Hebrews 12:2, 3, “Looking Unto Jesus.”

[2]looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
[3]For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
(NKJV)

The writer has just gone through a whole list of “faith-worthies,” many of whom did great things or who suffered great things.  But then, as it were, he shifts gears.  While he does want his readers to know about these ancestors in faith, he doesn’t want their attention focused on them.  There is someone else to whom they were to look, and so are we:  Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

The word translated “author,” refers to a founder, author, prince or leader.  I think the word “founder” gives the best idea here.  Moses and the prophets didn’t “found” Christianity, in spite of those who look to them for guidance.  They indeed laid the groundwork, as it were, foreshadowing and prophesying that One who would come and fulfill all those types and shadows.  However, there is no pattern, no blueprint, for how we are to do things.  There is no salvation in those OT things; there is salvation only in the One who came to fulfill them.

We don’t like that idea in this day of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.”  We want to believe that “all roads lead to heaven,” that the pagan who worships nature or the woman who sacrifices her baby to a river or a person who follows a religion that denies and contradicts every teaching of Scripture, these are all “children of God.”

However, our Lord said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.  Later on, standing before the leaders of the nation, Peter affirmed this, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.  And there is coming a time when this will be universally and unequivocally acknowledged.  Men may have put Jesus on the Cross, may reject Him and ridicule His claims, even deny His existence and do all they can to stamp out every mention of Him in society, but Paul wrote that God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:9-11.

Some believe that these verses in Philippians teach that everyone will eventually be saved, but that view contradicts Scripture, which teaches otherwise.  The verses simply mean that there’s coming a time after it’s too late that unbelievers and skeptics will be forced to admit who Jesus is, that He was and is who He claimed to be.  After all, they will stand before Him in judgment.  But there will be no salvation for them, no “second chance” after death.

But there’s more in Hebrews 12:2:  He is the “finisher” of our faith.  A couple of things here.  First, there is no word corresponding to “our” in the original language.  Jesus is the Founder and “finisher” of faith.  It’s common in our time to hear of “faith-based” works or organizations.  It’s become a synonym for “religion.”  However, there are many works and religious organizations that have nothing to do with Scripture.  But there is only one “faith,” the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3, and the Lord Jesus was the One who revealed it.  And He did that through the Scriptures.

Not only did He reveal it, but He “completed” it.  That’s the meaning of the word translated, “finisher.”  “Faith” isn’t about what men say or do.  It’s about what He did.  There’s nothing to be added to what He did.  Some churches blasphemously teach that there are things which we must do in addition to what the Lord did on the Cross:  we must be baptized, or we must offer the “unbloody sacrifice of the Mass,” or a host of other things.  Or they falsely teach that they, too, have a revelation from God.  They have their own prophet or founder.  Or they teach that theirs is the only accepted group.  Only with them is there truth and salvation.  Several groups teach that.  But there is only one Name that God will accept as Savior and Lord, and it’s not the name of some church or denomination or religious group.  It is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  No one, no one, comes to God except through Him.

for the joy set before Him.

I’ve read at least one person who believed that it’s wrong to serve God for the sake of “reward.”  Such an attitude is selfish, it is said; we should serve God simply because we love Him.  And it’s true, we should serve God out of love; I doubt if any other motivation is acceptable to Him.

At the same time, though, it’s said of our Lord that He was anticipating a reward for His suffering: “the joy set before Him.”  You see, His death wasn’t just some haphazard affair, with its outcome left to fallible and sinful men.  Nor was it “a mistake,” as Schweitzer claimed.  It was carefully planned in every detail well before Genesis 1:1.  Cf. 1 Peter 1:20.

It was this hope, this expectation, that enabled our Lord to endure the cross, “despising the shame.”  We’ve never seen a crucifixion.  It was an awful and bloody thing.  We’ve cleaned it up and sanitized it, with a cloth strategically covering His body.  One branch of the church even boasts that there is no blood in their pictures.  But in addition to the torture of the whipping He received before the Crucifixion, a whipping that often killed those who endured it, and the agony of the spikes which held Him to the Cross, He hung naked, open to the gaze of all who looked at Him.

