Do Pets Go To heaven? Dealing with the death of our pets.

May 14, 2022

Will Leo our Pet rabbit go to heaven at the Eschaton?

This week we lost a pet Rabbit. His name was Leo and we had him for about seven years.   I have to say that Leo has taught me a lot about love and compassion.   I’m not one of these people that believes that animals don’t have sentience.   I believe that animals were created by God. I also believe that there are animals in heaven. 

And why do I think this? 

Well, for example? 

Elijah was taken to heaven by a chariot of horses and animals, obviously in the Bible had a certain amount of intelligence. For example, when God commanded a donkey to speak to its owner, or the owner would have been killed by an Angel, or the time when the Ravens were commanded to go and feed Elijah. So, animals are very very pecial. Now for a lot of people they want to know if their pet is going to heaven. 

My own personal opinion is that I actually believe that pets can go to heaven.   I never really thought of it that deeply, but when you’ve been working with a pet and you’ve taken care of them and they’ve been your friend. And you see them every day and you do things with them. The thing about Leo was that he was bilingual. We spoke two languages. We spoke in Finnish, and we spoke in English. 

Every day I used to cut very fine apple for him because he wasn’t well and I’d say Leo,

“Where could the apple be? Where could it be?  He got really excited, and he would run around looking for it. He just he just ebbed with intelligence. 

But the main question today is: 

Is Leo in heaven?

Is there a possibility that Leo is in heaven?

Is there a possibility he’s going to be here after the resurrection at the end times? 

My conclusion is actually yes. 

I actually believe that animals, pets, especially, Comeback. It’s actually an indirect route in Scripture But I think that it’s a very interesting route. 

The first place I would probably start is before the Fall. One group God created the heavens and the earth We saw that.   When he created each part, he’d said that it was ‘good’. It was good. It was good so from God’s perspective when he created everything, it was good. It wasn’t bad. And I think that it’s important to start here even after the Fall. The world still gives us our food. It rains for us. 

You know, lots of good things come to us from the earth. So, it’s still good within some Christian traditions. It seems to be a little bit gnostic. 

What I mean is that when it comes to the material world, there’s a negativity about the material world that that it’s somehow bad. Just because there was a fall Doesn’t mean that everything is bad, they’re still good there. 

Now it is the case that. The main the main people Group that are going to find this salvic salvation or are believers who believe in Jesus Christ Where does that leave the theater? 

The theater that where we live the theater is our world. We’re on the stage and each of us has to play a part. I got some information from Herman Bavinck in his volume four of the reformed.  In there, after we’ve had our salvation, and that work is concluded. 

Even the world itself, the universe itself. Will be renewed. The world itself is going to be ‘born again’. 

It’s going to be regenerated. It’s going to be renewed. if the world is going to be regenerated and renewed, what does that actually mean? 

What a boring place it would be if there weren’t any animals. You know after the eschaton and we’ve gone to be to live with the Lord. My main drive really now is to go through that section of a Bavincks writings And to think about how creation is going to be re renewed. 

Obviously, it doesn’t directly say that Leo is going to be in heaven but if the whole world is regenerated.

Anyhow, the main thrust now is going to be to go through that section, and you might find you don’t have to read the whole section, but I just need to dig deep into what he actually says. 

I’m going to look at the verses a lot more closely than usual. The reason I’m going to look a lot more closely is because I want an answer to my question. Is Leo going to be with us in the resurrection? 

And that that to me is an important question. And I think that there are lots of people who’ve been thinking about other pets going to heaven. I have to say that the church doesn’t want to give any sort of answer to that sort of question for me it’s a very, very important question. 

My pet rabbit or our pet rabbit has brought me to the conclusion that animals have got lots of love and empathy and they’ve got a lot of feeling power. They have soft logic, but they also show filial love and devotion to their masters (good masters). 

Humans have hard logic. That’s why in a sense that we were created the image of God. The reason why this world ended up in a mess is because of the fall because of sin; Because we’re selfish, we put ourselves first, but it was never meant to be that way. 

Leo and the New Creation

In the end of time what will happen to this world and all the creature in it?

There are two extreme views:

  • The world will carry on the way it has forever
  • The world will be completely destroyed and replaced by a new one.

Scripture rejects both these views and is somewhere in the middle. 

  • The first view builds on the work of Aristotle into the present age.
  • The second view presumes that there is nothing worth salvaging in this world.

Both these conclusions are wrong, and we need to follow through what Scripture says.  The argumentation that I will be using is found in the Reformed Dogmatics volume 4 written by Herman Bavinck.

At the Eschaton of the Day of Judgement, Scripture is very graphic and there will be perishing but not complete dissolution of the elements.  This second part we will touch on later but not yet. Let us consider some verses:

20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner,

To set free those who were doomed to death, Psalms 102:20

4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4

6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane.

7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,

A people in whose heart is My law;

Do not fear the reproach of man,

Nor be dismayed at their revilings.

8 “For the moth will eat them like a garment,

And the grub will eat them like wool.

But My righteousness will be forever,

And My salvation to all generations.”

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD;

Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.

Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces,

Who pierced the dragon?

10 Was it not You who dried up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

Who made the depths of the sea a pathway

For the redeemed to cross over?

11 So the ransomed of the LORD will return

And come with joyful shouting to Zion,

And everlasting joy will be on their heads.

They will obtain gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies

And of the son of man who is made like grass,

13 That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker,

Who stretched out the heavens

And laid the foundations of the earth,

That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor,

As he makes ready to destroy?

But where is the fury of the oppressor?

14 The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. 15 For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). 16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:6-16

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing

And her people for gladness.

19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;

And there will no longer be heard in her

The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,

Or an old man who does not live out his days;

For the youth will die at the age of one hundred

And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred

Will be thought accursed.

21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;

They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 “They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat;

For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,

And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

23 “They will not labor in vain,

Or bear children for calamity;

For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD,

And their descendants with them.

24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. Isaiah 65:17-25

22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure.

23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon

And from sabbath to sabbath,

All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD.

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” Isaiah 66:22-24

Bavinck makes the point that ‘abad’ (to perish) when used on its own never means an absolute destruction of the substance of the world.  Indeed, when it comes to the judgement of God Hell does not only mean being separated from their creator but that they will live with this ‘ever conscious torment’.  The soul and spirit are not destroyed. 

He then looks at the word ‘create’ (bara).  He makes the point that it does not always mean ‘God creating from nothing’ (ex nihilo).   Bavinck then gives us a set of single verses:

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17

20 You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;

Your ears are open, but none hears. Isaiah 42:20

7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7

16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16

18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

19 Creating the praise of the lips.

Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Isaiah 57:18-19

Activity for the above verses

Perhaps you should find every reference ‘to create’ in the above verses and see how they are used.  In the verb ‘create’ one can see ‘create’ is used in other contexts that do not have ex nihilo (out of nothing) as the driver of the verb.

Reflection

I find it interesting that he chose the Hebrew verbs ‘to create’ and ‘to perish’.

We found out that God does not always create out of nothing.

We also found out that when God Judges and works in the affairs of humans it never means the complete annihilation of substance but rather ‘purification’.

The master Theologian continues to explain that even when the world of Noah was destroyed by water, it was the corruption in the world.  In the same way when we look at the destruction of the world by fire it is a purification, and we are created new, but we haven’t lost our soul, but it has been transformed through a resurrection body.  Corruption needs to put on incorruption.  We as the human race needed to be purified first and through repentance and faith we are continually being purified by the Holy Spirit. 

According to Bavinck ‘the physical world’ will also be born again ‘regenerated’.  Through the death and resurrection of Christ in the end even the physical theatre in which we live in will be born again.

So, Bavinck wrote:

“For that reason, it also frequently alternates with planting, laying the foundations of, and making (Isa. 51:16; 66:22). The Lord can say (Isa. 51:16) that he begins the new creation by putting his word in Israel’s mouth and hiding them in the shadow of his hand.

In the same way, the New Testament proclaims that heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:1), that they will perish and wear out like clothing (Heb. 1:11), dissolve (2 Pet. 3:10), be burned with tire (3:10), and be changed (Heb. 1:12). But none of these expressions implies a destruction of substance. Peter, for example, expressly teaches that the old earth, which originated as a result of the separation of waters, was deluged with water and so perished (2 Pet. 3:6), and that the present world would also perish, not-thanks to the divine promise—by water but by fire. Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than (we would) with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the food. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy. The contrast in 1 John 2:17 (“the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever”) teaches us that the first statement does not imply a destruction of the substance of the world but a vanishing of the world in its present, sin-damaged form. Paul, accordingly, also states very clearly that the present form (to oxnua, to schema) of this world passes away (1 Cor. 7:31). Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation.”  (From Reformed Dogmatics; Herman Bavinck; page 717; Translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt.)

In Christ God became a man and he died for us so that we might live.  This was a physical death, but he also had a physical resurrection.  When Jesus returns, it is a physical return.  Our election proceeds from the ‘the first born of the elect’.  Our election is ‘in Christ’ as Ephesians puts it.  As Karl Barth would put it ‘the Judge (God) was judged (God was judged) in our place’.  It so follows that Jesus is the true ‘image of God’.

The great reversal is taking place in human history.  When God created the earth, it was perfect.  Sin came into the world through the agency of Adam and Eve. However, God being rich in mercy and loving his ‘own creation’ came into this world to make things right.  Humans can be born again “regenerated” but in the end creation itself will also be purified and made perfect again. 

My own opinion

When God had created nature which included plants, animals, and humans he said that ‘it was good’.  This to me is a baseline for salvation.  God didn’t say that creation was bad, no he said it was good.  Recently our pet rabbit died and yes, I believe he has a soul:

“Every living thing has a soul, but humanity is special because God breathed into Him

10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind? “Job 12:10

Animals can show filial devotion to their masters.  Archaeologists all over the world have found animals buried with their masters throughout human history.  I know why that is.  The masters and their pets had a true bond of love and affection.

With these evidences, I believe I will see our pet rabbit again.  

Creation groans for the end times when it will be born again even as we as believers can be born again by the Father sending his son and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

The Walk of Faith and the Paradox of Suffering in the Beatitudes

April 24, 2022

When we read John Calvin on this verse near the beginning, he starts by saying “We can fight Christ’s battles on no other terms than for the majority of the world to be risen up in enmity against us, and to be our persecutors, even unto death.”

This Sermon is for the followers of Christ.  As a general rule of thumb and more the world hates the Christian message. Calvin reminds us that:

 ‘Satan as the prince of this world will never stop arming his ranks in a frenzy to assault the members of Christ.”

We need to remember even way back in the book of Job it was Satan who was accusing Job of evils.  This same Satan is also the one who tried to force the hand of Jesus to worship him rather than God!

Calvin goes on to tell is about 1 Peter 3:3. However for the sake of context I have quoted some more:

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ will be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:13-16

Calvin goes on and he uses the ‘I repeat’ that means he is pressing the main point home:

“I repeat what I have just said, that all who wish to live a godly life in Christ are liable to persecution; Paul’s testimony applies to all the faithful alike (11 Tim, 3.12).”

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:12-13

Calvin goes on to say:

“As throughout this life the way of the godly is most miserable, Christ duly lifts our thoughts to hope for the life of heaven.   Christ’s paradox here is vastly different from the commentaries of the Stoics, where men are told to be satisfied in their own judgement, and each to decide on his own happiness to empty imaginings, for he establishes it upon the reward of a future hope”

As we said earlier in another blog Martin Luther King junior who practiced peaceful protest became a target for doing the right thing.  Every human being has been created in the ‘image of God’.  We see this concept and truth attacked from many sides. When John Calvin penned these words, the world was in full movement and flux and many people died for having a separate confession about reality.  Calvin reminds us that this persecution of the Church is a staple diet of the world.   There is so much evil in the world at the moment; death and destruction in Europe for silly stupid reasons. 

We need to remember that the God we serve is a God of love.  Anyone who purports to be flying the Christian flag and openly murders innocent people is an ‘anti-Christ’.  There have been many anti-Christs throughout the centuries, and we have them even in the 21st century.  They may pretend to be Christian but by murdering innocent people they show themselves to be doings Satan’s will.  Let us love and be willing to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves in this way we follow the teachings of Christ. 

Reflection

Interesting that for the word righteousness Vine says:

“Righteousness dikaiosune (1343), is “the character or quality of being right or just”; it was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning. It is used to denote an attribute of God, e.g., Rom. 3:5, the context of which shows that “the righteousness of God” means essentially the same as His faithfulness, or truthfulness, that which is consistent with His own nature and promises; Rom. 3:25, 26 speaks of His “righteousness” as exhibited in the death of Christ, which is sufficient to show men that God is neither indifferent to sin nor regards it lightly.”  (From Vines dictionary; Olive Tree Bible software)

I come to the same conclusion as Calvin that the follower of Christ who lives the way of Christ is going to suffer.  There is an alignment of the righteousness and the follower of Christ.  It is in Christ that as Paul would say we are justified.  It is precisely for this reason that the prophets suffered.  They suffered because they aligned themselves in obedience to God’s word. 

I can think of Isaiah:

“1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah 6:1-7

God has high standards, and in our strength, we cannot reach this standard.  Grace was given to Isaiah as his lips were purified.  Coming to the conclusion of the beatitudes we see steppingstones. We realize that all the goodness we have stems from the work of Christ. 

As Bavinck would say the natural man would reject this way of doing things.  The natural man wants to do things in their own strength and prove how strong they are.  On the surface it might look like righteousness but dig under the surface and one can see that it is fake righteousness.  True righteousness has roots coming from God’s grace.  Fake righteousness has its roots in self-empowerment.

Christ turns the values of this world on its head and shows how ugly they are:

 In fact, the follower of Christ’s city is in heaven.  The Christian is happy because he can see beyond the horizon.  This world is not our goal we are not interested in amassing wealth here.  True wealth is spiritual not material.  The legacy of the follower of Christ is to share love to all and sundry.   

The values of the world maybe:

That one is proud that he pays his taxes on time; You are a proud successful businessman who in reality only thinking about how good you are; You have achieved everything by your own wisdom. Or you are poor and jealous of someone who has the latest things, and you want the same.  It maybe that that person only cares about themselves.   

The examples above are probably not very accurate as I used a wide brush stroke here, but the main point is that the beatitudes for the follower of Christ is a mirror that can help weed out the sin in our lives.  As followers of Christ, we realize that we are completely dependent on God for our daily living.

The natural man and the follower of Christ look through completely different spectacles.

As Calvin used the word paradox in relation to Christs teachings.  It does look like a paradox that we are called to be happy and the way to be happy is to critique selfish empowerment.  At the end we are also to rejoice in our sufferings!  

No believers are not sadomasochists who like to inflict pain on themselves for enjoyment’s sake.  No, my friends; What we have here is a meditation to make us true believers in Christ. The small word ‘shall’ have been used a lot through these happy sayings.  We look beyond the horizon to Christ, to our redemption:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:12”

Reflection

This brings us to the end of the beatitudes but from my point of view this is the very key to understand all the teachings found within the Sermon on the Mount.  This has not been an easy ride theologically, but I hope as a follower of Christ you have grown in the grace of Christ as we become by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit more genuine in our faith.

If you are not a follower of Christ, I hope that the beatitudes have given you an appreciation to what Christ is actually saying and I hope one day that you too could follow in the steps of Christ.

{For the writings of John Calvin I used his Harmony of the Gospels translated by A.W Morrison; pages 172-173; WM. B. Eerdmans publishing house}

Easter Special

April 13, 2022

These events happened before the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans.  Up to this point, Jesus had been preaching for about three years.  Jesus’ popularity grew over this time and there were many who were jealous of this.  This would be the last time that Jesus would visit Jerusalem.  The next time will be at his Second coming.  These narratives found at the end of the Gospels are referred to as the Passion narratives.  They are central to the Christian message. 

By reading the Apostolic Writings of the New Testament in general they all point to these events. 

Before Jesus was actually captured, he told his disciple that he would be crucified:

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Matthew 26:2”

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of the leaders wanted Jesus dead because he revealed the religious corruption that was going on.  Under Roman occupation these corrupt leaders could make a large profit.  However, if there were riots this could alter their game plan:

5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.” Matthew 26:5

Jesus had now reached Bethany about six days before the Passover.  He visited the house of Simon the Leper.  If Simon was a leper then according to purity rules Jesus ought not to have been there and then on top of that a woman comes in and anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume.   She anointed Jesus head with oil.  Jesus took this as a sign for his burial whilst the disciple were more interested in the cost of the perfume:

10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. Matthew 26:10

Jesus corrects the disciples’ assumptions:

12 For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Matthew 26:12

Judas on the other hand was a thief and his devotion to Jesus was not genuine although later on he commits suicide:

14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. Matthew 26:14-16

The seed for Jesus’ crucifixion had been set.  Jesus and his disciples are now to celebrate the Passover for the very last time until Jesus returns.

The original Passover is about God saving the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to a land of milk and honey.  The Passover lamb’s blood in the original story was put on to the door of every Israelite house.  When the angel of death came to such a house, He would Passover that house and they would not be affected with the death of their firstborn sons.  This was not the case for the Egyptians who lost many first-born sons up to Pharoah himself (His son).

For Christians this Passover would take on meaning.  The original Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons.   For Christians Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ (Passover lamb).  Jesus’ death means that the second death of eternal judgement would Passover us and not affect us in any way.  So, it should not surprise you that Passover and Easter are in some way forever linked.  This Last Passover meal is a new covenant in Jesus’ blood. 

God has made various covenants with his people along the way but in a way this covenant is the seal of the covenants.

•          The covenant with Noah

•          The Covenant with Abraham

•          The covenant of Moses

•          The covenant with David

•          The seal of the covenants, Jesus’ death and resurrection

As we already said this covenant was instituted at the last Supper:

“The Last Passover

20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

The Lord’s Supper Instituted

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Matthew 26:20-35”

You will find this in all mainline churches at Holy Communion.   Christianity is a religion of remembering, when we look back to what our Lord did for us.  Jesus died at the cross that we might have eternal life.  Jesus told us to remember him through the act of drinking wine and breaking bread. 

Different denominations have various takes on this, but I don’t want to get bogged down with the details.  For myself I believe that Jesus is present through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is about our union with Christ. 

I found this on the internet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_with_Christ

Various churches place emphases on what this union is.  The following has been taken from the above wiki page:

Roman Catholic

Traditional Roman Catholic theology centres the union with Christ in a substantial sense on the unity of the institutional church, past and present. “The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head.”[7] Christians, according to Roman Catholic theology, are united to Christ through the sacraments.[8]

Medieval conceptions of union with Christ were influenced in large part by mysticism, such as in the preaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard applied the concept of bridal love in the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Songs to a “mystical union” with Christ, wherein Jesus was bridegroom & the worshipper/church (humanity) was His bride. In this conception, Jesus’ love for humanity was manifested in his sacrifice on the cross, something that was reenacted everyday in the Eucharist. In medieval mystical union theology, the sacrament of the Eucharist was the foremost conduit with which humanity found union with Christ.

Reformed

In Reformed theology, union with Christ is understood to be a comprehensive category that runs through the entire doctrine of Salvation.  John Murray observes: “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”

Sinclair Ferguson distinguishes six categories of union with Christ. Union with Christ is federal or covenantal in the sense that Christ’s obedience is accounted to believers. It is carnal or fleshly in the sense that Christ became incarnate and thus became one with humanity. Union with Christ is also a faith union in which by faith Christians depend on Christ for nourishment. It is a spiritual union because Christians are united to Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is an extensive union in that Christians are united with Christ in everything he has done, including his life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. It is finally a union of life because Christ lives in Christians, and he is visible in their lives.

As a step in the order of salvation, union with Christ was seen by John Calvin to be the basis for both justification and sanctification. Alister McGrath notes that while Martin Bucer suggested that justification causes (moral) regeneration, Calvin argued that “both justification and regeneration are the results of the believer’s union with Christ through faith.”

Evangelical

Some Evangelicals see union with Christ as a discrete stage in the “order of salvation.”[13] The evangelical theologian William Shedd comments “The impartation of Christ’s righteousness presupposes a union with him.”[14] Robert Dabney, while avoiding deification, said that the bond of the union is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[15]

Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox theology emphasizes the incarnation as the starting point for our union with Christ.  “In Christ God becomes one with us in order to make us one with him; he stooped to take our nature, in order that we might be restored to become partakers of his nature.””

The Wiki continues and speaks about the Scriptural basis for Union with Christ:

“12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21”

In these Scriptures we have the rationale why God had become man.   Paul’s writings became a bulwark against the gnostic heresies of the early centuries. Having said that there are many who would deny the humanity of Jesus.

It is interesting what Irenaeus says in his Against Heresies:

“7. Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which “reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: “God, true are His works.” Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore, His works are true.” From AH 3.18:7

Reflection

So, then my friends at this time of Easter let us share the love of Christ to all.  Jesus died so that we might live.  Jesus died so that we could be brought back into a right relationship with God. The Last Supper is seriously important to all Christians.  No matter what denomination one belongs to Easter is very important and the climax is the last Supper with the thanksgiving meal (Eucharist= thanksgiving).

Unfortunately, sometimes because of the disputations instead of love there is hate…

The Eucharist has been interpreted in different ways.  For Protestants transubstantiation is a problem. The original Aristotelian logic made a differentiation between substance and accident.  So, for Protestants to actually say that the eucharist turns into the actual body and blood of Christ is anathema. Having said that even though I don’t agree I have to say that it probably developed this way as a refutation of Gnosticism which denied that Jesus was a real man. 

As Christians we ought to focus on loving God and our neighbour especially the invisible Church.  It is by faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit that we have access to our Father in heaven. 

The Bible teaches that we stand by the gift of Faith.  I don’t actually think that God cares about what denomination a person belongs to.  God sees the person He created who is living the life of faith.

Anyhow originally the Church may have met in synagogues that accepted the Apostolic teaching and, or, or both in people’s homes.  It was free flow and while the Apostles were alive, the Apostles were ‘The New Testament’.  When the Apostles died off the Christians who were left realized how important their writings were and put it together as what we now call the ‘New Testament’.  We also need to remember that the Holy Spirit has never left the Church; The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and teacher who points us to Christ and to our eternal home in heaven.

So, we have covered:

  • some passages from the Gospels surrounding Easter
  • The importance of the union with Christ
  • Christian theology in various denominations around the Eucharist
  • Irenaeus and his theology of recapitulation by his own words
  • The importance of empathy for other views on the Eucharist taking the historical contexts into account.

As well as loving those who are our brothers in Christ, the love of God should go out to the whole world.  As a Religious Educator I noticed that Passover, Easter and Ramadan actually converge this year:

Easter Sunday,17 April 2022

Pesach Friday, 15 April 2022

Ramadan Friday, 1 April and ends in the evening of Sunday, 1 May 2022

Happy are the Peacemakers because in the Eschaton they will be known as the Children of God

April 9, 2022

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

In the last beatitude the pure would see God.  In this beatitude Our Lord is going up a level and he explains to his disciples that with this new ‘Happy saying’ they will be called ‘sons of God’.  Sons should be all inclusive for women too. Many of Jesus’s disciple were women and Saint Paul said in Galatians that there is neither male nor female.  In the Kingdom of heaven men and women are equal.  Anyhow before I dive into this beatitude, I want to think about the importance of peace makers.  I can think of some from the top of my head. 

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Dalai Lama
  • Bishop Tutu
  • Greta Thunberg (Global warming that affects all of us)

Peace making comes at many different levels and God loves genuine peacemakers.  I’m not speaking from a salvific point of view but generally.  When God created the world ‘It was good’.  When He created Adam and Eve ‘it was good’.  The moral order of the family was set in place one man and one woman, and they were told to be fruitful.  We were created in the image of God and what does that actually mean.  For me Jesus as the Logos is the prototype image of God.  From the teachings of our Lord, we learn about the importance of loving Good and our neighbour. 

What is the opposite of peace?

It is war!

Jesus was the ultimate peace maker and I find it very interesting that Gandhi a Hindu studied the teachings of Christ which helped him to put together his ethic of love to fight British oppression in India. 

It doesn’t stop there; Martin Luther King Junior then studied Gandhi and using the ethic of Love fought for equal rights for people of colour and all people. 

I could go on people of peace attract other people of peace for example did you know that Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama became good friends?

In Christianity, peace is a very important concept.   First of all.   There are scriptures that refer to God as the God of peace and in this beatitude, we find that the peacemakers are going to be called the Sons of God.

Sometimes when you make peace, you have to in a sense, there’s some sort of war I don’t mean physically but in various forms.  So I’m just going to go through a few people that have shown the quality of peace:

In making peace Muhammad Ali, for example stood up against the American government because he did not agree with the Vietnam war and he had his world title belt that he won fair and square taken away from him.   Although after he did his time in prison, he got his belt back.

Then of course you have Gandhi who had the philosophy of ahimsa. The idea that you’re not allowed to hurt any living thing, and he lived at the time when Britain was in charge of India.   Using the concept of ahimsa, he was able to defeat the British and expel the British peacefully

Following in Gandhi’s footsteps, we have, Martin Luther King And he used the ethic of love to fight for the civil rights movement and it’s interesting that sometimes people who stand up for doing the right thing and are peaceful people usually sometimes end up being persecuted or killed.

Then we have Nelson Mandela who spent many years in prison he realized that peaceful protest is more powerful than the use of violence and he got rid of the apartheid system and became the First South African president and I have to say that I think John Calvin is the is the best one because it’s very simple and it gets to the point.

So it begins like this:

“Blessed are the peacemakers.  He means those who have an enthusiasm for peace and as best they may avoid all quarrels and also those who take pains to settle.  The dissensions that break out between others being agents of peace to all ready to stifle hatreds and rivalries, this is no light declaration.  The result is that each wishes to have everyone in his pay to fight on his side that we may not then depend on men favours.   Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the father for us.  He is the God of peace.   He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not please men. To be called has the same force as to be reckoned. “ (This is from.  Calvin’s New Testament commentaries, new translation. Translated by Morrison. Edited by TF Torrance, on page 172) 

I looked at four  commentaries about this particular verse in the Sermon on the Mount.

The four were:

  • by John Calvin (above).
  • William Barclay
  • Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Jamieson Faucet and Brown (Olive tree Bible software)

The reason I liked Calvin’s the most is actually because it gets to the point.   It’s very, very simple and he tries to get to the meaning of the text.   The modern commentary was actually invented by John Calvin.   He was the first to write Bible Commentaries in a scientific manner.   When we look at the text in the New Testament, we have to ask ourselves the question:

  • Do I have the real meaning of the text?
  • What did it mean to those who first heard those words?

What is important is what Jesus meant by these words.  It is not what I think Jesus meant by these words.   It can be very difficult sometimes to get to the meaning that the writer wanted us to understand. There are two keywords that explains all this (eisegesis and exegesis):

The first word (eisegesis)suggests this; You read your own biases into the text.  In this situation the text becomes gobbledegook (a myth, not true, false). It’s not reality.

Exegesis, on the other hand, means reading out of the text what is there. The text is actually telling you what it’s saying.   So, when we’re looking at this particular beatitude that Jesus gave there isn’t a really lot to go on.

So, this is why I think that here Calvin is actually better than William Barclay et al.  It just gives you the basic meaning. So then let’s start looking at it in a bit more detail and find out what we can learn.  I just want to look at the reflection of Calvin on this after we said basically what a peacemaker is.

Calvin Finishes off by saying this, “that we may not then depend on men’s favours.  So, we shouldn’t look at doing your boss, a favour, or whoever a favour, what’s important, Calvin says, is Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the Father, it’s what God wants us to do.   It’s not what other people want us to do for as he is the God of peace, He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace.  To be in a sense, to be a true image of God.   One of those characteristics is actually to make peace, even as God makes peace.

The greatest example of that is when Jesus died for us so that we could have peace with God.  He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not, please men.  Yeah, being a peacemaker and doing what God wants us to do is going to please very, very few men.   People, should I say for example.

When we talk about the 10 Commandments that God has given which is for everyone at all times.  A lot of people kind of accept those.  This causes problems, so we’re going to have problems to be called has the same force as ‘to be reckoned’, Calvin said. Yes, so we are reckoned to be as children of God.

It means the same thing and I wonder what it says in the Greek.   I’ll have to look at that a bit later on.

The Judaeo-Christian ethic is that we should love God with all of our heart with all of our mind and all of our strength and as a general rule, the natural man who hasn’t seen God’s goodness is only interested in himself and pleasing himself.   A lot of people nowadays they don’t want anything to do with God. They just want to go their own way doing their own thing, living the way that they want.   For example, marriage is thrown out with the bath water.   Sad to say, for example, in places like London Knife crime is very, very prevalent.  There’s a mood in large chunks of society that life isn’t worth very much.   if a person gets stabbed by another young person and they die (that isn’t seen as a problem).  There is no Fear of God, there is no sense of duty.   Let’s look at some people who have spoken about peace in the world.

For example, in the USA Martin Luther King when he was around at the marches and the civil rights movement.  He was assassinated for doing the right thing and it’s a problem that comes right into the 21st century where people think that if you’re white, you’re better than blacks, and if you’re black, you’re better than whites.   Bruce Lee went against the current of racism; In one of his interviews, he was asked if he was Chinese or if he was American.   Bruce Lee said, “I’m a human being.  It doesn’t matter about what colour you are, what race you are under the Sun we’re all the same. “  We’re human beings and we should treat each other with the dignity that everyone deserves.

For the Christian; God created us in his image.  We’ve been created in the image of God.  We are very, very special.  We are sacred but unfortunately, the world doesn’t actually always see that.

Some people choose to interpret this particular beatitude only in a churchy spiritual way and internalize peace making from within and the objective reality is lost.   That it only means making peace with God within you the struggle inside you.

But I don’t agree obviously I accept the spiritual but people like Martin Luther King has shown us that it has practical life changing elements for the real world outside the Church

After we’ve become Christians and we’ve learned how to do this walk with God because of God’s grace. We come to a position where we can actually take part in the world and start to try to bring peace by the help of The Holy Spirit; Peace with people and peace with God.

It’s a very objective thing.   It’s something that that can change the world, save lives and then also bring people to know Jesus Christ as we know Jesus Christ as well the ultimate peace with God.

All the commentaries failed me when looking to this beatitude, but they gave me clues.

I found it very interesting that William Barclay reminded us about the word Shalom can mean a peace but has various meanings.  Peace means not only be “freedom from all trouble” but it can also mean “enjoyment of all good.”

So I did a bit of research and I went to the Wikipedia on shalom.   Barclay is right and It can mean that as well because it’s used in everyday greetings for health and everything but it still didn’t answer my question:

  • What Jesus means by peacemaker

And lo and behold, I went to Matthew chapter 1012

Let me just tell you a bit a little bit about the context:

Jesus has chosen the 12 disciples and he sent them out to the House of Israel.

And they’re going to greet everyone.  This is what Jesus says in one of the verses with me paraphrasing, he says.  “As you enter the house, give it you’re greeting.  If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace but if it is not worth of it, take back your blessing of peace.

And then a bit later on:

Jesus talks about the persecution that the believers are going to face in the future.   

Now it’s very interesting that when we look at the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 verse nine and verse 10, one is about making peace and the next one is about persecution and in Chapter 10 from verses 5 all the way through to verse 23 the same order is followed.   When disciples do peace-making, they are going to face persecution and I think that’s probably the best way to interpret that particular beatitude.

Why did I use the word shalom?

You need to remember that Greek was the prevalent language around the Middle East at the time of Christ.  Even the Old Testament was translated into Greek known as the Septuagint (LXX as the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning 70 ‘the Seventy Elders’).  It is a fact that the Apostles favoured the Septuagint to that of the Hebrew at the time.  Scholars think that Jesus actually spoke Aramaic a local dialect! 

Reflection

If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a peacemaker.  ‘Love changes everything’.  God sent his only Son into the world to open the way for us to walk into God’s Kingdom.  Being a peacemaker is not an easy task spiritually or objectively.   The hard example of this beatitude for us is in Matthew chapter 10. 

External links for further general reading:

Martin Luther King and Gandhi links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

A Messianic-Jewish interpretation of Matthew 5 verse 9

https://www.biblestudytools.com/cjb/matthew/5-9.html

One of the prerequisites to stand in the Presence of God is to have a pure heart not an unclean one. How is this even possible?

March 27, 2022

As we’ve gone through the Beatitudes you will have noticed that we started from a very earthly foundation and one by one we’re getting closer to the presence of God So, in verse 3, for example, was it all the poor in spirit for those of the Kingdom of heaven?

We realize that in ourselves we cannot save ourselves.  We’re completely dependent on God and then the beatitudes go through our attitudes one by one towards God and towards our neighbors.

Last time we looked at mercy, the concept of mercy, but it’s important that we show mercy.

Today we’re looking at the be attitude, which is the following, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  The only one who has really ever been pure in heart is actually our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ because no sin was found in him.  Then as we get closer and closer to Christ and through repentance and trust in Christ, our thoughts and our intentions become purer and purer until eventually we meet the vision of God where we become more like the image of God.

The true image of God is obviously our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who became fully human.

So that we too could Become truly human.  So, to be truly human is actually to be in a close walk with God.

This happens in many ways.  Although God is the Creator, and we are the creatures.  God sent his only son into the world to die for us.  Jesus didn’t do anything wrong.  He is our true example that we need to follow.

Anyway, what does this beatitude actually mean?

Let’s look at it a bit closer. Blessed; all that means is happy. It’s a very Scriptural thing actually and is found in the Old Testament in various places; “Blessed is a man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” (Psalm 1)

What’s the opposite of wicked?

It’s being pure being holy doing the right thing in God’s sight.  Do we do the right thing in God’s sight?

‘Pure in heart’.

What’s the opposite of pure in heart? It is having an unclean dirty heart.

Then Jesus says “the pure in heart they shall see God”. The word ‘shall’  is put in the time frame of the future tense.

So, at the end of time at the eschaton we shall indeed see God!

In what contexts have humans ever seen God?

I think it’s good just to have a look at the Old Testament and see what the old.

Testament says, and the best place to start is actually before the fall.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned yet, and basically that God would speak with them every single day;  they saw God every single day as a friend.  Although he was their creator He was their friend.  But then sin came into the world, and they had to be kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Well basically they wanted to be like God.  Perhaps I should have said become divine.     

In that state, there can only be judgment, and there was judgment on them, and since then we have not been able to walk in any garden with God.  That’s not the only place we can talk about seeing God.

In our fallen state, we can’t see God face to face because we will be destroyed by judgment because God is completely holy. Moses was granted the privilege of seeing the back of God.  He was allowed to see the back of God and that’s the closest man has ever got to seeing God in his situation which happened after the fall.

Seeing someone is very, very personal.  For example, if you go to visit your mum and dad or maybe a relative or a friend, it’s a very special time for meeting those sorts of people and it is with God as well. Yes it is Mothers Day in the UK today (27 03 2022). (Mum when you are reading this Happy Mothers Days!)

