Tag Archives: Hebrews

Strive For Peace With Some People – Hebrews 12:14-16

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:14-16).

PeaceButtonStrive for peace with whom? Well everyone. It says so right there. If you prefer another translation over the ESV like the NASB then it is “all men” while the KJV renders it as “all”. Simple right. Not really because of the phrase that follows: “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” We certainly should strive for peace wherever possible, but never when it requires us to sacrifice the holiness that is our calling in Christ Jesus.

When we run into these “everyone” type clauses in Scripture, one helpful method I learned somewhere was to try to better define the “everyone” and re-read the passage with the fuller definition. For example, let’s replace “everyone” with “everyone in the entire world” in those verses quoted above. We want to use this method of expanding the definition in the full context in cases like this where the same group is being talked about. If we stopped at the end of the first clause of verse 14, it would not help us. So, let’s give it a try:

Strive for peace with everyone in the entire world, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one in the entire world fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up in the entire world  and causes trouble, and by it many in the entire world become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy in the entire world like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

We can see that verses 15 and 16 are continuing the same thought because the author is still covering the topics of peace and holiness. Does it make sense for us to be commanded to see to it that no one in the entire world fails to obtain the grace of God? Or to see that no one in the entire world is sexually immoral? Of course not. So the “everyone” in this context cannot be referring to every man, woman and child in the entire world. So who is it then? Let’s try our little exercise again using “in the Christian church”:

Strive for peace with everyone in the Christian church, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one in the Christian church fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up in the Christian church and causes trouble, and by it many in the Christian church become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy in the Christian church like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

That makes perfect sense. Of course we want to strive for peace with every true believer. Of course we do not want bitterness between believers in the church. Of course we do not want to have peace with the sexually immoral who may be residing in our churches. And the author was writing this to a group of Christians.

A lot of times these days we Christians are made to feel guilty if we do not embrace sin or if we condemn false teachers. Somewhere this idea began floating around that we sheep must make peace with the wolves who are trying to devour us! But, we can look to the example of Jesus who did NOT pursue peace with everyone in the entire world:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:13-17).

The wolves had invaded the temple. Jesus, the shepherd, did not invite these wolves over for a nice warm cup of coffee and some pastries to discuss peace terms with them. And neither should we! He drove them out because they were putting a barrier between the people and God. These were enemies of Jesus and the Father. Jesus could not have peace with them because it would have required sacrificing his holiness and turning his back on the unholy activities that were polluting God’s house. Jesus would have had to sacrifice his love for the Father, his love for those who were trying to come to worship, and even his love for these sellers and money-changers that perhaps had never even stopped to think of the wrong they were doing.

Armored_knight_2Do not let the world condemn you for not seeking peace with them. Remember that we are at war. It is a spiritual war, but a war none the less. And there are people and powers that want nothing more for God’s children and God’s church to lay down our weapons and accept their peace terms. Peace terms that require us to turn our backs on God and the only gospel that saves. Rather than always pursuing peace, sometimes we must pick up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and fight because the gates of hell shall not prevail against us!

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Full Assurance – Hebrews 10:22

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:19-23).

As we continue to work through the book of Hebrews in our Bible study, I am amazed time after time after time by the goodness of God. A wretched sinner like me can enter the holy places of God with full assurance? How can that be? Full assurance to come into the presence of God? Really?

If I look inside myself, I can never have that assurance. But if I put my trust in what Jesus, the great high priest, has done on the cross then I can have assurance. He shed his blood so my sins are covered. He paid the price to redeem me from my sin and spare me from the judgment and wrath of God. And God is faithful to keep his promises. So I do not have to worry that God will change his mind and decide that perhaps my sins are too great.

Do you have that assurance? The Bible tells us that we can. If you do not, then perhaps you are looking in the wrong place. No other religion can provide full assurance of salvation. But, be warned that Jesus also described false assurance:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Those individuals had a false assurance based upon their good works. Look to Jesus alone for the assurance that you can draw near to God, because he alone is faithful.

