Monday, November 30, 2009

Demonstrating Their Faith

Hebrews 11:20-31

Several years ago, a counselor dealing with depressed and unhappy children observed that when they got involved in doing something, they forgot to be depressed and unhappy, and developed a more positive attitude. When a person acted as if they were not depressed, focusing on something else, they ceased to be depressed, or as he put it, Emotions follow actions, In a world where childhood and teen depression is rampant this is a valuable discovery. The best way to overcome these problems is to get the kids doing something. They’ll get over being depressed. The activity will produce feelings of enjoyment, even if the activity is something they don’t enjoy.

Faith has a similar relationship to works. Our beliefs influence our actions. A person who doesn’t believe he can write a book will never be sufficiently motivated to continue until he finishes. He may never start, or he may, with encouragement, start, but never commit to finishing. He will avoid actions crucial to success because they require faith in his ability. Faith in God is the same. If we don’t trust him, we will never commit except to do what we expect to produce immediate desired results with assurance we will be proven right, or receive the desired benefit. Real faith enables us to step beyond these immediate and obvious results.

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”(Hebrews 11:20) Genesis 27:27-40 describes the blessing Isaac gave, a prophetic promise as to what they were to receive in the future. Had he not believed God’s promise, he could never have made such a prophecy. Genesis 48 records a similar blessing by Jacob on Joseph’s two sons, speaking of a time far in the future. Joseph made similar predictions, and instructed that when they occurred, his bones were to be transported to the place. His faith prompted giving these instructions.

“By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” (Hebrews 11:21-22)

While there is an instinctive desire to protect our children, cultures who have no hope for their children’s survival, or who fear for their own lives may well allow their children’s death, as demonstrated by cultures such as China or India. Moses’ parents trusted God, hiding him for three months, then allowing him to be discovered in a specific manner, believing God was able to overcome the government’s power. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.” (Hebrews 11:23)

Because of his faith in God’s promises, Moses chose to give up his secure position as Pharaoh’s adopted grandson, and as a potential heir to the throne of Egypt, one of the most powerful and richest nations in the world at the time. His decision resulted in loss of his position, and spending forty years herding sheep in isolation in the desert, having no contact with his friends and family.

“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:24-29)

Moses continued to demonstrate his faith, by obeying Gods command in keeping the Passover and getting the nation of Israel to do so. Moses’ faith was a major factor in Israel trusting God to take them safely across the Red Sea and walking between the walls of water on both sides. Believing in their abilities to do anything others could do, the Egyptian army attempted to do the same and was destroyed as a result of misplaced faith.

Against one of the most heavily fortified cities of their day, Israel followed a battle plan that seemed doomed to failure because God directed them to do so. The result was the collapse of Jericho’s defenses and total annihilation of the city, except for Rahab’s family.

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:30-31)

All the people of Jericho acted on their belief that God would give Israel victory over Jericho. Most of them concentrated on strengthening their defenses, in hopes of thwarting God’s plan. Rahab, on the other hand, believed that God would prevail and offered her help in exchange for her life. Her faith caused her to take a different approach. It saved her, and her family’s lives.

Real faith often leads to actions contrary to the commonly accepted practice. Those actions are in accord with our beliefs. If the faith is properly placed, the final result will be as expected. If misplaced, it may be disastrous.

Faith And Works

Hebrews 11:8-18

The debate over faith and works has raged from the time of Christ. Part of the reason is that both sides have ignored some scripture. Books like the power of positive thinking have captured many peoples attention. They have lead to many successes, and to some spectacular failures. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “Positive thinking never made me able to do anything, but it made me able to do everything better than negative thinking.” Our actions will be determined by what we believe, not our beliefs by our actions. Without faith, the actions will be tentative and ineffectual. Misguided faith will lead to disaster. The story of Abraham illustrates the relationship of faith and works.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Abraham acted on God’s command, with no idea of his destination. Believing God, he lived in tents never having land that he could call his own. He acted on that belief, and continued to do so, expecting that one day God’s promise would be fulfilled, not just in an earthly natural manner. His wife Sarah demonstrated a similar faith, resulting in Abraham having children. Even Sarah’s sin in giving Hagar demonstrated her belief in God’s promise, though diluted by human reasoning.

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” (Hebrews 11:11-12)

At the time of her death, Sarah had only seen her son Isaac. Abraham only saw his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their children. Even Abraham’s grandson Jacob and his children never saw their family own the land, just living as nomads in other countries. Never the less, they believed that it would happen to the degree that Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson commanded that when Israel took possession of the land, they were to take his bones with them and bury them there.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-17)

Despite more than five hundred years of having no country of their own, including four hundred years of slavery, Abraham, and his family never went back to their homeland, because some of them believed God’s promise. Even when it seemed that obeying God would destroy all his hopes, Abraham continued to obey.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11:18-19)

Sacrificing Isaac would have destroyed the last hope of seeing God’s promise fulfilled, but Abraham acted in obedience to God’s command. Doing so demonstrated Abraham’s faith in God. God intervened and saved Isaac’s life, providing another sacrifice. His faith came first, and led to his actions. Paul discuses the importance of this fact.

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3”

If it were Abraham’s actions that produced the results, Abraham could say look at what he had accomplished by his own efforts. Instead, he trusted God to produce the results, just acting on those promises, and God counted it to him for righteousness. He cannot brag that they obtained the land. They received it from God. In Galatians Paul points out that our salvation and spiritual life are dependent on the same kind of faith.

