Agonizomai: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heb 11 - 11-12 - Christ - Effecting God's Purposes Through People

Heb 11 - 11-12 - Christ - Effecting God's Purposes Through People

Heb 11:11-12 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

In the light of some things we are told in Genesis it seems strange for Sarah to be put forward as being a person of faith. First she put Abraham with her maid Hagar, by whom Ishmael was conceived; this hardly seems to lay hold of God’s promise, but we might be too harsh if we chided her for this. After all, God had not said with whom the much wanted son would be conceived - only that Abraham would be the father. And it was common pagan practice for a maid to bear children for an infertile wife. This was surrogacy before fertility clinics and the implantation of embryos.

But then we find Sarah doubting God’s promise again in a more direct way when the theophany came to Abraham as he was sitting under the terebinth tree in the plain of Mamre. When Sarah overheard the angel of the Lord telling Abraham that by this time next year she would bear a child she scoffed and laughed, though she denied it when confronted. {Ge 18:9-15} At first blush this doesn’t look anything like faith laying hold of God’s promise, does it? And it isn’t. Plainly she disbelieved because she was thinking of worldly limitations rather than getting the big picture.

But how many of us have an equally dismal reaction to something God says when we ourselves are in the midst of a difficulty. We would like to think we would just believe God straight up front and get on board regardless of how things look - but that is often not the truth of our experience. Our first reaction may be towards disbelief. “God did this for such and such a person, but he will not (read cannot) do it for me.” There is a place where the rubber meets the road. I think of that Christian martyr (Cranmer, I think) who, under pressure from his inquisitors, signed the instrument of recantation - but who also repented of it the next day, and held his signing hand in the fire first, as he burnt to death, saying, "This unworthy right hand." Did he have faith or not?

So it may have been with Sarah. Faced with the immediacy of the promise her flesh rose up and denied even the possibility of conceiving. She wasn’t having sex any more, let alone being well past the change of life. She was 90, for goodness sake! And her hubby was 100. But we note what the Lord said to her in two places: he countered her objection by reminding her of the nature and power of God. Her god was too small and she was reminded of that. {Ge 18:14} Then the Lord confronted her with the disbelief manifested by her laughing. She had denied it and He flatly contradicted her. {Ge 18:15} And she knew this to be true. Now, we know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. God had spoken to Sarah and she was convicted.

We know that she was convicted, that she repented and that she believed on two accounts. One, she became pregnant - a condition that was occasioned by a sexual act in which she must have engaged (and, from what we know of Abraham, she did so willingly). Two, this inspired scripture in Hebrews states categorically that by faith she received power to conceive. The Lord’s rebuke and the Lord’s reminder had their effect.

Sometimes it seems that God is so easily satisfied with the smallest scrap of belief in us. He endures and waits and expends immense patience and compassion while we struggle with our fleshly unbelieving hearts. But He knows where the seed has been planted and He will not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering flax. It seems to me that Sarah was much like we all are.

Had Abraham (and Sarah) not been "as good as dead" - and had Sarah not been barren all her life until she ceased ovulating altogether, then the necessity of faith on their part would not have been so clearly delineated. But they were predestined to such conditions and circumstances precisely so that it would be crystal clear to all future generations that it was the God in Whom their faith was placed that did all things. Faith in God and in His trustworthiness - and all that such a thing implies - was always foundational to walking in Him.

And, lest we miss it among all the theology here, the promise of God was fulfilled with regard to the great nation and the seed/heirs. Despite all outward appearances and the deductions of human wisdom - even contrary to the light of human experience - God brought to pass what He had promised and He did so through His gift of faith to His selected instruments.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blanded to Death
"If it were poison, it would not kill anyone, and if it were medicine it would not heal anyone."

A.W. Tozer (on the watered down message of many pulpits in his day)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Heb 11 - 08-10 - Christ - Sanctifier of His People

Heb 11 - 08-10 - Christ - Sanctifier of His People

Heb 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Again we see the manifestation of faith in obedience. Faith acts upon the word of God. But faith itself is the gift of God. {Eph 2:8-10} Before God effectually called Abraham, he was a moon-worshiping idolater, just like his countrymen in the land of Ur. God did not call Abraham because he looked down from heaven and saw a worthy man. Nor did God look down through the mists of time and, perceiving that Abraham would be obedient/believing/faithful, so deem him worthy to be called. It would be heresy to believe these things. God does not call righteous or faithful people - he makes men righteous and faithful as a gift of his grace in Jesus Christ. And this so that all will be to the praise of the glory of his grace. {Eph 1:4-6}

That said, by the mystery of faith Abraham trusted God for promises made, of ends not yet seen - and this trust was characterized by action. God called upon him to uproot himself and go to an unspecified place, and he did this. This is where it gets a bit mystical because the promise to Abraham was not land per se, but a nation of heirs. " a land I will show you. I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." {Ge 12:1-3} And behind it all we are told that Abraham was looking forward not to Canaan, but “to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Abraham was not looking forward to Jerusalem, but to the New Jerusalem, and to a mansion not made with hands.” {2Co 5:1, Php 3:20-21}

Nevertheless, Canaan is referred to as "the land of promise," implying that it was intimately connected with the promised intentions of God. There is a duality and a symbolism here, as in much of scripture. Canaan and nationhood were means to God’s higher ends. They were something upon which Abraham could fix his hopes while God trained him and matured him in faith. It was God using His providence, His promise and His preservation to bring Abraham to a fully submitted and trusting disposition by which He would be fitted for heaven. It was a part of God’s means of sanctifying Abraham. He was a sojourner on the earth, though he was not necessarily fully aware of what this meant. But we see that, even in the land of the promise, Abraham and his family dwelt in tents. They were nomads. No fixed address. Wanderers. Ready to pick up and move on at the drop of a hat. That is the state of heart of the saints; we are not attached to land but to a heavenly kingdom, where our hearts and our treasures are.

