This is a continuation of the prior lecture. The notes are here
The church exists in a covenantal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This new covenant is established by God and God alone with his covenant partners, or Christ-followers who have heard the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have repented of their sins, have embraced Jesus Christ by faith, have been baptized in the name of the triune God, have received forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and have been incorporated into the church of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-47). By means of this covenant, God binds himself to his covenant partners, who in turn observe binding obligations toward him. To the church Christ has given two signs of this covenant relationship: baptism, the sign of entrance into the new covenant relationship with God and into the covenant community, the church; and the Lord’s Supper, the sign of ongoing new covenant relationship with God and the covenant community, the church.
 Allison, Strangers and Sojourners, 124.
The lecture notes are here:
1 Peter 2:9, adoption, Election, Exodus 19:5-6, Holiness, Hope, incarnation, Isaiah 43:18-21, John Calvin, Lewis Smedes, new age, New Covenant, New Creation, Old Covenant, Romans 8, Romans 8:18-25, Union with Christ
(Some rough notes on 1 Peter 2:9)
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The first and last clauses in 1 Peter 2:9 come from Isaiah 43:21:
Isaiah 43:18–21 (ESV)
18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
In referencing Isaiah 43, Peter brings the salvation of the Christians into an eschatological focus. Young states that the “new thing” brought about God “is the wondrous redemption that was wrought for His people when the promised Messiah died upon the Cross of Golgotha” (156). That is true – but it is not the end of what God is doing.
He [Isaiah] knows that when the suffering of the people of God shall be brought ot an end, the sufferings of creation will terminate; for humanity is the heart of the universe, and the people of God (understanding by this the people of God according to the Spirit) are the heart of humanity (197).
This is the point of Paul in Romans 8 speaking of the adoption of the sons of God:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18–25 (ESV)
The redemption wrought by Christ is the beginning of the transformation of the entire physical creation. Christ has not merely wrought salvation as an escape from the world – rather, Christ’s work has utterly transformed the entire nature of everything.
Smedes comments (Union With Christ):
God wanted a new creation with people in it who were His people, and this was His election. He elected a kingdom with a King, a body with a Head, a people with a leader, a universe with a Lord, and sinners with a Savior. He elected in the comprehensive Christ, the Christ who was – in faith – first defined as “Lord of All.” (90).
The purpose of this work – this choosing and creating – is worship:
Israel is to recount, not its own merit, but God’s praises. It is His grace and love they are to declare, not their own works and achievement. Herein is stated the purpose of Israel’s election; they are to be a people that will praise their God (Young, Isaiah, vol. 3, 158).
Indeed, as Calvin notes, salvation is given to glorify God:
This people have I created for myself. The Prophet means that the Lord will necessarily do what he formerly said, because it concerns his glory to preserve the people whom he has chosen for himself; and therefore these words are intended for the consolation of the people. “Do you think that I will suffer my glory to fall to the ground? It is connected with your salvation, and therefore your salvation shall be the object of my care. In a word, know that you shall be saved, because you cannot perish, unless my glory likewise perish. Ye shall therefore survive, because I wish that you may continually proclaim my glory.”
John Calvin and William Pringle, vol. 3, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 344. Our salvation is thus anchored in God’s desire for his glory. And it is for his glory that we will persevere – and for his glory that we will exist. Thus, our salvation glorifies God – and our praises which naturally flow from the recognition of our salvation glorify God.
The middle section of 1 Peter 2:9 derives from Exodus 19 and the making of the covenant with Israel at Sinai:
Exodus 19:5–6 (ESV)
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
It is of interest that Peter quotes a conditional promise, “If you will indeed obey my voice ….” One great purpose of the OT is prove that Israel did not keep the command of God. Indeed, the promise of Isaiah hinges upon Israel being driven from the land due to their disobedience. How then can this promise be granted if the condition has failed?
Peter’s entire framework assumes the New Covenant. Yes, the Old Covenant failed, but God has raised Jesus from dead and granted us hope. He has redeemed us from the curse. We have been sprinkled with the blood of Christ – which recalls the sprinkling of Moses to institute Old Covenant (Exodus 24:8).
Paul’s language in Galatians 4 draws out the significance of Peter’s argument:
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV)
The law brought its curse – but Christ came redeemed those born under the curse of the law. And not only did he redeem those so cursed, but he even extended adoption. In Romans 8, Paul writes that the full extent of the adoption will be the restoration of the physical order. Peter quotes Isaiah 43 which shows that the culmination of the return from exile will be the transformation of the physical order (deserts, beasts, water). And while certainly such images help us picture the spiritual restoration of redemption – there is no reason to think that spiritual restoration will not entail physical transformation of the very stuff of creation (especially when it is explicitly so promised).
The comprehensive work of God – physical and spiritual – extends from the incarnation of Christ (note Peter’s very physical and transcendent Christ: was “made manifest”, he bled, he died, he was physically resurrected – and “he was foreknown before the foundation of the world”). Since the transformation is not merely “spiritual” it rightly claims our entire life.
Thus the “rules” of this new life (set forth by Peter) rightly extend to our entire life. Moreover, the difficulty of the rules does not lie in the things required – but rather requiring them in a world cursed by sin. The difficulty with the law lies (in part/in whole?)in its conflict with the present age. Certainly living as one who belongs to the age to come will create conflict with the present age (and those who are not part of the new creation).
