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Kingdom Warnings in Hebrews

Falling_Fence_(John_Gollings_with_Samantha_Slicer_2001)

I think in some ways, Hebrews is the most unusual and “mysterious” book in the New Testament (along with Revelation), and it is one of my favorites. As I was reading it recently, three explicit warnings given in the first few chapters stood out to me, and as I thought about and looked into them further, I found some really cool stuff.  I was also reminded that while it might be more pleasant to focus only on the promises and the positives, if we believe those, we should equally believe the warnings that came from the same source.   (All scripture quotations from the WEB ® translation).

(Hebrews 2:1): “Therefore we ought to pay greater attention to the things that were heard, lest perhaps we drift away.”

(Hebrews 3:12-13): “Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God; but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called “today;” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

(Hebrews 4:1-2): “Let us fear therefore, lest perhaps anyone of you should seem to have come short of a promise of entering into his rest. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, even as they also did, but the word they heard didn’t profit them, because it wasn’t mixed with faith by those who heard.”

Condensing and summarizing these warnings helps clarify them:

  • (2:1) Our Call: Pay closer attention to God’s word; first and foremost as given through Christ himself, but also as given through His apostles and prophets.  What is Being Avoided: Drifting away from God’s heart and Kingdom, into religious deception or spiritual apathy.

  •  (3:12-13) Our call: Be aware that an evil heart of unbelief (spiritual blindness) can take root, exhort each-other.  What is being avoided: An evil heart of unbelief (a spiritually blind, deceived heart), falling away from the living God (walking in old religion instead of fresh revelation), being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (having a heart and mind which is callous and impenetrable to the truth, being covered by layers of convincing deception).

  • (4:1-2) Our call: To fear, to ensure faith (gift of true spiritual perception) is “mixed” with what we hear from God.  What is being avoided: Coming short of and failing to enter God’s promised rest.

I don’t have a lot more to say on this…it’s sobering. I think the church of Christ, by and large and almost from the outset, has failed to heed these warnings, and has suffered the consequences listed above, resulting in irrelevance, disconnect from God, and hindering the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. It would go a long way if believers would get over themselves and their selfish focus on “sin,” heaven, and hell, which are not what the gospel is really about.  Instead, let’s seek to have a Kingdom mentality like Jesus did (his first words in scripture are “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”), the apostles did (Paul preached the kingdom until the end)1, and the Father does. 

Isn’t it interesting that neither the admonitions or warnings in these verses have to do with behaviors or actions?  This is because behavior isn’t the issue.  Jesus’ life and death was for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for the will and heart of God. Nothing more or less. With that goal in mind, our path and calling are clarified. As Jesus said, we are to seek first the Kingdom of God (His will done on earth as it is in heaven) and His righteousness (the things He desires in the current season and moment).  Our good or bad behavior factors in to the equation as a very minor point, if at all.

Sin/bad behavior is an issue which has already been dealt with, and what God sees as sin in the new covenant is different from what natural man, who remains under the law, sees as sin. If we truly love God and desire to do His will, what we must be sure to avoid are things that will hinder the Kingdom. These are the things that Hebrews warns of and are spiritual, inward states like an “evil heart” that is impenetrable to new truth, religious deception and dogma, doctrine without revelation, false faith, flippancy towards God’s message through His prophets and apostles, self-confidence, etc. Bad behavior won’t hinder the Kingdom nearly like these things will (if at all).

I hope this served as an exhortation for you and I am thankful for others who exhort or otherwise fulfill their role in the body of Christ faithfully. Let’s think on these things brothers and sisters, they are extremely important if we care about God’s Kingdom. Amen.