We have this hope that one day we’ll be going home to heaven, which is where our real home is.  It is very interesting that in the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which Adam and Eve actually ate from, and then they realized that that they didn’t have any clothes on.  There was also the Tree of life.  Now if they had eaten of the tree of life, They would have stayed in a sinful state for all eternity.  It  is an act of mercy that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden.  Even though he kicked them out of the garden, he made sure they had clothes and that was the first sacrifice.  God actually made the first sacrifice, not humans.

This is a hope that we have in the future that after the day of judgment and how things been we have a hope that we will see God.  We’re only able to see God because of what Jesus has done.

It’s only in Christ and in his work at Calvary that we are actually able to see God and the Book of Hebrews says that we’ll be able to walk boldly to the throne of Grace.  The temple on the Earth was only a shadow of the real thing anyway.  The real temple is actually in heaven.  Are you excited to see God?

How do you feel about that that you’ve lived on this earth all these years and you’ve not been able to see God literally? Actually then one the  believers by faith we will see God.  He has a place prepared for us through what Jesus has done. 

To be. Pure in heart also means that we have to live holy and godly lives, and it’s not always easy.

But there’s lots of things that tempters, testers, and sometimes we fall.  We we need God’s grace to put us back on the road. And it’s a daily thing.  I suppose this is what pilgrim’s progress reminds us. In that  story you know that he is on this on this road, and then these different tests come to test him.  Satan and his cohorts would like him to leave the road where he’ll face destruction but God keeps hold of him right up to the end.

Analytic Reflection

This section is not my work but I have taken it from (Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary on Matthew 58)

“ 8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God—Here, too, we are on Old Testament ground. There the difference between outward and inward purity, and the acceptableness of the latter only in the sight of God, are everywhere taught. Nor is the “vision of God” strange to the Old Testament; and though it was an understood thing that this was not possible in the present life (Ex 33:20; and compare Job 19:26, 27; Isa 6:5), yet spiritually it was known and felt to be the privilege of the saints even here (Ge 5:24; 6:9; 17:1; 48:15; Ps 27:4; 36:9; 63:2; Isa 38:3, 11, etc.). But oh, with what grand simplicity, brevity, and power is this great fundamental truth here expressed! And in what striking contrast would such teaching appear to that which was then current, in which exclusive attention was paid to ceremonial purification and external morality! This heart purity begins in a “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience,” or a “conscience purged from dead works” (Heb 10:22; 9:14; and see Ac 15:9); and this also is taught in the Old Testament (Ps 32:1, 2; compare Ro 4:5-8; Isa 6:5-8). The conscience thus purged—the heart thus sprinkled—there is light within wherewith to see God. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other”—He with us and we with Him—”and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us”—us who have this fellowship, and who, without such continual cleansing, would soon lose it again—”from all sin” (1Jo 1:6, 7). Matthew 5:8 “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him” (1Jo 3:6); “He that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3Jo 11). The inward vision thus clarified, and the whole inner man in sympathy with God, each looks upon the other with complacency and joy, and we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” But the full and beatific vision of God is reserved for that time to which the Psalmist stretches his views—”As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Ps 17:15). Then shall His servants serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads (Re 22:3, 4). They shall see Him as He is (1Jo 3:2). But, says the apostle, expressing the converse of this beatitude—”Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Matthew 5:8 (Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary on Matthew 58)

Reflection

Luke does not touch on this beatitude.  Having said that it is indeed a core teaching in the New Testament. For example:

“A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:19-25 NASB; Olive Tree Bible Software”

Verse 19 tells us that we will enter the ‘Holy Place’.  Verse 22 tells us that ‘our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience’.   What took Apollos the writer of Hebrews (I believe he wrote it) takes a few verses to explain Jesus explained it in one short sentence.  Our Lord indeed was a great teacher. The Holy Place is the innermost and most Holy Place in which God resides. The High Priest only entered the holy place once in a year.  I read somewhere that on the hem of the garments they had bells.  They had bells in case they were struck down for disobeying God so that they could be pulled out:

   (I pulled the following from the internet. The link is there but you would have to add ‘https’ to the front of the address for it to work)

“… alternating golden bells and pomegranates that were sown to the bottom hem of the long blue outer robe over which the EPHOD and Breastplate were worn.

We were told earlier that that the purpose of these golden bells was so “The High Priest would not die” while he was serving in the Tabernacle.

These dangling bells were much more than decorative jewelry.

In the Temple era, a rope was tied to the ankle of the High Priest when he went into the Holiest Place on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

“A chain was tied to the feet of the High Priest, when he entered THE HOLY OF HOLIES, so that if he dies there they will take him out, SINCE IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THERE… Then there is joy among the higher and lower beings. If not, they were all in sorrow and all knew that their prayer was not accepted.”-Zohar Vol. 16 Emor, Section 34. Yom Kippur, Par. 251.

Now I was told that while the High Priest was engaged in his purification rituals, the common priests who were standing outside the Sanctuary would be on high alert always listening for the steady jingling of the golden bells.

If that jingling STOPPED for a considerable amount of time, they would assume that the Lord had probably killed the High Priest due to some breach of protocol.

Then, they would pull him out of the Holy of Holies with the rope that was attached to his foot.” (Taken from  //messianic-revolution.com/e39-2-what-was-the-purpose-of-the-bells-attached-to-the-hem-of-the-high-priests-robe/ )

Anyhow I want to bring this blog to a conclusion.  I want to wish all Mothers everywhere a Happy (UK) Mothers day!

Negatively judgment will be merciless to one who shows no mercy James the Lords brother continues “…mercy triumphs over judgment.” “James 2:13 NASB

March 19, 2022

We have all sinned and gone astray from God yet one of the chief characteristics of God is to show mercy:

“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.” Exodus 34:6-8

 In a court of law if you have been shown mercy then perhaps you have been set free even though one deserved a harsher sentence:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

And negatively it could be:

“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. “James 2:13

I’m using James here because James was the Lord’s brother and the leader of the Jerusalem Church before he was executed.

If any religion (including Christianity) lacks mercy as part of its primary teachings, then it will hurt a lot of people.  Jesus is the prime example of showing mercy in that he was going to die a cruel death on a cross so that in Him we could walk to God’s throne.  Mercy is something that all humans are able to do but for some reason things such as pride, greed, hunger for power, ambition, and many things get in the way, so we do not reach our true human potential. 

Jesus was well aware of the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23

As you can see with the various quotations that mercy and justice cannot be separated.  The religious and political leaders of the day in Jesus’ society in a sense are like leaders in our own time.  You can get the good, the bad and the ugly doers.  Mercy is not only a major characteristic that God has.  We ought to remember that we have been created in the image of God and we too as humans have this natural universal characteristic.  Do your local and national leaders exhibit and prove compassion in their daily lives?

If they don’t have this, then vote for people who genuinely care about fellow human beings.  Are the needy people in your locality being cared for or are funds being channeled into their own bank accounts be new corrupt laws?

I’m not making any political claims for this or that party, but I think Jesus’ teachings on mercy hits right at the core of how we ought to live before a Holy God.

Let us now dig deeper into this beatitude.  We have already learned a lot through looking at some key texts:

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

Last time we looked at how as we go through the beatitudes, we get closer and closer to God:

Vines Definition

“Merciful eleemon (1655), “merciful,” not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate, is used of Christ as a High Priest, Heb. 2:17, and of those who are like God, Matt. 5:7 (cf. Luke 6:35, 36, where the RV, “sons” is to be read, as representing characteristics resembling those of their Father). “ Matthew 5:7

 ( From Vines Dictionary; olive Tree Bible software)

Interpretation

‘Blessed are the merciful’

‘Merciful is an adjective’ but even in the Greek it has the definite article ‘the’.

Blessed + the + merciful are all in the plural so Jesus is saying to all of his disciples that we ought to be actively practicing mercy even as he was a prime example of this.

‘Will receive (obtain) mercy’

This is a verb, and it is in the future plural tense.  The actions we do today will have eschatological significance when we stand before the throne of God. 

Jesus is our prime example:

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17

Reflection

Christianity is a religion of mercy.  If the Christianity, you have met does not practice mercy and compassion then it is not Christianity but some cheap fake element of Christianity.   

God himself is merciful and Jesus being the Son of God became our Passover lamb and died for us so that we too could have eternal life.  We live by faith in the covenant that Jesus made with his people (The Church). Jesus practiced mercy and if we follow in his footsteps we too ought to follow in his footsteps.  When we walk this walk and show mercy, we become closer and closer like Jesus.  We also get closer and closer to God’s own heart. 

For me the period of lent is more about thinking about what Jesus did for us at the cross.  When I think about mercy it makes me think about these events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ and this is our hope that one day he will come back for his disciples from all ages (The invisible Church = believers from the past, present and future).  Jesus for Christians is the ultimate example of Mercy.  I realize that in my walk with God I have only just begun but by the Holy Spirit we are brought closer and closer to be with Christ for all eternity.

What does Jesus mean about hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

March 12, 2022

I have lost count how many times I have read the Sermon on the Mount but the closer I look at it the more I am humbled by Jesus’ teachings.  I just want to recap and then reflect on it with you before moving into verse 6:

    3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The subjective internal world of faith Level 1 3 Starting from the destitute soul    
  4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Level 2 Coming to a realization of how destitute we are before a Holy God  
  5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.  Level 3 Realization of destitution fosters humility before a Holy God  
  6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Level 4 One is now ready to be taught by a holy God    
  Where your faith has an impact on the objective heaven and earth
  7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.    Level 5 Before showing mercy you were shown mercy by a Holy God    
  8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Level 6 In Christ for the first time you start to see God in a new light  
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.      Level 7 Making peace is an extension of love. Congratulations you have received your passport are called children of God.  
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12Level 8 You are now on the spiritual front-line moving in enemy territory working for Gods Kingdom

Reflection: For me Heaven is as real as earth.  The invisible is as real as the visible.  The greatest minds of human wisdom and knowledge have grasped this idea.  Judaism certainly grasped this idea that there is an infinite as well as finite space and time ruled by an Intelligent Being (God). Without questioning God’s being and just believing that he is as it says in lots of places:

28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;

And to depart from evil is understanding.’” Job 28:28

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Joshua 4:24

Within the framework of Judaism that Jesus was walking in the tradition starts with faith as a given fact.

As Christians in Christ, we are inheritors of this faith walk.   We did not come to a place of hungering for God’s Kingdom; We are on a pilgrim’s journey.

Jesus started teaching us from where we are from the subjective internal world of faith.  We realized that before a Holy God our soul is completely destitute and is completely reliant on God’s grace.  Having Come to a place of realizing how destitute we are before a Holy God this has fostered humility within our being standing before a Holy God. It is only now that we are ready to be taught by a holy God.

Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it.  We know the summary as well that we are to love God and to love our neighbour.  A lot of people (politicians and ethicists for example) don’t realize that there is a relation between loving God and loving the neighbour.  We see this in the 10 commandments that one is to love God and his neighbour.   The 10 commandments gives us a boundary to work with for society.  However, what have politicians and the general public done.  The Golden rule has been elevated and God has been written out of the script. 

This to my mind is the reason for ending up with a dysfunctional society.  Society has said no to God and the effects of this has been horrendous on human activity up to the nuclear bomb (mutual destruction). 

Truth for a lot of people is relative because the measuring stick is humanity (anything goes). 

Let us now begin to look at Jesus’ saying below:

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

There are some basic commodities that we need to survive.  Water and bread are two such basic commodities.   Jesus is the perfect example of this.  He was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit and Satan only tested Jesus when he was at his weakest.  Let us look at what actually happened:

“1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” Matthew 4:1-4”

We can imagine being in this deserted area.  According to Barclay the rocks are the right size and shape to look like loaves of bread!   So, Jesus having fasted and sought God’s will we have Satan come up to him and talk about bread!  Jesus gives us a priority lesson.

If you were going to choose between what the body needs, and God’s will; which comes first?

We need to go shopping my friends for our food.  We need to follow Jesus’ example and learn to pray.  When we pray God will answer us from heaven.  Let’s not forget that after the temptations, angels served Jesus because he didn’t even probably have enough energy to come back to civilization.   

Let us pray daily like Jesus did.  Let us find places in which we are alone with God.  There comes times and places in our lives when we hit a dead end.  The situation looks impossible, and it is impossible but by being faithful to Christ a way opens up and our prayers are answered.   

Reflection

This Week I used Scripture to interpret Scripture (The first test of Christ). As believers we belong to Christ.  Jesus being the Son of God had a perfect relationship with the Father.  Jesus is the perfect example for hungering and thirsting after God.  What did Jesus do?

  • Jesus prayed
  • Jesus fasted
  • Jesus read Scripture
  • Jesus walked in step with his and our Heavenly Father

Praying should be like bread to our spiritual well being and reading Scripture like water quenching our spiritual thirst.  Let us live by faith walking close to our Master the perfect example of how to live the life of faith. Don’t forget Jesus in his humanness needed help to come down the mountain (my view). So then my friends let us stay in step with Jesus and we have the hope that one day he is coming to take his bride (The Church)

…for the gentle (meek) ‘shall inherit the earth.’  In the end times: What earth?

March 6, 2022

Today I am doing more experimental theology.  

The theme is about the future theatre in the eschaton (end times) what type of earth we are going to inherit as believers.  It is not a clear and cut topic.  Namely over the years some scriptures have actually confused me.  An example of this is the Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes said the ‘The meek (gentle shall inherit the earth)’.

On the other hand, there is a Scripture that says the earth is going to be destroyed with fire (2 Peter 3 10).  Where do I start?

On top of this:

  • Some scholars say this world will continue the way it is (evolutionists)
  • Other theologians say this present earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will come down
  • Bavinck says the truth lies between these two points.

For me this is an experimental line of inquiry and I believe Herman Bavinck will help me get to the truth.   

Before I even start, I think we need to remind ourselves that:

  1. When God created the heavens and the earth (It was good).  At this stage before sin entered into the world everything was good.  The material universe was ‘good’
  2. There was a Fall Adam sinned.  Adam’s sin not only affected the human race, but it also brought a Fall to the human creation (and the universe)
  3. Regeneration of the human race happened through Christ.
  4. Where does this leave the earth, the theatre in which humans live their life; the earth’s habitats, its animals that Adam was supposed to take care of, our pet rabbit Leo!

The fact is that in theology without realizing it perhaps there has been some gnostic influence that see creation (the material universe as bad!).  Is God a liar?

No! God is not a liar; so perhaps we need to think about the regeneration of the world in some way.   Does the Bible talk in anyway that the world would be regenerated or ‘born again’ Anyone who has pets must also wonder where their pets fit in this grand scheme of things.

There is also another problem that having a negative view of the material universe means that for many people the importance of saving this planet ends up on the backburner (This is a mistake). 

We will be looking at Reformed Dogmatics; by Herman Bavinck; translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt; pages 715- 724; printed by Baker Academic.

Creation’s renewal

After the Last Judgement and the banishment of the wicked from the world then creation will be renewed.

There will be many signs before the Judgement. Here are some references:

“29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29”

“10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10”

“13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13”

“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1”

Here we can see very harsh things being said about the world, destruction and fire. Bavinck goes into this a little later on so we will also wait before doing exegesis on Peters text.  On the one hand our Lord says that we will inherit the earth but on the other hand Peter talks about the destructive use of fire on the elements.  There are no contradistinctions although our understanding of the issues have now become rather fuzzy!

Concerning the regeneration of the world there are various standpoints.  As Bavinck writes:

“In this expectation of world renewal, Scripture assumes a position between two extremes. On the one hand, many thinkers—Plato, Aristotle, Xenophanes, Philo, Maimonides, Averroes, Wolanus, La Peyreére, Edelmann, and Czolbe among them— have asserted that this world is destined to continue in its present form forever. On the other hand, Origen, the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Socinians, Vorstius, the Remonstrants, and a number of Reformed theologians like Beza, Rivetus, Junius, Wollebius, and Prideaux believed that the world would not only be changed in form but also destroyed in substance and replaced by a totally new world.”

Within many Christians there is a popular notion nowadays that this present world will be destroyed (annihilated).  For me this view does not hold any water.  It is interesting that when God put Adam in the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There is continuity with the Garden of Eden with the tree of life (found in Genesis and Revelations) being mentioned again:

“And he showed me a river of the water of life, [a]clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of [b]the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [c]kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” 

We can also think about the creation as good.  There is continuation between Genesis and Revelations not complete annihilation.

Bavincks view is that this annihalation is not Scrptural and on the surface the ones that look like complete destruction are not.  He gives us the following references:

“26 “Even they will perish, but You endure;

And all of them will wear out like a garment;

Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. Psalms 102:26”

“4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4”

“6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane. Isaiah 51:6”

“16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:16”

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17”

“22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure. Isaiah 66:22”

Concerning the above passages Bavinck says that” In the first place, the description given in these passages is much too rich in imagery for us to infer from them a reduction to nothing (reductio ad nihilum) of the entire world,”(page 716)

These are some important points but then he also takes us into some key Hebrew words and how they ought to be interpreted.

The Hebrew word ‘abad’ the ‘perishing’ of ‘heaven and earth’:

“…the entire world, Further, the perishing (abad) of heaven and earth (Ps. 102:26), is explained by the fact that they will wear out like a garment, be changed like clothing, wither like a leaf, or vanish like smoke (Ps. 102:26; Isa. 34:4; 51:6)”

Bavinck then looks at the verb ‘to create’ ‘bara’:

“’[Bara’]… certainly does not always mean creating something out of nothing but frequently denotes a divine activity by which God brings forth something new from the old (Isa. 41:20; 43:7; 54:16; 57:18).”:

e.g:

“20 That they may see and recognize,

And consider and gain insight as well,

That the hand of the LORD has done this,

And the Holy One of Israel has created it. “Isaiah 41:20

“7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7”

“16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16”

So then he finishes off in the Old Testament by saying bara is used in various contexts such as

  • Planting
  • Laying foundations
  • Making

Before we move in to the New Testament we need to say that there are certain premises we need to remember.  The main Scripture the Apostles and early Christians used was the Old Testament and a lot of the time it was the Septuagint (LXX in Greek).  The Apostles did not have a New Testament at hand to use.  The Apostles interpreted the Old Testament by the help of the Holy Spirit and the reason God had given them. 

To sum up there is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and this is why in later centuries Marcion was seen as a heretic because he wanted to throw the Old Testament away!  The key word here is ‘continuity’

On page 717 Bavinck goes through some verses that prove:

“Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than [we would] with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the flood. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy.” From page 717

So let us look at some of these references:

18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10

17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1

In verse 11:

A perishing like an old garment

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, Hebrews 1:11

In verse 10 below

  • Destroyed = perhaps the word dissolve is a better translation than destroyed:
  • Burned as the word ‘up’ is not in the Greek.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10

Note; λύω luō ; a prim. vb.; to loose, to release, to dissolve

Verse 12 below

‘changed’

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” Hebrews 1:12

His conclusions for this section are:

“Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation” page 717

He has a lot more to say, but “…Still these comments do not do complete justice to the New Testament hope of future blessedness” (page 718)

Reflection

The aim of today was to think about the world we are to inherit as Jesus said.  I am not saying this is the only way to interpret the text, but Bavinck has certainly convinced me that it is.   Even as believers are renewed ‘born again’, the earth itself will be renewed and it is in that new earth that we inherit.   Humanity a lot of the time want to be like God! They are not. Many wars have been fought over the centuries and billions of lives have been lost. Today the theatre (world) in which people live out their personal stories is in danger of destruction. Will we ever learn that:

The way of love is better than the way of pride and selfish motivations. Although humanity is guilty of the greatest sin (Turning their back on God and making themselves to be gods). God did not give up on humanity but even in the garden God gave humans skins to Adam and Eve to wear. Since then God has worked through history and sent his Only Begotten Son to die on a cross as a way to bring salvation to us. The root cause of destruction on this planet is the human race but through Christ this is being rectified.

Matthew Chapter 5 verse 5; Is meekness weakness as Aristotle thought or is it a powerful force to be reckoned with in the Teachings of Jesus?

February 25, 2022

So, last we found out that the intentions of Matthew and Luke were not the same.  One focused on compassion while the other on holiness.  For the time being I will focus on Matthews Gospel first. 

Reminder and discussion

To remind ourselves again, Matthew started his beatitudes by speaking about the quality of being poor in spirit and those who mourn.  These qualities are qualities that a lot of head strong citizens would reject straight away.  After all who in their right mind would take on these weakling qualities.  Let us reflect on this:

The opposite of poor in spirit is to be full of pride and that one in their own strength without the need for outside help can do very well.  It is true that these sorts of people can become very rich and wealthy but that doesn’t mean that they will be ‘happy’.  To get to the top of the food chain they probably walked over people, knocked them metaphorically speaking out of the way.  This sort of living can have serious detriments to one’s psychological and spiritual health.  As Christians we follow the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus.  In Christ by the Holy Spirit our minds and reasons for living left this road for a road of love.  Our consciences day by day get better and better until we finally meet our Lord.

From poverty of spirit, we realize that God had to become a man and to die in place of us at the cross.  God the Son who is pure love had to take on human flesh and to die in our stead.  Who is this Trinitarian God?  He is the God that spoke, and the universe was created.  The God who breathed into Adam and made him live.  The God who became Adam’s friend and walked with him in the Garden. 

What did God get in return?

Adam and Eve who turned their backs on this friendship and wanted to take on divine status by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  We as human beings individually and corporately have also sinned.  Yet God in his love for us by the Holy Spirit shows us what our sin did. 

Coming to a place to see how much our actions have hurt Him and his creation in Christ he gives us a second chance and God’s Kingdom is within our reach by His gift of grace by the Holy Spirit!

We mourn because we have seen the destruction and death, we have caused in our own lives but also the destruction caused in the world.  God does not come to us with a punishing road but on the contrary in Christ we have real comfort.

As come closer to God through Christ by the Holy Spirit the scales from our eyes metaphorically speaking fall from our eyes. The next step on this road is humility, gentleness and meekness as Matthew says:

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness in the real world can be looked down on as a quality:

“Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

5. the meek] Psalm 37:11. “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” See note Matthew 5:3. Meekness is mentioned with very faint praise by the greatest of heathen moralists, Aristotle. He calls it “a mean inclining to a defect.” It is indeed essentially a Christian virtue.”  From  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/5-5.htm

God’s way of seeing this quality is quite different:

3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Numbers 12:3

This is an absolutely amazing statement but in the context of humility this is what God said about Moses!

“4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So, the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, 6 He said,

“Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

I shall speak with him in a dream.

7 “Not so, with My servant Moses,

He is faithful in all My household;

8 With him I speak mouth to mouth,

Even openly, and not in dark sayings,

And he beholds the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid

To speak against My servant, against Moses?”

9 So the anger of the LORD burned against them, and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous… Numbers 12:4-10”

The world might see humility as a weakness, but God sees humility otherwise.  We can see that our Lord took this saying from the Psalms:

“11 But the humble will inherit the land

And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Psalms 37:11”

Let us take a definition of Meekness then:

“The quality or state of being meek: a mild, moderate, humble, or submissive quality” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

On this website someone posted the following:

“While studying scriptures I had been reading in the Bible (KJV) where meekness is a quality of a Christian. I wanted to know how this characteristic fits my person. I understand after reading this definition it aligns with the Bible as the quality of a believer in Jesus. In Ephesians 4 the writer is the apostle Paul speaking to the gentiles about the unity of the spirit of Christ: 4:1-2 I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith us are called, With all lowliness and meekness.” The unity of the spirit of Lord Jesus teaches believers to walk in this manner in the spirit of humility, meekness with patience bearing others burdens in love to one another.” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

When looking at meekness, gentleness, and humility then we see that the context is in ‘love’.  If love as found in the first and second great commands is not the driving force, then it is not the type of meekness that Jesus is speaking about. Meekness has to be grounded in the love of God and our love for each other.

The world probably has counterfeit types of meekness.  There might be a post for a better paying position, so they pretend to be submissive.  once they get into that position perhaps, they start to boss others around with an air that they are better than everyone else.  

Moses was not like that.  He loved his people and on more than one occasion was willing to take God’s judgement on himself to save his people.  He was a prayer warrior.  He wasn’t perfect and sometimes he wasn’t very gentle and in his earlier day he murdered an Egyptian soldier our of rage for what was happening to the Israelites in captivity.  In the long run however, God saw the potential in Moses and made him leader. 

Reflection.

When the Holy Spirit reveals to us our sin it brings us to a place of mourning. God shows us how our wrong doings have hurt God, our neighbour, and the world that we inhabit.

Through this poverty and mourning we can only fall flat on our face before a Holy God, and we are grateful for the love by the Spirit he has poured into our lives.In the eschaton even now, (end times) we enter the kingdom of God.  Now we mourn but, in the eschaton, we will laugh with joy of happiness before our Lord.  We now walk in humility, but the promise is that in the eschaton we will inherit the earth.

To sum up, the believer now and in the eschaton:

  • Will enter the kingdom of heaven
  • Will be comforted
  • Will inherit the world

Why do I speak about the end times?

The reason I speak about the end times is because in the second part of the main beatitudes the tense is ‘future’.  The future is something that hasn’t happened yet but will take place.

I could also speak about ‘what Land’ they will inherit.  Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics; Volume 4; around page 719 gives us somethings to think about. However, I will save this for another blog because he goes into a lot of detail, and I have now run out of time.

So then what is your understanding of meekness?

Meekness is a quality that very few people have.  From a world perspective it can be seen as a weak and low quality. 

As Christians we ought to follow the example of Christ.  Jesus was Meek but he certainly was not weak especially when he stood up to the leaders of the time and even turned over tables in the Temple area in Jerusalem.  Meekness is a state of being that God values.  When we stand before a holy God we are standing before Majesty.  As Christians the driving force of meekness was not weakness but rather genuine love for God, his neighbour and dare I say it love of enemies for them too to come to know the Saviour and taste this love.

The Two Emphases of Matthew and Luke on the Compassion and Justice Of God in the Sermon on the Mount

February 19, 2022

I have been asking God for wisdom when looking at our Lords teachings.  The SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) are some of the most profound teachings for living the life of faith.  I was asking my self the question why is the mood and feeling of the SM so different in Matthew and Luke whilst it is the same teaching?

I think that this is a very important question.  The greatest preacher who ever lived was God who became a man in the person of Jesus Christ yet in this recorded sermon by Matthew and Luke, they are so different.  As I was typing and pondering these thought it dawned on me that for example; there can be two people who hear a sermon, but each person will pick something different out of the same sermon and interpret it differently, yet it was the same sermon!

Jesus gave a sermon and there were two people who heard or read about it (Matthew and Luke).  They walked away with different interpretations, but the husk of the sermon is still the same.  This is the main reason I felt it important to try to pick out some salient features from these two Gospels.  When I have completed picking out the salient features I will continue going through the text.

The Salient Features of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew writes over 111 verses on the Sermon on the mount.  Luke writes about 25 verses and then Luke at the end of his beatitudes adds the woes.  So, the question for me is; What is driving these writers to write so differently on these passages?

I just recently acquired a commentary on Luke’s Gospel by one of my University Lecturers Judith Lieu.  It is the best answer I have found so far as she writes:

“That God is rich in compassion is fundamental to the OT (Ex. 34.6); whereas Leviticus had called for holiness (Lev. 19.2), and Matthew for perfection (Matt. 5.48), in likeness to God, for Luke the divine norm is to be compassionate. This means – v.36 should be taken with vv.37-38 not to judge, or condemn, but to pardon and give in abundance. Again there is no reflection on the certainty that God will judge, nor on the circumstances in which judgment is necessary. These are not maxims to be applied generally without discrimination; they explore what it means to say love your enemies, and, in a world where reciprocity was the norm which bound some together and separated others, explore an alternative model of relationships.” (From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; page 52 Epworth Commentaries)

As Dr Lieu says Compassion is fundamental to the Old Testament:

6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; Exodus 34:6

Dr Lieu also quoted Leviticus 19.2:

2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2

It is interesting that she chose these two passages because I got an email from the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust in which Rabbi Sacks reminded us of some important things here:

    “Ex. 34:6-7

This passage became known as the “Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy.”

The Sages understood this episode as the moment in which God taught Moses, and through him all future generations, how to pray when atoning for sin (Rosh Hashanah 17b). Moses himself used these words with slight variations during the next crisis, that of the spies. Eventually they became the basis of the special prayers known as Selichot, prayers of penitence. It was as if God were binding himself to forgive the penitent in each generation by this self-definition.[1] God is compassionate and lives in love and forgiveness. This is an essential element of Jewish faith.

But there is a caveat. God adds: “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” There is a further clause about visiting the sins of the parents upon the children which demands separate attention and is not our subject here. The caveat tells us that there is forgiveness but also punishment. There is compassion but also justice.

Why so? Why must there be justice as well as compassion, punishment as well as forgiveness? The Sages said:

 “When God created the universe, He did so under the attribute of justice, but then saw it could not survive. What did He do? He added compassion to justice and created the world.”

    See Rashi to Genesis 1:1.

This statement prompts the same question. Why did God not abandon justice altogether? Why is forgiveness alone not enough?”

So then compassion and holiness are important things that God is really interested in and from my point of view it shows how these to lines of theology; namely compassion and holiness work together.  So then let us now look at the next two quotes from Dr Lieu:

Matthew says,

48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Luke says,

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:36-38

Reflection

So then Rabbi Sacks and Dr Judith Lieu have taught us two important strands found in the Old Testament (The late Rabbi Sacks) and the SM (Judith Lieu).   I have a lot of respect for these two profound teachers of the Bible. Anyhow for me this is a profound and accurate answer for understanding the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and why they seem so different on the surface.  So then perhaps as I continue now in the Sermon on the Mount, we needs to take these differences in our stride and our walk of faith. 

Next time I will return to the Sermon on the Mount and start to inquire with what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ wants us to understand.   

I feel that we are now armed with the keys to the SM.  We will be able to unlock these spiritual truths and grow closer to our Lord and Saviour and also have more compassion for our neighbours no matter what their background, race, religion et al.

I hope that you will follow me on this quest for finding Gods Truths about Himself, the Trinitarian God that we worship.

The Sermon on the Mount; The Poor and those who mourn (In this blog I will use ‘SM’ for Sermon on the Mount)

February 13, 2022

These three chapters take us to the heart of Jesus teachings, and it is so much more than just ethics and living a good life.   Before we start, I want to look at the structure of these chapters.  The late Graham Stanton in his class notes to us (1993-1994 King’s College London) showed us that Matthew writes 111 verses on the SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) whereas Luke writes a measly 30 verses. 

Below when looking at the various themes of the SM one can see straight away that Matthews order of the teachings and that of Luke do not follow a chronological order.  You can see this by looking at the verse orders from the notes.  From my my notes on the Harmony of the Gospels I also learned that the Didache (The Teachings of the Apostles) has a very early date (scholarly consensus ad 50 -70!) and this writing seems to know Matthew!

Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}

Ancient Christian Writers; volume 6; Translated by

James A Kleist; page 17;   The Didache can also be found at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

However here the reference is 3 12. 

IS THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT RELEVANT FOR THE 1990’s?

1 THE ORIGIN, STRUCTURE AND PURPOSE OF MATTHEW’S SERMON

(i) The SM as the first of 5 impressive discourses:

5-7; 10; 13; 18; (23) 24-25 (NB 26.1)

(ii) Matthew’s SM has 111 verses. Luke has a shorter Sermon in chapter 6

with (30) verses most of which are found in Matthew’s SM.

Luke 6                                    Matthew 5-7

beatitudes                                        20b-23                                  5.3-12

love of enemy                                 27-36                                     5.38-42

golden rule                                       31                                           7.12

not judging                                       37-38                                     7.1-2

splinter and beam                          41-42                                     7.3-5

tree & its fruit                                 43-45                                     7.16-20

Lord, Lord                                         46                                           7.21

house & the storm                         47-49                                     7.24-27

(centurion’s servant)                     7.1-10                                    8.5-13

Matthew has expanded considerably the Sermon from Q – a collection of

sayings of Jesus shared with Luke.

(iii) The structure of Matthew’s SM:

Narrative opening 5.1-2

I Prologue 5.3-16

II Central Sections: 5.17 – 7.12 (law & prophets)

1. Preface 5.17-20

2. 6 antitheses 21-43

3. 3 religious practises and your father’s will 6.1-18 (During prayer and fasting)

4. New attitudes to God (6.19-34) and neighbour (7.1-12)

III Epilogue 7.13-27

Narrative conclusion 7.28-29

NB 7.12 as the climax and the Lord’s prayer 6.9-13 as the centrepiece.

Matthews Purpose:

Is the SM for crowds or disciples?  for Christian believers or for

all?  ethics without Christ? – Son of God

For Matthew the nations are to be ‘discipled’ and taught to observe

the commands of Jesus (28.18-20)

The words of Jesus in the SM are to be heard and obeyed: 7.24-29!

(These notes above were giver by Graham N Stanton in class)

We have touched on some very interesting themes.  The consensus of scholars is that Mark was the earliest (Ad 66-74).  However, we find a reference in the Didache dated at ad 50 -70 quoting Matthews Gospel.  These scholars who honestly have argued for Matthew to be later use the internal logic to come to a mysterious other source that all the Gospels used, namely Q.   This throws a spanner in the works for the Q theory.  I’m not a Q expert but perhaps Stanton was correct to hold to Matthew being the earliest Gospel.  If it is the earliest or not the earliest doesn’t really matter because it is Scripture (God’s word in written form)

Lets move on:

From the above image you can already see that there are stylistic differences to how the beatitudes were presented in both Matthew and Luke.  Luke builds a picture of what the scene was like before Jesus started to teach his disciples (The writing in white).  Whereas Matthew was more interested in the content of the teachings (colourful writing).

When we look at the pronouns in the two Gospels you can also see stylistic differences.  They both put the pronouns in the plural, but Matthew preferred the third person plural pronouns and Luke preferred the second person plural pronouns.  

It seems to be that Luke focused on the nuts and bolts of the teachings of the beatitudes and wanted to make these teachings more personal.  Matthew however is giving us the nuts, bolts, roof and side paneling of the Gospel.

GOING DEEPER

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:3

“…Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20b

Here we see a difference in style, but they are saying the same thing.  Here in Matthew Jesus’ teachings are more formal and emphasises the psychological (in spirit).  A new attitude has to start from within a person’s mind and soul.  God has to bring the realization of the kingdom of God to the mind and heart of the person.

Luke is saying the same way but in a more informal way for perhaps those who do not have any rabbinic background (the commoner, the poor.). Luke write,” you who are poor”. 

We are all different in our temperaments.  There are those who are book worms but there are also those who are more feeling full and emotional. In God’s Kingdom the Gospel is open to every type of person no matter who or what they are.  We need to come to a realization that before God we are sinners and that we cannot help ourselves.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21

The order between Matthew and Luke have now changed.   In Matthew the ‘hungering comes after the mourning’.  So here we are focusing on:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

“…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”. Luke 6:21b

These notes didn’t really tell me a lot, but Vine said Matthew uses the more general word for mourning whereas Luke uses a stronger word weeping (for the dead). From expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87

Then we also have the other two words, comforted and laughing.

