Jesus is the Reason

 

Introduction

Our Chronological bible study is nearly complete. When we were reading the Old Testament, we read history. When we began reading the New Testament, we began understanding everything Jesus did for us, but there’s so much packed into each week, it’s not possible to completely address everything we read this week in the book of Hebrews, one of the most complex books in the bible to understand. Today we will only cover the first 4 verses of Hebrews, although even that is a breakneck speed. One could spend many weeks just studying these verse that answer the question, “Who is Jesus? And why is He better?”

We have spent 11-1/2 months reading through the bible chronologically, understanding the purposes of God’s plan to give us free choice and also save us from ourselves.   Throughout the Old Testament, God established a sacrificial system with a temple, a high priest that acted as an intermediary, and an unblemished lamb to take the punishment of a wicked people.   All because God loves us.

And when that system turned into pharisaical rules and regulations, God intervened. It was always God’s plan at the right time to send a high priest forever, an unblemished lamb forever, and the temple of the holy spirit to dwell in man, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. A messiah, a savior, who would change everything. And as we approach Christmas, we see these promises being fulfilled –

Isaiah 7:14 –

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 –

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice, From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Micah 5:2 –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

God’s people had been told there would be a Messiah and after 400 years of silence, the silence was broken. An angel spoke to Zacharias in the temple telling him that he and his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist.   An angel spoke to Mary telling her that she would give birth to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.   An angel spoke to Joseph telling him about Jesus. Matthew 1:20 –

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

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The Angels broke the silence of 400 years with the announcement that Jesus was coming. And that is our anticipation this year and every year as Christmas nears – Jesus is coming!

We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do know they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.   Hebrews has over 40 Old Testament quotes, quotes that would have been sacred to any Jew in the first century.   The author makes the case that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Jesus Christ is the final authority of all things in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ is our High Priest forever, and Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. The book of Hebrews systematically compares Jesus to the prophets of old, the priests, the sacrifices, and even the angels; and without hesitation, Jesus is superior to all.

And at Christmas time, the lyrics to this familiar song illustrate the amazing savior we have described in the book of Hebrews –

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

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So let us study the awesomeness and majesty of the baby born in Bethlehem in just the first four verses of Hebrews 1:1-4 –

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,   having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Chronological Bible, December 17th, p.1555

The first four verses of Hebrews connects what we have been studying now for 51 weeks. There is an acknowledgment of how God spoke in the lives and writings of the prophets in the Old Testament. The foundation had been laid in each of the Eras of the Old Testament from the days of Adam and Eve, through David and Solomon, through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Nehemiah, and all the way through John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus.

These past couple of months we studied the Gospels and the Epistles, we looked at the life of Jesus. We saw the ministry of Jesus through healings, miracles, sermons, and parables.   And then we saw the establishment of the church and how Paul wanted to make sure that all, even those in the uttermost parts of the world, would know Jesus Christ.

But today, the author of Hebrews wants us to understand the fullness and authority of Jesus Christ. Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King – Jesus Christ is superior to every prophet and servant of God in all the sacred pages of the Scriptures. This is the theme throughout the book of Hebrews. Jesus may have begun His human life as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, yet He is the Heir of all things, the brightness of His glory, the express Image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power; knowing He was destined to become the purification for our sins.

Let’s uncover eight truths in these first 4 verses. I tell you in advance that there are 8 so you can take notes and number them, and also when we get to around 7 we know the end approaches and we can get to lunch before the Methodists do.

Heir of All Things (v2)

So, to fully appreciate Jesus, the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the heir to all things. What is an heir?

“Heir” suggests both dignity and dominion, with the added implication of legal title.   All things will fall under His authority. Christ is the heir of all things precisely because God has only one Son and one Heir.   Christians are also called adopted children and therefore heirs of God, but only because we are clothed in Christ Jesus with whom alone God is well pleased.

When Jesus is described as the ‘Heir of all things,’ it means that everything is His. He is the ultimate authority over all things and the rightful owner of all things. You look up in the sky at night and see the moon and stars; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. You look at the beautiful Christmas trees that are decorated with lights this time of the year; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things.   Everything belongs to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. Because of Jesus’ obedience – even to death on a cross – Philippians 2:9-10 says

God has exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Jesus did not just bring us the message of His Father. Jesus *is* the message.