Accordingly since the structure of life must be aligned to the dawning age, our strength to obey must be fetched from the age to come. There can be no holiness in this age without hope of the age to come. Holiness is an eschatological orientation. Hope fetches holiness
This brings us back to the main proposition of the chapter, namely, that Jehovah had not only made them what they were, but had made them for the purpose of promoting His own glory, so that any claim of merit on their part, and any apprehension of entire destruction, must be equally unfounded.
John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Carl Wilhelm Eduard Nägelsbach et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 470.
1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 John 3;124-15, 1 Peter 1:21-22, 2 Peter 1:7, brotherly love, Colossians 3:12-14, Faith, faith, Francis Schaeffer, Galatians 6:10, Hebrews, Hebrews 10:19-22, Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 12:14-17, Hebrews 12:28, Hebrews 13:6, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 2:17-18, Hebrews 3:12-16, hEBREWS 3:18-19, Hebrews 5:11-12, Hebrews 5:14, Hebrews 8:1-2, Hebrews 8:10-11, Hebrews13:20-21, High Priest, Love, Mark of a Christian, Matthew 25:40, Matthew 7:21-23, New Covenant, Obedience, Old Covenant, Praise, Preaching, Romans 12:17
(Following are the notes for the monthly men’s breakfast lesson at Calvary Bible Church. As with other lessons, the oral presentation contains essentially the same doctrine, albeit with substantially different presentation. This year’s lessons have been on the book of Hebrews. They can be found here:
Chapter 13 seems like an appendix to the rest of Hebrews. Some commentators have argued that it is not really part of the letter and was some one page letter glued onto the back of a beautiful sermon. It certainly begins strange. After the mountain tops of rhetoric; after theology which ascends into heaven itself and uncovers the mystery of the cross, we find some brief seemingly simple commands. It seems too plain to even rightly be part of such a letter. Be kind, be generous, be faithful to your marriage, be respectful of your church leaders, pray for us.
I must confess that as I began to study for this lesson, I had trouble seeing the way in which these commands attached to the rest of the letter. And yet, as I studied and meditated and prayed the connection between the parts became clear.
I learned that rather than being an appendage to the whole, this final chapter in a manner is the point of the book. The book exists to teach us doctrine so that it can teach us how to worship. The book teaches about Jesus, so that we can glory God and enjoy him forever.
Let me show you. First, I want you to see the overall doctrinal purpose of the letter – and then how that doctrine ties into the practice. In the second part of this exhortation, I will speak with you briefly about the content and manner of our worship.
First: A Call to Worship
At the end of the fifth chapter of Hebrews, comes a section which almost seems a joke. The writer explains that he cannot go further in setting forth doctrine because those who received the letter “had become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:11-12). Can this be serious?
Hebrews contains perhaps the most difficult doctrine in the entire Bible. Here we read of the divinity and humanity of Jesus, his work as the true high priest, the relationship between the old and new covenants, the true purpose of the Temple, the mystery of Melchizedek, the mystery of the cross, the nature of the church, the necessity of faith, the kingdom to come. The short sermon — for it is indeed a sermon — acts like a commentary on the entire rest of the Bible. To read the book of Hebrews one must drink in the entire Scripture at a gulp. There is nothing elementary about it.
Seeing that the book contains such difficulty, many Christians will prefer to leave it alone. After all, “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). And, we will not be saved by a final theology exam given at the gates of heaven. If I know the contents of a gospel tract, then I know enough to be saved.
But look back again at chapter 5. The reason why those who received the letter could not take more “solid food” is because they had not lived as God required, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
There is a motion of the Christian life: First, we learn. What we learn affects our desires. What we desire affects our conduct. Our conduct itself changes our heart and thus gives us more capacity to learn – and so the process continues like a system of gears, each which pushes on the other.
But that still leaves one with the excuse that I don’t need to learn more to be saved, and I don’t need to behave to be saved, so why bother anyway? I may not be perfect, but I am better than most people. I may not know everything about Jesus, but I know Jesus loves me. Why struggle so hard with this book?
Turn to chapter 8: verse one identifies for us the purpose of the book of Hebrews: “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, and the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2). There you will find the central doctrine of the book of Hebrews: Jesus is the true high priest.
As we read through chapter 8, we learn the effect of this change of high priest: It came about as part of the institution of the New Covenant. Throughout Hebrews, we learn that the Old Covenant – that is, the Old Testament – was temporary: it operated with temporary high priests, who worked in a man-made temple, and offered sacrifices repeatedly – and yet these sacrifices never saved anyone of sin, “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4).
But in Jesus, the weakness of the Old Covenant passes – for Jesus is in every way superior to the Old Covenant. That old covenant was merely a picture of the true covenant to come: As Paul writes in Galatians 3:24, the old covenant – which Paul references as “the law” “was our guardian – or school master – until Christ came”. That Old Covenant could not remedy sin, but it did instruct until the true High Priest came into the world to offer the sacrifice which could redeem and reconcile us to God.
This does not mean that the law of God has vanished. In the New Covenant, the law is no longer written on tablets of stone. In the New Covenant instituted by Jesus, the law is written in us:
Hebrews 8:10–11 (ESV)
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Hebrews 2 explains that the promise and command of the Dominion over the creation given to Adam is now fulfilled in Jesus, the one whom even angels worship. This same Jesus is also our brother and our high priest:
Hebrews 2:17–18 (ESV)
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
You see, all the various strands, promises, problems, of the Bible finally come together in Jesus: Jesus undoes the damage of the First Adam. Jesus takes up the story of Israel and the Old Covenant and brings into the world the New Covenant which brings the law of God into the hearts and minds of those redeemed.