1. Acts 28:31

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Moses to Christ = Shadow to Substance

“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 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 3:5,6

I’d like to expand on the meaning of this passage a bit.  Warning!  Rabbit trail immediately ahead, skip the portion in parenthesis if you wish.  (I realize that to some, it seems  pointless to examine the Greek meanings of Biblical words and phrases, but this isn’t always the case.  When I look at the Greek, I do so for one simple reason – I want to know the meaning that was being conveyed by the author!  There are many great English translations, but none are without any deficiency.  I prefer more literal translations, but I have also learned that a strict, literal interpretation from Greek to English might not make much sense unless you approach the text spiritually, which many translators didn’t.  In reference to the King James Version, I’ve heard it said that those who translated the text were “more interested in translation than in truth,” and priority number one for most translations is to make the text readable.  While this is understandable, it is also a problem if an awkward or strange literal meaning was conveying a spiritual truth.  This is just one example of why looking at the Greek can be useful). 

Notice that Moses was a faithful servant (meaning attendant) in God’s house.  It’s hard to overstate the importance of Moses’ role in regards to God’s plan for the Israelites of his day.  In Hebrews, Moses is basically being considered as the old covenant equivalent of Christ. Moses was THE go-between for God and all of Israel.  The Israelites actually said to Moses: “speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”2  Moses carried out this duty very well, and in Jesus’ day, Moses was still given the highest place of honor short of God Himself.

This is well and good, but Moses is long dead and most believers know (to an extent) that we aren’t under the law of Moses anymore.  So why would the author of Hebrews, who understood the new covenant very well, give such attention to Moses?  The reason is stated in the passage above: Moses’ ministry was for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later…”  This means God had a greater purpose behind Moses’ ministry.  All the laws, regulations and commands God gave to and through Moses were intended primarily to be a “testimony” – a physical, earthly representation – of this greater, ultimate spiritual purpose and reality which was to come thousands of years later in Christ.  In fact, all of the Old Testament stories, laws, and rules, (many of which seem strange and pointless), served this purpose in one way or another.  Amazing, isn’t it? 

Here’s the main contrast: Moses = attending servant in God’s house. He had no claim to rulership or authority over the house, he just was a faithful servant in the house. Jesus = son over God’s house (which consists of true believers!) Jesus had authority and rulership over God’s household which Moses never had.  Remember, Moses = servant, Jesus = son.  In a household, a servant, no matter how faithful and valuable they are, can never reach a status higher than a guest.  A son (or daughter) are and will always be a part of the household, an heir, an equal.  Jesus came to bring this transition; bringing carnal, law-aware servants into adoption as God-aware, spiritual sons.  He came to bring those who followed the shadow (the physical law of Moses) to those who possess the substance (spiritual reality).  It’s as stark a contrast as that between a reflection of an object and the object itself, or a drawing of a house and the house itself.  With the exact same thing in mind, John wrote: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”3  Paul wrote of this also, at length.4

Having laid this foundation, our passage states we are members of, participants in, and the very building materials of the house of God, “if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”  There always seems to be a pesky “if,” and we better not ignore it.  Having looked closely at the Greek, here’s what this means: “We are of God’s house if we seize and refuse to let go of the truth of the (radical) freedom of our sonship as well as the glorious rejoicing we have in the expectation of all that is given and promised, until these things fully mature within us and we take ownership of them.”  Amen!  I encourage you to re-read and meditate on these things, and look at the scriptures I referenced.  God bless you. 

  1. Hebrews 3:5,6
  2. Exodus 20:19
  3. John 1:17
  4. Primarily in the book of Galatians. Perhaps most clearly in 4:1-7.
 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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What is Faith?

Scripture declares that there is no  righteousness (right relationship) or justification (“legal” innocence) before God apart from faith, as shown in the scriptures below.  If this is the case, then we better understand what faith is.  In my last post, I wrote that faith is a “divine persuasion” or “spiritual sight.”  I think the concept deserves a fuller examination.  (Note: As I’ve written this post, I’ve realized it was arrogant of me to assume I could completely explain this divine concept in ~900 words.  Maybe there will be a part 2 sometime).

