may be times we question whether anyone is ruling.  It causes us to ask, “God, are you there?  Why is this happening?  Why did You permit this?”

What are we to do?  Embrace nihilism or fatalism?  Abandon all hope of a better future, a better “not yet” because of the unanswered questions of the “now?”  Embrace the philosophy of the Epicureans – eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die?  We often smile at some of the ironic half-truths of pop culture, such as the meme a mother posted recently on our family group Facebook page. It read: “If you eat well, get good sleep, exercise, and drink plenty of water, you will die anyway.”  It is meant in jest, of course, but it does reflect the mindset of a culture that focuses merely on the “now.” What is the point if we die in the end?  “We do not see all things put under man” – especially death.  Disease, disasters, and death have their foot over us.  “But now we do not yet see all things put under him.”

But notice verse 9!  It declares,  But we see Jesus (there it is! The first time the eternal Son of God is called by name in this letter; Jesus!), who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”  This is what is called “the big reveal.”  It is that moment in a narrative, a book, or a movie when the plot reaches the apex of tension and then – the reveal – the surprise that makes the book worth reading or the movie worth watching.  In our case . . . it makes our lives worth living.

III. Reveal of the Son – Verse 9.

We do not yet see all

Things put under man,

But we see Jesus!  

Here now is this

Dual fulfillment of Psalm 8.

The writer says we see Jesus, “who was made a little lower than the angels.”  That is, lower in terms of humiliation.  Unlike angels, Jesus took on flesh in the incarnation.  He left His exalted position in heaven with all the angels and, in humiliation, came down here and became one of us and suffered pain, affliction, and death.

Then Jesus was “crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”  The Son of God takes on human nature so that, as man, He is the first Man, the Pioneer, the Forerunner, who blazes a trail that leads all future believing men to their future destiny of exaltation over creation! 

Jesus Christ tastes death for man,

Suffering death, reversing the effects of the fall,

So that man may regain that glorious status over creation,

The rightful seat of dominion, reigning with Christ on high!

He is the one to whom God said in chapter 1, verse 13 – God said this not to angels but to Christ – “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”  He reigns now.  All things are subjected to Him.  And we will reign with Him.  We will note this further when we study verse 10 that speaks of Christ’s “bringing many sons to glory,” that is the glory mentioned in Psalm 8, the glory of our final great salvation, when we rule and reign with Christ over creation.

The world to come, the world of our future and final salvation – that glorious state – that time when Christ returns and consummates the kingdom – then we will have eternal joy and life and all things are subject to Him – and to us “in Him.”  We will share His rule over creation!

It is true . . . “Now we do not yet see all things put under” man.  Man’s future glorious destiny ruling and reigning with Christ is the “not yet” of our salvation.  Hang in there! Do not drift!  Rest knowing that Jesus Christ has blazed a trail for you.  If you are “in Christ” then you too will follow Him to glory.  It is what we been singing about often:

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are!

The glorious kingdom of God has begun with the coming of Christ, His life, and work on our behalf.  He reigns at the right hand of the Majesty on High. 

The kingdom has been inaugurated

And one day it will be consummated.

So . . . how should this truth affect our outlook?  It should lead us to . . .

Do Not Focus on the Now

Do Focus on the Not Yet

Don’t focus on the now because we live in the now and we turn to Christ to get through the now.  And secondly . . .

Be Captivated by Christ

In the Now as

You Wait for the Not Yet

That is how we live our lives this week.  We turn our eyes upon Jesus in the now as you wait for the not yet!   Look to Jesus no matter what you face because Jesus Christ reigns and you are destined for a greater salvation than you enjoy even now.

If you are a Christian, only one of two things will be true of you this morning: 1) You are either moving closer to Jesus or. 2) You are drifting away from Him.  There is no neutral position.  Look unto Him . . . Commit to Him . . . Repent from your sin and turn to Him . . .  Listen to His Word . .   Be captivated by Christ!

If you are not a Christian there is only one thing that is true for you: You are separated from Jesus and drifting further away from Him with each passing day.  Turn back while there is time.  Open your heart, repent of your sin, receive Him, and listen to Him! Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.”  Turn to Him and be saved.

Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, in either case, the answer is the same:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

And be captivated by Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Captured And Captivated By Jesus . . . Hebrews 2:1-4 – The Danger Of Drifting Away From Jesus

Grace For The Journey

It is about Jesus Christ

Our need to fix

Our eyes upon Him,

Look to Him,

And love Him

As the most

Magnificent Person

In all the universe!

Jesus is the One who saves us, comforts us, strengthens us, and sustains us.  Through Jesus Christ families cope and find hope and strength. 

This letter is a call

To stay faithful to Christ,

Keep our eyes

Focused on Christ,

Being ever

Captivated

By Christ.

We will be in Hebrews chapter 2 this morning.  We have studied chapter 1 and were blessed by these opening verses in chapter 1 that the One True God, “who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoke to us by His Son.”  We talked about what that means “In these last days,” from the point of the writer of Hebrews and on into eternity.  Jesus Christ is the fullest and final revelation from God.  This does not mean that God no longer communicates to us after the coming of Christ, that He no longer speaks, but rather that all communication from God finds expression in Jesus Christ as the fullest and final, most decisive revelation of Himself to creation.  He is THE Word of God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  There is no other way God will make Himself known to us than through Christ.  That is the idea.  This does not mean He does not speak to us still today, but that He has made Himself known to us most fully and finally in the Son.  As in Colossians 2:9, “In Him dwells all the fullness of God in bodily form.”

Then the writer tells us more about the eternal Son of God, about His person and His work.  He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory” and “the express image of His person” or “the exact imprint of His nature.”  He is God!  And the Son “by Himself purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High,” having a position and a name so much better than the angels.  Jesus Christ better, greater, and more superior than the prophets, more superior than the angels. That is chapter 1 in a nutshell.

The first word of chapter 2 is “Therefore,” a word that indicates the author does not intend a break between chapters 1 and 2 but carries the idea of continuity.  The content of chapter 1 flows into the content of chapter 2.  “Therefore,” that is, “in light of all this doctrinal teaching in chapter 1, now do this.”  Something to know – chapter 1; now something to do – chapter 2.  

A reminder that every doctrine has a duty.

All the theology of chapter 1 finds

Expression in actions now called for

In the beginning of chapter 2.

Those who have had the privilege of going to the beach in sunny Florida, South Carolina, or the gulf shores – oh, to be there right now – you know something of what it means to be carried by the ocean’s current.  You leave your chair, towel, and beach stuff on the shore and you go out into the water to splash around, throw a ball, body surf, etc.   After some time you look back to the shore where you had left your towel, chair, and beach stuff and it seems you are a quarter mile away down the coastline! What happened?  You thought you were staying in one place.  How did you get down here? How did you drift?  You drifted because you were not really paying attention to where you were.  Your eyes were elsewhere, focused on other things.  You were not paying attention and so you drifted.

The writer of Hebrews warns of this very thing in the spiritual realm.  He says in verse 1, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed,” or “all the more careful attention,” to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”  This passage is about preventing spiritual drift, drifting away from Jesus.

Drifting away by not giving “the most earnest heed to the things we have heard,” not paying closer attention to the things we have heard, listening carefully, and living by the Word of God and the Gospel of God, the living Word, Jesus Christ.  Drifting away by neglecting what the writer describes in verse 3 as “so great a salvation.”