I kind of agree with Judith Lieu that Luke’s Gospel is more interested in the socio impact of Luke’s teachings.   We have only looked at these two verses, but we can already see differences in style.  From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Reflection

As disciples of Jesus, we need to pray and meditate on his words.  The beautiful thing that we have seen is that Matthew is giving us a deeper incite into the new attitudes that are found in the Gospel.  Luke is saying the same thing, but he is interested in the nitty gritty of the everyday life of the follower of Christ.

When we think about poverty, the reality of poverty is that it brings the person in it to a point of helplessness.  Poverty means there isn’t enough food on the table.  It means that one cannot go on holiday and have the ‘best things life has to offer’.  Poverty in that sense is a type of prison that stops people from reaching their dreams.  An effect of poverty is to indeed crush the spirit.  Both Matthew and Luke are correct on how they look at the poor.

Luke is also correct because God has commanded his church to care for the poor and the orphan, the needy whoever they are. Compassion and mercy are an integral part of Jesus teachings. As James reminds us the outflow of our faith ought to some how show in the real world (fruit of the Spirit).  When I was reading Herman Bavinck in his reformed Ethics, he said that the root is faith, and the fruit are works. 

We have all sinned before God and we all need to find forgiveness for our sins.  We cannot save ourselves but, in these verses, we see Jesus giving us a blue print for some core new beautiful attitudes through the act of repentance that can bring us into a true and liberating life through obedience, by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Notes KCL lessons from Graham N Stanton
  • Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}
  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87
  • Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Notes

Notes on mourning and weeping from Olive Tree

Matthew Gospel

g3996. πενθέω pentheō; from 3997; to grieve (the feeling or the act): — mourn, (be-)wail.

AV (10) – mourn 7, wail 2, bewail 1;

to mourn to mourn for, lament one

Lukes Gospel

g2799. κλαίω klaiō; of uncertain affinity; to sob, i.e. wail aloud (whereas 1145 is rather to cry silently): — bewail, weep.

AV (40) – weep 39, bewail 1;

to mourn, weep, lament weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified (i.e. for the pain and grief) of those who mourn for the dead

to weep for, mourn for, bewail, oneNotes

Matthews Gospel

g3870. παρακαλέω parakaleō; from 3844 and 2564; to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): — beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort(-ation), intreat, pray.

Luke’s Gospel

g1070. γελάω gelaō; of uncertain affinity; to laugh (as a sign of joy or satisfaction): — laugh.

AV (2) – laugh 2;

to laugh

The prelude to the Sermon on the Mount. 

January 29, 2022

Why did the Sermon on the Mount take place?

What led to the Sermon on the Mount for it to take place?

What was the feeling within the Jewish communities in Galilee?

These are important questions before we move into the greatest sermon ever preached. It is the greatest sermon because in it are the words of life from Christ himself. Remember that the Apostles only gave witness to Christ, the One who can take away the sins of the world; The true Lamb of God that takes away our sins. This is the One who spoke these words of life or death.

In the middle of a foreign powers occupation of Galilee something big was going to take place something much bigger than anything in world history.  This event had started, and a part of this event would mean great Rome would crumble and fall as Daniel had prophesied.  In the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament indeed there had been many deliverers such as Moses, the Judges even the Maccabees but these deliverances did not last.  In the past deliverances a lot of the time had been at the edge of the sword.  How would this time of God’s visitation be any different?

You may have watched in the past some Jesus films and perhaps they try to show the Galileans craving and cramming to see Jesus.  This is partly true.  Even today one sees rock stars getting lots of adoration, but I have to say it is not the same!

  • First of all, a rock star cannot save you!
  • Secondly Jesus preaching brought about a spiritual awakening to the truths of Holy Scripture. 

Here before the Jewish nation and Gentile nations was the Messiah and the expectations of salvation would be turned upside down and inside out.  There was a time in world history that Jewish and Gentile Christians were brothers and sisters but by the time of Justin Martyr there was hostility between the Church and the Jewish community.  We know this because St Paul raised money in Corinth and the local churches and sent the money to Jerusalem to help the Jewish Believers there. 

These are important questions.  It is wrong and a great sin to hate Jews which culminated in the Holocaust.  The root of hate towards the Jews can be traced all the way back to Martin Luther and it ended with Adolf Hitler:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism

As Christians we must remember that Jesus in his humanity was Jewish.  We must remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbour no matter who they are (enemies or friends!).

From Olive Tree Bible software.

Let’s begin by looking at Marks Gospel:

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Mark

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

Here we see that Jesus had a mission from God.  When he got up early in the morning it was still dark.  While everyone was still sleeping, He was praying and communing with God the Father.  Luke says ‘when day came’ but he didn’t go into any details.

36 Simon and his companions searched for Him;

Peter and his companions couldn’t find Jesus straight away!  Obviously, he disappeared while they were still asleep. 

37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

What an anti-climax!  ‘Everyone is searching for you’.  ‘Everyone’ means the crowds.  They were hungry for God’s word.  Jesus’ preaching was different because it touched the core of the human being, their person-hood, their soul.

38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

Here it says may preach. The word ‘may’, isn’t found but the use of ‘hina = ‘in order that’ and the ‘I may preach’ is in the subjunctive form. 

Luke’s version has a stronger intention.  He uses ‘δέω= bound’.  It is much stronger. 

https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/deo

Stylistically there is a difference, but the meaning is the same.  Jesus has a purpose from the mandate of heaven ‘for that is what I came for.’ 

The mandate from heaven was for Jesus to preach that the kingdom of heaven was here now, live on earth, die on a cross, be resurrected and open the doors of salvation to the whole world through and in him.  This mandate started from a backwater of the Roman Empire and the world would never be the same again. 

39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Galilee was actually according to Josephus a very productive area.  It has a large lake that has a record of being a freshwater lake below sea level (the lowest in the world!).  There were cities and towns on both side of the lake and I can imagine Jesus jumping in boats and crisscrossing the lake on a regular basis preaching the Gospel. 

While doing this ministry of preaching his Apostles were learning how to preach.   The rest of the New Testament is an explication of these teachings that have now changed the world.

REFLECTION

Let us walk in love towards everyone.  Every human being including those who lost their life through abortion were created in the image of God.  Love can take on various forms, but it ought to show respect towards the other person no matter who they are.  This can be difficult at times as some people pull away from society and do atrocious acts.  We can still show love and follow Jesus’ example by praying for them that God’s will, God’s kingdom could also break into them and change them inside out by the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus was a man who was driven by the mandate of heaven.  He was preaching in those cities because out of these cities many people would repent and become children of God.  2000 years later and here we are still preaching the same Gospel Jesus taught.  Jesus was special because while he walked this earth, he was like a mirror that showed people exactly what they were.  They came face to face with their sins.  It is by grace that we are saved.  We cannot save ourselves.  We are helpless.  How helpless is the human race?  The human race is completely helpless before a holy God and God started this plan from the time of the Fall of the earliest human beings found in Genesis. 

Next time as we go through the Sermon on the Mount you will face a mirror that shows you your true self.  My friends we have all turned away from God.  As we look at the sermon on the mount we will be faced by the true ugliness of sin.  We will also be faced with the opportunity to follow Christ into the celestial city. 

Jesus Calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him

January 22, 2022

In today’s world, what is it like to be a student or an apprentice? 

First of all, in many parts of the world, as soon as one can speak children are sent to kindergarten and the learning starts.  By the end of the course students are spat out to become the future workforce.  It is a conveyor belt that keeps the taxes coming in.  Along the way a sorting happens and the less able end up being the janitors or no job and those who pass their exams the future leaders. It is very formal and a lot of the time the wrong type of people get the best jobs.  It is a very impersonal system and a student to be a student has to be registered and have a number in the register.

The disciples who Jesus called became the Apostles and through them the work of the Gospel has gone out to all the world.  There was nothing special about these Apostles.  They were hard working fishermen.  The Gospels of Matthew and Mark use the word ‘immediately’ quite a lot.   In Matthew Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”. Matthew 4. 19 In Marks Gospel Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 4. 17

Jesus also called James and John but in these two Gospels we see our Lords agenda for these students.  Jesus used language that they understood.  However, did they really grasp what ‘fishers of men’ was actually about?  They were our Lords students, and they probably didn’t understand it completely, but they trusted our Lord.   They didn’t have any paperwork from the local college and no formal training, but Jesus was taking them under his wing. 

These are the very basics, and we can see what the agenda was for their future.  They were to reach out to people with the message of the Gospel.  However, in Luke’s Gospel we are given more detail about the Apostles callings.  We will see that when they had been in Jesus’ presence, they could feel their sinfulness more acutely in the presence of our Lord’s pure holiness. 

Anyhow let us now read Luke’s version:

“Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signalled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” Luke 5:1-11

In Matthew and Mark, the focus is on our Lord and the disciples.  We are given the very important bare facts.  Our Lord wasn’t just walking alone along the edge of the Lake.  No, Jesus was a popular preacher, and he had a connection with the crowds.  The crowds and the disciples could here God’s words being spoken.  If for example, we were in Jesus’ shoes; in this situation we certainly would have felt intimidated and claustrophobic!  Our Lord found a quick fix in this situation and with the help of Peter (Simon) he jumped into his boat.  He could teach them God’s word and also have room to breathe from a boat.

We don’t know why but perhaps our Lord has a relationship with these disciples.  Our Lord was possibly a carpenter (a supposed son of a carpenter, Joseph (a god-fearing man)).  Perhaps in the family business he was asked to fix the boats. These are hypothetical questions, but in this story, there was a bond of trust between our Lord and the disciples.  Peter said in verse 5 ‘Master we have worked hard all night…’  Peter and the other fishermen were tired.  When your tired you are less likely to listen to someone giving you advice or commanding you.   This is what the Lord did.  He gave a command to the disciples to go fishing again and see what happens! These future disciples were listening to the holy words falling from the mouth of the Logos (‘The word’ John 11). 

On the other hand, it might have happened that as they listened to the word of Christ they were moved in spirit and felt the shock and awe of heaven and realized that they were in the presence of the greatest teacher who ever walked this earth.  Either way or both ways they threw the net into the water and the catch was a big one!  Peter and the other disciples felt and tasted their sinfulness in a serious acute manner.  Nothing was going to stop God’s plan of salvation for the world.  Even in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve got kicked out because of their sin. Although they were judged for their sins God still clothed them.; “NASB 1977

And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  Genesis 321   Perhaps this was the first sacrifice, and the sacrifice was made by God to clothe Adam and Eve.  Perhaps this was a picture of what was going to happen three years later at the cross. 

Reflection

What can we learn about our own spiritual state before the Lord Jesus?

As a follower of Jesus, you are not on any conveyor belt to please the whims and fancy of any government.  God loves you individually.  The Trinitarian God created you and he cares about the state of your soul.  In the texts Peter sometimes does what the others are only thinking.  What did Peter say to our Lord?

“But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken” Luke 59 Peter and the other disciples realized that they were in God’s presence.  The moment of the spiritual walks begins when we realize that we are ‘poor in spirit’.  We realize that before God’s presence we are completely helpless only then can God start to mould us into the conformity of the Son.  After this confession, it is only then that Jesus says to the disciples:

 “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”  Luke 510 

It is so easy sometimes to be over awed by a teacher and become fearful.  At the time of Christ teachers probably beat their students if they didn’t learn something.  A good teacher takes care of his/her students, and he/she is able to build a rapport with the students that is positive, friendly and respectful.  These disciples were in the presence of the greatest teacher to have ever walked the earth.  He understood everything about how things worked, biology, physics and chemistry as the Logos he was responsible for the very creation of the world.  What an amazing teacher they had and what amazing feats they ended up doing by the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The image used was taken from:

Jesus farewell to Nazareth and Mission Impossible to Jerusalem

January 16, 2022

Jesus moving away from his hometown and into Galilee part 1

Like Moses our Lord had to go through a Wilderness experience only to come out of it in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The world would never be the same again and the gates of salvation would be opened up to the whole world.  This world-shaking event would not happen through the use of swords, siege engines, political intrigues et al.  No my friends it was going to happen through the prince of peace.  In other words, this world changing event would happen through God’s love for his creation.  This world changing event would happen through humility, even to the point of our Master dying on a cross.  Let us read about the beginnings of this ministry even before the first disciples were called.

Matthew:  Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; Matthew 4:12

Mark: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

Luke: And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding districts. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. Luke 4:14-15

John:   After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country. 45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. John 4:43-45

After the tests that our Lord went through it is recorded that Jesus went into Galilee.  We have the same story in all four Gospels, but they used different verbs for the movement of Jesus.  This is very interesting because by following these various emphases we get a better picture of the intention of Christ:

  • In Matthew Jesus ‘withdrew’ into Galilee   This emphasizes is on sadness of Jesus (John’s arrest)
  • In Mark Jesus ‘came’ into Galilee   This emphasizes Jesus coming into Galilee, and we have a perfect tense in ‘fulfilled’.
  • In Luke Jesus ‘returned’ to Galilee in the Power of the Spirit.  This seems to emphasis that Jesus has been in Galilee before but this time it was different.  Having been through baptism and the tests Jesus was in Galilee to do God’s work, and nothing was going to get in the way of this divine plan.
  • In John Jesus ‘went forth’ into Galilee: Seeing himself as having a prophetic role even as John had. He was received in this region as a full-fledged Prophet. 

This is a very important event as it is recorded by all for Gospel Writers.    Although Jesus being human like the rest of us.  He felt sad that John had been arrested.  John knew that when Jesus came his ministry was going to take a back seat.  Jesus this time came to Galilee in fulfillment of what God had said to previous prophets of the Old Testament.  This time was different Jesus came in the power of the Holy Spirit and this meant that God’s kingdom was now ushered in through the work, life, death, and resurrection of the promised Messiah.    Jesus was on fire for God’s will to be done and he preached everywhere. 

In our spiritual walk with God perhaps we too have very large decisions to make.  We need to follow the example of Christ.  We ought to seek out more time to pray in quiet places listening to the voice of God and to find out what his will is for our lives.  However, God has given us guiding principles we ought to stay in:

  • Love God
  • Love our neighbour
  • Live by faith by God’s grace and trust him in everything.  For some people they are looking for the ‘Mission Impossible’. 

It may be that you are a person searching out God’s will.  You may have been called to do mission impossible, but you may have also been called to be faithful in your local church and do boring things like putting chairs out.   We all have a place in God’s will.  If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and you are faithful, it means you are already in Gods will.  In God’s will through Christ, we can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the direction he wants us to go.  Some of us have faced martyrdom for the faith others of us will be called to put chairs out on a Sunday.  In the household of God, we are both in the will of God.   Don’t fret too much about the future as Jesus said you are better dressed than the lilies of the field!

Reflection

In this story we see that Jesus made ‘the big decision’.  He would never live in Nazareth again.  By the Lake of Galilee and from the surrounding area Jesus would call his seventy disciples and his 12 Apostles.  The next three years these chosen boys would become men of God and by the Holy Spirit the world would never be the same again.  Some would live a long life such as John, but others would have a quick execution under the corrupt despots around that area.  Jesus knew the heart of the Father.  Jesus’ face would be set like flint to Jerusalem and death on a cross. We know this to be the case for the heart of the Gospel points to death on a cross and the resurrection. 

The Temptation of Jesus and our walk with God

January 9, 2022

Here we find the true identity of Jesus as he passes all the trials that prove Jesus to be the Son of God, the True Messiah and the Kings of all kings:

5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’;

and

‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,

SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11

Last time we looked at the baptism of Jesus and his identity was made public that indeed he was the Son of God.  One also needs to remember that John was seen as a Prophet, the forerunner to the Messiah coming.  It is John the Prophet who validated Jesus’ identity.  It was time now for our Lord to go into the barren wilderness to be with the rocks and the snakes.  It is unfortunate that Jesus’ testing times are seen as temptations.  In English ‘temptation’ has negative connotations.  The Greek certainly favours ‘test’.  The meaning certainly does carry ‘Temptation’ as “to make someone want to have or do something, especially something that is unnecessary or wrong:” (From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tempt)

Satan was indeed trying to knock Jesus off the narrow track of God’s will.  In that sense it is a temptation.  Temptation as ‘a feeling to be naughty’ is not there.   However, it is also a test.  Our Lord and Saviour was keeping in step with the Father at every twist and turn.  These were real tests.  Notice that Satan only came to our Lord Jesus when he was at his weakest point physically.   

We need to remember that Satan wants to destroy God’s work as he is an accuser.  Satan was jealous of God and that is why he got kicked out of heaven in the first place.  In the Fall, he led Adam and Eve up the garden path thinking that they too could be like God.  This is spiritual warfare my friends.  We need to take note of Job too when he lost his family, and everything was taken from him.  In any warfare there are casualties, and it was time for John the Baptist to go to the other side and sleep with the beloved saints.  A holy and righteous man who prepared the way for the true king of Israel, the Messiah, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Having done his work at the baptism we find straight after this story he would be arrested by those evil leaders under the control of Satan.  Nothing can get in the way of God’s will.  There would be other times that Satan would come to lure Jesus away from his path.  The road was set God’s will would unfold no matter what happens, and the flood gates of salvation would break into this world through the death and resurrection of Christ. 

We now turn our attention to the three tests that our Lord overcame.  Jesus Passed the litmus test of devotion to his Father, Our Father who is in heaven…

In the book of Hebrews in our last series, we saw that as believers we ought to live by faith and trust.  In this story we see a prime example of how faith works through the most difficult of situations from the life of Christ our Lord.  In each of the tests Satan says, ‘If you are the Son of God’.  Satan was attempting to feed a seed of unbelief into Jesus that he was not the Messiah, he was not the Son of God.  He was attacking the human side of Jesus, looking for a crack.  Notice that throughout this testing Jesus did no miracles and proved that he was the man of God, the Messiah. 

TEST 1

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”

Jesus was hungry, he had not eaten for forty days or nights and then his first attack is to do with food!  William Barclay said that in that hot desert there are rocks that look like small loves of bread.  This was an attack on Jesus’ hunger pangs, but Jesus proved that faith is a lot stronger.  Jesus always prayed, he always found quiet places to pray.  This was Jesus’ The desert was a Temple of Prayer for the King of Kings.   Jesus was being tested on his humanity and Satan was picking on the lowest points just like he did with Job.  By asking Jesus to turn stones into bread, Satan was asking Jesus to do a divine act but if this happened it would be an act of disobedience to his heavenly Father.  An act of disobedience from the Son of God would be a sin. 

TEST 2

5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’;

and

‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,

SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

In this attack Satan was attacking Jesus’ personal security and the Trinity itself.  Here we see Satan attempting to Force God the Fathers hand to do something against the Divine Will by saving Jesus’ life.  Jesus’ answer makes this very clear.  In the story as a whole Satan is referred to as the tempter πειράζω, He was goading not only Jesus the Son of God but also his heavenly Father.  When Jesus said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”  The word here is ‘ἐκπειράζω’ (put to the test).

TEST 3

8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”

Here we see the true nature of Satan, the jealous Satan.  Satan had influence over the whole world, and he was wallowing in the delusion of his controllability to the extent that if Jesus would bow down to Satan and worship him.  This is a cheap barter.  God had commanded that every human is to keep the first command ‘Obeying and worshiping only God’.  We need to remember that the Trinity was involved in the creation of the world and before sin entered everything was ‘good’.  In a twisted way he was attacking the heart of God ‘the Love of God’ for his creatures.  God became a man to save us.  This is real love. 

Satan offered a warped short cut to free people from their bondage to sin, in actuality, I don’t know what would have happened if Jesus caved into this request.   Jesus again did not sin but stayed faithful to his Father.

The Aftermath (Satan leaves, angels look after Jesus and John the Prophet is imprisoned)

11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11

11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

At the end in this text Satan is referred to as διάβολος the ‘devil’ the slanderer.  Angels came to look after Jesus because he was too physically weak after this test.  Perhaps these tests were preparing him for the cross.  Let us not think too much about Satan but rather let us focus our life of faith on prayer and getting closer to our Heavenly Father. 

Postscript

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In the book of Kings, we have the story of Elijah.  In the story Elijah defeated by God’s hand the prophets of Baal.  The ordeal brought him to a place in which he asked God that he would die.  Elijah ‘was spent’:

Then Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14

John the Baptist was taken prisoner, Jesus’ cousin, and Jesus too ‘was spent’.  A place of loneliness, feelings of abandonment… In English we may sometimes say ‘we had a desert like experience’ in which we cannot find or feel God close.  Jesus experienced all these feelings of abandonment too.  Our Lord did not give in, he found his sustenance through his prayer and devotional life. 

Questions

Explain to yourself what the three tests were.

What aspects of Jesus’ humanity did Satan attack?

Looking at the example of Jesus; Why should we pray regularly?

Reflection

As believers and for that matter as human beings we will all face desert like experiences.  We need to remember that if we truly trust in Christ, we are not alone.  In prayer we get closer to God and by the Holy Spirit and through his Word Jesus our Lord we can find a place of refreshment and divine community.  We are not alone, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. 

This test proves beyond a shadow a doubt that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  He was revealed at the baptism, and he went though the litmus trials being proven to be the Son of God.  Jesus defeated Satan’s taunting through Jesus’ human life, Although Jesus is also fully divine, he did not rely on his divinity but his humanity to defeat Satan the accuser.  When God became a human being, he was obedient even to the cross and death on a cross.  Yet three days later he came back to life.   This story is a precursor to what Jesus would do in the future.  So much pain and suffering but our Lord walked the walk of faith, and he did the talk of faith to the very end.  As believers in Christ, we too will go through trials.   Let us stay faithful to the end even as our Lord stayed faithful to the end.

Note: the image was taken from wikipeadia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temptation_of_Christ#/media/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness(J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert)-_James_Tissot-_overall.jpg

Jesus Baptism and His Fully Divine and Human Identity

December 27, 2021

We are now on the verge of the new year, and I have decided not to move on from Hebrews to other parts of Scripture. Over Christmas time, we were reminded that in Jesus we see God taking on human form. In other words, Jesus was not a pretend man but a real man. Yet in another sense he is fully God and Fully man. We accept this by faith. Not much is said about Jesus apart from when he was 12 years old until he turned 30! John was sent in the tradition of the Prophets, and he prepared the peoples hearts for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was baptized by John the Prophet in order to fulfil all righteousness. We know the story; Jesus was baptized and at this public ceremony The Holy Spirit took on the form of a dove that landed on Jesus while God the Father spoke of Jesus being his beloved Son. Here we have a picture of the Triune God:

Matthew 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17


Mark 9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11Luke 21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

As you can see this story is found in all the three of the synoptic Gospels. All three Gospels talk about the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. This is true also in John:

32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34”

There is a fourfold public agreement on the offices Jesus was called to do. As we saw in the Book of Hebrews Jesus is Prophet, Priest, King and the ultimate sacrifice for our sins as well as being the 2nd Person of the Trinity, so that we can have eternal life.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

The Greek text here is moving very fast and the verbs are either in the present or the aorist. The aorist does not exist in the English language, but it is an event that is punctiliar. It happened and that is it.

Verse 13

Jesus coming from Galilee (present tense). He is already there by the river Jordan. This event is happening and being recorded on the spot.

Verse 14

John the Baptist felt so unworthy that he tried to prevent Jesus’ baptism because he felt it should be the other way around. This event was a lot bigger than John because it was a sign to the world that Jesus indeed was sent from God. Jesus is God’s message to the world.

Verse 15

The rationale for the baptism is that God had planned this from eternity. This moment has historical significance for God’s justice and righteousness.

Verse 16

As soon as Jesus came up from the water ‘immediately’ God spoke. God’s authority rested on Jesus. The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove has a fourfold lock on it. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have all verified that this took place. In any law court of any time and place this evidence would be taken as fact that it actually happened. Obviously the character of the witnesses ought also to be looked at. In any case they were willing to die for Jesus. This would validate the facts even more.

What about the character references of these Apostles:

  • Matthew (Levi): Martyred about 60 AD by being staked and speared to the ground. Preached the Gospel in Ethiopia (Africa) and was killed for questioning the morals of the king.
  • Mark (John Mark): Was dictated to writing the Book of Mark. Martyred – dragged to death.
  • Luke: The Physician. Wrote Luke and The Acts. Was hanged on an olive tree.
  • John (The Beloved) (son of Zebedee / brother of James) : Natural Death The only apostle who did not meet a martyrs death. Banished by Roman Emperor Domitian to Isle of Patmos where penned Revelation, the last book in the Bible. Was later freed & went to preach in Turkey and died at 100.

(I got this information from “…csmedia1.com/thexenaproject.org/week-01-how-the-disciples-died.pdf”)

Jesus has his vindication that indeed he is the Son of God. He is then sent to be tried and tested in the desert like Moses and Elijah were.

THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION

Historically something was happening at the time of Christ in the area of Israel and the surrounding districts. The time was ripe for the Messiah to come. I think one of the main questions would be:

What would the Messiah be like?

We do know that the dead see scrolls looked for a powerful leader. We know there was a cultus that was an alternative to the Temple of Jerusalem with serious washing facilities discovered by archaeologists!

https://www.britannica.com/place/Qumran#ref259042

This does not surprise me because the Romans chose corrupt leaders to do their dirty work for them. Herod is a case in point and then his children took his place. Part of this Judaic community opted out of this decadence for simple obedience for the God of Israel. They knew that the Messiah the true king of Israel would come into the world to save them. From a Christian perspective they looked in the wrong place. They looked for a powerful king who would trample their enemies into the ground.

Jesus did not come into the world as this powerful king who would trample their enemies into the ground. No! He was the ‘prince of peace’ born outside of any comforts and shared an area with the farm animals in a shed sleeping inside the feeding trough for the animals. How humbling how different to human logic. God’s logic is always greater than human logic as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians.

Jesus was indeed the Messiah:

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You. Psalms 2:7

And then again in Isaiah

1 “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold:

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him:

He will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

How do we know this?

Only look at the story of King Saul and king David. Saul was the people’s choice. He was tall, good looking and he could fight.

Look at David! He was but a youth but had a heart to obey God. When he made mistakes, he would repent and be sorry for his sins.

Moses as well is recorded somewhere that he was the humblest man in all the world even though he was a leader.

REFLECTION

From what I have said Jesus is indeed the king of Israel and the world. Jesus was there at the creation of the world with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus did not come into the world with all of the regalia but rather the opposite. He humbled himself to sharing space with farm animals and died on a cross like a common criminal. This is seriously humbling. Yet death could not hold him and he was resurrected from the dead which gives us hope in the face of death that we too can be resurrected like him and live forever in God’s presence.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord

December 10, 2021

God-pleasing Sacrifices

15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honourably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Benediction

20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.

25 Grace be with you all. Hebrews 13:15-25

As well as loving God we also ought to love one another as Christ commanded.  Let us also stay appreciative to the fact that while we were still in our sin Christ died for us and in his resurrection, we have the certain hope of eternal life by the Holy Spirit.

Verses 15 and 16

15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

We ought to praise and worship God in season and out of season.  This is not only dependent on our feelings but it also dependent on the objective historical truths that Christ died and rose again from the dead.  This gives us certain hope for our salvation.  A correlate of this is to share our love in practical ways as well by sharing with others from what we have.  As Bavinck would say, the fruit of faith is works. (See his Reformed Ethics volume 1).

Verses 17, 18 and 19

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honourably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.  19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Again, Apollos commands the believers to obey their parents. Don’t go against the grain by being negative towards their leadership when there is no reason.  We also have the correlate of the importance of the leaders who are expected to conduct themselves ‘honourably’ in the office that they were chosen to be in.  Even Apollos talks about being restored to the Church!  We can see lots of prison sentences going on in the background.  Perhaps Apollos at times was also taken away from the Church by force (By the authorities).

Verses 20-21

20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Near the end Apollos gives a blessing to these believers in Jesus Christ.  He finishes with an Amen.  But I am asking, why it has come now near the end of the letter but not the end.  Perhaps Apollos finished his writings and he forgot to mention Timothy.  I don’t need to know the reason because this is such a fantastic and beautiful benediction.  

‘Now the God of Peace’

This is an interesting phrase.  As you know the style of the book is not Pauline, but the theology certainly is.  The term ‘God of peace’ comes up in other Scriptures:

Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Then the idea of ‘Shepherd’, Peter uses this:

25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:25

It is also found in Isaiah:

11 Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.

Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock?

Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Isaiah 63:11

The Eternal Covenant

3 “Incline your ear and come to Me.

Listen, that you may live;

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Isaiah 55:3

In verse 20 then we see a picture of the Trinity directly or indirectly.  We have God the Father of love and peace sending his Son the great Shepherd of the Sheep into the world to reconcile His church to the eternal covenant by the blood of Christ.  In one of the references in the Old Testament we see the Holy Spirit in the Midst of His people. 

Because of verse 20 then when we reach verse 21 the Church is equipped to do God’s will because of Christ:

equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:21

Notice the ‘Amen’ (so be it! / Let it be!).

Apollos however wanted to add some extra stuff to his letter.  Like we sometimes do by saying PS.

Verse 22

In this verse Apollos reminds his readers that he wrote this magnificent treatise as a ‘brief letter’:

But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Hebrews 13:22

As we have gone through this letter, you would have noticed that these believers were going through various trials and prison sentences.  To hear that Timothy is out of prison would have been a great encouragement for these believers.  Not all the leaders were dead.  The batten of the Gospel of Hope and life was being passed down from generation to generation:

Perhaps Paul was dead at this time by beheading, (Roman form of execution for Roman citizens) but Timothy and Apollos as faithful witnesses continued to spread the Gospel:

Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Hebrews 13:23

Those in Italy greet the Church to whom Apollos was writing (Perhaps Jerusalem (my view)):

Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Hebrews 13:24

Verse 25 ends with the blessing of grace.  This is also found in the Pauline letters:

Grace be with you all. Hebrews 13:25

For example:

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you. Colossians 4:18

Reflection

We have now completed reading and studying the book of Hebrews.  It is an incredible piece of literature in the New Testament that is artistically and theologically a masterpiece.   From my point of view there is only one Gospel, but it can take on different forms.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four Gospels written by four different people but influenced by one Holy Spirit.  For me Revelations is not just an Apocalypse following the Ezekiel tradition, but it is also explaining to us the authority of Jesus and what he did for us at the cross and it’s working out in human history.  The book of Hebrews is also about the Gospel message, but it takes a form of high Alexandrian Greek.  The message is the same and spells out who this Jesus is and those who reject the message reject God’s offer of salvation (although for humans it is a mystery because our understanding is finite). 

Here you have some Jewish Christians being persecuted for their faith.  Apollos writes into this situation, and he starts by placing the God-Man Jesus Christ at the heart of the Trinity:

“In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1:2-4

  • Not anyone can sit at the right hand of the Father except the Son. 
  • He is also ‘greater than the angels’
  • ‘He is greater than Moses’
  • Although he is God, he took on human form as a real human being and humbled himself on the cross
  • Jesus is the High Priest in the heavens the earthly one is only a shadow
  • Jesus is the Perfect High priest the earthly ones only stay in place for a short period.
  • Jesus’ priesthood is like Melchizedek’s that lasts forever.
  • One sacrifice of Christ is all that is needed.  In the Temple animals needed to be sacrificed all the time.
  • We have a choice to choose Christ or judgement.

Thanks for taking the time to follow this blog.  I have enjoyed writing it and I get pleasure when I see people taking God’s word seriously.  Before moving onto a new Biblical project, the book of Hebrews gives us a question to ponder.

Who is Jesus?

But also, who is Jesus to you personally as a human being?

The Nature of Jesus

At this time of year with Christmas just around the corner John’s Gospel explains to us the nature of the Christmas story:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5”

John starts from the ‘beginning’ (creation). Jesus was actively involved in the creation of the world with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Before the Fall the creation is described as ‘good’.  God loves his creation so much that in Christ there is a renewal through faith.  We have a choice with the help of the Holy Spirit, light or darkness.  People cannot comprehend the message because they are spiritually dead.  Christ came to save this lost humanity. 

who is Jesus to you personally as a human being?

We are sometimes blinded by our own self centredness.  Christ’s message goes out to the whole world.  In the book of Hebrews, we are all confronted by the message of Jesus.  Do we continue walking along our own path and end up nowhere or do we in Christ return to the lover of our souls.  Every religion and every person will be confronted by this message and they and us will have to make a decision about the Gospel message.  As Christians we are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ.  When an ambassador goes to a foreign country that particular country will look at the way the ambassador lives.  As ambassadors for Christ let us be ‘living letters’ to those who meet us.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time we are anything but ambassadors!  We are not perfect but we are being made perfect in Christ Amen.

We have confidence in Christ because he is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever! Hebrews 13.7-14

December 5, 2021

Confidence is a very important word.  We use the word in our daily lives.  When we set the alarm at night-time, we are confident that we will hear it the next day.  In order to go to work we confidently put the key into the ignition.  When we switch the power on our phones, we confidently expect it to run.  However sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we had planned.  I was confident that my Windows 10 home edition would work but unfortunately, I spend a few days trying to make it work. 

Spiritually this raises important questions, and it leads to an ultimate question; Do I put confidence in myself or in a higher power? (Namely God) The book of Hebrews has a lot to teach us about where we put our confidence.  Here are some snippets:

  • Hebrew 36  If we hold fast our confidence
  • Hebrew 416 with confidence to the Throne of Grace
  • Hebrew 1019 We have confidence to enter the Holy Place
  • Hebrew 1035  Do not throw away you confidence
  • Hebrew 136 So we speak confidently

Let us now look at this week’s text:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.  11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:7-14

At first glance one might think there are various topics here and they don’t seem to jell together.  Commentators may ask what has leaders to do with Jesus being the same in time sequences in the following verse?

Verse 7

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

The ‘remembering’ here is in the imperative second person plural (Greek).  Apollos isn’t asking the believers to look at the conduct of their leaders.  No, my friends it is a command.  A lot of these leaders probably did not make it to old age.  Later on, we find out that Timothy is going to be released from prison.  What about Paul?  Tradition has it that he was executed.   James the Lord’s brother was according to Josephus also executed even though he was completely innocent.   How do your leaders stand out in the Church from the 21st century?  How can a person follow a leader that isn’t following the example of Christ in their everyday life?  No one is perfect but Scripture does give us a standard for leadership in the Church.   The New Testament stands on the authority of Christ and his Apostles.  The Apostles have been asleep for many centuries now, but we do have their writings as a guide by the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives us this continuation with the early church and the Apostolic standards.

Verses 8 and 9

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Verse 8 is one of the most beautiful verses in the New Testament and because of its beauty we may miss the hay from the trees.  Taking the verse on face value it is an encouragement that Jesus is always the same.  He is in heaven interceding for us and we can take encouragement that his teachings do not change over time, but they are the same.  

Verse 9 is completely opposite, and we can spot the teachings of these capricious teachers a mile away.  The ancient Greek gods could change their minds on a whim so too these false teachers can teach false doctrine and change their meanings on a whim. 

However, we are certain and 200% sure that the teachings of the Bible have not changed for over 2000 years. 

Before we move on, I can simply say that this whole section touches on false teachings about food.  Perhaps somehow these false teachers were linking food to salvation somehow.   We need to remember that James in the book of Acts wrote a letter to all the churches stating that the only food Christians ‘jew’ or gentile was not to eat was food with the blood still in it. 