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High-Def Sins – Hebrews 4:13-16

A few months ago while I was in Seoul, I noticed a peculiar form of censorship on the Korean TV programs. All cigarette smoking was blurred out. You could see a person move their hand up to their mouth. You could see the smoke when they exhaled. The only thing you could not see was a clear image of the actual cigarette held between their fingers. I would imagine that every Korean child over the age of 5 can tell you what the person on TV is doing despite the blurred image. I failed to see the benefit in altering the television programs in this way.

blurred_cigaretteIt did get me to thinking that how we try to hide our personal sins is probably akin to Korean TV censorship of cigarette smoking. We like to think that we are successfully hiding our sins. And, sometimes we are able to hide them—but only from other people.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

God sees past our vain attempts to hide our sins. Our attempts at hiding them are far less effective than even the ridiculous pixelating of Korean TV. Our sins are not hidden or even slightly blurred. Rather we are left naked and exposed to the judge of the universe in all of our ultra-high definition wretchedness. In the book of Revelation, those who do not have their sins forgiven are described as calling on the mountains to fall on them and hide them from the all-knowing God.

Thankfully, for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, our sins are not merely blurred out, but removed as far as the east is from the west. The very next verses in Hebrews chapter 4 provide the comfort we so desperately need after reading verse 13.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

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God’s Intercession

In the book of Hebrews we read of Jesus’ work of intercession:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

In the book of Romans we read of the Holy Spirit’s work of intercession:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Now this is a topic that deserves a lot more attention than I am going to be able to give it today, but how amazing is that two persons of the Triune God are making intercession on the behalf of Christians! Jesus’ intercession is for our justification. The marks in his hands and feet are what give me the ability to draw near to God through him. While I may now be counted righteous before God, I am not actually righteous. So, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me as I bring my prayers and my needs to God. I do not know what to pray, I do not know how to pray and I do not know the will of God. The Holy Spirit takes care of that and intercedes for me.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding for me! It is their works of intercession that give me assurance of my salvation and confidence to draw near to the throne of grace. And is yet another of the countless reasons I will give thanks to the Triune God forever.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:1-3).

 

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Such a High Priest – Hebrews 7:26

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26).

crosses3Many religions have high priests, but only Christianity has a high priest who is perfectly holy, innocent of any  and all wrong doing, unstained by the sinful nature we inherit from Adam, separated from sinners by his righteous life, and exalted above everything in heaven and on earth. To him, and him alone, we must look for our salvation.

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He Always Lives to Make Intercession – Hebrews 7:25

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

As we continue to work our way through the book of Hebrews in our Sunday morning Bible study, we hit that verse last week. Wow! What a powerful verse (set in the powerful context of Hebrews 6-10) demonstrating the great assurance of salvation we can have in Christ Jesus. I know that my salvation is not at risk because Jesus not only lives again after paying for my sins on the cross, but he always lives to make intercession for me. I did not save myself. I am not keeping myself saved.

budda_statuesWhat a contrast this provides to so many man-made religions. Religions in which their objects of worship are not alive. Religions in which Jesus does not save to the uttermost, but only helps out after you have done enough on your own. Religions in which you can lose your salvation today when you sin and then have to work to reacquire it through rituals. And then face the same challenge again tomorrow. Religions in which you hope you have done enough good to counter your bad.

I have been saved to the uttermost and continue to be saved to the uttermost because Jesus lives. Not because of anything I have done. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

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An Anchor of the Soul – Hebrews 6:17-19

anchorSo when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:17-19).

Sir Francis Bacon famously said that “knowledge is power.” The author of the book of Hebrews would agree. For Christians, our knowledge of God, his unchangeable nature, his works in history and his promises for the future is powerful. This knowledge strengthens our faith. It provides a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls and the hope that we have. Hope of our future glorification. Hope that Jesus will come again. Hope for the new heaven and the new earth.

When the winds of doubt assail our assurance of salvation, we can hold fast. When the waves of uncertainty threaten to drag us away from our faith in Jesus alone, we can hold fast. We have a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls.

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