Since these things are true, we are called to live in a new and different way. The doctrine of the book of Hebrews is not a matter of intellectual or academic interest. It is a matter of the gravest importance:
Hebrews 10:19–22 (ESV)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Here is a command: We are commanded to draw near to Jesus by faith. Now we can certainly not draw hear to a God whom we do not know: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6.
And, we cannot draw near to God of surpassing holiness without seeking to come as he commands:
Hebrews 12:14–17 (ESV)
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
This should cause the shutter and the bleeding heart. It is not to say that we are saved by works, but that there is no true saving faith unless there is obedience:
Hebrews 3:18–19 (ESV)
18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
A belief which entails no obedience is no true belief. A belief which does not draw nearer to God is not a belief which will end in salvation. We cannot live as if we were bound for hell and expect that we will end up in heaven. We cannot expect that we will be the dearest of friends with the devil upon her and the dearest of friends with the Lord in the new earth.
This letter of Hebrews was not given so that we could gain a trunk of theology to drag to heaven. This letter was given to make us fit to see the Lord. We cannot willfully ignore our God and think that he will remembers us:
Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The book of Hebrews is filled with such warnings. Now many think that such warnings are given to the unbelievers in the midst of the congregation: unbelievers certainly should take such warnings to heart. A faith which exists in one’s mouth but not in one’s hands is not a true faith.
Yet, it is only the true believer who can hear and respond to such warnings. If it takes faith to draw near to God, and if faith is a matter of head, heart and hands, then only a believer can hear the call to live as one drawing near to God and follow up that command. If a man were to come in this room and shout a command in Spanish, only those who speak Spanish could obey. If God gives a command of obedience, only those who have an obedient faith will obey.
This beautiful sermon we have as the book of Hebrews was given as a guide to bring us safely through this world to our Lord. Our Lord knows our weakness and frailty, he knows the surpassing darkness of this world and so he gave a radiant guide to show a path through that darkness. We will pass through the valley of the shadow of death – but we will pass through with Jesus.
The radiant display of the glory of Jesus, our great High Priest, must stir in us a desire and thankfulness and love to draw near to him. If we do not see Jesus as a beautiful Savior, the supreme object of our desire, worthy of all the glory and praise, then we will not have the strength to persevere until the end. As our Lord says in another place: “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13).
We see all these strands of thought brought together in the final chapter of Hebrews. Beginning in verse 12 of the 13th chapter we read:
Hebrews 13:12–16 (ESV)
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
When we read the command that we are to go to Jesus outside the camp, we may not understand what that means. It sounds very far away and foreign. Perhaps it means to be a missionary, or perhaps it means to go out of the world altogether and be with the Lord death. When we read that we are to acknowledge his name, we may think that we have done our duty when we sing the song or say a prayer and then are done.
Now certainly we are to sing and pray. It may be fitting for one to be a missionary. But we will certainly all out some day go out of this world. But in the context, the Lord calls upon us to do something much more physical and practical.
Look at the end of chapter 12, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and doesn’t let us offer to God acceptable to worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Here is a command frightful warning. We must offer acceptable worship, worship with reverence and awe. Such worship must be given because “our God is a consuming fire.”
Chapter 13 ends with a prayer in verses 20-21:
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
This prayer tells us what the book is intended to do us and in us. The letter tells us at profound length of our Lord Jesus not so that we know about Jesus, but rather that we would know Jesus. The letter was given to “equip up with every good thing. The words “that which is pleasing in his sight” match the earlier command of 12:28 that we must offer “acceptable worship” (NASB “acceptable service”).
The purpose of all this doctrine in the book of Hebrews is that we know of Jesus so that we can offer acceptable worship to God in Jesus Christ. Earlier we spoke of the Christians who pass off the study of the Scripture and obedience by claiming that they know to be saved and so they are through with their duty. But here at the end of Hebrews we learn the answer to such people:
You must learn and obey so that you can offer acceptable worship to God in Jesus Christ. The first 12 chapters of Hebrews are a call to worship. The letter ends with a prayer that you may know God so that you may worship God.
Point Two: Love God and Man
What then is the acceptable worship? The temple no longer stands; bloody sacrifices are no longer needed. What then is our worship? How do we go to Jesus outside the camp?
That is the point of chapter 13 – in fact, in a manner, the rest of Hebrews exists so that we can receive this brief instruction.
First command: Let brotherly love continue, remain. Believers are commanded to love all persons – even our enemies. But to our brothers, we are called to special service. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
This is no ordinary command. It occurs over and again throughout Scripture. As Francis Schaeffer put it, brotherly love is the true “mark of a Christian”. In John 13:35, Jesus said that love for the brother demonstrates true faith, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Paul repeatedly commands brotherly love:
Romans 12:17 (ESV)
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Colossians 3:12–14 (ESV)
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
1 Peter 1:21–22 (ESV)
21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
Peter also commands brotherly love in 2 Peter 1:7. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John all command brotherly love – it also commanded here in Hebrews 13:1. In fact, it stands at the head of commands in this chapter.
