In our last post, we began to look at Hebrews 2:1-4, though we focused on v. 1. We said that Christianity is not what man or society says it is, it’s what God says it is. It’s not about politics, though our Christianity should inform our politics. God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat. He is not responsible to them; they are responsible to Him, though few seem to know that. Nor is it what some smooth-talking preacher on TV says it is. It has nothing to do with health or wealth or wonderful relationships; these may or may not be our lot, but they’re not the focus. And it most certainly is not about the preacher! Christianity is about sin and redemption, again not as defined by man, but by God.
Since Christianity is supposed to be motivated and guided by the Word of God and not the latest opinion polls or social views, we said that there were three things we are warned to do with regard to that Word: heed it, hear it and hold onto it. We need to heed it, that is, do what it says. We need to hear it, that is, to let it take firm root in our hearts and lives. We need to hold onto it, not drift away from it or let it “leak” out of our hearts and minds as we focus on making a living or a difference or whatever.
In the last post, we said there were two things in this portion of Scripture. We looked at the first one last time. We want to look at the second one today.
2. A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:3-4.
a. The Son, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, v. 3.
“…began to be spoken by the Lord.” Some people take us back to Moses and the Old Testament and tell us that the church is simply the continuation, in a spiritual sense, of the nation of Israel. And so they try to fit the New Testament believer into an Old Testament mold.
God indeed spoke to and through Moses and to Israel, but the Lord Jesus spoke a further word. Moses was to and did lead the nation of Israel, but, while Himself speaking to Israel, the Lord had a wider audience in mind. In John 10:16, He said, “…other sheep I have which are not of this fold [that is, of Israel], them also I must bring….”
The folks mentioned in the first paragraph tell us that God is done with the nation of Israel, and that “the church” has taken over her blessings and promises. Of course, the curses and judgments are still Israel’s, though I don’t know that I’ve ever read or heard a Reformed teacher actually say that. But it stands to reason, doesn’t it? If we inherit her blessings, why not her curses? After all, we took her place. Or so we’re told.
Then there are some who tell us that the church is “Plan B.” That when Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, God, in effect, said, “Oops,” and put another plan into place.
I think both viewpoints are wrong.
The church isn’t the replacement for a failed Israel. The church isn’t some alternative to Israel because she rejected her Messiah. The church is not some Plan B, but, if you will, Part B in the great work of the redemption of sinful men and women. Though intimated in the Old Testament, the church was a “mystery” to that time. In other words, she wasn’t revealed to or in the Old Testament. Hers is a New Testament teaching.
As an example of this “intimation,” see Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17. In Matthew, our Lord asked a bunch of unbelieving priests and scribes, “Have you never read in the Scriptures [that is, the Old Testament], ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” The “Scripture” He quoted is from Psalm 118:22, 23. Mark and Luke also record this conversation. It isn’t until the writing of Paul, in Ephesians 2:20, that we learn that this “chief cornerstone” is the Lord Jesus and that He is the chief cornerstone of the church, from which every other stone in the building takes its place. In that verse, and writing to the Ephesian believers, he said that they had been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [not Moses and the prophets – that is, not the OT], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
The Psalmist foretold the rejection of the Messiah. So did other Scriptures, like Isaiah 53:5-11. The rejection did not catch God by surprise. Indeed, it was because of that rejection that the way has been laid for the ultimate restoration of Israel to her Messiah. Israel has been set aside, yes, but only for the time being, Micah 5:3. Her rejection is neither final nor permanent.
“At the first,” Jesus began to speak. Luke carries this thought forward in Acts 1:1, where he refers to all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. His ministry was only the beginning….
b. and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, that is, the original Apostles and other disciples, who had seen and experienced the ministry and teaching of the Lord. Our Lord intended that the work should go forward. That is why He gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. That is why He called Saul on the Damascus Road. That is why we have the New Testament. And from that time to this, believers have carried on the work, often through rivers of their own blood. What’s happening in the world today with the persecution of Christians is nothing new.
But the early believers weren’t out there on their own….
c. God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.
Our Lord Himself promised this before He left the disciples. In Acts 1:4-8, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who would enable them for the task Jesus had appointed to them, namely their evangelizing where they were and eventually spreading everywhere else.
There’s a lot of discussion about this event in the lives of the disciples. While I don’t feel this is the place to join that discussion in depth, let me just say this: the emphasis in Acts 1 is not on the Spirit’s presence, but on His power, and God’s purpose in giving it. That purpose is that the disciples were to witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He was and what He did.
Our Lord had an earlier word about this, as well. While teaching His disciples about the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said in John 16:14, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine, and declare it to you.” In the original language, the order is a little different: “Me He will glorify….” (emphasis added).
The ministry of the Spirit isn’t about His gifts and who has what. It isn’t about physical “healing.” God may be pleased to do that, but I know saints who have been afflicted all their lives. And that isn’t because they “don’t have enough faith.” It takes a great deal more grace and faith to serve God through pain and suffering than it does when all is going well…. Doesn’t it? It’s isn’t about glorifying some preacher or teacher; there are no “personalities” in the service of the Lord. It isn’t about emphasizing the Spirit, as some ministries do. It’s about focusing on the Lord Jesus. There is salvation in Him alone, and no other.