I have a simple descriptive outline to guide us through these four verses.  The first main point . . . 

I. The Neglect of our Great Salvation – Verses 1-3a.

The writer warns us to not neglect this great salvation that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the One who is greater than the prophets and greater than the angels. This is the first of many warnings in Hebrews.  There are a couple of important truth brought out here . . . First . . .

A) Neglecting God’s Word Leads To Drifting – Verse 1.

Verse 1 says, Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”  Remember that chapter 1 is about the superiority of Jesus over the prophets and over the angels.  Since He is superior to the angels, well then we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard about Christ and from Christ because the message of the gospel – the message of salvation in Christ – is a message far and away more superior to any other message.

In chapter 2 the first thing is a command or a duty – something we must do.  And the connection with chapter 1 is very important.  Chapter 2 begins, “Therefore” (For this reason).  In other words. chapter 2 begins by telling us that chapter 1 is the reason for this duty.  Because God has spoken by his Son in these last days, and because He is the Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, and Redeemer of the world – “Therefore (“For this reason . . .”) “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.”  The first command in this book is that we give heed to the Word of God in his Son.  We could boil down the two chapters so far to this: In these last days God has spoken to us by a Son . . . For this reason we must pay closer attention to this Word that he has spoken.  In other words, God has spoken by his Son, so listen, listen very carefully.

Now here is a command that we need desperately to hear in our day.  What do you listen to? Whom do you listen to?  God has spoken through His Son, do you listen to what the Word of God says about Him?  How does your listening to the Word compare to your listening to other things?  When we want to listen to someone, we make provisions for listening.  If we want to listen to a musical group, we make sure that we have a tape player in the car.  If we want to listen to the news, we make sure there is a radio in the kitchen or that we have a TV and that we have it turned on at the right time.  If we want to listen to a missionary who is in a critical situation overseas, we make arrangements to take the time to hear it.  

On and on it goes.  We all want to listen to something.  And we make plans for our listening and we make sure we are not distracted.  How does all this compare to our listening to God’s Word to us in His Son?  Are you listening to that?  Are you making time and provisions for that?  

What Hebrews chapter 2 verse 1 is saying here is that in the Christian life we must go on listening to God’s Word about Jesus.  We must do this with very close attention.  We cannot treat this casually.  We cannot act as if we already know all we need to know, or that we have nothing to gain from listening to God’s Word.  There is an urgency here in this verse.  Literally, it says, “It is exceedingly necessary that we give heed to what we have heard.”  It is not just an option that you can do if you are especially spiritual, or have a crisis in front of you, or special occasion to give more focus to God’s Word.  This is a word to all Christians: it is “exceedingly necessary to give heed” to the Word of God.

This is not an isolated command in the book of Hebrews.  This concern is repeated several time through out the letter.  For example, Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus.”  That is the point of Hebrews 2:1 –Listen to Him . . . Consider Him . . . Focus on Him . . . Stay close to Him . . . Keep him in your thoughts.  Learn more and more about Him every day – learn more about what He is like, what He says, and the way He sees the world.  In Hebrews 12:1-2 the author says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.”  There it is again: “Looking unto Jesus.” Consider Jesus . . . Listen to Jesus!

One of the great burdens of this book is

That we the readers will see how serious

It is to listen to the Word of God,

Consider Jesus, and fix our eyes on Jesus.

This is the first commandment in the Book.  It is not a difficult command: Listen!  Consider! Look!  These are not hard things to do – unless we don’t want to do them.  The first command of this book is not “look to Jesus,” but “listen and learn of Jesus.”  He is not commanding us to work for Him, but to seek Him and surrender to Him.  All our spiritual life-changes come from that (2 Corinthians 3:18).

If we fail to give earnest heed or fail to pay attention to the things we have heard, if we fail to go on listening to the Word, the living Word made flesh, about whom we read in the written Word, if we fail to listen carefully – we will drift away; we will drift away from Jesus.

The second important truth is . . .

B) Neglecting God’s Word Leads To Destruction – Verses 2-3a.

A second reason for paying close attention to what we have heard of God’s Word through His Son is, if we do not do this, we will drift into destruction.  Consider this word “drifting.”  It means “float by.”  It is what a piece of bark, a leaf, a dead fish does in the river – it floats by the boat that is being rowed upstream.  It takes no life and no motion to float by.  One need only do nothing, and you will float by.  Hebrews says that if we do not vigilantly pay closer attention to the Word of God, we will float by – we will drift away from God’s Word.  We all know people that this has happened to.  Some are reading this blog.  There is no urgency . . . There is no vigilance . . . you are not focused, listening, considering, or fixing the eyes on Jesus.  And the result has not been a standing still, but a drifting away.

That is the point here: there is no standing still.  Someone has said that “the life of this world is not a lake.  It is a river.”  And it is flowing downward to destruction.  If you do not listen earnestly to His Word, consider Him daily, and fix your eyes on Him hourly, then you will not stand still; you will go backward.  You will float by.

Drifting is a deadly thing in the Christian life.  And the remedy to it, according to verse 1 is, “Pay close attention to what you have heard.”  That is, consider what God is saying in his Son Jesus. fix your eyes on what God is saying and doing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  This is not hard stroke to learn . . . as we learn to do it we can swim against the stream of sin and indifference.

The only thing that keeps us from swimming like this is our sinful desire to float with other interests.  But let us not complain that God has given us a hard job.  Listen, consider, fix the eyes – these are not be what one would call a hard job description.  It is not a job description – It is a solemn invitation to be satisfied in Jesus so that we do not get lured downstream by deceitful desires.

Psalm 90:14 is a powerful truth that relates to this.  In that verse the psalmist declares, “O satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!”  That is our “job” as Christians: being satisfied early with God’s love, mercy, and grace spoken to us in His Word about the Son of God, so that we may rejoice and be glad throughout all our life and be free from the deceitfulness of downriver desires.  

Verses 2 and 3a tell us why this is so dangerous, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

Failing to pay close attention to God’s Word and the drifting away that results is described in verse 3 as “neglecting so great a salvation.”  And this is extremely dangerous.  How dangerous?  So dangerous that if we go on in the way of neglecting this great salvation – not listening to Jesus day by day, and not considering Jesus, and not fixing our eyes on Jesus – the result will be that we will not escape.  That is, we will not escape the judgment of God (Hebrews 12:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:3).   We will be lost.  We will not inherit eternal life.  We will perish in hell.

Drifting is infinitely dangerous.  Oh, that I could waken you all to be joyfully vigilant in living the Christian life of looking to Jesus, and considering Jesus, and listening to Jesus.  If we neglect this great salvation, and drift into the love of other things, then we will not escape.  We will perish.  The mark of the true child of God is that that he does not drift for long.  If you are drifting this morning, one of the signs of hope that you are born again is that you feel convicted for this – a rising desire in your heart to turn your eyes on Jesus and consider Him and listen to Him in the days and months and years to come.  One of the signs that you may not be born again is that you hear what I am saying and feel no desire to guard against drifting.

The argument given in verse 2 for why we will not escape if we drift and neglect our great salvation is that the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment.  In other words, in the Old Testament God did not yet speak directly through His Son on the earth.  He spoke through intermediary messengers.  Hebrews says angels were involved in the revelation of God’s Word.  Nevertheless, the firmness of this mediated Word was so great that every neglect and rejection of it was punishable with a just recompense.