The writer to the Hebrews’ point is that it was faith alone in God alone, and in the promises of God, not only for earthy things but especially for heavenly things, by which Abraham was found pleasing to God. But please, please note that God was at work all along, calling and fitting Abraham by progressive revelation and sanctification that enabled Abraham to believe and to please God.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blasts From the Past
The Active and Passive Obedience of Christ
Dr. Loraine Boettner

Dr. Loraine Boettner was born very early in the 20th Century and was a conservative theologian and teacher of the Presbyterian persuasion.

His views on ecclesiology, baptism and postmillenialism notwithstanding, his works are thorough and orthodox in all the essentials. His books, "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" (1932), "A Summary of the Gospels" (1933) and "The Inspiration of Scripture" (1937) were all written in a time when the insidious poison of liberalism had caused schism in much of the church and all but ruined many a denomination with the fruits of rationalism and Darwinian Evolutionism.

And it is this backdrop which makes his works all the more remarkable for their faithfulness to the reliability of the Word, it's doctrine of inspiration, and the immovable truths of the faith inherited from believers going back to the Apostles themselves.

Enjoy this solid lecture/sermon and read more about Boettner here:

The Active and Passive Obedience of Christ

Saturday, March 27, 2010

With No Apology - Part 4
What About Creation?

This is the fourth of a five part apologetics series by Joe Boot and J. John. I think Joe is a literal 6-day young earth creationist, which gets my Good Housekeeping® seal of approval.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Heb 11 - 07 - Christ - Gracious For the Purpose of Salvation

Heb 11 - 07 - Christ - Gracious For the Purpose of Salvation

Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The writer’s over arching point to the Hebrews is that faith endures; true faith, that is - God-given faith. It would be so easy to turn faith into a justifying work by either not distinguishing between justification and sanctification, or by thinking that saving faith is a latent attribute of all natural men which they can unleash any time they want.

Take Noah, for example. He lived at a time when God said that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that that every intention (imagination) of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. {Ge 6:5} This is very emphatic language. So how did Noah come to be such a God pleaser? Apart from the fact that he came from the godly line of Seth and grew up under the gospel, what made Noah to differ from all the other men of his time? {1Co 4:7} The answer is not faith, but grace. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." {Ge 6:8} God must be gracious before we can be faithful. And grace is an entirely undeserved, unsolicited and freely bestowed gift of God. Noah was blessed in this way, freely by God’s sovereign grace, to believe Him.

But note that the faith Noah displayed was accredited to him by God. Noah walked in it. Noah is also spoken of as having "walked with God." {Ge 6:9} He is described in this verse as "a righteous man, blameless in his generation." How is a man made thus? As to justification it is only by imputation. As to experiential holiness (in his generation) it is through walking by faith. The faith that saves also sanctifies. But the faith that sanctifies does so because it endures. And it endures because it is of God. The endurance of Noah’s faith was illustrated by preaching to a hardened and disinterested world for 120 years (without any tangible results, it needs to be said) while building a massive boat in the middle of a plain where there was no water. By faith he endured ridicule, disbelief and indifference. He was willing to be a fool in the eyes of men in order to know the wisdom of God. This is faith - walking by faith in the day to day calling of God. It endures. It is dead to the world and alive to God. This is why Noah is in the faith hall of fame. So long as we understand that Noah would be the first one to give all the glory for his endurance to God alone.

Of course, Noah did not condemn the world in the sense of holding a self-righteous view about the unbelievers. He condemned the world by obeying God when others refused to do so. It was God who actually condemned the world {Ge 6:6,13} - and that condemnation was illustrated and illuminated by Noah’s obedience. For all men have a duty to believe God and to obey Him - though none do unless, as in Noah’s case, God gives them grace to do so.

As to Noah becoming an heir on account of his obedience - the text does not say this, though one needs to carefully read what is there and not read into the text what the mind naturally thinks. Noah was an heir on account of his faith in God, which was manifested in obedience.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jehovah Findeth None!

What though th' accuser roar
Of ills that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more:
Jehovah findeth none.

His be the Victor's name
Who fought our fight alone:
Triumphant saints no honour claim;
Their conquest was His own.

By weakness and defeat
He won the meed and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet,
By being trodden down.

He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o'erthrew:
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death, by dying, slew.

Bless, bless the Conqueror slain–
Slain by Divine decree–
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
For thee, His saint, for thee!

S. W. Gandy (d. 1851)

[Rev S.W.Gandy was a minister in Kingston-on-Thames, and in Devon, U.K. in the 19th century. His ‘Book of Congregational Psalmody’ was published in 1828. (source)]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Heb 11 - 05 -06- Christ - Supplier of Grace Upon Grace

Heb 11 - 05 -06- Christ - Supplier of Grace Upon Grace

Heb 11:5-6 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 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.

The writer, when citing the Hebrew Scriptures use the Septuagint, where the phrase "he walked with God" is rendered in the Greek as "he pleased God." {Ge 5:22-24} Thus he induces that it was by the faith of pleasing God that he was taken up. That is to say, Enoch didn’t necessarily believe that God would take him in the sense that he actually did (though he undoubtedly believed he would be with God forever after death) but that Enoch lived a life of faith by trusting in God for everything. He had a relationship of dependency with God, in which he believed the promises of God rather than the promises and allures of the world.

But what is this talk of rewards? The word is mentioned because the aspect of faith being mentioned here is not that which justifies, but that which sanctifies. Justification is a once-for-all act by which a believer is declared just and righteous by God upon coming to faith in Christ. He becomes an heir of the promise through faith by the grace of God - God being at once the furnisher of the means of grace, and of the faith to receive it.