Verse 10

10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

Apollos reminds us that the tabernacle we eat from gives no right to these earthly officials.  The earthly tabernacle is only a shadow of the real one.

Verses 11 – 14

.  11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:7-14

These animals pointed only to the real sacrifice of the True Lamb of God.  These animals were sacrificed outside of the camp.    In that way the great sacrifice of Christ happened outside the city gates of Jerusalem.   Anyone hung on a tree was seen as cursed.  Jesus took our curse on himself so that we could be found holy and blameless before a righteous God.  As Jesus took on our curse which was a reproach against him, we too as his followers may we take on some of this curse, by living holy and blameless with this hope burning in our souls that one day we too will be before the celestial city gates. 

Reflection

Faith is a gift as we cannot save ourselves.  God is for us because Jesus is for us.  Jesus became a curse so that we in Him can be found righteous.  The road we walk is a walk of faith, full of appreciation in our hearts for what Jesus did for us.  Apollos teaches us to live this life confidently in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  If any of your leaders tell you anything different to take you away from Christ, then they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  

Personal note on the blogs

I would have finished this blog earlier, but my computer died.   In this digital age we need to stay faithful to Christ with computers and without computers.  If Apollos was around today, I wonder how this beautiful letter may have been written. 😊

The Materialistic Gravy Train and the Great Deception that can cost a person their soul.

November 10, 2021

Money and wealth is something that a lot of people crave for.  They somehow think that it will make them happy and content.  Sadly, this is not only an idea in the world but it has also infiltrated the Church.   I remember writing about the abuse of wealth in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics:

https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/2021/01/do-you-love-money-or-god.html

As Christians let us be rich towards God and our neighbours walking by faith in Love.  Our text today is Hebrews 13. 5-6

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13:5-6

This is Apostolic teaching and that should suffice for us to accept God’s word.  However, we are going to go deeper and look at the source of this wisdom which flows from the teaching of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.  Our great teacher has quite a few things to say about riches that come in various guises:

Matt. 6:19. Do not lay up for your

selves treasures upon earth, where

moth and rust destroy, and where

thieves break in and steal.

Riches do not last but rather they can turn our hearts away from our Saviour. 

Matt. 13:22. And the one on whom

seed was sown among the thorns, this

is the man who hears the word, and the

worry of the world, and the deceitful

ness of riches choke the word, and it

becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:7, 18, 19;

Luke 8:7, 14.

We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Riches here are spoken of as deceitful. Deceitfulness is a deception. 

Vine says:

Deceitfulness apate (539), “deceit or deceitfulness” (akin to apatao, “to cheat, deceive, beguile”), that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence, is said of riches, Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19; of sin, Heb. 3:13. The phrase in Eph. 4:22, “deceitful lusts,” KJV, “lusts of deceit,” RV, signifies lusts excited by “deceit,” of which “deceit” is the source of strength, not lusts “deceitful” in themselves. In 2 Thess. 2:10, “all deceit of unrighteousness,” RV, signifies all manner of unscrupulous words and deeds designed to “deceive” (see Rev. 13:13–15). In Col. 2:8, “vain deceit” suggests that “deceit” is void of anything profitable. Matthew 13:22

I think that wealth is a great deception.  A person could have the latest cars, houses, boats, mistresses.  It is a bubble and is not real.  It goes against the fruit of the Spirit, and it is in direct opposition to God who is True and Pure Love.  The wages of sin is death.

Matt. 16:26. For what will a man be

profited, if he gains the whole world,

and forfeits his soul? Or what will a

man give in exchange for his soul

You were created in the image of God and you have a soul.  In Christ we have real value.  You have heard of the ‘rat race’.  Some choose to be rats and they will deceive in order to get rich.  This road leads to a spiritual death.  It means lying and cheating which is in contraventions to what God teaches.

Matt. 19:23. Truly I say to you, it is

hard for a rich man to enter the king

dom of heaven. 24. And again I say to

you, it is easier for a camel to go

through the eye of a needle, than for a

rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Having looked at the verses above Jesus’ metaphor of a rich man going through the eyes of a needle is very true.  The reason for this is that the person is focusing on this world, on themselves, on their ego, on their earthly god (idol). 

Our Lord’s teachings in the Gospels continue:

Mark 10:23. How hard it will be for

those who are wealthy to enter the

kingdom of God! 24. Children, how

hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Mark 12:43. Truly I say to you, this

poor widow put in more than all the

contributors to the treasury; 44. for

they all put in out of their surplus, but

she, out of her poverty, put in all she

owned, all she had to live on.

Luke 12:19. “And I will say to my

soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid

up for many years to come; take your

ease, eat, drink and be merry.”. 20.

But God said to him, “You fool! This

very night your soul is required of you;

and now who will own what you have

prepared?”, 21. So is the man who lays

up treasure for himself, and is not rich

toward God.

So how can we be rich towards God?  If we have followed the teachings of Hebrews, we already know the answer as it is living by faith and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Let us not make ourselves an idol of greed but rather let us become free through obedience to God.  Let us not fixate on wealth as our Lord says:

33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:33-34

Our Lord had a lot to say about riches and having the right attitude towards them.  They are an easy snare for the human being to fall into.  The Apostle spent three years with our Lord and even St Paul disappeared for a few years learning about Christ’s Way before he set off on his ministry.  It is on this foundation, Christ’s teachings that we can start to interpret wealth and how it ought to be used. 

The Apostles teachings

In this section we are going to look at what the Apostles thinking is about riches and wealth.  When we have finished you will see that they follow directly from the teachings of Christ.  When the Apostles use Christ’s teachings it is directly into the contemporary life of the Church.  Here I am defining ‘contemporary’ in terms of the relationship of the Apostles to the early Church.  We are also contemporary with the early Church because we have the same Holy Spirit and He is the glue that binds all Christians (The invisible Church) to Christ by faith.

Apostles Teachings

I used http://qbible.com/ to get the following references below.

1 Timothy 6:9

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction”

Greed destroys a person from within.  What type of destruction can there be?

If a person can have anything they want, then ultimately the destruction of the soul.  However, there are many levels along the way.

Desire to be rich at any cost can make a rat in character

Wealth can make someone’s ego become an idol where they think they are better than their neighbour.

Temptations that can ruin a person are manifold; alcohol dulls the mind, secret relationships can break families apart,

Affording the latest luxuries can make a person fat.

Wealth can make a person even more selfish

The self becomes ‘a god’. To be more precise a person has more power to do what they want and are prone to fall into the trap that Paul warned about:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

1 Timothy 6:17

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy

Wealth and riches of whatever type is a great deception, so we need to be aware of its dangers. 

49.1TM | 1 Timothy 6:18

Instruct them to do good to be rich in good works to be generous and ready to share

True happiness is found through faith in Christ.  When one releases the burdens of greed and self-centredness then one starts to live a new life.  We can become soul rich because we put God first.   God created all that is good in the first place and all we are doing is like the prodigal son ‘returning home’.

51.HBR | Hebrews 11:26

considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward

Moses put God first and he was known as the most humble man on the earth.  He wasn’t rich but his life is celebrated all around the world. 

James 1:10

and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass he will pass away

Wealth can be a humiliation because one only thinks about their own bank balance, so he thinks.  The selfish man is only around for a time and then there is the judgement

James 1:11

… its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away

Pursuing God and his ways brings real wealth which will not fade. 

James 2:5

Listen my beloved brethren did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him

As Bavinck said somewhere the ‘fruit of faith is works’.  It was a big mistake for Martin Luther to call this book ‘straw’.  James the Lord’s brother was the leader of the Jerusalem Church and according to Josephus he was murdered by jealousy and hate. 

We have a few more verses below if you care to read.

James 2:6; But you have dishonored the poor man Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court

James 5:1; Come now you rich weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you

James 5:2; Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth eaten

Revelation 2:9; I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan

Revelation 3:17; Because you say I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked

Revelation 18:3; …mmitted acts of immorality with her and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality

Revelation 18:15; The merchants of these things who became rich from her will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment weeping and mourning

Revelation 18:19; …ourning saying Woe woe the great city in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth for in one hour she has been laid waste

This was just background reading.  Money and wealth in itself does nothing.  At the end of the day, we ought to be good stewards of what God has given us.  A person may have inherited his wealth or became wealthy through good business transactions.  This is not a problem.  The problem is the Fall.  When the Fall happened in the garden of Eden it was to do with Adam and Eve wanting to become their own sovereignties without being dependent on God.  They thought that they could be like God!  This is a natural state of people that we want to be in charge, and we think that wealth can make us happy.  It is the great deception.  If we want to be truly happy, we need to watch our attitudes and perceptions.  It is a great temptation for many a politician to be wealthy and famous and some will lie and cheat to end up at ‘the top of the pack’.  This is sad because all a politician is, is a servant of the people.  Unfortunately, if you watch some politicians around the world, you can see and feel the pride that ‘they have made it’.  They have made it for the gravy train of riches, but little do they know that God’s judgment like a massive Juggernaut train is coming towards them full throttle and it may cost them their soul.  

So from the background reading we understand a little bit better what Apollos was on about:

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13.5-6

Don’t strain for wealth but be happy with what you have.  Love for God is better than love for money.  I liked Donald Guthrie’s comments here:

Contentment means more than passive acceptance of the inevitable. It involves a positive recognition that money is relative. In support of this view, the writer quotes from the Old Testament

And again, on the Old Testament quotation he says:

The writer’s intention is to show that contentment should be based on the character of God, especially on his unfailing presence. As this promise had been a great support to the Israelites faced with the hardships which preceded their entry into the promised land, so the readers of this letter could take their stand on the same promise.” (Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Hebrews; Donald Guthrie; pages 269-270)

Reflection

Materiality, wealth and riches in itself is not a problem.  The problem is with us humans having faulty attitudes on wealth and riches.  We so easily get fixated on wealth that we end up deceiving ourselves.  From that point of view Satan doesn’t need to do anything.  This seed of greed and self-sovereignty already resides in us from the Fall.  Jesus’ teachings are vital for us so that our attitudes and faith are realigned vertically up towards God and horizontally towards our neighbour.  A proper understanding of the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5 is a good place to start. 

What advice can I give you.  I’m not your judge.  God loves you and in Christ we can see the great deception for what it is.   This is a very serious topic in the Bible.  As Christians and for that matter Muslims and Jews are expected to love their neighbour and show great hospitality and love. 

So then let us follow the teachings of the Book of Hebrews, the teachings of Jesus and of the Apostles on this great subject Amen.

Let us love, show hospitality, empathize with the needy and honour Marriage!

November 6, 2021

Today we are going to look at some reasons why Apollos wrote Hebrews but not Paul.  We also need to remember that in theology it is within a Pauline school of theology but written in a High Alexandrian Greek style (Philonic style).

We then move on to look at some of the ethical material in chapter 13 namely the first four verses.

Background to Hebrews 13

We have shown and proven using probability that Apollos is the most likely contender as the writer of the book of Hebrews.   Some have argued that the style in chapter 13 has changed.  Yes, the style has changed to being more Pauline like.  Perhaps the reason for this is that Apollos was part of this Pauline school.  Throughout the whole of this letter, we have come across Pauline ideas, and this should not be a surprise.  Apollos in this last section switches to giving advice on how believers ought to live.   In Orthodox traditions Apollos was one of the seventy elders and he was bishop sometime in Corinth.  He may also have been Bishop at Izmir (Smyrna), Caesarea (An archaeological site between Tel Aviv and Haifa) and other places.  Some have also contended that Paul must have written this letter because Timothy is mentioned:

When Paul is writing formally to other churches, he has in a couple of places written ‘our brother’.  However, in other places (more informal perhaps at the end of letters or to Timothy Himself) he calls him his child or son.  There are about 23 references to Timothy in the New Testament

Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Hebrews 13:23

This to me would not make sense because Paul usually refers intimately about Timothy more like a ‘son’ than a brother! Having said that the Church had a special place for Timothy in their affections.  He indeed was a special brother, and it was not unusual for Timothy to team up with Paul or Silas.  There are possibly many instances of Timothy teaming up with other members of the Church.  The writings we have are a snapshot of what was going on. Below are some references to Timothy:

For this reason, I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17

Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

Romans 16:21

10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 1 Corinthians 16:10

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

2 Corinthians 1:1

Bibliography

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges; THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS; VEN. F. W. FARRAR, D.D., F.R.S.; Farrar, F. W. (1893). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, With Notes and Introduction (p. iii). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Logos.com

(The introduction in the above commentary explains a lot how Apollos could have been the writer and the evidence is very compelling that Apollos wrote it.  Farrar also shows how the Pauline ideas are found in the book of Hebrews but it has an Alexandrian and Philonic style, this includes his vocabulary and choice of words.)

Summary

The writer of Hebrews was a man who was from the school of Paul. At the same times he was a writer that wrote in an Alexandrian style.  His style in the Scriptures is pure originality and we can be grateful to have such a masterpiece of writing in the New Testament. According to tradition he was one of the seventy elders, and this gave him God’s authority to command the Church to live godly lives.

COMMENTARY

Let’s read the first six verses:

Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6 so that we confidently say,

“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

Verse 1

Let love of the brethren continue.

The word used here is φιλαδελφία (Philadelphia).  It is brotherly love.  Brotherly love happens within the family (God’s people the Church).  This word is not the same one as used in love of neighbour by Jesus:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-47

In this section Jesus uses the word ἀγαπάω (agapaō).  Basically, Jesus commands us to love everyone.  When Jesus preached, he preached in public to everyone.  The situation of Hebrews is different in the sense that this letter was only addressed to a close-knit congregation (s).  Then again Jesus uses agapaō in the High Priestly prayer:

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17:23

I am not making any deeply theological statements here, but I am saying that in the Greek language they use a variety of words for love whereas in English we use one word to cover a plethora of meanings.   

Verse 2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Obviously, Apollos is referring to this situation:

Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. Genesis 18:1-8

So, the key words are love and hospitality.  Hospitality is something that believers should just do and it is even commanded as it is here.  Apollos goes a stage further that we ought to think about ‘strangers’.  We do not know who they are but it may be that they need help.  Perhaps they don’t even have any food and are hungry.  How far would we go out of our way to help some one who is in need? (Or not in need but a friend).

Verse 3

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

So, our three key words are love, hospitality, and now empathy.  

At the end of this chapter, we see that Timothy was in prison and he had only recently been released.  We have also seen it near the end of chapter 10:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:32-35

Over the centuries things haven’t changed that much.  Innocent people still get thrown in prison from various situations.  Let us remember too those who are suffering through no fault of their own and are languishing in prison.  We ought to remember even those who have been thrown in prison because of what they have done so that they can come to faith in Christ.  God works in mysterious ways and we don’t always know what the outcome is going to be.

Verse 4

So up to now we have had Love, hospitality, empathy and now honour.

4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Hebrews 13:4

Marriage in the UK usually lasted a lifetime, but the laws were relaxed in the 1970’s and it got easier to get divorced.  The following link shows different religious groups and some dovorce rates:

https://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Divorce_Statistics_by_Religion

This is a sad state of affairs because God is love and those who divorce have decided to break their vows.  I’m not standing in judgement, but it does show that we live in a dysfunctional world and the Fall is very much evident.

As in the early church (such as Corinth) there were believers married to unbelievers; believer married to believers but in all of Paul’s advice marriage was important.  For example, believing couples were commanded to pray for each other 1 Corinthians 7. 5.  When reading chapter 7 Satan is also mentioned in verse 6 (lack of self-control).  We can see that in marriage the old fallen nature and the new nature are at odds.  Prayer is very important because when we pray even for our partners and children it build God’s empathy in our hearts.  Love is the glue that holds a marriage together so it does not surprise me that Marriage is used as a metaphor for Christ and the Church:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33

Reflection

As Paul did in his letters; Apollos gave advice for faithful living in Christ.  In the first 4 verses we touched on some very important themes, so we ought to take these commands very seriously because they are indicators of how our walk with God is.

Apollos in these first few verses touched on

  • Love
  • Hospitality
  • Empathy
  • Honour

Where do we fit into this picture?

Do we love our neighbour whoever they may be?

Do we love those who have abused or wronged us in some way?

Do we have empathy for those who have had their freedoms taken away from them?

Do we respect marriage and the idea of marriage especially when it is a metaphor of the marriage of Christ and the Church?

Through out the book we had a feast of high Alexandrian Christian Theology, but Apollos is also concerned about our individual walk with God in the nitty gritty of daily life.  Hebrews is definitely part of the Pauline school of Theology written by a Master theologian namely Apollos.

The Time of the Great Shaking (Hebrews 12:25-29)

October 30, 2021

24 10 2021

Shaking

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29

Shaking (The Big Idea)

In general, when something shakes things happen.  Cooks can shake liquids such as syrups and milk to make a milk shake.  At the same time volcanoes can shake and erupt and cause vast devastation such as Mt St Helens that destroyed much of the vegetation and houses from miles around. Shaking is a very good word to use in metaphors that are linked to judgment.   In the case of Hebrews 12. 25-29 ‘shaking’ is being used in terms of God’s judgements.  This is a more serious type of judgement because God controls the human spirit that lives on after death as well as physical life.  Shaking is used here in Hebrews 12 26 in terms of making insecure (Vine; see his comments in the Index)1a

Verse 25

‘See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking’.

The pronoun him is referring to God as the speaker.  The sentence is not very clear who the speaker is.  Some have suggested that it is Moses and Christ but after reading Hughes comments on this verse I take it to be God who is speaking (commentary on Hebrews: Philip Edcumbe Hughes; Published by Eerdmans; page 556 See index 1b)

This verse is telling us to take God’s warnings seriously.  Warnings have been given on earth and from Heaven (we will see this more clearly as we go through these verses).

Verse 26

26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” Hebrews 12:26

We have two references here that show God would shake the whole of reality (heaven and earth) Ex 19:18; Judg 5:4f

This verse seals any ambiguity of it being God who speaks.  I disagree with Luther and others who say it was Moses and Christ.  This places a wedge between the Old Testament and the New Testament when there isn’t one.   It might look good on paper, but it is a false interpretation.  Luther would have liked this interpretation because of what he thought about the book of James that ‘it is straw’.  Bavinck from the late 19th century and the 20th century corrects this notion.  Works are the fruit of faith, however works do not save us from our sins (See Index on Bavinck 1c )

Verse 27

This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

This is going to be a big judgement! Why am I saying this?  There is only one previous time that God literally shook the whole earth and that was at the Judgement of Noah in which God destroyed most of the human race except one family; Noah’s family.

Verse 28

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;

Out lives are in Jesus Christ he is our lifeboat. As we walk by faith in God’s will, we are indeed in the presence of God for all eternity.

Verse 29

for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:27-29

This comes from Deuteronomy 4.24

“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”.  God loves his people and he will protect his people. He loved us so much that he sent Christ into the world to die on a cross so that we can have eternal life.

Reflection

We started by looking at Sinai and Zion and now this week Divine judgement on heaven and earth.   This is an exhortation to stay faithful to our Trinitarian Holy God.  I can’t think of a more serious issue for humanity that divine judgement as it will not be a pretty sight but a shock and awe sight in which our very souls are on the judgement table.

If we live by faith, then we are hid in Christ and it is a joyful event.  However, let us be like Abraham when he kept on praying for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.   In the end only one family came out alive and even then, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.  Let us not look back on our old life.  Let us keep moving forward in the love of God by the gift of faith God has given us.  Let us love our neighbours whether they are good or evil to the very end as Christ commanded so that they too could be pulled out of the fire that is to come.

Bibliography

  • Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 10, pages 411-422 index 1c
  • commentary on Hebrews; Philip Edcumbe Hughes; Published by Eerdmans; page 556 See index 1b
  • Vines Greek New Testament words (Olive Tree Bible software)1a

Index

1a  Shook saleuo (4531), “to agitate, shake,” primarily of the action of stormy winds, waves, etc., is used (a) literally, of a reed, Matt. 11:7; Luke 7:24; a vessel, “shaken” in filling, Luke 6:38; a building, Luke 6:48; Acts 4:31; 16:26; the natural forces of the heavens and heavenly bodies, Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:25; Luke 21:26; the earth, Heb. 12:26, “shook”; (b) metaphorically, (1) of “shaking” so as to make insecure, Heb. 12:27 (twice); (2) of casting down from a sense of security, Acts 2:25, “I should (not) be moved”; (3) to stir up (a crowd), Acts 17:13; (4) to unsettle, 2 Thess. 2:2, “(to the end that) ye be not (quickly) shaken (from your mind),” i.e., from their settled conviction and the purpose of heart begotten by it, as to the return of Christ before the Day of the Lord begins; the metaphor may be taken from the loosening of a ship from its moorings by a storm.

“There is a danger of forgetting that the Bible reveals, not first the love of God, but the intense, blazing holiness of God, with his love as the centre of that holiness.” Hebrews 12:26

1b There is a difference of opinion concerning the identity of him who warned on earth and him who warns from heaven: is it two different persons that are meant or one and the same person? Theophylact, Luther, Moffatt, Héring, and Montefiore are among the many scholars who understand two different speakers to be intended, maintaining that the former refers to Moses, the earthly and merely human mediator of the law, and the latter to Christ, the Mediator from heaven of the new covenant. In the view of Aquinas and some others a contrast is intended between the angelic mediation at Sinai and the mediation of Christ (cf. 2:2 above and Acts 7:38). Many others, however, including Chrysostom, Owen, Bengel, Westcott, Spicq, and F. F. Bruce, contend that God is the sole speaker intended. Thus, Teodorico insists that what we have here is not a diversity of persons but simply a diversity of circumstances, expressed by the phrases “on earth” and “from heaven.” The correctness of this judgment is confirmed by the statement in the next verse: “His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised …,” from which it plainly follows that God is the sole speaker; for it was the voice of Yahweh, certainly not of Moses or an angel, that shook the earth at Sinai, and it is Yahweh again who promises yet one further shaking in Haggai 2:6f. We have here, in fact, the same kind of statement as is found in the opening words of the epistle, where God who “spoke of old to our fathers” is one and the same with him who has spoken to us “‘in these last days by a Son” (1:1f.).

1c Good Works as Fruit of Faith. In the third place, the Holy Spirit pro duces assurance in us by shining light on the minor premise (I believe) from our good works, as the fruit of faith.  Good works are fruit, a manifestation of faith (Matt. 21:43; Luke 8:15; 13:9), by which false prophets, etc., are recognized (Matt. 7:16, 20) and the goodness of the tree is known (Matt.7:17; 12:33). In the Gospel of John, the result of communion with Christ is to be set free from sin (John 8:32, 36), to distance oneself from sin (5:14; 8:11), to bear fruit (15:1-2), to keep the commandments as the expression and proof of love toward him (14:15, 21). And all those commandments of Jesus are concentrated in the great command of brotherly love (13:34–35; 15:12–13, 17). Similarly, we see this in the First Epistle of John: in the love that is born from faith in Jesus, we keep the commandments of God, which is the fruit and proof of our faith, of our being in God (1 John 2:3–6, 29). Whoever does right, is righteous, is born of God (3:6, 9) and is from God, while whoever sins does not know God (3:10). Doing righteousness consists especially of brotherly love (2:7-11; 3:10–11). Love toward God and love toward our brothers and sisters are correlative demonstrations of true love (4:20–21; 5:1-2). The latter is the sign that God abides in us (4:16), a sign that we are born of God (4:7). To have fellowship with God is “to walk in the light” because “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1:5; cf. 1:6). The entailment is clear: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1:7). Paul too is zealous about walking in the Spirit (Rom. 6), emphasizes sanctification, and describes faith as working through love (Gal. 5:6, 22). But he moves from faith to works, unlike John, who ascends from works to faith. James 2, however, says that faith without works is dead.284 That is also what the Reformed tradition teaches.285 But one cannot lean upon good works; absolute assurance cannot be deduced from good works, even though faith and election are manifested in good works.

Which mountain does your God (god) come from? A look at Mt Sinai and Mt Zion. Hebrews 12:18-24

October 22, 2021

Mountains are very salient things.  In many cultures around the world usually it locates some form of divinity.

In the localities around Israel are certain mountains:

  • Mount Sinai – Egypt, Elevation: 2,285 m
  • Mount Nemrut, Turkey, Elevation 2,134 m
  • Mount Olympus – Greece, Elevation: 2,918 m
  • Mount Carmel, Israel – Elevation:  525.4 m
  • Har Karkom (Jabal Ideid) – Negev desert in Israel, Elevation: 1 035

One of the oldest maps in the world was discovered in Iraq. 

Babylonian Map from Wikipedia

It reminds me of the time when I was at university studying the Psalms and we touched on the importance of mountains in the minds of the local communities surrounding them. On this ancient map scholars think that the triangles on the outer circle are mountains of the gods.

Anyhow today we are reading the story of two mountains in which the Israelites met with God:

  • Mount Sinai
  • Mount Zion

At mount Sinai God made a covenant with Israel that he would be their God and they would be his special people.  It is in this period of time that God commanded Israel to make a Tabernacle.  Basically, it was a mobile Holy Temple. Eventually the people of God would settle down and a promise was made to king David that his royal line would never end.  King David conquered Jerusalem and it became the capital city.  It was in the heart of king David to build a temple to God. The problem was that in God’s sight David had blood on his hands in the many wars that he took part in.  However, he did provide the timber and resources for King Solomon and on Mount Zion (The Temple Mount) the first temple to the God of Israel was built.

Scholars have suggested that the Old Testament in places leaned on the idea that no foreign army would ever conquer the Temple Mount.  Obviously, History tells us otherwise.  The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (587BC) and again by the Romans in AD 70. However things turned out; for Christians the real Zion is in God’s presence and it can never be destroyed.   God allowed the Jewish people to return and rebuild the temple.  It was rebuilt and the temple became fully functional again. Other things happened as well and eventually King Herod wanted to make his mark.  He modernized the Temple Mount, and it was a magnificent thig to look at.  We need to remember though that Herod the Great was a blood thirsty murderer. We know in the Christmas story how he slew ‘Rachael’s children’ ‘and ‘they were no more’.   If Kings David the greatest king of Israel and Judah had blood on his hands and was not allowed to build the temple; How does Herod stand before God? 

It doesn’t surprise me that some Israelites (Essenes) went into the desert to worship God.  They knew the abomination that was happening in Jerusalem. 

(Note:

I ought to read the Dead Sea Scrolls a little closer I’m pretty sure that this is possibly one reason to move to the desert.)

The real Zion is in Heaven.  Mount Sinai and the earthly sanctuaries in Jerusalem were steppingstones to the real sanctuary not made with hands:

“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:18-24 NASB

There are two mountains with two stories. 

At mount Sinai the Law of God was given, the ten commandments and all the other laws.  The law was Holy but whether we are Gentile or Jewish we have all failed to keep the Law.  This does not mean the law was bad.  No, the law is good because it came from God, but apart from Christ no one could keep it perfectly.  The teachings of Jesus in Matthews Gospel show us this to be the case.  It is only when we realized that we are spiritually poor and helpless before God that we can start this walk of grace.  The good news is that Christ kept the law perfectly and in Him we can have eternal life.

Here we have two covenants in the Old Testament:

  • The covenant with Moses and the people of God
  • The covenant of David and the people of God

Jesus comes from the line of David and in Christ the ‘second Adam’ we have been recreated and found to be blameless before a holy God by faith.

Christ indeed is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses.  The law will always be good but only through the work of Christ; the Mediator between God and Man.  We also need to remember that at the Transfiguration of Jesus Moses and Elijah were present.  We had a glimpse into heaven itself and in this story, we see Christ’s Divinity.

There are those who would like to see the Old Testament to be forgotten and ripped out of the Bible.  This is what the heretic Marcion tried to do.  The Old Testament is beautiful.  This is where we see the creation of the world; the creation of Humanity; the Fall of humanity; the promised restoration of humanity; the coming of Christ into the world; That Jesus would save his people and bring them with himself into the real Zion in which we share in the life and communion of the Trinity.

Reflection

Just imagine you were standing at the foot of Mt Sinai; What would you be feeling?  You would be afraid and with your finite mind would not be able to grasp the big picture that God had in mind.

We are privileged because we are of the household of faith and as believers we can look back retrospectively and see what amazing things God has done for us!  Not only retrospectively but the here and now.  We can fall on our knees and worship God today whatever area in the world we are in. Whether we are on a mountain top or in the valleys, we can fall on our knees and worship God in spirit and truth.

Bibliography

A very old Babylonian map; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_Map_of_the_World

A translation of the Babylonian text; https://digitalmapsoftheancientworld.com/ancient-maps/babylonian-map-of-the-world/

The list of sacred mountains; https://youth-time.eu/sacred-mountains-homes-of-ancient-gods-2/

Sinai location;  https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jabal+Mousa/@25.7715142,28.3037876,1723995m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m9!1m2!2m1!1sMount+Sinai!3m5!1s0x1454855532dfc1cf:0x8f6d107a766ebf7!8m2!3d28.5362745!4d33.9697266!15sCgtNb3VudCBTaW5haSIDiAEBWg0iC21vdW50IHNpbmFpkgEEcGVhaw

Goal of love in discipline from the Father of Spirits; Hebrews 12. 4-11

October 16, 2021

The importance of Godly Discipline. Today the writer of Hebrews (Apollos, my point of view) is talking about discipline.  We have all faced discipline in our lives.  Perhaps you were a runner for your college or played football for your local team.  Discipline is important because it helps us to be the best that we can be.  Sometimes it may look like discipline, but it may be punishment.  Perhaps a person has an alcoholic parent who comes home and ‘beats the day lights out of their child’ or uses ‘psychological abuse’.  This latter one is not discipline and the person who inflicts such a thing on a loved one needs psychological help or even a prison sentence.  The goal and end result of discipline should be love.  As Jesus said:

9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?” Matthew 7:9 

This verses context is prayer and the golden rule.  The intention of any parent ought to be for the good of their children. So, our Lord Jesus shows us the importance and intent of the heart in relationships. So, let us not abuse those in our care but rather show love through our actions by the grace of God.  If one who is reading this is punishing rather than discipling, then there is a place for true repentance and to stop doing these things. We now turn to the passage that we are going to look at in Hebrews 12. 4-17:

A Father’s Discipline

4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,

NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;

6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,

AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birth right for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12:4-17

Commentary

Verse 4

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;”

It is true that they haven’t yet lost their lives for Christ, but they are certainly suffering economically and even prison sentences.  We have seen some of this at the end of chapter 10.  On the other hand, One did strive against sin and he died in this godly endeavour but he took his life back up in the resurrection.  This is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:

  Did Apollos just mean their striving against sin or was he thinking about what Christ did?

I’m not entirely sure but we do know that Jesus is our great example, and the previous verse did say:

“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3”

The Lord Jesus is our great example.  When Christ set his eyes on going to Jerusalem nothing was going to take him away from his goal of death on a cross and the resurrection. His discipline of prayer and walking the path of faith knowing that he was going to die.  Christ also knew this would open the gates of heaven that those who believe in his name would walk through the pearly gates too.

So how does our faith line up to Christ in fighting against sin?

Only you can answer that question for yourself.

Verses 5-6

and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,

NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;

6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,

AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

This seems quite harsh but as we said earlier the goal is love and to make us more like Christ.  It is worth quoting longer passages from the Book of Job and the book of Proverbs from which these references were taken from in the first place:

17 “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,

So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

18 “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief;

He wounds, and His hands also heal.

19 “From six troubles He will deliver you,

Even in seven evil will not touch you.

20 “In famine He will redeem you from death,

And in war from the power of the sword.

21 “You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,

And you will not be afraid of violence when it comes.

22 “You will laugh at violence and famine,

And you will not be afraid of wild beasts.

23 “For you will be in league with the stones of the field,

And the beasts of the field will be at peace with you.

24 “You will know that your tent is secure,

For you will visit your abode and fear no loss. Job 5:17-24

And then Proverbs:

11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD

Or loathe His reproof,

12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves,

Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom

And the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:11-13

This is very interesting. The reason it is very interesting is that in a way they remind us of the beautiful attitudes of the Happy sayings of Christ (in the beginning of the book of Matthew).  Both these quotations have the saying Happy is the man! Happy is the person!

When reading these verses, I think it sounds rather harsh to the ear.  However, with the background reading we can see that Apollos is giving his own beatific attitude lessons from two Happy sayings from the Old Testament.  Job is the oldest book in the Bible, so his Wisdom takes us to real ancient texts.  We need to remember that God is Creator, and we were created as humans to be in relationship with him.  How do I know this?  You know this too.  God was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  They walked and talked to each other and before the Fall God and Adam were in perfect relationship.  Everything God created was referred to was ‘good’.  In Christ by faith and his work on the cross and the resurrection we are realigned with the Triune God.

Verses 11 -13

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

As you can see because you are in the Church, in the family of God that we are disciplined.  In any good family there is always discipline.  It may be that a person has about three siblings and they all have to go to their hobbies.  Mum and dad are driving crazily from place to place; preparing food; washing the laundry.  God in verse 11 is referred to as the ‘Father of spirits.’   This is a very personal touch because God cares for our souls in a very intimate way.  Discipline never seems joyful at the time, but the end result is that we are citizens of heaven and the Holy City, New Jerusalem.  Verse 11 finishes of with the saying ‘afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.’

Reflection

Apollos gives the Jewish believers a lesson about discipline from two of the Happy Sayings in the Old Testament.  He has taken us back to real old, ancient, holy, godly wisdom!  If we truly love to be children of Christ let us also walk by faith.  Living by faith means living inside the discipline of God.  We are disciplined by God by pure love because God is Love

The style in Hebrews 12 has changed from dogma to pastoral.  Here we see Apollos taking his theology and making it useful for the local church.  At the same time though we need to remember that throughout the book of Hebrews we see exhortations in piece meal.  This is no accident, Apollos has a pastors, teachers heart and he wants his congregation to be more like Christ.  His theology at places is also influenced by Saint Paul. 

Although the style has changed let us continue to live by faith and godly living.

Bibliography All references were from the NASB

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus; the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Perfector of our Faith; Hebrews chapter 12. 1-3

October 9, 2021

As we get closer to Winter the night starts to grow longer. However, every morning the sun comes up over the horizon and gives us some light.  As a spiritual lesson we can say that our faith gives us a preview of what is out of sight.  God in Christ is coming back for his children, and we will forever be in the Trinitarian presence of God. 

Verse 1A

Apollos has taken us on a wild journey of faith to the top of the mountains and to the flat plains.  The best is still yet to come! He is reminding us of all of these witnesses, and he uses a strange phrase, but it is very effective.  In the ‘great cloud of witnesses’, the word ‘cloud’ is a metaphor. When we think of a cloud it is something that is usually over our head. Perhaps by using this word the writer wanted to encourage the believers to stay strong in the faith. These witnesses lived by faith no matter what was thrown at them.  They believed and they walked the talk.  Perhaps I should have used ‘ran the talk’ because in these early verses in chapter 12, Apollos the writer uses a race analogy. 

Even as these Old Testament and New Testament witnesses were part of this cloud let us also follow in their footsteps on the road into God’s presence itself.

