Archive for the ‘Hebrews course’ Category

The dangers of unbelief in the face of adversity: Hebrews Chapter 3 6-12

June 12, 2021

12 06 2021

The dangers of unbelief.

As we saw in Psalm’s unbelief is the opposite of faith.   God wants a people who will trust him.  Looking at this chapter holistically, it was bad enough to disobey God when Moses was in charge of the people of God.  How much worse it is to be disobedient to the Son of God!  To Apollos, Jesus is greater than Moses therefore the punishment of disobedience will be greater.   It is God who saved Israel from the Egyptians with mighty miracles which were unheard of.    The people of God in that generation were pushing all the wrong buttons.  Out of that generation only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land.  God takes pleasure in a people who trust and obey him.   This is a lesson we learned from the Psalm.

Apollos then spells it out to his readers.

“12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. “Hebrews 3:12-19 NASB

It is so easy for us to take the wider road of pleasure and putting self before God.  In this paraenetic material of exhortation there was a very real danger of some of the believers falling away.  Even before AD 70 both Jews and Christians were being persecuted and if we read this letter very carefully, we can see material pointing to this for example later on before the faith chapter:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36 NASB

These Jewish Christians were suffering for their faith.  There was a clear danger for them to lose hope.  Apollos was a great pastor!  He was able to draw from the wellsprings of Scripture to encourage them to follow the Lord whatever the outcome.  It is so easy for someone to call themselves a Christian when they live in the lap of luxury with no financial woes.  We need to be reminded today that everything can be swept away in an instant.  Some of these believers to whom Apollos is writing to suffered loss of houses goods and in some situations even life.  This was the reality.  As believers we have a choice, this moment; Do we serve the Lord Jesus, or do we turn our back on all the good things God has done for us?  Jesus Christ, God of God, light of light, becoming full human and a man broke into our human domain and for a season became a human being like all of us.  This was not enough!  We deserved to be judged and to be punished by eternal death for the sins we have committed.  Instead, it was God’s plan to send his son to a hill and be crucified in our place.   The wonder the mystery of this.  Now the door is open for us to enter heaven.

You as the reader of Hebrews like these early believers are called to make a choice. Today if you hear his voice.  As long as it is called today.  Apollos is not mincing words: Today is now.  Today is not yesterday and it is not in the future, it is now.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is no, then good carry on serving him.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is yes keep on worshipping him.  Have you passed the litmus test of faith?

Verse 14 says:  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. NASB

If you haven’t suffered my friend, you might in the future.  Live by faith and live by faith including all the responsibilities as a child of God.  He commands us to love and to live by faith.  If you are living by faith, then where is the fruit of that love?    It wasn’t cheap for God to become a human being and to die on a cross.  Do you have a cheap my friend or is there substance to it.  Many people have lost homes because of war and famine.  As a believer if you have been in a position to help another human being ; what did you do?

I’m not judging, I will be found lacking and it is only by grace that I stand!

You might be suffering and there may be a possibility to turn your back on god’s ways and go to crime.  I’m saying don’t do it.  God loves you my friend and in him, in Christ there is always a way.

Lets look at the text more carefully;

Verse 12-14 are an explanation of the theme found in verse 6, that the believers should stay faithful. It does imply suffering as a consequence of the sin they committed. The mood of verse 12 to 13 move from – to +.  Verse 12 says ‘take care’ the beginning of verse 13 says ‘but encourage…’ 

From a negative point of view verse 12 says that they should keep away from unbelief.  For example the readers may have entertained the idea that perhaps Jesus is not the Christ after all.

From a positive point of view verse 13 says that the readers should encourage each other day by day.  These questions for the readers being of Jewish background are of the highest importance. The answer to the question however is that Jesus is the Christ the true King of Israel. 

Verse 14 has the same feel to it as verse 6. By looking at the key words in both sentences we find the following.

Verse 6 confidence = verse 14 assurance.

“     6 firm       =  “    14 firm.

“     6 end        =  “    14 end.

Obviously if I was going to use the above words then there must have been something that was discouraging me.  In chapter 12/3 the writer does give us a clue to the problem.  Possibly within the Jewish community (and I am convinced there was) there was a Jewish voice that said Jesus was not the Christ but an imposter.  These Jewish Christians were worn down and they were ‘tired’, they were losing heart (12/3b). They were under some type of persecution (verse 4) possibly losing jobs, being rejected by the family and friends.  It does not seem to be the case that any of these believers were being murdered (12/4) for their faith.  More like they were under peer pressure to conform to the standard beliefs of the Jewish community.

chapter 3/15-19 a summary.

Having looked at the situation of these Jewish Christians, the writer quotes a part of the wilderness experiences of Israel (see chapter 3/7-8 from Psalm 95/7). He then explains that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of unbelief and this was worked out in disobedience. So, Israel did not listen to God. 

Reflection

How can I finish this section of scripture?  What have we learned?  The main lesson I think is that the way of faith is better than the way of unbelief.    Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He came into the world to save us from our sins.  If we turn our back on Jesus, we turn our back on God.  It is that simple.  So let us not shrink from faith ‘now’ but stay firm, lock ourselves away and pray and seek wisdom.  Whether we are suffering or nor not suffering Jesus is always close to us.  It is not a feeling thing, it is an objective reality.

Psalm 95; An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

June 2, 2021

An Old Testament Study on Psalm 95, a key text used for the book of Hebrews

02 06 2021

An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

This study is a background study on Psalm 95.  When we have completed the background study, then we will return to Apollos’ commentary at chapter 3. 7-11.  If we are to understand the book Hebrews here, then we need a deeper understanding of the quotations in Hebrews.   I know that Herman Bavinck touches on a key word ‘bahan = to test or to examine’. 