But all believers also become heirs of the promises (plural) and, having been granted the mustard seed of faith, are then given a life in God’s providence by which they may seek to appropriate and rely upon the promises of God for the future, as that future unfolds to their consciousness and experience. "As many as believed, to them gave he the power (Greek exousia) to become children of God ... who were born not of the will of man ... but of God." {John 1:12-13} The Greek word "exousia" can be translated "power" or "right" because it implies an authority derived from a superior - like the son derives from his father or the soldier from his general. He has a power by delegation that is not his own, but which he is tasked to use in a specific way for a particular purpose or office. It is a real, but derived authority.

Enoch lived by the promises of God. We are not told exactly which promises and how, but he trusted God in a fallen world. We are now told that without faith it is impossible to please God; and to this is added the fact that God must be believed as existing, and as one who rewards the obedience that genuinely seeks to know him. But how are these revelations, so matter-of-factly dropped into the sermon as "obvious" to be received in the light of other scripture that clearly teaches that no one seeks after God and none is righteous - no not one? {Ps 14:2-3} Scripture must interpret scripture. And we must go to other locations for the whole thing to be made understandable to our fallen minds. We must first be born again before we can believe. {John 3:5} we cannot come unless we are drawn by the Father. {John 6:44} It is ultimately not as matter of our own will, but of His. {John 1:13,Ro 9:16} We do come and we do so willingly, but only because God’s overriding will at work in our lives and from eternity makes us willing. It has always been the same for all the saints in all ages.

Enoch was therefore no different. He was commended by God for acting in accordance with a new nature that was given to him by God. So God is indeed the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him in the sense of thirsting after a better, more intimate, knowledge of him - not the discovery of his existence (as per the text). God must reveal Himself - he cannot be found by dead, blind, corrupt men looking upwards. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he, for they are foolishness to him. {1Co 2:14} Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not comprehend or receive it. {AV John 1:5} But God graciously gives light to some and, amazingly, he commends them for seeing and walking according to the light they would not have seen, apart from His gracious act of regeneration. Salvation/sanctification is not simply the result of the application of the duly constituted means on the part of man (Finney) - but is a supernatural, monergistic act of God.

So Enoch would say with Augustine, "O Lord, command what thou wilt and grant what thou commandest." For to those who have (because it has been given) more will be added - but from those that have not will be taken away even that which they have. {Mt 13:11-12} When God experientially gives his Son to the elect saint, he also gives the faith by which they will obey and, ultimately, be rewarded. And, though the saint must walk in it, even his sanctification is due to the grace of God.

The emphasis here is upon living by trusting in the promises of God consistently and daily. In Enoch’s case, this was at least 300 years.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ad Hoc Dogma
Our theory of evolution has which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted in to it...No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training.

Birch and Ehrlich, "Nature", vol. 214 (1967), p. 349)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Heb 11 - 04 - Christ - Pleasing God in His Saints

Heb 11 - 04 - Christ - Pleasing God in His Saints

Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Why was the sacrifice of Abel more acceptable than Cain’s? Was it because Abel was a better person? Was he holier, more reasonable - smarter than Cain? The clue is that it was by faith that the sacrifice was more acceptable. It was on account of faith. And it was on account of faith and nothing else that might be found in Abel. Both Cain and Abel were sinners worthy of death. And, remember, the animal that died in and of itself had no efficacy in appeasing God or removing the guilt of sin.

So what was the true dynamic at work here? We simply can’t take the word "faith" and make it an attribute of our own. And since true faith bears fruit, we can’t strictly speaking make the action resulting from faith something commendable to the believer, in the sense of it propitiating God. Faith propitiates and atones for no one and nothing. It is the object of our faith that God sees when we come to Him for acceptance. So we do indeed exercise faith of our own volition, manifested in works of obedience - and that faith is pleasing to God - but it pleases God because of the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ, either anticipated or remembered, and as the basis upon which we demonstrate trust God for the future.

All this simply means that underneath everything are the everlasting arms of God. He causes those who have faith to believe because He chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, and effectually called them in time. Had He not done so then no one would have faith in Christ, and nothing any one did could or would be acceptable to God.

This is as true of sanctification as it is of justification. God is the mover, the author and the perfecter of our faith, Who will finish in us the good work He started unto the day of Jesus Christ. But we must believe and we must strive to obey - and if we are truly saved we will always be desiring (even when failing) to please God, due to what He has done for us and in us through Jesus Christ.

So this is a Romans 9 situation (as are all contrasts between the elect and the reprobate). Abel God loved and Cain He hated. By "loved" we speak of that elective, saving love whereby Abel was saved entirely by God for good works which God had prepared beforehand that he should walk in them. There were no good works for Cain and, for him, there was not that elective love by which some men are found in Christ. Cain was left to his own immoral, self-interested and rebellious choices.

So Abel, this first in a long line of the faithful from Jewish history, was justified and kept by faith in the God of the promise, just as we all are. He was commended as righteous - that is as if he was righteous, even though he was not. He did not commend himself, but was commended by God - the same God Who granted him faith and worked obedience in him. And, as we were reminded earlier in the sermon, what we know of Abel was written down for our edification, upon whom the end of the age has come. It is encouragement to keep both the Hebrews and us from growing weary - as are all the stories of the saints in this list.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Study of Romans 9 - James White
Here is Dr. James White preaching on Romans Chapter 9 - a section of scripture which does not exist in many Baptist Bibles south of the Mason Dixon line ; and though it is in many Arminian Bibles throughout the world, it is strangely invisible to their owners.[/smile]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

With No Apology - Part 3
What About Other Faiths?
This is the third of a 5-part apologetics series by Joe Boot and J. John. Doncha just luv those London Taxicabs?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Heb 11 - 03 - Christ - Creator of All

Heb 11 - 03 - Christ - Creator of All

Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made." {John 1:1-3}

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ... Then God said, ‘Let there be ... " {Ge 1:1,3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26}

Before embarking upon the list of past men of faith, the writer starts where we must all start - the creation. By implication, a person must believe in the God of all creation and get that perspective right. He is not a God, but the God, besides whom there is no other. He is the author of all reality and is Himself the ultimate reality, going way above and beyond his creation.