Now, something much greater has come: God has spoken to us not through angels, but unmediated through a Son.  God Himself stood forth from heaven in Jesus and spoke a great salvation with His lips, His life, and His death.  The writer says, if we neglect this great word, we are much more guilty than the Old Testament people who disobeyed the Word of God given through angels, and therefore we will not escape.

As always in the Bible, God graciously is giving us in this Book positive and negative incentives to embrace our great salvation and listen to the great Savior.  Negatively, He says that we will perish if we drift away from the word of God and neglect our great salvation.  Positively, He says that this Word is such that how could anyone not want to listen, linger around, and live in this Word — hearing from the Creator of all things, the Upholder of all things, the Heir of all things, and the Ruler of all things from the right hand of Majesty, and the Purifier of all our sins, if we will trust Him?  How could we not want to pay attention to this Word and consider Him and fix our eyes on him!

What the writer does next is to argue from the lesser to the greater.  What he is saying, in essence, is that if the message in the Old Testament, namely the Law – if the Law was such that when you neglected it or sinned against it, you received just punishment, how much more will your neglecting the message of the New Testament, the Gospel, how much more will your neglect lead to destruction – given that it is so much better?

Verse 2 declares, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.”   What is the word spoken through angels?  Context indicates that the writer is talking about the Law – namely the Mosaic Law as handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai – this is the word, the law is “the word spoken” and it was spoken “through angels.”

“The word spoken through angels,” describes the Mosaic Law, which was “received” … “by the direction of angels” (Acts 7:53).  The idea is that the law was delivered in some way to Moses by the hands of angels.   The idea that angels had a role in bringing the Law to Moses is found in Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, and in Galatians 3:19.  Josephus also repeated this idea in his ancient history (Antiquities, 15.53).

“Proved steadfast,” carries the idea of the Mosaic Law being was “consistent” and “strict” in the sense that every transgression and disobedience received a just sentence.  It also needs to be taken seriously.

That may be a new teaching for some.  You may wish to study that further. A couple of good references to get you started are: Acts 7:53 where Stephen is preaching to the unbelieving Jews and says, “You who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it” and Galatians 3:19. “What purpose then does the law serve?  It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” 

More to the point, the writer here is arguing that if this law that was handed down through the agency of angels proved steadfast and sure so that everyone who transgressed against it, or disobeyed it, or broke it received a punishment – how much more this message handed down by the Lord Himself; who is “much better than the angels,” how much more will the neglecting of His message result in even greater condemnation?

And the words the writer uses are “how shall we escape.”  Verse 3 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.  The answer is, we will not escape.  Just as no one can violate God’s law with impunity, without giving an account, without receiving a just punishment – so no one who ignores the Gospel will escape the judgment to come.

Now again, this is a very real warning.  The writer imagines there are some to whom he is writing who may well be on the path of destruction by drifting from the Lord.  The greatness of the salvation increases the greatness of the destruction.  Only those who persevere in their faith prove to be children of God.  If we drift, we drift to our peril.  Like people on a raft in a river floating merrily downstream, totally unaware, and oblivious to the impending waterfall that lies just a few yards beyond them, that will plunge them to destruction.

Neglecting God’s Word, God’s message, leads to drifting and leads to destruction.  The neglect of our great salvation.  The second point which describes . . .

II. The Nature of our Great Salvation – Verses 3b-4.

How shall we escape …” If we must take the word which came by angels seriously, then we must take the word that came by the Son of God even more seriously.  The Son is proven to be greater than the angels, so His message should be regarded as greater.  A greater word brought by a greater Person having greater promises will bring a greater condemnation if it is neglected.

“If we neglect so …” The ancient Greek word translated “neglect” is also used in Matthew 22:5 of those who disregarded the invitation to the marriage supper (“they made light of it”).  It means to have the “opportunity,” but to “ignore” or to “disregard” the opportunity. 

This was a word to believers,

Not to those outside the faith.  

The danger described is

Not rejecting salvation,

But the danger is

Neglecting salvation.

The Book of Hebrews was written not primarily as an evangelistic tract, but as an encouragement and warning to discouraged Christians.  It was written to those who neglected an abiding walk with Jesus.

“So great a salvation,” When we consider something “great,” we will naturally pay attention to it and not “neglect” it.  If we do not consider something great. we leave it to convenience rather than to commitment.  The phrase, “so great salvation,” is a striking reminder of what God has provided in Christ.  The word “so” is similar to the instance in the familiar passage, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), and it expresses an unfathomable depth.  Therefore, if we neglect something, we probably do not consider it great.  Yet our salvation is great, because:

  • We are saved by a great Savior.
  • We are saved at a great cost.
  • We are saved from a great penalty.

A reason many neglect their salvation is because they never see it as salvation.  They see it merely as receiving something, not as being rescued from something.

“Spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed,” This word was spoken by Jesus and confirmed by eyewitnesses (those who heard Him). Then it was confirmed with “signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit” given by God.  i. In saying “and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” the writer shows that he was not a “first generation” Christian.  He heard the message second-hand through the apostles and eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry.

God does confirm His word with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. But He does it all “according to His own will,” not on the command of man.

Jesus said miraculous signs would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17).  If there is no element of the miraculous, one may question whether there is true belief in Jesus or if the word of God is truly being preached.  The preacher must give God something to confirm.  On the other hand, the Spirit brings such miracles and gifts “according ot His will.”  Miracles cannot be “worked up” and “brought about” by human effort or emotion. Much damage is done by those who do not think enough miracles are happening, and want to “prime the pump” with the enthusiasm of the flesh.

It is hard to say which is worse – the denial of miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or the counterfeit of them. Either error is dangerous.

The second part of verse 3 through verse 4 describes something of the nature of our great salvation in terms of how it came to us.  This great salvation is . . .

I.          Announced By Jesus Himself – Verse 3b.

Verse 3b says, “. . . which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.”  This message came not from a prophet nor through the agency of angels, but someone so much better and greater, this saving message was “spoken by the Lord,” announced by Jesus Himself.  Jesus Christ spoke of salvation during His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17; 19:28; Luke 12:31-32; 22:29-30).  

II.         Attested by Human Eyewitnesses – Verse 3c.

The disciples were those who heard Him.  They gave first-hand human testimony, eyewitness accounts who attested to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They did not receive the message from anyone else.  They heard Him themselves.

Incidentally, this verse is one of the reasons why scholars do not believe Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews, because Paul would never say that he heard the message from someone else.  Remember how he opened the letter to the Galatians? Galatians 1:11-12: “… the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Direct revelation from Jesus to Paul.

The apostles taught the same truth and by doing so confirmed His word. This is the gospel, in its widest meaning.  By speaking of “the hearers” all interest is concentrated on the message, not the office, of those who had brought the word of redemption to the community.  God testified to His approval of Christ’s preaching and the apostles” preaching about Christ by providing authenticating miracles that showed God was with them (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12).  The word “signs” emphasizes that the miracles signify something. “Wonders” emphasizes the reaction of awe that the miracles produced in those who observed them “miracles” emphasizes their supernatural origin, and “gifts” declare the graciousness of God in providing them.  The writer intended that reference to these miracles would bolster the readers’ confidence in the gospel that they had received.

It is too much to read into this verse that the writer and his readers belonged to a second generation of Christians, Hebrews 5:12 shows that they were not new converts.  The original readers seem to have been people who had heard the apostles” preaching and had observed the miracles that accompanied that preaching.  