“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:5-7) Ephesians 2:8-9 reiterates the idea that the works do not result in salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

James stresses that faith is not complete until it is acted upon. Faith that does not result in action is powerless. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:20-24)

The action taken should have destroyed all hope of receiving the blessing, rather than fulfilling it. Faith prompted Abraham to obey contrary to all logic and reason. His actions demonstrated his faith. Isaac Bashevis Singer is quoted in New York Times Magazine, Nov. 26, 1978. “We know what a person thinks not when he tells us what he thinks, but by his actions.” If a person really thinks God will keep his promise, he will act on it, even though it seems counterproductive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Faith is Essential To Please God

Hebrews 10:35-11:1-7

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)

In Luke 14, Jesus used the examples of a man building a house and a king going to war to illustrate the need of counting the cost and being willing to pay the price before getting involved. A person who is not willing to commit completely cannot be his disciple. The last part of Hebrews, after chapter 6 is for those who seem to have committed. The faith that saves makes that commitment, and acts on it according to James 2. Here, the author examines what such faith is like.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)

God pleasing faith is a faith that can accept God’s statements about creation. Faith which cannot will never save a person. It is not a blind faith with no understanding of the effect on ourselves, but a total conviction that God has done and will do what he has promised. It commits to obedience even despite seeming contradictions and failures, having already counted the cost.

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.“ (Hebrews 11:4)

Cain offered an offering of what was easily obtained, and which cost him little in extra effort or emotional value. Abel, on the other hand , offered a sacrifice of emotional value, requiring extra effort to give, simply because it was what God had specified. Cain offered what he wanted to give. He assumed that God must accept what he offered, that he, not God, was the authority. It is very much like telling the government that you will not pay your tax rate, but a lower one. They will not be pleased either, and will not settle for what you want to give.

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:5-6)

Genesis 5:21-24 describes Enoch’s life. “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” The primary statement is that he “walked with God.” This implies he maintained an attitude of respect and trust such that he associated freely with God. We do not associate with those we don’t trust or don’t believe very long. He pleased God.

Verse 6 makes it clear that it is impossible to please God without faith, both in his existence, and in his rewards for those who serve him. Romans 14:23b warns, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” The warning comes in the teaching that mechanical obedience to rules is not required to please God. Hebrews 4:2 states that the same things as others received had a different result because faith was left out. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Noah illustrated this fact, in warning the world as a “preacher of righteousness

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. “ (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah’s survival makes it obvious the others died as a result of their own choices. His obedience condemns them for their refusal to believe. His actions also earned him the righteousness which is by faith. He had never seen rain, but he believed God, and built the ark as God directed.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hang On To What You Have

Hang On To What You Have
Hebrews 10:23-32

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Christ has taken away our sin and made us acceptable children to God. Some of my cousins were adopted. Some other kids were teasing them about not being wanted by their parents. My cousin said the other kids parents just got stuck with their children, but his parents came and picked them out special. It was true. That’s what God did for us. He picked us out for himself.

Sometimes children from the foster care system find it hard to fit into a family when they are adopted. They have been passed around by the state and some foster parents until they don’t really believe they are loved. As a result, they need constant affirmation and encouragement. Many become totally determined to do as they please. Our former life made it clear we didn’t matter much to the world. We need each others support to keep from falling into the same rebellious and rejecting attitude.

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Adopted children who rebel against their parents soon find themselves in constant conflict and punishment. They refuse to allow their parents to be parents. Sometimes people come to Christ with the same attitude. They want to get out of the system and do as they please. They are not willing to accept God’s authority as their father and Lord. By that attitude they reject what he has given for them. They may have just gone through the motions of accepting Christ as a way of obtaining something else. Their sins have already been atoned for. Christ will not go back and offer another deal because we aren’t satisfied with what he has already done. There is no need of more sacrifice for sin.

“He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:28-31)

By their refusal to allow God to be their Lord, they make it clear they have rejected the sacrifice of Christ for themselves. They have nothing to look forward to except the same judgment as everyone else who has rejected Christ as savior. In fact they have abused that offer, trying to get the benefits, while refusing to yield. How serious punishment do they deserve? One of the reasons for the church encouraging each other is in hopes of drawing those who have not yet committed to Christ to do so. As Hebrews 6:4-6 tells us, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” They have experience most of what Christ offers, and reject it, desiring something else.

When we think of the people who came out of Egypt, experienced all the blessings of God during their stay, and died without getting into the land because they refused to trust God, it seems like such a waste of their lives. It is no different for the person who has participated in the church for years without submitting to Christ fully. The author recommends looking back at what has been invested and received, and not to cast it away because the final result has not yet been received.

“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:32-34)

People believed God enough to get involved with the church, going through some of the struggles and trials the others have gone through. Why would they give up just before they receive the rewards and lose everything? The faith to continue may well be the faith to save them. James 2:18 stresses the idea that action demonstrates faith. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

The ongoing works are not what saves us, but they demonstrate whether we have truly received salvation or not. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:31-32). I John 2:24-25 instructs us, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.”

If salvation is real a person will continue. The Holy Spirit will continue to do his job of bearing witness and convicting of sin, not letting us turn completely away. He will also continue to work in those who have not received Christ, until they turn away, and fully reject his action.

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)

We can throw away a life of experiences of God’s work by turning our backs just as many did during the stay in the wilderness, as a result of a lack of faith. I Corinthians 10:11-12 tells us, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do You Really Believe?

Hebrews 10:16-25

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:16-18)

On the basis of Chris’s death, our sins have been forgiven and erased, not just pushed back. Because they are gone, there is no further need for sacrifices for sin. God has established an attitude of righteousness, a new spirit in us, giving us a new nature, making the old nature dead. The old sins have been crucified. We are a new creature. There is no sin to offer sacrifices for.