We don’t think anything of nudity in our debased society, some even extol it, but back then it was a terrible thing, a thing of “shame.”

Our Lord “despised the shame” because He knew that this wasn’t the end of things.  In some ways, rather, it was the beginning.  A look at the future isn’t the purpose of this post; I’ve done that enough in other posts, but it was “the future” which enabled the Lord to “endure” the present.

And make no mistake; He “endured” the Cross.  It was no walk in the park for Him.  It was no little thing, this matter of crucifixion.  Even though the Romans were concerned about “justice,” and there were some restrictions about who could suffer this or that treatment, there was no such thing as “criminal rights” in that day.  There was no concern about “cruel and unusual punishment” like we have in our day, in which any punishment seems to be considered cruel and unusual.  Some men took days to die on a cross.  That’s why Pilate was so surprised when Nicodemus came to ask for the body, and why Pilate had a centurion verify Jesus’ death.

But beside the physical suffering, about which we might have some idea, there was also the suffering because He bore the weight of God’s wrath against sin, about which we have no idea, no standard of comparison.  We read of no outcry when they whipped Him, or when they drove the spikes into His wrists and feet.  We read of no response to the ridicule of the leadership as they scoffed at Him, and mocked His claims.  It was only His treatment by the Father that forced an anguished cry from His lips,

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!”

Ah, that goes far beyond any mere human experience.

We think we know so much with our “Drs. of Theology,” and our arguments over various doctrines and teachings.  I’ve done a lot of that in this blog.  And I’m not against “education.”  I just wish it was more about the Bible itself, reading the Scripture itself and seeing what it says, and less about what men say that the Bible says.  But when it comes to the Cross, we likely know even less about the sufferings of our Savior than a newborn infant knows of the suffering of his mother in bringing him to birth.  I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to understand anything of that suffering.

That suffering was tempered by the fact that His suffering wasn’t the end of things.  It was not in vain.  It was not “meaningless”.  There was “joy” beyond.  Joy that will last for an eternity….

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning, Psalm 30:5.

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Hebrews 10:26-31, Truth or Consequences

[26]For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27]but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  [28]Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  [29]Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  [30]For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine,” says the LORD.  And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”  [31]It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  (NKJV)

We have written that the warnings of Hebrews are connected and cumulative and that to ignore them is to invite certain destruction.  We’ve pointed out that these warnings focus on an attitude with reference to the truths of Scripture.  This attitude begins with a casual attitude toward the things of God and ends with a forsaking of them altogether.  But the “things of God” impinge on eternity and we ought to be interested in the fact that we’re all hurrying toward eternity as fast as we can, notwithstanding the fact that sometimes it seems like a snail’s pace.
I’m 75 years old as I write this.  Now I don’t feel old until I begin to realize how long ago some things happened.  And how quickly it seems I’ve gotten from there to here.  And one of these days, folks will gather around at a “memorial service” and, I hope, have some good things to say.  But the thing is, I won’t be there.  I’ll have gone from the place where time is measured in ticks of a clock to a place where it’s measured in the passing of ages.  What I’ve done here will have an effect of what happens there.  And, one day, that will be true for you, as well.  (If you’ve recently experienced the passing of a loved one, I’m truly sorry.  I don’t mean to add to that.)
So you see, it’s important to pay attention as we travel through this life.  That’s what the writer to the Hebrews wanted them, and wants us, to remember.  That’s why there is so much warning in the book, like the one before us.

1. Statement of the warning, v. 26a

At least from v. 25 goes with this warning, and perhaps from v. 19.  This warning tells us that there’s more to it than just “going to church.”  It includes faithfulness and perseverance in “holding fast the confession of our faith.”  It includes what we are and do on Monday as well as what we do on Sunday.  It’s not just about which day of the week we “worship,” but rather that we “worship” every day of the week.
By “worship,” I don’t mean that we’re go to church every day, or that we have the right kind of “worship music,” with guitars and loud drums.  No, no.  The word “worship” comes from an older word:  “worthship.”   It was used as a title, “your worthship,” a title of respect and honor, whether those addressed were “worthy” of it or not.  So, when we say that we “worship God,” it’s not talking about routine or ritual or raucous music.  It’s talking about an attitude of respect and honor for God.  And if this respect isn’t shown by the general attitude and actions of our lives every day of the week, then it doesn’t mean anything on one day of the week.

