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.”

Encounters With Christ – Unbound and Free

Grace For The Journey

Jesus knows that Lazarus will not ultimately remain dead, but that something far greater is going on.  We are told that Jesus stays right where he is for two more days. Interesting, isn’t it?  In fact, as we read on, we will see that Jesus shows up four days late for a funeral – not the kind of pastoral etiquette taught in seminary.  But Jesus is God in the flesh.  He knows what He is doing.  And this becomes increasingly clear as we heard in the following verses.  Jesus said to the disciples in verse 11, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” And the disciples do not get it.  They do not realize Jesus is speaking euphemistically, using sleep as a metaphor.  They say in verse 12, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”  Jesus gives it to them straight in verse 14, “Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’”

Jesus is on His way now to Bethany to see Lazarus and we all know at this point that Lazarus has died.  We begin in verses 17-19 which say, “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.  And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.”  The mourners who have come to be with Mary and Martha, to comfort them.  I have noted before in our study of the funeral of the woman of Nain’s son, that when someone died in those days, it was a community event.  There were folks who mourned with the family in a mourning that would last at least a week and there were even folks who mourned for others as something of a profession or job.  That may sound kind of fake, but maybe we should see them as folks who were especially gifted in compassion and mercy; sympathizers who genuinely mourned and were the ones who sort of set the scene there, helping others feel comfortable as they grieved with them.

Verses 20-21 say, “Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.  Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”   The more you read in the Bible about these two sisters you gain an understanding of their differing personalities. Martha seems to be the kind of brash, go-getter, and leader out in front doing the talking first sister.  Mary is the quieter, pensive thinker, and introspective type.  Both personalities are good.  God made them that way.  But Martha comes across at times like Peter – having a tendency to speak before thinking everything out.

So, Martha blurts out to the Lord in verse 21, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Sounds like an accusation, doesn’t it?!  But it is like she catches herself in verse 22, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”  It is like when we say out loud what we are thinking and as the words come out of our mouths, we are trying to stop them or change course or something.  She adds, “Of course, I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Good save!

Jesus responds in verse 23, “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’”  And Martha responds in verse 24, “Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’”  Martha knew her theology.  She knew, for example, what most orthodox Jews believed, a general resurrection “at the last day,” a general resurrection of all persons at the end of time – and more recently she knew the teachings of Jesus such as back in John 5:28-29 where Jesus said, “. . . The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Here is as good a place as any to pause and consider the truth of a final resurrection. The day will come, sometime in the future, this day will come when every single soul is raised from the graves.  The Christian’s body is raised up and the soul of that Christian inhabits that new body, a glorified body like the Lord’s resurrection body, and remains in that body forever.  And the unbeliever’s body is also raised from the grave, but not changed into a glorified body.  It remains a corrupted body for the unbelieving soul to inhabit forever as he remains separated from God in hell.  That is another lesson altogether.  For now, know that when Jesus speaks of the resurrection here, He is not talking about what Martha is talking about – that future day, “the last day” of resurrection.  He says in verse 25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live..’”  This is such a wondrous claim to deity – “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Not, “I will bring about resurrection,” or, “I will cause resurrection;” though He would, but, “I am the resurrection and the life!”

This is one of the “I am” statements in John’s Gospel.  When Jesus says, “I am,” He is equating Himself with God.  He is using the words God used to describe Himself to Moses back at the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Moses asks God, “Who shall I say sent me,” and God says, “I AM!  Tell them that ‘I am’ has sent you.”  Jesus uses that same designation of Himself.  Like back in John 8 at the end when Jesus said to the Jews who were arguing with Him, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  The next verse says the Jews then picked up stones to stone Him.  They believed He had committed blasphemy.

This is one of those statements of Jesus that shows us why we cannot think of Him as merely a good moral teacher.  It is just not an option to speak of Jesus as merely a good moral teacher.  A good moral teacher does not go around saying things like, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  You are either a liar, a deceiver, or a crazy person if you go around saying that.  There is one other option, of course, and that is, if you go around saying, “I am the resurrection and the life” you can say it because it is true, because you are, in fact, God.  Verses 25-29 continue the conversation between Jesus and Martha, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”  That is a strong confession of faith!  In essence, Martha is saying, “Yes, I believe You are more than a good moral teacher. You are Lord. You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the ‘Son of God,’ the very one ‘who is to come into the world.’  And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, ‘The Teacher has come and is calling for you.’  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.” 

Mary goes out to see Jesus in verse 30, “Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.”  This encounter of Jesus with the sisters, with Martha and Mary, is occurring somewhere just outside Bethany.

Verse 31 states, “Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, ‘She is going to the tomb to weep there.’”  The folks mourning with Mary follow her out, assuming that she is now going out to the tomb to weep there.  God is working behind the events to get eye-witnesses to the graveyard, to the tomb, to witness a miracle.  The way the mourners follow Mary is just another example of their compassion and mercy. They see her go so they go, too.  They do not want her to be alone in her grief.

Mary rises quickly and goes out and the mourners go along to follow her.  Verse 32 says, “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”  It is interesting that she says the very thing her sister had said earlier.  She is weeping.  She is grieving.  And for this reason we read that Jesus responds differently in verse 33, “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.”  This phrase, “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” describes what happens to us emotionally when we are so struck by a thing that goes right to the core of our being.  The phrase suggests a feeling of great consternation and agitation.  Greek scholars often point out that the phrase is used to describe the actions of a horse when you see and hear a horse do that kind of stomping and snorting thing horses do.  There is this energy and a sense of disturbance that rises from the deepest level of one is being.  That is how Jesus reacted when he saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping.  It is as though everything about this moment – the death of Lazarus, the grief, the mourning, the consequences of sin and the fall of mankind – all of this causes Jesus to groan deeply in His spirit.

Verses 34 and 35 say, “And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept.”  Jesus cried.  As Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah some 700 years earlier in Isaiah 53:3, He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”   Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”  As a man of sorrows, Jesus is well acquainted with grief and can sympathize with us in all of our struggles and weaknesses.  He is at once both God and Man.  I think that is the main point here in the actions of Jesus.  Jesus wept.  He knew what He was going to do in just a few moments.  He had known days earlier when He told His disciples that Lazarus’ illness was an illness that would not lead ultimately to final death.  Rather, Jesus weeps because we weep.  Like the mourners who were with Mary and Martha, Jesus is with us – always!  Always with us – and He weeps with us.  He loves us and grieves right along with us.

The Jews see Jesus weeping and they respond in verses 36-37, “Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’  And some of them said, ‘Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?’”  Well of course He could have. But He will do more than that.  The suspense builds in verse 38, “Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.”  This tomb is a cave which would have kept several bodies inside and a stone that was rolled up against the entrance.  It was a typical cave-like tomb in those days.  Verse 39 states, “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’   Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’”  Now that is just the reality of the situation.  There is no doubt that Lazarus is dead.  It has been four days.  The point is that Lazarus is not just unconscious.  He had died and everybody knew it.  You can wrap up a dead body and put spices throughout the wrapping, but after four days no amount of spices can cover up the stench of death.

Jesus responds in verse 40, “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.  And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’”  This prayer to the Father is more like a praise to the Father.  Jesus is teaching everyone standing around there that what He is about to do is being done so that all may believe that He had been sent by the Father.

Verse 43 says, “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’”  Verse 44 states, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’”  And just like that, He who had died came out alive.  I believe it was St. Augustine who said that it was good that Jesus called out Lazarus by name otherwise Jesus would have emptied the entire tomb as every dead person would have obeyed.  Lazarus came out, still all wrapped up in the grave clothes, cloths of wrappings.  Lazarus leaves the graveyard a new man – he leaves the graveyard alive, unbound, and free!

What are we to take from this passage?  We are interested in more than just studying the narrative here.  What is there for us today in terms of application of the Bible to our everyday lives? I want to share with you a few things we can learn about the nature of God.

It is important that we remember an important principle . . .

In every text in the Bible

We can learn something

About God and something

About the Gospel.  

And we really should deal

With those two things

In every passage of the Bible.

J. I. Packer, the British theologian said about this: “Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.”

That is just a great statement, isn’t it?  So important to remember as we read our Bibles: “Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.”  So here are a couple things we learn about God from this passage.  They are not necessarily profound nor are they exhaustive.  First . . .

I. God Works His Perfect Purposes through our Sickness.

This is the first thing about God should have gotten our attention as we began our study.  Jesus said in verse 4, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  I have mentioned previously how some sicknesses may be the result of personal sin in our lives and some sickness are not the result of personal sin in our lives.  Some sicknesses are the direct result of sin in our lives and God will work through that.  Other sicknesses are more directly tied to something else that God is doing through the illness, like His bringing glory to Himself by miraculously healing a person.

