Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Foundation of the Gospel. ~ Ganeida

I said I was going to cover Hebrews 6:1~2 ~ with a good deal of trepidation.  Like many of you, I find Hebrews difficult. It's not that I dislike Hebrews.  It is however a complex book that cannot be skimmed & still understood, partly because it is very much a Hebrew book written for other Hebrews, who would have understood, without explanations or study, much of what is contained therein.

To quote D Thomas Lancaster: The epistle to the Hebrews contains some of the most difficult material in the whole New Testament. A careful reading of the book reveals multiple levels of complexity & sophisticated biblical allusions employing rabbinic methods of argumentation.  For example, read the first 2 chapters.  The writer assumed his readership understood what he was writing, but he was writing at a level of biblical literacy that far surpasses our own today. He expected his readers to recognize & understand subtle  allusions to numerous Old Testament passages.  He bandied about quotations from the Torah, the Psalms, & the prophets in a sort of apostolic shorthand to invoke whole concepts & inter~textual relationships.  He employed rabbinic modes of exegesis & argumentation that required his readers to be well studied & adept in those forms of discourse.  So what did he mean by saying to his readers: You still need milk?

Paul, I might add, had the same problem with the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 3:1~2]

So lets start by looking @ what Hebrews 6:1~2 actually says:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

According to scripture these 6 things are the foundation of our faith but even in the 1st century we had a problem with the church.  Many believers, dare I say the majority of believers, failed to *press on to maturity*.  They didn't even have a good grasp on the basics.

I am going to go through these six things one by one though it may take us more than 1 session to cover them all.

The first foundation is Repentance from dead works.

Repentance is metanoia.  As we have seen metanoia means a complete change of direction.  In essence it means, not sorrowful regret, but a complete change of heart: conversion. Thus our *dead works* is referring to our sins, not to obeying God's commandments. Conversion gives us the *new heart* [Ezekiel 36:26] which will cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances according to Ezekiel 36:27. David understood the heart & obedience go together.  Psalm 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You... Grace does not release us from obedience.  Grace enables us to walk in obedience.

Nor is  repentance a one off thing, as you might imagine from the way some people teach salvation.  It is an ongoing thing because we are still in this world, still tempted by the things of this world but 1 John 1:9 assures us: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Again, our confession is not sorrow for our sin.  All too often our sorrow is more sorrow @ being caught out than any desire to really change. No, our confession is our agreement with God that we have transgressed His Law & a genuine desire to change because only then can the Holy Spirit come alongside to help us.

Lastly we have a good deal of confusion about the Law.  The way it is mostly taught you would be inclined to think the whole Law was done away with @ the cross but a little common sense will show that this cannot be the case. Jesus, Himself, said He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it. [Matthew 5:17]  When pushed, He condensed the Law into just 2 commands: Love God; Love people.  [Matthew 22: 37~40] Even, until fairly recently, Christian countries adhered to the 10 commandments.  Jesus words & the 10 commandments are the essence of God's Moral Law & we are expected to adhere to that for throughout the epistles you find the writers expounding on the moral Law we are expected to keep. Grace does not give us licence to sin like the devil.

The second foundation is faith toward God. 

Remember faith is not quite the same as belief because even the demons believe [James 2:19] & they have a much better grasp on spiritual things than most Christians.  Again & again in scripture we see faith linked to action. What we really think & believe is what we will express through our words & our actions. Again we are reminded that we must discipline our thoughts because our thoughts control our actions.  We can say we have faith in God all we like but if we blame God for every little setback, if we do not trust in His goodness & that He is working everything out for our good then we actually do not have biblical faith. 

The Greek says pisteos epi Theon ~ literally faith on God, in the sense of relying on him. Now a Christian should rely on God for every aspect of his life but we need to understand neither the gospel nor the bible as a whole is about us.  It is about God.  It is about His plans, His Grace, His redemption, His promises.  With that in mind you begin to see that faith is not an ethereal thing but based on verifiable facts.  From Genesis on God promised a Messiah & the Hebrew people lived in that hope for generations.  It was fulfiled in Jesus Christ.  God promised & He kept His promise.  So too will He keep & fulfil all His other promises: the redemption of Israel, the resurrection of the dead, the Messianic Age, the judgement of the living & the dead.