We need to be extra mindful of the proceeding verses in Hebrews (chapter 3. 7-11).  This takes us to Psalm 95.  Before Apollos quotes from the Psalm though, he tells his readers that it is the Holy Spirit who says.  For us it is the very words of God.  In that case before we even look at these sections let us look at Psalm 95 first and then come back to this section later.

Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5  The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His  pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at  Meribah,
As in the day of  Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 NASB

The commentator below breaks the Psalm into sections:

verses 1 and 2 shows worship in many forms

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Verses 3-5:

God’s greatness is worshiped

For the LORD is the great God,

And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;

The heights of the hills are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it;

And His hands formed the dry land.

Verses 6-7a

a call to worship in humility.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For He is our God,

And we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand.

Verses 7b – 9

The warning to those who reject Worship.

Today, if you will hear His voice:

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

In summary form then:

  1. We can worship God in various forms.
  2. We are called to look at the greatness of God, his Majesty and that he is the Creator and Judge.
  3. In contrast we are to humble ourselves and worship God.
  4. A dire warning to those who reject worshipping God.

In the first half of Psalm 95 there is true joy and happiness in the presence of God from within the congregation of worshippers of God.  This section is a section of faith and belief towards God.  The last section is turned on its head and sorrow and unhappiness will be with those who choose unbelief.

A breakdown of Psalm 95

verse 1 God is our rock.

verse 2 we come into his presence.

verse3 God is a great king above all the gods!

verse 4 -5 everything belongs to God the depths of the earths are in his hands.

verse 6 we are called to worship.

verse 7 He is our God, and we are his sheep.

Verse 8 warning on hardening our hearts.

Verse 9 Don’t test God through unbelief.

Verse 10 God loathed a generation because of their unbelief.

Verse 11 A judgement was announced on the unbelievers.

Special notes

As you can see the Psalm itself contrasts the walk of faith to the walk of unbelief. 

Verse 9 the testing is an examination type of testing.  The word usually denotes God who is doing the testing. 

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press) on page 100 says:

“In the exceptions (in the use of the Hebrew word Bahan), it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah.”

This is a very important finding.  As Bavinck explains to us that there are good senses and bad senses of words in Scripture pages 446 – 449 Reformed Ethics; edited by John Bolt

This is one of those situations where ‘testing, examining’ has negative connotations because it is from the place of unbelief.   The commentator in the TWOT (TWOT= Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) says that ‘bahan= testing, examining’ is used as an abnormal procedure.  The point is that these people knowingly turned their back on God even though he saved them from Pharoah, starvation and so on.   This is very serious situation.

Reflection

By nature, God is good and his love and compassion for his people know no limits.  This why believers by the Holy Spirit walk in faith.  Therefore, it is a perversion to think that we can examine God from the point of view of unbelief.  In the next study we will be going to look at the Book of Hebrews and how these verse from Psalms are interpreted by Apollos.

Jesus is greater than Moses. Hebrews chapter 3 verses 1 -6

May 29, 2021

I wrote a basic commentary a few years ago and my basic tools at the time were Philip Hughes commentary and Donald Guthries commentary from the Tyndale series.   I usually did this at the Weekends prayerfully.  Since then, I have been in charge of religious studies, Humanities and lower Maths.  I left the teaching world and did a basic carpentry degree at a college.  It feels good to offer wholesome biblical teaching to anyone who wants it.  Whatever you background, religious or non-religious I feel there is something for you.  What does the book of Hebrews mean to me?   At university King’s College London, I studied 1 Corinthians; 1 Peter; Galatians; Johns Gospel (unofficially).   I wanted to tread some new ground in the New Testament.  The Book of Hebrews was so different.  This book is a very early book, and it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  A history teacher at a school I taught at said that historians use it for that time period as a primary text.  Although the book of Hebrews entered the cannon of Scripture under the name of Paul, the evidence I feel points to Apollos.  This book is a fantastic book to read but we need to do the spadework to really understand it.    As I share my early writings, I am at the same time revising some of my earlier work.   I will keep referring to the writer as Apollos because for two reasons.  I think there is enough evidence to make Apollos a strong contender from internal evidence in the New Testament.  Paul certainly did not write it; an example of this is how the book of Hebrews quotes scriptures ‘never in the style of St Paul’.   I hope in the future there are new discoveries on papyri archaeology that might shed more light on this.

Jesus is greater than Moses.

We have seen that Jesus is seen as the Son of God.  The writer has proven through scripture that Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven and will come back again one day to take his Church (bride).  Moses a very important person along with Elijah one night came to visit Jesus and some of the Apostles saw this.  I will quote this story because I think it sheds light on how Chrsitians from the 1st and second centuries viewed Moses and Elijah

“The Transfiguration

17 Six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and [a]James, and his brother John, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three [b]tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell [c]face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” 8 And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” (From Bible gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2017:1-8&version=NASB  )

As you can see: Here Jesus is referred to as the Son of God.  Note Moses and Elijah were witnesses but Jesus was seen in his divine glory.  Some of the Apostles witnessed this event.  When we think about this chapter, certainly Apollos would have known about this story.  In fact, I feel that Apollos is going to explain the real significance of Jesus glory and in relation to Moses.  Something that at the time, the Apostles themselves, didn’t wholly grasp (understand) themselves.

Jesus Our High Priest

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:1-6

life and teachings of Christ, Chapter 3.