2. Seriousness of the warning, vs. 26b-31.

 There are three parts to this warning.

1.  the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26.
2.  the avowal of judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29.
3.  the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-31.

1. the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26.  This verse tells us that more than “church attendance” is involved.  “The knowledge of the truth” is involved, and “willful sin,” we believe in regard to the things mentioned in vs. 26-31.  The way of access to God is involved, vs. 19-21.  The life we are to lead with regard to faith and obedience is involved, vs. 22, 23.  Our interest in and concern for other members of “the assembly” is involved, vs. 24, 25.
Many professing Christians, to say nothing of those of the world, reject all these ideas.  They say, “You’re too narrow and old-fashioned, too exclusive in what you teach about the approach to God.  All roads lead to heaven.  Every religion worships God in their own way.”  They say, “we will decide how to live our lives.  We’re under grace; no legalist can make rules for us!”  They say, “We’re not supposed to judge or be judgmental.  We wouldn’t dream of imposing our personal views on others.”  And so, through the traditions and unbelief of men, the Word of God is made of no effect.
But if you reject God ‘s way, there is no other way!  There is no sacrifice for sin, no forgiveness.  To reject God’s way is still to be in our sins.  If we live without God, we will die without God.  Oh!  Be warned!  There is no other “sacrifice for sins,” but God’s sacrifice, Jesus Christ!  There is no other way but God’s way – except the way that leads to hell!

2. the avowal of certain judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29.  Contrary to the belief of many, there is no such thing as “neutrality” in spiritual matters, Matthew 12:30.  Many who believe they have merely rejected some “fundamentalist Bible-thumper” may one day discover that they have really rejected God.  Call them what you will – “backslidden,” “carnal Christian,” whatever – God says that those who turn away from “the knowledge of the truth” are His adversaries and will be dealt with as such.
The thing in particular which infuriates God is the rejection of the sacrifice of His Son, which He calls “trampling” Him “underfoot.  This rejection includes “insulting” the Holy Spirit, Who enabled Him to go through with the Crucifixion, Hebrews 9:14, and carefully supervised all those things leading up to the Crucifixion to insure that God’s purpose in the Crucifixion would be carried out.
Is not this a great warning to our culture?  We live in a time of great “toleration,” where it seems that everything except the truth is to be accepted.  In the US, there is no “established church,” for which we thank God and our forefathers, but this has meant that a tremendous variety of religious viewpoints has developed.  Because we have no such religious “central authority” to tell us what to believe, this is taken to mean that we can believe what we like, or not believe anything at all.
With reference to salvation, some have rejected “the blood” altogether, and so come under condemnation, but what about those who might teach “salvation through blood,” but also believe that you can lose that salvation?  Some of these are always talking about “the Spirit,” the “gifts of the Spirit,” “the ministry of the Spirit,” being “filled with the Spirit.”  Is it possible that they actually “insult” the Spirit because they deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s work to save believers?
And what of those who teach that Jesus died for all men without exception, and that men can resist the utmost efforts of the Spirit to bring them to salvation?  Isn’t this also “trampling under foot the Son of God,” and insulting the Spirit of grace?
You see, “the knowledge of the truth” is more involved than we might at first think.  Most of those who hold the above views believe that they do so with the warrant of Scripture.  But the question isn’t, “can we point to one or two ‘proof-texts’, but rather “do we know the truth”?

3. the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-32.  The reason all this is important is that there is a day of judgment coming.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  I’m afraid the God of Scripture is as unknown today as He was to the Athenians when Paul preached to them, Acts 17:23.  These verses in Hebrews are solemn indeed for a generation of church people who apparently are almost totally ignorant of or in opposition to the God of heaven.

Hebrews 10:15-26, Life, Liberty and Pursuit

[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
[16]This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”   [17]Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,  [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)

In our last posts, we have seen that the First Covenant was a two-fold preparation for the New Covenant.