The greater point is that God works His perfect purposes through our sickness, and He works through our sufferings, too.  That is so important to remember when you are dealing with a temporary sickness or a more prolonged sickness.  Remember that God is always in control and that He always does what is right.  Sickness and suffering are part of God’s permissive will.  God allows sickness in our lives to accomplish much greater purposes, things that bring Him great glory.  It may be He intends to heal in a way the we can only say, “God did that!”  And there may be other reasons, perhaps not even known to us at the time.  It is not always God’s will to heal our sicknesses.  We must always remember that anyone who is healed of sickness will get sick again.  Eventually every single person dies of some kind of sickness or sudden health crisis.  It is not always God’s will to heal.

Even Paul had some kind of malady he described as a “thorn in the flesh” and he prayed several times for God to remove it, but God didn’t.  In fact, Paul seems to understand that there is a greater purpose, a more perfect purpose God was working in and through his sickness.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Never think that God has forgotten you in your sickness whether it is the flu, or Alzheimer’s, or Cancer.  God is in control and He is working through your sickness and suffering to accomplish His perfect purposes.  God is often working out something far greater than we may even be able to see at the moment.  

  • Maybe He is strengthening your faith through your sickness,
  • Maybe He is drawing someone else to faith in Christ through your suffering.  
  • Maybe He intends to heal though the gift of modern medicine.
  • Maybe He intends to heal in a way no one can ever have imagined.

What God intends to accomplish through our sickness and suffering – the possibilities seem endless.  God works His perfect purposes through our sickness.  Here is another thing we can learn about God . . .

II. God’s Timing is Perfect.

Jesus shows up four days late for a funeral!  How can that possibly be perfect timing!   Jesus knows all things, so He knows what is coming up and what He is going to do about it.  Mary and Martha had no doubt prayed much to God while Lazarus was sick. They had prayed.  They sent word to Jesus.  Jesus gets word, but then He stays put.  He stays there for 2 more days.

Sometimes Jesus does not act as quickly as you think He should.  You pray to Him and you are like, “Lord Jesus, please do this or please do that.”  And you are praying for something to happen according to your clock, according to your sense of time, right? We all do that, don’t we?  When you find yourself praying like that and Jesus does not seem to be acting as quickly as you’d like, go back to John 11 and remember that Jesus was working according to a perfect time-table.

Our Lord knows all future events exhaustively.  He knows all the intricate details and is working through every single one of them to accomplish His perfect purposes.  These first two application points are interconnected and interdependent.  They go together. God works His perfect purposes through our suffering and sickness which necessarily implies that God’s timing is perfect.  God’s timing is perfect.  Rest in that!

This is often more obvious to us after the fact.  We look back over recent events and we can see God’s hand at work.  Had He acted here and not here it would have been too soon.  Had he acted here and not here it would have been too late.

Many of you know that, unlike the English language, Hebrew is read not left to right, but right to left.  I read this quote of John Flavel, one of the great Puritans . . .

“Providence is best read

Like Hebrew: backwards.”

And that is so true!  There are things that do not make sense in our simple every day, left to right existence.  God’s hand of providence moves not just left to right, but right to left.  God works both ways!  God says through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’”

Because God’s counsel and pleasure are good and right, God always acts in good and right ways.  

The point is you can trust Him!

When things do not go like

You hoped they would, trust Him.  

He knows what He is doing in your life and in the life of your family, your job, your career, your sickness, your friendships, and your marriage.  God not only knows what He is doing, but exactly when to do it, when to move.  Like Mary and Martha, you may be tempted to think Jesus act sooner, but Jesus knows what you do not.  He knows the future exhaustively, including all the possible contingencies, all the possible paths.  He will act accordingly to the information that He has and you do not have!

God’s timing is perfect

So trust Him.

Finally, and most importantly . . .

III. God Offers Life through Jesus Christ.

This is the most important takeaway for every single one of us today.  The resurrection of Lazarus anticipates Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus says in verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me shall never die.”  Isn’t that wonderful?!
In fact the Greek preposition used there in verse 25, translated into English, “He who believes in Me,” is more literally, “He who believes into Me.”

When we believe in Christ,

We believe into Him.  

Therefore, we are “in Christ.”

We are safe and secure.  We are in Him.  All of our sin is forgiven and covered by Him and He covers us with His righteousness.  All because we have believed into Him.

We have noted in these encounters with Christ . . .

How what Jesus says and does

Is all predicated upon

His upcoming work

Upon the cross

For each person.

So, again here, Jesus knows what is coming in the future.  He is not surprised by what happens after He raises Lazarus from the dead.  This final public miracle becomes the impetus for the desire upon the unbelieving Jews to have Him killed.  You will see that if you read on.

In the words of Tim Keller, “He knew that if he raised Lazarus from the dead, the religious establishment would try to kill him.  And so he knew the only way to bring Lazarus out of the grave was to put Himself into the grave.”  Isn’t that a great way to put it?  

The only way to bring Lazarus

Out of the grave was for

Jesus to put Himself into the grave.

Jesus put Himself into the grave for us.  He took upon Himself our penalty, the punishment for our sin.  He bore our punishment.  And He rose from the dead to show that our debt has been paid in full.  Our penalty has been taken and God approves of the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

It is on this basis Jesus can say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall never die.”  Do you believe in Christ?  Have you believed into Him?

The Bible teaches that without Christ we are without hope.  We are separated from God by our sin.  He is separated from us by His holiness.  The only way to be safe in the presence of God is to be into Christ.  We must believe that Jesus is not merely a good moral teacher, but we must believe He is our only Savior and that we are safe when we are into Him.  Trust in Him today.  Let me invite you to pray this to the Lord. Say to Jesus this morning, say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.  I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness.  I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”  If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord you have cause to rejoice … If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord you can and you will find great cause for rejoicing!

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.”

Encounters With Christ – Vision Correction Procedure

Grace For The Journey

Today ’s encounter is one of the most unusual encounters of our study.  It is unusual because of the person himself – Saul of Tarsus, faithful Jewish leader and persecutor of Christians – and it is unusual because the encounter does not take place during Jesus’ earthly reign, but rather at a time after His resurrection, when Jesus has already ascended back up into heaven.

I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the encounter we look at today is the most dramatic, and arguably most significant encounter with Christ yet.  It is often said that if a skeptic wished to be honest in his serious consideration of the historicity of the New Testament and the authenticity of the Christian faith, he would have to explain to historical facts: one, the resurrection of Christ; and two, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul.  Both events are difficult to dismiss out of hand if one takes seriously a study of the faith.

We jump right into the narrative, reading about this man named Saul, a guy who believed Christians were wrong and devoted his life to seeing that they were arrested and imprisoned.  If we had time we would go back and look at the end of chapter 7 and beginning of chapter 8 of the Book of Acts where the Christian Stephen is being stoned to death for his faith in Christ and we are told that Saul was standing there while that was taking place, “consenting to his death,” approving of what was taking place.  The story about Saul of Tarsus picks back up, then, in chapter 9 and verses 1-9, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’  Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’  And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.  Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one.  But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”

Three days without sight.  Can you imagine?  Saul is on his way to Damascus, hoping to find Christians he can arrest.  He has warrants in his hand as he journeys along and suddenly he is blinded by a light from heaven and he falls to the ground in an encounter that leaves him three days without sight.  He is feeling his way around.  Others leading him.  We will read later that his sight is restored.  God does that.  God blinds him and God restores his sight.  I think that’s kind of funny because it is a metaphor for what was going on with Saul spiritually.  

Saul believed he could see – spiritually –

But he was really blind to the truth.  

So, God blinds him in order to help him see!

I give the title for this study, “Vision Correction Procedure,” because God conducts this operation, spiritual eye surgery, on Saul of Tarsus so that when the procedure is complete, the encounter is so radical and so powerful that Saul of Tarsus goes by a new name, the Apostle Paul.

We can learn some characteristics of the Christian faith from this study.  More pointedly, three essentials of genuine Christianity.  I want to share these with you as signposts along the path of our journey through this text.

Three Characteristics of True Christianity:

I. The Necessity of Conversion – Verses 1-9.

Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3).  We cannot be saved from sin without the new birth.  God gives us new hearts and we believe by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is conversion, we were once headed in one direction, but we have changed course.  We are now following and living for Jesus Christ.  The Bible describes conversion as a new creation.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new.”  This was true of the Apostle Paul.  He was on his way to Damascus, living a life in opposition to Christ, but God got hold of his heart and he was converted, turned around, saved, and he began living a new life in Christ.