Verse 1B

“let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”

Every international racer has a goal, and he has to prepare for the great race.  You do not see many sprinters carrying a lot of luggage.  Weight slows a racer down thus there are not many larger racers.  The racer goes on a diet to lose as much fat as possible.  They practice every day and follow the doctor’s advice.  The day of the race comes they check their racing shoes.  The goal of the racer is to win that medal and fame.  The winner becomes famous overnight and the losers’ names go into oblivion.  That is how the world works but God does not work like that.

God is love and he has poured His love into our lives through the work of the Son our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We have entered into an eternal friendship. We too have a goal but our goal is not fame or fortune which does not last, it is to be with Christ for all eternity through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and the Fathers good pleasure.

The true race is a spiritual race.  Racers come and go, and they are like the flower in the garden that withers and falls and is not remembered anymore.  We grow old, fat, slow and then we realize that that was in the yester year. It does not matter how good a sprinter is, it is only at a moment in time and then the final curtain comes down.

We also have a goal in which moth and rust cannot destroy as Hebrews 12. 2a reminds us:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,”.  What do we really fix our eyes on?

We ought to fix our eyes on Jesus because he is our Saviour and why should we fix our eyes on Jesus?  The rest of the verse explains this to us!

…the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

In the economy of the Trinity Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father.  How Jesus must have suffered for us sinners. Remember Jesus is fully God and fully Man.  From his Divine side he would have seen ahead of time those nails being driven into his hands because of our rebellion and sinfulness towards God.  Yet Jesus also saw the prize.  The prize is not only that he sits at the right hand of God the Father but that he has enabled through his work to bring many sons and daughters with him into heaven itself.

The Writer then asks his listeners to consider the hostility Jesus himself faced:

“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3

We get discouraged but the truth is that if anyone had a right to be discouraged, it would be the Son of God both in his divine and human nature.  Jesus sweated drops of blood, but he also went through the death penalty.  He was made a curse by hanging on a wooden stick.  No wonder that for a lot of Jews and Gentiles they would never consider Jesus as a Saviour.  We read this early in 1 Corinthians.

However, if we read verse 3 closely, we see an encouragement to stay strong in the faith:

“…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3

Reflection

There are many good reasons why we should fix our eyes on Jesus.

  • Jesus is fully God and fully human
  • He is greater than all the angels
  • He is greater that Moses
  • He is High Priest of the real Temple in Heaven
  • He is the One True Sacrifice (The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world)
  • You find your election in Him
  • Jesus loves you!

For me the Book of Hebrews takes us into the very throne room of God.  Let us be encouraged my friends to fall at the feet of Jesus for from him comes all the spiritual jewels that we could have asked for.

Notes

I got some ideas from John Calvin’s commentary.  His very sharp eye pointed out that ‘cloud’ was a metaphor.  I also enjoyed his description of the race.  The race motif I used however is completely my own.  The Bible I usually use is the NASB from Olive Tree Bible software

Bibliography

Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries; Hebrews 1 & 2 Peter;  Eerdmans; pages 187-189

Olive tree Bible software: NASB; especially Hebrews 12. 1-3

The Subject of Faith and the Perseverance of Faith no matter what Our End may be. An Overview of the Saints in Hebrews 11

September 30, 2021

Our examples of faith

In this chapter God has given us some great examples of faith.  As an overview I looked at the names of some of these faith warriors:

verses 1 -12

our faith or God’s faith or both

Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah

verses 13-

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab

verse 32 list

Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, Hebrews 11:32

As Paul wrote in Galatians that there is neither male nor female.  The topic of faith has no boundaries.  Let’s look at Paul talking about faith:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:23-29

Verse 28 is the key verse for us:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” NASB

The reason I brought this up is because did you notice that at the end of each list of heroes a woman is mentioned.  This is because faith knows no boundaries.  We have all been saved by grace and by the gift of faith.  Rahab for example was a prostitute and she is also found in the genealogy of king David and our Lord Jesus.  Although the world scoffs.  For example, Abel had faith and then he was murdered because of jealousy. Enoch did not even taste death! However, these examples of faith looked beyond the natural eye and trusted God.  They were completely convinced in the truth and love of God that there is something beyond this life. 

For these examples there is no old and New Testament.  The old and new testaments are one tapestry and what links us to these examples of faith is the gift of faith itself in Christ.  Why do I say these things?  Apollos explains to us in the text so we ought to read it with our eyes open:

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16

Brothers and sisters, we have as a hope a heavenly place in God’s presence for ever! We need to believe this.  A lot of these examples of faith died hundreds of years before the time of the crucifixion and resurrection.  With the eye of faith however they saw the promises of God.  What about us.  We have seen the promises of God and we have historical, verifiable records that Jesus died and was raised from the dead.  We should be even more convinced about the truths of God’s word.  How convinced are of the truth of God’s promised in Christ? Would you put your life on the line like these ancient believers did?  Apollos gives us a taste of what they went through in  chapter 11:

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:32-38

When one reads these experiences of these ancient believers, we ought to feel humbled.  We live fairly comfortably (in the West), and we can walk this walk of faith quite safely. Let us be thankful to God for what he did for us.  Apollos continues by saying:

 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40

Believers, those who walk by faith are part of this tapestry of God. 

Reflection.

A lot of these believers by faith persevered under the most horrendous conditions.  They persevered to the ‘end’ whatever their end was going to be. Are we too convinced by the truths of the Gospel?  Are we convinced as believers about the promises of God?  In Christ God says yes to us and yes to life.  I sometimes wonder about the Jerusalem Church and what happened.  We do know though historically that the Jewish Christians left Jerusalem before it was flattened by the Romans in AD 70.  We owe these Jewish Christians a lot.  In the small time of Luke’s records in the book of Acts; St Paul, Barnabas, the twelve Apostles. These men were Jewish, and this faith went beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, colour, social standing and every stratum of community. Let us not forget that Jesus was of very Jewish descent.  Christianity is not a religion of the West but of the Middle East. 

When we pray, we ought to be grateful for the channels God used for bringing life to his Church.  We ought to pray for everyone including Arabs and Jews.  In Christ there is no gentile or Jew! In Christ we love both. There is too much racism in the world and sad to say there is also racism in many religious institutions.   Let us also remember that the New Testament was also written by God fearing Jewish men.

This is me going on a tangent.  I suppose when you read some secular history from Josephus, one knows that James the Lord’s earthly brother was murdered in cold blood in Jerusalem.  As Christians today our roots are also from Jerusalem.  Jesus taught in the second Temple on the mount before it was destroyed.   The Church is made up of many nations and we are all one in Christ.

 I want to finish off by saying that sometimes a day can be grey and misty, but you still know the way to your destination.  On other days the sun might be shining, and you can see the way better. At other times, the sun might be too bright, but you still know the destination.  Christ is the way, and the world will throws obstacles in front of us but by faith we still know the way because Christ is the Way the Truth and the Life amen!

What is Real Faith from the point of view of the Book of Hebrews?

September 24, 2021

Last time we looked at the big idea of anaphora and how Apollos used it.  We also looked at the ‘faith’ statement and how it should be read.  Today we are just going to look at one verse:

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3

The ‘world’, the theatre in which we live (and more ‘worlds’, ‘Ages’) is mentioned here and then we also have the seeing words; ‘seen’ and ‘visible’.  We also have the words ‘By faith’ which is what the believer is supposed to have.  There are a lot of things happening in this verse, a bit like an onion so figuratively speaking we need to unwrap the onion and get to the juicy truths of God’s word. So let us look at some of these layers:

  • Apollos’ use and understanding of world worlds.
  • Apollos’ use of visibility and invisibility

If one looks into a Bible encyclopaedia the word ‘world’ one can see many shades of meaning in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Dr R. Alan Culpepper pointed out in the Holman bible dictionary three areas for how the word world can be defined:

  1. “The whole created order
  2. The earth and its inhabitants
  3. The arena of Human activity”

(Holman Bible dictionary; page 1420; world; by Dr R. Alan Culpepper; 1992 printing)

So, the question is how Hebrews uses the word ‘world’ and worlds.  Here is a list of all the references in Hebrews:

Hebrews

world

2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:2

6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,

“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

Hebrews 1:6

5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. Hebrews 2:5

3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,

THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. Hebrews 4:3

26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26

5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,

BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; Hebrews 10:5

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:7

38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

Hebrews 11:38

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3

There are a lot of things going on in these verses, but we can seen that there is a strong doctrine of creation going on.   Our verse in chapter 11.3 can be translated as worlds or Ages.  God is the Creator and although we did not see the creation happen at the beginning, we certainly believe it.  Perhaps that is one layer of the onion ring

The other layer of our onion ring is this visibility invisibility thing going on in this chapter:

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:7

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13

Having looked at these verses with the ‘seen’ motif is to trust God with our whole heart.  We cannot see the end from the beginning but God who is infinite can. 

The amplified Bible puts it like this:

Hebrews 11:3 AMPC

By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible. (From: https://www.bible.com/bible/8/HEB.11.3.AMPC )

The Greek word actually is aeon which has the ‘time’ motif linked to it.  However, I think Apollos may have also had a deeper understanding of creation.  The idea of ‘ex nihilo’ creation out of nothing.  At the time that Hebrews was being written a few hundred years before and after there was an idea that matter was always around. Aeons were emanations over vast distances of time that supposed to have brought about the creation of the world.  Obviously, Apollos disagreed with that but agreed with the Biblical idea that God said, and it happened. 

Faith is about trusting God even in adversity.  It is very personal.  We didn’t see God create the world, but we certainly believe that he did.  In the same way in our own lives, we ought to live with this attitude and ‘certain hope’ that we are on course to be in God’s presence for all time.  Who created time in the first place?  God created it with the times and the seasons.  Scientists today peer into the night sky and think about the big bang.  Various Christians have different views on this.  The physical sciences are important, but they cannot help us in our relationship with God.  Our destiny is linked to another point in time, a tiny star above Bethlehem. 

A system that denies God for me is a corrupt system.  For Irenaeus the Gnostics were mythologising and this had in fact infiltrated the Church, so he put up a defence of the Christian faith.  I think there are analogies to aspects of the philosophy of science.   Being science, it works from the closed world of cause and effect.  Of course, this has been a great thing.  We have discovered many cures for various illnesses, and we have sent people to the moon.  There is also a darker side to this we have learned to be more effective killers through new types of weapons, and we have learned how to watch and keep an eye on the population and ‘forcing them’ to follow the wishes of those who are world leaders.  

Reflection

On the surface our situation might look hopeless and with natural seeing we would be crushed under despondency.  With the theory of evolution, we would buy into the idea of ‘everything is an accident’ and our purpose in life is at the throw of the dice.  We have no control over the numbers or the outcomes.   As we get older, we see our friends and relatives and even ourselves start to fall apart and we go to see the doctor more often.  Then the curtain comes down in the final act, we die, and our remains are turned into manure or something like that.  Forget about the soul this life was it!

No, no my friends!

I cannot buy into this my friends.  In Christ we trust.  God had a purpose in creating us and the world.  The purpose was that we would be in fellowship with God for all eternity.  There are no accidents.  This life is a preparation for all eternity.  Forget about accidents and dice as God is in control.  Although we cannot see beyond our noses, we know that Christ went through all the bad things so that in him we have a seriously bright future.  We might indeed visit the doctor more often; we might indeed be thrown into prison for no fault of our own.  This life is a training ground for something big, much bigger that we can comprehend or think.  Our Lord the Son of God through whom the world was made is our reason for living.  God is love and if God loves us then by trusting him, we will indeed live forever.  Overall, I can honestly say that Apollos sees our situation with ‘confidence’:

but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Hebrews 3:6

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35

Although with the natural vision their situation might seem hopeless Apollos reminds them that these Jewish believers are citizens of God’s Kingdom.  We might see our situation hopeless but please you too need to remember that you are citizens of God Kingdom too so trust in Christ and walk your life in humble quiet confidence.

Fun Activity

According to Hebrews how should we walk the Christian walk?

Explain and use examples from the text to prove your point

Apollos’ use of Anaphora in Hebrews chapter 11 and his use of ‘By Faith’ in this Symphony of Encouragement for suffering servants of Christ.

September 17, 2021

Hebrews is indeed the book of faith with the only general definition in the whole of the New Testament.  However, we need to be wary not to take the definition out of context.  Faith is about trusting God on a daily basis.  It is not a formula for getting rich and wealthy in the material sense.  Anyhow Later on in the book of Hebrews Apollos writes:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” Hebrews 13:5

Using Hebrews 11.1 as a pretext for material gain is out of the question!

Having said that Christ has lavished us with spiritual riches that this world cannot have except the Church.  In Christ by the Holy Spirit, He furnishes us with what we need in our onward walk to perfect holiness and to be in God’s presence for all eternity.  Even as Abraham had mountain and valley experiences, he stayed faithful to God to the very end, and we too ought to follow his example. 

So let us press forward in understanding the message of Hebrews.  I really didn’t know how to contextualize this powerful message in chapter 11, so I did some background reading and I found this:

“Each example in Heb 11:3-31 is united by means of anaphoric repetition of πιστει(at to the definition of faith in 11:1, which is also connected preceding exhortation to faithfulness in 10:19-39 by repetition of πιστις 10:39 and 11:1. To the definition of faith is added an assertion in 11:2 that people of old won God’s approval by their faith, and all of the examples 11:3-38 serve as proofs of the truth of this statement. Thus, the faith exhorted in 10:19-39 is the faith defined in 11:1 and the faith illustrated in 11:3-persuasiveness of this approach is increased by the implementation rhetorical techniques” (from JSTOR; JBL 107/2 (1988); pages 257-273; By Michael R Cosby)

Anaphora can be found in speeches and poems.  This example is from Martin Luther King’s speech:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”  (From the I have a dream speech; https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm)

So, the example above shows Martin Luther King using anaphoric style in his speech.  Apollos the writer used anaphoric style 2000 years earlier by using ‘By Faith…’ 18 times!  It is a rhetorical device to capture the listeners’ ear.  So to get a real feel for this chapter it would be a good thing to read it out loud and to put the stress on the first two words ‘by faith’.

We can also think about the context of Hebrews 11 as Cosby says in our first quote by Cosby:

“Thus, the faith exhorted in 10:19-39 is the faith defined in 11:1 and the faith illustrated in 11:3-persuasiveness of this approach is increased by the implementation rhetorical techniques”

(From; JSTOR; JBL 107/2 (1988); pages 257-273; By Michael R Cosby)”

As we were writing our commentary, we found out that Apollos wanted to encourage the believers who were suffering to stay true to Christ.  We then hit the definition and now Apollos illustrates the way of faith.  This is a powerful illustration to these Jewish Christians.  I can imagine being in the meeting where this letter was being read… ‘By faith…’. There are 18 ‘by faith’ sayings in this chapter and I am not planning to go through every single one.  However, it is important to get the main flavour of what Apollos is talking about.   Perhaps Hebrews 11 should be read like this to take into account the anaphoric use!

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Hebrews 11:3-7

When we start to understand the text, we then start to realize how beautiful this text was for the original readers. 

Reflection

My main aim this week was to answer the question of why Apollos would use ‘by faith’ in a single chapter eighteen times!  If you have read this blog today, then you can see how brilliant Apollos was with language.  We have also learned that the book of Hebrews was meant to be read out loud to the whole congregation.  So then even after 2000 years anaphoria is still being used in poetry.   Sometimes we hear great men such as Martin Luther King read their speeches but we don’t always see the brilliance they have in getting their message across. 

Living by faith is also about persevering in the faith.  These Jewish Christian believers were suffering but they persevered to the end.  How do we compare to these saints of old?

Fun Activity

Have a go at writing three verses of a poem using anaphora! 😊

Genuine Faith, Suffering and the Tangled Web of the Greedy Fake Faith

September 10, 2021

What type of Christians are we?  What is the relationship between faith and endurance?

These are important questions for us my friends.   In the preaching of sermons, it is very popular to go straight into Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.” NASB

This to me is very childish and dangerous for our walk with God.  If you want ‘a spiritual adrenaline rush’ then perhaps you can have this.  My friends there is something a lot more valuable for the believer than any adrenalin rush.  It is our relationship in Christ by the Holy Spirit based on ‘the truth’.  If you are sick; Why take a placebo instead of the correct medication.  The correct medication is the medication that will heal our wondering soul.  I am not putting faith down, on the contrary I want the genuine faith that the Scriptures talk about.  If I am going to but jewellery for the person I love, let us buy the jewellery that is not fake. So then let us read our passage and gain genuine spiritual food for our souls that will bring us closer to Christ who is the true lover of our souls:

“32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE,

HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH;

AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The Triumphs of Faith

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 10:32 – 11:3 NASB

Verse 32

Wow, forget about the mountain top experience.  Let us start in the valleys.  These Jewish Christians experiences start from suffering.  Imagine having your best friends and family thrown into prison for something they did not do.  Imagine a world in which you lose everything. The good faithful person may have been very wealthy but because you have different religious roots, what you have is taken away by corrupt local and national governments.  It may be that that person will be flogged and laughed at as a spectacle.  These sorts of experiences really did happen to Jewish Christians before AD 70 in Jerusalem.

I found this document this Week:

4 Flight of the Christians from Jerusalem, c. 66

Eusebius, HE, III.5.3

Moreover, the people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the war, and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men. (Lawlor and Oulton, Eusebius, 1, p. 68.)

Epiphanius also records this flight. A comparison of his account with that of Eusebius shows a common source, which is undoubtedly Hegesippus. The words in italics appear to come from him. Pella was beyond Jordan, and was then in the dominions of Herod Agrippa II. The Christians in Jerusalem could not be expected to show any sympathy to, or receive any from Jewish nationalists, cf. 19. For difficulties about a flight to Pella see S. G. F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church, pp. 169–73

(Taken from A New Eusebius; J.Stevenson; SPCK; 1987; pages 5 & 6 )

This all happened in AD 66, four years before the Fall of Jerusalem. In my hypothesis then if these Jewish Christians were from Jerusalem.   (Some scholars think it could have been Rome but I disagree as you would have seen the reasons last Week)

Verses 32 -34

This is persecution my friends.  It wasn’t the first time, and it would not be the last time either. In AD 49 there was a great expulsion of Christians from Rome. In AD 62 James was murdered by someone who had it in for the Christians. In AD 96 there was another great persecution by Domitian.

 Therefore, these believers suffered and shared in these sufferings.  These believers had real confidence in Christ.   Material wealth wasn’t the most important thing; The most important thing was to put Christ first in their lives and to show real genuine love to their spiritual brothers and sisters.  Throw the ‘get rich quick Gospel’ away from you; that is fake Christianity and draws on ‘greed’ which is actually a great sin.

Verse 35

Apollos writes:

35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35

This word ‘confidence’ comes up in other places as well in this precious book.  We are going on a small diversion in our route and have a look at these verses before we ramble on from verse 36. We need at the outset say that faith and confidence are linked but we need to remind ourselves that the context of this confidence is driven from the suffering that these Jewish Christians were facing.  We also need to remember that verse numbers and chapters were a later addition to our Bible.  The autographs we have even didn’t have full stops.  One sentence would run into another and unless you were an expert, one would not know when the sentence would change.  We sometimes take our Bibles for granted with the chapters and verses.

Confidence

In this verse we can see that there is a timeline.  We are to stay faithful to Christ to ‘the end’ of time.

but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Hebrews 3:6

Our confidence comes from what Christ did for us.  Grace flows from Christ.  Our confidence is in Christ.

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

It is through the sacrificial work of Christ that we can have ‘any confidence’

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19

So, then we can safely say that all the previous uses of confidence has been in relation to ‘confidence in Christ’

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35

The walk towards the faith chapter has begun. Our confidence and our faith are to be located in Christ.  This is a relationship we have of being in Christ by the special work of the Holy Spirit. The ‘reward’ is not worldly wealth, but it is to be with Christ in heaven for ever.  This is the reward. Do not in any way link ‘this reward’ to money and wealth!

Verse 36

36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:36

For this ‘reward’ you need endurance.  You need to trust God in Christ to help you through these difficult times.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Martin Luther King was not rich and even though he was murdered his trust was in Christ.

Verse 37 to 38 the proof texts:

37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE,

HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH;

AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. Hebrews 10:37-38

These are taken from Habakkuk 23-4

1 I will stand on my guard post

And station myself on the rampart;

And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,

And how I may reply when I am reproved.

2 Then the LORD answered me and said,

“Record the vision

And inscribe it on tablets,

That the one who reads it may run.

3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;

It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.

Though it tarries, wait for it;

For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

4 “Behold, as for the proud one,

His soul is not right within him;

But the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:1-4

It is well worth reading the original Hebrew because you can see the flavour of expectancy.  Be aware though that he might have used the Greek Old Testament (LXX) but the ideas are the same.  Our confidence is linked to faith and suffering.  As Herman Bavinck would say, “faith is the root, and the works are the fruit”. 

To put it bluntly no pain no gain my friends!   When it comes to faith, bin any greed doctrines of prosperity and rely on the love of Christ.  It is the relationship with God and not the dollar/Euro/Sterling!

Now we have a right understanding of the ‘confidence – faith’ relationship we are ready to cross the border from chapter 1039 into chapter 111:

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The Triumphs of Faith

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. Hebrews 10:39 – 11:2

I decided to look at Hebrews chapter 10.39 through to 11.1.  There is no new topic in chapter 11.   ‘Faith’ is the bridge between the two chapters.  There are those who would indeed turn away from the Goodness of Christ.  Apollos however in verse 39 counts himself to be in union with the other believers to whom he wrote.  Notice Apollos wrote, “but we are not…” in verse 39.  The personal pronoun ‘we’ is in the fist person plural.  Apollos also in the same verse counts himself as one of those ‘who has faith’ which is linked to the preservation of the soul. So then up to this point, these believers showed that they had faith in Christ, and this could be proved by the very fact of all the sufferings and persecutions that they were going through.

It is a serious disservice to the book of Hebrews by ripping Apollos’ definition out of its context.   As background information we can begin by saying that If you read the latter part of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11 Apollos is linking the Old Testament saints to the Jewish Christians.  The thing that holds both groups together is ‘faith’.  This is important and this is the context.

The writer is continuing in the same topic with the conjunction ‘de’ translated as ‘now’ in a lot of translations.  It can also be translated as ‘and’ or but depending on context.   The job that this small conjunction doing is continuing on the same topic hence I would certainly prefer ‘and’.  The fuller account though is ‘εστιν δε’ ‘is and’ (literally).   With dynamic equivalence we have ‘now’.  You can use ‘Now’ as long as you don’t infer a change of subject.

In English usage a lot of time ‘now’ which is an adverb of time can be used to switch topic. This has probably led to this verse being interpreted wrongly.  Let us now look at some usages from the English language:

“A1

at the present time, not in the past or future:

She used to be a teacher, but now she works in publishing.

I may eat something later, but I’m not hungry now.

Many people now own a smartphone.

A2

immediately:

I don’t want to wait until tomorrow, I want it now!

B2

used to express how long something has been happening, from when it began to the present time:

She’s been a vegetarian for ten years now.”

(From: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/now )

If you read these sentences carefully one will see that there has been a qualitative change of action or situation to something else

A1

Teacher changes to publisher

Eat something later changes to not hungry now

Inferred that people at one time did not have smart phones and this changes to people who have smart phones.

An activity for you would be to go through the other examples.

If this happens in natural English language, then possibly the word ‘now’ is not a very good word to use at this point.  It sounds good but it brings logic external to the text (eisegesis and in this case although it works, it is a categorial mistake.  Better to have stuck with the boring and wooden ‘and’)

Calvin also agrees with me:

“Now faith, etc. Whoever made this the beginning of the eleventh chapter, has unwisely disjointed the context; for the object of the Apostle was to prove what he had already said ­that there is need of patience.” (From https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc44/cc44016.htm  )

Anyhow I will append John Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews 11.1 in case you want to read it.

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. Hebrews 11:1-2

So looking at the verse again lets carry on digging the treasures.  According to one writer this is the only definition we have for faith in the New Testament.

The first section says:

faith is the assurance of things hoped for

For Calvin faith is the foundation (prop/ support) and hope is to do with the future.  We cannot see into the future but faith enables us to walk firmly even though we cannot see into the future. 

The second section says:

the conviction of things not seen.

ἔλεγχος elegchos ; from 1651; a proof, test:–

conviction(1).

I like the King James version rendering of ‘evidence’.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. From KJV.

Verse 2 is an encouragement to the present believers that they too have the ‘same faith’ as those in the Old Testament. 

Reflection

So, then my friends what is faith? 

The answer my friends is for us to believe and trust with our whole heart and life in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith and suffering go hand in hand.  If we live by faith we are going to struggle.   Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Suffered so too we will also face obstacles.  Don’t let culture with lovely, tinted glasses block our understanding of what Apollos means by faith.  Let us see beyond culture, let us see beyond our sinful natures (greed) to the majestic mountain top of service to Christ, love of our neighbours and even love of our enemies.  Faith is a gift of God and let us not take it for granted. As believer we too have the guarantor of our salvation the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps on Hebrews 11 1 you were given false teaching.  This is not your fault my friends.  Christ really loves you.  He loves you so much that he gave up his life so that you may live into a blissful eternity.  Many of us struggle at varying degrees.  The Lord Jesus is only a prayer away so you can always ask God to give you direction in your life.

In our next blog we are going to look at some of these Old Testament heroes who lived by faith. Just like these Jewish Christians who lived by faith and then the magnificent list of Old Testament heroes, we will learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk of faith and what this actually means in practice!

Calvin’s Commentary Hebrews 11.1

1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

1. Porro fides est rerum sperandarum substantia, demonstratio eorum quae non videntur.

1. Now faith, etc. Whoever made this the beginning of the eleventh chapter, has unwisely disjointed the context; for the object of the Apostle was to prove what he had already said ­that there is need of patience.  200 He had quoted the testimony of Habakkuk, who says that the just lives by faith; he now shows what remained to be proved — that faith can be no more separated from patience than from itself. The order then of what he says is this, — “We shall not reach the goal of salvation except we have patience, for the Prophet declares that the just lives by faith; but faith directs us to things afar off which we do not as yet enjoy; it then necessarily includes patience.” Therefore the minor proposition in the argument is this, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, etc. It is hence also evident, that greatly mistaken are they who think that an exact definition of faith is given here; for the Apostle does not speak here of the whole of what faith is, but selects that part of it which was suitable to his purpose, even that it has patience ever connected with it.  201 Let us now consider the words.

He calls faith the hypostasis, the substance of things hoped for. We indeed know that what we hope for is not what we have as it were in hand, but what is as yet hid from us, or at least the enjoyment of which is delayed to another time. The Apostle now teaches us the same thing with what we find in Ro 8:24; where it is said that what is hoped for is not seen, and hence the inference is drawn, that it is to be waited for in patience. So the Apostle here reminds us, that faith regards not present things, but such as are waited for. Nor is this kind of contradiction without its force and beauty: Faith, he says, is the hypostasis, the prop, or the foundation on which we plant our foot, — the prop of what? Of things absent, which are so far from being really possessed by us, that they are far beyond the reach of our understanding.

The same view is to be taken of the second clause, when he calls faith the evidence or demonstration of things not seen; for demonstration makes things to appear or to be seen; and it is commonly applied to what is subject to our senses.  202

Then these two things, though apparently inconsistent, do yet perfectly harmonize when we speak of faith; for the Spirit of God shows to us hidden things, the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses: Promised to us is eternal life, but it is promised to the dead; we are assured of a happy resurrection, but we are as yet involved in corruption; we are pronounced just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear that we are happy, but we are as yet in the midst of many miseries; an abundance of all good things is promised to us, but still we often hunger and thirst; God proclaims that he will come quickly, but he seems deaf when we cry to him. What would become of us were we not supported by hope, and did not our minds emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God’s word and of his Spirit? Faith, then, is rightly said to be the subsistence or substance of things which are as yet the objects of hope and the evidence of things not seen. Augustine sometimes renders evidence “conviction,” which I do not disapprove, for it faithfully expresses the Apostle’s meaning: but I prefer “demonstration,” as it is more literal.

Teachings of Hebrews on the thorny issue of Apostasy

September 3, 2021

30 08 2021

When we looked at the last section verses 19-25 Apollos was speaking positively to those who believe.  In verses 26-31 Apollos is speaking to those who hold the confession but have decided to wilfully keep on sinning.

As a bonus we are also going to touch on the authorship of Hebrews and some indicators why only Apollos from all of the candidates of the New Testament could have written this magnificent book.

Christ or Judgment

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Hebrews 10:26-39

When we turn to action (ethics)we need to remember that this was a Christian community.  Before we look at this section it is good just to reflect on what Apollos has taught us along the way.  The important theme is faith.  As believers in Christ, we are called to live ‘in Him’.  The writer has already spoken of the two ways when the people of God under Moses walked through the Wilderness and so often, they chose the way of unbelief.  Only Joshua and Caleb out of that whole generation made it into the promised land with their descendants of course.  The special ingredient was faith.  We are warned not to continue turning our backs on Christ wilfully and continue living as though Christ’s work on the cross meant nothing.   Apollos is correct to remind us that we shouldn’t take our Lord’s sacrifice for granted. Be careful my friends.   If you’re not a believer yet, this does not concern you because from the theological stance you haven’t come into a covenant relationship with Christ although the invitation is always open and there is no force.  Christ knocks at the door of your heart, and he invites you to dine with him into eternity.

Verse 26

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Obviously, all Christians sin but this is aimed at the apostates.  Those who completely turn their backs on Christ.  It is also a rejection of the death of Christ on the cross.  Apostates have only themselves to blame.

Verse 27-31

27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Apollos begins quoting from the great Isaiah.  Then he is reminding his readers of the legal aspects of judgement under the law of Moses.  It only took two or three witnesses to condemn a fellow Israelite to death. Apollos seems to be quoting from Isaiah:

11 O LORD, Your hand is lifted up, yet they do not see it.

They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame;

Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies. Isaiah 26:11

Apollos gets very graphic about the role the apostates play with the atoning work of Christ. Trampling the sacrifice of Christ is a sin that will never be forgiven as it is a sin against the Holy Spirit. 

Notes

The Holy Spirit is very active in the Book of Hebrews.  In the majority of places in Hebrews, the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘Holy Spirit’.  In two places however he is referred to as the ‘Eternal Spirit’ (9.14) and the Spirit of Grace (10.29).  Apollos definitely had a strong belief in the work of the Holy Spirit.  In the Acts of the Apostles, we find Apollos with other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit (Acts 18:24 – 19:10).  In the passage below we see Apollos and other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit.  As in many churches around the world today there are ecstatic experiences going on linked to the person of the Holy Spirit.  You might come to a different conclusion to me but at least have a read of the passage below:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Paul at Ephesus

1 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:24 – 19:10 NASB

The notes give us some incredible information about Apollos.  In fact, after the problems were sorted out in Corinth, there is a tradition that he returned and became a leader there.   

Verse 30-31

We see Pauline influence on Apollos as well with the quote ‘vengeance is mine’:

35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,

In due time their foot will slip;

For the day of their calamity is near,

And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ Deuteronomy 32:35

It is also quoted by Saint Paul:

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 NASB

God will judge the Apostate, we are called to show love to everyone:

31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Reflection

God created us and he sent his only Son into the world to make it possible for us to find peace with God.  Unfortunately, there are those who pretend to be Christians but actually do it for other ulterior motives.  Apollos shows us that the person who tramples the works of Christ into the ground have sinned against the Holy Spirit… Could this be the unforgivable sin?  Apollos did not mince words here. 

Indicators of Authorship

For me, reading about Apollos and what he learned about the Holy Spirit from other believers including Saint Paul; If Apollos was the author of the book of Hebrews I would expect to see a strong pneumatology withing Hebrews.  There is a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews.  It can at times seems veiled for examples:

  1. ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 2.4
  2. ‘The Holy Spirit says’ Hebrews 3.7
  3. ‘Partakers of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 6.4
  4. 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will Hebrews 2:4
  5. ‘the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying’ Hebrews 10:15

The Holy Spirit is ‘personal’ in the book of Hebrews.  This is a high theology of God.  A person gives gifts; a person speaks; persons share with others; language and signs belong to personal communication.  There are those who say that Hebrews was influenced by Philo but this is nonsense.  Obviously, Apollos may have used philonic language but Apollos says the opposite.  The Puritans proved that Hebrews is a complete refutation of Philo’s teachings!

https://www.apuritansmind.com/apologetics/the-author-of-hebrews-philo-and-the-doctrine-of-the-logos-by-dr-c-matthew-mcmahon/

Remember that Philo was working from Alexandria the greatest learning centre of the ancient world and he died in the ad 40’s! Certainly, Apollos being a ‘learned man’ would have learned about this branch of Judaism.  What we have learned about Apollos and why he is an excellent candidate for the writer of Hebrews.

  1. The writer to the Hebrews had a strong pneumatology so did Apollos
  2. The writer to the Hebrews was eloquent in Alexandrian Greek so was Apollos.
  3. The book of Hebrews is a refutation of Philo’s teachings, only Apollos from the New Testament could have done this because he was a learned man from ‘Alexandria’.
  4. The opening verses in the book of Hebrews is some of the best Greek, ancient or modern, only a person with the calibre of Apollos could have written it. Paul although educated does not match the standard (sorry but it is true).

These then are some reasons why I am convinced that Apollos wrote it.   I’m sure there are a lot more. 

Next time we will look at verses 32-39.  We move away from the Apostates, and we begin the run up to one of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the topic of faith.  These Christians were suffering persecution, but Apollos will bring the believers out of the valley and to the mountain top of Faith where we can see over the horizon into heaven itself. 

Life in the Spirit; Walking the Christian walk in the Valleys and the Mountain tops.

August 29, 2021

We have seen that Christ was the real high priest from Heaven itself and also Christ was the perfect sacrifice once and for all.  For these reasons we have a new and living way in Christ.  The tabernacle on earth was only ever a copy and shadow of the real one in heaven. As a digression we will first encouragement from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics:

“Only the Triune God has life in himself; all creaturely life is derived from and dependent upon God. While the drive for self-preservation characterizes all vegetative and sentient life, the spiritual life is characterized by love for God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit Its fundamental principle is not found within the natural life but first arises through denial, self-crucifixion, renunciation, and loss of our soul. Love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and fruit of the Spirit, gives stature and form to the spiritual life.” Reformed Ethics; Book 2 and chapter 7; page 239; By Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt)

This is a great encouragement from Herman Bavinck.  In this life we are always facing various trials and at the end even death itself.  My friend’s God is at work, and he cares for your soul.  In Christ by faith, we can grasp eternal life through the work of Christ.  In Christ we have fulness of life.   Bavinck in the first opening pages looks at St Pauls writings but here too in Apollos’ writings we find this encouraging theme.