One way to understand the flow of the commands in the next few verses is that such commands help to flesh out the command of brotherly love: Show hospitality. Care tangibly for the persecuted brother. Flee sexual immorality – and honour your marriage. Do not be greedy; rather be content with what God provides. Be respectful of your leaders, those who teach you the Scriptures – because it is by the Scriptures that you will come to develop brotherly love.
Before I give some practical advice on how one develops brotherly love, I want you again to see the connection between the call to worship and brotherly love. True brotherly love is true worship. A sacrifice of thanksgiving is giving praise to God, but it is also showing hospitality to a stranger.
Jesus, in Matthew 25, explains that at the judgment we will be commended for showing true, tangible love to other human beings because such service to our brother is service to Christ himself:
And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. Matthew 25:40.
The call to brotherly love is not some throw away, not some addition to the Christian life. Brotherly love is the Christian life – you cannot be a Christian and not love your brother:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
(1 John 3:14-15 ESV)
Remember all the discussion of faith and obedience and salvation? Here is where that comes together. Without love there is no true faith and no true obedience. True faith necessarily produces brotherly love – and this brings us back to an earlier point: Obedience makes it possible for us to better understand the Scripture.
In the very act of loving of our brother, sacrificially, we come to know God in Jesus Christ. When I was a boy growing up in Burbank, I often wondered what I could see from the top of the mountains which mark on edge of the city. Only when I climbed up those mountains did I get the sight from those mountains. I could see things from the mountain top which I could not see elsewhere.
The same is true of obedience. Only when we love of our brother can we gain the sight of Christ which comes from that perspective.
How then does it one increase in brother love? Here are some practical steps adapted from William Gouge: Read the Scripture, a lot. Know the Scripture thoroughly. Attend to the teaching and preaching of the Scripture. Speak about the Bible, frequently. You need the Scripture read and exposited as dearly as a newborn baby needs milk.
Such knowledge of the Scripture will enflame your heart with love toward God – for it will teach you and convey to you God’s love for us. The more that we are certain of God’s love toward us, the more we will love others. Therefore, increasing our knowledge of God’s love toward us will generate our love toward brothers.
Prefer others before yourself. Always assume the best; don’t be suspicious about one-another. Such suspicion and rivalry will poison love and provoke the wrath of God.
Communion, friendship, familiarity: You cannot know brotherly love with those whom you do not know. If you are not in friendly relations with other believers, then you cannot say that you love them. When you keep separate from one-another, you bottle up the gifts of the Spirit. How can one show love or liberality or help or instruction or exhortation alone. The gifts are given to be spent for the glory of God. The servant who kept his master’s money hidden in the ground brought on his master’s anger and punishment. If we hide away our gifts and do not give our brother the space to show his gifts, then we steal from the Lord and harm those we are called to love.
Do good and receive good. Doing good shows love. Receiving good encourages love. There are some who take and never give – such persons provoke wrath and do not rightly understand love. There are others who do good to others and refuse good in return. Such persons are as proud as the first sort. No one of us is beyond the need of others. Be fervent in doing good and humble and thankful in receiving good.
Do this work and be courageous. Do not fear that you will fail. We cannot fail if God is with us. Even if we lose everything we own, if we have the Lord we are wealthy beyond believe.
Do you see how such work is counter to the world. The world says that we must protect ourselves that we must provide for ourselves. The Lord says that we must spend not merely our money but our very lives for Jesus. Brotherly love is madness – except that the world has been turned upside down because Jesus has conquered death. Go to him, outside the camp. Lay aside the wisdom of this world. Offer to the Lord acceptable worship.
We can confidently say
The Lord is my helper
I will not fear
What can man do to me?
1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 1:4, Exodus, Exodus 3:16-17, Ezekiel, Ezekiel 20:6-8, Genesis 3:15, Hebrews, Hebrews 10:1-4, Hebrews 12:18-29, Hebrews 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 3:12-14, Isaiah 53:10, Jere, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 7:16, John 6:37, John 6:40, Last Supper, Luke, Luke 22, Luke 22:14-15, miah 31:31-34, New Covenant, Old Covenant, Passover, Prayer, Preaching, Psalm 50:19-22, Resting on God, Titus 1:2, Valley of Vision
(Sermon to be preached on March 25, 2012, at Calvary Bible Church):
Making Purification for Sin:
This will be a sermon without a porch. I’m not going to ease you into the text. There will be no introductory story. Instead, I’m going to bring directly into the living room. Our subject reaches from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Now please turn to Hebrews 1 and read with me.
Hebrews 1:1–4 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
You can learn a great a lot by merely paying attention. You can understand most of the Bible by merely taking your time to think and read. It takes patience and attention.
Hebrews 1:1-2 is one long sentence which contains one main verb: to speak. To understand a sentence, start with the verb. The verb has a subject, the one who speaks: God. This sentence is about God and what God has done.
The sentence tells us about how God spoke. Long ago, God spoke by prophets. In these last days, God spoke by his Son.
There are two times spoken of in these verses: “long ago”; and, “these last days”. Time has been divided, and now we are living in a new age – the “last days”.
Why the division? The text implies that the great difference between the ages stems from the manner in which God spoke. “Long ago …. God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” Then a break takes place at the beginning of verse 2 – your translation may or may not have a “but”. There is a shift from the time past to the present, there is a change from speaking through prophets and now speaking through the Son.
This leads to a question: Why does the Father move to speaking through his Son? Why does speech through the Son put an end to the old order, to the previous age? What happened to change the relationship between God and the world?