We are clean to go directly into the presence of God with only a washing off of what has gotten dirty from contact with the world. In the tabernacle, the brazen laver stood between the Brazen altar and the priests, were to wash of any accumulated dirt befor entering the tabernacle proper. Jesus illustrates what is needed in John 13:8-10. “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”

Just taking care of the day to day contamination is all that is needed. The blood of Christ has already taken care of everything else. We are free to come freely to God.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; 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.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

We have been cleansed of our sin by the blood of Christ. He is serving as our advocate before God, making us acceptable so he adopted us as beloved children. Ephesians 1:5-6 explains, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

If we really believe this, we need to act on that belief. Just as a person can believe a chair is available for him, and strong enough to hold him, it still doesn’t allow him to rest until he sits on it. It doesn’t affect the chair’s ability, only the person’s benefit. So often we hear “God said it, I believed it, That settled it.” Paul said our belief is irrelevant as to whether God’s word is true in II Timothy 2:13. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

If we genuinely believe what God has promised, we need to encourage each other to keep on serving the Lord. In particular, assemble together. The word translated church, “ekklesia” means assembly. One who does not assemble with others is not part of the church. We need to meet to encourage each other. Failure to do so is deliberate disobedience, implying that we really don‘t believe. While many say they can Worship God just as well out on the river bank, They are disobeying him by going. It is a deliberate refusal to help others. As time goes by, that responsibility will increase.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Proof of Salvation

Hebrews 10:11-18

Did you ever heat a house with a wood stove? That radiant heat is so pleasant early in the morning or when you come in from the cold. However, you are forced to constantly replenish the wood. No matter how much wood you stuff into the stove, in just a few hours at the most, the fire will start to dwindle and the room will begin to cool off. To warm the room back up, you will have to carry more wood and place it on the fire.

Modern automatic heaters are so nice by comparison. You turn it on and it regulates itself. Once the unit is hooked up and fired, your work is done. The furnace will turn on when the temperature drops and off when it gets warm. You don’t have to worry about things freezing up while you are gone, or about getting out of bed in the middle of the night to build up the fire.

The Old Testament priest was much like the person putting wood on the fire. It was a way of temporarily relieving the guilt of sin, but even as it was being done, the need for another sacrifice was building. Since the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, any more than the wood stove could take away cold, just driving it back for awhile, The sacrifice would have to be repeated again and again. It was an exercise in futility, but it was essential just as maintaining the fire was..

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:” (Hebrews 10:11)

Christ, on the other hand took away the sin. Using the same analogy, it is like a late spring day, when the sun has warmed the ground and the air. The fire is no longer needed to keep from freezing because the sun has taken away the cold. Now you can be gone for many hours with no concern about the fire going out. Before you were a slave to the fire, to keep it going. Now you are free to do other things. The cold is gone. Christ has taken away our sin. There is no longer a need for continual sacrifices.

“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)

What a blessing! By one offering he has perfected us forever. There will never be a time when we don‘t measure up. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Perfected forever means I measure up now. I was just as sinful and away from God as anyone but as I Corinthians 6:11 says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” It is him that made the change, and he did it completely, and forever, I can never go back.

The proof of this is the Holy Spirit. God promised that he would put his laws in our hearts and minds, and that he would never remember our sins any more. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and be in us in John 14:16-17. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” He went on to tell us that the Holy Spirit would teach us and remind us what God said in John 14:26. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Notice how the author puts it.

“Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.“ (Hebrews 10:15-17”

Paul says that we are in Christ, and that “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” in Colossians 3:3. In Ephesians 1:13-14, he tells us that we are sealed there with the Holy Spirit. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” To escape a sealed container, it it is essential to break the container or the seal. To get out of Christ, or lose our salvation would require breaking God’s power or the Holy Spirit’s seal.

He finishes by saying that he is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. Te earnest is the same as the earnest money offered when a person makes an offer on a piece of land. They give the money as proof of their intention to complete the transaction. Should they change their minds before the transaction is complete the money is forfeited. That is the concept here. The Holy Spirit is the proof of God’s plan until we actually receive that home in heaven. The earnest of the Spirit is referred to in II Corinthians 1:21-22 and 5:5 as well.

Romans 8:16-17 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is to give assurance of our salvation. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” If the Holy Spirit isn’t present, a person cannot please God, and is not one of God’s children, according to Romans 8:8-9. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

Once Christ takes away sin, there is no more offering for sin. The sin is already gone. There is no point in buying another ticket on the same trip for a person who already has one. He can’t use another. As Hebrews 10:18 says, “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Law Proves The Need For A New System

Hebrews 9:27-10:10

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

As humans, we tend to try to avoid the thought of death. We don’t like to be reminded that we will die one day. As a result, there are people who never go to funerals. Others love to have a story told about the wonderful experiences the person feels after death. Some accept re-incarnation, or a spirit world where the person remains here on the earth to help those left behind. The fear of death is nearly universal, as is a belief in some kind of after life. Because it is unpleasant, most people prefer to procrastinate about planning for it.

As the previous verses tell us, we have an appointment to die, and we cannot avoid it. Following death, there is a judgment, where everyone of us must give an account of ourselves. According to Romans 1:20, there will be no excuses at that judgment. Matthew 25:31-46 describes that judgment. The things described seem minor in our world, yet they are described as the difference as to what individual judgment will be. Matthew 25:46 describes the difference in the penalties. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

We all are sinners, as we see in Romans 3:23. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” As a result we need a way of taking care of the sin. Hebrews 7:19 was very clear that the Old testament law didn’t accomplish this. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” That better hope that perfected us was Christ. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28) The proof that another covenant, and better sacrifices were needed lies in the law itself.

The Law required that an atonement for sin be made every year, even after daily sacrifices were offered. If the daily sacrifices had been sufficient there would have been no need for continuing the regimen. It is like a cure for a disease. If the medication must be taken continually to prevent reoccurrence, the disease is not cured, merely controlled. The Law did not cure sin.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)

The Law, as a shadow of the real thing, demonstrated the need for a sacrifice for sin. By its constant requiring additional sacrifices, it also showed that it could never finish the job. The sacrifices of animals were incapable of removing sin. It is like a person who’s cancer is in remission going back every few months to be sure it hasn’t started to grow again. The cancer is not gone, it’s just not active at the moment. As long as it remains, it is still a threat. The single best proof that the Law is not a satisfactory alternative is the requirement for repetitive sacrifices. In fact, those sacrifices are not even pleasing to God.

“Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7)

Proverbs 15:8 tells us, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” He would rather have repentance and humility than all the sacrifices. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

By recognizing that God was not pleased with the sacrifices, Giving himself as the ultimate sacrifice, Christ has placed the new testament in effect, superseding the old one. That constant need to offer sacrifices, always under the threat of sin and death was a curse. Christ freed us from it. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: “ (Galatians 3:13).

“Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:8-18)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We have an Unavoidable Appointment

Hebrews 9:17-28

A testament is the covenant of on who has died with those who are alive, to be placed in effect at his death. A man may place his son as manager of his business, but retain ownership. However, in the event of his death, he assigns ownership to his son. That assignment is his testament. He covenants, or commits to give his son ownership. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

A testament must be validated as being actually the testators wish. Today it will be witnessed and notarized. A system of notaries was not available, and an animal was killed, and its blood applied to demonstrate commitment. That procedure was followed in instituting the old covenant, by sprinkling the blood of sacrificial animals.

“Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:18-22)

God established the principle of blood being required for sin in his statement in Genesis 2:17, stating ”But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” As Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” When God rejected attempts to use plants to comer man’s nakedness and sin, killing animals to make clothing, he demonstrated the requirement for blood sacrifice for remission of sin. The commandments regarding sacrifices under the law perpetuate and clarify the requirement. The same principle remains in effect under the new covenant and testament.

“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:23-26)

The statement “and without shedding of blood is no remission” is interesting. When we say a cancer is in remission, we mean that it is no longer growing. It may or may not have been completely destroyed. Hebrews 10:4 informs us, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” To actually get rid of the sin, and institute the new Testament required a superior sacrifice. Christ offered himself, not the blood of an innocent animal , but of an innocent man. Since he removed the sin there is no need of additional sacrifices to keep sin in remission.

Because “the wages of sin is death,” and as Romans 5:12 tells “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” we all are condemned to die. As Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:“ Romans 14:12 reminds us, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Christ offered the solution, by sacrificing himself.

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28) He did this for all mankind, not just a select few, according to I John 2:2. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” He did so because as II Peter 3:9 informs us, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” It is his desire that every person be saved.

Mark 16:16 is quite clear that those who believe, and act on their belief will be saved, but those who do not believe will not. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” They choose what they want. God would prefer that they be saved. As Romans 1:20 says, “they are without excuse.” It is not God’s fault. Those who are looking for him will be saved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It’s Not Just A Model

Hebrews 9:11-14

I was probably about 4 or 5 when I saw my first model train. It was fascinating to see that train go around the tracks, pull off onto a siding, and toy cattle load onto the train, It would then go around the tracks again and unload the cattle at a different platform, where they’d bee shuffled back into position to be reloaded. Is seemed almost miraculous.

More than 50 years later, The mechanism which resulted in what seemed so miraculous seem pretty simple and un sophisticated as compared to what is required to actually load cattle on a real train and ship them. Stops and switches forced the train to stop at exactly the right point so that the wheels would spin turning a device that pushed the toy cows up a ramp and into the car. After a certain number of revolutions it would lower the stop, raising the stop at the other platform, where the same mechanism pushed the cows off the car and into position to be reloaded.

The real life actions require coordinating the engineer of the train to properly position the train at the right time, various laborers to open gates, connect loading ramps, and convince the cows to walk into the unnatural environment of the cattle car despite their fear. Though the appearance may be similar to the model train the reality is much different. The same is true of the Old Testament priesthood Old testament Tabernacle and that of Christ.

He makes his offerings in a different tabernacle, not the earthly, man made model, but in the real one in heaven, built by God. The difference is at least as great as the difference between the holding pens of the model train and real holding pens. The difference between the sacrifice and what the Aaronic priests offered is similar to the difference between the toy cows, incapable of movement, and real cows, and the results are as different as the difference between the model train just moving the cattle to the other position to repeat the cycle and the real train actually transporting cows to an entirely new location.

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Because the model train cows were not real, no gates were needed on the holding pens, and no doors were needed on the cattle cars. Because the tabernacle was only a model, the blood of animals could serve to simulate cleansing from sin. A different sacrifice was required to truly take away sin.

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14)

While the blood of animals was good enough for the model, they would never work for the real thing. Hebrews 10:4 tells us “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

The model train, once it was set up, would continue to repeat the same actions unless something disrupted it. The real train, on the other hand, requires a live engineer to be in the cab, and live people to load and unload the cattle. While the model depicts a working business, a real business requires live people to work. Jesus Christ’s priesthood is not a model, but the real thing. Because he has fulfilled the requirements he is able to do for real what the model portrayed. Because the model could never takeaway sins, His sacrifice was needed even by those who lived under the law, just as the cattle on the model had to be shipped on a real train to the location where the model would be sold.

“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15)

The High priest was a mediator between God, and man, the one who straightened out the differences between them by negotiating with both sides. As high priest, Christ was mediator of the new covenant. A testament is essentially a covenant that goes into effect on the death of the testator. In modern English, we usually call it a will. It has no force until the death of the person making the will. Other covenants or agreements are in effect until his death. By his death, Christ put his Testament into effect.

“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Friday, November 13, 2009

For Priests Only

Hebrews 9:1-10

When an architect wants to sell a large project, many times he will make a model, usually to scale. With standard architectural drawings, details are found across a number of pages. Most people have trouble assimilating all the details and visualizing them as a whole. By building a model, the buyer, the contractor, building officials, and other interested parties can get a clearer idea of what is proposed. Details may be as complete as scale model furniture in the rooms. Modern architects frequently use a computer generated virtual model rather than a physical one but it serves the same purpose.