This chapter begins with a, therefore. This is important in light of everything that the writer has already said about Jesus in relation to the Father.  Jesus is referred to as ‘the Apostle’. The word literally means ‘sent forth’.  In other words, Jesus was sent directly from God.  God did not give Jesus a message ‘indirectly’ through an angel or other agency.  This point will become clearer as we work through the Moses material and Jesus’ position as greater than the angels.  So, then Jesus is not a high priest but he is The High Priest. Donald Guthrie made an important point here as well.  This is the only reference to Jesus as Apostle.   From that point of view Jesus was sent from the Father and then he appointed the twelve inferior weak apostles.  Although weak as ambassadors of Christ, the world would never be the same again.

Verse 1b ‘of our confession:  Obviously the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes who did not accept Jesus as the Christ would disagree with the Apollos’ point of view.  Yet Apollos is using the first-person plural pronoun ‘our’… He is writing as one having the same point of view as the audience.  Yet in a sense the writer is not writing outside of the fold of Judaism otherwise his interpretation of Moses in relation to Jesus would not make sense.

In verses 2-6 we see a qualitative difference between Christ and Moses. Moses was a servant over the house of God, but Jesus is the Son of God as found in Psalm 2. 7.  A servant does not own a house and in that sense, he is always a guest… They were both faithful to God in their own way etc.  

Digging into the background of what Messiah really is: Let us just stop right here and consider what sonship is.  If we start at chapter 1 and work our way through, we will see how great Jesus our saviour is. The Messianic Psalm 2 that has already been quoted chapter 1 verse 5 straight from Psalm 2.  

The Reign of the LORD’S Anointed.

“1 Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

5 Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

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

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the LORD with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,

For His wrath may soon be kindled.

How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalms 2 NASB

Sonship and Kingship are very powerful motifs from the Old Testament.  All Apollos is doing is showing to his readers what it means to be the Messiah.   Messiah, God’s anointed is above the mundane nations doing their things.  The Messiah is God’s chosen King. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, and the full force of the Trinity is with him. In his divinity he is the second person of the Trinity. 

Obviously for Apollos to write in this strong way and having to prove that Jesus is above Moses possibly means that some of the readers may have been close to idolatry (The worship of Moses, putting him on a pedestal figuratively speaking).  I am here trying to mirror read the text.

Verse 3

There are contrasts going on in verse 3: For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. NASB

In the Greek then in this sentence the ‘He’ referring to Jesus is in the nominative and Moses is in the accusative.   Jesus is given the glory and Moses is a special servant, but he is still only a servant.  As Christians we ought to respect Moses and his teachings as he was a prophet and, in that sense, pointed us to Christ.  This is obvious from the Transfiguration that we looked at earlier.

So, the writer up to verse 4 has said that Jesus is greater than Moses…  In this verse the writer says God is the builder of everything in the universe.

In verse 5 the writer makes the important point that Moses was looking forward to the promise.

If I was going to paraphrase verse 6 I would say that whilst Moses looked forward to the promise ‘Jesus is the promise’ that Moses was looking forward to.  What a blessing for us to see Moses at the transfiguration with our Lord. 

In light of verse 6b where a great promise was given to Moses, ‘we’ as the readers are also asked to keep faith to the end of time.  The writer having spoken about Moses in relation to Christ and shown from the scriptures that Moses spoke about the Christ…  He then turns to an event from the life of Moses and is about to challenge the readers faith so that they will stop doubting.

Reflection

Apollos has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  As Christians we did not have a problem with this but before AD 70 believers did not have computers that they could go to check the facts.  Let us not be too judgmental of these early believers.  As Christians let us show respect to Moses and all the early Holy Ones that God spoke through.  We should also be thankful to the Jewish community who preserved these Scriptures as they are our Scriptures too.  I speak in this way because every human being has been created in the image of God.  We are all special in God’s sight.  Let us also love our Palestinian friends.  I hope and pray that in the future peace will come to everyone in the middle east.  Guns will be made into farming implements and the golden rule will reign amongst all human beings of whatever nationality or religion.

Our Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ who cares for his flock. Hebrews 2. 14-18

May 21, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14-18.

I will not be using a digital voice this week as the blog is longer than normal.

Let us read.

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NASB

These verses are very interesting in that they discuss humanity in the grand scheme of God’s will.  Jesus became a man and shared in the same life as we are in.  Even as everyone will one day face death, Jesus also had to face and experience death.

Verse 14

This verse has two sections part a refers to us and Christ, and part b to the power of death. We will look at both parts in sequence.

Therefore since = Ἐπεὶ οὖν Hebrews 2:14  This takes us to the previous thought that comes straight from Isaiah 8 18. “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:13 NASB This is a very important and this chapter has a grain of Messianic kingship truth running straight through.  How terrible and great at the same time are these verses and Apollos understood this.   The first part of Isaiah 8 talks about the Northern Kingdom being taken captive and as we know this terrible event really did happen.  This judgement will also spill into Judah and only a remnant will be saved.  These events happened my friends.   Everything seems to be lost and if it wasn’t for the Lord there would be no hope. 

I want to look now at background information to Isaiah 8 verses 16 to 18”  16 Bind up the testimony, seal the [q]Law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will wait eagerly for Him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of armies, who dwells on Mount Zion.”  

