Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Hebrews and the Gospel

This marks the third division of a series that introduces the Book of Hebrews. To start at the beginning, click here.

Closing Meditations

Today marks the final post in this series on the Book of Hebrews. I have not completely kept track of the time that I have spent on this one topic, but I believe that it approaches one month. Those of you who have followed it from the beginning understand that I have only scratch the surface. Today I will close with some comments about the father's discipline, and some personal meditations from this book.

The Father's Discipline

By faith we become the adopted children of God with Jesus as our brother. My wife and I have seemingly arranged to have a career in raising children. I have two sons, 27 and 25; two daughters, 15 and 13; and a final son who is 7. Before the last leaves home, I may well be collecting social security. They will always be my children. They make me glad and they make me mad, but they are always my children. When they live at home and they act unwisely or in disobedience, I correct them. I know what kind of people I think is good for them to be and I press them towards that.

Our heavenly Father does the job so much better. We hold on to things we should let go of. We get entangled in sin. We avoid the throne of grace. We harden our hearts against God and His purposes for our lives. We rebel and disobey. We are just like kids. If we belong to God, we can expect Him to intervene:

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? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 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? 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. 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. (Hebrews 12:7-11, NASB

By His faithful corrections to our lives, we move to a state where we share His holiness and experience the peaceful fruit of righteousness. We experience it in our families, at work, and in our communities. It is something that we should expect and rejoice in. It shows that we are His sons and daughters.

Solid Food

There is a similar metaphor in Hebrews that concerns maturity. It contrasts a believer who needs milk, like a young baby, with a believer able to eat solid food. Here is what it says:

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

The writer of Hebrews was concerned by the low level of maturity of his audience. He had really expected better things from them. It seemed that may have even regressed. He wrote, "everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness." The believer who clings to faith alone for salvation and does not move on to pursuing a righteous life remains a baby. The believer who seeks the ways of God to live them is moving towards maturity. 

I love this phrase most of all, "solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." This is a mouthful and needs to be chewed carefully. We hear the word of righteousness and then we apply it as it seems good. We examine the results of our decisions and actions. Was the outcome what we expected? Why or why not? How can we better understand and apply the word? We try again and examine again. Through practice, we begin to have an inward sense of the will of God in more and more circumstances. Our senses become attuned to what is right and what is good. It helps us chart a course between hard legalism and fluffy situational ethics.

Christianity with an Attitude

I still remember when I read the following verse and realized how far I was from its being a personal reality:

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. (Hebrews 10:34)

Compared with the above, martyrdom is relatively easy. They terrify you, they kill you, and you are with the Lord for eternity. This verse talks about someone seizing your house and leaving you and your family on the street. You have to live the rest of that day, and the next, and the next. There is no hope at the end of a short ordeal. You have to persevere and endure. There are many attitudes that one might have in such a situation: 

  • Most people would experience anger, rage, and feelings of rejection. This would be the most natural reaction. Everyone would give you the space you need to feel this way and understand it.
  • Many Christians would accept the situation with some level of trust. This is a good thing and demonstrates faith. Spiritually speaking, this is a good passing grade.
  • Some Christians might even give thanks for the situation. As 1st Thessalonians 5:18 says, "in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." I can imagine myself among this group. I would probably be very intellectual about this. God is great and He is in control, so I should say thanks.
  • The people that Hebrews addressed accepted the seizure of their property with JOY!! Think singing songs from the heart. Think praising God for being accounted worthy to suffer for the Name of Jesus the Messiah. Remember Peter and John after their flogging, and Paul and Silas in prison singing.

When I first read about such a response, I marveled and confessed my weak faith. I have made it a prayer for the last 5 years for this verse to become a reality in my life. It means that I need to comprehend the better and lasting possessions that I have in Messiah.

Final Words

So where has Hebrews brought us?

  1. Hebrews brings the Old and the New Testament together. It is the bridge between the two. 
  2. It gives us insight into the nature of what Jesus did for us and how.
  3. It shows the astounding glory of the New Covenant. It is the greater light.
  4. It expands our understanding of faith.

The New Testament would not be the same without this book. Make it part of you.

Wednesday: Hebrew Poetry

<>< Test Everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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