This is the first of five warnings in Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 3:1-4:16; Hebrews 5:11-6:20; Hebrews 10:19-39; and Hebrews 12:1-29).  It is the shortest and mildest one.  These five warnings deal with . . .

1) Drifting from the Gospel,

2) Disbelieving the Gospel,

3) Dullness toward the gospel,

4) Despising the gospel,

5) Defying the gospel.

The warning of these verses is linked by the phrase “for this reason” with the entire argument of Hebrews 1.  Because of the Son’s superiority to angels (verses 1-5), the angels, worship of and service to Him at His coming (verses 6-7), His future rule and sharing of joy with His companions (verses 8-9), and His future subjugation of His enemies (verses), the readers would do well to heed these eschatological teachings.  Neglect of this eschatological salvation (cf. Hebrews 1:4, 2:3, 5) may result in individual temporal discipline similar to that experienced under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 2:2).  The “salvation” of Hebrews 2:3 is the same as that in Hebrews 1:5.  Hebrews 2:5 clarifies that the “salvation” under discussion as eschatological.

One of the greatest dangers of the Christian life is losing interest in what is familiar (Hebrews 8:9; Matthew 22:5).  The entire Epistle lays stress on steadfastness at almost every stage of faith, and this is one of the essential marks of the true, growing, and fruitful Christian life (Hebrews 3:14; 4:2, 12-13; 6:1, 19; 10:26; 12:27-28; 13:8).”  The doctrines the epistle presents, the warnings it delivers, and the exhortations it gives all are intended to prevent regression and to encourage continuous development toward spiritual maturity.

Authenticated by God’s Power – Verse 4.

Verse 4 says, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.”

God authenticated the Gospel message with signs, wonders, and miracles of Jesus in the Gospels.  The miracles did not make Jesus Lord.  They merely served to confirm His message, to bring greater glory to Him.  Jesus would still have been the Son incarnate if He never performed a single miracle.  In fact, there were times He refused to perform miracles when people asked Him to do them!  He is God.  He does as He pleases.  And God authenticated the message of the Gospel through spiritual gifts, gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed among the children of God.  God distributes these spiritual gifts not according to man’s wants or abilities, but “according to His own will.”

How do we apply the main teaching of this passage?  Let me share some biblical truths that will help us do that.

How to Keep from Drifting…

Perhaps you could imagine a horrific scenario: You have committed a most egregious sin and brought shame upon yourself, your family, your church family, and most importantly, you have brought shame upon the name of Christ.  Imagine, then, that you could go back in time and do something to prevent this terrible spiritual drift.  What would you do?  Well, you would apply these questions to yourself.

Three Questions To Ask Myself:

1.   Since God Sanctifies Us Through His Word (John 17:17), Am I Daily Listening   

     To His Word And Reading His Word?

Verse 1 states, “Therefore we must give the most earnest heed, or pay the most careful attention to, the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”

  • Am I giving my most attention to that which I have heard by getting into the Bible and opening my mind and heart to it every day?  If I don’t, I will drift.
  • Am I daily listening to God’s Word, reading each morning from the Bible, or some other time of the day, reading the Word, seeing Jesus in the Word, hearing Him?  
  • Am I listening to the gospel message through music, through prayer, through worship? Am I daily listening to Him? Second question:

2.  If Not, What Is Keeping Me From Hearing Him?

What are the things I have been giving my heart to and my ears to instead of giving my heart and eyes to Jesus?  What is pulling my gaze and focus off of Christ?  This answer will be largely determined by how you spent your time last week on the TV, internet, social media, entertainment, and so on.  Those things are not bad in and of themselves, but they become bad when we are listening to them more than listening to Him.

Thirdly and finally . . .

3. What Do I Need To Do To Change This?

What steps will I take this week to get into the Bile and put myself in a position to listen to Jesus?

There is very real danger here.  Drifting is not always gradual.  Drifting can happen quickly.  The reason texting while driving is prohibited is because in just a second you can begin to drift without even realizing it.  You have got your eyes on the wrong thing.  Spiritual drifting is even more dangerous.  Spiritual drifting happens when we take our eyes off Jesus.  This is one of the most important benefits of reading the Word, memorizing Scripture, attending worship, going to Sunday school, and sharing the gospel – they help in preventing spiritual drift.

See the point of this?!  It is not legalism . . . It is not, “If you want to be a good Christian, then read your Bible.”  It is better put this way, “If you are a Christian who wants to keep from drifting, read your Bible.”

If you are a Christian, only one of two things will be true of you today . . .

1) You are either moving closer to Jesus

Or . . .

2) You are drifting away from Him.

There is no neutral position. And your actions are likely causing others to do the same. A dad who moves closer to Jesus tends to bring his family closer to Jesus.  A dad who drifts tends to cause others in his family to drift downstream with him.  Turn to Jesus. Commit to Him.  Repent from your sin and turn to Him.  Listen to His Word.  Be captivated by Christ!

If you are not a Christian only one thing can be true for you . . . You are separated from Jesus and drifting further away from Him with each passing day.  Turn back while there is time.  Open your heart and listen to Him!  The Bible says in Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.”  Turn to Him and be saved.

Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, in either case, the answer is the same: Turn your eyes upon Jesus and be captivated by Christ.

Pray . . . “Dear Lord, keep us from drifting this today.  Holy Spirit help us see Jesus for who He is; cause us to willingly fix our gaze upon Him, that we may love Him more than anyone or anything.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus…”

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 1:4-14 – Jesus: Much Better than Angels

Grace For The Journey

I really love these opening three verses!  They are so good, because they teach such beautiful truths about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  As we look at these verses again, listen for the marvelous teaching about our Lord, the eternal Son of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity.  The writer proclaims lofty truths about the Son of God in verses 1-3, God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

One of the major themes of the Book of Hebrews is the heralding of Jesus Christ, the proclaiming of Christ as “better” or “greater” than anyone or anything.  The words “better,” “more,” and “greater” occur a combined total of 25 times in this letter.

The writer of this letter knows his audience.  They are, of course, Hebrews.  That is the title of the letter.  He is writing to Jewish Christians, believers who came out of a background steeped in Judaism.  Many of these new believers were undergoing persecution for their newfound faith, and, were tempted to turn back to their old ways to avoid Christian persecution.  Because of that, the writer both warns and encourages them to stay the course.  Do not turn away from Jesus.  He is vastly superior than the old Jewish, Old Covenant way of living.

Adrian Rogers illustrated this truth years ago by likening the situation to a dog with a bone.  He said if there is an angry, mean dog, and that dog has a bone in its mouth, and you try to take the bone away from him, you are going to regret it and that dog will bite you!  If you really want to get that bone away from the dog, then you take a fresh sirloin steak and you just put it down on the ground in front of that dog.  And that dog will drop that bone to get that steak.  That steak is far better than that old bone!
The writer of Hebrews is showing these new Jewish Christians that there is something far better than the old ways of the Old Covenant . . . The Son of God, Jesus Christ . . .   He is far better and much more superior than anyone or anything!

He begins by showing that Jesus is better than the angels.  Now we will look at that in a moment, but before we do it is important that we see the bigger picture that the writer will be unfolding in the days to come.  God is leading the writer of Hebrews in these first four chapters to show that Jesus is . . .