The context is clear the children in verse 18 refer to the saved remnant.  The people Apollos was talking to were from their point of view the saved remnant.  Now we understand the background to verse 13 b we can return to verse 14.   The since and the children in verse 13 and 14 are those who are the remnant and being saved.  This is the context.  The children mentioned in verse 14 makes us children of the promise.  The children and the Lord go hand in hand, “behold I and the children whom God has given to me.” The I refers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we are his children, the church, the community of believers.  Jesus the Lord shared our humanity, he became a man, that is what flesh and blood means.  The lord Jesus went further than that and tasted the suffering of death.   We need to be careful to read the second part of verse 14 carefully.  God is always in control.  Satan is only a creature, a created being.   As Philip Edgecumbe Hughes says.  Satan having power of death can only be understood secondarily.  On page 113c of his Hebrews commentary he writes;

“ in considering these questions it should be recognized that the power of death is held by the devil only In a secondary and not in an ultimate sense. Death is indeed the dark reality of his tyranny. But God is still supreme in his sovereignty: unfailingly, it is for him and by him that all things exist, as we have already been reminded (v. 10)- Death Is not a sphere that has broken loose from God 3 command. On the contrary, Scripture, as Aquinas observes, clearly teaches that death, like all else, is under God’s control (cf. Gen. 2:17; Dt. 32:39; 1 KL 216; Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5; 1 Cor. 15:25f.; Rev. 1:18); and the clinching proof of this is the conquest of death and Satan by the incarnate Son. Besides, the devil is a creature—and, significantly within the present context, an angelic creature—finite and futile in his rebellion, and subject to judgment and destruction. There is no question or possibility of an insoluble dilemma involving a cosmic dualism of God and Satan, as though they were eternally opposed to each other as two equal and ultimate realities. The power of death wielded by the devil is not an absolute power, indeed, death is the sentence of God pronounced against man who sinfully has transferred his allegiance from his Creator to the creature (Gen. 3:1ff.; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:23) and who in doing so has turned His back on God’s realm of life in favour of Satan’s realm of death. It is in this sense that the devil is said to hold the power of death. But the power which he presently wields is also the power by which he is destroyed (1 In: 318] Rev. 20:10). Death is-the awful reality of divine judgment, not satanic Victory. Creation and destruction—and salvation from destruction—belong properly and absolutely to God alone. When we read that it was through death that the devil was overcome, we should carefully consider whose death it was that achieved this triumph and what kind of death it was that he died; otherwise, we shall never have a due appreciation of the logic and the necessity of that death by which we were redeemed. The spectacle of the cross is not that of any man enduring the pains of death, but of the incarnate Son of God in his pure innocence suffering a death which is not his due. It is the death, moreover, of one who, though guiltless, has been tried by and legal process condemned to die the death of a common criminal and in the place of the common criminal (Barabbas), so that it is plain to all that in this death the Innocent One is suffering for the guilty, the Holy One for the unholy. Any other kind of death, peaceful or violent, would have obscured this central truth of the cross. Death, therefore, and more specifically the death of Christ and death of this the overthrow of him who had persuaded death. “This of all others seemed the most kind, was necessary for mankind to abandon life for t unlikely way and means,” ”

From Philip Edgecumbe Hughes commentary, Eerdmans, page 113

So when reading this God holds all the power.  It is through the work of Christ, his work on the cross that defeated death.  The real number one enemy for mankind is death.  We do not need to read holy books to understand this.  All the graveyards which house our loved one’s remind us of this.  But we have an eternal hope.  Without the Lord Jesus Christ this would not have been possible.

Satan has been defeated (the adversary, see Job).  It was Jesus who overcame death…  He was the first to overcome death and according to Apollos in verse 15 we don’t need to face death anymore.  In verse 16 the writer emphasises that we are the inheritors of salvation not the angels.  Obviously, he is writing to an audience who were educated into the teachings of the OT. 

The name of Abraham would resonate with the promise (Genesis 22). However, let us remember that according to the Jewish scriptures the blessing to Abraham in the end was meant for everyone.  In Genesis Abraham is referred to as the ‘father of many nations’ and obviously this includes the gentile nations.  In this context however it is better to remember the Jewish context of the letter…  It is only in the context of Jesus as High Priest that gives sense to the text that we are reading. 

In verse 17 we come to the theological debates that surround ‘expiate’ and ‘propitiate’.  The high priests job was to mediate between God and the Jewish community at different levels.  It is in light of this that our two words need to be understood.  In Greek usage of the time propitiate meant to ‘appease the gods’ thus some commentators prefer expiate or ‘atone for’.  The most important point however is that both meanings take us towards ‘peace with God’. So as high priest Jesus made peace with God for the people of God in line with OT theologies.

However, in verse 18 we see the focus being on Jesus as a human being who was prone to suffering as we are yet without sin. James 1 verse 13 seems to on the surface to contradict this verse. However, I think there is a difference between ‘tempt’ and ‘test’.  The nuances in the Greek and the Hebrew are very important. One should read the ‘test’ of Abraham concerning his only son.  Perhaps one way forward is to say that God ‘tests’ but we ‘tempt’ ourselves by our dark motives.  The context is of the highest importance.  As I said this seems to be a contradiction only on the surface.  The grounds of motivation are different.

Summary

In chapters one and two the writer works through some themes which are found in the OT.  The conclusion the writer reached was that Jesus is the Messiah the king of Israel and greater than the angels.

The angels belonged firmly in the ‘creatures’ part of reality not on the divine side of the reality even though they were in God’s presence himself.

In summary then, Jesus is greater than the angels and only for a ‘brief period of time’ was he made ‘lower’.  ‘Son of God’ needs to be understood as a title which in its truest sense is explained in the life and teachings of Christ.

Jesus is Briefly Humbled on the line of the infinite finite. Hebrews chapter 2 verses 9-13.

