Agonizomai: Heb 4:8-10 Christ - Plus Nothing

Monday, November 30, 2009

Heb 4:8-10 Christ - Plus Nothing

Heb 4:8-10 Christ - Plus Nothing

Heb 4:8-10 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Still expanding upon the concept of God’s rest as found in the Hebrew scriptures, the writer points out that the coming of the (remnant of) the nation into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership was not a coming into the rest to which God referred when speaking to Moses. The Jews believed that ought to have been true. They thought that the land of Canaan was the Promised Land of which God spoke. But that land, which was taken by a fallen (though favoured and chosen) race, was also symbolic of the kingdom of God in the spiritual realm, which could be entered only through faith in what God had done (or would do).

Faith, trust, belief - not in themselves, but in God alone, was all that was ever asked or required by God. That sort of faith necessarily produced the fruit of obedience in some measure. But it was the faith itself that pleased God, and that faith was proven to be something that the Israelites could not find in themselves. An entire generation perished in the wilderness due to disobedience. They could not perform what God required, though God nevertheless required it of them. We are reminded of Augustine’s prayer, "O Lord command what thou wilt and grant what thou commandest."

And this is the good news of the gospel today - that what no man can perform God has already performed and freely gives to his elect - a rest to be received through faith. It is called a "rest" because that is precisely what it is. Just as God ceased from His labours at creation - and, in the Son, did so again when the re-creation of the sons of God was finished during the incarnation - so we are to cease from our labours and simply receive the free gift. We are to cease trying to justify ourselves and to live only by faith in the Son of God (as the sufficiency of our redemption and the security of our eternity).

This is why the writer points out that whosever has entered God’s rest, has rested from his works, just as God did. Judaism as it had come to be, in the carnal minds of the Israelites, was precisely the opposite. It became, in the hands of man, a system of justifying oneself before God by ceremony, observance, law and deeds. Along with many other saints, I believe that the covenant of grace always existed alongside the covenant of the law - even in Israel. Some saints, however, make a complete discontinuity between the covenants and believe that the Israelites were justified through the faithful observance of ceremony and law. Such people generally go under the banner of certain forms of Dispensationalism.

It is not only the way of the Israelites (who were the poster boys for the failure of all men) but of all the children of Adam to corrupt the gospel of grace by adding works to it. "God has done His part and we must do ours" is the rationalization. He has done the great part and we must do our little bit. But, as Luther pointed out to Erasmus, "a little something is not nothing" - and we can do nothing of ourselves that is effectual in spiritual causes. This is the underlying power of all revivals, including the great revival of the Reformation age - it is a return to the incomprehensible truth that all of salvation from justification and adoption to final glorification is entirely the gift of God; and that includes both our faith and our repentance.

The pattern is always the same - the dangerous truth is brought to the fore once again at great cost to the few, and there is a gradual erosion of this truth by the enemy, and by which works of some sort are added to the mix as necessary either for initial salvation, or as necessary for us to perform in order to maintain our salvation. This is why, for example, the Roman Catholics believe in salvation by grace - and might even say by grace alone, but what they mean by it is that grace must be "topped up" through the observance of certain works and ceremonies or salvation may be lost altogether.

In time of Christ it was the religious elite who rejected free salvation and insisted on the contribution of the sinner. In the Apostolic era the Gnostics and the Judaisers struggled to corrupt the truth. In Augustine’s time it was Pelagius. In the dark ages it was a succession of increasingly perverse teachers who opposed men like Anselm, Wycliffe and Hus, until Luther re-established the truth of the bondage of the human will and the sovereign grace of God.

No sooner had Luther left the scene than others came along to ease men’s thoughts back along the line of "man’s part" in salvation. The Remonstrants appeared, expanding upon the heresies of their teacher, Arminius. In England, the Puritans like John Bunyan and John Owen arose, and many were persecuted for their piety and their high views of God and His will - so much that many left England to found new colonies in the Americas.

But it goes on; there was a falling away until the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards reintroduced the truth of the "necessity of the will" and the total depravity of man alongside others such as the Wesleys, who were themselves at the root of a divergence back into old ways of man’s self-justification.

It is a struggle that is as old as time. Since the garden man has either attempted to justify himself before God (like Cain) or has received by faith the fully sufficient gift of God. And these two ways (the way of Truth and the way of error - the narrow way and the broad way) will ever be before men until Jesus returns. This truth is at the heart of what the writer to the Hebrews is addressing. Who justifies the ungodly? (God) When does He do it? (While we are yet sinners and enemies and haters of His Name) Who makes us to stand? (God) And who is able to preserve us until the end? (He Who justified us also glorified us)

And what means does God use? The preaching of Christ (as fully sufficient) and of faith in Him. We believe, we repent, we walk in Him. But we do all these things trusting in Him alone and never in ourselves - nor in any part of ourselves. It is all of God and all of grace. The Hebrews were in danger of going back and of recrucifying Christ unto themselves by returning to the self-justification of a works system.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hearing this is such freedom! As much as the old nature in me seeks to get me to feel condemned,I can ask the questions you asked in this:

"Who justifies the ungodly? (God) When does He do it? (While we are yet sinners and enemies and haters of His Name) Who makes us to stand? (God) And who is able to preserve us until the end? (He Who justified us also glorified us)"

I couldn't save myself, I can't un-save myself; It is God who saves, God who keeps, and God who grows us up. Praise God that this has nothing to do with my desires,m because they would never have chosen God. Thank you for drumming this into my head. It is beginning to sink in.

10:08 am  

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