  • Better than the prophets,
  • Better than angels,
  • Better than Moses,
  • Better than Joshua,
  • Better than the Sabbath.

In Chapters 4 through 10 the writer goes on to declare Jesus is . . .

  • Greater than earthly priests,
  • Greater than the Mosaic Law,
  • Greater than animal sacrifices
  • Greater than daily offerings.

Jesus is better . . . Jesus is greater!

Before we look at verses 4 and following, let’s review the first three verses and recall quickly the main teaching of verses 1-3. Here we see, number one:

I. God’s Revelation of the Son – Verses 1-3.

Remember that the general term “revelation” refers to God’s revealing Himself to His creation.  The writer opens the letter by telling us that Jesus Christ is God’s final and fullest revelation, disclosing of Himself, to His creation, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…”  God’s revelation by His Son.  We learn something of the person and work of the Son, who He is and what He has done.  Continuing in verses 2 and, “… Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person (or the exact imprint of His nature), and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

His atoning work is finished,

The cross was sufficient.

 Nothing needs to be added

To His work or repeated.

And then from verses 4 to the end of the chapter the writer expands upon this truth that Jesus is much better than the angels because of His Sonship.  This is the second of two main teachings here in chapter one. The first by way of outline is . . .

God’s Revelation of the Son (1-3)

And now we move to God’s

Exaltation of the Son (4-14),

The second main teaching

About the Son of God.

II. God’s Exaltation of the Son – Verses 4-14.

The hinge on the gate of verse 4 swings forward now to show how the Son is exalted over all creation, over everything, beginning first with the angels.  Jesus is much better than the angels.  The first century Jewish readers held angels in high regard.  Literature from the intertestamental period – the years between the Old and New Testaments – literature from this time period indicates some level of fascination with angels.  And this helps us understand why the writer of Hebrews addresses the matter of angels.

To be truthful, our own popular culture has something of a fascination with angels. They are everywhere: figurines, nursery decorations, on get well cards, TV shows, and movies.  Remember “Clarence” in the Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life?”  Clarence was George Bailey’s “guardian angel.”  Clarence, a sort of bumbling, childlike, softie of a man.  I always liked that line where Jimmy Stewart looks at Clarence and says, “Well, you look about the kind of angel I’d get!”

Pop culture typically portrays angels as sweet, harmless looking ladies with wings. Actually, that is not at all the way the Bible portrays them.  In fact, usually when people encounter angels in the Bible, the first thing they do is fall down and shudder in fear. Remember the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? An angel appeared to them and they started quaking in their boots!  More than once we read that the first thing out of an angel’s mouth is, “Fear not!”  There was this fascination with angels, and the writer of Hebrews sets out to correct the faulty exaltation of angels over the Son, over Jesus.

Verses 4 and following throughout the chapter are simply the writer’s way of demonstrating that Jesus is superior to the angles, demonstrating this fact by using the Old Testament, something those early Jewish believers also held in high regard.  

In verses 5 through 14,

The writer cites seven different

Passages from the Old Testament

To make the case that Jesus is

Far and away superior to the angels.

And he begins by calling attention to Jesus’ peerless, matchless name, the excellent name, of Son, Son of God – The pre-existent Son of God, the eternal God who took on flesh in Jesus Christ. Son.  Verse 5 states, For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You?’ And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son?’”  See the argument?  To which of the angels did God the Father address as Son?  Answer: none.  No angel has ever been addressed this way.

Then the writer defends his truth by using Old Testament quotes and citations, the first two from Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7.  Some of you have a Study Bible that shows you those Scriptures in the margin and you can look them up later.  And when you look up those Old Testament passages you will note that they are prophetic words that find a dual fulfillment, they are prophecies fulfilled in two ways.  There is a more immediate fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment.  The words in verse 5, for example, from Psalm 2, these words “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” find a more immediate fulfillment in an earthly king – an heir of King David – and an ultimate fulfillment in an eternal king – King Jesus.

This is dual fulfillment of prophecy is common in the Bible.  It should not really surprise us given the nature of God.  He is timeless.  As the Creator of time, He is not bound by time.  He is outside of time, yet He does act in time.  To a timeless God, His timeless word has both immediate relevance in present history and fuller, ultimate relevance in future history.  This why Peter could say in 2 Peter 3:8, “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

The writer understands the word “begotten” in verse 5 not in the sense of the Son’s being created or made, because the Son was not created or made.  The writer taught as much in the opening verses.  The Son is the agent of creation, the very One through whom the worlds were made (Hebrews 1:2).  

He is not created;

He has created all things.  

He is Son not by

Virtue of creation,

Or adoption,

But by nature.

The word “begotten” refers to the paternity of God in relation to the Son, the unique Father-Son relationship without specific reference to any particular moment in time.  It is a matter of status.  The writer’s point in verse 5 is that no angel ever heard these words. God the Father never said to an angel, “You are My Son.”  Never.  Only the Son “has by inheritance” this “more excellent name” (Hebrews 1:4), the name “Son.”

Verse 6 says, “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’”  Here is a quotation from the Old Testament that may cause to wonder a little bit when you try to look up the references.  Sometimes when we look up the references in the Old Testament, the words are a little different.  One reason is because people of Jesus’ day often quoted not from the Hebrew Old Testament directly, but usually they quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is what is called the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

It seems this quotation, “Let all the angels of God worship Him” is a Holy Spirit inspired interpretative citation from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible – the Septuagint – most likely referencing Psalm 97:7 and Deuteronomy 32:43.  Some of you may wish to explore that a bit further, but let’s not miss the author’s primary point.  The author’s primary point is:

The angels worship the Son of God.

The Son of God is far and away better,

Much better, vastly superior to the angels.

The word “firstborn” here is used as a title, a title of honor stressing preeminence in family lineage, describing the one who is rightful heir of all things.  Here a reference to the incarnation, as the Son of God takes on flesh in Jesus Christ.  The angels of God worship Jesus.  The Son is superior to the angels.

Verse 7 goes on to say, “And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.’”  The writer is quoting Psalm 104:8-9 in this verse.  And verses 8 and 9 are from Psalm 45:6-7, But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’”  Verses 10 through12 are from Psalm 102, the writer citing the Septuagint again, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  In that translation of Psalm 102, these words in verses 10-12 are spoken by God (Psalm 102:23-28).  And the writer of Hebrews is applying Psalm 102 to the Son of God, finding fulfillment in the nature and being of the Son.   In verse 10, he declares Jesus to be the agent of creation and timeless, “And: ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.’”  Here again, the Son of God is the agent of creation and He is eternal.  He has always been.  He created all things.  Everything is “the work of His hands.”

Verses 11 and 12 state, “They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”  Again, the writer is talking about the Son of God here!  

He created all things in the heavens and earth,

And

He will re-create all things, new the heavens and earth.

Verse 13 goes on to ask, “But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?’”  And the answer?  No one.  No angel has ever heard these words from God the Father.  All things belong to the Son.  He is rightful heir, rightful ruler, Lord.

The writer concludes with a question about angels in verse 14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”  And the answer is “Yes.”  Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Angels are servants commissioned to serve those who receive Jesus Christ, to help them, and to serve them.

The main point of the passage:

Jesus is much better than the angels.

Do not worship angels, worship Jesus.

He is much better!