One of the things I like about this passage is we see so clearly that it is God who takes the initiative in our conversion.  He makes the first move.  He seeks us before we seek Him.  Remember Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one comes to Me unless the Father draws him.” And that his happening here.  Paul is not interested in Jesus.  Jesus just knocks Paul down and speaks to him.  One of the things Jesus says in the passage, is where He says to Paul in verse 5, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  That phrase is also found later in Acts 22 and 26 where Paul tells this story of his conversion.

Using the phrase, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” is a way of describing how hard it is to resist something that is prodding you along.  A “goad” was like a sharp stick used, for example, by a sheep herder.  Sheep are not real focused animals.  For example, if water is this way the sheep may want to go the other way, or if safety is this way, and a cliff is this way, the sheep naturally go toward the cliff – the sheep herder would use the goad to steer them in the right direction.

This is what God does.  We are naturally going in the wrong direction and, in His love, He comes along and goads us in the right direction.  When we feel like God is “goading” us, prodding us, moving in our lives, we are wise to respond the correct way, not by resisting Him and kicking against Him, but by following Him.

Let me give you a couple truths about conversion before we move on to the next characteristic.  

1) Apart from Christ, we are spiritually blind.  

We cannot see the truth because we do not yet have the ability to see the truth.  We are dead in sin and therefore blind to spiritual things.  I raise this point as a matter of compassion; compassion for those who are spiritually blind.  A person can be spiritually blind to the truth without realizing it.  If you have ever been to a movie theater, you know what I’m talking about.  You sit inside that dark theater for a couple hours and, you see quite well.  You can see the person next to you, see your drink, and see the popcorn that has fallen onto your chest.  When the movie is over and you step outside and the bright light causes you to squint and it makes it difficult to see right away.  What happened was that you had gotten used to the darkness without even realizing it.  You were just used to sitting in the dark.  You could see, but all you could see was the stuff in the dark.  People can be in darkness and not realize it.  It is a matter of compassion.  We do not make fun of them or look down upon them as though they were dumb, or something.  We do as others did for Paul, take them by the hand, as it were, and lead them into the light.

2) Lost people are not always miserable.

We think sometimes that people who are not Christians are just so miserable and just so down and discouraged.  Many lost people are that way, but not all.  In fact, some are very happy in their lost condition and may even be very religious.  This was Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was very religious, as he says elsewhere, “a Pharisee of the Pharisees” (Philippians 3:5).  He was very religious and very dedicated to his religion.  He was walking a 150-mile journey to do what he believed was right.  He needed the truth, but he did not know it.  We must remember that not every lost person we will witness to this week is some foolish, non-religious person, or miserable person, but simply a person who needs to know Jesus.

I love the way Jesus introduces Himself to Saul of Tarsus.  He asks him in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?”  And Saul responds, “Who are You, Lord?”  That is a great question and an important question.  This is the honest response every lost person will make as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts.  We do not have to know all there is to know about Jesus but we will have a desire to know Who He is, what He has done for us, and what we need to do to know Him better.

Jesus’ question is also a reminder that an attack on Christians is an attack on Jesus Himself.  He asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?”  To attack Christians is to attack Jesus.  So united are Christians with Christ that to attack the one is to attack the other.  That is why Paul later uses this relationship of Christ to His church as an image for Christian marriage.  The Bible says Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”  The husband and wife are one.  If you mess with my wife, you are messing with me!  We are one.  I about a husband’s response to his wife’s threat to leave him, “If you do, I am going with you!”

This takes us to the next point.  The second characteristic of true Christianity is . . .

II. The Necessity of Community – Verses 10-19.

Through the Gospel, God unites people together as a community of faith, a community of believers, and a church family.  The pursue is that we may grow in in a healthier relationship with God and with one another.  Verse 10 says, “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.” And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’”  That’s a great response, right?!   God calls your name, you say, “Here I am.  Use me.”   But do we mean it when we say it?   Ananias said it right away.  Let’s see if he means it.

Verses 11 through 14 say, “So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’  Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’”  It is easy to understand Ananias’ dilemma here!  Ananias wants to do the Lord’s will, but he’s like, “Uh, God, are you sure about this?!  I do not know if You have thought this thing through.  I mean, I know You know everything, but, well, this Saul guy, he has been persecuting Christians.  He has authority here in Damascus to arrest people!”  By the way, how many of you think God was worried about the authority Saul had?!  You and I talk to God, we say: “Lord, I trust You.  I believe in You.  I want to live Your plan.”  Then God unfolds His will and we are like Ananias here trying to make sure God has all the information He needs.  Just do what God says!  He will always honor our doing the right thing.

Verses 15-17 state, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’  And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”  I just picture Ananias gingerly approaching Saul, probably still thinking, “I don’t know about this!”  He enters the house and tip-toes near him.   And then, the beauty of this picture, verse 17 says he lay his hands on him.   He touched him.  Then he said . . . What did he say?  “Brother Saul.”  That is beautiful.  Paul is now in the family of faith.  It is so amazing, the way God uses the Gospel, through the power of Christ, to bring people together.  We can get along because we are brothers and sisters united in Christ!

Verses 18 and 19 say, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.  So when he had received food, he was strengthened.  Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.”  Saul can now see!  Something fell from his eyes like scales, maybe like a film had been over his eyes, but now he can see.  And then first thing he does is get baptized.  Throughout the Book of Acts we read that as soon as people receive Christ, they are baptized.  The first step of a new believer is baptism.  It is the first step of obedience.  Baptism, a word that means “to be immersed into water.”  It pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And baptism pictures what happened to the new believer.  We have died to the old person and the old way of life, and have been raised now to walk in a new way of life.  When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the first thing you should do is get baptized as a sign of identifying with Jesus and an obedient commitment to following Him forever.  And baptism happens in the context of the local church, in the community of faith, in the church.  That is why when a person is baptized here that person is a candidate for membership in this church. 

This part of the passage really stresses the need for community in the Christian life.  We are relational beings, and we need one another.  Saul needed Ananias.  And Ananias blessed Saul by being the one to be there with him, to lay hands on him, to touch him, to pray for him.  I cannot help but think that as Paul walks around in heaven today that Ananias is close by reminding everyone: “Hey, I had something to do with this guy being here!”

We often say that every Christian needs two groups – a big group to worship with, and a small group to study the Bible with.  Both are necessary.  We come together in big group to unite our hearts in worship and praise and to hear the Word of God together as the church.  But true community also means that we are in a small group, too.  The smaller group affords the opportunity to really get to know brothers and sisters and to share encouragement with one another, and struggles, and prayer requests, and praying for one another, asking Bible questions, getting answers, and growing in our faith.

Some of you are not yet in a small group Bible Study class and you need to be.  It is not just for your benefit, or what you can get out of it, but you need to be involved in a small group for the benefit of others, what you can contribute.  You have a personality, insights, and giftedness that others need.  You need to be in a small group where you can do that.  If you are not in a small group, get in one today.

The third characteristic of true Christianity is:

III. The Necessity of Confession – Verses 20-22.

Confessing our faith in Christ . . . Telling others about Jesus . . . Telling others that Jesus is Lord.  Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit so he is able now to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul later writes, in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  So, Saul of Tarsus now has the Spirit of God within Him.  He is now a new creation.  He is now the Apostle Paul.  So now he can confess Jesus is Lord.  He can now say truthfully that Jesus Christ is the One True and Living Lord.   He would write later in Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

If you are saved, something has happened in your heart that just naturally, then, comes out of your mouth!  What has happened on the inside is something you share on the outside.  

If you are “in Christ,” you then

Begin telling others “about Christ.”

Verse 20 says, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  When did Paul begin sharing Jesus with others?  Immediately.  

Verse 21 declares, “Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’”  Everybody knows he is different now.  Something has happened!  He is changed!  2 Corinthians 5:17 describes what happened, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Let me ask you these questions, “If you are a Christian, do people see a change in your life?”  “Do people notice you are different – different in a good way?”  “Do you have a joy in the Lord that others see?”  “Do you have a commitment to Christ and His church, a love for and dedication to Jesus Christ?”

Verse 22 states, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  Paul is changed and he naturally now confesses Christ, tells others about Jesus.  That is what every believer does.

Every Christian confesses Christ.  It is just like ministry.  Every Christian is a minister. Not every Christian is a pastor, not every Christian will preach to a congregation, but every Christian is a minister and will confess Christ, speak of his or her faith in Christ as one of His witnesses.

We can do this today.  I find it really easy to talk about things that I like.  Things that give me joy.  If I go to a new restaurant and the food is so good, I’ll tell all kinds of people about it – even total strangers!  

That is all witnessing is.