Before continuing to our main theme let us read our main text from Hebrews 10. 19-25:

A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

When we read the book of Hebrews, we get great encouragement. Did you know that these Christians were really suffering for their faith?  We know what happened to the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. It was pulled down and those Jewish slaves were sent to the Corinthian Canal to build it. Obviously, it was a failed venture until 1853.  Some set the book in Rome however we know the book was probably written before AD 70 and my theory is that it was written in Jerusalem.  We know that many priests were becoming Christians in the Jerusalem Temple.  I would venture to say that these Jewish Christians were being abused by the local Jewish and Roman authorities.  Many of these believers that Apollos is referring to were losing land and property and were being put in prison.  This is persecution my friends.  The believers mentioned in the book of Hebrews are a great encouragement to us alive today.  When we suffer for our faith like they did they stayed firm in the faith.  

From what we have read we have seen Jesus as the Lamb of God.  It is Jesus who died on the cross but by faith we have great ‘confidence’.  This is faith language and we do not enter any temple on earth my friends we enter the Holy Place in heaven itself by the blood of Jesus:

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,

This is the true march of faith.  We are walking and getting closer to the great faith chapter 11.  We are not there yet.  However, we ought to know why we have this great confidence.  It is what Jesus has done for us.

We are not there yet but Apollos furnishes more morsels of spiritual food for our hearts.  ‘By a new and living way’:

20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

 Heaven itself through the work of Christ has broken through the heavens into our space and time.  We have the original Great High Priest over our souls.  The second Person of the Trinity.  The One who took on a body and died so that we might have eternal life.  In these verses we have the proof and evidence my brothers and sisters if only we ‘believe’ and trust our Lord Jesus fully.

Apollos has already covered this ground in this verse already earlier on in the book where he says:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful:

We saw from Psalm 95 that the people of God grumbled against God and Moses.  We don’t have to be that way my friends.  Sometimes we need to go through the hardships no matter what.  There may be a price to pay.  It maybe we will lose friends, be falsely accused for something we didn’t do.  It may be that we are thrown in prison for our faith.  Let us stay faithful to the Lord Jesus even if we are condemned.  Jesus is our Lord, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and helper.  Our home is already prepared in heaven for us.

As Bavinck would say Faith is the root and works are the fruit.  Apollos is grounded in reality my friends.  He takes the believers into heaven itself and then he brings them down to the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross.  In light of what God has done, we are called to love our neighbour.  From that perspective these verses are important:

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

With the verses above we are encouraged to live as a family of God.  We are not to forsake assembling (but it is not a command).  Some Christians live away from civilization and they cannot attend for certain reasons.  It may be that the person has physical movements of moving around.  Let us not forget that our God is a God of love, and we ought to reciprocate our lord Jesus’ example.

We also have a firm hope in these verses where it says,” and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” For Christians there is the great expectation of our Lord Jesus coming back for his church.  Here we see a small glimpse of this truth.  We ought to have the same attitude as these believers as we are called to hope for the return of Christ. 

Reflection

Faith and Christian action are always linked.  Apollos (Whom I believe wrote this work of beautiful divine theological reality art) Explained to us what Jesus had done for us through his person and his actions.  Jesus went through many sufferings so in the same way we ought to follow the confession of our faith in Christ.  We are literally a new creation of God inside out as he has written his laws on our hearts.  In Christ we too will enter heaven itself.  It is not a fun thing to go to prison for something you did not do.  Jesus understands this as he was a prisoner too even as the chief priests and soldiers came to arrest him while it was still dark.  The work on the cross has been completed after Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished”. 

Next time Jesus comes, He will not come as a servant but as the King of all kings. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us of this by saying “…all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10. 25”

The day of Christ’s second coming draws near.  Let us take stock and fall on our knees and pray how we can be more like Christ.  There is no whip my friend, only love. 

You can also follow my other blog as Herman Bavinck the master theologian gives us the vocabulary for Life in the Spirit: https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

God is Going to write His Laws on the tablet of our hearts through the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ Hebrews 10. 11-18

August 21, 2021

19 08 2021

Let us begin by reading Hebrews 10. 11-18:

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:11-18 NASB (Olive Tree Bible Software)

Introduction

We need to remember the context of Hebrews.  When talking about the priesthood and sacrifice it is in context of the Tabernacle and the Old Testament.  John Calvin starts like this too.  Later on, he talks about the Papacy and how the Mass breaks the rule of ‘once for all’ sacrifice of Christ.  This text has got nothing to do with the Papists.  It has everything to do with what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has done for us.  I’m not interested in polemics, but I am interested in what God has to say to us today in the 21st century. 

Verses 11-14

Looking at verses 11 -14 again:

“11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

Verses 11-12

These sacrifices for the people of God were done on a daily basis by the ministering priests.  The main point here is that these offerings could never take away sins.  This is contrasted with what Jesus has done for us.  His ‘sacrifice’ happened once!  After the sacrifice of Jesus, the act was completed for ever.

Verse 13

The beginning of Psalm 110 verse 1 starts with the Divine Trinitarian speech; ‘The Lord says to my Lord’ is omitted here.  Apollos already covered this ground earlier in the book of Hebrews.  Sitting at the right hand of God the Father is a privileged position.  Only the Son can sit here because it is his rightful place.  All the enemies of Christ will be made subject to Christ.

Verse 14

“14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” NASB

14 ‘Perfected’ used about Christ is to be seen in a negative light as far as the Old Testament law is concerned. The work of Christ brings an end in history for any need of sacrifice after Christ.  The job has been done!  Calvin would translate this verse a little differently using dynamic equivalence.  In verse fourteen where it says ‘perfected’,(perfect, indicative active), he prefers ‘consecrated’ because in the same verse ‘sanctified’ is used.  When something is sanctified, it is no longer for common use but only for God’s use. 

Verse 15

“15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, NASB.”

 The third Person of the Trinity is very important to Apollos and actually for many parts of the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit reveals God’s own heart to us, and we need to be more attentive to the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit who as well as being our Comforter is also our teacher.

Verses 16-18

15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:11-18 NASB (Olive Tree Bible Software)

Once the Writer has proven his case, he is upbeat by quoting Jer. 31. 33-34.  At this point he is moving away from looking at the works of Christ and looking at the effects of Christ’s work. Namely the benefits that the Jewish Christians have coming from the work of Christ.  Hence the benefits for all Christians for all time.

We often here these verse quoted in Church or by believers for their encouragement they give.  Actually, when I think about Jesus’ teachings these are not mediocre prophetic words.  Firstly, it is the Holy Spirit Who spoke these words to us. This means that these words should be taken very seriously indeed. 

A note on The Holy Spirit the third person of the Trinity.

In chapter one we saw the relationship of the Father and the Son, and it is true that the main thrust of the letter is about the Son. The writer however at times touches on the person and work of the Holy Spirit as witness to the Son.

There are those that would only understand the Holy Spirit in impersonal terms. We need to be careful of not understanding the Holy

Spirit as only a power, although we can see the attribute of power working through Him.  You can also see the Holy Spirit speaking in chapters 2,4 / 3,7 / 6,4 / 9,8 / 9,14 /10,15 /10,29    As well as these verses closer scrutiny of the prophecies may show that there are also other verses in which the Holy Spirit is speaking as ‘He’.       

Chapter 4,3 Just as He has said.  8,8 is another case in point He says… in light of 9,8. 

2,4 In this verse we hear about ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will’

3,7 Here the Holy Spirit is giving a prophetic speech.

6,4 In verses 4 and 5 we see the disciples spoken of as partakers of the Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity) and have tasted the word of God (reference to the Father The second person of the trinity).

9,8 The Holy Spirit is giving ‘signs’ in the old covenant.

9,14 This verse refers to all three persons of the Trinity) Here the work of Christ is met through the agency of the Holy Spirit as a gift to the Father.

10,15 Here the Holy Spirit is a witness.

10,29 Here it says that the Holy Spirit can be insulted. i.e., We can only speak of a person being insulted not a power.

The Holy Spirit in relation to the Father and the Son. I would argue that the Writer of Hebrews has an implicit theology of the Holy Trinity, and it becomes explicit in 9,14

From the above argument I have proven that the Holy Spirit needs to be understood in personal terms, just as he is referred in other parts of scripture, such as the speech of Jesus in John 14,16-31. In reality however when Looking at John 14 you can see the workings of the complete Trinity if you also take into account verses 7-15.

Reflection

About our salvific situation before a Holy God

I want to begin at verses 16-17. God says that he will give us a new heart. This is very serious indeed.  The standards that God has for us is higher than that of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  These people my friends kept the law perfectly, but I have to explain that the standard Jesus sets is even higher than theirs.  If they kept the law perfectly you might ask, then how can I stand of any chance of getting into heaven? 

That is the main point; in your own strength it is impossible to get to heaven. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus gave us the key when he said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.  I know that I am going on a tangent but before returning to Hebrews we need to think about our Lords sayings in Matthew 5,6, and 7 in his Sermon on the Mount.  If you try to fulfil the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount my friends, you will fall flat on your face.  For me these have been written to show how helpless we are before a Holy God.  One needs to come to a place in your heart and confess that you are destitute and in complete need of God’s Help.  ‘Poor in Spirit’ is no accidental formula.  It is intended to disarm us.  The Pharisees kept the law perfectly (they thought), but they failed to comply with what ‘has not been written’ as Bavinck would explain to us.  Later on, in the book of Acts many priests did in fact follow the way of Christ.  

Returning to verses 17-18 then, the Holy Spirit needs to change our heart.  Unless we come to a place of repentance (‘poor in spirit’) we would not be able to have a new heart.  This is God’s process.

The work Jesus has done for us.

We have now seen that Jesus is our perfect high Priest and our king sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.  He is also the one who died for us so that we can have eternal life.   As Paul says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10.9-10 NASB

Indeed this is our confession that Jesus has been raised from the dead and because of this we will one day be also raised from the dead.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only one to have kept God’s Will perfectly

August 14, 2021

14 08 2021

Apollos whom I believe wrote this book quotes from the Old Testament:

King David (Hebrews 10;5-7 from Psalm 40; 6 onwards) and Jeremiah the Prophet (Hebrews 10; 16-17 from Jeremiah 31;33).

King David who was one of the ancestors of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Jeremiah the Prophet were two characters that suffered a lot for their faith through the trials that they went through.  Both men had a close walk with God.  Sometimes we need to go through sufferings to reach our final destination.   All the kings of Israel were anointed with oil hence Messiah means the ‘anointed one’.   Jesus’ title of Christ, messiah shows his kingship lineage.  Jesus is the only king that brought the sacrificial system and kingship into one union in his person.   We have already touched on this in earlier blogs.  In verses 5 to 7 God is speaking through king David and in verses 16 to 18 God is speaking through the voice of Jeremiah.   Let us now read from Hebrews 10; 5-18

5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,

BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;

6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.

7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME

(IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)

TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:5-18

Verses 5-11 The Writer then quotes a Psalm that relates to the messiah ps40-6-7.  We can see in the Hebraic parallelism Christ contrasted with the sacrificial system.  However, the key that the Writer uses in this verse is found as the son doing the will of God in verse 9.  Not anyone doing the will of God but namely the Son of God the Christ. In verse 10 the Writer finishes off by stating that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient once and for all.   Let us quote verses 9 and 10 again:

“9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” NASB

There is only one man in the whole of the human race who has not sinned.  There is only one man in the whole of the human race who kept God’s will perfectly.  This Man being fully divine and full human at the same time is the one who has never sinned and kept God’s council perfectly.   The little phrase ‘takes away’ literally means makes an end, kills off (g0337. ἀναιρέω anaireō ; from 303 and 138; to take up, take away, make an end:– Taken from Olive tree software).  The sacrificial Judaic system finds its fulfilment in Christ therefore the sacrificial Old Testament system has become redundant.  Jesus was the main sacrifice and in him we are sanctified.  It is through Jesus offering himself and keeping God’s will perfectly. We see this in the garden of Gethsemane:

“39 And He came out and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you do not come into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 [[n]Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground]. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you do not come into temptation.”  “(Fromhttps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2022&version=NASB)

In this passage we see the prayer that shows how far Jesus would go in order to do God’s will.

Reflection

We cannot fulfil God’s will in our own strength.  It is what Jesus has done for us that allows us to come into the presence of God by faith.  There have been serious debates between Roman Catholic and Protestant teachings based on the above text.  As a biblical exegete I’m only interested in making the text clearer for us to understand.  Each person needs to make up their own mind on how to interpret the text in their church situations. All I know is that Jesus died for me once so that it is possible to have eternal life by faith.   As Christians we ought to live in such a way that we love one another and through this, the world can see a sign of the divine in our lives and be convinced that they need to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour.  Jesus is the fulfilment of the law.  The sacrificial system, the Tabernacle, the priesthood all pointed to the work and person of Jesus Christ, and he resides in the true Tabernacle, not a copy.  Everything on earth are mere copies of the real thing.  That does not mean that they were not important; they were important because even as a shadow they pointed to the work and person of Christ.  It was a devastating thing when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 but it is interesting that in historical retrospect that three great religions have a serious claim to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem has always been a Holy Place. 

Jerusalem was the old Salem in which king Melchizedek lived.  Since the time of Abraham though Salem became corrupted and at the time of Joshua the ‘Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem’ was planning to attack Joshua (Joshua 10:1).  He has the same name form as Melchizedek king of Salem.  There are other links in the Psalms for example that link Zion and Salem to Jerusalem for example:

“His tabernacle is in Salem;

His dwelling place also is in Zion. Psalms 76:2”

And then how about this verse:

31 For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD will perform this. 2 Kings 19:31

Dr Katrina Larking at KCL in the Hebrew lectures many years agon once made the point that all the other nations in Palestine such as Moab, Edom and so on did not survive.  The only nation to have survived was Israel.  Perhaps we are seeing God’s plan being worked out somehow. 

Notes

Some Christian theologians in the past have used this verse as a polemic on the Roman Catholic Church to combat the doctrine of transubstantiation. This is an erroneous way to use the text.  The verse is in light of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament not in light of any disagreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants. To be more precise, if you want to follow the argument about transubstantiation that Roman Catholic theologians use, you need to understand Aquinas’ borrowing of Aristotelian metaphysics. Be careful not to fall into the trap of reading something into the text that is not there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation).   We are interested in exegesis (https://www.britannica.com/topic/exegesis) reading out the meaning that is there in the text, taking into consideration the original readers.

Hebrews chapter 10 verses 1-4; the importance of the law of God

August 6, 2021

Chapter 10 continues with the sacrifice of Christ.  Before we look at the text in more detail Ellingworth gives us an outline up to verse 18.

Note that Ellingworth says of this passage that, ‘The entire passage is a summary of the central teachings of the epistle Page (488).  The passage has been broken down as follows by various scholars:

“v1-4     The importance of the law.

V5-10    The willingness of Christ.

V11-14 Two kinds of priest.

V15-18 The confirmation of scripture. “(The Epistle to the Hebrews; A commentary on the Greek text; page 488 of Ellingworth)

Let us now begin by reading up to verse 18:

One Sacrifice of Christ Is Sufficient

1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,

BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;

6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.

7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME

(IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)

TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:1-18

Verse 1: 1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

When one read this verse, it is easy to miss a very important point and it cannot be seen in the English translation.  The two key words are shadow and ‘form of things.’  Basically ‘shadow’ and ‘image’.   Apollos uses shadow in two places.  This verse and chapter 8:5:

5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” Hebrews 8:5

The question that arises is what is the relationship between the shadow and the image?  John Calvin explains the difference here by saying that the painting has two parts.  The first part is the pencil, and the second part is when the paint is added to make the picture even more beautiful.  The pencil mark is still there and is still important although it is no longer visible.  (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries; Hebrews 1 & 2 peter: Eerdmans; page 132).  There is a relationship between the sacrifice of Christ and the yearly sacrifices.  Only the work of Christ can perfect the believer and take away sins.  The Mosaic sacrifices were only a shadow, but they were still important in that they pointed beyond themselves to the true ‘form of things’.  Verse 2 continues to explain what verse 1 just said.   Verse 3 spells it out:

“3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year.” NASB

This is quite a hard pill to swallow; ‘a reminder of sins.  A reminder means that a person continually needs to go through the same sacrificial process again and again.

Verses 2-4

“2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” NASB

In these verses the original worshippers under the Old Covenant still had guilty consciences even after the ritual of sacrifice.  He concludes that the blood of animals has limitations as far as conscience is concerned. 

Reflection

Over the centuries there have been people who have wanted to throw the Old Testament away such as Marcion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism) This is a categorical mistake because Christ came not to abandon but to fulfil the law and the Prophets.  The Old Testament will always be important. A shadow still has an object that belongs to it.  In the light of what we have said we are truly blessed that Christ died for us so that we too in Christ can enter heaven itself too. 

Concerning the idea of the conscience  in one of our verses.  Christians are not supposed to run away from the Law.  IN Christ it has been fulfilled.  I now quote some work from my other blog on Bavincks Reformed Ethics:

“Herman Bavinck will not agree with any of this, and he shows us through Holy Scripture how we ought to perceive the moral natural law and indeed God has to be the foundation.  It is God who has spoken and as he says the Church is called to be different to the nations. Let us look at Bavincks Scripture contents.

“(Exod. 20:2). The moral law is acknowledged throughout the whole Bible as God’s law, even by Jesus himself, who explicitly speaks of biblical commandments as God’s commands and words (Matt. 15:4). Therefore, the law cannot be undone, only fulfilled (Matt. 5:17; cf. Rom. 7:23, 27; 8:2).41‘” (page 221):

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exodus 20:2

4 For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ Matthew 15:4

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. Matthew 5:17

23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:23-25

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2 (All these verses have been drawn from Olive Tree Bible software)

Bavinck puts this whole discussion in context:

“When modern thinkers posit an evolutionary origin for biblical law and deny its divine source, they need to be Challenged, as Harless has done: “The law of God in Israel is not the product of a development-process in the people of Israel in which they had gradually become conscious to themselves of what is right and good in the relation, whether of man to man, or man to God. On the contrary, God testifies His will in gradual revelation, in opposition to the spirit predominating amongst the people.” (Page 221)

For Christians the above statement from Bavinck is very important.  God is in control and man thinks he is in control.  Bavinck is not saying that reason is completely bad.  However, as Barth and Bavinck would say faith seeking understanding.  This is how we ought to live.  The man of faith puts his reasons at the feet of Jesus and then he is able to understand the greater picture and not someone looking for something in the pitch black of a storm.

Bavinck finishes the ‘Author section’ by saying:

 “All the relationships between people and God and among his subjects are regulated.43 The source of knowledge of the moral law, therefore, cannot be only our conscience and reason—although they are very valuable—but Holy Scripture in its entirety. This means not only the Pentateuch but also the prophets and the New Testament. The Decalogue is only the summa of the law; the Old and New Testaments are the explanation and commentary.” (From page 222)

Reflection

God created the law, conscience and the world.  Scripture explains to us the facts and as faithful believers we live by these truths.  Those who try to abstract God from the Good (ethics) have to find another base (foundation) and it is generally some form of evolutionary idea that sees things getting better.  We have seen pure reason run into all sorts of problems.  Theology must always use the appropriate tools to come to appropriate conclusions.  We are also dealing with the facts in a scientific way just as much as any scientist this is why Theology is known as the Queen of the sciences.  I don’t believe in using philosophy as a grammar of theology because then the grammar takes over.  It was a good thing that John Calvin dumped Aristotle out of his Institutes.  Let us put Christ first in our live and live by faith.  Ultimately this is the true seat of happiness in the presence of God by the Holy Spirit.”  From https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Jesus is High Priest in Heaven itself and the once for all sacrifice Hebrews 9

July 30, 2021

Jesus has done much for us and today we will learn how he relates to the earthly Tabernacle and to the sacrificial systems of the Old covenant (Moses).   Let’s begin by Reading Hebrews chapter 9 verses 1-10

1 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. 3 Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4 having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, 7 but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

We came to understand that the tabernacle was a shadow and copy of the original one in heaven.  One might think ‘it is only a shadow.’ I find this amazing because it is better to have a copy than nothing at all.  If the tabernacle was not even a copy, then the theologian would be mythologizing.  The theologian does not do mythology here but science, real God’s knowledge.  Even a copy of something in heaven gives us insight into heaven and its workings.  I think Apollos understood this.   Apollos goes into a description of the earthly tabernacle, even as a shadow it explains to us that without the shedding of blood there cannot be forgiveness of sins.  The tabernacle was pointing beyond itself, but they do show that a High Priest is needed too as a mediator and his sins and the people’s sins needed to be forgiven. 

In verse one we have a key to unlocking some of the secrets of this beautiful book:

  ‘Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.’

Obviously, the tabernacle he is talking about is Moses Tabernacle. There was the area of the Holy of Holies in which a high priest came only once a year. He had to be invited by God for this honour.   Then of course there was the holy place. At this place, priests were allowed to come, and they didn’t need to fear for their lives. The writer in this verse is actually reminding his readers what they should already know. He is also preparing them for talk about the Christ and preparation for the ‘real tabernacle’ which is in heaven.

In understanding the Holy of Holy the veil is an important symbol which separates heaven and earth (verse 3). The inner tent where the Holy of Holies was, the priest could only enter this once a year. 

Verse 8

. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. NASB

So throughout Judaic history according to Apollos it was a waiting time and preparation.  No Levite priest could enter the real Holy of Holies nevertheless God used this means to educate his people.  Apollos gives a limit to what can happen:

Verse 9

…Accordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.  NASB

A reformation is a time of correction.  If we think about the real protestant Reformation, it was a time to bring the Church back to a purer Christianity.  Obviously if the Tabernacle was a copy, then there was a real need for heaven to break in and really, in truth save us from sin and our corrupt nature.   This basic summary is what the Holy Spirit has told us (verse 8)

In the previous chapters we have seen aspects of this reformation.  Before we had physical temples but now God is moving in the very spiritual aspects of True Worship.  We also know by whom this is going to come through; Namely the Messiah (Our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ).

Chapter 9 verses 11-28.

With special emphasis on verses 11 and 23.

The writer up to this point has led his readers along the road of what they know and understand. But from this moment he is going to reveal the deeper things of God to the readers.

The readers already knew and believed that the Christ was the king of Israel. When Jesus was crucified, and they wrote “The king of the Jews” as a mark of derision. In other words, from the point of the authorities such as the scribes and the pharisees Jesus was seen as a false king but from the point of view of those who trusted in his name Jesus was and is the real king of Israel. The writer to the Hebrews is writing to those who have faith not to those who don’t have faith. So, let us look at these two verses:

Verse 11

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, he entered through the greater and the more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation”. NASB

Verse 23

“Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (verse 23).

So, at this point the writer makes a jump from the earthly evidence of the tabernacle into heaven itself.  The heavenly sanctuary needs ‘better sacrifices than these.’  It is no accident that Apollos says this. 

Verse 24

So, Christ entered Heaven itself ‘in the presence of God the father’ in the Holy of Holies.  

Verse 25

In light of verse 28 Christ who offered himself as the sacrifice (only once), It is not necessary for Christ to offer himself every year with sacrificed blood of lambs etc.

Verse 26

At these end times ‘completion of the ages’ Christ became the sacrifice on our behalf by himself.  He has been ‘manifested’ revealed (φανερόω / Verb: Perf Mid/Pass Ind 3rd Sing)

The use of this verb ‘manifest, disclose, reveal’ is in the perfect tense.  This verb in this context makes perfect sense because Christ is in heaven itself in which God resides.  It is not possible for any human to cross this divide outside of Christ.  This is not mythology but epistemology.  The shadow and copy of the tabernacle on earth is direct evidence to God’s Sanctuary.  Through Jesus Christ by faith, even though we are still on earth we get a glimpse of what is going on in heaven.  The perfect tense is something that has happened in the past but has consequences today.

Verses 27 & 28

Death is but once and then the judgement, so Christ died once so next time he comes it won’t be referenced to sin but the Judgment as King of Kings.  This is a precursor to what Apollos wants to say about Christ as the Sacrifice.

Reflection

In this chapter we have passed some signposts of faith:

1. There is the heavenly Sanctuary
2. Jesus is the High Priest, and he is always in office mediating for us all the time.
3. Christ was the sacrifice once and the work of sacrifice was completed through the sacrifice of himself.      
1. The Tabernacle is a copy of the real tabernacle
2. There is a high priest, but he has to be changed every year.
3. Gifts and sacrifices are often made but they cannot make anyone perfect.

What does this mean for us?

Jesus has done a lot for us so that we can be taken into heaven.  This invitation is open to everyone.  Jesus is Lord yet he knocks on the door of your heart.  He wants by invitation by the Holy Spirit to come into your life and where there was darkness, he brings light.   We all want to do things our way but where has this brought you?

Broken promises, betrayals, anger and although there are people all around you there is an emptiness that no one can fill.   You cannot even forgive yourself and the road seems to have come to an end.  You have made mistakes along the way, but it does not matter how bad you have been God reaches out to you and offers you his grace in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has done the work on the cross and while he was on the cross he said, ‘It is finished’ (God’s work has been completed).

If you choose God’s way allow Jesus the Lordship in your life.  By the Holy Spirit he will take away you sins, purify you and make you into the person you ought to have been.  This process takes a lifetime but becoming a child of God takes a moment.  

Whether we just took the invitation and confessed Jesus as Lord we need to remember that this book has shown us that although Jesus is the second person of the Trinity:

He was active in the creation with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit

He is greater than the angels

He is greater than Moses

He is King of Kings

He is greater than all the prophets because they all spoke of him

He is the High Priest in heaven itself

He was the real sacrifice once and for all.

The Birth Pangs of a New Religion

July 25, 2021

Hebrews 8 and the incendiary idea that changed the old world forever.

Let us begin by reading Hebrews 8

1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

A New Covenant

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,

WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT

WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;

9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS

ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND

TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;

FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,

AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,

AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’

FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,

FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,

AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8       We have seen then Jesus was from Judah, and this disqualifies him from the Levitical priesthood.  However, this was not a problem because according to the Scriptures his lineage is from the order of Melchizedek.  

Lets look now at the text and dig a little deeper:

Verses 1 and 2

1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. NASB

What I have learned so far in this study is that we have hit some serious Royal Psalms. The Lord of heaven speaks to the earthly kingly Lord.  This is the first time that a king held both offices of priesthood and kingship at the same time. Not only this but he is also the High priest of the genuine, real heavenly tabernacle.  It is the Lord that set this original heavenly Sanctuary

Verses 3 and 4

3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

The job of the High Priest was to offer gifts and sacrifices to the Lord.  As we have already seen earlier if Jesus was on earth he would be disqualified in being any type of high priest in terms of the Law of Moses.  For Apollos this tabernacle which was on earth was only a shadow of the original tabernacle. 

Verse 5

5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” NASB

Moses had to follow an exact pattern with exact measurements.  Notice that Apollos says the phrase ‘a copy and shadow of heavenly things’.

Verse 6

” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

A New Covenant NASB

This is a summing up before the evidence.   Jesus priesthood and officiating from a heavenly tabernacle means that Jesus has a greater ministry and compared to the old covenant of Moses from Mt Sinai; he is a Mediator of a better covenant  and better promises.

Verse 7

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

There were obviously faults with the old covenant because of Jeremiah 31:31.

Verses 8 to 12

8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,

WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT

WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;

9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS

ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND

TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;

FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,

AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,

AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’

FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,

FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,

AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

In the mount Sinai covenant the laws were written on stone and the people partied and turned their back on God with the creation of a Golden Calf.  This type of disobedience continued throughout the time of the kings and the prophets until they were exiled (both kingdoms; Israel and Judah)

The centre of solution is found in verse 10:

“I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”

This is a new type of covenant, and it is spiritual in content.  We know this because Jeremiah talked about ‘writing on hearts. The heart the centre of feeling can only be found inside a person and not outside such as stone.

Verse 13

13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8

This is a very harsh statement for the Jewish community because the Sinai Covenant has been superseded with the promised Messiah.

Even though Christendom and Judaism have split a long time ago they are still a cousin religion and we share the same Scriptures.  We can disagree but let us always love our Jewish neighbour and show respect even in our differences.

Digression

There are some serious things being said here. We can see a serious battle of ideas going on in Judaism at this time.  This is a battle for the genuine Judaism and where the centre is to be found. 

Let me spell it out:

Is the centre of the covenant in the first five books of Moses? 

Has the centre moved from Moses to a new centre found within the Psalms and the Prophets? 

The old covenant of Moses has not been disestablished but it has a new centre in the Psalms and the Prophets. 

Within Judaism there was a split, and we see right here in this text where the split is.  This is figuratively speaking incendiary, within the Jewish community that would wipe out much of polytheism in Europe and the birth pangs of Christianity. 

What about the Temple?  My own personal opinion is that if we remember rightly King David was forbidden from building a temple because he was a man of war.  However, he prepared a lot of the ground work for Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem (The first temple).  God also allowed the rebuilding of the temple when Israel was allowed to come back from their exile.  This was a blessing for the Jewish people.   Sometimes I ask myself the question why God allowed the Temple to be destroyed.  One I do know as a fact that Herod had blood on his hands as he murdered children because he feared he would lose his crown.  He did not have a right to touch the Temple.  I do not know what the modern Jewish community thinks about this, and I would like to know more.

Reflection

We can see a paradigm shift happening in Judaism and through Christ the old world would change forever and never be the same again.  For Christians Jesus is the Messiah and he is King; High Priest and sacrifice offered for our sins.  ‘The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ and by his resurrection we have eternal life.

Looking at Psalm 110 and Hebrews chapter 7

July 13, 2021

Christian Doctrine and the importance of Psalm 110 before looking at the book of Hebrews. Part 1

We will do some background reading on snippets from Psalm 110 before starting Hebrews chapter 7.  The interpretation I am giving to it is a Christological bent to it and this fits in with the book of Hebrews. we will then move on to look at Our Saviour Jesus who is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek and what this means in practice for Christians.

Psalm 110  is very interesting in that we have seen that the messiah has two functions. 

Verse 1

1 The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at My right hand

Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” Psalms 110:1

This Psalm is unquestionably a Psalm of David.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus had defeated the Sadducees in argumentation.  The Pharisees heard about this and they came to trick Jesus.  This conversation is below:

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the [w]Christ? Whose son is He?” They *said to Him, “The son of David.” 43 He *said to them, “Then [x]how does David [y]in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying,

44

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Until I put Your enemies under Your feet”’?

45 Therefore, if David calls Him ‘Lord,’ [z]how is He his son?” 46 No one was able to offer Him a word in answer, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him any more questions. “(Taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2022&version=NASB)

Obviously, this text originally related to king David, but it also relates to the ‘institution of King David’ as an office. Jesus interprets this literally JHWH (Ha Shem; The Lord) speaks to (ADONAI The lord).  Although David was a Messiah (anointed king) David interpreted it as David’s greater King (Messiah).  For Jewish Christians and gentiles of the time this could be no other than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  For Jesus and the Pharisees this Royal Psalm had a prophetic element.

According to Jewish Law King David was barred from priestly functions of the Aaronic line. Only a priest could make sacrifices.   Although it is tempting to say that King David ‘sacrificed’

Read 2 Samuel 24:18-25. I think it is better to read this that the sacrifice was at the cost of King David’s purse and that the priests actually did the sacrificing.  David followed God’s command for this.  King Saul also did this but he did it outside of the remit of Gods command and the throne was taken from him. Read 2 Samuel 24:18-25

Chrsitopher R Smith wrote:

“This disobedience did lead Saul to usurp a privilege of the priesthood.  As I discuss in this post, by offering these sacrifices, Saul was imitating the Canaanite priest-king model instead of respecting the separation between the kingship and the priesthood that was established in the law of Moses.” (from https://goodquestionblog.com/2014/09/08/why-did-god-reject-saul-for-offering-sacrifices-but-not-david-or-solomon/)

In Psalm 110 it is the first time that kingship and the priesthood could be officiated under one person and it is not in the Aaronic line of priests. As the text says:

4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4 (NASB Olive tree Bible sorftware).

Apollos is correct to point back to Abraham.  In the book of Genesis we read:

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,

Possessor of heaven and earth;

20 And blessed be God Most High,

Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.” Genesis 14:17-24 (NASB Olive tree bible software)

After this story we never hear anything of Melchizedek again in the pages of Genesis.  Psalm 110 gives the office of Melchizedek to the Messiah (For Christians, Jesus Christ). 

Stephen Lawson makes the point that in Christ there will be a first time that; “This will be the first time that one person will serve as both priest and king”.

“The Priestly Redemption of Christ (110:4) SUPPORTING IDEA: David declares that Christ will be appointed as a priest by God. 110:4a. The LORD, God the Father, has sworn to himself that he will send his Son into this world to be a priest. This will be the first time that one person will serve as both priest and king. A priest was one who represented the people before God. Yet the people did not choose their own representative. To the contrary, God the Father ordained his chosen leaders to the priesthood. In like manner, Christ is designated by the Father to this redemptive mission. Regarding this appointment of Christ to this saving work, God will not change his mind. His eternal purposes are fixed and unchanging” (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).  (From Lawson, Steven. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms 76-150: Volume 12 . B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Enough has been said on Psalm 110.  I would like to revisit Psalm 110 sometime to dig even deeper but for now I think this is enough.  This discussion is open to public dialogue of anyone.  We also need to be sympathetic to Jewish interpretations although possibly we will not agree.

Reflection

Psalm 110 is a Royal Psalm, and it is a Psalm of David.  We need to remember that the priestly functions and kingly functions of the kings of Israel were always separate.  This Psalm takes a strand from Genesis 14 when Abraham after defeating the kings of Israel met Melchizedek and gave thanks and homage to God the Most High.   

Jesus proved to the Pharisees that King David wasn’t talking about himself but about another king (Messiah).  For Christians Jesus has both functions of High Priest and King but not in the Aaronic line but Melchizedek.   This is the first time in Jewish Christian history that one person can hold both offices of priest and king at the same time.

Interpreting Hebrews chapter 712-28 and Jesus’ office of High Priest and King (Messiah) part 2

Let us begin by reading this section first:

11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of Him,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” Hebrews 7:11-17

Psalm 110 is a main stay of prophecy in the New Testament.  Apollos really brings out what this actually means.  For Judaism the main stay is the law through the Aaronic line and nothing in Judaism has changed this way.  However, Melchizedek as an order of priesthood has been mentioned.  The Psalms and Genesis are Holy Scripture to along with the five books of Moses, so these texts carry tremendous weight.   It is the case that hundreds of priests from Herod’s Temple became obedient to the faith (Acts 6):

“7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

Apollos is starting to state facts about our Lord that he was from ‘Judah’ (a non-priestly tribe).

11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

Apollos is suggesting that perfection could not be found from the Aaronic line of priests.   He points out that there are two orders:

12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. Hebrews 7:12

Laws can ‘change’ if the order changes.  This will become an important point in his discussion.

13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. Hebrews 7:13-14

Jesus is not from the Aaronic line. Jesus was descended from Judah, and he has no qualifications for this priesthood of Aaron which Moses spoke about.  Jesus is disqualified from this priesthood.

15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of Him,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” Hebrews 7:15-17

The requirement for the second type of priesthood is an ‘indestructible life= forever’.  Jesus is the only one in the history of humanity that fulfils this criterion.