Truth is, it seems highly unlikely that many, if any, of us worshiped angels this past week.  And I think it is reasonable to believe that most of you reading this blog know theologically that Christ is superior to angels.  There may be some of you today for whom this was news, but I should think the vast majority of us knew that before we opened up this site.

Jesus Christ is superior to the angels

We are not to place angels before Jesus

But I will believe a few of us, if not all of us, are guilty of placing something else before Jesus.  I believe a few of us do, at times, value something or someone greater than we value Jesus.  Jesus is much better than the angels, yes, but do you believe that He is more gloriously beautiful and more supremely wonderful than anything else?

There are things we believe to be true that we find hard to believe.  Do you know what I mean by that?  We believe the Bible is the Word of God.  We believe it to be true from cover to cover, but the way we live once we have walked out these doors may indicate that we find this passage hard to believe.  Yes, theologically, we affirm Jesus is much better than the angels and much better than anyone or anything.  Amen, preacher!  All is well – so long as we’re talking about angels; so long as we’re talking about something easy to affirm; so long as we are talking about something that does not really challenge us or require change from us.

Imagine someone walked around with you every day last week.  Spent Monday morning, afternoon, evening with you.  Just watched you, observed you every day – Monday, then Tuesday, Wednesday and on through the week.  Then somebody asks this person who was with you all last week, “What did he value most? The way she spent her time, what he talked about, how she lived, what was his, what was her superior satisfaction?”

If you have little desire for Jesus, competing desires will triumph.  Worldly desires, sinful desires, desires of the flesh – the old you – they will win out.  You have got to cultivate a greater desires for Jesus Christ, believing Him to be a superior satisfaction over all things.  Remember . . .

You can learn to love Jesus better,

But you will never love

Anything better than Jesus.”

Pray to Jesus at the beginning of each day.  Ask in prayer like the psalmist in Psalm 9014, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.”

This week can be such a good week!  It can be a great week spiritually, as long as you and I do not value anything greater than Jesus.  As long as you and I do not allow anything to so occupy our minds and hearts that we begin to idolize that thing – whether it is some human being, a relationship, man or woman, parent, child; so long as we do not allow something else to capture the gaze of our eyes and hearts; our personal safety, our health, worldly friendships, job recognition, success as measured by worldly metrics, money and investments, our house, the car we have, the car we do not have, the house we really want, or the approval of others.  Fear can be an idol if we allow it to dismantle our trust in God.  Even peace can be an idol if it is peace as the world defines peace: absence of all trouble, that can become an idol, too.  Let go of sin.  Obey God’s Word, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Fix your eyes on Jesus

And

Be captured

And

Captivated by

Him alone.

You may need to repent today.   Right where you are.  If you are clutching something or someone more than Jesus, let go of it.  Turn from your sin and turn to Him.

You may need to be saved this morning – receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Just simply surrender to God and say, “I want to go God’s way today; I surrender all.”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

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 1:3 – Jesus . . . Our Sufficiency

Grace For The Journey

We will review the first three verses of Chapter 1 then settle-in on verse 3 as the main focus of our study today.  In verses 1-3 the writer acknowledges God’s having spoken to His creation in time past and how He has now spoken to His creation in a much fuller and final way, speaking to us through His Son, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”

Someone asks you the question, “Who is Jesus?”  How do you respond?  Maybe they know you are a Christian and they want to know specifically what that means.  “Who is Christ?” they ask. And “How does He differ from other religious figures?”  It is a good question.  How would you answer it?  Verses 1 through 3 encapsulate the person and work of Jesus Christ, who Jesus is and what He has done.  Christology, the study of Christ, is largely an examination of what the Bible teaches us about His person and work, who He is, and what He did.  You could turn to Hebrews chapter 1 and read these first few verses and have before you a helpful succinct summary of truth about the Son of God.

In verse 1 the writer declares that the God of creation is a God who speaks, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past . . . .”  God speaks to His creation.  He does not have to, but He does!  He does not have to reveal Himself, disclose Himself, to us.  Have you ever thought about that?  The Psalmist was right to say in Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in heaven; He does as He pleases.”  He does not have to speak to us, but He does.  He “bothers Himself” with us, lowly creatures!

In the words of Carl F.H. Henry, God “forfeits His own personal privacy” to make Himself known to His human creation.  He does not have to.  He owes us nothing.  But He does.  He speaks!

Verse one goes on to say that “God . . . spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets . . . .”  The writer is talking here about the Old Testament and the way God spoke in the Old Testament. And in reaching back to the Old Testament the writer is affirming its use, the place of the Old Testament.  Christians are not to abandon the Old Testament.  It teaches us so much about how God has spoken in time past.  The God who speaks today, the God of the New Testament is the same God as the God of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament still functions authoritatively for Christians; it is still relevant and applicable.  While much of the ceremonial law of the Israelites is no longer binding, the Old Testament is still very much relevant, authoritative, and applicable.  The New Testament is largely the fulfillment of the Old Testament, but both are critical to our study and meditation.

God, at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.  Verse 2 goes on to say, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,  whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”  We will not restate all we learned last week but we saw that the Son of God is the Agent of creation, there with the Father before the world began, co-equal to the Father, and the One who created all things and sustains all things, upholding all things by the word of His power.  John says in the opening of His Gospel: “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:2-3) and Paul says in Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

We come now to this verse 3, where we will camp for the remainder of our time.  This verse presents to us – even more pointedly now – the person and work of Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He did for us.  We will look at these two divisions in a simple two-point outline.  First . . .

1) We Celebrate Who He Is.

The writer gives us these two phrases in verse 3: “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.”  We have already treated that next phrase, His “upholding all things by the word of His power,” and so we focus-in again on these two phrases. 

We need to constantly recall Who the Son is: “the brightness of His glory.”  Jesus Christ radiates the Father the same way sunshine or sunbeams radiate the sun.  A sun beam comprises the sun itself.  In the same way, the Son of God is the radiance of the Father’s glory.  He is God.

This is even more clearly portrayed in the next phrase: “the express image of His person.”  The Son of God is the express image, or exact imprint, of God the Father.  God the Son is an exact duplication of the Father’s nature.  The Son shares the same nature as the Father, the same essence of the Father.  

  • Whatever power the Father has, the Son has.  
  • Whatever attributes the Father has, the Son has.
  • Whatever abilities the Father has, these abilities exist also in the Son.

No human son can say this about his relationship to his human father.  People look at my daughters and some say that one is a “spitting image” of me, some say the other. In either case, neither one is an exact duplicate of my nature.  But the Son is an exact duplicate of the Father’s nature and being.  He is the fullest revelation precisely because He shares the very nature and being of God.  This is why we can say there is no prophet who shares this nature of God as a fuller revelation of God – no Prophet Joseph Smith, no Prophet Mohammed, no anyone.  Only the Son is the “express image, exact imprint” of the Father.

As the Father has appointed the Son “heir of all things,” so we approach God the Son and it as though we approach God the Father.  Talking to the Son is the same as talking to the Father.  Looking to the Son is the same as looking to the Father.  Being captivated by the Son is to be captivated by God Himself.

This is why we evangelicals are not captivated by material icons of God: crosses, statues, and pictures.  In the words of one theologian: “There is no need to hang icons on a wall when you believe in the One who hung on a cross.”  This takes us very naturally to our second point and final point.  We celebrate Who Christ is and we celebrate . . .

2) We Celebrate What He Did.