That is all confessing

Christ really is.  

It is just telling others

About the One who has

Given you forgiveness,

Purpose, fulfillment, life,

Peace, joy, and the ability

To experience and enjoy life

As God intended. 

If you have that,

You just want to

Share it with others.  

Confessing Christ.

True Christians do that.

Tell someone today how you met Jesus.  Just tell them.  

  • Tell them how you encountered Christ.  
  • Tell them how He came to you and how you came to know Him.
  • Tell them the difference Jesus is making in your life.

You can do that today.  True Christians confess Christ as Lord.

Some of you have family members who are not walking with Christ.  Or a friend or co-worker.  Some of you may feel like, “I just do not ever see this person coming to know Jesus.”  Be encouraged: remember Saul of Tarsus.  Keep praying.  Keep sharing.  No one is ever too lost to be saved.

Remember that it was Stephen who, in a sense, prayed for Paul’s salvation.  As Stephen was being stoned to death, remember his prayer?  Remember what he said? It was much as Jesus had said on the cross. He said, “Father, do not charge them with this sin.”  And who was standing there when Stephen prayed that way to the Lord? None other than Saul of Tarsus.  Do not stop praying for lost loved ones.  Keep praying

Sometimes police districts will ask their officers to participate in a team-building exercise that is meant to build trust and camaraderie among the officers.  What they do is blind-fold each of the officers and then placed them at the entrance of this rope course, a kind of maze made out of ropes where you had to feel your way along in order to make it through the maze.  None of the officers can talk to one another!  They are blind-folded They cannot see anything.  They are them told expected to go through the course.  Some would reach out trying to find the way, some people walk past others or push through, and some just stop helplessly.  When one officer miraculously makes it to the end.  Is he congratulated and told to sit down?  No, since he has found the way, is to go back through the course and help all of his friends find their way.  That is his responsibility.  He is a leader who is leading others to make their way along the journey.

That training exercise illustrates the need for community among brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all making our way along the journey.  We do not do it alone.  We do not just push through people and pass over people.  Nor are we simply to sit still and let everything else go on around us.  Rather, we follow Christ – the way the truth and the life – and go to people and we help them find their way, lovingly taking them by the hand and making the journey together.  That is our responsibility as followers of 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.”

Encounters With Christ – In Our Right Minds

Grace For The Journey

Nearly every time we study something in the Bible about demons, I am reminded of CS Lewis’ little book, The Screwtape Letters.  It really is one of the best books in imagining how Satan oversees the work of his demons who do his bidding.  Lewis just does a masterful job, I think, in describing how it all happens.  From the preface of that book comes this helpful little statement, a warning really, about how Christians should think – or not think – anytime our mind ponders the existence of demons. Lewis writes: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our [human] race can fall about the (demons).  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  [The demons] themselves are equally pleased by both errors . . .”

Certainly our Lord Jesus believed in the existence of demons and that really ought to settle it for us.  Jesus is our Lord and King.  We believe in Him and so what He believes, we believe.  And the Bible is straightforward in its accounting of Satan and the demonic world.  It stands to reason, then, that if there is a God – and there is – and this God is all-good – and He is – at the same time we live in a world in which there is evil – it just stands to reason that evil is real and the Bible tells us how Satan works his evil.

Now this is important to our study this morning.  It would be entirely unhelpful if we were to read this encounter as a people somehow removed from event.  It would be bad if we were to read of this demon-possessed man and say to ourselves, “Well, of course we are nothing like this man!  We are not running around as a man unclothed and living among the tombs, full of demons, and cutting ourselves.”  It is absolutely essential that we appreciate the depth and complexity of evil as we read of it in the Bible.  Evil is systemic.  Evil is part of the fabric comprising this fallen world system.  Evil is all around us and the work of demons is ongoing.  While no Christian can be under the absolute control of a demon – as though by possession – Christians can, however, yield control of their lives to demonic influence and so allow themselves temporarily to fall under the power of the evil one.

The Bible says in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  It also says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  And Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

We may be tempted to read this encounter as people somewhat removed from the narrative, removed from the details and the events as though we were just standing on the outside looking in at something that seems so remotely fantastic, we must not separate ourselves from the very real possibility of falling under the influence of the enemy.

I want to share four words from Mark 5:1-20 that describe this encounter.  These are easy words to remember . . . The first word is . . .

Isolation – Verses 1-5.

This man in the tombs is isolated and alienated from everyone.  He is an outcast in the most extreme sense.  It is a sad picture.

Verse 1 begins to tell us about it, “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.”  Jesus is traveling by boat with His disciples. They have just crossed over from the Western side to the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  They had just been through the storm.  Remember that?  Chapter 4 ends that way.  Jesus calmed the storm and the disciples are like, “Who is this guy?!”  And as soon as they get through the storm on the sea, there is another storm awaiting them on the shore.  It is a different kind of storm.  It is this demon-possessed man – a demoniac as he is often called.

Verse 2 says, “And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.”  It is at times like these I wonder whether the disciples may have second-guessed their decision to follow Jesus!  Did they ever wonder that?  They have just come through the storm and no sooner than they climb out of the boat this crazy man comes running toward them.  Mark describes him in verse 3 as a man, “Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains.”  He lived there among the tombs, not a nice and neatly manicured cemetery as in our day, but tombs hewn out of the rock, a grotesque area of stench and uncleanness.  And because he is dwelling among the tombs, he is isolated and alienated from everyone else.  The tombs are located in an area located on the outskirts of the city.  His condition was horrendous.  He had been bound, we are told, with chains.  Folks in the town had apparently tried to keep the man from hurting himself and others, but to no avail.  He would eventually break the chains.

Verses 4 and 5 state, “Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”  This is a sad picture, isn’t it?  This man is like an animal.  But we forget he was once a young mother’s child.  He was once a father’s little boy.  But the demons have gotten hold of him and he is reduced to a life of isolation insidious behavior.  The enemy, Satan, the evil one, will do everything he can to harm us.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy.  Satan would love to see this demoniac destroy himself.  This is why we read that he is “cutting himself with stones.”

Man is created in the image of God and Satan will do his level best to destroy the image of God in us.  Satan wants us to harm our bodies, obsess over our bodies, abuse our bodies, and destroy our bodies.  We may not harm our bodies by cutting, but we may destroy our bodies by drinking, by self-medicating, by overeating, or by defiling in any number of ways.

This man is isolated and alienated from God and others. And apart from Christ each of us is isolated and alienated from God and others. Isolation.  The next word is . . .

Confrontation Verses 6-14.

This demon-possessed man is confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He encounters Christ and talks to Christ in a conversation that is hard to follow – it is hard to know whether we are reading of the man and his actions or whether we are reading of the demons and their actions.  So closely tied together is evil with this man’s nature.

Verse 6 says, “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.”  The man literally falls before Jesus.  He worship Him, and he falls before Him in an acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus. 

That is the greater point Mark

Is making here in his Gospel.

He has shown at the end of chapter 4 how Jesus is Lord over the storm and danger.  He will show here in the first part of chapter 5 how Jesus is Lord over Satan and demons.  And in the following passage Mark shows how Jesus is Lord over sickness and death.  The man falls before Jesus.  Verse 7 states, “And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I implore You by God that You do not torment me.’  For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’”  That phrase, “For He said” is in the imperfect tense, which is translated, “He was saying,” that is, Jesus had said this more than once, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

Verse 9 says, “Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’  And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’”  In Roman terms a “legion” was the largest force of the Roman army and, in Jesus’ day, comprised some 6,000 men.  Do you get the idea how much Satan is oppressing this poor soul?  Note how closely tied to the man’s nature is the presence of evil.  It is hard to tell exactly who is doing the talking in this encounter – is it the man or the demons within him?  Verse 9 for example, when Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” the Bible says he answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  “My” is singular pronoun; “we” is plural pronoun.  Verse 10 says, “Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.”  That is, the demons do not wish to be disembodied spirits.  They wish to inhabit the body of someone else if they cannot inhabit this man’s body.

Verses 11 and 12 say, “Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.  So all the demons begged Him, saying, ‘Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.’”  If demons can’t have you, they’ll have the swine. Pigs are choice number two for demons. They’d really rather have humans, but they settle for swine.

Verse 13 states, “And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.”  Someone said this is the first “Bay of Pigs!”  But . . . It is a memorable picture, isn’t it?  Jesus’ authority is brought out at the beginning of verse 13, “And at once Jesus gave them permission.” Jesus gives permission.  The unclean spirits enter some 2,000 pigs and the herd then ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned.  I can imagine that were this to happen today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would have something to say about it what with the way our Western society humanizes nearly every animal.  We have become conditioned to feel sorry for these nasty swine.  You really have no argument if you had bacon or ham this morning with your eggs. As though pigs were more important than human souls!  But even if you are tempted to feel that Jesus has done wrongly here by killing these pig, it is helpful to remember that Jesus did not kill them – The demons killed them.  Remember that this is the objective of Satan and his demons – to steal, kill, and destroy.