1. with reference to the people – to show them that sinful men and women cannot come into the presence of a holy God on the basis of their own merit or works.  The OT sacrifices were designed to teach the truth of salvation by substitution and sacrifice.  The animal substitute took the place of the Israelite sinner.  The animal was physically perfect, the Israelite spiritually blemished and imperfect.  The animal died, the Israelite lived.

2. with reference to God – the OT period was a time in which God prepared the effectual sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices pointed – the physical body of the Lord Jesus.  His is the only sacrifice which could – and did – take away sins.
As we look at the text for this post, we see three things:

1.  the liberty we have to approach God, vs. 15-21.
2.  the life we are to lead before God, vs. 22-25.
3.  the lesson we must pay attention to about God, v. 26.

1. Liberty, 10:15-21.

Since we’ve already dealt with these at length, we’ll only mention a couple of things.
God’s covenant, vs. 15-18.  This is God’s promise to do a work in His people, v. 16, as well as for them, vs. 17, 18.
Jesus’ person and work, v. 19-21.  This with particular reference to His sacrifice for sin, vs. 19, 20, and His priesthood “over the house of God,” v. 21.  Only by the grace of God and never by human initiative, merit or effort do we ever have an audience with or blessing from God, vs. 19, 20.

2. Life, 10:22-25.

Let us draw near,” v. 22.  Let us use and enjoy that inestimable privilege of coming into God’s presence, a privilege not given to any other people under heaven.  There are, however, certain requirements which come with the exercise of this privilege:
1. “a true heart” – a heart in which God has worked, v. 16.  A heart God has cleansed.  A heart in which God’s word is preeminent.  A heart (and mind) in which God has written His word, according to the promises of the New Covenant.  A heart not taken with the things of this world, but living with eternity in view.
It’s often charged that the view espoused by this blog and those who agree with it, that we are guilty of “antinomianism,” that is, we teach that one can live like they want to, without regard for what God says.  Unfortunately, there are those who live like that as a result of what they call “salvation by grace.”  However, this isn’t what is meant at all.  As we’ve mentioned before, the OT Law was an external code, though it did deal with such things as envy and covetousness, and our relationships with others.  And if you want to include the entire code as expressed in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and not just a few verses in Exodus – may I just say that there is a great deal more “justice” – how we’re to deal with and treat others – in those pages that in most of what passes for it today in our legal system.  But that’s probably another series of posts.
The New Covenant deals with what we are.  The Old Covenant dealt mostly with what Israel did. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant had no provision of “assistance” in obeying it, Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New Covenant says that believers are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10, and we are given the Holy Spirit to make sure there’s some evidence of that.
2. “full assurance of faith.”  This is not the same thing as “assurance of salvation,” the current way of putting things.  The Puritans understood this, as well, that if a person has faith, he is saved.  They were concerned with the “assurance of faith.”  Faith is the means of salvation.  Too often, we think of “being saved” as something else.
For example, a couple from a local church visited us.  The lady in particular was interested in witnessing to us.  My side of the conversation echoed what I post on this blog, that the focus of our being saved isn’t about what we do, but about what the Lord Jesus did for sinners on the Cross.  I appreciate her concern and her effort, but I might as well have been talking to the chair she sat on.  Before they left, she was very concerned about whether or not I had “prayed the prayer.”  Her entire focus was on what I had done, not on the Lord Jesus.  But I suppose that’s to be expected in a culture in which it’s believed that “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