May 15, 2021

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:9-13 NASB

Verse nine

When we think of eternity, it is a long time, and our understanding breaks down.  On this line where time is meaningless to the human mind because the human mind cannot grasp it; although mathematicians have a symbol of infinity and it is used in calculus, the real true infinity in which Jesus Christ is from makes these marks and thoughts of humanity on a piece of paper or technical device a grasping after thin air.  The human mind cannot and will never be able to grasp this true infinity from above because by nature we are from the earth and finite. Yet even though this is the case for a period of about 33 years, the second person of the trinity Jesus Christ, put on humanity and became a man.  As Apollos says.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels” …

For the true follower of Christ, In Jesus Christ we have the fullness of God and the fullness of man in a man a man from Nazareth who lived among us.  It is a mystery that can only be grasped by faith and that by submissive faith.  This is not a renunciation of reason, on the contrary this reason is built upon the facts and on the eyewitnesses that actually met Jesus Christ our Lord. Some would argue that Jesus is ‘a’ god.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1

And in Greek

 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1

In the Greek, God and Word are in the nominative.  Actually, the Word has the definite article.  One would have to do grammatical summersaults, reject the history of this sentence, change the word order and then to add an indefinite article to this that does not exist.  No, my friend, John and Apollos agree that the Word was God or God was the Word. 

So, we see that for a moment Jesus was lower than the angels.   The emphasis is on the ‘moment’.  He stayed there at that point for 33 years.  In terms of eternity 33 years as a moment is a very small amount of time.

We then move on in verse nine and the second part says:

“namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Here we have the Easter story and in all the meaningful creeds testify to the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This work Jesus did was at the scale of the whole of humanity.  Jesus’ grace is poured forth onto his Church.  We who believe in him are of that congregation.  His work is universal then in scope, but it is his elect that will reap the reward by grace.  If Jesus tastes death for everyone then why can’t everyone enter heaven?  God is holy, God is just, God is love.  Even in the natural order of the city streets when help is offered to the homeless, some refuse to take it.  The world is full of anomalies like this. The only way we can be saved is by God the Holy Spirit working on our spirit to make it a possibility and yet even in Ephesians it says that we were called and chosen before the foundation of the world.  What does that actually mean?  The truth is that for me election is a mystery, and I must bow down and worship a Holy God through the Son By the Holy Spirit.   I don’t even believe in free will because after the Fall (Adam and Eve disobeying God) we lost the ability to choose God because of our fallen nature.  Jesus really does understand what a universal death for all of humanity tastes like.  Even though this was the case, Jesus still obeyed the Father and went to the cross in place of you and me.

I am getting really excited with these verses. These verses are oozing the doctrine of election.  Election was only through the Sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

Let us look at verses 10 and 11.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

There is One God the Father and through the work of Jesus Christ and in Christ we are brought and can stand in the presence of God; holy and sanctified because of the work Jesus did.  My brothers and sisters; Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!  I’m translating brothers generically to include male and female.  Let us remember that women were also disciples of Jesus and I would go as far saying that they helped the Apostles and Jesus materially with food and clothing so they could get on with their mission of the Gospel.

We finish off this section with Apollos quoting Old Testament proof texts:

saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION, I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.”

The first quotation is from Psalm 22 verse 22.  This comes from a Messianic Psalm.  That Psalm begins in verse one with: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” Psalms 22:1 This saying is what came from the lips of Jesus while on the cross.   The second quote seems to be from Isaiah 8 18 with echoes of psalm 18 2 That God is the refuge of the believer, the one who trusts in God.  These verses were not chosen haphazardly and if anyone says such a thing, you ought not to believe them.

Reflection

God the Son is the second person of the economic Trinity.  God came down to earth and became a man.  The infinite clothed himself with limitedness. His death in scope is enough for the whole of the human race.  Man does not have free will because of the fall and is completely helpless.  The Holy Spirit works in the lives of people by faith and grace alone in Jesus Christ.  Our election is in Jesus Christ.  Election is a mystery and only God understands it but by faith we rely on God and his love to bring us home to heaven through the Son by the Holy Spirit.   The reason why we can never understand it (but are able to enjoy it through gratitude to a God of love); is because these decisions were done on the infinite line of the knowledge of God within the economy of God.  Even quantum computers or artificial intelligence cannot penetrate into this wisdom.

It may be that you are thinking about these spiritual things and you have not bowed the knee to a Holy God.  I would advise you to seek out your local mainline church and ask for guidance.  If you really do see yourself as a sinner someone who has turned their back on God.  You need to repent.  What that means is that you ask God to forgive you and accept that Jesus died personally for you and your sin.  And you need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  That this resurrection is also for you personally in Jesus Christ. That you make this your confession by faith.  Obviously, you might not know what a Christian is supposed to be like.   I would encourage you to join a church and be baptized and read your Bible, to begin with, the New Testament and then the Old Testament too. 

Jesus is the King whom God sent into the world, for a moment was made lower than angels but now glorified in Him we have eternal life.

May 8, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5 upto 8b. Part 1

When I have the text I will be rmoving the verse numbers because a robot turns my text into speech to that you can listen to.  It may take a couple of days before it comes up on spotify and other platforms.

First let us read the text; 

Earth Subject to Man

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?

OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?

 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;

YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,

AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

Jesus Briefly Humbled

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.   For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” From Hebrews 2:5-13 NASB

The writer places Psalm 8 in context of the Son. Although the subject of the Psalm (man) may seem to be in the context of the whole of the human race.  Using the methodology of his day for Biblical interpretation this was ok. 

I am going to give the writer a name from now on and I am going to call him Apollos.  There is no hard evidence, but some theologians think that he is the best fit.  I’m taking this line because it is easier to say ‘Apollos’ than to say ‘the writer to the Hebrews’.  