Verse 14 says, “So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country.  And they went out to see what it was that had happened.”  That had to be quite a story to hear!  These folks whose job it was to feed the pigs saw all of this and ran to tell the people in the city.  The townsfolk hear about it and then they leave their jobs and their homes to come out to the tombs to see what happened.  And what did they see?  Verse 15 tells us, “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.”  He was, “sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” This brings us to our third word . . .  It is a picture of . . .

Transformation – Verses 15-17.

This precious soul has been changed.  He is transformed.  He is in his right mind.  What a contrast!  To be saved is to be in our right minds.  We once were under the influence of Satan and not thinking correctly – and God gets hold of us through the Lord Jesus Christ and He changes us.  That is why Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation.”

Verse 16 states, “And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.”  Here are the eyewitnesses again, telling the townsfolk what they had seen; how this man had been delivered.  They also told the others “about the swine.”

And what was their response? Verse 17 tells us, “Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”  Now years ago when I first read this passage I concluded that these folks did not care much for the economic impact the Lord’s actions had upon the swine industry (2,000 pigs had just died. That’s a lot of ham and bacon) – and that this was likely why they pled with Jesus to depart from their region.  I still think there is something to that.  They are like, “Please leave us, Jesus.  We have got to make a living here and you’re hurting the meat market.  We don’t need your kind around here.”

It is also true that this passage shows that all the wealth in the world is not worth the inestimable value of a single human soul, a person made in the image of God.  While the economic impact is likely a great concern for these folks, I really think there is more than that going on here in their pleading for Jesus to leave them.  I think it may have more to do with their inability to fully understand all that has just happened – and with the inability to comprehend comes an inability to be in control.

I think fear exists anytime we are in a situation where we feel we have no control.  If we are honest there is a fear in coming to Christ.  There is loss of control.  I am talking about really coming to Christ, coming to Him as Lord of our lives.

Remember . . .

We do not just add Jesus to our thinking

The way we add a side item to a combo meal.

Jesus has not come to just sort of “complement” our lives.

He is our life.  He is Lord when we bow

Before Him and yield control to Him.

That can be a frightening thing when one

Is unwilling to relinquish control.  

But that is what trust involves.

Living for Jesus is a trust issue.  You are literally yielding yourself, trusting yourself, to His Lordship.  At least that is what being a biblical Christian is all about.  I am not talking about those who say they are Christians, but are not.  I am talking about those who are genuinely saved, living under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I am talking about those who allow Jesus to have complete control over all decisions, following Him according to the Bible, His Word, living for Him, yielding to Him.  I think these townsfolk were frightened by Jesus.  They had not seen this kind of thing before.  When you encounter Christ for the first time, it may shake you up a bit.  He is, after all, God in the flesh.  There is a sense in which we ought to be shaken a bit.

But here is the beauty of our Lord!  Though He is God wrapped in human flesh, He loves us and makes a way for us to be saved and delivered from the powers of darkness.  He loves to bring about real transformation in our lives.  He wants us to be “in our right minds.”

We have studied 3 of these 4 words.  We have read about isolation, confrontation, and transformation.  As we come to the last few verses of chapter 5, we will see the final word . . .

Proclamation – Verses 18-20.

This newly transformed man, this formerly demon-possessed man, has a story to tell!  He has something to proclaim!  He is changed!  We read in verse 18, “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.”  He wants to go with Jesus!  A natural response to those who have been changed by the Gospel.  Verse 19 states, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’”   This man has a a truth to proclaim.  The people want Jesus to leave so He is leaving this man as a witness.  He can tell everyone what happened to him.

By the way, at its core . . .

This is what witnessing

Is all about, about telling others

“What great things the Lord has done for us,”

And

“How He has had compassion on us.”

That is at the very core of sharing the Gospel.

Verse 20 says, “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis (the 10 cities) all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”  Imagine this fellow going through all these towns now, the town nearest the tombs first.  He is clothed and in his right mind. People are like, “Look, isn’t that the demoniac?!”  And he is like, “Not anymore. I once was lost but now am found, was bound but now I am free.”

With whom did you share your testimony last week?  Did you proclaim the truth of the Gospel and how God transformed you through a personal encounter with Christ?

By the way, note the word “Lord” in verse 19 where Jesus tells the man, “Go…tell the great things the Lord has done” and then verse 20, “He departed and … proclaimed … all that Jesus had done.”  See how those two words are used interchangeably – Lord and Jesus?  Jesus is Lord. Jesus shares the very nature of God Himself.

There you have it: Isolation, Confrontation, Transformation, and Proclamation.  Can you in any sense identify with the demoniac?  Can you see yourself in any way in him?  No, you may not be a guy running around the tombs demonized in a graveyard, but you may experience a different kind of alienation.  Your chains and shackles may take a different form.  Your separation and alienation may occur in an office with the door shut and the computer turned on.  And website after website glows in your face as you look at things you do not want to see – and yet you do want to see – the influence of Satan is strong.  It seems both to empower you and enslave you.  And with every moment spend there, the influence grows stronger.  Like the demoniac, you could once break free from the power, but its growing stronger.  The demon possessed man could once be shackled but, no one could shackle him anymore.  This was a gradual slide into evil.

And that is just how it works in your life and mine.  We allow Satan to get a foothold.  We open the door to evil just a little ways and Satan sticks his foot in the door and then, little-by-little, we allow him more and more room until he is finally welcome to come in and move freely about.  No one suddenly falls into alcoholism.  No one suddenly falls into drug addiction or suddenly falls into adultery.  He slides.  He cracks the door by flirtation.  By an inappropriate smile or glance or embrace.  One slip leads to another and, before we know it, our careers are over, our families shamed, and our influence lost.

It all starts by allowing just a little bit of uncleanness into our lives.  Imagine you decide to stop cleaning your kitchen.  You let the trash heap up.  You let the dishes stack up in the sink.  There is a spill on the floor.  You just leave it there.  There is a banana peel here, a half-eaten peach there.  You did not finish your Chick-Fil-A sandwich and you just leave it out on the counter.  You just decide to sort of leave everything where it is for a few days, maybe a few weeks.  You have created an environment that is not going to smell so good, right?  What is more, you are probably likely to have a bug problem of some kind, ants, flies, I don’t want to get too gross here, but probably a few roaches, too.

What happened?  By failing to keep the kitchen clean, you have created an environment in which these unclean things are quite at home.  By failing to keep the house regularly clean – a daily habit – you have got unclean things all over the place.

It is no different when you stop walking in spiritual purity and cleanliness.  Let a little sin into your life and before you know it, more sin is in your life.  A little habit grows into a bigger habit.  You have created an environment where these impurities are at home – these little demons of sexual lust, anger, love of money, bitterness, unforgiveness, and even debilitating fear.  Be wise and identify with this demoniac.  You may not be that different from him as you think.  And be encouraged that, just as he did, you too may experience transformation through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The reason this man, and all men and women,

Can be healed is because – as we have noted

In previous encounters – Is because our precious Lord

Jesus exchanges places with us.  

He Himself becomes the outcast.

Jesus exchanges places with us and

Takes upon Himself all of our wrongs,

All of our sins.  He bears them.  And He gives to us

All that is His – righteousness, perfect goodness, perfect obedience –

All of this is credited to our account and we are seen by God

As if all of this is actually done by us. God sees us as though

We ourselves are righteous, perfectly good, perfectly obedient.

All of this because Jesus exchanges places with outcasts – outcasts like the demonized man – and outcasts like you and me.

If you are experiencing a special kind of isolation.  If you feel chained and in bondage to demons that trouble you – an addiction, an inwardly dark, a personal struggle, a battle of fear, an anxiety, or an impurity.  Look to Jesus who comes sailing over to you as when He crossed the Sea of Galilee to come to just one person.  Jesus will do that for you this morning. He gets off the boat and He is not disgusted by your sin and struggle. He does not condemn you in your chains of sin.  He simply says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Surrender to Him today.  Come to the One who will never cast you aside because He loves you and will forgive your sin.

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.”

Encounters With Christ – Seen by God

Grace For The Journey

Yesterday we looked at the sinful woman who found herself weeping at the feet of Jesus.  Today we are in John chapter 1, verses 43 through 51.