This level of faith is, in some measure, given to all men. All men implicitly know that there is a God who made everything, but they suppress that truth in unrighteousness. By the grace of God, however, the saints of both the old and new covenants had the scales removed from their eyes. Our blindness is healed. None of us sees perfectly, as Jesus did, but we can see well enough for the suppression of the truth to be overcome in us. We have been reborn.

The existence of an invisible reality beyond our immediate senses is apprehended by faith. "Ex nihilo nihil fit" – (nothing is made out of nothing) is not true. It is true only to unbelieving, darkened, rationalizing minds. Human wisdom applies presuppositional logic and devises laws which cannot be broken. Science states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed and humanism incorporates that into its manifesto with perfect glee and complete assurance. But there is a First Cause of all that we do see and, since “all we see is all we know” then the First Cause must be invisible to us. There is no hill above the One Who created us from which we can look down and see Him. He is the Hill above all things, and there is no higher vantage point.

We are always looking "up" to try to understand. He looks down in perfect understanding. We are the work of his hands and he is the object of our veneration and fear. But no matter how much we accept these things, our acceptance is entirely due to faith in the God we cannot see, and in his Word. Our faith is reasonable and rational but is not transferable. We share it but we cannot impart it. We can stand in the light, speak of the light, live according to the light - but no one can see the light unless God grants it to him. The natural man has a moral inability that is born of a predisposition not to see.

So when the writer says that "By faith we understand..." he is speaking of that faith which comes from God and which enlightens the soul - regenerative light - new eyes. He is not speaking of that "faith" that the wicked (by which is meant all unbelievers) suppress in unrighteousness. And the writer is, by this small introductory phrase, including his Hebrew audience in some small encouraging way in the roll of the faithful - by at least giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

With God on Our Side
Joan Baez and I are about the same age and she was singing (along with Dylan and others) in the heyday of my youth. So there's a lot of nostalgia for me when I hear her. In style and pitch she resembles a non-Christian Roxylee.

Listening to this song is not only nostalgic, but also fills me with pathos for its artist. It's such a blend of naivete, nihilism and arrogance jingoistically disguised as compassionate humility that one simply aches for her.

This is how humanism handles theodicy. It ignores the fall and its consequences and simply stamps its feet wanting things to be different. "If only everybody was as enlightened as I am then we would all get along!"

I wonder if she really, really thought about whether God was on Judas' side?? (John 17:11-12)

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heb 11 - 01-02 - Christ - In History, Always Received by Faith

Heb 11 - 01-02 - Christ - In History, Always Received by Faith

Heb 1:1-2 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.

The whole point of this so-called "faith chapter" is to support the idea of perseverance in the faith, by faith, from the Hebrews’ own history. Those at risk of recidivism - of going back to the Old Covenant religion, or at least some amalgam of it and Christianity (although there could be no such thing) - have been repeatedly shown how the old was a shadow of the new. They have been re-told and reminded that Jesus is the true high priest of redeemed humanity and that He is to be received through faith. His sacrifice has once for all made perfect those who draw near to God in Him. They are justified forever - and must live in the light of this by faith.

We, of course cannot see the secret decrees of God, or watch history unfold before it happens. We cannot determine the end from the beginning as He does. We are not the Alpha and the Omega. We are time-limited, finite and dependent creatures who discover reality in history on the basis of our interaction with whatever God’s providence immerses us into. Thus we must live by faith and we are preserved through our perseverance in faith.

The writer to the Hebrews now makes his point from the Hebrews’ hall of the faithful from history. They did not shrink back unto destruction and preserved their souls on account of it. They persevered in trusting what God had promised to do. And so must people under the new covenant. He has promised to complete in us that good work that He started, and our perseverance is the means by which we shall be preserved. We shall soon enough discover, if we persevere, that it is not something we can attribute to our own reliability but something that is solely attributable to the grace of God, Who gave us faith, and Who placed us in His Son.

Only a few people, relatively speaking, met the incarnate Christ. Yes, up to 500 at one time saw Him post-resurrection - but by the time this sermon was written, most Christians received Christ completely by faith without having had any sight whatsoever. And it has been so throughout the ages since He returned to heaven. It is intrinsic to the nature of faith that it trusts without seeing. This does not mean "without evidence," but without actual sight. Faith trusts in God, and is designed for that purpose. The life of faith commits all things into His hands and accepts that whatever happens is from His hand, for our good, because His love for us is nailed to the wall of history and guaranteed by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

There is a lot more to it. But I hope that one of the main points is not missed and that is that the events of our lives and of the history of the world are only a means themselves to the attainment of heaven. They are a sojourn on a journey to the presence of God forever. We must be here, but we long to be there. We stay at His pleasure, all the while desiring to be where He is. The kingdom is here after a fashion - it is within and/or among believers - and we can and do enjoy fellowship with our Redeemer here and now. But this is a shadow compared to the fullness of His presence when the kingdom will be fully come upon His return.

The old covenant saints lived in exactly the same way. They were assured by God through the faith that they were given of the hope of heaven. This assurance, through faith manifested in that conviction about things not yet seen, was the root of their perseverance. And the idea was that God was trustworthy to do all that he had promised to do, especially regarding the salvation of their souls.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit
Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else.