The model enables the buyer to better understand the relationship of different aspects of the plan, and identify areas that are not satisfactory for the intended purpose. The contractor and can see details that may cause problems during construction, and the architect can see areas where changes would make the building more aesthetically pleasing. It is much easier to change a model, than a building.

The Old testament Tabernacle was a model to help in understanding what God was doing. It was not the final project, but was designed to convey understanding. The various components resemble the real thing, but are not identical. Just as in the architects model, a paper representation or a computer image may portray a couch, without actually being a real couch, elements of the tabernacle portray without actually being the real object or event. Chapters 9 and 10 of Hebrews focus on the details, explaining how the representation differs from the real thing. We start with a general description of the actual Tabernacle or tent located inside the linen enclosure.

“Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.” (Hebrews 9:1-5)

The author starts in the Holy place. The curtain at the door was located on the east end. As you entered the sanctuary, or Holy place, the table of showbread was on the right, loaded with bread for the priests to eat.. On the left was the golden candlestick, similar to the Jewish menorah, the only source of light. Straight ahead of you would be the altar of incense.

The imagery here is very powerful, especially as we understand that the author has moved beyond the basics in the book. The outer enclosure represents the righteousness that keeps one out, or in eternal life, with only one entrance, through Christ. The brazen altar, and the laver and the courtyard are about the things mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3. Remember the goal of the book? “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.” Jews who were not priests were able to go into the courtyard, because the sacrifices included them as well, but they could not take part in the offering the sacrifice or use the laver unless they were priests.

The sanctuary or Holy place was reserved for the priests only. Revelation 1:6 says that Christ “hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;” Moving into the area reserved for priests, we find that the curtain we enter through represents Christ as our means of entry into the spiritual life. The showbread portrays him as the bread of life, the candlestick as the light of the world, and the altar of incense as intercessor and mediator with God, the incense representing our prayers according to Revelation 5:8.

Behind the altar of incense was another curtain, the veil, dividing the tabernacle into two rooms. Only the high priest was allowed to enter or even to see what was in the second room, the Holy of Holies. He could only enter once a year, when he came to sprinkle the blood of the atonement on the Mercy seat, to cover their sins for another year. Notice the description.

“Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:6-10)

That veil pictured that there were limits under the Old Testament Law, shutting man out from the presence of God. The sacrifices could not complete our access, being based on physical sacrifices and actions which were required until a change was made. Christ freed us from the physical requirements of the law. Romans 10:4 tells us, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” It is true because “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13)

When Christ was crucified, the limits were removed. Believers now have access to the very throne of God, as Mark 15:37-38 portrays. “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” With his death, Christ offered his sacrifice as our high priest, changing the priesthood, and accordingly the laws. Through him, we were given complete access, not only to the holy place, but to the Holy of Holies. It is now available to every priest, to every believer. Romans 6:11 instructs us to recognize what we have. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Until we go beyond the courtyard, those basics named in Hebrews 6:1-2, we can never attain the life God has for us, we cannot exercise our full privilege.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Keep The Old One?

Hebrews 8:7-12

The Old Testament law made no provision for the elimination of sin. It identified sin, and made provision for deferring judgment, but never eliminated it. As a result, it left mankind subject to the consequences of sin, death. The only things it could deliver were in the present physical life. It could not reach past death. Had it been able to eliminate sin, and consequently death, there would have been no value in a new covenant, a new testament. Even the promises of that old covenant were seldom attained because people didn’t meet their responsibilities under the agreement.

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:7-9)

It was not possible that any set of laws could take away sin. God had promised Life, but sin had limited life by death. Laws made us aware of sin, but did not stop people from doing the sin. The old saying “you can’t legislate righteousness” is true. The law just sets a standard by which sin can be identified. Galatians 3:21 says that it is impossible to make laws which make people do right. “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” As a result, a new covenant was needed. Man still sinned. The standards will be in the hearts and minds of the believers, rather than on stone tablets.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)

Under the old law, man was still condemned, judgment was just postponed. Under the new covenant, the Condemnatio is removed. Romans 8:1-4 tells us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

That same spirit will teach us so we are not dependent on others to know what God expects as we see from John 16:13. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” He will make those things a part of our life, writing them on our heart as Paul tells us in II Corinthians 3:3. “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.”

When a new thing is obtained, all prior ones are automatically old by comparison. By establishing a new covenant, God made the previous one old. Once the new one is obtained, it is like buying a new microwave, there is no longer a need to keep the old one, especially if it does not do what is needed. Hebrews 8:13 says the same is true of the Law. “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

Paul asks how we could insist on keeping the law in such a case. “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9) Why would we insist on using something that doesn’t work very well, if at all, when we have something better?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Better Ministry, A Better Covenant And Better Promises

A Better Ministry, A Better Covenant And Better Promises
Hebrews 8:1-7

“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2)

We have seen in previous discussions how that Jesus Christ has a different priesthood than the priests under the Mosaic law. The law was designed to make men aware of their guilt before God, according to Romans 3:19. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Galatians 3 tells us it was given as a separate covenant or testament from the promises as a temporary, stopgap measure to draw men to Christ.

Christ is a priest under the original promise to Abraham, of the true tabernacle made by God, not that made by the Jews. The other priests prepared and made the sacrifices for the people, killing the animals, and burning them on the altar, but the high priest was responsible for presenting them to God. He was the only one permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, the inner room of the tabernacle, or to see the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy seat, where he sprinkled the blood on the day of atonement. He was the only one who could do several of the other offerings. This is why the high priest was chosen.

“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:3-5)

The descendents of Aaron were the only ones qualified to serve as priests under the Mosaic law. Even other descendents of Levi were forbidden to take the office and Numbers 16 describes the destruction Korah and his followers for trying to take the priests office. Korah was a Levite, but not of Aaron’s family. Even Christ could not serve as a priest in the earthly tabernacle. There was already a priesthood charged with serving there.