Through Whom Also He Made the Worlds (v2)

John begins his gospel with this truth in John 1:1 –

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.   In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).

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Jesus was part of the creation process with God, the Father. Everything that was made, was made through Him. John wanted us to know that Jesus was not just the Son of God but was Creator with God.

The Greek word for worlds in Hebrew 1:2 is interesting, it’s “aiōn” which encompasses not just the material world but also the ages, the history. Jesus is the creator of all time, matter, and space.   Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others claim. Jesus is the Creator, the Creator of everything.

And then John tells us the truth of Christmas, John 1:14 –

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).

The Creator became a baby in Bethlehem as Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us in the manger.   John even mentions that “we beheld His glory” which leads us to the next truth.

Being the Brightness of His glory (v3)

the Son is “the radiance of His [God’s] glory.” The Greek word apaugasma , translated “radiance,” refers to what shines out from the source of light. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a veiled way during His incarnation. Peter, James, and John saw that radiance revealed more directly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

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But Jesus isn’t just the sun peaking out from behind some clouds. He is the blazing, magnificent revelation of God Himself.

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The Express Image of His Person (v3)

The Son is the exact representation of God. The Greek word for “representation” is “character”, from which we get the English word, well, “character.” Greek writers used it to describe the emperor’s picture on Roman coins. The image on the coins was precisely the image on the engraving tool, an exact duplication.

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And although no one has seen God, Jesus Christ let people know exactly what the nature of God is like. Jesus put it this way in John 14:8-9a –

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

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Upholding All Things by the Word of His Power (v3)

The Son “upholds all things by the word of His power.” The idea is not so much that Jesus upholds the universe as a dead weight, similar to Atlas shouldering the world.

Slide22.JPGRather, Jesus carries all things forward on their appointed course.   Colossians 1:15-17 says

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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The Word of Jesus Christ has tremendous power and authority. It is the greatest force in the universe.

By Himself Purification for Our Sins (v3)

The Son “made purification of sins” as no one else could. He did so by His own sacrifice on the Cross, and by His work as the ultimate priest. The Greek word katharismos , translated “purification,” means both removal and cleansing. The word for “sin,” hamartia , occurs in Hebrews 25 times, more than any other book except Romans.

Hebrews doesn’t say much about individual sins, and doesn’t contain any list. The fundamental sin for Hebrews is unfaithfulness or neglect toward God which is our rebellion against God.

Though we celebrate His birth at Christmas, we cannot forget why He was born. He was born to die.   He died to live again and so that we may live with Him.

Sat Down at the Right Hand of Majesty on High (v3)

Goodness, I feel we are rushing through this, and we’re barely into our second verse. But in case you’re counting, this is number 7.   Take that, Methodists.

Number seven, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” when He returned to heaven after His ascension. Today, He is at the place of honor and authority in relation to God the Father, ruling over the church and the angelic host in heaven. The Lord Jesus completed what He came here to do; now, He rules heaven and church while we wait for His second coming.

Better Than Angels (v4)

The previous seven truths lead to this ultimate truth. Jesus is better than angels. It sounds almost anticlimactic. But it is significant because so often people will elevate angels even above Jesus.

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Angels served as messengers who would come to deliver a message from God to His people.   However, Jesus does so much more.   He is not simply a messenger that brought a message from God to His people. Jesus is the message. Jesus is not simply a message of salvation and redemption. He is salvation and redemption.

The writer of Hebrews is declaring that Jesus is “so much better” than the angels. Jesus is beyond compare. All other prophets have come and said, “Thus sayeth the LORD to you.”   But only Jesus could say, “I AM the LORD who has come to you.”

This is why Jesus is better than angels. Angels did not become flesh to understand our situations. Angels cannot empathize with us or know our weaknesses. And angels did not die for our sin. Jesus, however, did all of these things.

And I see this at every Christmas, the celebration of Santa Claus and reindeer and snowmen and Christmas ornaments.   But Santa Claus is not the reason for the season. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Jesus is better.   And this is what the whole book of Hebrews proclaims – our infinite need being met in the infinite love of God to us in Jesus Christ. Whatever else one may exalt, Jesus is better. Way better. The name of Jesus is above every name.

Philippians 2:9-11 –

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
   and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.