G.K. Chesterton, 1925

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heb 10: 36-39 - Christ - Our Gospel of Hope

Heb 10 - 36-39 - Christ - Our Gospel of Hope

Heb 10:36-39 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

And here it is - the theme pulled together - the need for endurance as further evidence of the indwelling Christ. Christians have many graces which must be increasing. If they are not, then assurance will suffer and the evidence may eventually point to a prior false assurance. We must grow in grace through faith. And the writer has already admonished the Hebrews for their failure to study the deeper things, linking this failure to the present weak state of their faith. Endurance requires a deeper knowledge of God. Endurance also brings a deeper knowledge of God. In the first instance we must learn about Him - about what He has revealed Himself to be like - through the study of His word. This is required so that the providence that God brings into our life - the good and the bad things - may be understood as from His hand and received with love, joy and trust. This is the experiential side that brings an intimate personal knowledge of God - and not just knowledge about Him. But note that one leads to the other.

There can be no disconnect between knowledge of the Word and the personal experience of God. You can’t have one without the other. As Calvin said "The Spirit and the Word are the same" - by which He meant that they have the same objective and say the same thing, but through differing roles. If you would go deeper with God it cannot be absent a deeper knowledge of the Word. But, that said, a deeper knowledge of the Word does not, of itself, guarantee a more intimate knowledge of God. There can be no disconnect between theology and walk - between faith and practice - between the faith and faith - between knowledge and life.

The narrow way is narrow indeed, for we cannot manage or manipulate this integration. We must rely upon God and yet study and strive to be found in Him. It is a constant battle and a constant matter of refinement and adjustment. But it is God Who is adjusting us, even when we make the adjustments. It is like battering ourselves against the immoveable object of His perfection until we are utterly broken in pieces that can then be properly reassembled by Him.

The Hebrews, then, have need of endurance - for only those who endure to the end will be saved. But only those who are saved will endure to the end. And so the secret decree of God as to who is truly elect and the need for the experiential life of faith in Him exist side by side. Nevertheless, our assurance is not found in our performance, but in our trust in His performance. Though we are faithless, He remains faithful.

The loss of enthusiasm from which the Hebrews are suffering can also be traced to a loss of confidence in the imminent return of Christ. They had waited, they had suffered and they had endured for a time - but they had grown weary in well doing. Where was the promise of His coming? Their eyes had perhaps wandered from Him to themselves - from what He had done and would do to what they had been doing "in His Name." The seductions of the flesh are often subtle, and it does not take much for us to be distracted from the One True Object of our faith to earthly, carnal and self-attentive thoughts. The lesson for us all is to hold fast to the doctrine (yes doctrine) of the imminent return of Christ - but to hold that doctrine rightly. We are to expect and hope for His return at any time, but to be ready for it to happen in God’s timing alone. In just the same way we are to be ready and eager to die, but willing to stay.

So the writer quotes that Habakkuk verse that Paul cited, and that had such eye-opening effect upon Martin Luther - "The just shall live by faith." Here it is translated, "My righteous one shall live by faith..." And so He did. Christ my substitute lived a life of complete and utter dependence upon the Father and pleased God on my behalf - earning for me a righteousness I could never have earned. Now, like Him and by His grace, all true believers are to live by faith in the finished work - the imputed righteousness - of Christ. If they do so and endure to the end then they truly are God’s righteous ones (in Christ). But those that draw back (permanently) cannot be pleasing to God for it is impossible to please Him without faith - and by faith is meant "trust in His salvation". It is obvious when put this way that unless a person trusts God to both save and sanctify him he not only will not endure to the end, but he cannot endure to the end; absent faith in the free and gracious gift of God there is no salvation.

So once more we find the dire warning followed by encouragement. The benefit of the doubt, the expression of hope, the desire to think good of others tempers the warning to take a hard look at the reality of their fruit. There are inclusion, association and identification that make this not only hopeful, but intimate and loving; "But we are not of those that shrink back..." We aren’t pretenders or mere professors. We may be in need of admonishment and encouragement but we have the faith that is necessary for the endurance by which our souls will be preserved unto that Day. We have true regeneration witnessed to by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have many who have gone through the same - and worse - by the power of the faith that comes from God, as we shall now see.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Warning Passages in Hebrews
James White
James White is a far better expositor than I will ever be. Thus, it is fitting that he be given space to explain the purpose of those terrible warning passages in this book of Hebrews at which we have been looking, or to which we shall shortly come. Chapter 6, 10 and 12 of Hebrews are the source.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

With No Apology - Part 2
What About Jesus
Well, here is the second in a 5-part apologetics series by Joe Boot and J.John. I actually went to a pastor's seminar in Toronto last week and heard Joe Boot speaking on "The Pastor as Evangelist". He was equally as good in that as he is in this. Enjoy...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heb 10: 32-35 - Christ - Evidenced in True Believers

Heb 10 - 32-35 - Christ - Evidenced in True Believers

Heb 10:32-35 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

The writer to the Hebrews, having delivered a stern warning regarding sinful living and apostasy would have the wavering Jewish Christians remember their first love. The way they responded to the gospel in the early days of the church was a very good indicator of their true regeneration. This is encouragement following rebuke. The skilled sermon giver always points to the hopeful news after delivering the curse of the law upon sin.

Their initial blush of humility, love and patience is believed to have been a result of genuine enlightenment. It is believed to be true fruit of the Spirit of God. That is the hope drawn from the evidence. And the Hebrews are reminded of that evidence so that they might be encouraged to believe that God has been at work in them all along. They endured hard struggles not because they themselves were strong, but because the Lord was their strength. They suffered humiliation (without retaliation) because Christ was at work reproducing His Own character in them supernaturally. They showed the good works of compassionate support for those similarly afflicted - because the one in whom Christ is working looks to the welfare of his brothers even when he is himself afflicted.