The earthly tabernacle is just a shadow of the true tabernacle which Christ serves as priest. The Tabernacle was built according to a pattern based on the heavenly tabernacle. As we are told, it is a shadow of those things, not the reality. In the animated movie Peter And The Wolf, Peter and his friends were terrified of a shadow. They didn’t realize the shadow was not a real danger. The reality was something very different than they had inferred from the shadow.

A shadow only gives the most general portrayal of an object. A round shadow could be equally the result of a flat disk, a tubular object, a cone, a ball, or a balloon All that is seen is the round shadow. It is an even less precise representation than a picture. It is not an exact image. It has no depth. Notice Hebrews 10:1: “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” The law is not an exact representation of God’s plan and requirements, it is just a shadow.

Ministering in the true tabernacle, offering sacrifices that are capable of taking away the sin, rather than merely postponing judgment is a far greater ministry than that of the Aaronic priests under the law. Hebrews 10:11-12 describes the difference in their ministry. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” Not only was the ministry greater, but it resulted in a better covenant for us.

“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” (Hebrews 8:6-7)

Deuteronomy 4:40 gives a concise statement of the promises under the law. “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.” Though many other references expand on this, promising victory over their enemies, peace in the land, health and long lives, and productive crops and herds, all the promises end with this life. They are only physical, temporal promises, to be obtained through man’s efforts.

Our covenant is established on better promises. First, we will have our sin removed and be restored in the image of God, becoming like God or godly. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” (I Peter 1:4).

Receiving that Godly nature is beneficial both in the present life, and for eternity. It does not end with death. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” (I Timothy 4:8). Our own efforts to please God and accomplish things will be far outweighed in this life by letting God control our lives, and then extend into eternity, which it also guarantees us. “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life,” (I John 2:25).

Because the law offered nothing beyond this life, it needed to be replaced with a better covenant capable of providing Eternal benefits.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fitted For The Office

Hebrews 7:26-28

We occasionally see a woman wearing a dress, or a hair do that we speak of as becoming to her. It helps her look good. It accentuates attractive features, by the style and the color to make her look her most attractive. At the same time, it minimizes less attractive features, by concealing, or drawing attention away from them. Because each woman is different, what is very becoming on one may be quite unattractive on another. Some things are never attractive. To blindly follow what everyone else does will result in continually appearing at less than one’s best.

Jesus Christ is specifically fitted to serve as our high priest. He was completely human, even to the experiencing the fear of death, as Hebrews 4:15 says. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Before God, he makes us appear at our very best, even better than we are naturally. The law only made us aware of our guilt, it did not take away sin, providing only a way of acknowledging our culpability, and thus temporarily deferring judgment. Christ makes us righteous by faith in him, regardless of our sin.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:20-23)

What fitted him to do this was that he was completely human, and yet did not sin. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Unlike the Aaronic priests, He had no sin of his own, and could be righteous in him, having his righteousness.

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27)

Those priests could never even get rid of their own sins. They continually were dealing with their own sin even before they were qualified to do anything for those who came to them. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)

Christ did not have his own sin, and thus is never disqualified from his priestly duties. The law depended on frail human priests. God’s oath designated a priest who would never die or lose the priesthood because of sin. “For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:28)

A Priest By The Oath Of God

Hebrews 7:20-25

Prior to earning my plumbing license, I had helped do a lot of plumbing, and had a attained a level of confidence in my skills. However, because I was not licensed, I could not be hired as a plumber. I could only work under a licensed journeyman. Although others might consider me a plumber, I could not be in charge of a job, directing others, overseeing the job, and taking responsibility for their work. Legally, I was not a plumber.

Receiving my license changed my stature as a plumber. I now had legal authority to do things. Suddenly a whole new world of plumbing was available. I found myself in demand, because while there are many who can do the work, only a few are willing to meet the legal requirements. Legally every job requires a licensed journeyman on the job, and technically, he is to have no more than two unlicensed helpers working under him. Plumbing contractors needed my license to legally do their jobs. The state had certified me as having the necessary skills.

Without a license, I could still have legally taught classes in plumbing, even to prepare others to get their license, although not legally qualified to actually do the work. Even as a journeyman, I cannot work as a plumber except as an employee of a plumbing contractor, who will take ultimate responsibility for my work. This is somewhat the picture we find with the following passage. In effect the Aaronic priests were only licensed to do certain things as priests. They had a very limited authority. Christ, on the other hand, was fully qualified, as demonstrated by God’s oath swearing him as a priest.

“And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:20-25)

As a plumber, it is necessary for me to renew my license periodically. It is also necessary for me to obtain certification on various new technologies as they develop in order to work on every thing. For example it is not legal for me to work on or install corrugated stainless steel tubing for gas lines unless I have been certified for that product. Thus, from time to time I encounter situations where I need to call someone else in or cet certification before I can do a certain job.

The Aaronic priests were qualified only to offer animal sacrifices, and thus could never take away sin. Hebrews 10:4 tells us, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” They had to continually offer sacrifices for both new sins and for prior sin. As Hebrews 10::11 says, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:”

Christ was authorized to take away sin. “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin, “ (I John 3:5) As a result of his greater authority, resulting from his being made a priest by an oath of God, according to Hebrews 10:14. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

Talk about a better testament! I have been perfected forever. He is able to save me to the uttermost. His priesthood will never come to anything he is not qualified to take care of, and he lives eternally to take care of it. There is no danger of losing my salvation, only of not obtaining it to begin with.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free From The Law

Hebrews 7:12-19

When a person sets out to get their drivers license, they take some classroom instruction. If they pass it, they can obtain a learner’s permit which allows them to drive only if accompanied by an experienced driver, or in some states, a qualified instructor. When they have developed sufficient skill, they are allowed to take the test to obtain a drivers license.

