Friday, September 17, 2010

This is our God . . .

So I'm still processing the early chapters of Hebrews. To tell you the truth, reading and rereading these chapters has been like giving my faith a shot of adrenalin. I think I'm experiencing a little personal revival here!

I've been saying in my series of posts on church visits that I'm just looking for something "Jesusy." Admittedly, I stole that term from Jared Wilson (at least I think that's who I stole it from). Anyway, it's a term of convenience. If you want to see an example of preaching that is Jesusy, read Hebrews for one. The author always explicitly ties his imperatives (what we should do) to our understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done, and later, as we shall see, to "drawing near" to him in faith. The author is wearing Jesus-colored glasses. His exhortations are anchored in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So what I'm going to do now, for my own good as well as yours (I hope), is list out what the author says about Jesus (all in the first two chapters), and then, in a separate list, seven imperatives (some plainly stated, some strongly implied, and all coming in the third chapter of the letter). So, first, what's all this talk about Jesus?
  • God, who long ago spoke to us by the prophets of old, has now spoken to us by his Son, Jesus
  • He appointed Jesus to be heir of all things (all creation)
  • and in fact through Jesus he created all things
  • Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God
  • and the exact imprint of the Father's nature
  • Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power (!)
  • He made purification for sin
  • and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
  • above all things, including even the angels, who worship him
  • and reigns triumphantly with a scepter of righteousness
  • making his enemies his footstool
All this is from chapter one.  This is what the writer is talking about when he says, at the start of chapter two, that we should all pay much closer attention to what we have heard (this grand and high message about Jesus), lest we drift away.  Not to pay close attention is to neglect our salvation, which no one should ever do.

But what does chapter two say about Jesus (for the author is not done emphasizing Jesus)?
  • he is the founder of our salvation (the salvation we shouldn't "neglect")
  • he was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering and death
  • in fact, he was made perfect through suffering
  • tasting death for (in the place of) everyone (!)
  • By doing so he thus brings many sons (and daughters) to glory
Note: the One who is crowned with glory brings many to share in that glory.  How?  By dying for them.
  • Thus, he is not ashamed of us.  Not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (!)
  • he partook of mortality, sharing our flesh and blood existence
  • so that by dying for us he might destroy the devil, who holds sway over us by the power of death, keeping us in constant subjection to the fear of death
  • but he has freed us from that lifelong slavery
  • all this that Jesus has done may be summed up in this word-picture: Jesus is our merciful high priest, making propitiation for our sin by the sacrifice of himself
  • and now, from his throne on high, having suffered temptation as a man, he is able to help those who are tempted.  
Okay, all that is in chapter two.  There you have most of what the author of Hebrews says about Jesus in the first two chapters.  Amazing, no?  His shorthand term for all this is "salvation."  Elsewhere it is called "the good news."  I would say it is the playing out of the grand design of God to restore creation, which has been marred by sin, and to retrieve his lost children from the grip of death, at unfathomable expense to himself.  

Now, in chapter three I count at least seven distinct imperatives (whether stated or implied), that hinge on all this that has been said about Jesus.  Here they are:
  • Therefore, we who share in a heavenly calling, should consider (set our minds on) Jesus (3:1)
  • We should hold fast to our confidence, our boasting, our hope (in Him) (3:6)
  • We should not harden our hearts (3:8)
  • We should take care, lest there remain in our hearts elements of unbelief, leading us to fall away (3:12)
  • Since sin is so deceitful, we need to exhort (encourage) one another every day (3:13)
  • We should hold on to the confidence we placed in Jesus at the start, right to the very end (3:14)
  • and finally, repeating a theme, we should not harden our hearts (3:15)
There you have, in list format, the first three chapters of Hebrews.  You can see that these foundational imperatives from chapter three, which in some fashion the rest of the letter will explicate, all have to do with hearts and minds.  Set your mind on Jesus, and don't let your hearts be hardened.  It seems that faithful walking begins (flows from) within.  But it all begins and ends with Jesus!

1 comment:

n. davis rosback said...

i like the way you have pointed out in list form and the reminders and information in between.

thank you.