Favorite teachings or doctrines about God are kind of like favorite songs to me, or a favorite food or favorite movie – it is hard to narrow them down to just one.  If you ask which teaching about God is my favorite, it just sort of depends on what is going on in my life.  Sometimes it is God’s providence, or His power, or other times, it’s God’s providing salvation for us in Christ, or something else.

Today’s passage reminds me about

The joy and wonder of God’s presence.

The Christian can say, “God is with me always.”  There never really is a time when we are alone.  Some of our Lord’s final words to His disciples include the phrase, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

The Christian can say that God is always near.  He is as present to us as a shadow on a bright summer day.  You cannot escape His presence.  He is always there.  Even if you are not aware of His presence He is there.

In this passage, we see that truth as God reveals Himself through Christ to Nathanael.  I want to talk mostly about this encounter of Nathanael’s with Jesus.  Though Philip is mentioned first.  We will go through these verses and dig a little deeper – and then after we have gone through them together I want to leave you with some encouragement about the God who sees us.

Verses 43 and 44 state, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”

The more immediate context here concerns our Lord’s calling the first disciples.  He says to John and Andrew, “Follow Me,” and they do. They ask, “Where are You staying?” And Jesus says, “Come and see.”  Then Andrews goes and finds his brother Peter and says, “Hey! We have found the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.” And Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus.  That is pretty cool, isn’t it?  Family bringing family to Jesus.

Then we read that on the following day – verse 43 – Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  I like the way this reads.  Jesus found Phillip – not Phillip found Jesus.  We never really find the Lord so much as we discover we have been found by the Lord.

Jesus will say later in chapter 6 and verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  It is a remarkable thing, the fact that we come to Christ only to discover that He has first come to us.

This truth is put in a wonderful old hymn text by my favorite writer Anonymous:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of thee.

He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  Verse 45 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

You sense something of Philip’s excitement here.  We have found Him, Nathanael!  We have found the promised Messiah!  Of course, this means that faithful Jews like Philip were expecting the Messiah.  They were familiar with the Old Testament teachings about a promised coming Savior.

Then Philip tells Nathanael who it is.  He says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael’s response is in the latter part of verse 46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”  You can tell from the way that reads that Nathanael is not impressed!  He’s like, “Nazareth?!  That is a backward place, isn’t it?! Not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Only like 2,000 people. What good can come

I love Philip’s reply.  It is really very instructive.  How does Philip answer Nathanael’s scornful, skeptical question?  Does he argue with Nathanael?  His response is found at the end of verse 46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

Sometimes the best answer to a questioning skeptic is simply, “Come and see.”  We are not always going to have all the answers when we invite someone to faith in Christ.  It is important to remember the statistic, “More than 80% of the unchurched said they would come to church if someone sincerely invited them.”  By the way, Nathanael did respond positively to Philip’s invitation.  He went with Philip.  Do not miss that.

Now what happens when Nathanael sees Jesus?  More to the point, what happens when Jesus sees Nathanael coming to Him?  Verse 47 tells us, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite in whom is no guile!’”  One of those Old English words means “no hypocrisy or no deviousness.”  It does not mean that Nathanael is sinless.  That is not it at all.  I think probably the best translation is something like, “Here’s an Israelite in whom is no phoniness, a real straight-shooter, a tell-it-like-it-is type of person.”

 Nathanael is struck by the fact that Jesus knows him.  Verse 48 says, “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’”

That is just fantastic, isn’t it?!  Jesus says, “Nathanael, I saw you long before Philip went looking for you.  You were standing there under the fig tree.”  Verse 49 states, “Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”  In other words, “Okay! I believe!” Then Jesus replies in verse 50, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  It is almost like a gentle rebuke, isn’t it?  “Nathanael, you believe because I told you I saw you before Philip went to get you.  Tell you what, Nathanael, you follow Me and you are going to see a lot more than that!”  That is exciting!

And then Jesus sort of “tips His hand” in the last verse.  He gives an idea of at least one sense in which He means that there are “greater things” on the horizon.  Verse 51 declares, “And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’”

That is an interesting statement, isn’t it?  The context is Genesis 28.  It is where we read about Jacob’s being in the wilderness and he went to sleep one evening, using a stone for a pillow.  He goes to sleep and he has this dream, this vision, of a staircase, a ladder, or like an escalator from earth reaching into heaven – and angels of God going up the ladder and coming down the ladder.  It is a powerful image of the very presence of God! 

And in the dream Jacob hears God say to him: “I am the Lord, and I am going to bless you with land and descendants as numerous as the dust particles of the earth!  I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”  Jacob wakes up and he says, “Surely the Lord is in their place, and I did not know it!”  And he adds in verse 17, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”  The writer goes on to say that Jacob named the place “Bethel,” which means “house of God.”

More about that specific text in a moment.  Right now, let me share with you some encouragement.

Two main truths here that rise from this passage of Scripture.  Be encouraged. Remember this about our Lord Jesus . . .

1) He Sees Us.

The God who sees Nathanael under the fig tree is the God who sees you right now sitting where you are.  He knows you.  Remember Nathanael’s question to Jesus?  He is astonished and he asks Jesus in verse 48, “How do You know me?”  Jesus says, “I saw you.”  To the Lord, to see is to know.  Our Lord Jesus sees us and so He knows us. He knows all about us.  He knows us inside and out.  We may rightly say that Jesus knows at least three things about us . . . He . . .

Knows Who We Are.

Remember that Jesus is the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.  John reminds us of this truth in the opening of his Gospel, referring to Jesus as “the Word.” John writes in the opening verses of Chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him . . . .”  The eternal Son of God is the One through whom all creation comes into existence.  He knows who we are because He is God, creator God, who has all power and all knowledge.  He sees us – He knows who we are.  He also . . .

Knows Where We Are.

Jesus not only knew who Nathanael was, but where Nathanael was.  He said, “I saw you,” specifically, “under the fig tree.”  Our Lord Jesus sees us right where we are, right now.  He sees us.  He always knows not just who we are, but where we are.

The Psalmist was overwhelmed by this truth in Psalm 139, when he declares, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 

He knows who we are, where we are, and therefore . . .

He Knows How We Are.

That is, He knows how we are doing.  It is one thing to marvel at God’s omniscience, His all-knowing ways through Christ.  But it is another thing to think about God’s care for us.  I am blown away by the fact that our Lord knows everything, all the intricate details of every single thing in the universe.  How amazing it that?!

Jesus knows everything.  Marvel at that truth for a moment.  He knows everything . . . He knows every single fact of knowledge:

  • Every math equation perfectly;
  • The number of stars in the sky;
  • The problem in your automobile that no one can locate;
  • How many particles of dust are floating around in your room.

He knows all about you.

  • He knows your favorite coffee house.
  • He knows your favorite beverage.
  • He knows how you like your favorite beverage.
  • He knows how many of your favorite beverage you had this morning.
  • He knows the exact number of bugs you accidentally swallow in a lifetime.
  • He knows the precise number of all the documents on your computer.
  • He knows how many words there are in each document.
  • He knows how many keys you pressed when you typed each document.
  • He knows how many texts you send.
  • He knows how many times your heart beats in a given day.
  • How many times you breathed-in and exhaled in the last hour.
  • He knows your concerns and cares.
  • He knows what worries you.
  • He knows your greatest fears.

It is not just that He knows who you are and where you are, He knows how you are – how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and how you’re hurting.  And because He is God, our Lord Jesus knows just what to do if we take our cares and our concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7).  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Some of you may be worried about some particular challenge or burden.  It is weighing on you.  You are reading this blog this morning hoping to be encouraged.  Be encouraged!  Our Lord sees you.  He knows you.  Remember His character:  He is always good and always does the right thing.  If you are worried about that loved one, that job, that financial situation, or that health scare, hear God’s Word in Philippians 4:6 -7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

He sees us.  The other side of the coin is . . .

2) We May See Him.

We may know Him.  We may know Him personally.

You Can Know God Personally through Christ

This is why God came to us in Christ.  He came that we may have a personal relationship with Him, may know Him personally.

The vision of Jacob’s to which Jesus alludes, is so significant.  Jacob falls asleep and has this vision that there is a ladder between heaven and earth.  There is this realm, you know, in which God resides.  It is a place of utter perfection and utter holiness. Then there is this realm here, this earthly realm, this world of sorrow and sin.  Jacob has this fantastic vision, this dream, where there is a sort of punching through the realms, this ladder that appears, God punches a hole in the sky and God’s presence is made known.  Angels are ascending and descending.  Jacob is just taken by it all and says, (Genesis 28:17).