These verses that Apollos quotes are straight from Psalm 8.  Psalm is very important because it is a Messianic Psalm.  The kings of Israel in the old days were anointed with oil. (Mashiach). The Apostles inferred that Jesus was The King of Israel the anointed of God.  Apollos and Paul are in complete agreement here but first let us work through the text.  Apollos proved that all the angels were our servants.  That Jesus is greater than the angels and because of this the only legitimate claimant is the King of Israel; That everything was subjected to his Christ.  Having said that the Christ was to be made in subjection for a while under the angels but not for all time.  I wrote a while ago.

The phrase in the Greek ‘a little while’ can also in the Greek be ‘a little than’.  It has been understood both spatially and from a time perspective.  However, I have to say that a pure spatial understanding would make a mockery of Hebrews 1 where Jesus is made greater than the angels. The ‘time aspect is needed to understand that Christ has only been made less than the angels for a short period. This was in accordance with the scriptures that it was for the sake of the salvation of humanity that he was made a little lower.

So then, let us keep in mind when we read this section of Hebrews.  In verse 8b Apollos writes.

“For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. Hebrews 2:8b”

Obviously even today we don’t see everything subjected to Christ, but we do know that at the end of times this will actually take place. Calvin says the same type of thing (Calvin’s new testament commentaries, Eerdmans, Hebrews 1, and 2 Peter, pages 23 – 24).  As evidence for this understanding Calvin Turns to 1 Corinthians 15. 28 I came to the same conclusion earlier and Apollos and Paul are in total agreement although they have a different way of saying it.

“ For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28”

I touched on the above in “When time becomes unnecessary, we will be sharing in the Trinitarian Divine Life for eternity!”

“The Apostolic teaching is that Christ indeed did rise from the dead according to God’s plan and one day we will also rise from the dead.  The day will come when Jesus as the King will hand over everything to the Father including the greatest enemy ‘death’.  Then Christ will subject himself to the Father and the Church in Christ will be brought into the Trinitarian Divine Life and everything will be Perfect.” Taken from my Corinthian lessons in wordpress

This theology my friends has a name ‘recapitulation’ and here it is stated in a different style. 

I also think Irenaeus helps us understand these truths as he wrote;

“As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If our Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

And again Irenaeus writes;

He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for (observabit) thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.” For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “that the law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” This fact is exhibited in a still clearer light in the same Epistle, where he thus speaks: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/irenaeus_on_recapitulation_in_christ.htm

I was planning to go to the end of verse 13 but I covered a lot of ground up to verse 8b.

Reflection

Who is Jesus?

 Where did Jesus come from?

How does our salvation fit into this?

We have come to the conclusion that Jesus is God who became a human being.  For a little while he lived with us and he communed with us. He is the King of Israel.

For the last question I can say that our salvation is dependent on his being, person and actions from the economic eternal Trinity. 

Run, run away from evil and pay homage to the Son from whom by the Holy Spirit we receive grace in abundance… Hebrews 2. 1-5

May 2, 2021

The opening verses.

Listen Carefully!

“1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Hebrews 2:1-4

A lot of angels were also locked up in judgement.  Let us take scripture more seriously and see what God is trying to teach us.   Let us come in humility and find out God’s message to us in the 21st century.  In Jesus Christ, God became a man.  The whole of the Trinity is involved in this salvific movement and by faith we can be the recipients of this gift of grace. (salvation)

When looking at verses 1-4 his attention focuses on the situation of the readers. The majority of the time the writer is expounding the teachings about the Christ but at crucial moments he is challenging the readers and asks them where their allegiance lies.  The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels and that Jesus has come from God as his representative here on earth. The readers are invited to consider the evidence. They can come to only one conclusion, Jesus is the Christ.

Preliminary remarks on Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5-8.

But discussion of the Son does not stay on the side of the divine.  The eternal son takes on flesh and becomes a human being. As it says ‘for a little while’, the Son was made a little lower than the angels.  The eternal Son is not only made a little lower than the angels, but he is a man.

As a man he faces all the problems that men and women do. The eternal Son as a man suffers even the greatest evil itself ‘death’.  In his death there is real forgiveness from our sin and for the Jewish Christians there is real comfort (verse 18).

The writer to the Hebrews uses proof texts which his readers would have understood.   Psalm 8 verses 4-6, Psalm 22 verse22, Isaiah 8 verses 17-18 et al.

Some theologians have argued that the early Christians used the sacred texts to fit there circumstances in a haphazard way (I am thinking of Heikki Häkkinen at this point).

Obviously, the book of Hebrews shows this not to be the case.  The writer chooses and selects proof texts very carefully for the purpose of his argument. There is nothing haphazard about the choices of the above scripture quotations. These were well known Messianic texts that were used in the Jewish community in the first century AD.

I also must disagree with the theory than Pannenberg puts forward concerning history. Old facts are modified by newer facts as history progresses to the eschaton (thesis/antithesis/synthesis).  Christianity and Judaism are both in a lot of ways remembering religions not progressive religions. The Jews every year celebrate the Passover as a significant point in their history. Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday at Holy communion. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.  A fuller explanation is needed such as progressive revelation. God reveals a little more of his nature as time moves on.

Although the OT was interpreted in light of the Christ there is nothing arbitrary about the way the writer used the scriptures.  These were texts that pointed to the Christ and were believed to point to the Christ even before the time that the Christ was born (a road map to the king). Contrary to Häkkinen’s point of view.

On the other hand the writer is ‘reminding’ the readers of the importance of these scriptures. Contrary to what Pannenberg might emphasize.  These texts take on decisive meaning and there is nothing arbitrary about them.