The key to understanding the shift is found at the end of verse three, where we see the words
After making purification [of if you have an NASB it reads “When he had made purification”] for sins, he sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high
The action of making purification lead to the incarnate Son being exalted. That movement of purification and exaltation radically transformed the universe – it changed how the Creator relates to the creation; it moved the universe from “long ago” to “these last days”.
The next time I am here, we will look to the exaltation of Jesus. This morning we are going to examine the words, “making purification for sins.”
If you have been around Christianity for any time, you will think, that means Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And that is true: Jesus did die on the cross for sins. However, those few words contain far more than just a statement of Jesus dying for our sins.
Jesus making purification for sin fulfilled the promise God gave to our first parents. Jesus making purification for sin decisively defeated sin and death and the devil; it made the New Heavens and the New Earth, possible – not just possible, but it has actually begun in a manner with the resurrection of Jesus from dead.
Making purification for sin instituted the New Covenant. A covenant is a word which means an agreement or a contract. There are many different covenants in the Bible. Two of the most important covenants in the Bible are the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant is the covenant on Mount Sinai. You have heard of the Ten Commandments? That is the Old Covenant – well a part of it. The Old Covenant involved Moses, Israel, and the Promised Land, and Priests, and sacrifices and a temple. God took Israelites out of Egypt, made a covenant with them and put them in the Promised Land. They disobeyed the Covenant, and so God sent them into exile.
However, when it looked like the Old Covenant failed, God promised to make a New Covenant. Jesus made the New Covenant at the Last Supper.
We are going to walk through that history from the time before the Old Covenant until we get to the New Covenant. There are some names and places, so pay attention. None of it will be too hard to understand.
We need to cover this history, because the book of Hebrews is all about this history. Our clause for this morning, making purifications for sins is a very short hand way of talking about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and all the history involved. The book of Hebrews assumes that you know all these things already. The writer is explaining what the Old Testament means now that Jesus has come. However, I know that many of you are not familiar with the entire Old Testament. Therefore, I need to give you a sketch of some key events.
We are going to look at four times: First, Why did we need a covenant? Second, what happened with the Old Covenant (Israel broke it). Third, The Time of Cursing under the Old Covenant (God sent them into exile and promised to make a New Covenant). Fourth, What happened in the New Covenant.
As I sketch this out, I am going to make some observations along the way. One thing that you need to understand to follow this history is that at each step of the way God had the goal in mind: making purification for sin. The covenants were created to deal with sin.
Part One: Why Did We Need a Covenant?
We needed a covenant because Adam and Eve sinned. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a Garden. God commanded them to exercise dominion over the creation and to work to glorify God. That was their reasonable worship.
Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve sinned, they wrecked everything. Sin ruined every human being, it ruined the animals, it ruined the entire creation. God is going to fix this problem by making a New Heavens and New Earth.
However, to fix the problem between God and the creation, God must deal with sin. You see, sin is worse than just doing some bad action. You must think of sin as the most deadly poison which could exist. It is an incurable disease. We usually don’t understand how bad sin is until we see someone commit a particularly grotesque act of evil.
Many of you heard of the man who murdered the people at the Jewish school in Paris. The man who committed the murder videotaped himself killing the people. One of his victims was a beautiful little eight year old girl. He chased her down, grabbed her by the pony tail and shot her in the head. Then the monster posted the video as a brag. He also murdered a 30 year old man and the man’s sons aged 6 and 3.
Does that make you sick? It should . Do you feel revulsion, hatred, anger. Good. That is what sin looks like when it takes off its costume and shows itself for real. The Puritan writer Ralph Venning when he wanted to express the utter hatefulness of sin called it sinful, he wrote of the sinfulness of sin.
Now, what would you think of a judge would simply forgive the man who murdered that little girl? You would hate him – and you should.
Adam murdered all his children with his sin. Adam’s sin brought death into the world. Adam’s sin created a problem which could not be solved. There was nothing in creation which could ever atone for that sin. That sin created a breach between God and man. God justly hates sin. To even begin to understand the revulsion of God toward sin, think of your revulsion toward that man who murdered that little girl.
This creates an unsolvable problem. God utterly and rightly hates sin. God hates sin with a hatred you cannot begin to understand.
But this creates a problem for man and for all creation. Nothing in Creation can satisfy God’s justice. God would be a monster to ignore sin or forgive sin without punishment. And yet all of Creation is insufficient to satisfy the judgment of sin. It is like a debt which cannot be paid.
Moreover, Creation cannot make God find a way to deal with sin. God would be right and just to merely judge the entire creation. God would be just to send every human being to hell and to burn the creation.
Yet, there when it seemed impossible that God could ever help and that sin would ever be resolved, God uttered a promise. It was a strange sounding promise. To the Serpent, it was a threat; to Adam and Eve, it was a promise which they could not fully understand. It promised a war:
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
That war would end with Jesus making purification for sin. Genesis 3:15 predicts the purification described in Hebrews 1:3. Until Jesus came, human beings only had this and other promises from God. Until Jesus came, human beings could only rely upon the promise of God that one day he would make purification for sin. How God could do that, was difficult for them to understand.
At that point, God opened up a means for forgiveness of sin. This is how it worked. If someone would trust – that is, have faith that God in the future would keep his promise and some how make purification for sin, then God would save that person. God did not reveal fully how this work would be done, he merely promised that he would do so.