God has come and in the person of Jesus Christ so that you can know Him personally. God has punched a hole through the sky and entered into our world.  He has come to us as the gate of heaven.  Jesus says later in this same Gospel in John 10:9, “I am the gate. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,” and later in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come unto the father except by Me.”

You can know God personally through Christ.  You must come to Him, believe in Him, believe He lived a perfect life for you and earned your righteousness by fulfilling all the laws you have broken, and dying a perfect death of substitution, taking the penalty of your sin upon Himself, dying for you, rising from the dead for you.  Believe Him, turn to Him, and be saved from your sin. You can know God personally through Christ.

And if you know God personally through Christ, remember this, always remember . . .

You Can Know God’s Presence through Christ.

This fact, to me, is one of the greatest and most glorious truths of the Christian experience!  The presence of God!!  Back in Genesis 28 Jacob had described that place in the wilderness as “Bethel,” which means, “House of God.”  But now, God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the gate, the stairway, the door, and the way.  Jesus is now the place where people meet God and know God and discover the presence of God.  

That is why to the Christian, buildings or the geography of so-called “holy sites” is really not that big a deal.  To be with Christ is to be with God.  Jesus is the holy place, the house of God.  Jesus is the new   house of God, the place where God is present.

Does it thrill you to know that you can know God’s presence through Christ?  Do you experience regularly, daily, the delight of the presence of God through Christ?  I mean, God is here, but that does not mean you actually experience the joy and wonder of His presence.

Remember that Nathanael was not moved by the presence of the Lord until he was aware of the presence of the Lord.

A. W. Tozier, writing on the presence of God, says, “The presence and the manifestation of the presence are not the same.  There can be the one without the other.  God is here when we are wholly unaware of it.  He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence.  On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.  If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.”

This week remember that God has punched a hole through the skies and placed Himself there in the ladder of Jesus Christ.  You can know God personally through Christ and you can experience the joy and wonder of His presence by basking in the presence of Jesus.  Take time each day to get away quietly and open your Bible and listen to God as you read.  He is with you as you read!  And bow your head frequently through the day and say, “God, thank you for being right here with me, as close as a shadow on a bright sunny day, never leaving me, never forsaking me, but being with me always.”

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.”

Encounter With Christ – Forgiven Much, Loves Much

Grace For The Journey

One of the things we have noted during this series is how many times an encounter with Christ takes place over a meal.  There are so many that one could do a series entitled, “Dining with Jesus” or “Meals with Christ.”  That is the case this today.  We will be looking at a passage here in Luke 7:36-50 where Luke describes a dinner event.  Jesus dines with someone nobody expected.  An anonymous woman with a notorious reputation.

At a funeral several months ago I was approached after the graveyard service by one of the granddaughters of the family.  She said that she was offended by comments he had made during my funeral message.  Specifically, the woman was offended my remarks that, “all are sinners and we cannot save ourselves.”  This young woman was offended because she did not see herself as a sinner.  That is the second time that I have had someone respond that way after one of my sermons.  In today’s climate I am less surprised that someone would be offended that they themselves were included in a clear teaching of Scripture, such as Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

What a contrast to the woman in today’s study.  If there is one woman who readily acknowledges her sinfulness and unworthiness it is the unnamed woman in this story. There is no question but that she is a sinner.  She knows it to be true and everyone present at that dinner knew it to be true, as well.

Let’s go through this passage, verse-by-verse, and take a look at the three key persons in the text.  I have a simple descriptive outline to provide a sense of movement through the passage.  Then after we have studied the meaning of the passage, I will share a few points of application about which to think more deeply today and in the weeks ahead.

I. A Conspicuous Sinner – Verses 36-38.

Verse 36 says, “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him.  And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.”  I have noted before that dinner invitations in Bible times were an opportunity to really get to know someone.   It was not a rushed time, a hurried time, but rather an evening to share and listen and learn.

One of the Pharisees had invited Jesus to dinner.  Maybe he wanted to know more about Jesus or thought that by having Jesus over he might sort of “score some points” with this popular prophet.  Luke does not tell us the man’s motivation, so we do not really know.  In any case, something happened that is a bit of a surprise.

Someone joins them while they are dining.  And it is not just anyone.  Luke tells us in verse 37, “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, joined them.”  On the one hand, it was not that unusual to have someone enter into the dining area.  In our day, it would be really strange because we eat in houses with doors shut and even locked. And nobody just walks into a modern 21st Century house uninvited and sits at the table, unless you want to get shot!  But in the ancient near eastern context, meals were shared in an open area of a home, open to the outside, where passersby could actually see who was eating and even kind of “hang out” near where the folks were eating, even listening to conversation.  It was a more communal experience even for uninvited guests.

And folks did not sit around a modern western table with chairs, but rather they reclined in something of a circle, leaning on one arm and eating with the other hand.  It was so different!  It is still that way today as many of you know who have traveled to Mediterranean areas.

So . . . There is this woman who walks in.  She is, verse 37 tells us, “a woman in the city who was a sinner.”  In other words, she had a reputation.  And it was not a good one. Everything about the context suggests that this woman was a prostitute – or at least had been a prostitute – until sometime recently.  Look at what happens as we continue in verses 37 and 38, “When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”

We will note in a moment that when the Pharisee sees this happening in his own home he is beside himself in shock.  He says, in verse 40, “If this man were a prophet he would know who this woman is, and what kind of woman this is, she is a sinner!”

This sinful woman has made her presence known.  She is conspicuous in every way. She stands behind Jesus.  She opens this alabaster flask of oil.  Probably a small flask worn around the neck.  It contained perfume.  It was costly perfume.  She would have used this perfume in her profession.  And she now opens the flask to anoint His feet, but while she is planning on doing this, she begins to sob – and the sense is not just a whimpering cry, but a deep, heartfelt sobbing.  This woman is just weeping and sobbing.  She likely wasn’t expecting to cry so much and, not having a towel, washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with the hair of her head.

To describe her as conspicuous is quite an understatement because her every action would have drawn further attention and glaring stares and shock to guests in the room, especially the Pharisee.  In the Talmud, which is a Jewish commentary, it is stated that for a woman to let down her hair in the presence of men was a major no-no.  In fact, if the woman were married, this action of letting down her hair was grounds for divorce.  It was a shameful action.

By the way, this incident is different from another story we read in the Gospels.  You may remember Mary who anointed Jesus for His burial.  That is a different situation that took place in Bethany by the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  This incident occurs in Galilee and the woman is not Mary, but this unnamed, but not unknown “lady of the evening,” a prostitute – a conspicuous, a very conspicuous sinner.

We look secondly at the Pharisee who had a . . .

II. A Critical Spirit – Verses 39-40.

Verse 39 says, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’”

He is just shocked that this woman is even touching Jesus and that Jesus allows it!  We learn the Pharisee’s name in verse 40, “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’”  Then Jesus proceeds to tell a parable that illustrates the depth of sin and the wideness in God’s mercy to forgive.  That is what Jesus does in the following verses.

Before we look at that parable, let you spirit sense and feel Simon the Pharisee’s critical spirit.  The Pharisees were a religious group of folks in Jesus’ day who were very powerful and very influential.  The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that there were as many as 6,000 of these Pharisees during the time of Jesus.  These Pharisees were not only powerful and influential, they had a tendency to be critical and judgmental.  And the reason for this tendency was because they had such a high estimation of themselves as the morally upright upper crust.  The very word “Pharisee” means, “separated one.” These folks separated themselves from the common folks and common ways and were therefore thought of as highly moral and superior in righteousness given their strict adherence to tradition and law.

There was a tendency on the part of the Pharisee to become judgmental, to look down one’s nose upon the sinful actions of

That bring us the final person . . .

III.  A Compassionate Savior – Verses 41-50.

Jesus tells this parable to illustrate His compassion for those who know the depth of their sin and their need for God’s forgiveness.  Jesus says in verse 41, “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.”  The amount of money this man charges these individuals is significant – One owes the equivalent of 2 years’ wages.  The other owes the equivalent of two months’ wages.  The problem is that neither one could pay down the debt, or pay off the debt.  If you did not pay off your debt in those days you could be thrown into debtor’s prison.  Both men are in the same boat.  Verses 42 and 43 declare, “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.  Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’”

The person who knows his debt to be so great and sees no way out of the situation is likely to be more grateful than the one who sees his debt as not as great as the other’s. Therefore, he may wrongly conclude that he is not in as great a need as the other. Consequently, when his debt is forgiven, he is not as likely to love in the same way the other loves.  

Jesus continues in verse 44, “Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  Washing a visitor’s feet was a common near eastern practice.  If you wear open-toed sandals everywhere your feet will get dirty and dusty.  You washed the feet of your dinner guests before they reclined for meal.  Simon had not done so.  He treated Jesus just like some common person.  