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Conclusion

Hebrews 1 points to the full deity of Jesus Christ –

      1. Heir of all things (v.2)
      2. Through whom also He made the worlds (v.2)
      3. Being the brightness of His glory (v.3)
      4. The Express Image of His person (v.3)
      5. Upholding all things by the word of His power (v.3)
      6. By Himself Purification for our sins (v.3)
      7. Sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high (v.3)
      8. Better than the angels. (v.4)

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The original Jewish audience, faced with the temptation to abandon discipleship of Jesus for return to Judaism, received a strong reminder of His deity at the very beginning of Hebrews 1. Jesus is Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus is our Reason for the Season. Jesus is Better.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

What is Faith?

             I.      Introduction

We’ve just spent the last two months studying Hebrews with just a few weeks left to go, but our study of Hebrews has a purpose.  Hebrews, as you may recall, was written to the new Christians in trying circumstances and persecutions.  The first 6 chapters of Hebrews sought to reassure the new Christians that Jesus is a superior person, the source of all good news, that He alone is the son of God, He is higher than angels, and He is our perfect Savior.

Then Hebrews 7-10 explained that, not just a superior person, but Christ is a Superior priesthood.  He alone is the Lamb of God, able to take away the sins of the world.  He alone is a perfect, unblemished sacrifice, perfectly acceptable to God.  And He alone led to the tearing of the veil that separated us from the Holy of Holies, and that we are now able to approach God without fear, knowing that our salvation is secure in Him.

The next four weeks will complete our study of Hebrews and wraps up everything we’ve studied.  Since Jesus is a superior person who identifies with us, and since Jesus is fully God and blameless, and since God provided this perfect sacrifice to us so that we may have eternal salvation… so what?  What are we supposed to do with all this information?  So Jesus is great, I get that.  But what does it mean for me?

The answer is that, since God first loved us, since God has provided a perfect sacrifice, we can live our lives as a demonstration of God’s glory and power and love.  We begin our Christian lives on faith in this love.  But what is faith?

          II.      What Faith is Not

We all place our faith in something.  In fact, we place our faith in a great many things, often without realizing we are doing it.  When we go to a doctor, we have faith that they know what they’re doing.  When we put our key into the car ignition, we have faith that the car will start and we can drive to our destination.

We can have faith in ourselves and in our own abilities.  There are lots of self-help books out there.  I went to Amazon and made a list of Self-help books.  I found 13,149 books on how to find happiness, 51,511 books on motivation, and 75,093 books on personal transformation.  There were 351,562 books in total.

Self-Help
Abuse (5,646)
Anger Management (841)
Anxieties & Phobias (1,883)
Communication & Social Skills (140)
Creativity (5,301)
Death & Grief (16,156)
Dreams (4,928)
Eating Disorders (2,739)
Emotions (857)
Handwriting Analysis (710)
Happiness (13,149)
Hypnosis (2,066)
Inner Child (554)
Journal Writing (216)
Memory Improvement (1,894)
Mid-Life (729)
Motivational (51,511)
New Age (955)
Personal Transformation (75,093)
Relationships (72,510)
Self-Esteem (13,639)
Sex (19,569)
Spiritual (19,191)
Stress Management (11,539)
Success (27,513)
Time Management (2,233)
Total (351,562)

I’m thinking that relying on ourselves might possibly not be working as well as we like.  We may find we come up short and we need some more help.

We can also have faith in others.  But can people let us down?  We can be disappointed in others.  They may not be there when we need them, maybe say or do something hurtful to us.  People can let us down sometimes.

We may even have faith in faith itself.  Perhaps if just believe strongly enough, something good will happen.  Just going to church will make be a better person and win favors with God.  That’s probably my 2nd biggest criticism of a “Name it and Claim it” church, a great deal of it is based on wishful thinking.  (My 1st biggest criticism is against the arrogance that if we just have enough faith, we can tell God what to do).  Don’t get me wrong – positive thinking is very helpful.  The bible tells us to “capture every thought” (2 Cor 10:5) and “focus on what is pure and lovely” (Philippians 4:8).  It’s just that positive thinking on its own has no power to give us what we need most.

And what we need most is Jesus.  The good news about the superiority and sufficiency of Christ Jesus.