The next big step in this promise comes when God chose an idolater named Abraham and promised that through Abraham all the world would be blessed. God promised also to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan – only it would be hundreds years after Abraham died.
Part Two: The Old Covenant
Abraham’s descendants end up in Egypt, were the Pharaoh reduced them to slavery. But God, who is rich in mercy, remembered his promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and determined to free the Israelites and so keep his promise. God found Moses in the wilderness and spoke to Moses:
16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ Exodus 3:16–17 (ESV)
The Israelites in Egypt likely had heard – at least some had heard about the promise that God would deliver them and take them to the land of Canaan. But they did not wait for God. They were not faithful toward God. They were busy worshipping the Egyptian gods when they should have been faithful toward the Lord.
The Israelites wanted deliverance from sin. In the end, deliverance from sin is the only thing we want or need. Every single problem in your life, every disappointment or pain is the result of sin: whether your sin, the sin of others against you, or sin generally in the world. Death and disease come from sin. Hunger and oppression are the result of sin. Sorrow and loss are the result of sin. Every evil is the result of sin. The Israelites were not content to wait for the Lord to save them from sin. So they took matters into their own hands and made idols with their hands and worshiped the idols in a vain hope to be delivered from sin.
I must make an application here: This is how temptation always works. God has promised us good, but we don’t want to wait – or we don’t want good in exactly the manner God has promised. Since we are unwilling to live by faith, we turn to sight. We want an answer we can see right now, and so we make idols: something we can hold and control and manipulate. Like Adam and Eve we think we know better than God; we hope to be creatures without a Creator. Every time you sin, you are impatient, you are discontent, you say God has failed and you must take matters into your own hand. Every time you sin you are acting exactly like the slavish Israelite worshiping the gods of Egypt.
Now, Moses came to the people and told them of God’s promise. God then mocked the gods of Egypt: each plague was designed to ridicule a god of Egypt. But even after the Lord delivered them and conquered the gods of Egypt, the Israelites continued to worship the gods of Egypt. We know this because Ezekiel tells us this on the authority of God himself. It is recorded in Ezekiel 20, verses 6-8
6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. 7 And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 8 But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:6–8 (ESV)
Even though the Israelites rebelled against God, God still made a covenant with them. God made an agreement. He said, I am the Lord and I have rescued you. I am going to teach you how to worship me and how to live with one-another. If you do this, I will let you live a land flowing with milk and honey. If you disregard my covenant, I send drive you from the land and send you into exile.
With the covenant, God gave the people a temple, along with sacrifices and priests. Here is an important point, which many people get wrong. The sacrifices and the temple and the priests did not actually take away sin. These things were given to remind the people that God had still not made the final way to take away sin. These things were pointers toward the need for a final solution, to the need for God to make purification for sin:
1 For since the law [the Old Covenant] has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1–4 (ESV)
Get that clear. In verse 3 of Hebrews 10, it says that God gave the sacrifices to remind the people of their sins – not to take their sins away. Then, to make sure the point is clear, he writes in verse 4:
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.
I want to make one other comment on the Old Covenant. This concerns the Passover. The reason I want you to know a bit about the Passover, is because Jesus institutes the New Covenant at a Passover meal which we call the Last Supper.
The covenant between God and Israel has its start in the night of escape which the people celebrated as the Passover. The night before the Israelites left Egypt, the night before the final plague, the final judgment the Lord brought against Egypt, the Lord commanded a meal and remembrance of the Israelites.
That is remarkable in and of itself: Just before they were to flee from the country, God told them to remember this: to stop and eat and remember. God instituted this meal so that they would remember what God had done, and by remembering what God had done they would have grounds for their faith about what God would do.
Since God had rescued them from Egypt, God would one day deliver them from their sins. The meal was given to remind them of the past deliverance so that they would have faith in God’s future deliverance.
This has a pointed application for us: Consider your faith – do you trust God as fully as you should? Why not? Why don’t you trust him well? Because you are solely looking forward and you can see no way in which God could possibly solve this problem. Faith looks forward, but it is based upon trust of God. That trust is strengthened by repeatedly remembering what God has already done. That is one reason that God gave us the Bible. That is one reason there are so many stories in the Old Testament. Those stories are a record of God’s faithfulness. Since God kept his promises in the past, we have good reason to believe God will keep his promises in the future.
Thus, God gave them the Passover as a reminder. They were to sacrifice a lamb and eat the lamb in a very special meal. The blood of the lamb was to be painted on the doorpost, and the people to remain inside with expectation of fleeing from slavery. Those who obeyed and painted the blood on their door where spared. The Angel of Death passed over their house. But those who disobeyed saw their own first born sons killed.
And thus, God institutes their escape from Egypt with a meal – a memorial for all generations to remind the people of the gracious salvation of God.
To understand how important remembering is, let us consider an instance where Israel forgot. Shortly after God had rescued the people, he took them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Covenant. It was a terrifying sight. The mountain shook with fire and the voice of God thundered from the Mountain and the people shook with fear.
God then called Moses up on the mountain, where Moses stayed for forty days. During those forty days, the people forgot what God had just done. They lost their courage, their faith failed. They looked for some means to solve the problems of the world and they came upon the stunningly brilliant idea of turning their jewelry into a golden calf and praying to that calf.