The last part of verse 3 contains the only mention in this text of what Christ specifically did for us during His earthly ministry.  It is the only mention of what He did because it is the most important thing that He did.  The phrase in the last part of the verse is, “When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Jesus Christ died for sins, made purification for sins.  That phrase, “by Himself” does not appear in the oldest Greek manuscripts and that is why it is omitted from more contemporary translations, but scholars agree that this meaning is conveyed nonetheless by the words.  

It is Christ alone who makes atonement,

Provides cleansing, offers Himself as a

Sacrifice for sin, dying on the cross as our substitute.

This is why Christ came.  This is the essence of His work.  The Son of God came into this world for this primary purpose.  

  • Yes . . . His earthly ministry of healing is important.
  • Yes . . . His teaching is important. Yes, His fulfilling the law of God is important.
  • Yes . . . The resurrection is important.
  • Yes . . . The ascension is important.

But Christ’s main work,

His main mission,

Was His coming to us to die.

The writer goes on to heighten our awareness of this truth in the second chapter, Hebrews 2:9, where he writes of Jesus who, “Was made (positioned) a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”  This is why Christ came, not to start a movement, not merely to teach ethics.  He came to die.  He came to “by Himself purge our sins.”  He came to do this for us because we need it.  We need purification.  Without the removal of the guilt and pollution of sin we stand before God on the Day of Judgment with all of our sin unforgiven.

The writer warns later in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  We will face the judgment of God for our sin.  We must have our sins purified, cleansed, and forgiven.  And Christ came to do just that.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

As fallen human beings we have stains of sin all over us, stains within and stains without.  Despite all the scrubbing we may try to do to remove them, there is no cleaning agent that will do the trick.  We may try to improve our religious performance through moral reform, vowing to be a better person, trying a little harder, but the stain of sin remains.  The only cleaning agent that will purify us, removing all of our guilt and the pollution of sin is the blood of Jesus Christ.   As the hymn-writer puts it in classic question-answer format . . .

“What shall wash away my sin?  

  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.   

What can make me whole again?

  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Verse 3 concludes by saying, “When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  He sat down!   This action implies completion. You read the Old Testament and you read about the Levitical priesthood of the Israelites and you are reading about types and shadows of the work of Christ.  In the Old Testament, when a person sinned, the priest would enter into the tabernacle or the temple and offer an animal sacrifice on the altar, sprinkling its blood to symbolize purification of sin.   But of course, as Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  Animal sacrifice could not cleanse the conscience and remove the guilt and corruption of sin.  Those animal sacrifices were merely a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

And the writer of Hebrews goes on to say especially in chapters 9 and 10 that this is why the priest in the Old Testament had to enter the tabernacle or temple repeatedly. He had to continue his work.  It was never finished because sin was never completely atoned through animal sacrifice.  There was no chair for the High Priest in the temple to sit upon because his work was never complete.

Yet, the writer here in verse 3 says that after Christ “by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  He sat down!  His work on the cross is finished.  He said so Himself in John 19:30, “It is finished.”  This was the fulfillment of the Father’s plan.  The first words of the Lord Jesus recorded in the Bible, the first words at the age of 12 Jesus says: “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). His last recorded words wee, “It is finished.”

He sat down!  There is only one reference in all the Bible to Christ’s standing in heaven, that in Acts 7 where Stephen, who is being killed by stoning, looks up and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father, standing as though to welcome Stephen to the glories of his eternal home.  But Christ is seated on the throne because His work is finished.

The writer here even uses a verb tense to stress the completion of Christ’s work.  The verbal phrase “sat down” is in the aorist tense, a tense denoting the finality of something, the completion of something, the “once-for-allness” of something.  The point is that Christ’s death on the cross is an act that does not need to be supplemented or repeated.

The Son of God is the fullest

And final revelation from God.  

And His work on the cross is

The fullest and final work

Securing our redemption,

Removing the stain of sin.

It does not need to be

Supplemented by anything.

And it does not need to be repeated.

His death is a once-for-all death to purge us of sin.  The cross is the place where our sins have been fully and finally cleansed.

But this is not automatic cleansing.  We must believe.  We must place our faith in Jesus Christ.  

He is not just a Savior,

Or the best Savior,

He is the only Savior.

God has spoken in these last days by His Son.  Has He spoken to you?  The writer goes on to warn in Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”  We must admit and repent from our sin and turn to Christ.  Apart from Christ, our sins remain upon us.  If we are not clothed in His righteousness, then we are not properly dressed for the judgment.  Like Adam and Eve, we stand before God trying to cover up the shame of our sin and the stain of our sin with fig leaves of our own making – call it religion, morality, or self-effort – fig leaves that leave us in our sin and shame. No, we need a new covering.  We need the righteousness of Christ.

Christ by Himself purged our sins.  If we receive Christ as Lord and Savior then we have the righteousness of Christ – His perfection, His performance – credited to our account. His righteousness covering our sin!  Puritan Richard Sibbes states, “There is more righteousness in Christ than there is sin in us.”  Amen!  Thanks be to God!  However many times I may sin, there is always more righteousness in Christ, more righteousness in Christ than sin in us.

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 1:1-3 – The Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Grace For The Journey



One of the key verses in the Book of Hebrews is Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  “Looking unto” Jesus is not just a hurried glance, not a temporary gaze, but a fixed, locked-in, eyes-glued-to looking, being captivated by Christ.  

To the degree we are captivated by Jesus Christ,

We will live the kind of life we always wanted to live.

When we’re captivated by Christ we are

The people we always hoped we could be.

As we begin, let me say just a few words about this Book.  Hebrews is a bit different from other letters in the New Testament and we are going to be learning more about the main themes as we go along.  No one really knows who wrote Hebrews.  The King James Version attributes the letter to the Apostle Paul, but the earliest Greek manuscripts do not include his name and most scholars do not believe Paul wrote the letter. The style is very different from Paul’s writings.  Some scholars suggest Luke was the author.  Other names have been suggested like Barnabas, or Apollos.  But we really do not know.  Like some of the other books of the Bible, it is anonymous.  One of the early church fathers in the 3rd Century, Origen said, “Who actually wrote the epistle, only God knows.”

It is not absolutely necessary to know who the author, because the ultimate author is God who inspired all the writings of the Bible.  This letter was divinely inspired by God, His authority was recognized by the early church, and accepted by the church as part of the canon of New Testament Scripture.  It was almost certainly written before the year AD 70, for reasons we will consider in future studies.  For now, just to have a date, approximately AD 65.

The title of the Book . . . Hebrews . . . tells us that the writer was writing this letter to Hebrews – to Jewish believers, Christians who had been raised in or steeped in Judaism.  That will be especially clear as we progress through these chapters.

What the writer is largely trying to do is . . .

To encourage and warn these Jewish

Christians to stay the course.

To keep on following Christ.

 To not abandon their faith in Christ

And go back to the old ways of Judaism.

Many of the believers were being persecuted for their faith, ridiculed for following Christ, families were at odds with one another, and there was tremendous pressure to go back to the old ways, possibly even persecution from Roman authorities.  The writer is saying, “Stick with the faith.  Do not turn your back on Christ and drift away.  Stay the course.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.”  That theme has immediate relevance to us.  We are often discouraged, defeated, and may drift away from Christ for similar or other reasons.

The author of Hebrews is saying throughout this letter time and again . . .

Jesus Christ is better than anything you will

Ever have or anyone you will ever know.