 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him,

“THE LORD HAS SWORN

AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND,

‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’”); Hebrews 7:18-21

Two things are going on here.

For Apollos, In Jesus the emphasis of priesthood has changed.   As far as mainline Judaism is concerned, I can understand why Judaism and Christianity split.  The seeds are right here in this text.  Modern Judaism would see this as apostasy from Judaism because it shifted the priesthood away from Aaron and would be perceived as heresy.   

22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Hebrews 7:22

23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, Hebrews 7:23

The Aaronic priesthood was necessary because their posts needed to be changed regularly through death. It was an imperfect arrangement.

24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hebrews 7:24

25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

Jesus has an indestructible life and because of this reason, he is always there interceding on our behalf.

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:26-28

The most important thing in this section I think is where the writer says:

Obviously, this was a process that started in Babylon with the birth of the synagogues and later with the destruction of the Temple the Aaronic priesthood was as good as dead. 

Reflection

There are a lot of well-intentioned Christians who are hoping that the ‘Third Temple’ of Ezekiel will be built and to celebrate it.  The Third Temple uses the Aaronic priesthood.   I have to say that according to the book of Hebrews Christians have their High Priest in a different priesthood, namely the order of Melchizedek.   Jesus is high priest of an order that is not part of the Aaronic covenant.  The Oath came after the time of the Law (10 commandment) and it overwrites the old Mosaic covenant.  The main points of this section are:

Psalm 110  is very interesting in that we have seen that the messiah has two functions. 

  • As King of Israel
  • As priest

There are two orders:

  • Order of Aaron
  • Order of Melchizedek

Two things are going on here.

  • The law made nothing perfect, and it was time for change.
  • With the change of priesthood comes a new hope.

The new covenant means:

  • This is a new covenant that displaces the old Aaronic priesthood.
  • Jesus is the guarantor of this new covenant.
  • Contrasted to the Aaronic priesthood Jesus’ priesthood is superior as there is no change of post because there is no death.

The most important thing in this section I think is where the writer says:

  • but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a son.
  • Psalm 110 has a prophetic dimension as Jesus said (David in the Spirit said)
  • And an Oath concerning the Son of God that overwrites the Law of Moses to the effect that the Aaronic priesthood is not important anymore.

Jesus is our great High Priest, and his priesthood is based upon the promise found in psalm 110:

4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4

There has been a displacement of the old ways with the new and living way.   Hebrews is also the book of faith. 

Psalm 110 in other places of the New Testament

Psalm 110 is a key text and its influence is everywhere in the new testament.  Here are some proof texts that back up what Apollos says in the book of Hebrews.

Luke 20:42

39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

41 Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,

‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

43 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”

45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” Luke 20:39-47Acts 2:34

For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,

64 Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64

62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Mark 14:62

69 But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD.” Luke 22:69

31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56

34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans 8:34

20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:20-23

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

Psalm 110:1 (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31; 7:55–56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1).

Apollos wants us to Stay faithful to Christ, no matter what the situation.

July 9, 2021

Today we will be looking at a chiasmus in Hebrews.  If you do not know what a chiasmus is have a look at this video: Our commentary will be on chapter 6.1-12

Let us begin by reading:

“1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits. 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Better Things for You

9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:1-12 NASB (This has been taken from Olive Tree Bible software)

The video link below explains what a chiasmus is. 

(This is third party)

The book of Hebrews is full of small gems. Before I move on, I want to explain that it is possible that we have a chiasm here:

“[7] Warning against falling away (Heb. 5:11-6:12)

      A(5:11-6:3) 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.(5:14)

                      B(6:4-6) 6:6 and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again (6:6)

                      B'(6:7-8) 6:8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected; it will soon be cursed and finally burned. (6:8)

      A'(6:9-12) 6:12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. (6:12)

   A: Wish for growth. B: Person who cannot be saved.” (From http://www.bible.literarystructure.info/bible/58_Hebrews_pericope_e.html#7)

(This is a literary device that was used in the ancient world, and it is also found in the Bible.

So, point A corresponds to point Aand B corresponds to BThis literary form helps to give a particular writing a beautiful structure and according to 村井源    Hajime Murai there are about 17 of these structures in the book of Hebrews.   This shows a serious consistency in the book of Hebrews that might otherwise have been missed out.  I am surprised that some of the commentaries I have looked at miss this type of structure because we not only look at the meaning of words and grammar but also at structure. So how does this help us.  It means that the ethical material of Hebrews continues all the way through to chapter 6 verse 12.)

So in a sense a chiasmus can make the meaning of what is said more forceful.  If I was to paraphrase it:

“Solid food is for the mature so stop being lazy and sluggish.  Those who fall away from the living God are about to be cursed and burned.”

This is pretty strong language! Apollos is not mincing words. It is no accident that this paraenetic material is sandwiched between chapters 5 and 7.  In chapter 5 we have the theme of the obedience of the Son.  It follows naturally that the believers should also follow in the footsteps of their king and Great High Priest.   In this chapter the writer is giving the readers a hard time because he is telling them that they should have progressed in the Christian faith, and they haven’t progressed.

Verses 1 – 3

“1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we shall do, if God permits.”

Apollos gives them a list of things that the Jewish Christian believers should understand and be doing.

Verse 3.  The correct translation is ‘We shall do’ although there is another version that says, ‘We may do’.  Apollos is one who does not mince his words and he is not afraid to state things as they are for me this is a good enough reason to follow ‘we shall do’. The internal evidence gives the readings from Papyri 46 is from AD 200 Alexandrinus is from AD 500.  ‘Shall do’ wins.

(The NASB correctly translates ‘we shall do’ (future plural) This follows papyri 46.  There is another reading though that follows Alexandrinus.   The difference is one letter s + omricon = future tense and s + omega = the aorist plural subjunctive!)

Verses 4 – 8

“4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”

These verses are hard hitting, and it is aimed at those who turn their back on the Gospel.  I’m sure that Armenians and Calvinists would have a serious disagreement on these verses.  Herman Bavinck gives some useful information in his Reformed Ethics pages 406 and 407 as he writes:

“And third, in their wills and passions, unregenerateness about and fight against their sins (2 Cor. 7:10, “worldly sorrow”); biblical examples include Pharaoh (Exod. 9:27), King Saul (1 Sam. 24:17; 26:21), Felix (Acts 24:25), and Judas (Matt. 27:4). Such people can have a love for virtue, as Balaam did (Num. 22:18; 24:13); think also of men like Cicero and Seneca. They can have some taste of God’s common grace258 (Heb. 6:4–5; Num. 23:10), and even have a desire for grace (the foolish virgins in Jesus’s parable desired oil, Matt. 25:8). If they have a hope for heaven and expect him, they may suffer for Christ (1 Cor. 13:2). They can have the Spirit of God like Balaam (Num. 24:2), prophesy like Saul (1 Sam. 10:11), and, like Judas, cast out devils. Meade enumerates some twenty things that an unregenerate person can have, and Perkins lists about thirty-three. 25” (from page 406)

This is very important because according to these findings both the people of the world and the Christian can have the same types of experience of God’s grace.  Somethings are best left in God’s hands and let God deal with it. Election is a mystery as we were chosen from before the foundation of the world.  Let us also remember that we live the life of faith and if we stay constant, we are the elect.  We are not any better than those who do not accept the Gospel but we can be encouraged that we are living in Christ.

Verses 9 – 12

“9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” NASB

This is in contrast to the unbelief sections. Those who are being faithful to Christ and his Gospel.  I find this very interesting because it follows the same type of pattern as Psalm 95 being worked out in the Church.  We looked at this Psalm earlier and obviously Apollos is living this Psalm and he is expecting the Jewish believers to follow the same pattern.  In these verses I also feel empathy for the readers. 

Reflection

Hebrews chapter 6.1-12 is ethical material as well as being theological.  He is exhorting his readers to stay faithful to Christ.  Obviously if we were to mirror read the text, we would have to think that some of these believers were thinking about quitting the Christian faith and perhaps go back to traditional Judaism.  Let us even in the 21st century take Apollos’ warning seriously and be faithful to Christ even to the end of our time here on earth.

Jesus our Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek

July 3, 2021

Chapter 4. 14 -5.14

Jesus is indeed our great High Priest.  He speaks and mediates on our behalf. As we saw earlier in chapter 4. 14 up to the end of the chapter.

Just to remind you there are two areas in which Apollos prepared the groundwork for chapter 5.

As a reminder these points from verses 14 to 15 sets up the scene for chapter 5

“In verse 14 Apollos sets the scene and reminds his congregation of some facts.  Below in the first list are the heavenly, divine characteristics of our Lord and we are called on holding on to this confession.

1.   Jesus is the Great High Priest.

2.   Jesus entered heaven.

3.   Jesus is the Son of God

4.   We are to hold to our confession.

In verse 15 we have the earthly temporal characteristics of our Lord. That Jesus really understands the problems that we are facing:

1.   We have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses

2.   Who has been tempted in all things like other believers

3.   Jesus has no sin.” 

So, we have in the two lists above divine and earthly characteristics of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and these points will be worked out in chapter 5 more fully.   Chapter 5 is such a small chapter that it is worth reading all of it:

​“ For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2   he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is  beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. 4 And no one takes the honour to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,
YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”;
6 just as He says also in another passage,
“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER
ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”
7  In the days of His flesh,  He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have
their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5 Olive Tree Bible software.

For the believers and Apollos, Jesus was God’s Messiah.  This is an especially important understanding of the nature of Kingship in the Old Testament.  Setting the scene:

The first four verses are an explanatory reminder to the Jewish Christians. The facts show that the person who is to be High Priest is called by God.

His main functions are

  1. The High Priest is to be called by God even as Aaron was.
  2. He deals gently with the ignorant and misguided and he is not any better than they.
  3. One of his main job descriptions is to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people and himself.

In the same way then Jesus did not take this honour on himself, but he was called by God.  Two Psalms are quoted from the Royal Psalms.  These are not any ordinary Psalms.

“ Royal Psalms

The ten so-called Royal Psalms (2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; Nordic scholars set the figure higher)’° only form a ‘Gattung’ or ‘type’ insofar as they relate to the so-called ‘Ritual of the King’, and the royal cult at the state sanctuary.  Since they stem from the heritage of the first temple, we must apply to them the liturgical categories of pre-exilic period (as indeed to the other older hymns). They therefore defy any classification which is mainly derived from post-exilic times. Their group identity bears the stamp of the pre-exilic tradition. Sample text: Ps. 2.”  (Taken from Introducing the Psalms; Klaus Seybold; Page 115)

So, then scholars believe that Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 are clearly from the first Temple time, so they are very early.  These Psalms therefore are linked to the rituals performed in the Temple at Jerusalem and shows the close relationship between God and the King.  Psalms 2 and 110 are explicit references to Christ the Anointed One.  You need to remember that all the kings of Israel and Judah were anointed.  It is the title only given to a Royal King of Israel.  This practice was obviously taken over by the British Royal Family! (Note that the Messiah was understood to be the king of Israel. The king was the representative of YHWH on earth.   The commands from heaven were to be carried out here on earth. Note that Apollos sees this present earth only as a shadow of the real thing.) 

So then on the one level Jesus Shared some characteristics of the High priest hood but then Apollos takes us to a completely higher level when it comes to Christ.   The Validation of Christ as a High Priest is found in Psalm 2:

“YOU ARE MY SON,

TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”

And Psalm 110:

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

We have already met Psalm 2  in Hebrew.1 5 In that original place Apollos proved that Jesus was greater than the angels.  In that the writer showed the close bond between the Father and Son that angels could never be part of. 

In this scriptural recipe Apollos is showing that the Son is a High Priest in an order of priesthood that the ordinary High Priests could never share and in fact they were excluded from this High priesthood! Christ is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.   Generally, the High Priests came from the Line of Aaron so what gives?  We will go into greater depth when we hit chapter 6. 

However at the moment Apollos wants to continue on the Sonship motif as we need to listen very closely to what is being said.  Let us now look at verses 7 through to 10:

“7  In the days of His flesh,  He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. ”

So, the text is basically saying is while Jesus was a human being on earth he prayed a lot and asked for many things.  I especially like John 17 in which Jesus prays for our behalf which is still in effect even for the believers today 2000 years later. Jesus did not only hold a title of Son of God, but he also proved it throughout his life.  Jesus was indeed obedient to the point of death on a cross.  Now because of his life and sacrifice Jesus Christ is indeed the only source for eternal life.  There is no other way.  As we said earlier, Apollos reaffirms that Jesus is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

So how does all this relate to the believers?

This is an important question because we also need to take seriously what he said!

“11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” NASB

It looks like Apollos is taking the readers back to basics.  What amazes me is that this theology is high theology and I think the readers must have had some serious education on these points.  Comparing his teachings to the ordinary believer in a church today; if what he is saying is ‘milk’ what spiritual food are we then drinking: Water?  

I think that we also need to take chapter 6.1 into account “1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity…  Hebrews 6:1” NASB

Apollos is an excellent teacher as he really knows how to get the readers attention.  On the one hand he says that they need to go back to basics but then in 6.1 he says your now ready to listen to the heavier teachings.  Obviously, this Church really loved Apollos and Timothy 3.23.   

Reflection

This Week I have also been reading some of Acts.  One important question that comes to my mind about these believers is what sort of backgrounds did these believers come from?  Internally to this letter we have serious Jewish topics going on.  This book has tentatively been given an early date:

Could this be a clue to us?

“7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

Acts 6:7 NASB

Could it be the case that Apollos was talking to some of these priestly converts?

I have no evidence for it, but it is a tantalizing hypothesis.  What I mean to say is that; in this letter we have a high theology. This theology is encased in a full proof argument that I believe needed a highly skilled scholar to compile it.  The content is high theology that I believe may have been aimed at members who had a profession within a priestly class and were interested in this kind of theological material.   On the other hand, it is a great work that all believers throughout the centuries have looked to for comfort.  John Owen is a prime example from the Puritan era.  He wrote a seven-volume set on this small letter and each volume is made up of hundreds of pages!

Reflection

Apollos is writing to a set of believers who are suffering for their faith.  Indeed, my thinking is leading me to think about this particular church to be in Jerusalem rather than in a larger diaspora.  Whatever the case; Apollos shows us the important work Jesus is doing for us as a High Priest and his High Priesthood is higher than the Aaronite priesthood line found in the fertile pages of Genesis and the Psalms.

Why is this important for the believer?

Jesus Loves his Church. He loves us so much that he intercedes on our behalf.  You are not alone.  If this was the Church in Jerusalem, they were to go through the collapse of and sacking of the Jewish temple. Obviously, it is my hypothesis that it were these Christians who suffered so greatly at this time.  The horrific sacking by the Romans and the carrying away of the Temples utensils.   We are now in the 21st century so what is this book telling us.  When I look around the world in prayer, I see much suffering, needless suffering.  The message for the Christian is the same; Have faith; be firm and follow Christ come what may.    How has the Church changed since then?  I see a lack of faith because many believers just want a quick Sunday fix or to see their favourite pastor online.  Whilst looking at these issues I also looked at chapter 13:

19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:19

And

23 Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Hebrews 13:23

Apollos is going to be ‘restored’ and Timothy is to be ‘released’.  I haven’t made any judgements about these words, but I have to say perhaps they are implying some time of imprisonment.  Isn’t it the case that Christians around the world are suffering from corrupt leaders and this at times can mean more suffering?  So let us remember to pray for our brothers and sisters that we have never met but are undergoing persecution for their faith.  Persecution does not have to be far away as I saw on Twitter  this 11-year-old boy was writing about alms and not arms:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/27/11-year-old-boy-reported-prevent-teacher-mishears-alms-arms/

So, my friends be strong in the faith and trust Christ as we are called to live for him.  Next time we will look at Hebrews chapter 6 and are going to have a closer look at how we ought to live material or the paraenetic material.

We all fall on hard times in our lives; spiritually, morally and materially. Jesus is our Great High Priest who cares for you; Let us enter his rest!

June 27, 2021

So, the section we looked at on ‘rest’ has focused on the believers and how they ought to trust Christ.  The thing about Hebrews is that his letter is a magnificent letter that keeps a flow without changing subjects all the time.   Apollos has proved that Jesus is God; he has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels; He has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  In this magnificent and beautiful letter, he shows the believers that God has prepared a place for them.  This place is situated in God’s ‘rest’.   He sections we dealt with last time is about how the believer is supposed to live.  He is to live by faith. 

We need to be careful now at chapter 4 verses 8 -16.  Apollos very cleverly is closing the paraenetic trusting material verses 8-13 in relation to the Sabbath rest of God.  He will then begin the introduction of Jesus our great Hight priest section.  Although we need to be aware that Apollos has already mentioned Jesus as High Priest in chapter 3 verse 1.  It is taken as a given that these believers saw Jesus as High priest, but they are in the long run going to be taught the content of what this actually means.  As far as I can see Apollos (if it is him) is one of the greatest theological writers in the New Testament along with Paul and St John the Apostle.   No writer in the New Testament has been able to stick to his material and follow an argument to the end.  This letter is amazing. If you are a student at university; Have you ever thought about how to change from one topic to another topic in one seamless connection?  In these few verses we are going to see this happen.

So let us read:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:8-16

With Joshua and God’s rest we see the completion of a section.  The Israelites arrived in the promised land. This is a great rest is it not? No!  The history of the Israelites is a warning to all of us, whether we are Jewish or Gentile.  The promised land might of started as a paradise but we know the history of the Judges, Kings and Chronicles.  God’s people kept turning their back on God and the covenant.  They were turning their back on God because of unbelief.  Verse 11 is critical in understanding where Israel went wrong:

” Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

In our faith we need to be diligent and trust God.  We need to keep Christ our Lord in view every day living according to his and the apostolic teachings in Scripture.

Do we?

Apollos gives us an inkling into the nature of God.  Don’t forget though that Christ mediates for us verses 12 and 13 is a good reminder:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

We need to remember that a characteristic of God is that he is holy, and he sees everything.  It is no accident that all over the world one of the symbols of the judiciary is a sword. 

The form of verses 8 through to thirteen we see a change of subject. It changes from us as subject  to God and Christ as subject.

Having looked at the evidence I still don’t completely understand what the Writer is trying to prove. But one thing is certain when Joshua and David failed to give Israel rest, Jesus as the Messiah did not fail.

In verse 14 Apollos sets the scene and reminds his congregation of some facts.  Below in the first list are the heavenly, divine characteristics of our Lord and we are called on holding on to this confession.

  1. Jesus is the Great High Priest.
  2. Jesus entered heaven.
  3. Jesus is the Son of God
  4. We are to hold to our confession.

In verse 15 we have the earthly temporal characteristics of our Lord. That Jesus really understands the problems that we are facing:

  1. We have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses
  2. Who has been tempted in all things like other believers
  3. Jesus has no sin.

Here we see Jesus as fully divine and fully human.  Jesus is our Lord, and he loves us and cares for us.  In the natural what is a priest anyway.  An ordinary priest us supposed to mediate on our behalf before God.   Jesus is no ordinary priest.  He is the Great High priest; the genuine High priest from heaven who pleads on our behalf.   This is why we can draw with confidence before God as Apollos says:

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16” All quotations are from the NASB using Olive Tree software.

Reflection

[Provisional evaluation of chapters 3/7 to 4/16]

Having looked at this text very carefully there are two tensions that run throughout this text.

BELIEF             UNBELIEF

Resting/obeying God.          or   Testing/tempting God.

The Israelites never found the real rest in Israel because they didn’t obey God.  The whole history shows this.  The encouraging thing is that we are called to be diligent and walk by faith.  We are not to look back.  Jesus is the real Great High Priest.  Jesus as God has entered heaven but as a human being, Jesus understands the turmoil we go through on a day-to-day basis.  Apollos then encourages us to draw close to the throne of grace.  In Jesus we find mercy and not the sword.  Verses 14 to 16 gives us a glimpse into what he is going to explain to us next.  Even when we stop here; I feel encouraged.  These believers suffered various forms of persecution.  Apollos gave them advice to walk on through the shadow of the valley of death and to come out on the other side victorious.  Let us keep firm and keep trusting our Lord Jesus through thick and thin.  Our relationship with God is the real thing.  It does not matter what material things we own.  God is bigger than that, in fact these believers had their worldly wealth confiscated.  They had their lively hoods taken from them.  They had worldly security taken from them.   These believers were going through serious troubles, and it would nor surprise me if some of them got martyred.  If you are a believer, perhaps you are going through a hard time at the moment.  Jesus understands you and he cares for you.  Apollos is showing you the way.  Don’t forget to ask God to give you help in these times. Keep on trusting, keep on obeying, keep reading your Bible and stay on the narrow road.  Don’t forget that if you are trusting in Jesus, you are part of the universal church of believers past, present and future. 

The way of faith or your way part 1 Hebrews 4.1-7

June 19, 2021

Hebrews chapter 4

Lets begin by reading Hebrews 4, verses 1 through to 7!

1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,

THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” Hebrews 4:1-7

Verse 1

Therefore (ouv) This takes us to the previous things that were said.  Apollos reminded his readers of the perils of unbelief.  Having the previous in mind and in terms of what was said we ought to understand the phrase ‘let us fear if’.  I liked the way john Calvin put it:

“But the fear which is here recommended is not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we grow not torpid with indifference. Let us then fear, not that we ought to tremble or to entertain distrust as though uncertain as to the issue, but lest we be unfaithful to God’s grace.

By saying Lest we be disappointed of the promise left us, he intimates that no one comes short of it except he who by rejecting grace has first renounced the promise; for God is so far from repenting to do us good that he ceases not to bestow his gifts except when we despise his calling. The illative therefore, or then means that by the fall of others we are taught humility and watchfulness according to what Paul also says,

“These through unbelief have fallen; be not thou then high minded, but fear.” [67] ^ (Romans 11:20.)”  From https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/hebrews/4.htm

He goes on to say “while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”   Verse 1b

Apollos knows that by faith we can enter this ‘rest of God’.  He doesn’t want any of his congregation to not enter it. 

Verse 2 is critical to our understanding of how we enter this rest:

“2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”

The phrase ‘we have had good news preached to us’ in the Greek is one word and it is a perfect tense.  This word is doing a lot of hard work that the message the original readers and the readers of this letter heard the Gospel.  This was an act that happened, but it has eternal consequences.    In this verse we have the ‘they’ and ‘us’.  Apollos is making and showing the big difference between the groups.  They did not unite God’s message with faith, but his present readers are encouraged to unite the message of faith and trusting God.

{

Note: have had good news preached to us = εὐηγγελισμένοι Hebrews 4:2  verbal participle, middle or passive, nominative masculine plural.

}

Verse 3: For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,

THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world”.

This to me is a wonderful statement, “For we who have believed enter that rest”.   Apollos continues with them in this passage and he contrasts the two groups.  So, we will enter Gods rest because we have trusted God but they will not enter because of unbelief.  Apollos has not added any bones to the word rest yet, but he has used it in terms of those who believe and those who disbelieve.   From this point on, the quality of the word ‘rest’, will start to make more sense. 

Verse 3b and verse 4: I find it interesting that Apollos says God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world.  He then in verse 4 quotes from Genesis 2.2  about God resting from his creative work.  Rest does not mean that God got tired and couldn’t carry on, not at all.  A Jewish text I read translated rest in Genesis 2.2 as abstained from his work.  God set the cosmos up and everything was working perfectly.  Abstained has the idea that God decided and chose to stop at that particular moment.  The word rested in Genesis 2.2 Kalah is in the piel form so the work of creation was 100% perfect completed.

{notes

‘Rested’ in the LXX; Genesis.2.2 is in the  Aorist Active Indicative – 3rd Person Singular.  This happened once. 

In the Hebrew Kalah rested translated here I believe wrongly as ‘ended’ is that in its intensive meaning of the piel; its form takes on a consecutive imperfect.  A consecutive imperfect is always read as a perfect in meaning.  From https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/2-2.htm

}

‘Abstained’ makes perfect sense because it is God who chose when to put the tools down, yet he is always in control of his creation.  The aorist in the Greek points to this point being a unique action from God’s point of view, and for us who are a part of the creation of God his work has eternal consequences for us, past present and future.

{

side note:

With the Genesis story I hold to the traditional view that Moses is the author of Genesis and I reject the P,J,E interpretation that takes these two chapters to it being written in the exilic period of Babylonia. 

Having said that, we need to remember that the creation stories are seriously important through out the whole of the Old Testament.   From that point of view I agree with Walter Brueggemann that the Jewish people were able to keep their own identities with the use of the Sabbath against all these polytheistic cosmologies that existed in the 6th and 7th centuries.

}

Verses 4 and  5:

 “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.”

The question is why Apollos set these two verses next to each other, Genesis 2.2 and Psalm 95.

I am sure that there are many ways to look at this.  The one thing that stands out is that originally it is ‘God’s rest’  is set up with, ‘Our rest’.   This resting is about our communion with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.      Let us tread on:

Verses 6-7:

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” Hebrews 4:6-7

Here we have king David reiterating what God had said from the creation of the world.  Hearing the Gospel and hearing with the ear of faith is the key.  Today does not lose its meaning even for the listeners to the book of Hebrews.  When is today? Today is now! Today is the present and Apollos gives us a choice are going to listen to Jesus Christ the Son of God or are we going to pass it by.

{

Notes

Preliminary remarks

There is a key word in this passage but more importantly this word is first used in Hebrews 3.11. 

The word rest is found in these places: Chapter 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11.

As you can see Apollos is putting a lot of weight on this word and then his question is why. 

Having a closer look at the context we see the first time he uses it is the quotation from Psalm 95.

Hebrews 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.4 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11

In 3. 11 it is the quotation from Psalm 95

in 3. 18 he interprets this rest that those who disobey will not enter the rest.

4.1 this is a warning for us.

4.3 For us who believe enter the rest.

4.4 This is interesting; he takes the readers back to the creation story when God rested from his works Genesis 2.2

4.8 When the Jews entered Israel by Joshua (according to Apollos)

Joshua did not give them rest even though God kept his promise to Israel and Judah.

}

Reflection on the argument so far

As Christians we are called to walk a life by faith and not in our own strength.   We are to trust our Lord Jesus Christ no matter what.   We are to walk by the Word of God with faith.   God indeed did create the world and the universe, but he also prepared a place for us in his Kingdom.  God’s rest is also our rest, and we need to trust in his promises.  This chapter is not the easiest to understand but when we think of Jesus’ words from Bible gateway:

“14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many [b]rooms; if that were not so, [c]I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I want to finish by saying that God really loves us and wants the best for us.  How could Jesus say these words if God didn’t love us?

It may be that you haven’t thought about these issues.  I pray that God by the Holy Spirit with show you our Lord Jesus that you come to a place to trust him and make him your Lord.  The Book of Hebrews is certainly the book of faith!

You can also follow my Blog on Herman Bavinck. We are continuing our discussion on the conscience and how the rationalists movement changed the goal posts: https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

The dangers of unbelief in the face of adversity: Hebrews Chapter 3 6-12

June 12, 2021

12 06 2021

The dangers of unbelief.

As we saw in Psalm’s unbelief is the opposite of faith.   God wants a people who will trust him.  Looking at this chapter holistically, it was bad enough to disobey God when Moses was in charge of the people of God.  How much worse it is to be disobedient to the Son of God!  To Apollos, Jesus is greater than Moses therefore the punishment of disobedience will be greater.   It is God who saved Israel from the Egyptians with mighty miracles which were unheard of.    The people of God in that generation were pushing all the wrong buttons.  Out of that generation only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land.  God takes pleasure in a people who trust and obey him.   This is a lesson we learned from the Psalm.

Apollos then spells it out to his readers.

“12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. “Hebrews 3:12-19 NASB

It is so easy for us to take the wider road of pleasure and putting self before God.  In this paraenetic material of exhortation there was a very real danger of some of the believers falling away.  Even before AD 70 both Jews and Christians were being persecuted and if we read this letter very carefully, we can see material pointing to this for example later on before the faith chapter:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36 NASB

These Jewish Christians were suffering for their faith.  There was a clear danger for them to lose hope.  Apollos was a great pastor!  He was able to draw from the wellsprings of Scripture to encourage them to follow the Lord whatever the outcome.  It is so easy for someone to call themselves a Christian when they live in the lap of luxury with no financial woes.  We need to be reminded today that everything can be swept away in an instant.  Some of these believers to whom Apollos is writing to suffered loss of houses goods and in some situations even life.  This was the reality.  As believers we have a choice, this moment; Do we serve the Lord Jesus, or do we turn our back on all the good things God has done for us?  Jesus Christ, God of God, light of light, becoming full human and a man broke into our human domain and for a season became a human being like all of us.  This was not enough!  We deserved to be judged and to be punished by eternal death for the sins we have committed.  Instead, it was God’s plan to send his son to a hill and be crucified in our place.   The wonder the mystery of this.  Now the door is open for us to enter heaven.

You as the reader of Hebrews like these early believers are called to make a choice. Today if you hear his voice.  As long as it is called today.  Apollos is not mincing words: Today is now.  Today is not yesterday and it is not in the future, it is now.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is no, then good carry on serving him.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is yes keep on worshipping him.  Have you passed the litmus test of faith?

Verse 14 says:  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. NASB

If you haven’t suffered my friend, you might in the future.  Live by faith and live by faith including all the responsibilities as a child of God.  He commands us to love and to live by faith.  If you are living by faith, then where is the fruit of that love?    It wasn’t cheap for God to become a human being and to die on a cross.  Do you have a cheap my friend or is there substance to it.  Many people have lost homes because of war and famine.  As a believer if you have been in a position to help another human being ; what did you do?

I’m not judging, I will be found lacking and it is only by grace that I stand!

You might be suffering and there may be a possibility to turn your back on god’s ways and go to crime.  I’m saying don’t do it.  God loves you my friend and in him, in Christ there is always a way.

Lets look at the text more carefully;

Verse 12-14 are an explanation of the theme found in verse 6, that the believers should stay faithful. It does imply suffering as a consequence of the sin they committed. The mood of verse 12 to 13 move from – to +.  Verse 12 says ‘take care’ the beginning of verse 13 says ‘but encourage…’ 

From a negative point of view verse 12 says that they should keep away from unbelief.  For example the readers may have entertained the idea that perhaps Jesus is not the Christ after all.

From a positive point of view verse 13 says that the readers should encourage each other day by day.  These questions for the readers being of Jewish background are of the highest importance. The answer to the question however is that Jesus is the Christ the true King of Israel. 

Verse 14 has the same feel to it as verse 6. By looking at the key words in both sentences we find the following.

Verse 6 confidence = verse 14 assurance.

“     6 firm       =  “    14 firm.

“     6 end        =  “    14 end.

Obviously if I was going to use the above words then there must have been something that was discouraging me.  In chapter 12/3 the writer does give us a clue to the problem.  Possibly within the Jewish community (and I am convinced there was) there was a Jewish voice that said Jesus was not the Christ but an imposter.  These Jewish Christians were worn down and they were ‘tired’, they were losing heart (12/3b). They were under some type of persecution (verse 4) possibly losing jobs, being rejected by the family and friends.  It does not seem to be the case that any of these believers were being murdered (12/4) for their faith.  More like they were under peer pressure to conform to the standard beliefs of the Jewish community.

chapter 3/15-19 a summary.

Having looked at the situation of these Jewish Christians, the writer quotes a part of the wilderness experiences of Israel (see chapter 3/7-8 from Psalm 95/7). He then explains that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of unbelief and this was worked out in disobedience. So, Israel did not listen to God. 

Reflection

How can I finish this section of scripture?  What have we learned?  The main lesson I think is that the way of faith is better than the way of unbelief.    Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He came into the world to save us from our sins.  If we turn our back on Jesus, we turn our back on God.  It is that simple.  So let us not shrink from faith ‘now’ but stay firm, lock ourselves away and pray and seek wisdom.  Whether we are suffering or nor not suffering Jesus is always close to us.  It is not a feeling thing, it is an objective reality.

Psalm 95; An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

June 2, 2021

An Old Testament Study on Psalm 95, a key text used for the book of Hebrews

02 06 2021

An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

This study is a background study on Psalm 95.  When we have completed the background study, then we will return to Apollos’ commentary at chapter 3. 7-11.  If we are to understand the book Hebrews here, then we need a deeper understanding of the quotations in Hebrews.   I know that Herman Bavinck touches on a key word ‘bahan = to test or to examine’. 

We need to be extra mindful of the proceeding verses in Hebrews (chapter 3. 7-11).  This takes us to Psalm 95.  Before Apollos quotes from the Psalm though, he tells his readers that it is the Holy Spirit who says.  For us it is the very words of God.  In that case before we even look at these sections let us look at Psalm 95 first and then come back to this section later.

Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5  The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His  pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at  Meribah,
As in the day of  Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 NASB

The commentator below breaks the Psalm into sections:

verses 1 and 2 shows worship in many forms

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Verses 3-5:

God’s greatness is worshiped

For the LORD is the great God,

And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;

The heights of the hills are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it;

And His hands formed the dry land.

Verses 6-7a

a call to worship in humility.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For He is our God,

And we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand.

Verses 7b – 9

The warning to those who reject Worship.

Today, if you will hear His voice:

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

In summary form then:

  1. We can worship God in various forms.
  2. We are called to look at the greatness of God, his Majesty and that he is the Creator and Judge.
  3. In contrast we are to humble ourselves and worship God.
  4. A dire warning to those who reject worshipping God.

In the first half of Psalm 95 there is true joy and happiness in the presence of God from within the congregation of worshippers of God.  This section is a section of faith and belief towards God.  The last section is turned on its head and sorrow and unhappiness will be with those who choose unbelief.

A breakdown of Psalm 95

verse 1 God is our rock.

verse 2 we come into his presence.

verse3 God is a great king above all the gods!

verse 4 -5 everything belongs to God the depths of the earths are in his hands.

verse 6 we are called to worship.

verse 7 He is our God, and we are his sheep.

Verse 8 warning on hardening our hearts.

Verse 9 Don’t test God through unbelief.

Verse 10 God loathed a generation because of their unbelief.

Verse 11 A judgement was announced on the unbelievers.

Special notes

As you can see the Psalm itself contrasts the walk of faith to the walk of unbelief. 

Verse 9 the testing is an examination type of testing.  The word usually denotes God who is doing the testing. 

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press) on page 100 says:

“In the exceptions (in the use of the Hebrew word Bahan), it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah.”

This is a very important finding.  As Bavinck explains to us that there are good senses and bad senses of words in Scripture pages 446 – 449 Reformed Ethics; edited by John Bolt

This is one of those situations where ‘testing, examining’ has negative connotations because it is from the place of unbelief.   The commentator in the TWOT (TWOT= Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) says that ‘bahan= testing, examining’ is used as an abnormal procedure.  The point is that these people knowingly turned their back on God even though he saved them from Pharoah, starvation and so on.   This is very serious situation.

Reflection

By nature, God is good and his love and compassion for his people know no limits.  This why believers by the Holy Spirit walk in faith.  Therefore, it is a perversion to think that we can examine God from the point of view of unbelief.  In the next study we will be going to look at the Book of Hebrews and how these verse from Psalms are interpreted by Apollos.