  • (Galatians 2:16): “…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of Law but through the faith of Christ Jesus…”

The Greek word for “faith” is pistis, which basically means “a persuasion.”  This thing we call faith is, in scripture, a spiritual substance, a gift that only comes from God Himself:

  • (1 Corinthians 12: 7,9):  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the spirit…to another faith by the same spirit…” 
  • (Galatians 5:22) “And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith…”
  • (Ephesians 2:8) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
  • (Romans 12:3) “…think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

When scripture says we are to have faith “in” Jesus Christ, as it does in several places, the literal translation is often “the faith of” Jesus Christ or God the Father.  This shows faith is not something that one owns and can use as they wish.  Faith “of” something indicates this faith originates with the object of faith and is a part of that person or thing – in this case, God.  Scripture confirms this.

In my opinion, two of the most enlightening Biblical scriptures that deal with what faith actually is are Hebrews 11:1 and Romans 10:17.

  • (Hebrews 11:1) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Here’s this verse in the “Amplified” version: (Hebrews 11:1) “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].
  • (Romans 10:17) “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Faith comes, Romans 10:17 says, when a person HEARS (not reads) the “Word of Christ,” or in other translations, the “Word of God.”  This “word” isn’t the Bible, it’s God’s spiritual voice, His divine expression.  When this expression is truly heard, faith is born.

In Hebrews 11:1, the word for “substance” of things hoped for is hupostasis.  “Hupo” means “under,” and “stasis” means “to stand.”  It refers to a foundation, that which “stands under” and supports something.  In Hebrews 11:1, faith is the foundation that supports and guarantees that which we hope for, as well as the conviction of the reality of things we can’t sense by our human faculties.  A more thorough look at this concept can be found at http://hopefaithprayer.com/faith/faith-is-hebrews-111-hupostasis/

Combining these two verses with what we know, one could say: “Faith is a seeing and conviction of things which can’t be perceived with human senses.  Faith is the underlying foundation and assurance of things hoped for.  It is given by God and comes from hearing God’s voice.  This means faith is essentially a spiritual dynamic, because the spirit of man is the part beneath the human senses and mind, and faith is a spiritual gift from God, who is Himself a spirit and can only be known in spirit (John 4:24) “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 17:17): “Sanctify them through the truth; your (Father) word is truth.”

This is partly why I’ve said faith is “spiritual sight.”  It’s a God-given gift, placed deep in one’s spirit, an assurance of things we hope for (which are real) and conviction of the reality of things that we don’t perceive with our human senses.  It is deep within us, beneath the soulish realm of our feelings and human senses and logic.  It resides within our spirit.  This is why we can believe and be assured of something that we can’t really understand or explain logically.  By faith, we “see” them spiritually.

This is how, as Paul said, we can “…walk by faith, not by sight.” To do this is to base one’s life and behavior by the spiritual perception and assurance God has given by His word to us, not by the “sight” of our natural human faculties such as our mind.  So we must hear God’s voice – that’s the key to just about everything in the life of a disciple, just as it was in Jesus’ life (John 5:9, 12:49-50).  Please remember, faith comes not by reading, but by HEARING.

  • (John 18:37) Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 
  • (John 10:27) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…”
  • (John 6:63 NKJV)  “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

One last scripture I want to look at is Romans 14:23, which declares “…whatever is not from faith is sin.”  If faith is a God-given gift of assurance, conviction, divine persuasion or spiritual sight of spiritual reality which we can’t perceive naturally, then to do something contrary to or apart from this God-given divine persuasion and perception of spiritual reality, is sin.  To sin is to “miss the mark.”  The “mark” we are aiming for is establishing God’s kingdom on earth – knowing and doing His will.  So even things that seem “good,” if not done from faith (spiritual perception and sight), are sin, because God is no part of them.

May God bless you.  I hope this will help you to walk by faith and follow in Jesus’ footsteps in knowing the Father and establishing His Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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