YE ARE COME TO WHAT?
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24.
There is much to glean from these verses of scripture. They center on the contrast between the law, and the church as expressed by “church of the firstborn.” Here, the Old Testament world of shadows and symbols, and the New Testament world of realities come together in a most thrilling way.
It begins in the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. God purchased to Himself the firstborn by the blood of the Passover Lamb. He emphatically proclaimed to the Hebrews that the firstfruits of man, beast, the field, etc. belonged to Him, and such must be yielded to Him or redeemed with fair price. Soon a census was taken and the tribe of Levi almost matched in number the total of firstborn saved from death by the blood. Whereupon, God traded the firstborn back to the Hebrews for the entire tribe of Levi who would produce the priests and minister about holy things. It is important to connect the dots here. The Old Testament priests then became representative of the firstborn ones from Egypt.
The Levitical priesthood was destined to cease, giving way to another priesthood, and another high priest after the order of Melchizedec Who would serve the covenant people of God without end. He, of course, is Jesus. Who is THE FIRST BORN from the dead among many brethren.
When the New High Priest fulfilled every jot and title of the Mosaic Law, He redeemed His people of covenant out from under the Old and into the New. The expression of the New Covenant among men is the New Testament Church (purchased with holy blood) and the pillar and ground of the truth. Soon after the empowerment of the church by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, gentiles were added as it grew by leaps and bounds under the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul and others. The people of this New Covenant are called the “Israel of God,” Gal. 6:16. Moreover, Peter calls them “a royal priesthood.” I Peter 2:9. Consequently, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes that we are no longer under the law. We have not come to Mt. Sinai, but to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem . . . To the church of the firstborn…. But while we have this blessed status and enjoy the understanding and spiritual maturity it affords us, there is much greater personal responsibility regarding personal submission to the instructions of Christ Jesus, our eternal high priest. We must not turn away from Him Who has spoken to us. We must learn to worship and serve God acceptably. While it is sweet to enjoy our relationship with Him as our Loving Heavenly Father, we must hear the following verses as well, and know that our God is indeed a consuming fire.
The church of the firstborn! What a lofty position to which we have been elevated in Christ Jesus!
CONTRADICTIONS? YES? NO?
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
There are times when one may wonder if Holy Writ supports a contradiction. Here is what is meant.
Hebrews 10:26-27 states, “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. Then, one may read in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –
A student once asked, “Which way is it? If confession is made and sins are forgiven, then why is it said there is no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for judgment as a result of sins committed? It may be rightly supposed that quite a number of people wonder the same thing. The writer of Hebrews speaks of a willful turning away from the truth of the faith once delivered to the saints to follow another path. If such an one under-
stands the New Testament plan of living for the Lord and willfully rejects it, what is it that would bring him back to it. There is no plan “B.” Those so erring will follow a path of iniquity which shall be devoured at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Lord will not reward disobedience.
However, what the Apostle John points out is that all of us have to deal with sin in life. Such is not a rejection of the teaching of the Lord, but moral slips, unbecoming speech; disrespect for others; sins of omission as well as commission that should be repented of daily. In such cases, the Lord is always ready to forgive and to heal His dear children. On this basis the true Christian will walk in the light as He is in the light, and know all the wonderful benefits of life mentioned in I John 1:7.
Is there a contradiction in the Word? Absolutely not, far from it. Trust it fully, and know the peace it brings!
REST FOR THE SOUL
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
God provides marvelous, incomprehensible rest for the human soul for those who access it the one and only way; His way! Hebrews Chapters Three and Four speak of it in at least four angles of thought: 1) it was rejected; 2) it is presently experienced; 3) there is more of it to come; and 4) some presently come short of it.
The Hebrews, brought out of Egypt, rejected God’s rest through unbelief. This is not to say they were lost people, but they did not exercise ongoing faith in God and His way for them. Thus did they give up grace for law, and as a people never knew the great rest for the soul offered through the medium of faith in God’s Word and ways.
That rest is a current reality for those of God’s people who are submissive to Him in discipleship; who learn the blessed joys of the Word, and commit themselves to that knowledge. This is spoken of as one ceasing from his own labor, spiritually, and depending entirely on the labor of God Who has also ceased from His, because the works were finished from the foundation of the world (casting down of the cosmos). Understanding the symmetry, harmony and unity of the eternal Word is their priceless possession and ultimate possibility of rest for the soul.