       III.      Does Faith Replace Reason?

Now, when you read stories about faith in the news or in secular books, faith doesn’t always get the respect it deserves.  Secular humanist and atheists put a great deal of faith in themselves because frankly, they don’t want to put faith in a being that holds them accountable for their beliefs.  Some may imply that faith is the opposite of reason.  If you can test it and verify it, it’s reason.  If you have no proof, but want to believe it anyway, that’s faith.  Pop culture would have us believe that faith is a blind leap in the dark.  They might say, “If you have all this evidence, why do you need faith?”

If we open up the dictionary, one definition of faith is a “questioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.”  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Faith without reason is stupid.  If I have faith that I can walk off the edge of a building and just float away, does that faith make any sense?  Faith must be built on things that are true for faith to mean anything.  In 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul says “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  In other words, Paul pins all of our faith on a single historical event:  Christ is raised from the dead.  If that is not true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe.  Jesus just died and there is no resurrection to save us.

But we have ample evidence that Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead.  Three days after the crucifixion and burial, the tomb was empty.  Jesus made dozens of appearances over the next 40 days, corroborated by hundreds of witnesses.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Doubting Thomas touch His wounds, appearing to Saul of Tarsus.  And just before Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” he lists James and 500 people that saw Jesus at a single appearance, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote it.  And then Jesus ascended into heaven in view of the apostles.

We have a number of consistent accounts, we have people like Thomas that demanded evidence, and the gospels were written while the people who witnessed these things were still alive.  The evidence was so strong that Jesus was raised from the dead and was who He claimed to be that the apostles died proclaiming the divinity of Jesus.  Why would they die for a lie?  But knowing Jesus is Lord, the apostles could not say otherwise.  They knew who He was.

No, our biblical faith is based on reason.  Not instead of reason, not in spite of reason, but built on reason.

          IV.      Dead Faith

Knowing what we know, it should spur us to put our faith into practice.  If we do not, our faith is dead.  Dead faith is when we do nothing with the revelation we have.  Like going to the medicine cabinet for some pain medicine.  We can look at the bottle and read the instructions that says it will relieve our pain.  We know who the doctor was that wrote the prescription, we know the pharmacist that filled the prescription.  I believe the person who prescribed it, and I trust the person who fulfilled it, and I believe the medicine will work.  I believe everything about this medicine.  But then we put the medicine back on the shelf and the pain goes on.  That’s dead faith, useless faith.

No, we must do something with the faith.  James 2:14-19 says,

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

Our faith demands action, or our faith is a dead, useless faith.  The path to salvation leads to Jesus, and we are saved.  Knowing that, can we let those we love perish?  What kind of useless faith is that?

             V.      Little Faith

Maybe we’re afraid of putting of faith in action.  Afraid to do something publically because of how others perceive us.  After all, we just come to church, sing our songs, and get a bible lesson.  Surely that is enough?  We’re not church elders or pastors or staff.  It’s those people that have an abundance of faith.  It’s enough that I’m here, right?

I haven’t been a Christian long.  I spent much of my life as a heathen, went through an agnostic phase where it didn’t matter to me if Christianity were true.  Even when I discovered my path in life was leading to destruction, I tried to get by with small corrections.  I called myself a Christian and would say that Jesus is the Son of God, but I lacked conviction.  I was 35 years old before I finally understood that Christ died for me personally and I called Christ my Lord and Savior.

I guess it’s been longer than I thought.  That’s coming up on 20 years ago.  I came to church regularly and attended church functions and went to bible study, but it still felt like I was missing something.

I remember taking a Spiritual Gift test one day at a bible study.  You know the spiritual gifts; they include exhortation, giving, hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, discernment, and so on.  Romans 12:4-6 says we all have different gifts according to the grace given to us.  But each of us has something, given to us by God, for us to use for the glory of God.  The test was a series of questions to help me identify what my gifts were.  I suppose if I had the gift of discernment, I could have figured it out myself.  But I didn’t; my talents leaned toward administration and teaching.  If you disagree with me, I’m open to other suggestions, let me know after class, ok?

Anyway, I didn’t do anything with this knowledge.  I wasn’t smart enough, or experienced enough, or devout enough, or pious enough.  I didn’t have enough faith.  I needed just to keep coming to church and bible studies until my faith increased enough to do something worthwhile with it.