Testing for a drivers license is much different than that for a learner’s permit. They have to prove that the vehicle they are to drive meets state safety regulations, that there is a valid license and registration, and that they have insurance. They cannot be observed by their instructors, but must be tested by an approved test administrator, who is to observe their skill in various situations. After all, the prospective driver is not trying to learn how, he is to demonstrate competency. While he drives in both cases, the requirements are much different.

The rules are different in the training program than in actual practice. As a learner, the instructor is responsible for his student’s actions. He is supposed to only allow the student to drive in settings that are within his skill level. This is why the rules are less stringent. When he obtains his own license, the student is no longer limited to safe situations. He must be able to handle whatever arises. That requires a different standard.

Galatians 3:24-25 tells us that the law was a training system to bring us to Christ. To function in the real situation requires a total change. The new driver is required to satisfy the test administrator, rather than his instructor, and to meet legal requirements that his instructor took care of before. To really meet God’s standards, we had to have a different high priest. We also had to meet different standards.

“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:12-14)

What many do not realize is that the Old Testament law was the real change, lowering the standards, and the rewards, to serve as a training program. It allowed normal human beings to serve as high priests, and fleshly laws to set the standards. Galatians 3:16-17 explains this. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”

Even human contracts cannot just be set aside because someone wants to change the rules. The commitment was to Abraham, more than 430 years before the law was given. The Mosaic law could never replace or supersede those promises. The law was placed in effect because of the wickedness of man until Christ came according to Galatians 3:19. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”

The promise was made under the standard of Melchisedec’s priesthood. To meet that standard would require the same priesthood. The promise was to go into effect when Christ came. Christ was that priest. Notice the author’s statement.

“And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 7:15-17)

Just as the obtaining the driver’s license sets one beyond the requirements of the learner’s permit, faith in Christ makes us no longer subject to the law. It no longer applies to the Christian. Galatians 3:13-14 informs us, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The law was unable to bring us to perfection because it depended on sinful flesh. It’s effect on those who believe had to be eliminated.

"For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19)

Romans 8:3-4 makes the same point, and shows that Christ didn’t just set the law aside, but he fulfilled it’s terms so it is no longer in effect. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Although the law was a temporary substitute for the promise, It’s terms had to be met before they could be set aside. Jesus was quite clear that he was not going to just ignore it in Matthew 5:17-18. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

By trusting Christ, we do not make the law meaningless, but rather demonstrate it’s importance. According to Romans 3:31. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” At the same time, we are no longer bound by the law because as Romans 10:4 tells us, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

This is a wonderful fact because it frees us from so much pressure. I do not have to keep the law as a Christian, because I have already fulfilled it in Christ. If my keeping may salvation depended on my keeping the law, I would have a problem. Galatians 5:4 tells us we would no longer be saved by his gift. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” If I were to mess up, even unintentionally, it would be to bad. James 2:10 tells us “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

As Hebrews 6:4-6 says, there would be no hope. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

How wonderful to know that I am kept by the power of the almighty God as I Peter 1:5-6 reflects. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who is Melchisedec?

Hebrews 7:1-11

God said Jesus Christ is a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec as David describes in Psalm 110:4. To understand what that means, we need to go back and examine who Melchisedec was and what his priesthood entailed. Others have claimed to have the Melchisedec Priesthood, and this will also shed light on the validity of their claims.

Melchizedec first appears in Genesis 14, just after Abraham has rescued his nephew Lot from Chedorlaomer and the other kings involved in sacking Sodom. He is the first priest of God referred to in the Bible, and apparently the only one at the time. From the description, there was no others like him. To be Aaronic priests, they had to be descended from Aaron. There is no indication of any others. Many believe that Melchizedec was an incarnation of Christ , and as we see from his description, it seems probable.

“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” (Hebrews 7:1-3)

First, we notice the name Melchizedek, meaning King of Right or righteousness. Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning Christ describes him as righteous. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Melchizedek is also called the King of Salem or King of Peace. In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah speaks of the Birth of Christ, describing some of the names he will be called. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Then we see the description of Melchisedec. He had neither Father or mother, nor predecessors. He is an eternal being. This description can only be taken to mean he is God. John 1:1-2 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” From John 1:14, it is easy to see that John is talking about Christ. “And the Word was made 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.” Clearly, the similarity is more than a title, and the final statement is that he was made like the Son of God. Christ is made a high priest forever after the same order. There could never be but one High Priest at a time. The implication is that there have only been two, and will never be any more, and those two may be the same.

“Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” (Hebrews 7:4-7)

Under the Levitical or Aaronic priesthood, the Levites were authorized to receive tithes on behalf of God. They were descendents of Abraham. Melchisedec was not from Abraham, and Abraham gave tithes to him. Natural men receive tithes here on earth, but in heaven, only those who cannot die, and Melchisedec is described as having no end. He could bless Abraham because he was greater. In effect, the Levites, who had not yet been born, payed tithes in Abraham, implying that they were lesser priests. Had there priesthood been the ultimate, there would have been no reason for another, but clearly there was a greater.

“And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:9-11)

Because the Aaronic priesthood could never complete the requirements, there was a need for another, greater priesthood, one that could take Melchisedec’s authority. Hebrews will contrast and compare the Aaronic functions with Christ’s actions to help understand why Christianity is so much better than the old Jewish religion, although there are many similarities. The similarities are deliberate. The old Jewish Religion was designed to help us understand what Christ would do. The similarity was to teach us. Galatians 3:24 says , “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

It was like a flight simulator, where we can learn the basics without the expense or danger of a mistake in real flight. It is not truly flying, but gives a useful approximation of the real thing. Those who have learned in the simulator are less likely to crash in a real plane. Those who have learned from the Law are less likely to wreck spiritually. I Corinthians 10:6 describes this. “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Unchangeable Promise

Hebrews 6:13-20

We are going to move from the basics of how to get saved, to the basis for our salvation, and how it was accomplished, and what it means as we go through the book of Hebrews. Only the most naïve or corrupt person can deny that we are surrounded with evil things. Any true observer of human nature must recognize that humans are capable of the most depraved of acts, and that even the best do evil things from time to time. Government , law, and religion are ways man has sought to limit the power of evil. They have been of limited effectiveness in life and offer no release from the power of death that results from sin.