Jesus continues in verses 45 and 46, “You gave Me no kiss but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.”  It seems that Simon reasoned the way many professing Christians reason: “Is not it enough that I invited you here?”  Is not it enough that Jesus is here in my house?  Isn’t it enough I have come to church today?

Jesus continues in verse 47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Now the very last verse, verse 50, tells us that this woman had faith in Jesus and that it was on the basis of her faith in Christ that she is saved.  She had at some point already placed her faith in Christ.  She believed in Him, trusted in Him.  Verse 50 says, “Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’”

That is important to know because

Jesus is teaching that the one

Who is truly saved will have

A love that flows out of

Them in gratitude to God.

That is what Jesus means when He says in verse 47 that, “she loved much.”  She has been forgiven of her sin and she, as a result, she loves much.

Jesus reassures the woman that her faith has saved her and her sins have been forgiven.  That is the point of verses 48 to 50, “Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’  Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’”  This woman is sobbing all over Jesus and Jesus is like, “It is true.  It is really true.  Your sins have been forgiven.  All of them.  You may go in peace.”

Here is what is so important for us to know and so important for us to consider today . . .

There is a difference between religious faith

And saving faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a difference between

Morality and the Gospel.  

There is a difference between

Those who say they are

Religious and morally upright

And those who genuinely

Know true salvation.

If you are truly saved. If you have had a real, saving encounter with Jesus Christ then you will identify more with the prostitute than the religious man.

If you have had a real, saving encounter with Christ, then you will have three things . . .

A Real, Saving Encounter With Christ Produces . . .

And I ask you to consider these three things with me this morning. number one:

1) Genuine Humility Before God.

And by humility before God, I have in mind namely that you will know the depth of your sin and will surrender to Christ alone.  Unlike the woman I mentioned in the introduction of our study – the one at the funeral who did not think she was a sinner – unlike her, you and I will know the depth of our sin.  We will identify with this so-called, “Sinful woman.” We are sinful, too.

Simon is detached, cold, and unaffected.  Simon wants Jesus there, but keeps Him at arm’s length.  He invited Jesus over for an academic experience, a sort of religious seminar.  The woman knows sin.  She gives up control.  She surrenders.  She knows she needs forgiveness. She cries over her sin.  Martin Luther calls her tears, “Heart water.”

It is a reasonable question to ask of ourselves this morning: “When was the last time you shed a tear for your sin?”  It is only when you and I know the depth of our own sin that we are in a position to appreciate the wideness and depth of God’s mercy.  John Owen said, “He that hath slight thoughts of sin, never had great thoughts of God.”  Geoff Thomas puts it another way, “If you figure that you are a ‘little sinner’ then all you need is a ‘little Savior.’  If you think you are a ‘moderate sinner’ then what you will need is a ‘moderate Savior.’  But if you are a ‘big sinner’ you will need a ‘big Savior.’ Those who have a little Savior will love him little, while those who have a big Savior will love him greatly.”  Most of the time, I feel more like the prostitute than the Pharisee.  I need a big Savior.  I need the Gospel.

The Gospel is not something you add to your life

The way you add an exercise routine

Or a diet plan or take vitamins.  

The Gospel is not true

Because it works;

It works because it is true.

The problem is never with the Gospel, the problem lies in our failure to really understand and appreciate the Gospel – because our failure to really understand and appreciate the Gospel is based upon a failure to really understand and appreciate the depth of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy.  This woman got it; the religious Pharisee did not.

2) A real, saving encounter with Christ produces . . .

Genuine Love And Gratitude To Christ.

This point is tied to the first point.  Genuine humility leads to genuine love and gratitude to Christ.  The Pharisee does not really see himself as much of a sinner, does he?  He is morally upright.  He keeps the law.  He certainly does not live like this prostitute!  He really does not regard himself as much of a sinner.  How then does he treat Christ as a result?  The Pharisee slighted Christ.  Treated Him as just some ordinary guest.  Just some common person.  Does not give Him a proper greeting, doesn’t wash His feet, just treats Him as an ordinary person.

The woman, however, she regards herself as a sinner.  She knows the depth of her sin. How does she treat Christ?  She loves Him.  She has endless love for Christ and endless gratitude to Christ.

If you know you have been forgiven much, you will love much.  If you know the depth of your sin, you will love Jesus greatly.  You will never get over the depths and wideness of God’s mercy in His forgiveness of you.

This is the whole point of Jesus’s parable.  Here is a lender who lends money to two people and then finds himself in a position where neither can repay so must absorb the debt himself.  The lender absorbs the debt.  Someone has to pay.  The debt is never truly cancelled, it is transferred to another.  The payment of the two debtors is absorbed, or paid for, by the money lender.

Jesus equates Himself with the lender.  The debt of the woman – and the debt of the Pharisee – is absorbed by or transferred over to Jesus; we may biblically say, imputed to Jesus.  He pays the debt.  The lender pays the debt of others.  It cost Him for these two folks to be forgiven.

They were both in debt and the point is that neither could repay.  If you are a little in debt and a lot in debt, but the consequences are the same then it really does not matter if you are a little in debt or a lot in debt; the same way we may think of two different people as dead.  One merely stopped breathing and the other was brutally murdered. Neither is more dead than the other.  They are both dead.  One just looks more presentable at death that is all.

That is what the self-righteous Pharisee failed to see – and that may well be what many of us fail to see.  

It really doesn’t matter whether you are

“A little sinner” or “a big time sinner.”

You are a sinner.  

You are separated from God.  

And just like two dead people,

No one more dead than the other.  

Both are in the same condition.

Imagine you are on an airplane that will explode in the air.  If the airplane is going to explode and disintegrate, it really does not matter whether you are seated in first class or in coach.

Self-righteousness, judgmentalism, a critical spirit, these things are gone when we realize that before God we are all sinners equally in need of a Savior.  You will not look down your nose at someone who is struggling this week when you remember that you are just as they – a sinner.  It does not matter whether that person is a prostitute, a drug addict, a criminal, or a so-called “Low life,” you are a sinner, too.

The Pharisee was worried about getting a seat in first class.  But he is in the same predicament as the sinful woman seated near the restroom in coach.

When you know the depth of your sin, you are more likely to love Christ and be every grateful to Him for His forgiveness.  When this woman breaks open her alabaster (fine-grained stone) flask (small container of perfume), she is saying in essence, “You are more important to me than all of this ointment. You are more important to me than all the reasons I used this before.”

You may not be a prostitute, but what is the flask you carry around your neck?  What is it you love more than Jesus?  What is it you wish to control, or what is it that you believe adds greater value to your life?  Doesn’t Jesus really own everything anyway?  You feel proud of your own stuff, you earned it.  But did you cause your birth?  Did you cause yourself to have certain talents or abilities?  

God comes to forgive a debt we owe Him.  What do you owe God?  What if God gave you a bill each month for everything you have – Every sin you committed?  Every failure?  What if God billed you for every sin?  That is the way religion works.  

People have the wrong view that they can

Pay down or pay off their own sin debt.

Giving money to poor people.  Donating to charity.  Being kind to others.  Some people believe this is the way to pay our sin debts.  It is just religion.

Think of it really: what if God billed you for every single sin?  In some sense, that is what the day of Judgment is like.  God says, “Okay, I’m calling your loan.  It is time to pay your debts.  You can pay in hell which is just since you owe me and cannot pay me.  I will send you to the debtor’s prison of hell.  Or, if you have had your debt paid for by my Son then you can enter into heaven.” Jesus paid it all.

There is one final thing here.  A real, saving encounter with Christ produces . . .

3) Genuine Love And Forgiveness For Others.

When you have experienced God’s forgiveness and the depth of His mercy, and you identify with the sinful woman, then you are in a better position to understand and forgive others when they hurt you – your co-worker, your wife, your husband, or your children.

Our ability to love people and to forgive people and to be gracious towards people and compassionate towards people – all of these and more – our ability to love others and to love life is really dependent upon a right understanding of the Gospel and an ability to understand the depth of our own sin and the forgiveness God has given us.

If you’re angry all the time, mad at the world, mad at others, never satisfied with who you are and where you are and what you are doing, it may well be because you really do not know the Gospel.  It may well be that you do not really know the depth of your sin and the wideness of God’s mercy to forgive you your sin.

John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace,” was once a notorious sinner, a slave dealer, but he was gloriously converted and became a preacher.  He never got over the depth of his sin and the wideness of God’s mercy to forgive.  He lived to the age of 82.  Not too long before he died Newton made this statement: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner . . . and that Christ is a great Savior!”

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.”