And I remember having this discussion with a bible teacher who told me that God didn’t ask me to do something with tools I didn’t have.  Today is the day that the Lord hath made, not yesterday or tomorrow.  The Lord has equipped me for today.  So take the skills and gifts that I have today and do something with them besides sit in a pew.  I was given a chance to substitute teach and I’ve been doing it ever since.  And a lesson I learned from that is that, no matter where I am in life, God has equipped me for today.   I only had a little faith, but that was enough.

Doesn’t Jesus admonish us the same?  I used to read the story of Jesus in the boat during the storm and think Jesus was criticizing His disciples.  They were frightened, Jesus was asleep in the boat, so they woke Him up and begged Jesus to save them.  Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, o ye of little faith?”  I thought Jesus meant they were ill-equipped, they didn’t believe enough, they didn’t trust enough.  They were like me and needed to sit in the pews for a few years longer.

But these men of little faith went a long, long way.  They were given the task of evangelizing the world.  It doesn’t take much faith.  In fact, it takes very, very little faith.  With faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move a mountain.  You and I have enough faith, right now, to be equipped for what God has in store for us today.

          VI.      What Can Faith Do?

What can our little faith do?  God will do amazing things with our faith.  Let’s turn back to Hebrews 11 because I forgot that’s what we were studying today.  This is what faith can do –

  • By faith, we can gain understanding of the universe that God created;
  • By faith, Abel was able to make offering pleasing to the Lord and be called righteous;
  • By faith, Enoch experienced eternal life;
  • By faith, Noah saved his family and became heir to righteousness after the flood;
  • By faith, Abraham and Sarah had descendants as numerous as stars in the sky;
  • The rest of Hebrews 11 is often called “The Hall of Faith,” faithful and righteous people who put their faith in action. Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel and the list goes on and on.

A little faith is enough.  A little faith is more than enough.  The first verse of Hebrews 11 shows the power of faith, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Faith gives us confidence and assurance of our eternal life.

       VII.      Conclusion

Forsaking

All

I

Take

Him.

FAITH.

Faith is taking God at His word.  His entire word.  Full confidence that every word is true.  That we take this assurance and confidence and put it into action to demonstrate our faith to a fallen world and show the power of Jesus in us.

I commend you all for your little faith and I am happy to be a man of little faith, too.  God can use my little faith to move mountains.  My little faith, my trust in Jesus, is sufficient.  And day by day, I grow my faith by putting it into action, and doing something with the good news that we have been given.

Augustine, approximately 400 years after Christ, said,

“Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”

To God be the glory.

Don’t Walk Away

             I.      Introduction

Hope doesn’t come easily.

This world is troubled.  Dr. Young has been speaking on the problem of evil this month, and evil has been a problem ever since the fall of Adam to the beheadings in Syria.  And it permeates our lives, confronts us on the television, on the internet, in the news and even in marketing and advertisements.

And from a worldly perspective, it’s not getting better.  When our hope is based on circumstances, those same circumstances can be depressing.  When tragedy hits close to home, we are faced with a choice:  run from God because we feel that somehow He has let us down, or run toward God as the only source of peace and comfort in a troubled world.

I don’t know what you’re going through, or what you’ve been through.  We will all go through trials – loss of a job, or loss of a home, or loss of a loved one.  I do know that you’ve been through fire – we all have – and they can be difficult things to talk about.  But you’re here, and that’s good.  The fact that you’re here speaks volumes about your faith and your hope.  If we trust in our own abilities during difficult circumstances it often leads to disappointment, but hope in our Lord Jesus Christ will never disappoint.

Today’s lesson is on Hebrews 6, and since we’ve recently mentioned the “once saved, always saved” as a tenet of our faith, at first glance, today’s verses look to give us trouble with “once saved, always saved.”  Let’s look at Hebrews 6:4-8.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.  To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Is this a contradiction to “Once Saved, Always Saved?”  I don’t believe so, and I’ll tell you why, but first let us lay a foundation so that we may fully understand this.

          II.      Infallibility of Scripture

Let’s talk first about the law of non-contradiction and the infallibility of scripture.  It’s important to understand that faith and reason go together.  Faith in unreasonable things is nonsense.  Reason, without faith, leads to futility.  Faith and reason together lead to truth.

First, the Law of Non-Contradiction.  This law simply states that something cannot be both true and false at the same time.  If I tell you “A is B” and then later say, “A is not B,” then something is wrong.  Both statements cannot be correct at the same time.