He will use a number of different words to make the point, a number of superlatives, and terms like “better,” “more,” and “greater.”  These words used some 25 times throughout the letter. making the case that Jesus Christ is better, more superior, and greater than anyone or anything.

Someone has said . . . “You can learn to love Jesus better, but you will never learn or love anything better than Jesus.”  That is one of the main points of this book.  

Let’s jump in.  Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-4.  These verses describe the person and work of Jesus Christ.  They declare, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

I want us to look today at the Supremacy of the Son.  That is what the writer is talking about here so that is what we want to talk about.  Let’s turn our attention to these verses and consider three main truths about the supremacy of the Son of God.  First . . .

I. His Supreme Place in Revelation – Verses 1-2a, 3a.

By revelation I do not mean the Book of Revelation, but revelation in the general sense of the term, as God’s revealing of Himself to mankind.  When God speaks, He reveals Himself to us.  And God has spoken!  This opening verse is not an argument, it is an assumption, a declaration, a fact: God has spoken. 

Verse 1, states, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.”  “The fathers” are our ancestors, believers who have gone on before us.  You read the Old Testament and you read where God spoke at various times and in various ways.  God spoke through prophecy, sometimes direct words to prophets; at other times through visions, angelic revelations, events, dreams, audible voice through a burning bush to Moses, a still small voice whispered to Elijah, words written on a wall to Belshazzar, God even spoke through a donkey to Balaam – an encouragement to every preacher of the Word, that if God can use a donkey, He can use us!

Verse 2 goes on to say, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.  Literally, “in Son.” Here is a new way to speak – in Son!  God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past . . . has in these last days spoken to us “in Son,” the focus being upon the Son’s supreme place in revelation as the fullest and final word from God.  “These last days” are the days from the writer’s time till now.  Jesus Christ is the fullest and final revelation from God.  He is God’s final word.  Prophets in the Old Testament prefaced their teachings with, “Thus saith the Lord,” but Jesus is the Word made flesh.  He never prefaced His teaching with that phrase.  You will never find Jesus saying, “Thus saith the Lord.”  He is the Lord.

This is why a believing Christian who interprets the Bible plainly will understand there is no room in his faith for a Joseph Smith of Mormonism or a Mohammed of Islam.  Joseph Smith claimed a fuller revelation beyond Christ.  Adherents of Islam also believe a fuller and later revelation from God came through the prophet Mohammed, some 600 years after Christ.  When we meet with a Mormon or a follower of Islam, certainly we can both be amiable with each other, but . . .

We cannot both be right.

The Bible says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  

Jesus Christ He is the fullest

And final word from God.

As we look to the first part of verse 3 we see a little more here about God’s revealing Himself to us in His Son, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 

The writer does not describe the Son

In terms of appearance, but

In terms of His nature

. . . Who, What He is.

We tend to describe people based on appearance: He is tall, has short hair, a beard, and a little stocky.”  We are not given a physical description here of the Son of God, but a description of His very nature, His “being.”  “Being the brightness of His glory”  means “Jesus radiates God.”  The glory of God is seen in Christ.  John 1:14 says, “The word was made flesh and dwell among us and we beheld His glory . . .”  The glory of God is obvious in the transfiguration.  The transfiguration is not the only example of the glory of God in Christ.  The biblical teaching here is much greater than that!  

The whole life and mission of

Jesus Christ reflected the glory of God.

The phrase, “the express image of His person,” teaches us that Jesus is identical in substance to the Father.  In all of His attributes and abilities, the Son is exactly like the Father.  The word translated “image” is the Greek word for “character.”  Think of characters on keyboard as you text.  The letter you press is the same letter that appears in your text.  There is an exact correspondence between the two.  In Jesus you have God.  Whatever God is, Jesus embodies.  There is an exact correspondence between the two.  You want to know what God is like?  Look at Jesus.

II. His Supreme Power in Creation – Verses 2b-3.

The pre-existence of the Son, existing before the material creation.  There has never been a time when the Son was not.  Verse 2 says, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”  He made the everything in the world and He has been “appointed heir all things.”  He inherits what He has made  Our universe is vast.  One person has said, “To try imagining how big, place a penny down in front of you.  If our sun were the size of that penny, the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 350 miles away.”  Jesus did that. He created that distance.

Verse 3 states, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  He is the glue that holds everything together.  The Bible says in Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. “  Someone has said, ““God does not have to take your life; all He has to do is stop giving it.”  This verse teaches Christ’s supreme power in creation – He makes it . . . He sustains it . . . And He redeems it.  I will talk about the phrase “He had by Himself purged our sins” more tomorrow. 

III. His Supreme Position of Exaltation – Verses 3-4.

Verse 3 declares, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  His work is finished.  It is only after He Himself purged our sins that we read of His exaltation at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Verse 4 states, Having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”  There were some folks in Colossae who were actually worshiping angels (Colossians 2:18), yet Jesus is deemed superior to them, in part because His name (His essence) is “Son” (all that belongs to the Father belongs to his unique Son,)” which points to a more intimate relationship and which speaks of a better family inheritance.

There is good theology here in these opening verses.  But biblical teaching, theological truth, is not just to be learned, but lived.  By God’s grace this week we will live out what we have learned today.  How?  How does all this wonderful teaching about the Supremacy of the Son affect us?  What are we to do with it?

When we follow the writer’s train of thought in this opening chapter and look on to see where he is headed, we see the primary point of application for our lives.  The writer’s teaching here about the supremacy of the Son leads to a warning at the beginning of chapter 2 – In light of what the believers have learned about the supremacy of Christ they must give the more careful attention to the things they have heard, lest they drift away.  That is where the writer is headed.  His goal is that they embrace this truth about the Son of God, and His great supremacy over anything and anyone so they will not drift  away.  That is what he wants of us … he does not want us to from Christ and His church this week or throughout this year.  He wants us to stay focused on Jesus, keep following Christ, and stay captivated by Christ.

All this biblical truth helps you to stay captivated.  If you consider that He is God’s final and fullest revelation, that He is the agent of creation, creating all things, creating you – and recreating you through the power of the gospel and the grace of redemption, giving you life in His name – and that He has purged you of all sin and is right now seated at the right hand of the Father – You can trust Him.  Trust Him!  He is in control of all things – including you – and He will always do what is right in your life.

It is like in the sermon on the mount where Jesus said in Matthew 6 . . . What are you worried about?  Don’t you know that the same God who created the little things like birds of the air, and grass of the field – and cares for them – is the same God who created you in His image.  And Jesus reminds us that we are much more valuable than birds and grass.  You can trust the Son of God to do what is right in your life this week.

Trust Him!  Keep your eyes on Jesus!  Stay captivated by His love for you and His power to work in your life.  He will never let you down.  Remember: You can learn to love Jesus better, but you will never love anything better than Jesus.

The first days of the new year gives us the opportunity to renew our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Supreme Son of God.  Every one of us is either a follower of Jesus or we are not.  We are either following Christ or we are following something or someone else.  As we respond to the truth of God’s Word and the fact that Jesus Christ is the Supreme Son and King and Lord and Savior, we renew our hearts in obedience for follow Him.

If you are not following Christ, turn to Him this morning.  Confess your sin.  Repent. Turn away from whatever else you have been following, whatever else you have been living for . . . self . . . stuff . . . secret sin . . . and turn to Christ.  Follow Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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