According to the writer, what exactly is “full assurance of faith”?  He lists a couple of things:
1.  our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.  During various OT rituals, “the water of purification” was sprinkled over people and things.  This cleansed them ceremonially, but really did nothing about their sins or their sinfulness.  But the OT also prophesies of a time when God will cleanse Israel of her filthiness and her idols and put a new heart and spirit within her, Ezekiel 36:25, 26.  This will be as a result of the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  Believers enter into this by grace, knowing that our sins were once and forever taken care of on the Cross, and that we ourselves have been “born again.”
2.  our bodies washed with pure water.  In other words, obedience in baptism.  And apparently more is required than just a drop or two of water on an unknowing infant’s forehead: bodies washed with pure water.  The Lord commanded believer’s baptism in Matthew 28:18-20.  The apostles and disciples baptized only believers.  Even in “household” baptisms, it’s evident that the word was first preached and then those who believed were baptized.  There’s a lot of assumption that in some of these households, there must have been infants – and the assumption is that these were baptized along with the rest of the household.  I’ve dealt with all this before in my series on infant baptism – if you’re interested, you can go there:  https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/infant-baptism-a-study-in-three-parts-the-great-commission-and-apostolic-practice/ (This will take you to the first of the three studies.)
We grant that historically, and even in many places today, to be baptized was and is an invitation to persecution and even death.  But our Lord has something to say about those who don’t love their life even to the extent of being willing to die, Mark 8:35; Revelation 12:11.  Hebrews was written to a people for whom the ordinance of baptism was a clear break with everything in their past.
Baptism was never meant simply to be the subject of debate.  It was meant to be the first step of obedience in a believer’s life.  It was the first step in a changed life.

Let us hold fast“, v. 23.  Wait a minute!  Doesn’t this verse contradict v. 22?  How can we have “full assurance” if we have to “hold fast”?  After all, aren’t we just supposed to “let go and let God”?
Not at all.  That heart and life in which God has worked, v. 16, will hold onto God, cf. John 6:66-68.  See also 1 Timothy 6:12.  V. 23 draws our attention to the faithfulness of God.  Our “assurance” is not that we’ll be saved if we’re “faithful to the end.”  Our assurance, based on vs. 16-18, is that if God has worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Jesus Christ and has made His word real and precious to us – our assurance in such a case is that we will be saved because God is faithful.  We couldn’t keep ourselves saved for five minutes!  Hold fast our profession of faith in God, not in ourselves!

Let us consider one another“, vs. 24.  The problem with having to “hold on faithful to the end” is that we’re always thinking about ourselves.  Have we been “good enough”?  Have we “done” enough?  But this verse shows us that we’re not to be “self-centered,” but “saint-centered”.
Vs. 24, 25 give a good description of Christian love.  It’s not a “hands-off, pat-you-on-the back” regardless of how you live or what you believe.  True love cares enough to confront those things which are not in line with Scripture.  In the culture in which we live, this has become vitally important.  Today it’s all about “inter-faith” dialogue and cooperation.  This is simply the fruition of the “ecumenical movement” begun decades ago.  Paul addressed this situation in a church which prided itself on its “tolerance:” Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship [interests-in-common] has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.  How can those who say they believe in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus “cooperate” with those which deny Him or teach that the Cross is a “monstrous falsehood”?

3. Pursuit, v. 26.

 Without wishing to lapse into the heresy that salvation can be lost, let us at the same time strongly emphasize the Biblical teaching that grave responsibilities are entered into by those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are dealing with eternal issues in Christianity, issues which will save or damn men’s souls.  It is never just a matter of opinion: “That’s what you believe,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”  Nor is it simply a matter of opportunity:  “Well, yes, I believe in Jesus, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.”  Christianity is a matter of “orthodoxy,” which is not what the church or scholars or theologians say it is, but what God says it is.  It’s not about this or that “church” or this or that denomination.

And “orthodoxy” contains serious warnings.  There is one in v. 26.

Verse 26 follows v. 25 and shows that “forsaking the assembly” isn’t about an occasional absence from church.  It refers to a habitual and deliberate turning away from the church.  However, this is more than just about church “attendance.”  The warnings in Hebrews are connected and cumulative.  The first warning deals with “drifting” with regard to the Word of God.  Hebrews warns against a casual and complacent attitude toward the truths of Scripture, something which even “churches” are capable of, and guilty of.  Too many are concerned more with personalities or programs than they are with the proclamation of the truths of God Word.  The danger of such “drifting” is that it leads to damnation, as we see here.  We’re not talking about the loss of salvation.  The person or church which develops a “take-it-or-leave-it ” attitude with reference to the teachings of God’s Word gives evidence that they were never His to begin with.