If you meet with some friends of yours, a married couple, and you say, Is it true that you are pregnant?”  And she says “Yes!” and he says, “No!” you know something is not true.  Maybe he doesn’t know.  But one thing *you* know is that they both cannot be right.  Numbers 23:19,

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

And God exists, or He doesn’t.  Can both statements be true?  God is eternal, or He isn’t.  Can both statements be true?  Reason and faith go together to either accept or reject God, God cannot both be true and untrue at the same time.

God himself is a perfect demonstration of the Law of Non-Contradiction.  God is His Word.  If He says something, it is true.  So, is the bible true?  What does the bible say about itself?

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

Some bibles use “inspired” here, but “God-breathed” is more accurate.  The Greek scripture uses two words meaning “God” and “breathed” so I’m going to translate that as “God-breathed.”

And 2 Peter 1:20-21

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

What the bible says about itself is that the Holy Spirit himself wrote the bible through men.  If God is truth, and God is His Word, and the Word is the bible… there is no wiggle room.  The bible is true, or the bible is not.  It cannot be both true and untrue.

What does Jesus say about scripture?

John 10:34 discusses a very different topic, but it’s interesting what Jesus says –

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law […] and Scripture cannot be set aside…

Jesus says “It is written” and quoted scripture to make a point, and he even confirmed many events that seem supernatural.  He confirmed Adam and Eve were created by God, he confirmed the flood of Noah, he verified the destruction of Sodom, he quoted and referred to a dozen Old Testament prophets and kings.  He even confirmed Jonah was swallowed by a big fish.  And in Matthew 4:4, when answering the devil,

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

“Every word.”  Jesus says one cannot set aside scripture, picking up the best parts and disregarding the rest.  We can either accept the bible as the wholly, inerrant Word of God, or not.  Excluding verses because they are uncomfortable, or we don’t understand them, makes no sense.  The word is true, or it is not true.  It cannot be both.  And every word of the bible is important.

Divine inspiration means you can trust God’s Word over everything else. It means there are no contradictions. It means Scripture contains the objective revelation of God and is the basis of authority. Even though human authors wrote the words, the Bible originated as an action of God.

       III.      Once Saved Always Saved

So where do we get “Once saved, always saved” from?  Let’s start with 1 John 5:13

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may *know* that you have eternal life.

John doesn’t say “think” we have eternal life.  John says so that we may *know* we have eternal life.  It’s not arrogance to say that I know I will go to heaven.  It’s confidence, not in my ability, but in Christ’s sacrifice.  Once a person places their trust in Jesus, God immediately and irrevocably grants that person eternal life and salvation and a guaranteed place in Heaven that can never be lost, regardless of what they do or what they don’t do. It’s not based on you or me, it never was. It’s entirely based on what Jesus did.

How about John 5:24, where Jesus says,

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

Jesus uses certain Greek tenses of verbs here to make His point.  When He says, “has” eternal life, Jesus uses the present tense.  Then He switches to future tense, “will not be condemned”.  Jesus says believers have it already!  And if that wasn’t clear enough, Jesus says the believer “has crossed over from death to life.”  Jesus switches present tense to perfect tense, and is saying that the believer has already crossed, always will be crossed over from death to life.  We are new creations already, we don’t become new creations after we die.  We *have already* crossed over, we *have* eternal life, and *will not be* condemned.  Past, present and future.

1 Peter 1:3-5,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

John 3:36,

Whoever believes in the Son *has* eternal life.

John 6:47,

I tell you the truth, he who believes *has* everlasting life.

It’s an irrevocable contract Jesus makes with us when we confess Him as our Lord, written here in the Good Book for us to read the fine print anytime we wish. What does Jesus promise to do for us as our Lord?  Well, here’s the fine print of the contract.

Hebrews 10:17, God says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” You and I can’t forget, as hard as we try, but God will remember no more. Poof, it’s as if they never happened. With the blood covering from Jesus, we become pure in God’s sight.

Philippians 4, our names are inscribed in the Book of Life. Again, not *will be* inscribed. They *are* inscribed.

Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now. No condemnation. Freedom.

Micah 7:19, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Deeper than the Titanic, our sins are buried in the sea.

1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” The Holy Spirit lives in us, takes up residence, and gives our conscience a kick-start.

Galatians 4:6, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” We become adopted by God, we are His children, His heirs. We are no longer slave to sin and the death that comes with it.

