Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews’


“who has destroyed death” (2 Tim. 1:10)


We were looking at Hebrews 2:5-18 about the Lord God becoming fully man, sharing our flesh, being family, so that he might taste death for us, disarm the jailer of the dungeon and free us from the bondage of the fear of death. It reminded me of the classic Easter sermons by Pastor Dev Menon on death [Part 1, Part 2] and of my two favourite movie illustrations of Jesus entering into death and blowing up the monster from the inside. Apologies for some rough language at the beginning of the first one:


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For this Reformation Day I’ve been enjoying reading through the Belgic Confession – one of the early reformed confessions (1561). I love it for its clarity and straightforwardness but also there is a lovely warmth that comes through. Surely this is what our church needs today – lovely truth, doctrine with devotion, a passionate creed. I think this is my favourite section – on the intercession of Christ:

We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” (1 John 2:1).
But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does.

Although he was “in the form of God,” Christ nevertheless “emptied himself,” taking “human form” and “the form of a slave” for us; (Phil. 2:6-8) and he made himself “like his brothers and sisters in every respect.” (Heb. 2:17).

Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were enemies”? (Rom. 5:10)
And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated at the right hand of the Father, (Rom. 8:34) and who has “all authority in heaven and on earth”? (Matt. 28:18).
And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?

So, the practice of honoring the saints as intercessors in fact dishonors them because of its misplaced faith. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.

We should not plead here that we are unworthy— for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.

Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was made like “his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” to purify the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17) For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:18)

And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)

The same apostle says that we “have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus… Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith….” (Heb. 10:19, 22)

Likewise, Christ “holds his priesthood permanently…. Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:24-25)

What more do we need?
For Christ himself declares: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Why should we seek another intercessor?

Since it has pleased God to give us the Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another— or rather seek, without ever finding.
For, when giving Christ to us, God knew well that we were sinners.

Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ,our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.

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What are we supposed to learn as we read the narratives of Abraham and Moses and David and all the rest? What are we supposed to emulate? How should they help us?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us… run…” (Heb. 12:1a)

Question: What are the great cloud of witnesses witnessing?

If we don’t know the answer to that then we risk missing a great motivation and guide to running the Christian race well.

Hebrews 12:1a is clearly the bridge between Hebrews 11 (the hall of fame) and Hebrews 12:1b about running the race marked out for us. “Therefore, since we are surrounded… let us…”

So it clearly can’t be that these are non-Christians witnessing our lives (a common interpretation in our context). The witnesses in Heb. 12:1 are those in Heb. 11.

But what or who are they witnessing? Are they witnessing us or something/someone else?

Let’s look at the guys in Hebrews 11. Where was their gaze fixed? In the summary verse 13 it says that they saw what was promised them even though it/he was still far off (cf. Heb. 10:36-37). Moses faith meant ‘seeing the Unseen One’ (Heb. 11:27). In fact most of those mentioned in the ‘hall of fame’ here are notable in the Old Testament as those who ‘saw the LORD’ (e.g. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David and Samuel).

This would fit with the primary use of ‘witnesses’ throughout the Old and New Testaments. The ‘witnesses’ in Isaiah 43:12 are of the LORD and his mighty words and deeds. John picks up on this understanding of witness in his Gospel and presents us with various witnesses to Jesus (e.g. John 5). The Apostles are send out as witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8). The secret of their joyful courage was a vision of the glory of God and of Christ (Acts 7:55).

So I would conclude that the witnesses of Heb. 11 and Heb. 12:1a are those who witnessed Christ. They were not necessarily exemplary (think of Jephthah and Samson). It is not so much a hall of fame as a hall of faith. They saw something. They saw Christ. They witnessed Him. And so they did the only logical thing, they counted this world as rubbish and perishing, they looked forward to Christ and his resurrection day, they obeyed the heavenly voice, they ran towards their saviour God.

And that is the way they are an encouragement to us. I suspect that it is not so much that we are running and the saints of old are watching us from the sidelines and cheering us on (though that’s possible), rather we are supposed to look at them and see how they ran and then notice that their eyes are fixed straight ahead, on Christ. We are to see them and see what they are looking at, and run like that.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every weight and the sin that entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus

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Can’t resist one more quote from Piper’s Christmas devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – discussing Hebrew 8:4-10:

First… Jesus fulfils and replaces the shadows of the Old Testament.
Second… God makes the reality of Christ real to us personally by the work of the new covenant when he writes his truth on our hearts. God moves powerfully into our hearts and minds to overcome our resistance to the beauty of his reality. He writes his will—the truth of the reality of Jesus—on our hearts, so that we see him for who he really is and are willing and eager to trust him and follow him—freely, from the inside out, not slavishly under constraint from outside.
That would be the greatest salvation imaginable—if God should offer us the greatest reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and the greatest pleasure possible… And that is exactly what he has done.
(Dawning, p. 67-68)

God does not send Christ into the world to die for sins and leave his salvation plan there. He goes the whole way, sending his Spirit right into our hearts and grabbing us and uniting us to the Son. God does not create a possibility of salvation or a system of salvation, he actually saves. This is one of those things where once you see it you start seeing it all over the Scriptures:

  • Acts 3:17-26 – from the suffering of Christ, foretold by the prophets, through to God grabbing us by our shoulders and turning us around;
  • Ephesians 1:1-2:10 – the Father choosing us before time, Christ bleeding for us at the Cross, God raising us from the dead and opening our eyes;
  • Titus 2:14 – cross and sanctification, Christ dies for a people to grab a people who he will make zealous;
  • Titus 3:1-7 – Christ and Spirit, justification and regeneration, the appearance of the Saviour and our personal salvation & transformation – wonderfully tied together;
  • 1 Peter 1:1-9 – from before eternity to last time, Father, Son, Spirit, death, resurrection, new birth, inexpressible joy.

He saves us
all the way
to the utmost.

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