We talked last week about the internal tension in scripture & here you see it again for we are saved by grace & all our righteous deeds are as filthy garments but God is also a God who rewards the righteous & punishes sin.  There is a coming Kingdom & even the saved will give an account & be rewarded or suffer loss. It is not either or; it is both. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 We are to trust that what God has told us is true & will come about, even if we cannot see it because we are to walk by faith & not by sight. [2 Corinthians 5:7] These things are greater than personal salvation.  It includes the redemption of the entire world from the effects & ravages of sin. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:18~21

We then come to *washings*.

The Greek word is baptismos ~ baptisms, plural.  This probably refers to something similar to the didache, instructions to new converts before receiving baptism, & baptism would refer to full immersion because that was the practice of Judaism, from which the early church arose. Besides this is a letter to Hebrews & this is how they practised baptismos.

This  probably refers to the initiation rite after a probationary period that allowed full participation in the life of the church, including partaking in communion, of the first believers. We see vestiges of a similar thinking in the catechism of some churches or the instruction given before confirmation or the taking of first communion. It is, actually, extremely biblical.  In Luke 14:25~34 Jesus specifically says we are to count the cost of being His disciple.

We have no instruction about this here because everyone knew what was being spoken about.  Judaism practiced ritual immersions of various types ~ after menstruation for example, before entering the temple, after handling a dead body ~ for repentance of sins, as John did.

I would include here the baptism of the Holy Spirit ~ the full surrendering of ones mind, will & spirit to the Holy Spirit because only He can help us crucify the flesh & lead us in the way we should go. Without the oil of His presence the other becomes merely empty ritual.

Next is laying on of hands.

The laying on of hands implies an impartation & a ratification of a new disciple signifying the passing on of knowledge & tradition to the next generation.  It was not something to be done lightly [1 Timothy 4:14] but it was a basic tenet of the faith. It implies commitment on the part of the believer.

There are 3 different functions for the laying on of hands in the bible: to impart blessings; ritual substitution [ie temple sacrifices]; ordination ~ or imparting the Holy Spirit. Blessings would include praying for children & the sick.  Substitution is irrelevant as Jesus became our substitute sacrifice.  The laying on of hands for ordination is like the passing on of a baton for any form of ministry.  It imparts authority in the Holy Spirit ~ hence why it is not to be done hastily or carelessly.

The resurrection of the dead.

One life.  One death. One resurrection. This is what Jesus taught. The physical resurrection of the body will happen for If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 

The body is important because it will be raised to rule & reign with Christ on this earth.  It is not a spiritual resurrection.  We will not be ghosts, just as Jesus was not a ghost.  The body will be physical, if changed, with the need to eat because the resurrected Christ ate,  the ability to perform physical tasks because Jesus cooked for His disciples on the shore ~ & this is such a large topic I am going to leave it @ that.

Eternal Judgement.

This is the gospel according to Jesus: Repent of your sins; trust in God: get baptised; become a disciple, then you will be resurrected  & enter into eternal life. We should be living with these 6 essential things firmly in mind.

None of us like to think about facing the judgement of God.   Any time I can think of in the Old Testament when God showed up men quailed.  They fell down as dead men.  They could not stand, nor look upon His glory. In fact, Jesus had to empty Himself of His glory in order to minister as a man [Philippians 2:7] & become the High Priest who understands our frailties. [Hebrews 2:17]

As Christians I think we would live very different lives if we truly grasped the implications of the life we live in this world, this life. God will reward each person according to their deeds [Romans 2:6] First Corinthians teaches on this very clearly. ...each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. [3:10~15]

What's more ...we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. There are things God has planned specifically for us to do that His glory might be revealed through us.  Inasmuch as we fail in these tasks we fail in our faithfulness to our Lord & King & we will be held to account, & we will be rewarded or suffer loss accordingly.

What I want to hear when I face that judgement is Well done, good & faithful servant. [Matthew 25:23] Those found faithful in small things will be put in charge of greater things & enter into the joy of their master. 

No comments:

Post a Comment