Romans 8:31-33, God has chosen us, we are God’s elect, and if God is for us, who can be against us?

Ephesians 1:13-14, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Marked, sealed, identified, stamped. Seems like every translation I read used a different word here. Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours. We are indelibly branded, permanently stamped, and guaranteed our inheritance.

John 10:27-28, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus becomes our shepherd, we becomes His sheep, He gives us eternal life, we will never perish, and no one can change that.

Any loopholes left in this contract? Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Looks like an absolutely iron clad contract to me, how about you?

This salvation we already have. This eternal life we already have. Heaven is a destination where we go when our mortal chores are through, but our place there is already guaranteed. Peter says praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our inheritance awaits us and to rejoice. Rejoice! Again I say, rejoice! I rejoice because I know if I could do something to lose my salvation, I’d have done it already. I’ve messed up so many times and if I was given a second chance, I’d just lose it again. Sometimes I can go for 6 or 8 hours in a row without sinning, but then I wake up and have to get out of bed. This is great news, knowing we’re eternally saved. In order for us to lose our salvation,

somebody would have to find some sort of loophole in the contract that isn’t up or down, present or future, angel or demon, and convince Christ not to love us anymore,

change us from Christ’s sheep into a toad,

remove the brand He sealed onto us,

snatch us right out of the hand of Jesus even though He chose us,

cancel God’s adoption papers and write us out of the will,

evict the Holy Spirit out of His home in our heart and tell him to find someplace else to live,

dive to the very bottom of the ocean and dredge our sins back up,

remind God of all the things He’s promised to remember no more,

and make God into a liar for putting all these promises down in writing.

Ya know, I just don’t see any of that happening.

We can *know* we are saved.  Jesus wants us to be confident.  Doubt is washed away, knowing our eternal destination.  Our hope is secure.

         IV.      Don’t Walk Away (Hebrews 6:4-8)

What was our bible verse today?  Oh yes, Hebrews 6:4-8.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.  To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Now we know what it does not say due to the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Our salvation is secure.  We must remember that this letter was written to Hebrews, former Jews, now Christians, whose faith was being tested.  Some wanted to return to their Jewish traditions and hope the Romans would leave them alone.  Their hope based on circumstance, not salvation.

It is possible for churches to consist of both true believers and also those who pretend to be believers.  Christians are generally nice people to be around, who can blame them?  But when times get tough, abandoning Christ is a sign of unbelief.  Christians will live with assurance of their salvation and a holy reverence for God.

I think some light is shed on this passage on the Greek words for “falling away.”  The Greek work “apostosia” isn’t used, but “parapipto” is which literally means “to fall alongside.”

I think the writer may have been using a hypothetical case, sort of like this:

“Let’s suppose you do not go on to maturity.  Does this mean that you will go back into condemnation, that you will lose your salvation?  Impossible!  If you could lose your salvation, it would be impossible to get it back again, and this would disgrace Jesus Christ.  He would have to be crucified for you again, and this could never happen.”

If you look at the pervious verses of Hebrews, the author uses “we” and “us”, but this verse switches to “those”.  This supports the author’s may have been using a hypothetical example.

I notice the last verse says, “In the end it will be burned.”  It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3,

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

I love that part, the builder will receive a reward.  What is this reward?  I have no idea, but if Jesus is handing out rewards in Heaven, I’m going to stand in line.

            V.      Conclusion

I think when we fall away, we miss out on God’s perfect plan for us.  We can choose to be disobedient.  Surely the Israelites did, over and over.  But I think when we do that, we walk off the paved road and into the thorns and brambles.  Last week, Theresa mentioned that in Deuteronomy, God had blessings he was going to provide to Joshua, but because of disobedience, they would now have to work for what God was going to provide for free.  The way we practice our faith is like that.  We may have eternal life, but if we rebel, we will struggle.  And God wins that struggle every time, doesn’t He?

So what does “fall away” mean here?  I think it speaks to the heart.   I think instead of falling away, we should be striving to fall forward.  When in trouble, pray.  When in doubt, seek His glory in the creation around you.  Learn how to doubt our doubts.  When saddened, yearn for peace.  God asks us to depend on Him when we are troubled, not run from Him.  The choice to run away from God or run toward God is up to us.  Running away multiplies the problems, running toward God gives us hope.  Trust in the salvation we already have.

To God be the glory.