Notice that they didn’t grit their teeth and resentfully or reluctantly bend under the providence of God, but that they joyfully accepted injustice and persecution for His Names sake. They were blessed and they knew it. Their focus was not on their position or their possessions in this world (they were not North Americans) but upon that heavenly goal of the fullness of the presence of Christ in the fully come kingdom of God. Their minds were set on things above and this application of faith was what enabled them to endure with joy the tribulations of their temporal existence.

I note in passing that "those in prison" were not, this context, the general criminal element that some modern prison ministries serve. There is nothing wrong with evangelizing the lost who are in prison; God bless and increase those so called. But this passage is referring to the brethren in Christ who are imprisoned for their faith. To visit and support such people in the prevailing climate of the time was an act of love and courage that was itself evidence of the love of Christ for His people.

The confidence that they had then was evidence of their salvation. Men didn’t naturally rejoice in the loss of homes and loved ones, or in persecution, imprisonment and peril of death. God was at work - at least that was the indication. The better proof would now be that the first flush of enthusiasm was supported by a longer and deeper sort of endurance - one that set its face like flint, was not disappointed, distracted or dissipated by the realities of a Lord that tarries for His Own good reasons. Life must be lived out to the end. It cannot all be falling in love, but must mature into a quiet, deep abiding, unmoveable trust that learns to be still under His mighty hand.

Our confidence is not in ourselves, for we should and do fail all the day long when we look to ourselves. But our confidence is in the God of the evidence. First, the evidence of His incarnation, death and resurrection - and then in the evidence of His working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. A place is already prepared for us. Our reward awaits us and it is Christ.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wheat and Chaff

The visible Church is now a ‘mixed’ body. Believers and unbelievers, holy and unholy, converted and unconverted, are now mingled in every congregation, and often sit side by side. It passes the power of man to separate them. False profession is often so like true; and grace is often so weak and feeble, that, in many cases, the right discernment of character is an impossibility. The wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns.

J.C. Ryle's "Commentary on the Gospels" - Luke 3: 15-20

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Heb 10: 28-31 - Christ - Sufficient for All, Efficient for Some

Heb 10 - 28-31 - Christ - Sufficient for All, Efficient for Some

Heb 10:28-31 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

All Israel was called out of Egypt, but not all Israel entered the Promised Land. The whole nation was sanctified (set apart), but the whole nation was not saved. These are important distinctions because, if we fail to make them, we shall fall into the error of thinking that the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement to save all men necessarily means that all men are indeed saved. We might even add to that the erroneous idea that a person once saved can lose that salvation because he was "sanctified" but later incurs the same wrath as unbelievers. Or that all people professing to be saved are, in fact, saved. But all of these are errors when balanced reading of the scripture is allowed to inform the reason.

There is a sense in which God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ but obviously, since everyone in the world is not and has not been experientially reconciled to God, it cannot be speaking of an effectual reconciliation, but only a potential one. God is propitious towards all in Christ. In Christ God is saying "Peace, goodwill toward men." God is, on some level, desirous of being reconciled, but only those whom he effectually calls actually experience that reconciliation. Men are culpable for the rejection of Christ, but God alone is credited when they receive him.

Just as in the exodus, there were many in Israel who did not believe God, and who were ultimately exposed for what they were through tribulation, temptation and testing, so also in the visible church there are many who profess, many who came out of Egypt in a physical way, but out of whom Egypt was never removed. They are often indistinguishable from believers. Many times they have deceived themselves, as well as others. But God is not deceived. Such people, though living continually in light, never have the light living in them and so add to their condemnation. It is more terrible to have heard the truth and never truly embraced it than never to have heard it at all. The wrath of God abides in both cases, but that wrath is magnified to the one who had the greater light.

And so, our understanding of references to those having been sanctified then becoming lost, must be informed by the whole counsel of God. Just as all Israel passed through the sea {1Co 10:1-12} and was baptized into Moses and ate the manna and drank from the rock, so many in the visible church are baptized and take communion and sit under preaching and teaching. In this sense they are “sanctified”. They believe themselves set apart for holy use. But the example and warning of Israel exists so that we do not make the error that they did of putting Christ to the test. Only those in whom regeneration has actually occurred - the effectually called will be sanctified to the end.

The Lord will judge His people and “His people” in this context probably means the visible church. There will be many in that day who say, "Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your Name?" and he will answer to them, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, for I never, ever knew you." {Mt 7:21-23}

Once one begins to get an inkling of his own depravity, and of the fact that salvation is entirely of the Lord, then some light begins to shine on verse 31 ... "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. " We cannot be saved unless He saves us, and He will only save those whom He has chosen to save. We cannot please him of ourselves, but unless he is pleased in us we shall suffer the eternal torments of hell. We can jump through hoops, observe liturgies and ceremonies, memorize scripture, join prayer groups, sing hymns, serve in the church, give money, be nice, help little old ladies, feed the hungry, go on missions and so on, and so on - but none of this is of any avail unless it is wrought in Christ. You can do all that and go to hell - and do it with a greater condemnation than someone who never heard or never professed to accept Christ. Yet when it is wrought in Christ, then that is fruit which only evidences what God has done. This is fearful indeed.

But this fear is for our good - so that we might cast ourselves upon the one who never turns away those who come to Him. Or that we might be caused to abide in the One whom we profess to trust.

