Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews Lesson 55

The Eternal Messiah

What does this passage tell us about the nature of the Messiah?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

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

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

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:8-16, NASB 95)

Is there another person who has ever existed on earth to whom you could say is the same "yesterday and today and forever?" The Messiah is eternal. He is not part of the creation. His essential nature and character have no need of change, but are the goals of our lives. The doctrine of the Trinity is never explicitly discussed in the Scriptures. Instead it emerges through the accumulation of small statements like this, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Here are a few other such declaratives:

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2) Note the reference to Messiah's eternal pre-existence in this well known prophecy of His birth place on earth.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12) These are well known words from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Notice that He makes Himself the reference point. A teacher such as myself would have to say, "Blessed are you when ... Because of God." Jesus says, "...because of Me." Now note the connection between our being insulted and the insults and persecution hurled at the prophets. Jesus claims to be the reference point for both.

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." (John 8:58) This is a personal favorite of mine. Jesus makes reference to a past event and claims that He is now present in that event. This gives us great insight into the nature of eternity and the creation. It clearly shows that God transcends His creation in time and space. He is creating at, what is for us, all points of time.

More on this passage tomorrow.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

Monday, September 19, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews Lesson 54

The Writer begins to close his letter with several pithy proverbial type statements:

Let love of the brethren continue.

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

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

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

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," so that we confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?"

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:1-7, NASB 95)

Although these are not main arguments in his letter, one must pause and ask, "Why these proverbial nuggets?" Look at this list and ask yourself, "How many issues in the church and society would not be helped if God's people abided by these things?"

  • Love among believers would promote harmony in the church and reduce or eliminate splits. It can come about when each of us takes personal responsibility to be at peace with all others, forgiving offenses and being eager to lend a helping hand.
  • Hospitality to "strangers" coming through our doors would advance the gospel. What groups of people in the community around you do you or your church now push away? What people are not welcome? What outward differences do these people have that creates fear? Is there another church in the area that would make them feel welcome? Remember that Jesus had a way to attract sinners to Him without compromising message or practice. How can we do better?
  • Remember the prisoners. This is probably a reference to believers in prison because of their faith. As such, it was dangerous to visit. As I read this, I wonder how much more I should be doing to be aware of the persecuted church and play a part in its encouragement and support.
  • Marriage. A strong committed marriage is the essential brick in society. From such units come strong well-adjusted, capable children. It also provides intimacy and companionship to the husband and the wife. The church must model this. Our moral voice to the community on these issues will be in direct proportion to the degree that we live these principles out.
  • Love of money and materialism are easy traps to fall into. It can creep upon you and before you know it, you are no longer free. The solution is to develop a contented and thankful heart and to realize that it is God who is our power and refuge in troubled times--not our possessions and financial resources.
  • I hope that you have had other Christians who modeled faith and the Christian life to you. I cherish those who I know that are way past me in their discipleship. They spur me on.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.