Additionally, there is more of it to come as verse nine forthrightly states. When faith becomes sight and hope becomes reality, there will be total, undisturbed rest in all of the ongoing activities. Doubtless this is a reference to the coming millennial reign of Christ Jesus and the ensuing heaven age.
But the sad reality is that there are those who have believed in Jesus, but have stopped short of being a committed, learning disciple. This causes them to be uncertain in spiritual matters, and fodder for the glib, but erroneous preachments of an endless line of charlatans. Such a state of life as this is the devil’s playground, leading one from one heresy to another while all the time living in uncertainty about who they really are, and how God views them as being saved or lost.
The biblically taught reaction to this scenario is stated in 4:1. “Let us fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” To fear is not to be always in that state, but it is motivational to receive and to share the great truths of the Word, and the hope that lies in in the heart of God’s covenant people.
Previously, we mentioned the Hebrew seḏeq (H6664), which primarily speaks of conforming to a moral, ethical standard or norm, and is often connected to the term justice. As noted there, God is not only righteous in Himself—He lives up to the perfect moral and ethical standard of Himself—but He also produces righteousness in those whom He saves through Christ.
The question arises, however, how exactly does God produce this righteousness? Coupled with God’s grace is faith. In the NT, in fact, these two words appear together in twelve verses (most notably, Rom_5:2 and Eph_2:8-9). In contrast, the OT contains a unique word for faith, the Hebrew ’emûnāh (H530, ), often also translated truth. This word comes from the root ’āman (H539), a verb whose core concept is “certainty,” which is graphically underscored in Heb_11:1, which, of course, was written to Christian Jews. That verse declares that the foundation, the very essence of faith is an absolute confidence that while we can’t see something, we still know that it is real and that it is ours. Pictures in the OT include the certainty of a building’s “pillars” (2Ki_18:16), building a “sure” house (1Sa_2:35), and driving “a nail in a sure place” (Isa_22:23).
Spiritually, then, ’āman is the believing and receiving of something as being true and sure, as Abram “believed in the LORD; and [God] counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen_15:6; cf. Rom_4:3-5; Rom_4:9; Gal_3:6-14). A key OT text is Hab_2:4—“The just shall live by his faith [’emûnāh]”—the background of which is the conceit and arrogance of the Babylonians. “Lifted up” is ‘āpal (H6075), appearing only here in the OT and literally meaning “to swell”; the Babylonians were, indeed, swollen, puffed up in their pride and self-sufficiency. In stark contrast, God declares that the righteous person will live by faith. So pivotal is this principle that it is quoted three times in the NT. By quoting this text in Rom_1:17, Paul says salvation is by faith, in Gal_3:11 he emphasizes that that salvation is not by works, and in Heb_10:38 he adds that we now live by faith in all things. We will continue these thoughts tomorrow.
Scriptures for Study: What picture of certainty do we see in 2Sa_4:4 (“nurse” is derived from ’āman). What is the object of certainty in Psa_19:7 (“sure” is derived from ’āman)?
“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 11:6.
Since everything was created by Christ for His pleasure, and since faith is the only way to bring Him pleasure, Christians would do well to understand what faith really is.
God working in us to bring about His good pleasure means that to live by faith we must surrender to God and let Him work His own pleasure out in our lives (Phil. 2:12, 13).
Faith is not something we can work-up, it is God working in us. Even 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” (Eph. 2:8, 9). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:16, 20).
The faith and the grace is all of Christ that He may receive all the glory. Faith, hope and love are supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Surrender, relax, enjoy the ride and leave the driving to Jesus.
For whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23). How much of our lives will not reap rewards because it was not of faith?
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
God will always keep His word. He is “the faithful God.” He is immutable (unchangeable). Because He is the perfect God, He cannot change, nor can He ever lie. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that this truth should result in hope, like “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Hebrews 6:19). The faithful promises of God keep us secure, like an anchor, during the storms of life.
You can count on the promises of God. They are true and will be fulfilled, just as He has said. As Moses wrote, God will keep His commandments, even to a thousand generations. Most people believe that one generation is 20 years. If that is so, God’s promises are good for at least 20,000 years! Now that is a guarantee worth believing!
God is faithful for a lifetime and throughout eternity. Upon what promises of God are you building your life? Upon what word from our faithful God are you depending?
At times you may not be faithful, but you can depend on the faithful God!