In layman’s terms:

As I said Jesus is really the eternal son which I spoke to you centuries ago. Now that the Son has come you can see how all these scriptures fall into place.

In other words, the prophecies have bee fulfilled not modified.  In Hegelianism older facts can be modified by newer facts by contingent accident. Revelation is not accidental it has a purpose from the heart of God.

Reflection

As Christians we really do need to understand what Jesus taught us. We have various tools to do this.

  1. We do this by genuine prayer asking God to help us understand and to walk in his love. 
  2. Reading the scriptures and prayerfully searching the scriptures.

For us we are blessed to have such teachers of the Old Testament who have opened up its meaning to us in the book of Hebrews.  John Owen wrote a tome on the book of Hebrews; under the surface it is a very rich book. Perhaps you have become a believer recently or have been a believer for decades; This book is speaking to you.  The letter is explaining who Jesus is.  We do well to do the same.

O God of God! O Light of Light! Thou Prince of Peace, Thou King of kings,

April 24, 2021

The above title was taken from https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_of_god_o_light_of_light

So we came to the conclusion that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  What about the angels.  They are powerful beings and how do they compare to the Son? For early Jews and Christians angels had and still do have a role to play. 

7 And of the angels He says,

“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,

AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”

8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.

9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;

THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU

WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

10 And,

“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,

AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”

13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES

A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:7-14

Verses 7-13. The writer in these verses is pushing the point home that was found in verse 6.  The bottom line is that Jesus is God the angels are only servants. The writer does not compromise on this belief.

Verses 7 8. Make sure you don’t miss the contrast here;

verse 7 ‘and of the angel he says’. Then the quotation (according to Barclay in ancient Jewish tradition angels could become pure etheral creatures). More importantly angels are still only ‘servants’.

Verse 8 The quotation about the Son is very strong, ‘But of the son he says thy throne O God…’ According to this reading Jesus is called both ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ (Ellingworth commentary page 122).

Verses 9-12 The evidence of Jesus as ‘God’ grows as the writer heaps up the ‘and’ words. See the beginning of verse 10 (kai=and at the beginning of the sentence. The beginning of verse 12 is the same another ‘and’). If one reads especially Psalm 102 verses 125 and 126 one can see the divinity status of the king.

Verse 13 This forms the ‘inclusion of his argument in which sarcastically the writer says But to which of the angels… relating Psalm 110 to Jesus and not the angels…

Verse 14 The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is God and is then able in verse 14 to say that the angels are only ‘servants’.

 This summarises his findings.  The point has been made that Jesus is greater than the angels. You can see that these verses were not chosen by accident. All these verses point to the messiah.

Excursus: A question to the philosophers of kalam.

When looking at the truth of religion, the categories of the infinite and finite must always be taken seriously. The categories of the eternal and that of the contingent, religionists would argue that revelation takes place when the eternal and finite touch, which allows the ‘moment’ of touching to take a most profound meaning for our human lives, making it possible for us to have life in the presence of Allah/ Eloah/ Elohim/ Elgibor.  The eternal taking on physical form is an aspect that touches most religion.

In Hinduism, the divine resides in the murti. The Koran is also seen as coming from heaven and taking on physical form.

The charge has been made that Christians have committed shirk… (the unpardonable sin). The unpardonable sin is allowing an earthly category to touch the divine.  But is it not also the case that the Koran from heaven takes on physical form in this world and the same charge can be placed on Muslims?

The answer of course is that Muslims have not committed shirk and neither have the Christians!

I am not interested in winning a polemical argument because using logical categories it is so easy to put down someone else’s point of view. All I am asking is that we meet on the ground of piety and show respect for each other’s beliefs (even if we don’t agree).

This is not a negation of our beliefs because in the domain of public conversation we are talking about our future destiny which takes us either into God’s presence or away from God’s presence.  We are talking about fellowship with God which is the most serious issue in the universe.

In the context which the writer to the Hebrews was writing, it is possible that some of these Jewish Christians were involved in angel worship. It was very important that the writer pointed the readers to the Son, true God of true God, true light from true light.

For Christians as with Muslims, belief in the one true God is of primary importance.  The paths separate only at the point when we try to understand this Unity.  Thus, Aquinas and al Ghazali could believe and agree on most of the ninety nine names of God. The problem came at the place of understanding this Unity.  For Christians there are eternal relations within the unity.  For Islamic theology there is only unity.

There are heresies as well that would want to make Jesus just a creature.  That he was the first of the creatures therefore the most elevated.  This is false teaching.  As well as the first four verses say 8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.”

Arianism of the 4th century taught; “Arianism is also used to refer to other nontrinitarian theological systems of the 4th century, which regarded Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—as either a begotten creature of a similar or different substance to that of the Father, but not identical (as Homoiousian and Anomoeanism) or as neither uncreated nor created in the sense other beings are created (as in semi-Arianism). “

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism

This is an interesting article of Arian belief within the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From https://www.evangelical-times.org/22235/arianism-and-jehovahs-witnesses/

Reflection

The book of Hebrews has a lot to teach us in the 21st century.  Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbour, whoever our neighbour is.  Angels play a very important role in the 21st century and they are here to serve us.  We need to be careful not to elevate angels to the point of divinity because once that line has been reached, we switch to demonology.   The writer to the Hebrews had already seen the danger of what we call Arianism.  As Hebrews shows Jesus is greater than angels as he has always existed but, in his humanity, just for a short while he humbled himself and became lower than the angels to save us. As a pre-taster of what we will write later it says in the next chapter.