As an end note, I have to confess that this is a difficult passage. I have read commentators who have had quite differing views of whether the ones spoken of here are true believers who will endure severe discipline, or are false professors who will ultimately perish. There are points in favour of both views. For example, the writer addresses these remarks to "brothers" (v19) and yet he ends his remarks with a contrast between those who shrink back and are destroyed, and those who have faith and preserve their souls. (v39) In the end, believing that none can be lost whom the Father has given to the Son, I can only conclude that these warnings are themselves the very means appointed by God through which He preserves His elect people by the faithful exercise of their human responsibility. God knows who will endure and how, but we must receive our own perseverance through faith and not through sight. This in turn implies that, though none can lose his salvation if he truly has it, each believer has a responsibility to persevere with the faith that God gifts and works in him. Ultimately it is God who will bring to completion in us the good work he started unto the day of Jesus Christ. {Php 1:6} And ultimately we must persevere to the end through faith.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Real Power Behind Conversion

"Strange that I, who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh to God in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God's people met together in a barn, and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his name! Surely it was the Lord's doing, and is marvellous! The excellency of such power must be of God, and cannot be of man. The regenerating Spirit breathes not only on whom, but likewise when, where, and as he listeth."

Augustus Toplady, 1768 - of his conversion

Monday, March 08, 2010

Heb 10: 24-27 - Christ - Grace Not to Be Despised

Heb 10 - 24-27 - Christ - Grace Not to Be Despised

Heb 10:24-27 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

The point of holding fast in the light of what Christ has done is not so that we may stand pat in our own faith and breathe a sigh of relief that we, at least, have been delivered. We all tend to do this. The Israelites did this, failing for the most part to be a light to the Gentiles and becoming so isolationist as to be anti-evangelical. Read Jonah if you doubt this. Many churches today, and down through the ages since the Reformation, have gradually turned into little islands of comfortable interaction for people who already believe, gradually allowing the concept of personal evangelism to evaporate.

However, the body of believers is a body for the purpose of mutual support and encouragement. Not that we encourage each other (though we do), but that God uses us as a part of his means to preserve the saints and to grow them in grace. Insofar as providence provides to us the opportunity (and for most of us it does) we are not to neglect the help that God provides through other believers, nor to be yielded to him as the instruments of that help. God has designed that those who have should support those who have not, and that those who sorrow should comfort those who weep - and so forth. These are the opportunities for God’s grace to abound through His people.

Our (ultimate) salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Jesus is coming. Jesus was coming for the 1st century Hebrews in very much the same sense. No man knows the hour, and so all men should live as though the hour is near. Will we be ashamed at his appearance, being found neglectful of our great salvation? Will we receive commendation or rebuke? Will we find ourselves to be apostates, never having known Christ, though we came so close?

We must examine ourselves {2Co 13:5} and honestly inquire as to our motives. We all sin every day. We are sinless until that moment when our eyes open in the morning, and it trends downhill from there. The battle begins with an assault on our faith through our flesh, through the world and the by the devil. So it is not that we still sin, but whether or not we still love our sin that is the indicator of the new life within us. And our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked - more than able to trick us, when we do not strive to enter in at the narrow gate, to stay in the narrow way and to abide in the True Vine.

The reference to "if we go on sinning deliberately" can be troubling - and so it should be, because all sin is always deliberate. Nobody accidentally sins. There is no innocence, no claim of "I didn’t know" or "the devil made me do it". Every heart is laid bare before Him with whom we have to do, and we know that there is none good but God alone. {Mr 10:18} we are either careless, culpably ignorant or deliberately perverse - but in all cases we are responsible for our sin.

But if we are in Christ Jesus then we abide in the one who paid the penalty for all of our sins, and we have been given a new heart and the Holy Spirit leads us. Therefore we can no longer love sin, as we used to do. We may stumble - even repeatedly in the very same thing - we may struggle for years with a particular evil - but the very fact that we are striving is itself an indicator of the Life of Christ within us. But if we embrace sin, if we love it to the dulling of conscience and the hardening of our hearts, and if we do not look to Christ as the power by which it will be experientially vanquished in us, then were we ever truly His?

Note that the prospect is particularly perilous for those who have been under the gospel. They have heard and seen the truth. They have walked ever so closely to the truth, perhaps feigning to believe it, perhaps fooling themselves into thinking that they do. Their condemnation is terrible indeed because, though all mankind is guilty before God, the greater judgement comes upon those who have greater light and yet still reject it. They recrucify Christ by personalizing their rejection of him in the full light of the facts.

Many people who are now true saints may at one time or another have rejected the claims of Christ - perhaps numerous times. They may have heard the gospel a thousand times and been unfazed. They may have mocked it, rejected it or ignored it. Yet they were still able to be saved. But there is another case - the one who hears the gospel and never sees Christ because the truth is snatched away by the evil one; or there is the person who hears and receives the gospel with joy, but has no root and who withers and dies away; or there is another who accepts the truth and allows the world to choke the word, who never really gave up his love for the world and never really died with Christ. All of these heard the word and many were affected by it. But only the ones who endured to the end proved to be fruitful because they were truly the good soil.

Once more we look at this passage and remember the audience of first order - the 1st century Hebrews at the close of the Apostolic era. Some were tempted through weariness, fear, disillusionment or neglect to return to the "comfort" of their old time religion. But a great contrast has been drawn, centred around the phrase "no more offering (or sacrifice) for sin," as seen in verses 18 and 26-27 {Heb 10:18,26-27}

On the one hand is Jesus, the great high priest who has passed through the heavens, and who is himself not only the ultimate, but ultimately the only sacrifice for sin. In him is free and forever forgiveness. But he must be trusted and believed in the Biblical sense wherein he is received as both Saviour and Lord. This is via the mystery of faith and the cross.

On the other hand there is the prospect of continuing in wilful sin after having been enlightened by the gospel, by which is meant a rejection of the only possible sacrifice that is acceptable to God, and effectual for the removal of guilt and condemnation.

