Archive for the ‘Hebrews course’ Category

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.