There is an easy application: Sin always looks stupid – spectacularly stupid from a distance. It is easier to see in someone else. Consider someone else’s sin. It looks pathetic and stupid from where you sit. It is often so stupid that it is funny, if it is not tragically sad. Take that evaluation and apply it to yourself. Your sin is that stupid, that foolish. Sin is always foolishness.
Now, despite their idolatry, God rescued and forgave the people. God forgave them time after time for hundreds of years. God kept his part of the covenant. God gave them a land and prosperity.
Yet even with the constant reminder of sin, and the constant promise that God would deal with sin – for the Old Covenant was a reminder and a promise — the people plunged themselves into idolatry. God sought to show them their desperate strait so that they would turn in faith and hope toward the promise that one day God would take away sin. But the people would not wait, they would not believe.
God sent ten of the tribes into exile. Still, the two tribes that remained continued in sin against their God.
God sent them prophets, and they ignored the word of the Lord. This went on for hundreds of years. Finally, we come to Jeremiah, the prophet who pleads with the people as destruction gathers its fist to strike and destroy Jerusalem. But the people will not listen.
The evil has become so great, the darkness has covered the city for so long, that God will no longer tolerate their rebellion. The Lord tells Jeremiah:
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16 (ESV)
Think of that: Do not pray …. I will not hear. Do not pray. Can you imagine how dark and black a hole that is? God will not hear. Even the most wicked sinner thinks in his heart of hearts that if he were to call, God would hear. But God says to Jeremiah, do not pray, for I will not hear. Is there a hell darker, an end more dismal?
Part Three: The Time of Cursing Under Old Covenant
With the final rejection recorded in Jeremiah, Israel will go into exile, the temple will be ruins, the sacrifices will be gone.
God promised blessing under the Old Covenant. But God also promised a curse. God promised that if the people violated the Covenant, he would curse them and drive them from the land.
Now, consider this: What would have happened for us if the Bible ended at Jeremiah 7:16, “I will not hear you.” What compels God to go on? We have not put God under any obligation to hear us. God has no obligation to save. The Old Covenant was utterly gracious on God’s part. God need do nothing more.
So stop and consider, what if God had stopped with, “I will not hear you.”
The Israelites had rejected God. Human beings do not want God. But God rescues human beings. Men sin to stay far away from God, but God draws near to man. Slaves worship idols, but God rescues from Egypt.
But there in that deep well God brought a new promise. God said that he would make a New Covenant and this New Covenant would make purification for sin:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV)
There is a beautiful prayer entitled The Valley of Vision which includes these lines:
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells
And the deeper the wells, the brighter thy stars shine.
Here in the deepest well, the brightest star could be seen shining in the distance. Here, God finally, plainly promised to forgive sin. God had forgiven sins before this point, but only for those who believed and trusted that one day God would deal with sin. Here, when it seems all hope is lost, God expressly says, I will make a new covenant – a covenant that will make purification for sin.
This New Covenant was the passion of God, the desire of God from before time began. Ephesians 1:4 says God determined this plan of salvation, this purification of sin “before the foundation of the world.” Titus 1:2 says that this promise was “before the ages began”. And in John 6:37, Jesus says that elect have been given by the Father to the Son. Before the ages began, before the foundation of the world, the Father determined to give the elect to the Son – before ages began the Son determined to save.
You see, even before Adam sinned, God determined to make purification for sin. Before Adam fell, God determined to resurrect fallen humanity. Before death came into the world, God determined to kill death. Before Israel broke the Old Covenant, God determined to make the New Covenant. This was the earnest desire of God.
You see, the Old Covenant proved the point: We need a savior. And it was the earnest desire of the Savior to save. Another old prayer (Resting on God) reads
O God must high, most glorious
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed
But thou are ever at perfect peace
Thy designs cause thee no fear of unfulfilment
They stand as fast as the eternal hills.
Israel failed, we failed, but God never failed.
Part Four: The New Covenant
Turn to Luke 22, and we will read verses 14-15. This records the Last Supper. This was the last Passover under the Old Covenant. In just hours, Jesus will be betrayed, crucified. Yet Jesus is going to do something wonderful. And just like the Passover, God does not want us to forget his covenant. So God institutes a meal which must repeat so that we will not forget. So read with me in verses 14-15:
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Luke 22:14–15 (ESV)
Consider carefully those words. First in verse 14, at the very beginning, And when the hour came. What hour? The hour God had promised so many of thousands of years before. Here was the time when God would finally reckon with sin and destroy death.
I want you also to see the words of Jesus, I have earnestly desired. For how long Lord? How long have you desired this hour? Since before time began. Since before light shone on the Earth, I desired this moment to rescue Creation from sin and death, to destroy the curse and redeem what was mine.
Remember at the beginning of this sermon, we read the introduction to Hebrews 1? In that introduction, we saw the credentials of the Son – he was God himself, Monarch over the Creation. That is why the Father sent him to the world. The Son came to redeem what was his own. The Son earnestly desired to redeem this creation, to institute the New Covenant, to make purification for sin.
In making purification for sin, Jesus did far more than merely die that you could be saved. Jesus redeemed the entire Creation. Jesus destroyed death and the Devil. Jesus delivered the world from the thralldom of sin. Jesus proclaimed the glory of God in Creation. Jesus undid the thousands of years of rebellion. Jesus proclaimed the victory of God.