This is to burn one’s bridges. It is to saw off the branch upon which one is sitting. It is to shut the door from the inside against light streaming in from the outside. It is to have beheld transcendent beauty and declared it common. It is, de facto, to have seen Christ and preferred sin - thus recrucifying him. Once this threshold is crossed there is no remedy - no greater sacrifice beyond it. Such a person is indeed an "adversary" of God, as are all who do not believe - including those who have never heard.

Now it is clear that not all apostates are blown away by fire and sulphur raining down from heaven. Many, in fact, live healthy and comfortable lives until the inevitable moment of death. But such a thing is also a form of judgement. To be left alone and kept in a comfortable state of unbelief is a terrible place to be. This is God giving them up to the eternal consequences of their rebellion by removing the tribulations which so often humble us and send us pleading to Him. Blessed indeed are the poor - and the troubled.

But the reference to fire that will consume the adversaries is undoubtedly to the fires of hell where God’s enemies will be consumed eternally by a fire that is not quenched, and a worm that never dies. {Mr 9:43-48} And the reference to the fury of God is utterly congruent with the idea of His wrath. Unenlightened sinners, the lost, the so-called ignorant, the scum of the earth - all have this one thing - the hope that they might find repentance and be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ - the only Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. If they haven’t this hope in themselves, the church can hope for them, and evangelize them in hope. But the Christ rejecter - the enlightened person who prefers darkness - the one who has tasted and seen and experienced the operations of the Spirit of God and glimpsed the beauties of Christ - such a person has destroyed all hope of ever being truly saved. And he has, to boot, added this to the wrathful condemnation that abides on all fellow unbelievers - that He has spurned the blood of Christ, the only hope of salvation for all men.

This is the dire warning to the Hebrews of this period. It is the means by which the true children will hear and be guided in the Way. And it is the voice of terrifying condemnation to all who will not hear.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sermon of the Week
Turn From False Teachers

The Community Baptist Church of Fargo is blessed to have a preacher like Doug VanderMeulen. In this sermon he points people to Christ, the Truth, and away from himself. He counsels his people to test the spirits, including his own. He points out that everyone has the potential for serious error and that all should be held up to the light of scripture.

But he goes further. He is determined that his flock should understand what has come to be known as Christian doctrine. He regards it as essential that they should know the theology behind the faith. He is ready to go into the great confessions of the faith and encourages people to read the saints of the past in order to get their bearings and to see how Christ, their Lord, has worked in the church over the ages.

Or, they could sing 7/11 songs, have a 15 minute sermon on how to live a happy and fulfilled life and go home to their other activities. Not! Here's pastor VanderMeulen....

Turn From False Teachers - Doug VaderMuelen

His text:

Romans 16:17-20: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

With No Apology - Part 1
Does Christianity Really Add Up?
Here with a Canadian flavor is a series featuring Joe Boot as apologist and J. John as "devil's advocate". The series comes in five parts, one of each will be posted for five Saturdays in a row, starting today.

Future themes address the Person of Christ, other "faiths", creation and suffering. Boot is a very articulate and smooth apologist and I like him a lot. That doesn't mean I agree with everything in his theology but I found him thoughtful and persuasive in this series. Enjoy...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Heb 10: 19-23 - Christ - Faith in the Faithfulness of God in Christ

Heb 10 - 19-23 - Christ - Faith in the Faithfulness of God in Christ

Heb 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, (Or brothers and sisters) 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. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

The Hebrews (and we other saints) can confidently come to God because acceptance in his sight does not depend upon them. God has done it all. He has reconciled to himself all who believe. (And they believe because he has reconciled them). Salvation is truly of the Lord and he, alone and unaided by man, delivers. {Jon 2:9}

The reference to a curtain here is a harkening back to the curtain that divided the holy place from the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Nobody was allowed past that curtain except the high priest once a year. Now the true and eternal High Priest, Jesus, has rent, torn or opened that curtain so that we may have access to God - direct, personal access. The old high priest always entered with much sprinkling of blood and not without the fear that he might be consumed for some unconfessed sin or impiety of heart. The new - the true - High Priest enters as a man on our behalf absent the fear of being consumed because he is sinless. He enters and he intercedes eternally as the representative of redeemed mankind. In Him we can enter into the very presence of God also absent the fear that guilt would bring.

Note that it is "through his flesh" that the way was opened for us. His "flesh" was more than just his body. It was His humanity. It was His incarnate nature. It was His total identification with the race of men. This is why the denial of His incarnation as a fully human being is so fundamentally heretical. Were He not representative man, entering as a pure High Priest into the very presence of God to intercede for His people, then we ourselves could not enter. We would be consumed. "If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous." {Ro 5:17-19}

So long as we never miss the point that He was not only man, but also God living as a man; He was all God and all man at one and the same time. And in the Holy of Holies before God He is still all man and all God at one and the same time. But unless He had become incarnate in the way He did, and unless He had lived the life He did and died the death He did there would never be any coming into the presence of God for any of Adam’s race.

So the representative ablutions of washing with water and being sprinkled with blood are replaced by the spiritual realities of identification with Christ in His death through baptism (washing) and the application to our selves through faith of His sacrifice of His own life of perfect obedience. If we died with Him and if we are raised with Him to newness of life then in Him we are acceptable to God forever. This banishes the fearful expectation of punishment and replaces it with familial care. God chastises His own, but their punishment has already been paid. His every thought towards them is for their good and that they should prosper (in spiritual things). He has planned their pathway and prepared their mansion and they must walk in their salvation, in the Spirit, by faith.

And right there is the part of the saint - to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. Not to act “righteous” and keep ourselves saved, but to abide in the already provided salvation through the righteousness of Christ and by hope and trust in God alone to keep us. It clearly states that "He Who promised is faithful." We trust in His faithfulness and never in our own. Trusting in His faithfulness produces gratitude, hope and faith in us.