Jesus is greater than Moses. Hebrews chapter 3 verses 1 -6

May 29, 2021

I wrote a basic commentary a few years ago and my basic tools at the time were Philip Hughes commentary and Donald Guthries commentary from the Tyndale series.   I usually did this at the Weekends prayerfully.  Since then, I have been in charge of religious studies, Humanities and lower Maths.  I left the teaching world and did a basic carpentry degree at a college.  It feels good to offer wholesome biblical teaching to anyone who wants it.  Whatever you background, religious or non-religious I feel there is something for you.  What does the book of Hebrews mean to me?   At university King’s College London, I studied 1 Corinthians; 1 Peter; Galatians; Johns Gospel (unofficially).   I wanted to tread some new ground in the New Testament.  The Book of Hebrews was so different.  This book is a very early book, and it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  A history teacher at a school I taught at said that historians use it for that time period as a primary text.  Although the book of Hebrews entered the cannon of Scripture under the name of Paul, the evidence I feel points to Apollos.  This book is a fantastic book to read but we need to do the spadework to really understand it.    As I share my early writings, I am at the same time revising some of my earlier work.   I will keep referring to the writer as Apollos because for two reasons.  I think there is enough evidence to make Apollos a strong contender from internal evidence in the New Testament.  Paul certainly did not write it; an example of this is how the book of Hebrews quotes scriptures ‘never in the style of St Paul’.   I hope in the future there are new discoveries on papyri archaeology that might shed more light on this.

Jesus is greater than Moses.

We have seen that Jesus is seen as the Son of God.  The writer has proven through scripture that Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven and will come back again one day to take his Church (bride).  Moses a very important person along with Elijah one night came to visit Jesus and some of the Apostles saw this.  I will quote this story because I think it sheds light on how Chrsitians from the 1st and second centuries viewed Moses and Elijah

“The Transfiguration

17 Six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and [a]James, and his brother John, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three [b]tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell [c]face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” 8 And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” (From Bible gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2017:1-8&version=NASB  )

As you can see: Here Jesus is referred to as the Son of God.  Note Moses and Elijah were witnesses but Jesus was seen in his divine glory.  Some of the Apostles witnessed this event.  When we think about this chapter, certainly Apollos would have known about this story.  In fact, I feel that Apollos is going to explain the real significance of Jesus glory and in relation to Moses.  Something that at the time, the Apostles themselves, didn’t wholly grasp (understand) themselves.

Jesus Our High Priest

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:1-6

life and teachings of Christ, Chapter 3.

This chapter begins with a, therefore. This is important in light of everything that the writer has already said about Jesus in relation to the Father.  Jesus is referred to as ‘the Apostle’. The word literally means ‘sent forth’.  In other words, Jesus was sent directly from God.  God did not give Jesus a message ‘indirectly’ through an angel or other agency.  This point will become clearer as we work through the Moses material and Jesus’ position as greater than the angels.  So, then Jesus is not a high priest but he is The High Priest. Donald Guthrie made an important point here as well.  This is the only reference to Jesus as Apostle.   From that point of view Jesus was sent from the Father and then he appointed the twelve inferior weak apostles.  Although weak as ambassadors of Christ, the world would never be the same again.

Verse 1b ‘of our confession:  Obviously the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes who did not accept Jesus as the Christ would disagree with the Apollos’ point of view.  Yet Apollos is using the first-person plural pronoun ‘our’… He is writing as one having the same point of view as the audience.  Yet in a sense the writer is not writing outside of the fold of Judaism otherwise his interpretation of Moses in relation to Jesus would not make sense.

In verses 2-6 we see a qualitative difference between Christ and Moses. Moses was a servant over the house of God, but Jesus is the Son of God as found in Psalm 2. 7.  A servant does not own a house and in that sense, he is always a guest… They were both faithful to God in their own way etc.  

Digging into the background of what Messiah really is: Let us just stop right here and consider what sonship is.  If we start at chapter 1 and work our way through, we will see how great Jesus our saviour is. The Messianic Psalm 2 that has already been quoted chapter 1 verse 5 straight from Psalm 2.  

The Reign of the LORD’S Anointed.

“1 Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

5 Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the LORD with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,

For His wrath may soon be kindled.

How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalms 2 NASB

Sonship and Kingship are very powerful motifs from the Old Testament.  All Apollos is doing is showing to his readers what it means to be the Messiah.   Messiah, God’s anointed is above the mundane nations doing their things.  The Messiah is God’s chosen King. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, and the full force of the Trinity is with him. In his divinity he is the second person of the Trinity. 

Obviously for Apollos to write in this strong way and having to prove that Jesus is above Moses possibly means that some of the readers may have been close to idolatry (The worship of Moses, putting him on a pedestal figuratively speaking).  I am here trying to mirror read the text.

Verse 3

There are contrasts going on in verse 3: For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. NASB

In the Greek then in this sentence the ‘He’ referring to Jesus is in the nominative and Moses is in the accusative.   Jesus is given the glory and Moses is a special servant, but he is still only a servant.  As Christians we ought to respect Moses and his teachings as he was a prophet and, in that sense, pointed us to Christ.  This is obvious from the Transfiguration that we looked at earlier.

So, the writer up to verse 4 has said that Jesus is greater than Moses…  In this verse the writer says God is the builder of everything in the universe.

In verse 5 the writer makes the important point that Moses was looking forward to the promise.

If I was going to paraphrase verse 6 I would say that whilst Moses looked forward to the promise ‘Jesus is the promise’ that Moses was looking forward to.  What a blessing for us to see Moses at the transfiguration with our Lord. 

In light of verse 6b where a great promise was given to Moses, ‘we’ as the readers are also asked to keep faith to the end of time.  The writer having spoken about Moses in relation to Christ and shown from the scriptures that Moses spoke about the Christ…  He then turns to an event from the life of Moses and is about to challenge the readers faith so that they will stop doubting.

Reflection

Apollos has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  As Christians we did not have a problem with this but before AD 70 believers did not have computers that they could go to check the facts.  Let us not be too judgmental of these early believers.  As Christians let us show respect to Moses and all the early Holy Ones that God spoke through.  We should also be thankful to the Jewish community who preserved these Scriptures as they are our Scriptures too.  I speak in this way because every human being has been created in the image of God.  We are all special in God’s sight.  Let us also love our Palestinian friends.  I hope and pray that in the future peace will come to everyone in the middle east.  Guns will be made into farming implements and the golden rule will reign amongst all human beings of whatever nationality or religion.

Our Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ who cares for his flock. Hebrews 2. 14-18

May 21, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14-18.

I will not be using a digital voice this week as the blog is longer than normal.

Let us read.

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NASB

These verses are very interesting in that they discuss humanity in the grand scheme of God’s will.  Jesus became a man and shared in the same life as we are in.  Even as everyone will one day face death, Jesus also had to face and experience death.

Verse 14

This verse has two sections part a refers to us and Christ, and part b to the power of death. We will look at both parts in sequence.

Therefore since = Ἐπεὶ οὖν Hebrews 2:14  This takes us to the previous thought that comes straight from Isaiah 8 18. “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:13 NASB This is a very important and this chapter has a grain of Messianic kingship truth running straight through.  How terrible and great at the same time are these verses and Apollos understood this.   The first part of Isaiah 8 talks about the Northern Kingdom being taken captive and as we know this terrible event really did happen.  This judgement will also spill into Judah and only a remnant will be saved.  These events happened my friends.   Everything seems to be lost and if it wasn’t for the Lord there would be no hope. 

I want to look now at background information to Isaiah 8 verses 16 to 18”  16 Bind up the testimony, seal the [q]Law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will wait eagerly for Him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of armies, who dwells on Mount Zion.”  

The context is clear the children in verse 18 refer to the saved remnant.  The people Apollos was talking to were from their point of view the saved remnant.  Now we understand the background to verse 13 b we can return to verse 14.   The since and the children in verse 13 and 14 are those who are the remnant and being saved.  This is the context.  The children mentioned in verse 14 makes us children of the promise.  The children and the Lord go hand in hand, “behold I and the children whom God has given to me.” The I refers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we are his children, the church, the community of believers.  Jesus the Lord shared our humanity, he became a man, that is what flesh and blood means.  The lord Jesus went further than that and tasted the suffering of death.   We need to be careful to read the second part of verse 14 carefully.  God is always in control.  Satan is only a creature, a created being.   As Philip Edgecumbe Hughes says.  Satan having power of death can only be understood secondarily.  On page 113c of his Hebrews commentary he writes;

“ in considering these questions it should be recognized that the power of death is held by the devil only In a secondary and not in an ultimate sense. Death is indeed the dark reality of his tyranny. But God is still supreme in his sovereignty: unfailingly, it is for him and by him that all things exist, as we have already been reminded (v. 10)- Death Is not a sphere that has broken loose from God 3 command. On the contrary, Scripture, as Aquinas observes, clearly teaches that death, like all else, is under God’s control (cf. Gen. 2:17; Dt. 32:39; 1 KL 216; Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5; 1 Cor. 15:25f.; Rev. 1:18); and the clinching proof of this is the conquest of death and Satan by the incarnate Son. Besides, the devil is a creature—and, significantly within the present context, an angelic creature—finite and futile in his rebellion, and subject to judgment and destruction. There is no question or possibility of an insoluble dilemma involving a cosmic dualism of God and Satan, as though they were eternally opposed to each other as two equal and ultimate realities. The power of death wielded by the devil is not an absolute power, indeed, death is the sentence of God pronounced against man who sinfully has transferred his allegiance from his Creator to the creature (Gen. 3:1ff.; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:23) and who in doing so has turned His back on God’s realm of life in favour of Satan’s realm of death. It is in this sense that the devil is said to hold the power of death. But the power which he presently wields is also the power by which he is destroyed (1 In: 318] Rev. 20:10). Death is-the awful reality of divine judgment, not satanic Victory. Creation and destruction—and salvation from destruction—belong properly and absolutely to God alone. When we read that it was through death that the devil was overcome, we should carefully consider whose death it was that achieved this triumph and what kind of death it was that he died; otherwise, we shall never have a due appreciation of the logic and the necessity of that death by which we were redeemed. The spectacle of the cross is not that of any man enduring the pains of death, but of the incarnate Son of God in his pure innocence suffering a death which is not his due. It is the death, moreover, of one who, though guiltless, has been tried by and legal process condemned to die the death of a common criminal and in the place of the common criminal (Barabbas), so that it is plain to all that in this death the Innocent One is suffering for the guilty, the Holy One for the unholy. Any other kind of death, peaceful or violent, would have obscured this central truth of the cross. Death, therefore, and more specifically the death of Christ and death of this the overthrow of him who had persuaded death. “This of all others seemed the most kind, was necessary for mankind to abandon life for t unlikely way and means,” ”

From Philip Edgecumbe Hughes commentary, Eerdmans, page 113

So when reading this God holds all the power.  It is through the work of Christ, his work on the cross that defeated death.  The real number one enemy for mankind is death.  We do not need to read holy books to understand this.  All the graveyards which house our loved one’s remind us of this.  But we have an eternal hope.  Without the Lord Jesus Christ this would not have been possible.

Satan has been defeated (the adversary, see Job).  It was Jesus who overcame death…  He was the first to overcome death and according to Apollos in verse 15 we don’t need to face death anymore.  In verse 16 the writer emphasises that we are the inheritors of salvation not the angels.  Obviously, he is writing to an audience who were educated into the teachings of the OT. 

The name of Abraham would resonate with the promise (Genesis 22). However, let us remember that according to the Jewish scriptures the blessing to Abraham in the end was meant for everyone.  In Genesis Abraham is referred to as the ‘father of many nations’ and obviously this includes the gentile nations.  In this context however it is better to remember the Jewish context of the letter…  It is only in the context of Jesus as High Priest that gives sense to the text that we are reading. 

In verse 17 we come to the theological debates that surround ‘expiate’ and ‘propitiate’.  The high priests job was to mediate between God and the Jewish community at different levels.  It is in light of this that our two words need to be understood.  In Greek usage of the time propitiate meant to ‘appease the gods’ thus some commentators prefer expiate or ‘atone for’.  The most important point however is that both meanings take us towards ‘peace with God’. So as high priest Jesus made peace with God for the people of God in line with OT theologies.

However, in verse 18 we see the focus being on Jesus as a human being who was prone to suffering as we are yet without sin. James 1 verse 13 seems to on the surface to contradict this verse. However, I think there is a difference between ‘tempt’ and ‘test’.  The nuances in the Greek and the Hebrew are very important. One should read the ‘test’ of Abraham concerning his only son.  Perhaps one way forward is to say that God ‘tests’ but we ‘tempt’ ourselves by our dark motives.  The context is of the highest importance.  As I said this seems to be a contradiction only on the surface.  The grounds of motivation are different.

Summary

In chapters one and two the writer works through some themes which are found in the OT.  The conclusion the writer reached was that Jesus is the Messiah the king of Israel and greater than the angels.

The angels belonged firmly in the ‘creatures’ part of reality not on the divine side of the reality even though they were in God’s presence himself.

In summary then, Jesus is greater than the angels and only for a ‘brief period of time’ was he made ‘lower’.  ‘Son of God’ needs to be understood as a title which in its truest sense is explained in the life and teachings of Christ.

Jesus is Briefly Humbled on the line of the infinite finite. Hebrews chapter 2 verses 9-13.

May 15, 2021

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:9-13 NASB

Verse nine

When we think of eternity, it is a long time, and our understanding breaks down.  On this line where time is meaningless to the human mind because the human mind cannot grasp it; although mathematicians have a symbol of infinity and it is used in calculus, the real true infinity in which Jesus Christ is from makes these marks and thoughts of humanity on a piece of paper or technical device a grasping after thin air.  The human mind cannot and will never be able to grasp this true infinity from above because by nature we are from the earth and finite. Yet even though this is the case for a period of about 33 years, the second person of the trinity Jesus Christ, put on humanity and became a man.  As Apollos says.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels” …

For the true follower of Christ, In Jesus Christ we have the fullness of God and the fullness of man in a man a man from Nazareth who lived among us.  It is a mystery that can only be grasped by faith and that by submissive faith.  This is not a renunciation of reason, on the contrary this reason is built upon the facts and on the eyewitnesses that actually met Jesus Christ our Lord. Some would argue that Jesus is ‘a’ god.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1

And in Greek

 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1

In the Greek, God and Word are in the nominative.  Actually, the Word has the definite article.  One would have to do grammatical summersaults, reject the history of this sentence, change the word order and then to add an indefinite article to this that does not exist.  No, my friend, John and Apollos agree that the Word was God or God was the Word. 

So, we see that for a moment Jesus was lower than the angels.   The emphasis is on the ‘moment’.  He stayed there at that point for 33 years.  In terms of eternity 33 years as a moment is a very small amount of time.

We then move on in verse nine and the second part says:

“namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Here we have the Easter story and in all the meaningful creeds testify to the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This work Jesus did was at the scale of the whole of humanity.  Jesus’ grace is poured forth onto his Church.  We who believe in him are of that congregation.  His work is universal then in scope, but it is his elect that will reap the reward by grace.  If Jesus tastes death for everyone then why can’t everyone enter heaven?  God is holy, God is just, God is love.  Even in the natural order of the city streets when help is offered to the homeless, some refuse to take it.  The world is full of anomalies like this. The only way we can be saved is by God the Holy Spirit working on our spirit to make it a possibility and yet even in Ephesians it says that we were called and chosen before the foundation of the world.  What does that actually mean?  The truth is that for me election is a mystery, and I must bow down and worship a Holy God through the Son By the Holy Spirit.   I don’t even believe in free will because after the Fall (Adam and Eve disobeying God) we lost the ability to choose God because of our fallen nature.  Jesus really does understand what a universal death for all of humanity tastes like.  Even though this was the case, Jesus still obeyed the Father and went to the cross in place of you and me.

I am getting really excited with these verses. These verses are oozing the doctrine of election.  Election was only through the Sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

Let us look at verses 10 and 11.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

There is One God the Father and through the work of Jesus Christ and in Christ we are brought and can stand in the presence of God; holy and sanctified because of the work Jesus did.  My brothers and sisters; Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!  I’m translating brothers generically to include male and female.  Let us remember that women were also disciples of Jesus and I would go as far saying that they helped the Apostles and Jesus materially with food and clothing so they could get on with their mission of the Gospel.

We finish off this section with Apollos quoting Old Testament proof texts:

saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION, I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.”

The first quotation is from Psalm 22 verse 22.  This comes from a Messianic Psalm.  That Psalm begins in verse one with: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” Psalms 22:1 This saying is what came from the lips of Jesus while on the cross.   The second quote seems to be from Isaiah 8 18 with echoes of psalm 18 2 That God is the refuge of the believer, the one who trusts in God.  These verses were not chosen haphazardly and if anyone says such a thing, you ought not to believe them.

Reflection

God the Son is the second person of the economic Trinity.  God came down to earth and became a man.  The infinite clothed himself with limitedness. His death in scope is enough for the whole of the human race.  Man does not have free will because of the fall and is completely helpless.  The Holy Spirit works in the lives of people by faith and grace alone in Jesus Christ.  Our election is in Jesus Christ.  Election is a mystery and only God understands it but by faith we rely on God and his love to bring us home to heaven through the Son by the Holy Spirit.   The reason why we can never understand it (but are able to enjoy it through gratitude to a God of love); is because these decisions were done on the infinite line of the knowledge of God within the economy of God.  Even quantum computers or artificial intelligence cannot penetrate into this wisdom.

It may be that you are thinking about these spiritual things and you have not bowed the knee to a Holy God.  I would advise you to seek out your local mainline church and ask for guidance.  If you really do see yourself as a sinner someone who has turned their back on God.  You need to repent.  What that means is that you ask God to forgive you and accept that Jesus died personally for you and your sin.  And you need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  That this resurrection is also for you personally in Jesus Christ. That you make this your confession by faith.  Obviously, you might not know what a Christian is supposed to be like.   I would encourage you to join a church and be baptized and read your Bible, to begin with, the New Testament and then the Old Testament too. 

Jesus is the King whom God sent into the world, for a moment was made lower than angels but now glorified in Him we have eternal life.

May 8, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5 upto 8b. Part 1

When I have the text I will be rmoving the verse numbers because a robot turns my text into speech to that you can listen to.  It may take a couple of days before it comes up on spotify and other platforms.

First let us read the text; 

Earth Subject to Man

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?

OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?

 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;

YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,

AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

Jesus Briefly Humbled

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.   For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” From Hebrews 2:5-13 NASB

The writer places Psalm 8 in context of the Son. Although the subject of the Psalm (man) may seem to be in the context of the whole of the human race.  Using the methodology of his day for Biblical interpretation this was ok. 

I am going to give the writer a name from now on and I am going to call him Apollos.  There is no hard evidence, but some theologians think that he is the best fit.  I’m taking this line because it is easier to say ‘Apollos’ than to say ‘the writer to the Hebrews’.  

These verses that Apollos quotes are straight from Psalm 8.  Psalm is very important because it is a Messianic Psalm.  The kings of Israel in the old days were anointed with oil. (Mashiach). The Apostles inferred that Jesus was The King of Israel the anointed of God.  Apollos and Paul are in complete agreement here but first let us work through the text.  Apollos proved that all the angels were our servants.  That Jesus is greater than the angels and because of this the only legitimate claimant is the King of Israel; That everything was subjected to his Christ.  Having said that the Christ was to be made in subjection for a while under the angels but not for all time.  I wrote a while ago.

The phrase in the Greek ‘a little while’ can also in the Greek be ‘a little than’.  It has been understood both spatially and from a time perspective.  However, I have to say that a pure spatial understanding would make a mockery of Hebrews 1 where Jesus is made greater than the angels. The ‘time aspect is needed to understand that Christ has only been made less than the angels for a short period. This was in accordance with the scriptures that it was for the sake of the salvation of humanity that he was made a little lower.

So then, let us keep in mind when we read this section of Hebrews.  In verse 8b Apollos writes.

“For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. Hebrews 2:8b”

Obviously even today we don’t see everything subjected to Christ, but we do know that at the end of times this will actually take place. Calvin says the same type of thing (Calvin’s new testament commentaries, Eerdmans, Hebrews 1, and 2 Peter, pages 23 – 24).  As evidence for this understanding Calvin Turns to 1 Corinthians 15. 28 I came to the same conclusion earlier and Apollos and Paul are in total agreement although they have a different way of saying it.

“ For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28”

I touched on the above in “When time becomes unnecessary, we will be sharing in the Trinitarian Divine Life for eternity!”

“The Apostolic teaching is that Christ indeed did rise from the dead according to God’s plan and one day we will also rise from the dead.  The day will come when Jesus as the King will hand over everything to the Father including the greatest enemy ‘death’.  Then Christ will subject himself to the Father and the Church in Christ will be brought into the Trinitarian Divine Life and everything will be Perfect.” Taken from my Corinthian lessons in wordpress

This theology my friends has a name ‘recapitulation’ and here it is stated in a different style. 

I also think Irenaeus helps us understand these truths as he wrote;

“As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If our Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

And again Irenaeus writes;

He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for (observabit) thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.” For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “that the law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” This fact is exhibited in a still clearer light in the same Epistle, where he thus speaks: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/irenaeus_on_recapitulation_in_christ.htm

I was planning to go to the end of verse 13 but I covered a lot of ground up to verse 8b.

Reflection

Who is Jesus?

 Where did Jesus come from?

How does our salvation fit into this?

We have come to the conclusion that Jesus is God who became a human being.  For a little while he lived with us and he communed with us. He is the King of Israel.

For the last question I can say that our salvation is dependent on his being, person and actions from the economic eternal Trinity. 

Run, run away from evil and pay homage to the Son from whom by the Holy Spirit we receive grace in abundance… Hebrews 2. 1-5

May 2, 2021

The opening verses.

Listen Carefully!

“1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Hebrews 2:1-4

A lot of angels were also locked up in judgement.  Let us take scripture more seriously and see what God is trying to teach us.   Let us come in humility and find out God’s message to us in the 21st century.  In Jesus Christ, God became a man.  The whole of the Trinity is involved in this salvific movement and by faith we can be the recipients of this gift of grace. (salvation)

When looking at verses 1-4 his attention focuses on the situation of the readers. The majority of the time the writer is expounding the teachings about the Christ but at crucial moments he is challenging the readers and asks them where their allegiance lies.  The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels and that Jesus has come from God as his representative here on earth. The readers are invited to consider the evidence. They can come to only one conclusion, Jesus is the Christ.

Preliminary remarks on Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5-8.

But discussion of the Son does not stay on the side of the divine.  The eternal son takes on flesh and becomes a human being. As it says ‘for a little while’, the Son was made a little lower than the angels.  The eternal Son is not only made a little lower than the angels, but he is a man.

As a man he faces all the problems that men and women do. The eternal Son as a man suffers even the greatest evil itself ‘death’.  In his death there is real forgiveness from our sin and for the Jewish Christians there is real comfort (verse 18).

The writer to the Hebrews uses proof texts which his readers would have understood.   Psalm 8 verses 4-6, Psalm 22 verse22, Isaiah 8 verses 17-18 et al.

Some theologians have argued that the early Christians used the sacred texts to fit there circumstances in a haphazard way (I am thinking of Heikki Häkkinen at this point).

Obviously, the book of Hebrews shows this not to be the case.  The writer chooses and selects proof texts very carefully for the purpose of his argument. There is nothing haphazard about the choices of the above scripture quotations. These were well known Messianic texts that were used in the Jewish community in the first century AD.

I also must disagree with the theory than Pannenberg puts forward concerning history. Old facts are modified by newer facts as history progresses to the eschaton (thesis/antithesis/synthesis).  Christianity and Judaism are both in a lot of ways remembering religions not progressive religions. The Jews every year celebrate the Passover as a significant point in their history. Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday at Holy communion. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.  A fuller explanation is needed such as progressive revelation. God reveals a little more of his nature as time moves on.

Although the OT was interpreted in light of the Christ there is nothing arbitrary about the way the writer used the scriptures.  These were texts that pointed to the Christ and were believed to point to the Christ even before the time that the Christ was born (a road map to the king). Contrary to Häkkinen’s point of view.

On the other hand the writer is ‘reminding’ the readers of the importance of these scriptures. Contrary to what Pannenberg might emphasize.  These texts take on decisive meaning and there is nothing arbitrary about them.

In layman’s terms:

As I said Jesus is really the eternal son which I spoke to you centuries ago. Now that the Son has come you can see how all these scriptures fall into place.

In other words, the prophecies have bee fulfilled not modified.  In Hegelianism older facts can be modified by newer facts by contingent accident. Revelation is not accidental it has a purpose from the heart of God.

Reflection

As Christians we really do need to understand what Jesus taught us. We have various tools to do this.

  1. We do this by genuine prayer asking God to help us understand and to walk in his love. 
  2. Reading the scriptures and prayerfully searching the scriptures.

For us we are blessed to have such teachers of the Old Testament who have opened up its meaning to us in the book of Hebrews.  John Owen wrote a tome on the book of Hebrews; under the surface it is a very rich book. Perhaps you have become a believer recently or have been a believer for decades; This book is speaking to you.  The letter is explaining who Jesus is.  We do well to do the same.

O God of God! O Light of Light! Thou Prince of Peace, Thou King of kings,

April 24, 2021

The above title was taken from https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_of_god_o_light_of_light

So we came to the conclusion that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  What about the angels.  They are powerful beings and how do they compare to the Son? For early Jews and Christians angels had and still do have a role to play. 

7 And of the angels He says,

“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,

AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”

8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.

9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;

THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU

WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

10 And,

“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,

AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”

13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES

A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:7-14

Verses 7-13. The writer in these verses is pushing the point home that was found in verse 6.  The bottom line is that Jesus is God the angels are only servants. The writer does not compromise on this belief.

Verses 7 8. Make sure you don’t miss the contrast here;

verse 7 ‘and of the angel he says’. Then the quotation (according to Barclay in ancient Jewish tradition angels could become pure etheral creatures). More importantly angels are still only ‘servants’.

Verse 8 The quotation about the Son is very strong, ‘But of the son he says thy throne O God…’ According to this reading Jesus is called both ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ (Ellingworth commentary page 122).

Verses 9-12 The evidence of Jesus as ‘God’ grows as the writer heaps up the ‘and’ words. See the beginning of verse 10 (kai=and at the beginning of the sentence. The beginning of verse 12 is the same another ‘and’). If one reads especially Psalm 102 verses 125 and 126 one can see the divinity status of the king.

Verse 13 This forms the ‘inclusion of his argument in which sarcastically the writer says But to which of the angels… relating Psalm 110 to Jesus and not the angels…

Verse 14 The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is God and is then able in verse 14 to say that the angels are only ‘servants’.

 This summarises his findings.  The point has been made that Jesus is greater than the angels. You can see that these verses were not chosen by accident. All these verses point to the messiah.

Excursus: A question to the philosophers of kalam.

When looking at the truth of religion, the categories of the infinite and finite must always be taken seriously. The categories of the eternal and that of the contingent, religionists would argue that revelation takes place when the eternal and finite touch, which allows the ‘moment’ of touching to take a most profound meaning for our human lives, making it possible for us to have life in the presence of Allah/ Eloah/ Elohim/ Elgibor.  The eternal taking on physical form is an aspect that touches most religion.

In Hinduism, the divine resides in the murti. The Koran is also seen as coming from heaven and taking on physical form.

The charge has been made that Christians have committed shirk… (the unpardonable sin). The unpardonable sin is allowing an earthly category to touch the divine.  But is it not also the case that the Koran from heaven takes on physical form in this world and the same charge can be placed on Muslims?

The answer of course is that Muslims have not committed shirk and neither have the Christians!

I am not interested in winning a polemical argument because using logical categories it is so easy to put down someone else’s point of view. All I am asking is that we meet on the ground of piety and show respect for each other’s beliefs (even if we don’t agree).

This is not a negation of our beliefs because in the domain of public conversation we are talking about our future destiny which takes us either into God’s presence or away from God’s presence.  We are talking about fellowship with God which is the most serious issue in the universe.

In the context which the writer to the Hebrews was writing, it is possible that some of these Jewish Christians were involved in angel worship. It was very important that the writer pointed the readers to the Son, true God of true God, true light from true light.

For Christians as with Muslims, belief in the one true God is of primary importance.  The paths separate only at the point when we try to understand this Unity.  Thus, Aquinas and al Ghazali could believe and agree on most of the ninety nine names of God. The problem came at the place of understanding this Unity.  For Christians there are eternal relations within the unity.  For Islamic theology there is only unity.

There are heresies as well that would want to make Jesus just a creature.  That he was the first of the creatures therefore the most elevated.  This is false teaching.  As well as the first four verses say 8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.”

Arianism of the 4th century taught; “Arianism is also used to refer to other nontrinitarian theological systems of the 4th century, which regarded Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—as either a begotten creature of a similar or different substance to that of the Father, but not identical (as Homoiousian and Anomoeanism) or as neither uncreated nor created in the sense other beings are created (as in semi-Arianism). “

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism

This is an interesting article of Arian belief within the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From https://www.evangelical-times.org/22235/arianism-and-jehovahs-witnesses/

Reflection

The book of Hebrews has a lot to teach us in the 21st century.  Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbour, whoever our neighbour is.  Angels play a very important role in the 21st century and they are here to serve us.  We need to be careful not to elevate angels to the point of divinity because once that line has been reached, we switch to demonology.   The writer to the Hebrews had already seen the danger of what we call Arianism.  As Hebrews shows Jesus is greater than angels as he has always existed but, in his humanity, just for a short while he humbled himself and became lower than the angels to save us. As a pre-taster of what we will write later it says in the next chapter.

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NASB

And Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When Jesus had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3

April 18, 2021

18 04 2021

Chapter 1 On reflection when the writer speaks of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is seen as fully divine.  In the economy of the Trinitarian God, Jesus is divine.   We will continue with verse one because I want to dig deeper until we reach verse 6.

Although there are scholars who would choose to water down the divinity of Christ in this book we are not of that school.  They are mistaken. The writer starts from the side of the infinite ‘heaven’. Jesus is fully God and that is the only way that the introduction can be interpreted.  The writer does not speak of the angels being the ‘radiance of God’s glory’. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory.  The whole argument in chapters 1 and 2 proves that Jesus is greater than the angels. In the order of creation angels were placed in the presence of God… Yet Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus is no ordinary prophet. It was the Father’s good pleasure to create the universe through and for the Son (Heb1/2- Jn1/3) So then the mystery:

‘Jesus is fully God’.

The movement of thought in this epistle is in terms of who Jesus was starts from an infinite category.

Verse 3. Jesus is not ‘compared’ to the Majesty on High but is given the seat of Honour.  Jesus is referred to as sitting ‘on the right hand’. There is no language of comparison only symbolism of power and authority.  God’s goodness to the universe is channelled through the son not angels.

The next movement of thought is Jesus being moved into the infinite categories.

Verse4 sets the agenda for the rest of the chapter. Jesus has ‘inherited’ a more excellent name than the angels. The word inheritance conveys the idea of ‘rightful ownership’. The angels could not be spoken of in terms of ‘inheritance’. Angels could only be servants.

Verse 5. There are two quotations in this verse, and they are both Messianic (that is they relate to the king of Israel). Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7.14. Both quotations point towards the relationship of the father and the Son within the Godhead. 

Some scholars have suggested that these quotations were taken in some sort of haphazard way… This is not the case……………. 

Verse 6. Here is a quotation from verse from Psalm 97.7. I assume he is using the LXX that the angels are expected to worship Jesus! If the Writer was to use the Masoretic text, the meaning would be even sharper than angels!! That the ‘gods’ are expected to worship Jesus. The Hebrew word here is Elohim.  Although Elohim can be translated as angels, it may not always be the situation. You need to realize that some of these writings go back into almost pre-history in which El was used in the sense of the ‘titular head of the gods’. Clay tablets have been found which show this to be the case. Thus, I would argue for the reading of ‘gods’ rather than angels.

The writer is moving in high theology that Jesus is fully divine.  He will also move onto him as fully human.  I think of Hebrews in some ways as steppingstones.  He starts from the heavenly realms and verse 6 sets up Jesus Contrasted to angels and that Jesus in greater than angels.  I do not remember where, but I think FF Bruce mentioned that there was a real danger of some people worshiping angels.  We too need to be careful and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not worship gods.  The gods of today might look different but they are the same.  Maybe not stone, clay special stones and metals but football, technology, the ego…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB

April 10, 2021

A while ago I wrote an unpublished commentary on Hebrews.  I wrote this soon after leaving King’s College London in my spare time.  For me this is another Gospel form.  It is a beautiful picture of our Saviour Jesus Christ our King, High Priest, and sacrifice.  There is so much more.  For the Christian Jesus is greater than the prophets, higher than the angels, greater than Moses…

Chapter 1

The opening verses of Hebrews gives us the theme and agenda for the whole book. ‘That in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son’.  Throughout this book the speech of God is unfolded.  From this point of view the commentary sets out on an incredible journey of discovery to find out the meaning of this holy scripture.  We must begin and say that Hebrews is couched in the culture and language of Hebraic and Hellenic rhetoric.  It seems so far removed from the modern world yet for the follower of Christ it is a jewel of spiritual inspiration. We don’t even know who the writer was (although I personally think Apollos wrote it).

In verses 1-4 we do not find any full stop until the end of verse 4.  This is a significant point because it shows a single argument.  It is trying to explain to some Jewish Christians that they should stay faithful to Christ.  Serious assumptions are made in these four verses in which the readers are expected to agree with.  Whatever the case might be, the writer to the Hebrews knows his OT inside out and the Greek in these verses also reflect a training in some Hellenic school of thought (Alexandria).

The first assumption he makes in verse one is that God spoke to the Jewish nation through the prophets to the leaders.  The second verse works this out. Yet it goes a stage further and explains that in the ‘Son’ God has spoken his final and ultimate word.  This is backed up with the statement that all things exist because of and through the Son.

Obviously, this is no small claim because it is a statement that goes to the heart of a central motif, namely the motif of Kingship that is found in the Royal Psalms.

Verse 1.  At the end of this claim we find out the reason for the existence of all things is because of the Son.  The Son is a title of Royal kingship and the original readers of the OT would have understood it as such.  The relation of Jesus to God the Father must always be understood in terms of the OT and especially that of the Messianic Psalms such as Ps110/1, “YHWH says to Adonay sit at my right hand…” Or in the LXX no difference is made between Kurios and Kurios!

To the Jewish Christians who read this letter, they would have known the Greek version rather than the Hebrew version.  Both versions carry equal authority. In sum the source of the Trinitarian theology is found here in the OT.

Verse 3.  So then, royal Kingship is the contextual understanding for the identity of the Son.  It is only in this context that we start to comprehend verse three.  Here the writer is trying to explain the relation of the Father to the Son.  On reflection the main reason I think that the writer is struggling to explain the uniqueness of the Son in relation to the Father is because we have crossed the boundary of our natural and physical understanding to the realm of the meta-physical.

Yes, for believers Jesus is God incarnate.  In = in, carne= flesh, body.  This is a beautiful book and I’m told that the first few verses are some of the finest Greek from the ancient world.