Oh how the heavens and the highest heavens must have been transfixed by the words I have earnest desired. They knew what was coming. Peter says that angels, long to look into these things. Cannot you imagine the hush of the Cherubim and Seraphim and the Living Creatures and the myriads upon myriads who watched as Jesus said, I have earnestly desired.
What did Jesus desire? Read on:
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:17–20 (ESV)
There it is! This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Oh let that break your heart! God finally dealt with sin, God finally made purification for sin – but oh the cost! The ransom was his blood. The Father from before times began determined to redeem, but oh the cost! The Father shed his Son’s blood to make purification for sin. Let that break your heart.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
Oh let that sacred moment break your heart. Those words made purification for sins means that the king of all Glory became your sacrifice. That sacred head was battered down by man and devil and bore the wrath of God himself. That sacred head made purification for sin by bearing sin.
What does this mean?
To know that Jesus made purification for sin means damnation, wrath and judgment for some. John 3:18 tells us:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18 (ESV)
God does not play at sin. The Father who would not spare his Son the weight of sin will not spare you. Isaiah 53:10 says
It was the will of the Lord to crush him
He has put him to grief.
The Father who would not spare his Son will not spare you. Do not toy with God. He is not a puppet who can be played. In Psalm 50 God says:
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. 22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! Psalm 50:19–22 (ESV)
You do not want to tempt the Father. Think of Judgment Day. You will stand before God and God will ask for his account. God has given you life and breath, and how have you spent your time. He will ask for an account of every idle word, every glance, every thought. You say, I would not trust the work of the Son. What your Son did was not good enough for me! I will stand on my own righteousness. Do you think it will go well with you? The Father gave his Son to save his enemies, and you will mock the blood of Christ? You will make an account, and he will tear and there will be none to deliver. Do not think your hell will have an end. One who would mock a Son to his Father is a fool.
You must fly, you must escape. Your blood will be on your own head come judgment day. I am glad that you are hearing, for I do not want to stand surety for your sin. You have no choice. God will not play. You must repent, you must cast your hope solely upon the Savior or you will be lost. You are no friend of God who are an enemy of the Son. If he is not your king, then you are a traitor. Traitors are killed, not coddled. Do not fool yourself.
I say that out of the deepest love. I have no better good to give you than to plead for your repentance. I do you no kindness to lie to you and make your bed in Hell. Repent. Trust that you cannot made purification for sin and trust that Jesus, the true High Priest in the true sanctuary will be your surety. Trust him, fly to him. He has promised to receive you:
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 (ESV)
Now to those of you who know him. I have a warning and an encouragement. First the warning:
Do not grow slack in your faith. You are not safe because you are saved. Oh, you will not be damned, but this is still a dangerous world. It is filled with devils and traps. There are snares about every corner. You would careful if you were to walk about where lions roamed, and yet you wander aimlessly about demonic lions and your own lusts and you are thoughtless. Peter writes to believers:
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
Put your name in the place where you read “someone”. The Devil is seeking to devour you. Jesus told Peter that Satan was asking for him by name so that he could sift him like wheat. Have you ever seen wheat sifted? Peter’s faith failed. He sinned. Peter knew all too well what it was to be attacked by this lion.
You see, the worst thing that can happen to you is not that you suffer, but that you sin. Satan devours a Christian not by the persecution but by the sin. Persecution is horrifying and wicked and we do not care enough for our brothers and sisters who know real persecution. But the true injury to a Christian comes not with sorrow but with sin. Sin is our great fear.
Do not let your faith fail that you may not fall into sin.
And sin may bring correction from the Father. Do not go there. Do you feel concerned at all at this point? You should. I mean to make your heart race. What shall I do to avoid this end?
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12–14 (ESV)
Do you see that person sitting next to you? You need her or him to be safe from sin.
Pastor Tim has a particular heart for this. You will hear him a hundred times exhort you and encourage you to love one another, to be with one-another, to exhort and encourage one –another, to eat with one-another and enjoy fellowship with one-another. He is not doing this because he wants our congregation to be an exalted social club. He wants this because the Bible commands this. We want this, because we are deeply concerned for your soul. The elders of this church love you dearly and seek nothing but your safety from sin. We are all too easily distracted, we all too easily follow our own ways.
Oh beloved, trust in what Christ has done. Look on to the Savior and you will be changed. Our trial is that we trust too little, that we love too little, that we do not admire our Savior as we should. We will receive a kingdom!
Have you ever hoped that you could be great, truly marvelous – a wonder? That is the hope of glory. That is the hope to be forgiven from sin so that you are set free to glory in God in Jesus Christ. Do you fear death? That is the fear of sin. Sin in its plain colors is death. Sin leads no other way. But you were created for something greater. You were created for God himself.
The chief end of man – the reason why you were created is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. The greatest joy a human being can obtain, the greatest joy we can hope to obtain is to glorify and enjoy God. We were created for that end – and a great and glorious end it is.
I can guarantee your misery: Live for yourself. Make you, you own desires and wants your chief end. Do what pleases you right now and ignore the wisdom of God. You will enjoy just long enough to be made miserable. The Devil, that master fisherman, will allow you to swallow the hook and line and it will slide down into your gullet. Only then will he set the hook. The barb will draw into the space beneath your rib. You will feel the tug of the line and the pain of the hook, but you will not escape unless God miraculously sets you free. Do not toy with the Devil’s baits, he intends only your horror and misery and ruin.
But for you, I hope for something better.
18 … you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. [That was the making of the Old Covenant]20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:18–29 (ESV)