God observed man’s wickedness and as Genesis 6:5 tells us, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He destroyed the earth with a flood, and began again with Noah’s family. They were no different than their predecessors, but Abraham was different. He believed God, and God blessed him making a promises to him as a result. Paul describes it in Galatians 3:6-9.

“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

As Paul says, the very basis of Christianity is described and promised in God’s promise to Abraham, but it did not originate there. The plan and choice was already in place before the world came into existence according to Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” God knows man’s propensity to lie, and to take oaths as a way of convincing others they are telling the truth. As a result, he commanded us not to take oaths in Matthew 5:34. “But I say unto you, Swear not at all.“ We do not have power to make the oaths come true. Instead, our word should be sufficient. The demand for more is based on an assumption of lying according to Matthew 5:37. “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Because men would assume there was no commitment without an oath, God swore by his own power to keep his promise. His oath would be seen by men as binding him to his promise. His statement was sufficient to make it true, but men might not accept that.

“For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 6:13-20)

God made the oath, to make it more certain in the mind of mankind that he would surely keep his word. His promise is based on his unchangeable nature. As Malachi 3:6 advises. “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.“ It was his unchangeable nature that caused him to protect Israel despite their wickedness. .” David said that God’s Word is true, and that it will continue forever in Psalm 119:160. “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” Paul told Timothy our hope is founded on the fact that God cannot lie and first made the promise even before the World began. “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (I Timothy 1:2”

Because our hope is founded in the nature of God, and in his unchangeable word, it serves as an anchor enabling us to stand firm in our faith regardless of what is occurring around us. We know that it is centered in the very throne of God, holding us in the right place, and not just close. Jesus Christ has gone in as our high priest to intercede on our behalf to the very throne.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don’t Try to Teach Them What They Already Know

Hebrews 6:4-12

“I’m not going to school anymore. I already know that stuff.”

That’s what my nephew said after his second day in first grade. His teacher had been reviewing what they had done in kindergarten, but the way she approached it, he felt as if first grade would be just a repeat of what he’d already learned. If so there was no reason for going back.

Several years ago, I substituted for several months in a middle school math class. One ninth grade class was considered “slow” and was supposed to be focusing on learning the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. As I learned, they had pretty much the same attitude. They hadn’t learned those things earlier, but continual repetition was just frustrating them. They were not slow, they simply had missed some steps along the way, and didn’t couldn’t progress. Unfortunately, I was slow about figuring out what had happened, and was not entirely successful in correcting their deficiencies. Only when I realized a different approach was required did I make progress. They’d had nine or ten years of the same thing. They were convinced they weren’t going to get it by doing it again.

The “No Child Left Behind” initiative created a problem in our schools, because teachers had to repeat what they had already taught in an effort to catch the slowest up, causing frustration in the more advanced students, without being able to correct the problems for those who were behind. It effectively reduces educational progress for all the students to the level of the slowest learner. As a result entire schools fail to meet educational standards, rather than a few students.

The author points out that simply repeating the basics will not solve the problems of those who have not gotten it after a few tries. To hold up the entire group in an effort to reach those who have not believed in Christ will only stunt the growth of the believers, with little likelihood of reaching the others.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)

There are always students in school who try to slide by without learning what is required. They try to do just enough to get passed into the next grade, without learning what they should. At some point most of them will reach a point where they can’t go any farther and either admit they need help, or drop out. Those who drop out are effectively saying they don’t want to learn, but they want the standards changed to meet their wants. There are those in the church who have done essentially the same thing, possibly even making a profession, without truly receiving Christ. They stay in the church for a while, and finally drop out because what they want something more than just what Christ offers. Just as it is impossible for the school to graduate those who drop out unless they are willing to go back and learn what they need to know, it is impossible to for those who have rejected everything Christ has offered to be saved. Like those who have just slid through school, they have experienced many of the same rewards as those who did learn, and now they have decided that is not enough and quit. Christ will not negotiate a new deal for them. This is what the problem was for those who came out of Egypt but didn't believe. They wanted their own terms.

If a man plants a garden and some areas fail to produce any of the plants he planted. He will not devote the same effort to caring for the weeds as he does for his vegetables. He just pulls out the weeds and leaves the ground bare. We mustn’t stop others from learning because some might drop out.

Those who have already learned those things, who have already been saved, don’t need to be saved. They need something more. If they should lose their salvation, they can’t be saved again, and a salvation message is wasted on them. There is no reason to repeat what they already have learned beyond an occasional review.

One reason the old one room schools turned out some very highly educated students was because every student was constantly exposed to things beyond his present level. He heard about things even before he was ready to learn them and at the same time he reviewed what he had learned by hearing those behind him. Many times things he had missed would be caught from the lessons of others. Separated grades lose that extended learning opportunity. Churches that focus only on the unsaved and babies in Christ offer no chance of growth to most Christians, and no incentive to the babies. It is no wonder many churches are filled with weak, immature Christians. People tend to live up to what is expected of them. The way they are taught demonstrates what is expected. The author expected more than just baby stuff.

“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:9-12)

God’s rewards are sure, but attaining them will require effort on our part. Expecting diligence on the part of believers will encourage then to reach the point of pleasing God. Expecting little or nothing will produce the same. If they are to learn much, they are going to have to be taught it. They are not likely to try for something they don’t know is there.