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NASB

And Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When Jesus had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3

April 18, 2021

18 04 2021

Chapter 1 On reflection when the writer speaks of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is seen as fully divine.  In the economy of the Trinitarian God, Jesus is divine.   We will continue with verse one because I want to dig deeper until we reach verse 6.

Although there are scholars who would choose to water down the divinity of Christ in this book we are not of that school.  They are mistaken. The writer starts from the side of the infinite ‘heaven’. Jesus is fully God and that is the only way that the introduction can be interpreted.  The writer does not speak of the angels being the ‘radiance of God’s glory’. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory.  The whole argument in chapters 1 and 2 proves that Jesus is greater than the angels. In the order of creation angels were placed in the presence of God… Yet Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus is no ordinary prophet. It was the Father’s good pleasure to create the universe through and for the Son (Heb1/2- Jn1/3) So then the mystery:

‘Jesus is fully God’.

The movement of thought in this epistle is in terms of who Jesus was starts from an infinite category.

Verse 3. Jesus is not ‘compared’ to the Majesty on High but is given the seat of Honour.  Jesus is referred to as sitting ‘on the right hand’. There is no language of comparison only symbolism of power and authority.  God’s goodness to the universe is channelled through the son not angels.

The next movement of thought is Jesus being moved into the infinite categories.

Verse4 sets the agenda for the rest of the chapter. Jesus has ‘inherited’ a more excellent name than the angels. The word inheritance conveys the idea of ‘rightful ownership’. The angels could not be spoken of in terms of ‘inheritance’. Angels could only be servants.

Verse 5. There are two quotations in this verse, and they are both Messianic (that is they relate to the king of Israel). Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7.14. Both quotations point towards the relationship of the father and the Son within the Godhead. 

Some scholars have suggested that these quotations were taken in some sort of haphazard way… This is not the case……………. 

Verse 6. Here is a quotation from verse from Psalm 97.7. I assume he is using the LXX that the angels are expected to worship Jesus! If the Writer was to use the Masoretic text, the meaning would be even sharper than angels!! That the ‘gods’ are expected to worship Jesus. The Hebrew word here is Elohim.  Although Elohim can be translated as angels, it may not always be the situation. You need to realize that some of these writings go back into almost pre-history in which El was used in the sense of the ‘titular head of the gods’. Clay tablets have been found which show this to be the case. Thus, I would argue for the reading of ‘gods’ rather than angels.

The writer is moving in high theology that Jesus is fully divine.  He will also move onto him as fully human.  I think of Hebrews in some ways as steppingstones.  He starts from the heavenly realms and verse 6 sets up Jesus Contrasted to angels and that Jesus in greater than angels.  I do not remember where, but I think FF Bruce mentioned that there was a real danger of some people worshiping angels.  We too need to be careful and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not worship gods.  The gods of today might look different but they are the same.  Maybe not stone, clay special stones and metals but football, technology, the ego…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB

April 10, 2021

A while ago I wrote an unpublished commentary on Hebrews.  I wrote this soon after leaving King’s College London in my spare time.  For me this is another Gospel form.  It is a beautiful picture of our Saviour Jesus Christ our King, High Priest, and sacrifice.  There is so much more.  For the Christian Jesus is greater than the prophets, higher than the angels, greater than Moses…

Chapter 1

The opening verses of Hebrews gives us the theme and agenda for the whole book. ‘That in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son’.  Throughout this book the speech of God is unfolded.  From this point of view the commentary sets out on an incredible journey of discovery to find out the meaning of this holy scripture.  We must begin and say that Hebrews is couched in the culture and language of Hebraic and Hellenic rhetoric.  It seems so far removed from the modern world yet for the follower of Christ it is a jewel of spiritual inspiration. We don’t even know who the writer was (although I personally think Apollos wrote it).

In verses 1-4 we do not find any full stop until the end of verse 4.  This is a significant point because it shows a single argument.  It is trying to explain to some Jewish Christians that they should stay faithful to Christ.  Serious assumptions are made in these four verses in which the readers are expected to agree with.  Whatever the case might be, the writer to the Hebrews knows his OT inside out and the Greek in these verses also reflect a training in some Hellenic school of thought (Alexandria).

The first assumption he makes in verse one is that God spoke to the Jewish nation through the prophets to the leaders.  The second verse works this out. Yet it goes a stage further and explains that in the ‘Son’ God has spoken his final and ultimate word.  This is backed up with the statement that all things exist because of and through the Son.

Obviously, this is no small claim because it is a statement that goes to the heart of a central motif, namely the motif of Kingship that is found in the Royal Psalms.

Verse 1.  At the end of this claim we find out the reason for the existence of all things is because of the Son.  The Son is a title of Royal kingship and the original readers of the OT would have understood it as such.  The relation of Jesus to God the Father must always be understood in terms of the OT and especially that of the Messianic Psalms such as Ps110/1, “YHWH says to Adonay sit at my right hand…” Or in the LXX no difference is made between Kurios and Kurios!

To the Jewish Christians who read this letter, they would have known the Greek version rather than the Hebrew version.  Both versions carry equal authority. In sum the source of the Trinitarian theology is found here in the OT.

Verse 3.  So then, royal Kingship is the contextual understanding for the identity of the Son.  It is only in this context that we start to comprehend verse three.  Here the writer is trying to explain the relation of the Father to the Son.  On reflection the main reason I think that the writer is struggling to explain the uniqueness of the Son in relation to the Father is because we have crossed the boundary of our natural and physical understanding to the realm of the meta-physical.

Yes, for believers Jesus is God incarnate.  In = in, carne= flesh, body.  This is a beautiful book and I’m told that the first few verses are some of the finest Greek from the ancient world.